Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Future of the Sudan (1959)


From the January 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Commentary on the recent coup d'état in the Sudan has been curiously limited. It is true that the seizure of power in mid-November by a military council was accomplished in unspectacular bloodless fashion; nevertheless, the overthrow of a government in so close proximity to the centre of recent world troubles ought, one thinks, to have made bigger news. Even the serious informational papers had not much to say. The Observer provided only 26 column-inches about it in two issues and the Manchester Guardian, though it gave most of all, did so largely in reference to the northern cotton market.

The reason is not hard to see. Events are quickly told, but the commentary on them must depend chiefly on their consequences—and the consequences of the Sudan happening are not yet apparent. The new government is politically unrevealed so far, and what fresh relationship may arise between the Sudan and the western world is still unknown. General Abboud may take the stage as a second Nasser to be hissed for a foxy schemer from the galleries of the west, or contrariwise as the golden-haired lad bearing freedom’s banner. For that, we must wait and see.

What is much more to the point is to ask what has happened and why. Briefly to go over recent events, the coup was announced on November 17th. The coalition government of Abdullah Khalil was known to be on its way out. Its two factors, the People’s Democratic Party and the Umma party, were in disagreement over the Sudan’s relations with Egypt: mainly, it is said, over fresh Egyptian plans for the Aswan High Dam made in the light of the proferred Russian loan. The new régime, in which General Abboud holds supreme power, announced itself as working “in the interest of no party or group” but aiming at “the elimination of incompetence and corruption among politicians in general,” with a hint about knowing the way to good terms with Egypt (Manchester Guardian, 18th November, 1958).

This has come in the face not only of Egyptian pressure, however, but also of economic troubles. The Sudan is a cotton-producing country. Eighty per cent of its exports are of cotton (largely to Lancashire), and the present condition of the world’s cotton markets has meant a huge unsaleable surplus, stated by the Observer correspondent in Khartoum to include 48.000 tons left over from 1957. Under the Anglo-Egyptian regime big sums were invested in irrigation projects and plans for government-assisted peasant production to develop the cotton yield, so that the Sudan is dependent always on world prices for its staple crop. Before the war the Sudanese people were considered better-off than the natives of most other colonized parts of Africa; now the country’s economy is in a critical phase without much prospect of improvement.

The growth and the varied outlooks of the Sudanese political parties have come partly through economic development and partly from the patterns set by the fifty-eight years of joint British and Egyptian rule which ended in 1956. The history of this companionate rule is in fact a series of quarrels over who should really rule a country which bordered the Suez canal and enclosed the upper Nile. The existence of pro-British and pro-Egyptian parties comes from this period, when each of the dual rulers tried to create its own body of support in the Sudan. The Umma is descended from the Mahdi’s followers who drove out Turco-Egyptian rule and is thus traditionally anti-Egyptian; the P.D.P., on the other hand, is an offshoot of the National Unity Party which has always seen advantage in alliance with Egypt.

As in all other colonial countries, a powerful vein of nationalism appeared with the vista of economic independence that the development schemes afforded. (It is an irony of imperialism that the leaders of nationalist movements are produced by the imperialists’ own needs for officials, technical assistants and the rest of the new “middle classes” which this stage of economic progress must turn out.) All the Sudanese parties, including the “Socialist” National Unity Party and the Anti-Imperialist Front (the Communists) are shot through with this strong desire for “national independence,” and the new military government lost no time in stating that it did not differ from them. The day after assuming power. General Abboud said his regime would “accept anything it considered in the interests of the country, but would reject anything which might harm its independence and sovereignty.”

The truth is, however, that the Sudan cannot be independent except in the nominal sense of not being any other nation’s colony. The change which has just taken place was forced by external conditions and happenings, and the policies of the Abboud government—even the vague ones which were immediately announced—are bound to be determined almost wholly from outside. The resuscitation of the limping Sudanese economy depends on, more than anything else at the present time, the government’s negotiations with Egypt and (a not-unconnected matter) its success in playing-off America and Russia to attract loans from either or both. On November 30th the Foreign Minister announced that “foreign capital without strings would be welcomed.” and that his government had already taken 15 million dollars' worth of foreign exchange from America (Manchester Guardian, 1st December. 1958).

The outstanding questions between Egypt and the Sudan are the Aswan Dam project and the frontiers. To the Egyptian government the Dam, with its promise of irrigation and electric power, is vital for maintaining the economy (with its already desperate population problem) and making the economy maintain the army. Now, with the promise of Russian aid. it appears within reach, but there must first be agreement with the government of Sudan. From Egypt’s point of view a compliant Sudan would be the answer; Mr. Khalil, indeed, alleged in London last September that there were forces working to this end within the Sudanese government. For the Sudan, on the other hand, agreement can only mean a share in the benefits of the Dam.

