Monday, June 28, 2021

Lest we forget

 Obituary from the June 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow comrades, we in the World Socialism Movement Uganda Group, bring to you the bad news of the death of comrade Mutungi. Comrade Mutungi Benon died on Saturday 7 May, a week after having sustained neck spine injuries in a motor accident.

I knew Benon Mutungi as early as at the age of eleven when we were in primary three(1974). At that young age his character was already formed. He was outrightly courageous, brilliant, honest and a generous pupil. This has been his character all through his life. We later joined the same secondary school and later joined the same university – Makerere University. In 1986 in the year he joined university, he fell sick. He could not continue his studies for a period of seven years. After this break he went back to University to pursue his studies and finished his course (Bachelor of Arts, Geography) excellently. He was called back and did a masters degree.

Comrade Mutungi joined the WSM Uganda in 2000 after having been reading socialist literature for several years. He was an active comrade in most of our activities. He started the “socialist phone-in programme’ on the FM Radio in this town of Kabale, writing to the main two Uganda’s leading  newspapers, advertising in the papers the case for socialism, lending out socialist literature and distributing leaflets, debates and many forms of activities. On return from Ireland for a second masters degree, he was requested to work as Assistant Secretary of the WSM Uganda group, a job he took over enthusiastically.

Benon died at the age of 41. He leaves a widow and four children aged 9,7,4 and nine months respectively. In his own words at his death bed Mutungi had this to say: “I don’t think the Uganda government I know has ever made it a priority to invest in medical equipment to sustain the lives of Mutungi cases. Unless such equipment has been brought into the country a few days ago. What worries me is leaving the world still insane and worst of all leaving my very young children in such an insane world”.
Mugyenzi Ishmael.
Secretary WSM Uganda Group.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Victims of Boko Haram

 The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in a new study on the 12-year-old conflict in northeast Nigeria estimates, directly and indirectly, the deaths of some 350,000 people, the vast majority of which are children below the age of five. The death toll is ten times higher than previous estimates.

 “With another decade of conflict, that could grow to more than 1.1 million,” it said.

Of nearly 350,000 deaths from the conflict, it estimated 314,000 to have resulted from indirect causes. Insecurity has led to declines in agricultural production and trade, reducing access to food and threatening the many households that depend on agriculture for their livelihood, the UN said. Thousands of displaced people lack access to food, health facilities, shelter and clean water, with children more vulnerable, the report added.

Children younger than five accounts for some 324,000 deaths, more than nine out of 10 of those killed, with 170 dying every day.

“In northeast Nigeria alone, 13.1 million people live in areas affected by conflict, out of whom 8.7 million are in need of immediate assistance,” the UN said.

Boko Haram launched an uprising in 2009 displacing more than two million from their homes and spawning one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with millions of people dependent on aid. The conflict shows little sign of ending. Nigeria’s Boko Haram group split into two in 2016 with its rival ISIL (ISIS)-allied faction ISWAP becoming the dominant threat. Despite ongoing military operations, the groups have continued to launch attacks, spreading violence to parts of neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

In the Lake Chad region, the UN said more than “3.2 million individuals are displaced, with 5.3 million food-insecure people at crisis and emergency levels”.

The situation is worse in Nigeria’s northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, it said. The security forces appear overwhelmed as they battle other security challenges, including herder-farmer clashes in the centre of the country, kidnapping and banditry in the northwest and separatist agitations in the south.

Northeast Nigeria conflict killed more than 300,000 children: UN | Armed Groups News | Al Jazeera

Pandemic Bad News

 The World Health Organization has made a new appeal for vaccines for Africa, saying a “fast-surging” third wave of Covid-19 is outpacing efforts to protect populations, “leaving more and more dangerously exposed”.

“The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said.

African countries have recorded more than 5m cases and almost 140,000 deaths, though the true numbers are thought to be much higher. The crisis has been worsened by slow vaccination progress across the continent, owing to limited availability after western countries bought them all, and administrative failures. Just over one in 100 people across Africa have been vaccinated. Eight African countries have used all the stocks supplied to them by Covax, the UN-backed vaccine-sharing facility, and another 18 are close to exhausting their stocks. Dozens more have less than half remaining. Out of 2.7bn doses administered globally, just under 1.5% have been administered in Africa.

John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the continent was not winning its battle against the virus.

“The third wave has come with the severity that most countries were not prepared for. So the third wave is extremely brutal,” Nkengasong said . “It does not really matter to me whether the vaccines are from Covax or anywhere. All we need is rapid access to vaccines.”

