Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Grain Ship Arrives to Relieve the Hungry

 The first ship carrying grain from Ukraine for people in the hungriest parts of the world has docked at Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa.

Food security experts say it is a drop in the bucket for the vast needs in the worst-hit countries of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the country to which the shipment is going. This first shipment of grain will be sent overland to northern Ethiopia, where millions of people have been affected by the Tigray conflict. How any of the grain will reach Tigray is in question, as humanitarian deliveries by road and air have been suspended during fighting between Tigray and Ethiopian government forces. However, Ethiopia’s neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions are expected to benefit.

The WFP has said the 23,000 metric tonnes of grain on the first ship are enough to feed 1.5 million people on full rations for a month. 

But the UN has said in Tigray alone, 2.4 million people are facing severe food shortages and that 20 million people across Ethiopia face hunger.

Food security experts have said it could take weeks for people in African countries to receive grain from Ukraine, and even longer for the grain to bring down high food prices.

First ship carrying grain from Ukraine docks on Horn of Africa | Ukraine | The Guardian

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The new Scramble for Africa

 Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has pledged $30 billion in an effort to counter China's influence on the continent as Tunisia hosted the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Kishida vowed, "Japan will invest both public and private funds worth $30 billion over the next three years" across the continent.  The funding "includes up to $1 billion in a new special quota to be established by Japan to promote debt consolidation reforms."

Kishida said Tokyo was prepared to finance up to $5 billion alongside the African Development Bank.

Of the funds, $300 million will co-finance the African Development Bank to boost food production as global supplies of grain and wheat fall well short of demand.

Another $100 million was earmarked for the host country, Tunisia, to mitigate the impacts of the covid pandemic.

Japan vows billions for Africa amid rising Chinese influence | News | DW | 27.08.2022

Thursday, August 25, 2022

"Don't moan. Mobilise or starve"

 People across South Africa are taking part in a nationwide strike in protest against the rising cost of living. Thousands marched towards the president's office, demanding reductions in prices. This is the most unequal country in the world, according to the World Bank, and many are finding things tough.

Inflation has hit nearly 8% - the highest in 13 years - and around a third of South Africans are unemployed. Thousands of protesters have been marching, chanting and holding signs echoing familiar complaints from workers around the world: "Say no to high inflation" and "Stop the steep increase in the price of petrol".

 On the march in Pretoria, one woman said she was on strike because,  "We're tired. The cost of living is too high now - we can't afford anything any more. It's school fees, it's transport, it's rent, it's everything."

Another protester explained, "Sometimes I don't have money so I have to go and take a loan - from the loan sharks. We don't manage. That's why we're here today - because we're struggling." 

Someone else said she spent almost half of her monthly income of $210 on transport. "And food is expensive right now. We can't buy full groceries- it's basics only."

A woman said: "At the end of the month we're left with nothing."

The country's two largest union groups, who called the strike, urged the government to intervene to cap fuel prices, reduce interest rates and introduce a universal basic income of roughly $90 (£75) a month.

South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) head, Zwinzilima Vavi, questioned how President Cyril Ramaphosa could give himself and ministers a 3% pay rise but refused their demands.

South Africans in nationwide strike in protest against cost of living - BBC News

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Kenyans sue the UK

 A group of Kenyans has filed a suit against the British government at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). They are seeking an investigation and eventual compensation for land stolen under colonial rule. The ECHR is not a European Union body and the UK is party to it.

"The UK government has ducked and dived, and sadly avoided every possible avenue of redress. We have no choice but to proceed to court for our clients so that history can be righted," said lawyer Joel Kimutai Bosek, who is representing the group in Kenya's western Kericho region.

Much of the land taken in Kericho is now home to tea plantations that make foreign corporations millions every year, as Kenya is the world's leading black tea exporter by volume. 

"Today, some of the world's most prosperous tea companies, like Unilever, Williamson Tea, Finlay's and Lipton, occupy and farm these lands and continue to use them to generate considerable profits," the plaintiffs said in a statement.

The United Nations has said more than half a million Kenyans from the Kericho area suffered gross violations of human rights, including unlawful killings and displacement, during British colonial rule, which ended in 1963. Many continue to suffer economic consequences from the theft of their land, the United Nations has also said.

