Thursday, June 30, 2022

Charity Concern's Concern for East Africa

 The situation in large parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan is now worse than what preceded the last disaster in 2011 that killed more than a quarter of a million people. Four failed rainy seasons in succession have decimated livestock, left pastures barren, destroyed crops and caused widespread hunger and malnutrition. Disease is spreading and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to migrate in search of grazing land, water and humanitarian aid.

Then, 13 million people needed humanitarian support to survive the resulting famine. Concern says 23 million people need humanitarian support in the region but international donors are not responding. The limited aid that has been supplied is stretching only half as far normal because of a doubling in the price of imported maize since the war on Ukraine.

Concern regional director Amina Abdulla said five million children were estimated to be malnourished across the five countries, with 1.6 million of them severely malnourished.

“Without an urgent response and scaling up of the humanitarian support, we risk 350,000 of these children dying,” she said.

Abdulla said 500,000 people were now categorised as being one step away from famine.

350,000 severely malnourished children face death in drought-stricken East Africa -

DRC - More War

 The vast mineral-rich DR Congo is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the east.

A recent flare-up of heavy fighting in the east has revived decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with DR Congo blaming neighboring Rwanda for a resurgence of a militia called M23.

 Bintou Keita, The U.N. special envoy for Congo, warned Wednesday that the M23 rebel group has increasingly acted as a conventional army during escalating military action in the country.

Eastern Congo, which borders Rwanda, lives with the daily threat from dozens of armed groups that jostle for a piece of the region’s rich mineral wealth, which the world mines for electric cars, laptops and mobile phones. The M23, one of the most notorious rebel groups, surged into action this year and captured a key trading town in eastern Congo this month. Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Albinism Atrocity

 A Malawi court has found a Catholic priest, a policeman and 10 others of the brutal murder and mutilating of the 22-year-old victim for the pigment of his skin. One of the culprits was the victim's own brother.

Albinism can mean a death sentence in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where according to the medical journal The Lancet, 1 in 5,000 people is born with the skin condition. In Malawi, superstitions about people with albinism have even resulted in the murder of little children as young as 2 years old.

MacDonald Masambuka from Malawi's southern Machinga district, disappeared on March 9, 2018. Three weeks later, his body was found, mutilated. It later emerged that the priest had intended to sell off body parts — in particular his bones — for his own profit. It took four years to get justice for Masambuka.

At least 20 people with albinism were killed in Malawi in the four years preceding MacDonald Masambuka's murder, according to Amnesty International. 

A March 2022 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights counted at least 600 attacks on people with albinism in the past 10 years across the world. Across Africa, attacks are particularly prevalent in MalawiZambiaZimbabweSouth Africa,  Tanzania and beyond.

Abdallah Possi, Tanzania's ambassador to Germany was born with the condition.

He said "things have changed a lot" and appealed for a greater sense of understanding for the fact that certain superstitions might not fully be grounded in an antiquated form of mysticism but could be rather emblematic of the abject poverty felt in certain parts of Tanzania. "Of course, there are those beliefs that some people think that if you have body parts and somehow use them ... you could get rich," he said. "Although one has to be very careful with the definition of wealth here: Having an iron-corrugated roof on top of your house could be considered as very wealthy."

Malawi murder case shines light on anti-albino prejudice in Africa | Africa | DW | 28.06.2022

The Food Chain and Africa

 Despite having vast amounts of arable land, nutritious indigenous crops and skilled agricultural workers, Africa has immense potential for feeding itself, yet the continent still imports most of its grain.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent blockade plus the ripple effects of Western sanctions against Moscow have raised international food and fuel prices, leaving millions of Africans facing an "unprecedented food emergency" this year, according to the World Food Programme. Kenya, Somalia, and large parts of Ethiopia are at risk of acute food insecurity, the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization said this week. In Sahel and West Africa, more than 40 million people could go hungry in 2022, according to the FAO, up from 10.8 million people in 2019. 

Even before the Russian invasion, the pandemic and a long period of recurring drought had already hit African economies and farming hard. The war in Ukraine worsened the situation since the continent imported about a third of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. With food prices skyrocketing in global markets, even those countries not reliant on imports from Russia and Ukraine are suffering. 

Over the past decade, Africa's food import bill has nearly tripled. But why is it still so dependent on imported grain?

Major areas of Africa's farmland are used to grow cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, and cottonseed oil for export, while the staple crops of the African diet, wheat, and rice, mainly come from outside of the continent, although much of this imported food could be produced locally.

Self-sufficiency for African countries could also be boosted by replacing foreign cereal with regional crops such as fonio, teff, sorghum, amaranthus, and millet, creating much-needed jobs for the youth and markets for their farmers, as well as being the basis for a healthy diet. Indigenous crops have been neglected for decades, largely due to states and international companies pushing for the mass production of maize and wheat and promoting them as staple foods.

"Indigenous crops could offer much healthier alternatives to the cereals currently in use," Pauline Chivenge, a researcher at the African Plant Nutrition Institute in Morocco, explained. "They have benefits that go beyond sustaining food security. They are more nutritious, so in addition to the necessary calories, they contain higher amounts of protein and vitamins."

 Chivenge said, "Research and development and mechanization have focused on maize, rice, and wheat, and producing them in large, mono-crop fields at the expense of the region’s biodiversity." 