 South Africa, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the countries where the surge appears most severe and health systems are close to being overwhelmed.

In South Africa’s Gauteng province, the most populous and economically productive part of the country, Covid patients are waiting for days on stretchers in accident and emergency wards before being found a bed, officials at hospitals in Johannesburg have said. There have also been problems sourcing sufficient oxygen.

“We are struggling. We are under extreme pressure. The pandemic is everywhere,” the Gauteng premier, David Makhura, said.

African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa accused rich nations of deliberately failing to provide enough Covid-19 vaccines to the continent. Masiyiwa, the union’s special envoy to the African vaccine acquisition task team, said the Covax scheme had failed to keep its promise to secure production of 700m doses of vaccines in time for delivery by December 2021.

“It’s not a question of if this was a moral failure, it was deliberate. Those with the resources pushed their way to the front of the queue and took control of their production assets,” Masiyiwa explained.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said that Africa was facing “an economic calamity”, with growth this year forecast to be half of the 6% expected globally.

“The warning signs are clear: a two-track pandemic is leading to a two-track recovery. Africa is already falling behind in terms of growth prospects.”

Africans ‘dangerously exposed’ by lack of Covid jabs, says WHO | Africa | The Guardian

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Economic Cost of the Pandemic

 The African Development Bank (AfDB) at its annual meeting held in Accra, Ghana expressed deep concern that the 30 million Africans had been pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. 

President of African Development  Bank  Group Akinwumi Adesina said an estimated 39 million people could fall into poverty by the end of 2021.

Africa’s cumulative Gross Domestic Product,(GDP) losses are estimated between $145 billion and $190 billion. 

Africa will need a lot of resources to support its recovery. Low-income sub-Saharan African countries alone will need $245billion by 2030, while all of the sub-Saharan African countries alone will need $425billion by 2030.

AfDB leads charge to restore Africa’s economies as pandemic pushes 30m into extreme poverty | International Centre for Investigative Reporting (

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lake Tanganyika and Climate Change

 Lake Tanganyika is Africa’s oldest, deepest and longest lake.  Local people, who are dependent on the lake for food, trade, transport and their livelihood.  Located in the western branch of the great African Rift Valley, and shared with Tanzania, Zambia and Burundi, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) possessing almost half of the 1,136-mile-long coastline, Lake Tanganyika is home to about 17% of the Earth’s available surface fresh water and a hotspot for biodiversity dating back 10m years.

In the past two months, storms, torrential rain and flooding have killed at least 13 people and destroyed 4,240 homes and 112 schools along the DRC’s Lake Tanganyika coast. Floods and storms in a tropical country such as the DRC are natural. The problem is that storms and exceptional tides lapping metres high that used to occur once a decade are now frequent events.

As global temperatures rise, torrential rains have steadily increased, even during the dry season, while deforestation – a byproduct of poverty and violence – is affecting the entire Congo basin ecosystem with flooding and erosion. A warmer, more erratic lake is flooding homes, destroying schools, ruining crops and, significantly for a country with 27 million people suffering from acute hunger, decreasing yields of fish and crops. This pushes up food prices in the DRC, one of the world’s poorest countries, which is ranked 175th out of 189 on the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index.

What if global temperatures are allowed to rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels by 2100? Given that the DRC is home to more than half of Africa’s lakes and rivers, the consequences of doing nothing for the fast-growing population in coastal regions are unthinkable.

The lake is home to more than 840 aquatic plant and 1,318 animal species, including almost 300 species of fish found nowhere else in the world

Up to 200,000 tonnes of fish are caught in the lake annually – so a major source of protein for millions of people in the region is at risk from rising water temperatures.

The lake and the forests that surround it – which cover 107m hectares of land and store 8% of the world’s forest carbon – for food, survival and income.

 The DRC needs an immediate and massive reforestation programme to stop soil erosion and flooding. If nothing is done, the Congolese people could face a much more turbulent and deadly future.

Congo’s latest killer is the climate crisis. Inaction is unthinkable | Vava Tampa | The Guardian

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Vaccine Desert

 Nigeria’s minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, speaking at the launch of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, (CoDA) Independent Task Team on Equitable and Universal Access to Vaccines and Vaccination in Africa, said only one per cent of vaccines is produced in Africa, a continent of more than 1.2 billion people.

“Africa, with 54 countries and 1.2 billion people, produces only 1 per cent of the vaccines it administers, with 99 per cent imported,” he said.