What of the Sudanese people? Here, when one asks this question, stands forth a remarkable example of the stupidity and cruelty of commercialism and nationalism. For the Sudanese people are desperately, pitifully poor. In nearly three years of “independence” they have been governed by the National Unity “Socialists,” a coalition, and now the military—and none has made a scrap of difference to their poverty. It is worth pointing out that the Egyptian people have had the same experience: they were poverty-stricken under fat Farouk, and are equally so under Nasser. What have the political pretensions of their government done for them?

Assuming, however, that the building of the new High Dam would lighten these peoples’ burdens, the approaches to it have been made entirely in terms of not those but the rulers’ interests. First, there has to be money—obvious enough, but in itself a condemnation of the entire modern world where the need is pressing, the materials and labour plentiful, yet the fulfilment must wait on the djinn of this idiotic Aladdin’s lamp. When it was offered to Egypt by the West, the offer was based and then foundered on considerations of political advantage in the cold war. Now it appears again from Russia, with similar considerations in view (while a team of “American aid experts ” descends on the Sudan).

Who, then, cares about the Sudanese people? It is not that this or the preceding governments, or the government of Egypt, is deliberately negligent; on the contrary, it would be to the rulers’ benefit to have the support of prosperous and satisfied populations. The Sudan, however, has been pulled into the whirlpool of Capitalist world politics. From a colony in the once-majestic scheme of British imperialism, developed to make its cotton contribution to British trade, it has become another nation forced to struggle for advantage in the pitiless dogfights of world markets and big politics.

The future of the Sudan is bound up in the future of the world. Economic development and political contact have opened the windows for this country on the amenities of modern civilization, hence the nationalism, the reformist politics, and the anxiety to benefit by “getting in” on the bigger powers’ calculated generosity. Ideally, the Sudanese people stand to gain in every way from contact and interchange—in a word, “progress.” But modern civilization is far from ideal. Whatever progress is made will be directed at furthering only the interests of the property-owners of the Sudan: the important thing to recognize about the Abboud regime is that, whatever is said about ending corruption and the rest, this is its prime aim. However good a proportion of the High Dam potentialities is obtained for the Sudan, the sad fact is that the Dam is really wanted as a source of power and profits for the commercial class.

There is no sanity in this. It is not only in the Sudan, but everywhere; this small flare-up illumines a little more of what is going on all over the world. Nationalism and the political game are impediments to genuine productive development, standing in the way of what could be done by man for man—but they are parts of the superstructure of Capitalist society, which limits human activity to what will yield the best profits. The real trouble for the people of the Sudan is the profit system, and the only future which can hold anything worth while for them—and for everyone else—is Socialism all over the world.
Robert Barltrop

Friday, January 28, 2022

Fact of the Day

 In the first two days of January, the average Briton was already responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions than someone from the Democratic Republic of the Congo would produce in an entire year, according to analysis by the Center for Global Development (CGD).

The study, which highlights the “vast energy inequality” between rich and poor countries, found that each Briton produces 200 times the climate emissions of the average Congolese person, with people in the US producing 585 times as much. By the end of January, the carbon emitted by someone living in the UK will surpass the annual emissions of citizens of 30 low- and middle-income countries, it found.

West accused of ‘climate hypocrisy’ as emissions dwarf those of poor countries | Inequality and development | The Guardian

UK Support for Cameroon

 Cameroon, a country with 27 million inhabitants, is run by just five men and that there is “extensive corruption.”

At the top is President Paul Biya, who has ruled the central African state with an iron fist for nearly 40 years. Now in his late 80s, he governs mostly from a luxury hotel in Switzerland.

But Britain supports his regime and conducted six secret counter-terrorism operations in Cameroon last year, it can be revealed. They have code names like Cylix, Bacchus and Abbadide.

 One recent U.K. operation, codenamed ODYSSEAN, saw a British special forces officer draft a “crisis management” doctrine for Cameroon’s president. 

In return for this and other services, Biya awarded the officer — lieutenant colonel ‘Sid’ Purser — the equivalent of an MBE.

Lt Col Purser  is stationed in Cameroon as Britain’s “senior military adviser.” 

There, he has cultivated “influential relationships” with Biya’s “right hand man,” Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, and Cameroon’s spy chief Leopold Maxine Eko Eko. Cameroon’s prime minister and defence minister appear to be the other most influential people. Eko Eko runs the country’s fearsome intelligence agency, the Directorate General Research External (DGRE).