Chivenge also added, "The fact is that grains like maize and wheat are not really suitable for growing in most regions of Africa, where water is in short supply," she added. "They are very much dependent on regular rainfall, which is becoming a real challenge in the wake of climate change."

Wolfgang Bokelmann, a food and agriculture economist at Humboldt University in Berlin, agreed that local crops are underutilized. 

Between 2015 to 2018 he oversaw a study on the local production and consumption of a group of indigenous vegetables in Kenya. "The vegetables we studied had previously fallen out of fashion and used to be known as the poor man's food, due to dominance of the foreign produce that colonialization brought to Kenya." 

In addition to their health benefits and ecological advantages, indigenous crops can empower women and provide for urban populations Bokelmann said

 "There are many types of crops that can grow in home gardens in cities' margins within a short period of time." With the continuous trend of migration from villages to cities in Africa, constellations of small plots of indigenous crop farms around the cities can count as vital food sources for the ever-expanding population of slums and marginal communities, he noted.

"Most of these nations are faced with a dilemma," Bokelmann said. "They are forced to choose between the mass production of crops for exporting, which brings them more price value, or feeding the majority of their population by supporting small-scale farming of indigenous crops."

The idea of having a global market and integrated supply chain used to be popular decades ago, with every country exporting what they best produce themselves while importing what it needs from other countries.

"But from the look of the post-pandemic world, it seems that food sovereignty, the ability of each country and community to grow its own food, is much more important," he said. 

And no with the war in Ukraine threatening global food supplies, production and distribution will need to adapt.

With vast arable lands, why is Africa dependent on imported grain? | World | Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 29.06.2022

Wahayas, the slavery of fifth Wives

  Thousands of girls in west Africa who are still bought cheaply as a wahaya, or ‘fifth wife’. Despite several attempts at abolition, slavery remains deeply entrenched in Niger.

Al-Husseina Amadou never forgets the day she was sold. Like her parents, she was born into slavery in southern Niger. Forty-five years ago, when she was 15, a wealthy businessman from across the border in Nigeria arrived and bought her from her family’s master as a “fifth wife” or wahaya.

 “It is a form of sex trafficking,” says Dr Benedetta Rossi, who studies slavery in Niger at University College London. “In Islam, prostitution and sex outside of marriage are outlawed as sins, and so there is a demand for women who are available for a relationship that is legitimate from a traditional and a religious-legal perspective.”

 Wahaya is one of the most prevalent forms of bondage in Niger. It is a system through which wealthy men and traditional leaders buy girls for sex and domestic work for as little as £200. Today wahaya is mainly practised in a southern region near the Nigerian border Timidria,  a local charity that campaigns against slavery, refers to as the “triangle of shame”. The tradition allows men who have the maximum of four wives permitted by Islamic law to take on concubines known euphemistically as “fifth wives”.

“My parents had no say,” she recalls. “I was just a girl and he bought me like a chicken in the market."

For 15 years Amadou lived with her “husband” in northern Nigeria, cooking and cleaning for his four “official” wives, whom he had married in accordance with Islamic law, and their children, while also working in their fields and tending their livestock. Barely fed, she would eat the family’s leftovers or steal handfuls of grain. She ran away dozens of times, returning to her family in Niger, but was always caught and brought back. For these transgressions, she was beaten with a stick and still carries the scars on her back.

“If I fled or didn’t work, the wives and even the children would beat me,” Amadou says. “It was a pitiful situation. I was skinny because I was always hungry. If my husband bought food he would just give it to his wives and children. I got nothing.”

Amadou chose not to marry as a free woman. Today she lives with five other former wahaya and their children. Together they run a co-operative, weaving straw sleeping mats and selling them at their local market.

“We were treated like animals,” says Amadou. “Now we are free; we live like people. No one tells us what to do. We have a happy life.”

Hadizatou Mani is one of the former wahaya Timidria has assisted. In 1996, aged 12, she was sold for about £250 to a man in his sixties, who beat her and forced her to bear three children. “I was brought to my new husband’s compound at night,” says Mani. “I had to pound millet, fetch water and work on his farm during the planting season and the harvest. I didn’t have the right to say no. There was no choice but to obey.” She adds: “When I was with him, he beat me often. The neighbours asked him to stop but he refused. He said he owned me and could do whatever he wanted to do.”

The French colonial administration outlawed slavery in 1905 and it was also banned under the 1960 constitution, when Niger gained independence. Other attempts followed in 1999 and 2003, with a penal code that formally defined and criminalised the practice.

Yet there are still tens of thousands of enslaved people across Niger, according to Anti-Slavery International and Timidria; some estimates put the number as high as 130,000. Most are descendants of people who were enslaved generations ago, living and working on the land of their ancestral “masters”.

The children of women enslaved as wahaya are born with free status. “You can be a man of 70 with four wives and a wahaya, who continues to produce sons and daughters,” says Rossi. “It adds to your status. You are not just having sex, you are producing heirs.

“You are also producing free labour because the wahaya is constantly working – she fetches water, she cleans, she cooks, she does jobs free wives cannot do because they are supposed to stay at home.”

Men with wahaya are often well connected and police turn a blind eye to the practice, at times punishing the women who protest against their status rather than the men who enslaved them, according to Ali Bissou, the head of Timidria. “There is very little change,” says Bissou. “Even today, if you visit the house of a chief in the ‘triangle of shame’, you will find wahayas, for sure. The best thing we can do is keep raising awareness that this is illegal.”