Africa produces only 1% of vaccines administered on continent -Minister | Premium Times Nigeria (

Monday, June 21, 2021

Zimbabwe Poverty

 Almost half of Zimbabwe’s population fell into extreme poverty between 2011 and last year, with children bearing the brunt of the misery. The number of Zimbabweans in extreme poverty has reached 7.9 million. 

The pandemic added 1.3 million Zimbabweans to the numbers of extreme poor as jobs and income were lost in urban areas. In July 2020 nearly 500,000 households had one member who had lost her or his job since the onset of the pandemic, worsening the plight of the poor and forcing more households into intermittent or prolonged suffering. The most common stated reason for losing a job in urban areas was business closure due to the lockdown, the report said.

While wages dropped, 23% of the poorest people – who were working before Covid-19 – had lost their jobs by June 2020, adding thousands to the unemployment numbers.

“Among the non-poor, this figure was also high at 20%. As fewer of the poor were working even before the pandemic, the proportion of households affected by job losses is about the same for both the poor and the non-poor,” the report said.

According to the World Bank’s economic and social update report“The number of extreme poor is expected to remain at 7.9 million in 2021 amid continued elevated prices, and a slow recovery of jobs and wages in the formal and informal sectors...Given limited social safety nets for protecting the high numbers of poor, households are likely to turn to negative coping strategies...”

It said, “Poor households are likely to forgo formal health care as they are unable to pay for services, and to keep children out school to avoid education costs, such as for school fees, uniforms and textbooks.” 

Child poverty has risen exponentially around the country and humanitarian agencies are recording high levels of malnutrition and stunted growth.

“Due to economic and climatic shocks, poverty rose sharply, and extreme poverty reached 42% in 2019 – up from 30% in 2017. Nearly 90% of the extreme poor lived in rural areas, and 1.6 million were children,” it said.

Rising prices for fuel and food have hit the poor, with increases for maize and maize meal alone estimated to have boosted extreme poverty by two percentage points between May and December 2019. As Zimbabweans struggled with successive lockdowns, 1.4 million people went without staple foods.

According to the World Bank, the “extreme poor” are defined as people living under the food poverty line of US$29.80 (£21) for each person a month.

Half of Zimbabweans fell into extreme poverty during Covid | Global development | The Guardian

Africa's Forcibly Displaced

 More than 32 million Africans are either internally displaced, refugees, or asylum seekers (up from 29 million a year ago.)

 Of these 32 million forcibly displaced, 24 million are internally displaced (IDPs).

 This detail matters because additional international laws of protection are activated once a forcibly displaced person is outside their country of origin (such as the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol or the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention). While they are within their own country, their rights to protection are ultimately decided by their government, which may or may not adhere to its international vows of protection (such as the Kampala Declaration).

 Ten African countries account for 88 percent (28 million) of all forcibly displaced people on the continent.

 Each of these top 10 countries of origin are in conflict. 

These conflicts represent a combination of government repression against citizens, extremist group violence, and the militarization of politics. 

Seven of the ten have governments that are autocratically leaning.

  • With over 6 million forcibly displaced people, the DRC has at least a third more displacement than any other country in Africa.

  • South Sudan has nearly 4 million people forcibly displaced out of a total population of 11 million, making it the African country with the highest proportion of its population displaced. South Sudan is also distinctive in that the majority of its forcibly displaced are refugees and asylum seekers, living mostly in Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

  • Ethiopia saw the largest jump in the size of its forcibly displaced population in the past year with an estimated 1.8 million people dislocated due to the conflict in Tigray. Ethiopia simultaneously hosts over 800,000 refugees from surrounding countries.

  • Nigeria faces a range of destabilizing security threats. In the North East region, violent attacks by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa have resulted in the displacement of 2.5 million Nigerians. Kidnappings, extortion, and organized criminal attacks in the North West have displaced an additional 800,000 people.

  • Sudan, with 2.5 million of its own internally displaced, is also hosting 1.1 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan and Eritrea.

  • Burkina Faso has experienced an explosion in its forced displacement crisis as a result of militant Islamist group violence originating in Mali. Its 1.2 million displaced population represents a nine-fold increase from 2019.

  • Mozambique, the only southern African country facing a major displacement crisis, saw a tripling in its displaced population. A violent insurgency in the north by Ahlu Sunnah wa Jama'a (ASWJ) has resulted in the number of displaced increasing from 211,00 to 668,000 people in the past year.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Brain Drain


In Kenya, for instance, where 20 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 (89p) a day, the country loses $518,000 for every doctor and $339,000 for every nurse who emigrates to the UK. 