Kenyans sue UK government for colonial land theft | News | DW | 23.08.2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Rigging the legal system in Kenya

  More than 1,000 former and current employees of James Finlay Kenya Ltd (JFK) are suing the company for damages at Scotland's supreme civil court, the Court of Session. The workers claim they suffered musculoskeletal injuries while working for Aberdeen-registered JFK at its farms in the Kericho region of Kenya. They have signed up to group proceedings - a class action lawsuit - in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Last month the firm won a temporary injunction from a court in Nairobi, stopping workers from pursuing the case. Having failed to stop the lawsuit from going ahead, the company opened up a second front in the legal battle by seeking an order from the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi. It argued that the Scottish case was an "an assault on the sovereignty of the Republic of Kenya" and violated the country's constitution. The court granted an interim anti-suit injunction, bringing the Scottish case to a temporary halt and preventing anyone else from joining the class action.

Lawyers acting for the tea pickers have now won an order from the Court of Session, telling JFK not to continue with the Kenyan action.

They argued that JFK's conduct has been calculated to intimidate the workers and prevent them from having lawful access to the Scottish courts for resolution of a bona fide dispute. They accused JFK of engaging in a "deliberate campaign to defeat the ends of justice and cause distress". The names of the workers involved in the case were published in national newspapers and pinned to notice boards on the tea farms. The judge, Lord Braid, said the workers' lawyers had put forward a "strong prima facie case" that JFK's actions had been "vexatious and oppressive".

Scottish firm ordered to halt legal action in Kenyan tea pickers case - BBC News

Drought threatens health of tens of millions of children

 The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has warned that children in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions "could die in devastating numbers unless urgent support is provided."

 As many as 40 million children are "one disease" from catastrophe according to UNICEF.

Drought-stricken people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia — without access to adequate supplies of water — rose from 9.5 million to 16.2 million in the space of just five months, according to the relief agency. The organization said that as natural water sources dried up, the knock-on effect was significant increases in the price of water. In parts of Kenya, prices had risen by as much as 400% while in parts of Somalia increases of up to 85% were reported.

"When water either isn't available or is unsafe, the risks to children multiply exponentially," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said. 

Drought in Africa threatens millions of children — UN | News | DW | 23.08.2022

The ICC and the DRC

 At the Ukraine Accountability Conference in The Hague last month the international criminal court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, urged world leaders: “In all situations across the world where international crimes are committed, we should feel the same urgency for action and for cooperation.”

A few days ago the head of the World Health Authority, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has suggested that racism is partly to blame for the lack of international interest in the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray state.

Social justice must be for all – not just for whites.

The ICC has only targeted “anti-western” African leaders while brutal UK- and US-backed leaders in Africa continue to kill and maim with impunity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, has been fuelling some of the world’s bloodiest and nastiest killings. The slaughter and the raping, looting and displacement has not stopped.

In 2003, at the UN general assembly, the then DRC president, Joseph Kabila, called for the creation of an international criminal tribunal for the DRC to hold perpetrators to account. The appeal, echoed by Congolese civil society groups, was ignored, with the UK, US and a host of western governments looking the other way while giving Kagame guns and money to operate as he pleased.  So far it has targeted only “low hanging fruit” including Thomas Lubanga, the ICC’s first ever conviction in March 2012, then Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda. What then is the ICC’s purpose in Africa if it cannot investigate a president over “aiding and abetting” some of these crimes?

By 2008, when UN investigators arrived in the DRC to look into crimes committed before 2002 – when the ICC has no mandate – more than 5.4 million Congolese people had died in the 10 years since a rebel group called Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) was formed to loot the Congolese minerals.

In 2010, the UN published a 550-page report calling for the creation of a Congo tribunal to try 617 international allegations involving, among others, troops under President Kagame’s command in the DRC. That recommendation was ignored.

There are 5.6 million Congolese people internally displaced across the country. Another 27 million people, including 3.4 million children, are “acutely food insecure”A 2011 US study estimated that 48 women were raped every hourIn 2017, UN investigators discovered 80 mass graves in the diamond-rich Kasai province. In 2019, the UN unearthed another 50 mass graves in Bandundu.

Where the victims of war are white, the ICC has already opened its own probe, its chief prosecutor has visited frontlines and sent its largest-ever field deployment and an international Ukraine war crimes tribunal to put Vladimir Putin in the dock is already in the pipeline.

Why then are the US and UK refusing to back the creation of an international criminal tribunal for DRC?

Justice should be colour blind. So why is it served for Ukraine but not the Congolese? | Vava Tampa | The Guardian

Monday, August 22, 2022

Cost of Living Protests in Sierra Leone

 Protests against soaring inflation and the rising cost of living shook the capital of Sierra Leone. Businesses, government offices and buses across eastern Freetown were charred or destroyed completely in the violence as police and security officials brutally cracked down on demonstrators. At least 21 protesters and six officers were killed. Police fired live rounds into the crowds.