Founded in 1991, Timidria has offices in every region of Niger and relies on a network of volunteers to identify victims of slavery. It also visits villages, informing enslaved people of their rights and helping them bring lawsuits against their enslavers. It has set up several centres for former slaves and their children.

‘He bought me like a chicken’: the struggle to end slavery in Niger | Global development | The Guardian

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

War and capitalism in Africa (1999)

 From the September 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

The president of Zambia, Frederick Chibula, recently declared the “dawn of a new era for Africa”. Such comments have become something of a regular occurrence amongst African and international “leaders”, including that messiah of the “new world order” Bill Clinton. The latest round of platitudes coincides with a period of instability and armament amongst the competing representatives of African capitalism.

Despite the signing of accords which appear to declare the desire of capitalist interests to accommodate each other’s interests in Sierra Leone and the Congo, Chibula made his comments at a time of simmering conflicts across Africa including a savage war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and a rampant civil war in Angola. Even in Sierra Leone and the Congo the accords thrashed out seem likely to fail, with international “peace-keeping” forces (the US and western Europe) not being committed as the interests of their ruling classes are not threatened.

Unlike the huge resources deployed to Kosovo where Western leaders wish to “protect” the Kosovo Albanian population from mass slaughter as a pretext for extending their influence in the Balkans at the expense of Serbia, the hypocritical face of capitalism is revealed once more. A blind eye and an arrogant shrug greeted and continues to greet the mass killing in Africa (in the case of the Sierra Leone conflict the British government was in fact implicated in the supply of arms to the conflict in contravention of its own “rules”, as if such things exist in capitalism’s wars).

Ethiopia and Eritrea
It is in the little-mentioned conflict (the press coverage being remarkably little) between the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments that Bill Clinton’s “new leaders of Africa” have revealed the degree to which the politicians of capitalism will sacrifice the lives of working-class men and women in the interests of profits. Originally intended as the leaders of a regional alliance for the US against the “threat” of Islamic Sudan, Presidents Issaias of Eritrea and Meles of Ethiopia descended into a quarrel in May 1998 ostensibly over a small area of barren and mountainous terrain. In reality it was over Eritrea’s new status as a potential African Singapore threatening Ethiopia’s commercial interests (principally coffee) and aims for economic self-sufficiency and protectionism.

Taking advantage of its coastal status and Ethiopian cheap labour and launching its own currency, to counter what it saw as an overvalued Ethiopian currency which hindered it exports, Eritrea began to threaten the interests of Ethiopian capital. Becoming landlocked in 1993, following the overthrow of the dictator Mengistu and Eritrea obtaining independence, Ethiopia perceived a threat to its cheap labour market from the new-independently Eritrea’s processing export industries and cheap Eritrean imports, and thus began to impose tariffs. The territorial boundaries between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which had previously been a matter of little formal control and even convenient administration by local authorities on either side of the borders, began in such circumstances to be marked by claims of encroachment and eventually an act of aggression which sparked off a war which may have already claimed as many as 50,000 lives.

In a country racked by civil war and droughts where the majority of men and women exist in dire poverty, its leaders see their interests served by spending vast sums on armaments and mobilising hundreds of thousands to mass slaughter. The death toll in this conflict between capitalists using working class cannon fodder has been particularly high with a ratio of dead to wounded of one-to-one (the average for most modern wars being one dead to three wounded). According to the Economist (8-14 May) “the death toll is high because the combatants use the weapons of the Korean war, the tactics of the first world war and the medical treatments of the 19th century”.

With war of course comes the massive displacement of populations with, in this instance, many tens of thousands of Eritreans forcibly ejected from Ethiopia. As with all wars the Ethiopia-Eritrea war has competing capitalist interests at its root and the mass slaughter and suffering of its workers as its consequence.

Central and southern regions 
This conflict, however, is only part of a general increase in tension between African governments whose interests are perceived to lie in the increased militarisation of the continent. This was most particularly evident in the central and southern regions. Indeed the wars in the Congo and Angola appear to be threatening to draw these regions into full-scale sub-continental war. Angola has threatened Zambia with invasion over its ruling-class support for the UNITA rebel opposition in Angola, a position also supported by some members of the South African ruling class. The Mugabe regime on the other hand supports intervention on the side of the Angolan government. Tension still runs high over the war in the Congo, with Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad drawn into the conflict in support of President Kabila and Uganda and Rwanda on the side of the anti-Kabila forces. Conflict over the Caprivi Strip between Namibia and Botswana also poses a threat, with the Zimbabwean ruling class supporting the former and the South African ruling class supporting the latter.

The underlying cause of this increase in tension is in the economic crisis facing the two most powerful economies of the region, Zimbabwe and South Africa, in the face of the global economic downturn. The ensuing economic competition between the rival ruling classes has forced the two governments to attempt to form regional alliances. Such action is taking on an increasingly military character with the Zimbabwean government, backed by Namibia, justifying its intervention in the Congo on the grounds of securing markets at the expense of South African multinationals. In another example of capitalist robbers fighting over their ill-gotten gains South Africa, backed by Botswana, asserted its influence over Lesotho to protect the interests of its ruling class following attempts by the Lesothon population to overthrow the existing dictatorial regime.