Britain gives substantial aid to Ghana to fight malaria and reduce infant mortality, but these sums are exceeded by the £65m Britain saves by employing 293 doctors trained in Ghana and a further £38m saved on 1,021 Ghanaian nurses who work here.

The poaching of doctors and nurses has grown worse since the 1980s, but the outflow from poor countries has become a flood since the start of the pandemic. In the last 18 months, the number of doctors trained abroad but licensed to practice in the UK has risen from 66,000 to 80,000.

The NHS – and the health services of other well-off countries – can claim that doctors and nurses emigrate voluntarily, but this argument is disingenuous. Impoverished governments unable to pay decent salaries or provide modern working and living conditions are never going to be as attractive to medical staff as places able to provide these advantages.

Britain is a Parasite on Other Countries -

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Unemployment Crisis in Nigeria

Nigeria’s growing population of 200 million people has a median age of just 18. With unemployment among the world’s worst and those under 35 hit hardest, young Nigerians see their prospects rapidly diminish. Almost half of working-age Nigerians under 35 are either unemployed or underemployed – working part-time when they would like to be full time.

Since 2015, Nigeria has endured one of its worst economic slumps in a generation. Two recessions since 2016 – driven by a combination of the government’s economic policies, a collapse in oil prices, and the Covid-19 pandemic – have inflicted prolonged misery. The economic challenges are stark and affect people across the age spectrum, but the rise of youth unemployment has been among the most troubling factors.

The unemployment rate has quadrupled since 2015 to become one of the worst globally. At the end of last year, 23 million people – or 33% of working-age people looking for work – were recorded as unemployed.

“The number of jobs are shrinking and the number of people looking is growing everyday,” said 46-year-old Julius Oshie, a job agent. He continues, “The other problem is that the type of jobs available are not what many young people see as beneficial to them. They are jobs that they take to survive, not to get on in life,” he said. “Cleaning jobs, bar jobs, ‘house helps’ [maids]. And it’s not just the poorer masses taking these jobs. It’s the aspirational classes, the more highly educated,” he said. “It’s been like this for a long time, it’s just you can say it’s getting worse.”

Oshie gestured to a stack of CVs at the end of his desk. “I have people with top degrees in very technical, impressive subjects – physics, statistics – and they come here and after years without work in their field, they’re going to low earning jobs, paying less than 30,000 naira per month,” he said.

27-year-old Favour Obi graduated in 2016 with a first-class degree in biomedical sciences and what felt like reasonable hopes for a career in medical research. Now she is waiting tables at a fast-food restaurant in Lagos. Her job for the past three and a half years pays 35,000 naira (£60) a month, just above Nigeria’s minimum wage and barely enough to live on. It was initially meant to be temporary.

“But it’s been years now and I’m still here."

Attaining a university degree is a dominant aspiration in Nigerian culture, which venerates academic achievement and excellence. Many people see higher education as a route out of poverty, yet in practice university qualifications are not working for many young people, said Tokunbo Afikuyomi, the editor of Stears Business, an economic analysis company based in Lagos. “We have a situation where the more middle class and educated class are struggling to find work. The unemployment rate of those who left secondary school is lower than the unemployment rate of those who left university,” he said.

The Special Public Works scheme – the largest such programme in the country’s history – will provide 750,000 three-month jobs to unemployed graduates this year.

But Afikuyomi said the benefits the scheme were limited. “With jobs, they can’t be created by force,” he said. “If you’re not building enough houses, or infrastructure you get a situation where you create a jobs programme where people only have jobs for a fixed period, then they’re unemployed again.”

Young, qualified and barely scraping by – inside Nigeria’s economic crisis | Nigeria | The Guardian

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Tigray Tragedy

 The news from Tigray in Ethiopia continues to be grim. 

33,000 severely malnourished children in the region are at high risk of death, Unicef has warned with a further two million people are classed as on the brink of "severe crisis".

Ethiopia conflict: 33,000 Tigray children risk death from hunger - UN - BBC News

Friday, June 11, 2021

Uganda's ID Card Flawed

 Up to a third of adults in Uganda have been excluded from vital healthcare and social services because they do not have national ID cards.

Women and elderly people have been particularly affected by the introduction of the digital identity cards, which are required to access government and private sector healthcare, to claim social benefits, to vote and to open bank accounts or buy sim cards.

The report, published by three human rights organisations, estimates that between 23% and 33% of Uganda’s adult population do not have ID cards, which were introduced by the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) in 2015.

Many of the cards issued include errors, said the report. Correcting mistakes or replacing lost or stolen cards costs at least 50,000 Ugandan shillings (£10). More than 40% of Uganda’s population live on less than £1.30 a day.