Amnesty International has published allegations of torture throughout Eko Eko’s leadership of the DGRE. Despite Amnesty’s detailed report, U.K. Defence Minister James Heappey met Eko Eko at a dinner hosted by the British ambassador while visiting Cameroon last spring. He was also advised to “praise” Eko Eko for his counter-extremism efforts and “thank” him for letting British troops conduct “capacity building” of the DGRE at Salak,

Documents show how British diplomats overlook Biya’s “shortcomings on human rights and democracy,” partly because he voted with the U.K. to condemn the use of chemical weapons by Russia and Syria.

As well as supporting Cameroon’s intelligence agency, Britain works with the regime’s special forces. “The main focus of UK capacity building in Cameroon” is on the Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide (BIR), or Rapid Intervention Battalion, the documents show. This is a well-armed elite force of 10,000 men. They are accused of tortureexecuting women and children, and burning down a village.

Alongside the military support, Britain signed a £200 million trade deal with Cameroon last year. A British foreign minister met President Biya in March 2021 to discuss “investment opportunities”, which include a Guinness factory.

UK Enables Cameroon’s Abusive Dictatorship - Consortium News

Tigray Famine?

 Nearly 1,500 people died of malnutrition in just part of Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray region over a four-month period last year, including more than 350 young children, a new report by the region’s health bureau says. It cites more than 5,000 blockade-related deaths in all from hunger and disease in the largest official death toll yet associated with the country’s warSevere acute malnutrition in children under 5, at less than 2% in Tigray before the war, was now above 7%, he said. The assessment found at least 369 children under 5 had died of malnutrition, part of 1,479 people in all.

“Deaths are alarmingly increasing,” including from easily preventable diseases like rabies as medicines run out or expire, the head of Tigray’s health bureau, Hagos Godefay, told The Associated Press late last year as the findings were being compiled. “This is one of the worst times of my life, I can tell you.”

His report on the findings, published Wednesday by the independent Ethiopia Insight, says 5,421 deaths were confirmed in Tigray between July and October in an assessment by his bureau and some international aid groups. 

The deaths were overwhelmingly from malnutrition, infectious disease and noncommunicable diseases. The deaths do not reflect people killed in combat.

Report: 5,000-plus deaths under Ethiopia's Tigray blockade | AP News

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Unnecessary Deaths

 Mistakes made during childbirth lead to the deaths of more than 100 babies in Zambia every week, Sylvia Masebo, the country’s minister of health, has said.

Between 10 to 15 women also die each week due to preventable complications from pregnancy or childbirth, the minister is quoted as saying by the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail.

The majority of these stillbirths, maternal and new-born deaths could be avoided through the provision of safe and quality care by skilled health professionals, she said.

She called for the adoption of “comprehensive health systems and community-based approaches”.

The minister made the comments at University Teaching Hospitals (UTH) in the capital, Lusaka, on Tuesday at an event to mark World Patient Safety Day.

Ms Masebo was appointed health minister in September, a month after President Hakainde Hichilema won elections promising to tackle corruption and end Zambia’s economic crisis.

The health ministry has in the past been riddled with accusations of corruption that include the procurement of expired drugs and defective condoms.

Since taking up the job, Ms Masebo has said she sees the decentralisation of health provision as a way overcoming these problems and dealing with bureaucracy.

During her visit to UTH, she was informed by staff about some of the difficulties they face in providing quality healthcare.

She was told that the hospital’s children wing currently owed more than three million Zambia kwacha ($170,000; £126,000) to local firms for drugs supplied in 2019 - a year when the institution only received three of its 12 monthly grants from government.

The health ministry relies heavily on donor funding for its budget – and health professionals are poorly paid and conditions are considered so poor that it is hard to retain staff, especially in rural areas.

This month, Ms Masebo said the government planned to recruit more than 11,000 health workers.

It is not clear whether the salaries have been raised – and whether they will be enough to tempt the more than 700 qualified doctors who are not employed in the health sector because of poor pay to take up the offer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Africa's Education Divide

 According to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), over one-fifth of African children between the ages of 6 and 11 are not in school, while nearly 60% of youth between the ages of 15 and 17 are not enrolled.

The education of girls is of particular concern: 9 million girls on the continent between the ages of 6 and 11 will never attend school, compared to 6 million boys. By the time they reach adolescence, girls have a 36% exclusion rate compared to 32% for boys. In South Africa, at least 40% of all students drop out of school before completing grade 12. Girls make up the majority of this group. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

War in Africa

 According to the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), out of a total of 49 sub-Saharan African states, at least 20 were involved in some armed conflict in 2020. 

Since the mid-1950s, Africa has averaged four coups per year. The threat of a military coup is never far, especially in West and Central Africa.