In such circumstances an ominous regional arms race is beginning to take place, with South Africa announcing at the end of 1998 a re-armament programme worth 20 billion rands. Botswana, South Africa’s main regional ally, has also been conducting a re-armament programme including the construction of a US-assisted military airbase. Zimbabwe, under the pretext of the conflict in the Congo, has also been spending billions of dollars on re-arming with its most recent purchase being over $1 billion-worth of Russian military equipment. A similar massive re-armament has taken place in Angola as a consequence of the intensifying civil war. It seems that the increasing trade war taking place between the capitalists of southern Africa may result in yet another war in which the workers fights for the interests of capital.

In the era of the “New World Order” capitalism once again proves itself to be an uncontrollable and destructive system of society. A system which accords the majority slave status and then expects them to die for their masters’ interests. The only solution to war and to the miseries of capitalism in Africa, as in the rest of the world, is for the working class to organise for common ownership and democratic control, a society where the root cause of war in the economic and strategic rivalry of a minority owning class is removed and the production and distribution of wealth is conducted in the interests of the whole community—Socialism. It is time the working class struggled for its own interests.

Can Famine Be Averted?

  FAO launched a revised Rapid Response and Mitigation Plan, which exclusively focuses on four drought epicentres across the Horn of Africa region: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The time frame for the new plan has been extended from June to December 2022 with the aim of preventing a deterioration in food security conditions in the region, saving the livelihoods and therefore the lives of almost five million rural people across the four countries.

FAO is appealing for a total of $219 million. So far, the UN Agency has mobilized around $47 million, leaving a gap of $172 million. The funds received thus far will provide life-saving livelihoods assistance through cash and livelihood packages, including animal health and infrastructure rehabilitation to approximately 700 000 people, yet millions more are still to be reached.

As of early May, the performance of the 2022 long rains season (March–May) in the region was poor, which represents an unprecedented fourth below-average rainy season for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia resulting in dire impacts on food security. Djibouti’s rainfall pattern differs to those of the other three countries though rainfall there was also erratic in 2021.

The region is already facing high levels of food insecurity. At present, 16.7 million people are projected to be in Crisis (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification - IPC - Phase 3) or worse levels of high acute food insecurity due solely to the drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya alone, 4.1 million people are likely to be highly food insecure through June 2022, over the 3.5 million initially projected over the same period.

Similarly, in Somalia, some 7.1 million people (close to half the population) now face crisis-level food insecurity or worse through at least September 2022, including 2.1 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 213 000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

Drought in the Horn of Africa: FAO appeals for $172 million to help avert famine and humanitarian catastrophe - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Sahel Suffers

 Over 30 million inhabitants of the Sahel region, most of whom are women and children, require life-saving assistance and protection in 2022, an increase of almost two million from 2021. 

"...About 7,900 schools are closed in the Sahel due to violence, a 56 per cent increase since 2021”, warns Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “When refugee and internally displaced children are out of school, they become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Reported cases of child recruitment, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence by armed groups and armed forces have been rising; child marriages and early pregnancies among school-age girls are at risk of being further exacerbated by the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic situation and climate change”.

Maureen Magee, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Regional Director for Central and West Africa says, “Insecurity and violence are depriving affected communities of vital services, including access to health, education and water, sanitation, and hygiene services, resulting in a vicious cycle of vulnerability. Aid workers are ever more at risk and have been abducted and killed”.

“While needs are at record highs across the Sahel, resources are at rock bottom, and the cost of responding is skyrocketing forcing us to provide half rations in many countries across the Sahel” said Elvira Pruscini, World Food Program’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.

Head of West and Central Africa Office at OCHA, Charles Bernimolin, warns, “By June, only 15 per cent of the required US$3.8 billion has been received to support the humanitarian response plans for Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and north-east Nigeria. This is not enough”.

“Between June and August 2022, over 18.6 million people (15 per cent of the region’s total population) are expected to experience severe food insecurity, including 2.1 million people experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity,” noted the regional representative for West and Central Africa at the international organization Action Contre la Faim, Mamadou Diop.

UN and NGO partners raise the alarm: Over 30 million Sahelians, most of whom are women and children, require life-saving assistance and protection, an increase of almost two million from 2021 [EN/AR] - Burkina Faso | ReliefWeb

Monday, June 27, 2022

Ghana: The Ruling Class and the State (1999)

 From the August 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

The concept of classes and class struggle in most African educational and political forums is treated as if it were a cultic secret; a taboo subject. This is not surprising. Class struggles and classes are basically about state power, a fact rightly considered as subversive and extremely dangerous by the ruling and propertied classes, and embarrassing by “objective” academics.

The attitude of academics whose intellectual output supports the capitalist establishment therefore goes beyond mere academic interest. The alleged non-existence of classes and class struggles in Ghana serves the interest of the “haves” both at the national and international levels. It explains why the intelligentsia and politicians strive, even if they have read and understood Marxism, to any lengths to mangle and decant it of its essence. It enables the most vicious and corrupt political leadership to harp on about the so-called harmonious development and the social homogeneity of the African population. Marxism is normally seen as an ideology of violence and division and therefore un-African.