Uganda’s ID scheme excludes nearly a third from healthcare, says report | Global development | The Guardian

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Conditions in Tigray Worsen

 United Nations agencies and aid groups estimate some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region are in famine conditions.  Millions more across Tigray required "urgent food and agriculture/livelihoods support to avert further slides towards famine."

"Levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are at alarming levels," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding there had been reports of starvation among displaced people, while there was a severe need for food in northwest Tigray after the burning or looting of harvests.

The Ethiopian government disputes the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.

The United Nations said there had been reported incidents of denial of the movement of aid and the interrogation, assault and detention of humanitarian workers at military checkpoints, along with looting and confiscation of humanitarian assets and supplies by the parties to the conflict.

The violence in Tigray has killed thousands of people and forced more than 2 million from their homes in the mountainous region of more than 5 million.

Exclusive: Some 350,000 people in Ethiopia’s Tigray in famine, U.N. document shows | Reuters

Monday, June 07, 2021

Despotism in Uganda

 Repression in Uganda has led to the abductions of dozens of more opposition activists by security forces and at least one alleged death. Several hundred people are thought to have been detained without trial in secret prisons where they are subjected to a brutal regime of mistreatment. The country has suffered a series of crackdowns aimed at stamping out dissent.

The trigger for the most recent repression by security services appears to have been the swearing-in ceremony of Uganda’s veteran president, the 76-year-old Yoweri Museveni, in May. Museveni won a sixth term in office in January in an election denounced as fraudulent by the opposition. Police and other unidentified security agencies moved to arrest and detain hundreds in the week before and after the inauguration.

The body of Daniel Apedel was found dumped at Mulago mortuary in Kampala bearing marks of torture on 22 May. Witnesses heard Apedel pleading for mercy with someone he called “officer” shortly before he disappeared near his home in the Kireka district of Kampala on his way home from work. Three days later, a friend received an anonymous call saying Apedel’s body was at the morgue.

“He had been beaten, hit, his fingers were broken, his teeth removed … it was grave torture. It was a very disturbing sight to see.”

Other detainees have had their joints or genitals beaten with wires, been burned with cigarettes or had fingernails torn out. Many have been members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party. The NUP has listed more than 700 members and activists said to have been detained but said the true figure was likely to be higher.

Museveni has been in power for 35 years and has long been perceived as a key ally of western powers in east Africa. The US and UK have given billions of dollars of development aid and security assistance to Uganda in recent years. Uganda has received more than $1bn of US aid each year, as well as £150m of assistance from the UK.

The US Justice Department reveal that the Ugandan government has hired a UK-based public relations firm to improve its international image. The cost of such contracts often runs to several million dollars.

Hundreds detained without trial in Uganda in new wave of repression | Uganda | The Guardian

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Stealing food from the hungry to feed fish

 Research by Greenpeace Africa found the amount of fish extracted from the region by industrial vessels to be ground up for use in agriculture and aquaculture could feed 33 million people each year. The two organisations are calling for a ban on fish fit for human consumption being used for fishmeal and oil, and for small-scale local fisherman and processors to be given a formal legal status to protect their rights to their fisheries. Greenpeace and the Netherlands-based organisation Changing Markets are calling for a ban on fish fit for human consumption being used for fishmeal and oil.

The industry is causing devastation among coastal communities in Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia. The extraction is placing millions of people at risk of food insecurity, and putting local, small-scale fishermen and those involved in smoking and drying the catch out of work. Processing plants generating fishmeal and fish oil have also been blamed for a sharp rise in air pollution and contaminating waterways close to their sites.

Globally, 69 per cent of fishmeal and 75 per cent of fish oil is used for aquafeed to produce farmed fish, such as salmon. A large proportion of the remaining fishmeal is used in agriculture, predominantly for pig feed. As well as farming, it is also commonly used in dietary supplements, pet food and in cosmetics

“The fishmeal and fish oil industry, as well as all governments and companies supporting them, are basically robbing local populations of livelihoods and food in contradiction with international commitments on sustainable development, poverty alleviation, food security, and gender equality,” Greenpeace Africa senior campaigner Dr Ibrahime Cisse said.

Changing Markets campaigns manager Alice Delemare Tangpuori said: “European aquafeed companies and retailers can no longer ignore this major human rights and environmental issue. Now is the time to rethink supply chains and rapidly phase out the use of wild-caught fish in farmed fish and other animals, to preserve these fish populations for future generations.”

Stop selling fish raised on fishmeal from West Africa, supermarkets told | Evening Standard