The disregard of human rights in warfare is a universal feature

Sexual violence against women and girls and other human rights abuses are not just incidents, but are, in effect, tactics of war.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Enset - A Superfood

 Scientists say the plant enset, an Ethiopian staple, could be a new superfood and a lifesaver in the face of climate change.

The banana-like crop has the potential to feed more than 100 million people in a warming world and boost food security in Ethiopia and other African countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, according to a new study.

The plant is almost unknown outside of Ethiopia, where it is used to make porridge and bread. The banana-like fruit of the plant is inedible, but the starchy stems and roots can be fermented and used to make porridge and bread.

Research suggests the crop can be grown over a much larger range in Africa.

"This is a crop that can play a really important role in addressing food security and sustainable development," said Dr Wendawek Abebe of Hawassa University in Awasa, Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, around 20 million people rely on it for food, but elsewhere it has not been cultivated, although wild relatives - which are not considered edible - grow as far south as South Africa, suggesting the plant can tolerate a much wider range.

 Dr James Borrell, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said planting enset as a buffer crop for lean times could help boost food security.

"It's got some really unusual traits that make it absolutely unique as a crop," he said. "You plant it at any time, you harvest it at any time and it's perennial. That's why they call it the tree against hunger." He added, "We need to diversify the plants we use globally as a species because all our eggs are in a very small basket at the moment."

The war for phosphates

 Morocco Drives A War In Western Sahara For Its Phosphates| Countercurrents

By the end of November 2021, the government of Morocco announced that it had earned $6.45 billion from the export of phosphate from the kingdom and from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. 

If you add up the phosphate reserves in this entire region, it amounts to 72 percent of the entire phosphate reserves in the world (the second-highest percentage of these reserves is in China, which has around 6 percent). 

Phosphate, along with nitrogen, makes synthetic fertilizer, a key element in modern food production. While nitrogen is recoverable from the air, phosphates, found in the soil, are a finite reserve. This gives Morocco a tight grip over world food production. 

There is no doubt that the occupation of Western Sahara is not merely about national pride, but it is largely about the presence of a vast number of resources—especially phosphates—that can be found in the territory.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Nigeria's inflation

 No woman in the world can have their period using just two disposable sanitary pads.

A typical pack of eight is hardly enough, yet in Nigeria a sachet, or small plastic pouch, containing two pads are now being widely sold as an affordable option.

The appearance of the sanitary pads in these small packs was "mind-boggling", according to women's health activist Dr Chioma Nwakanma.

They do not represent convenience but rather a more difficult choice as some women are no longer able to afford to cover their whole period.

The proliferation of these sachets of essential goods and processed food items in Nigeria tells a story about what has happened to the cost of living.

In addition to sanitary pads, everything from baby food to cooking oil to breakfast cereal can now be bought in smaller portions, which are more affordable as the dramatic price increases have outstripped wage rises. In another sign of increasing hardship, it is now possible to buy individual slices of yam whereas once customers would only be offered the whole tuber.

The World Bank estimates that by its measure the recent inflation pushed another seven million Nigerians into poverty. The total figure is now more than 100 million - roughly half the population.

The increase in inflation may be past its peak, but it is unclear when it will fall to more manageable levels.

Nigeria's economy: Why people are buying sanitary pads in packs of two - BBC News

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Tigray Tragedy Continues

 The Tigray region of northern Ethiopia stands on the edge of a humanitarian disaster, the UN has said, as fighting escalates and stocks of essential food for malnourished children run out.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday that it would be distributing its last supplies of cereals, pulses and oil next week to Tigray, where more than 5 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance.

Stocks of nutritionally fortified food for the treatment of malnourished children and women have now been exhausted, the agency said in a statement. Fuel to deliver the last of the essential food supplies is also running extremely low, it said.

It is also increasingly worried about hunger levels in the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar, where more than 4 million people are thought to be in need of food assistance.

“We’re now having to choose who goes hungry to prevent another from starving,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s regional director for eastern Africa. “We need immediate guarantees from all parties to the conflict for safe and secure humanitarian corridors, via all routes, across northern Ethiopia. Humanitarian supplies are simply not flowing at the pace and scale needed,” he said. “The lack of both food and fuel means we’ve only been able to reach 20% of those we should have in this latest distribution in Tigray. We’re on the edge of a humanitarian disaster.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has accused the Ethiopian authorities of blocking medical supplies to the region. He told reporters it was “so dreadful and unimaginable during this time, the 21st century, when a government is denying its own people for more than a year food and medicine and the rest to survive”. Tedros is from Tigray.