There are two distinct systems of production in Ghana; the modern dominant capitalist sector and the traditional sector. Formerly the capitalist sector was supported by indigenous capital, foreign private capital and state capital. Since 1983 when the government embarked on its privatisation drive, the situation has witnessed a major shift with the marginalisation of the state sector and the virtual asphyxiation of an already fledgling indigenous private capitalist sector. The IMF and World Bank-propelled economic programme has all but put foreign private capital in a very strong position. What is of crucial importance here is the role that these sectors in the economy play in the appropriation of surplus labour. The garb that they present themselves in is of less importance to slaves of capital. They are all vampires whose existence depends on the exploitation of workers. It is the unpaid part of the daily total labour of the Ghanaian worker which is the source of capitalist surplus value. This form of exploitation is not too difficult to identify in the privately-owned enterprises—both foreign and domestic. It is less visible in the few surviving state enterprises. But the fact that there are two aspects of reality must not be lost sight of—the outward appearance of a phenomenon and its true nature.

On the surface, state enterprises present a picture of belonging to the workers. As if to emphasise this fact it is often said that they state belongs to everybody and it is the money of the people that has been used to set up the enterprise. However, the workers are completely shut out of management decisions and have no role in deciding how surpluses should be distributed. The fact is that surpluses extracted from workers in the state enterprises go mainly to the privileged minority class, who control the Ghanaian state, albeit in a subordinate position to international finance capital. The results of production are monopolised, appropriated by this class for the purposes of enrichment and domination of the toiling worker.

It goes without saying that a society like the Ghanaian society in which the labour of the majority is appropriated by a few would inevitably present sharp contrasts in wealth and poverty. In Ghana the privileged minority class almost exclusively have access to bank credit facilities and other privileges like good and higher education, better housing, etc. The situation of the underprivileged is however worrisome. According to the government statistician more than 30 percent of them live below the poverty line. Average real wages and salaries are only 25 percent of what they were in 1968 and per capita income is still $460, exactly what it was in 1957 when Ghana attained independence. The ability of one group to appropriate the surplus product of others has thus engendered the division of the society into classes.

The Ghanaian capitalist class is extremely factious and splintered. Outwardly it presents a picture of monolithicism, but in reality it is fragmented, into “comprador” and “national” sections. There is also a large petty bourgeoisie. Issa Shinji objects to the use of the term “national” to describe one of the segments of this class on the grounds that there is a remarkable absence of the qualities that are normally attributed to the bourgeoisie in Europe. Colonialism discouraged local business enterprise in the colonies; while its policy in the metropolis was free trade. Anyone wishing to achieve wealth and status in the then Gold Coast or present day Ghana therefore had to chase a career in the professions, civil service or the armed forces or work within the banks, industrial enterprises and mining companies, which were by and large controlled by foreigners.

The “comprador” segment is that which is made up of those capitalists who consciously collaborate with imperialism in an attempt to bolster their class interests. In Ghana it is closely linked to Japan Motors, Mobil Shell, Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, etc. It stubbornly protects the interests of these multi-national companies, both politically and economically because it reckons quite rightly that the rate of its profit maximisation and therefore its survival is directly connected to the fate of these companies.

The “national” bourgeoisie on the other hand has a stronger tendency to strive for internal capital accumulation; but this desire is not because it wants to redistribute its wealth to the poorer classes. What it seeks to do is to monopolise for itself the opportunity to milk the working class. Its struggle against foreign capital therefore does not make it more progressive than others. It merely seeks to control all the levers of economic exploitation and this does not make it any different from the comprador section as far as the Ghanaian working class is concerned. The “comprador” and the “national” capitalists have one thing in common—the maintenance of the current relations of production which are based on exploitation. Vampires are all the same—they suck the blood of their victims.

The national bourgeoisie in Ghana has however been incapacitated in its struggle against foreign capitalist interests operating in the country for a number of reasons. It lacks managerial experience, depends heavily on imported raw materials, and is given to a riotous and vulgar lifestyle. But what dealt the so-called national bourgeoisie a more devastating blow was the economic policies of the government, dictated by the two Bretton Woods Institutions—the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The agreement of the government to devalue the cedi led to the rise of the cost of imported materials needed for production. Apart form this the conditions imposed by the donors for the distribution of credits made it more difficult than before to obtain loans to oil the wheels of the domestic manufacturing sector. These coupled with the liberalisation policy led to the influx of an avalanche of cheap goods from the United States and Western European import substitution industries, operating through south-east Asian client states, thus robbing domestic producers of hitherto protected markets. The domestic private sector which is controlled by the national bourgeoisie was suffocated because its avenue for domestic accumulation of capital was choked.

The state, class and political power
The fractionalised nature of the ruling class in Ghana (and most African states) often engenders a high level of political competition in it and hence a high degree of politicisation. Any group within it which emerges triumphant in this competition normally gains a number of advantages. The control of government and the state machine facilitates its monopolisation of the economic means of production and it can manage political power to the exclusion of the other groups. Thus political party campaigns since 1957 have not been geared towards any fundamental structural changes in the economic base of the state to improve the lot of the toiling masses. All the political parties are representatives of the various factions of the capitalist class whose ultimate objective is not the dismantling of the state machine, but its maintenance and the furtherance of their economic interests. This explains why the political parties in Ghana today, in whatever garb or guise they present themselves—Busia-Danguali, Nkrumaist or Third Force—sing the same song: the maintenance of the wage and profit system. All claims to fighting for the common people are not only hollow and meaningless concepts to mask their devious intentions; but actually the funeral dirges of the working people. And they often succeed in carrying out their sinister designs because no genuine alternative choices are presented.

The state thus becomes a major plank for the building-up of the economic power of that section of the bourgeoisie that wins elections and for the consolidation of its political power.

The state is used to procure as much money as possible through over-inflated contracts, corruption and outright plundering of public coffers. As a result the people who voted politicians into office become disenchanted with them, and a feeling of alienation among the masses sets the stage for the rejection of the leadership in the next election. The leaders then become insecure, strengthen the apparatus of repression and brutalise those who had supported them and their opponents alike. An atmosphere of insecurity is created as a by-product of this situation, and the leaders become pre-occupied with the politics of survival, with remaining in office at all cost. In the resultant manoeuvring for security of office all state institutions are personalised. In other words retention of high office and promotion come to depend on the presumed loyalty of the individual to the “Great Leader”. The army and the police are never disregarded. These coercive institutions become active foci of these conflicts and are drawn willy-nilly into the vortex of these battles. They too are divided along these lines of sectional interest and their neutrality becomes compromised. Their response to the demands of the ruling class cannot be predicted with certainty, and they become exposed as pawns in the power games of the capitalist class. The fragility of the neo-colonial state becomes glaring and it cannot be counted on as an instrument of control and reform.

Adongo Aidan Avugma

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Racism Within the Aid Sector

 British MPs have issued a scathing report on racism in the aid sector, warning that colonial mentalities are pervasive across charities and in government.

In their public appeals, international aid organisations depict the communities they serve as “helpless and needy” and “strip them of their dignity”, implying the countries in which they work are “inferior to the UK”, said the international development committee.

Its report, released on Thursday, found UK staff working under Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) contracts who were overwhelmingly white, were paid significantly more than people hired locally. One UK staff member was paid 10 times more than a locally employed colleague.

Lorriann Robinson, from international consultancy firm Advocacy Team, told MPs she had seen examples of projects where applying the FCDO’s rates meant it was possible to have a professional with 15 years’ experience working alongside a graduate from the UK with two years’ experience who is paid more. “That is an example of what we would say is a policy that is producing inequities between racial groups,” she said.

Boards and senior leadership positions in NGOs are dominated by white people and based in high-income countries such as the UK, underpinned by false assumptions that best practice originates in wealthy states, the report said.

Themrise Khan, an international development professional from Pakistan, said aid was “yet another vehicle to indulge in racist practices”.

She said aid was meant to rebuild countries after the end of colonial rule but had ended up being “a vehicle for former colonisers to continue to control most of their former colonists by holding them ransom to aid”.

“If we want racism in aid to end, we must accept the fact that the northern system of aid and everyone in it also abets racism,” Khan said.

At present, decisions around aid spending are often made in the headquarters of European and North American donors. They are detached from the communities they serve which can lead to their work being less effective, the report said.

Racism in aid sector is a hangover of colonialism, says scathing report by MPs | Global development | The Guardian

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Nicotine Kills


As a global anti-tobacco lobby grows amid concerns of unabated tobacco-related deaths, researchers are training the spotlight on tobacco consumption and its toll on public health and national economies. 

In a new report by the University of Chicago, researchers who have created a Tobacco Atlas after surveying 63 countries say global smokers now exceed 1.1 billion people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says tobacco causes more than 8 million global deaths annually. More than “7 million of those deaths resulting from direct tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”

While, according to researchers, global smoking prevalence is dropping, from 22.6 percent in 2007 to 19.6 in 2019, Africa and other developing parts of the world are recording an increase in tobacco consumption, the report says.

“Some African countries are seeing an increase in adult and youth smoking. What we’ve seen in Africa is the slowest decline in smoking prevalence of any region,” said Professor Jeffrey Dope, lead author of the Tobacco Atlas and a professor of public health at the University of Illinois.

“The tobacco industry is aware of this. They are working very hard to convince governments that tobacco is very important for the economy. Unfortunately, they’re having some success,” Dope said during a Zoom report launch early this month.

“Global progress is threatened by growing smoking rates among children aged 13 to 15 in many countries and by tobacco industry tactics such as targeting poor countries with weak regulatory environments,” the researchers said.

“We have countries where female teens smoke more than male teens and adult females, which is happening in different parts of the world,” said Violeta Vulovic, senior economist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Chicago.

“The tobacco industry aggressively markets to children, especially through flavour products. And through social media, especially influencers, the industry clear understanding that the peer-to-peer effect is perhaps the most effective way to get kids to try smoking,” Vulovic said.

African countries continuing to rely on tobacco for forex earnings, findings contained in the Tobacco Atlas are not likely to persuade governments to slow down the production of what across the continent has been called “green gold.”

Tobacco Consumption Slows in the West, Grows in Africa | Inter Press Service (

Glencore Guilty of Corruption

 A British subsidiary of Anglo-Swiss commodities giant Glencore has formally pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in connection with oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.

Glencore Energy admitted to paying more than $28m in bribes to secure preferential access to oil – including increased cargoes and preferable dates of delivery – and generate illicit profit between 2011 and 2016.

Glencore is also paying $29.6m directly to state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras in compensation for defrauding the company and roughly $10m to authorities in civil penalties, prosecutors have said.