Ethiopia: Tigray on brink of humanitarian disaster, UN says | Global development | The Guardian

Friday, January 07, 2022

2nd Hand Clothes Problem

 Each week, Ghana receives 15 million items of used clothing sent from the West. But 40% of the products get discarded due to poor quality. They end up at landfills and in bodies of water, polluting entire ecosystems. While most of these secondhand clothes are typically donated with good intentions from industrialized countries, many have now become an environmental hazard in Ghana and beyond.

Other African nations have indeed taken a more proactive and bold approach when it comes to the waste generated by secondhand clothing, issuing bans.  Rwanda, for example, banned secondhand clothes imports in 2018 in order to boost its own textile industry. And other nations have followed suit.

Used clothes choke both markets and environment in Ghana | Africa | DW | 05.01.2022

Stones and Rocks Before People

 Mutoko stone from Zimbabwe is sought after for its lustre. Quarrying has been happening here since the 1980s. Every day more than 60 trucks take granite for export. 

Mining companies extract wealth from the mountain but they leave behind a trail of damaged roads and bridges, hazardous pollutants and dirty air. Those living near granite mines say companies are failing to restore the land after extraction. Open pits are left uncovered, endangering children and wildlife. Mineworkers speak of poor working conditions and poor pay.

50 Buja families in Nyamakope village have been told by a Chinese mining company that they will have to leave their homes and land. People in four other villages in the district fear they will also lose their ancestral lands.

Evelyn Kutyauripo, a paralegal with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), who has been rallying villagers in Mutoko to resist evictions, says local officials need to protect people.

“I blame the headmen and the councillors because they are working with the Chinese. They should stand with the community,” she says, adding that companies were taking from communities and not helping them develop. “They are not developing anything in the community."

‘They want to remove us and take the rock’, say Zimbabweans living near Chinese-owned mines | Global development | The Guardian

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Another broken promise

 Rich nations have broken their pledge to vaccinate 40 per cent of people against Covid in every African country by the end of 2021, new figures show. The target was set at the G20 summit in Rome in October, but only Morocco, Tunisia, Botswana and Rwanda have reached it, of countries on mainland Africa.

Just seven of the continent’s 54 countries have reached the target, according to the World Health Organisation, with most lagging way behind at under 10 per cent.

Africa’s largest nation, Nigeria, has fully vaccinated just 2.1 per cent of its people, with Ethiopia (3.5 per cent) and Democratic Republic of Congo (0.1 per cent) also having among the lowest rates.

WHO is now warning that its further target of 70 per cent coverage in every nation of the world by June 2022 looks doomed.

“As things stand, predictions are that Africa may not reach the 70 per cent vaccination coverage target until August 2024,” said regional director Matshidiso Moeti.

The UK also continues to block the lifting of patents on Covid vaccines – to drive down the cost for developing countries.

 Rich nations break pledge to vaccinate 40% of Africa against Covid by end of 2021 | The Independent

Saturday, January 01, 2022

New Year's Promise


And so a new year has begun. It is necessary to make plans for a new and better future, according to tradition.  One way to judge a theory is its ability to explain what really happens in the world. Sadly, from recent events of history, it’s difficult for some of us to trust in the ability of the working class to change society. Most workers, influenced as they are by the politics of reformism, are unwilling to take this step. To the working class who are witnessing the destruction of the so-called "welfare state", we now have only two roads to follow. Either continue along the road of capitalism, towards steadily worsening living conditions or choose the road towards socialism and social security, in the full true meaning of that phrase.

The capitalist system rests on the exploitation of workers. By bringing workers together in order to exploit us, capitalism ultimately gives us the power to overthrow it. Everything turns on the potential of the working class to gain an understanding of this world and determines to change it to their own benefit. The future of socialism depends upon the creation of an independent revolutionary party. We in the World Socialist Movement believe that we have made a start at building such a party. The existence of a socialist party can make the difference between victory and defeat. There should be no mistake – the stakes are very high. Only the world working class, by tearing the ownership of global wealth from the grasp of our rulers, can save humanity from the prospect of environmental annihilation. 

With socialism, we can go on to use the world’s resources, and humanity’s accumulated knowledge and skills to change the face of the world, to create a world in which poverty, exploitation, and war are only bad memories of the past. The World Socialist Movement has no illusions about the scale of the task, or about the limitations imposed by our size, influence, and talents. We don’t regard ourselves as the elite, the bearers of the truth. We know that only the working class can transform society. We don’t seek to put ourselves in place of that class. We strive only to make workers conscious of their interests and their power, and to direct that power at ending the capitalist system.

 We appeal to all who agree with us to join us. Together we have a world to win and a planet to save.