Helen Taylor, a legal researcher at pressure group Spotlight on Corruption, urged authorities to now investigate and prosecute senior executives who had condoned the wrongdoing.

Glencore UK subsidiary pleads guilty to bribery in Africa | Courts News | Al Jazeera

Socialist activity in Gambia (1999)

 Party News from the June 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

An account of the recent visit by two delegates from the Socialist Party to Gambia (2 – 9 April).
A six-hour flight from a rain-swept Manchester airport, south across France, Spain, picking up the African continent in shape of Morocco, down across the yellow landscape of Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal and the final descent to Yundum airport 10 kilometres out of Banjul, the capital of Gambia. We were familiar with the names of many people and places having been involved for the last 3 years in a campaign of correspondence with like-minded Socialists, all started by the placing of socialist articles in English-speaking newspapers and journals. The interest generated had convinced the EC to endorse our visit in the hope that we could establish the true extent of socialist activity and the potential for consolidating ties.

Gambia is a narrow strip of land some three hundred miles along the banks of the river Gambia, a small country with a population of 1.2 million, its capital Banjul being situated on an island at the mouth of the river.

We were met at the airport by a number of members and driven off in a yellow taxi belonging to one of the comrades along roads that had more holes than the Labour Party’s case. First impressions were of long stretches of low-level dwellings and shops and it felt that most of the population was out and about on the road that led to the Kombo (district) of Serra Kunda, a hive of human activity and as it turned out inactivity too.

We made our headquarters in a cheap hotel in a place called Bacau and as events turned out we took over the telephone and were to receive a continuous flow of visitors as we organised a series of meetings and discussions. Before we had any real time to get to know our comrades we met with a bar owner from Freetown, Sierra Leone who in the course of a conversation informed us that “Marxism cannot be said to have failed because it had never been tried!” Like many of the residents in the area this man had fled his home country and the carnage behind him. He had a lively interest in Socialism and we left him with tapes and literature. He proved to be a useful contact and in the course of events we were to use a room in his bar for a number of meetings. He also agreed to the comrades using his room as a headquarters after we left with the further promise of a room in his house for a more permanent headquarters. Things were up and running.  

As the week progressed we held 4 meetings with an average attendance of 16 members and potential members. The meetings were lively and productive resulting in the establishment of an interim Executive Committee, General Secretary and various other requisite positions. Due to the problems of geography and the fledgling nature of the enterprise, positions were agreed by the comrades present and are to be maintained for 6 months until such time as more democratic voting procedures can be organised involving the membership throughout the country. Representatives of the various provincial branches of Brikama, Basse, Farafenni, Georgetown and Banjul were present and took up positions on the EC. A clear impression was gained that these people were serious-minded and determined to make advances. They had a commitment to democratic accountability and the need to ensure that a formal structure procedure was adhered to. An EC meeting was to be held every 2 months in Bacau with clearly defined Party committees responsible for all essential tasks in the running of an efficient socialist organisation.

The potential for growth is very encouraging. Many of the comrades are school teachers and are busy holding meetings in schools up and down the country. A highlight of the visit was our being able to hold a meeting in a technical school in a small town, Brikama. Two of the comrades also addressed the meeting and the level of interest was heart-warming. The students showed a good understanding of many aspects of Socialism and a good understanding of current world issues. These were confident, articulate young men and they demonstrated a critical and analytical approach to the subject of Socialism.

A number of journalist contacts were established, one young man being a member of the organisation which culminated in an interview with the daily Observer newspaper which will hopefully be published shortly. We gave a no-holds-barred account of the case for World Socialism.

It is not difficult to use the material conditions at hand to argue the necessity for socialism. A major problem in Gambia is unemployment. The majority of the population in the Bacau region appeared to be in a condition of enforced idleness. There just aren’t any jobs nor is there any welfare provision. The result is a culture that forces the youth to attach themselves to the Toubab (white person) with whom they have come into contact as a result of the emerging tourist industry. These are resourceful people who over the years have invented quite plausible reasons why you should part with your money. Over and above the fact that the unwary tourist will be charged massively inflated prices if they are unaware of the custom of haggling, these young people known as “bumsters” will convince you that their services are both necessary and in need of financial recompense. This entrepreneurial spirit led one young man to try to persuade us that there existed a beach tax payable to him as a representative of the local administration. Holy water at a reasonable price abounded, along with the stroking of a crocodile and sponsoring of schools. A friendly handshake could cost around 50 Dalasi (£3). We declined to visit too many new-born babies for fear that we would be cleaned out.

The visit must be interpreted in the context of African culture. It is different from that which we see in Britain. In the rural villages there exists a healthy spirit of community sharing. People work co-operatively on a variety of ventures. Everybody knows everybody and shares common interests. The fragmentation of society so common in Western cities and towns is alien to the people we met. This is fertile ground for socialist argument. A warmth of humanity is in evidence, a genuine interest in fellow human beings and the physical manifestation of full handshaking. The hospitality we encountered, the socialist ideals we shared and the desire to build a more sane world community will live with me for the rest of my life.

It was also encouraging to note the ambition of many of the comrades. Many were from Nigeria and had contacts throughout West Africa. They saw the Gambia venture as but the first step, intending to link up and establish firm footing throughout the region. The possibilities to support the comrades are considerable. To enable them to flourish they will need good supplies of literature, tapes and so on. There are many possibilities to place articles and letters in a number of English language journals including the Observer and New African. There is a need for money to enable them to carry on their activities over and above the money they are intending to raise themselves.  

The comrades in Gambia decided on the name “A World of Free Access” taking into consideration the current political climate. They thought that the government would be overtly hostile to any aspiring political party and that its members would be at risk. New political parties are not able to register until early in the next century. This is their stated aim and they intend to put the meantime to good use in a concerted campaign of education and the building of a strong membership. If we are serious in our stated aims to see the spread of Socialism on a global level then this is an opportunity not to be wasted.
Andy Pitts

Solidarity with Zimbabwean Strikers


Zimbabwean healthcare workers, the country’s nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and other medical professionals, have gone on strike to compel the government to pay salaries in US dollars as spiralling inflation has eroded the purchasing power of their take-home pay.

Striking workers held placards and danced outside Zimbabwe’s main hospitals, such as Parirenyatwa in the capital Harare, which is one of the country’s largest referral hospitals, and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, also in the capital, demanding better salaries.

Zimbabwe is in the grips of an economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, a rapidly devaluing local currency, 90 percent unemployment, and declining manufacturing output. With the purchasing power of their salaries decimated by an inflation rate upwards of 132 percent, the striking public health workers and other civil servants are demanding that their salaries be paid in US dollars, which they see as a more stable currency. Zimbabwe adopted the use of US dollars in 2009 after its local currency was decimated by hyperinflation. It re-introduced its own currency again in 2019, which is also now failing to hold its value against the US dollar.

Dr Tapiwanashe Kusotera, the leader of Health Apex, a body representing all unions in the healthcare sector, said the government must “cushion the workers” from the vagaries of inflation, and “address specific issues such as cost of living adjustment and working conditions”.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association Secretary-General Enock Dongo warned lives would be lost if the labour dispute was not resolved quickly.

“Nurses got only ZWL$20,000 last week as salaries. This is around US$50 at the official auction rate and only US$30 at the black market,” Dongo explained. “There is just no way any employee can survive on that. The nurses are saying that they can’t survive on that.”

Gift Mugano, visiting professor of economics at the University of Zimbabwe Business School, warned that Monday’s industrial action was the beginning of more strikes in the country.

“This is the beginning of such strikes. I must say that the people have been very patient,” Mugano said.

Zimbabwe healthcare workers strike over wages, inflation crisis | Business and Economy News | Al Jazeera

Monday, June 20, 2022

Hunger Spreads Across the Sahel

 Niger is on the frontline of the climate crisis. The food is all finished and until the rains come no planting can be done in southern NigerIncreasingly erratic rainfall and longer dry seasons mean that many parts of the country have not had a good harvest in a decade. Temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster here than the rest of the world, leading to a cycle of droughts that are eroding the 14% of land that is arable. Last year there was a 39% drop in cereal production.

“The population is on the brink of a dire humanitarian crisis,” says Ilaria Manunza, of Save the Children. “In fact, we are already in the middle of it – the child malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world.”

Jihadist violence has spilled over from neighbouring Mali and Nigeria, uprooting hundreds of thousands of people, while the economic shock of the war in Ukraine 2,800 miles away has sent food prices soaring.

About 44% of Niger’s children are malnourished and 4.4 million people – 18% of its population – are predicted to face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse this year, twice as many as last year.

Underresourced humanitarian agencies only have funds to help 3.3 million people, leaving more than a million without the aid they need, as donors grapple with other crises. A recent emergency response plan from Niger’s government to deal with the crisis has a shortfall of $200m in its $280m budget, while the UN’s World Food Programme slashed rations to those it helps in Niger by 50% in January as the global food crisis bites.

Like other Sahel countries, Niger sees a big rise in child malnutrition cases during the “lean season” – the gap between harvests that lasts for about four months, starting in June. But doctors and humanitarians say these spikes are becoming more pronounced as the climate crisis bites. The lean season is starting earlier than expected as poor rains mean failed harvests, leaving families unable to replenish stocks or feed themselves.

Everything is becoming very expensive. You see a lot of men and women begging for food. The situation is similar in Burkina Faso and Mali, where people cannot be reached because of jihadist violence. In total, 41 million people across west Africa are facing food insecurity this year, a number that has quadrupled since 2019.

 Paolo Cernuschi, Niger director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), explained, “We already had critically high malnutrition rates, with climate change and insecurity. Now we have the war in Ukraine piled on top and food prices have reached all-time highs.”

The IRC has been forced to scale back its operations amid soaring fuel and food prices. On Thursday, David Beasley, head of the WFP, said the economic shocks of the Ukraine war had caused his organisation’s operating costs to rise by $70m a month. As a result, the WFP has reduced people’s rations and was recently forced to suspend some operations in South Sudan, where it feeds 6 million people.

Ali Bandiare, president of the Nigerien Red Cross, says the crisis is the worst in the past decade: “And at the same time, it is one of the least funded. The war in Europe is adding to this problem. We fear redirecting humanitarian budgets to deal with the Ukraine crisis risks dangerously aggravating the situation.”

‘We just pray for rain’: Niger is in the eye of the climate crisis – and children are starving | Global development | The Guardian