“It was an explosion of violence,” Mohamed Sillah, a resident, said of the damage inflicted on his and other buildings. “We don’t usually see this in Sierra Leone but we are in tough times.”

Like many other African countries Sierra Leone has been particularly badly affected by rapid inflation. And it was the dire economic situation that brought people out onto the streets. Most of the country’s 8 million people live in poverty. Inflation rose to almost 28% in June, fuelled first by the Covid pandemic easing and then the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Food inflation is at the highest level in decades, almost doubling since September 2021. The prices of rice, onions, tomatoes and beef had all risen by about 50% over the last year, with the price of fuel and palm oil roughly doubling.

A tense calm has settled, with ordinary life gradually returning but police and army convoys patrolled the busy commercial streets in the districts of Rokupa, Makeni and Kamakwie where Freetown’s protests took place. 

In recent months doctors and teachers have gone on strike, with demands for pay increases to meet rising inflation. In July, hundreds of women working in markets protested in Freetown, condemning the government’s handling of the economy. Many shops and stalls closed in support of the demonstrations. Dozens of women were arrested by police. Several alleged they had been beaten and sexually abused by officers.

The government has partly blamed the opposition for the protests, branding them an attempted coup, and launching an inquiry into alleged organisers. However, protesters interviewed by local media described their movement as “faceless” rather than orchestrated by one group, and reflective of widespread discontent.

Marcella Samba-Sesay, the director of Campaign for Good Governance, a civil society group, said anger has also been rising over the authorities’ refusal to permit protests. Under the terms of a public order act adopted in 1965 during colonial rule. protest organisers usually have to ask the police for permission to protest.

“But most of the time, when the issues are political, the police will say no,” said Samba-Sesay. “So people who want to come out and protest have not been given the permission to do so...“People are really suffering, and feel the government is not responding or allowing them to have a voice,” Semba-Sesay.

‘Explosion of violence’: Sierra Leone picks up the pieces after protests | Global development | The Guardian

Life is a lottery in Cameroon

 Cameroon has been ripped apart by the five-year war between English-speaking secessionists and the mainly French-speaking government. Only the coffin trade is booming.

In just five years, that conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, while forcing more than one million to flee to French-speaking areas and a further 80,000 to take refuge in next-door Nigeria.

The war has its roots in grievances that date back to the end of colonialism, when British-controlled territory was unified with French areas to create what is now Cameroon. Many English-speaking Cameroonians have felt marginalised ever since and have opposed what they see as attempts by the government - dominated by the French-speaking majority - to force them to give up their way of life, including their language, history and education and legal systems.

Tensions boiled over in 2016 when tens of thousands of people in English-speaking areas embarked on a series of protests against the use of French in their schools and courts, as well as the failure to publish government documents in English, even though it is an official language. With the government ordering the security forces to crackdown on the protests rather than entering into talks to resolve their grievances, young men took up arms the following year to demand the independent state of Ambazonia, as they call the two English-speaking regions.

Government soldiers raid homes, make arrests, burn markets and even display the bodies of their victims, including commanders of militias, at major intersections to warn residents against joining the separatist fighters. Government forces have also suffered heavy losses in the conflict, with the bodies of fallen soldiers removed from the military's mortuary in the capital, Yaoundé, every Thursday and Friday. Widows wail in front of the long lines of coffins draped in the Cameroonian flag, before the soldiers are buried amid the pomp and ceremony that mark military funerals. The military enforces a curfew virtually every night in the city, resulting in many of its restaurants, bars and clubs - once reputed to be the best in Cameroon - going out of business, not helped by the now-erratic electricity supply.

Separatist fighters have also gained notoriety for atrocities against civilians, including beheadings and the torturing of women whom they denounce for "betraying the struggle", calling them "black legs" - a term regularly bandied about now. They circulate videos of these atrocities to warn people of the punishment they face if they are suspected of colluding with the security forces.

On Mondays,  roads empty and markets closed - part of a civil economic disobedience campaign dating back to before the armed struggle. These days, residents who dare ignore the lockdown order are either shot dead or see their shops go up in flames. The military and police also disappear from the streets, so that they do not become soft targets for separatist fighters. The separatists even ordered the closure of all schools four years ago as part of their campaign. A few have bravely remain open, but children do not dare wear uniforms.

The conflict has prevented those who live abroad from coming home. Known as "bushfallers" - a Pidgin term for hunters (in this case seeking greener pastures) - those in the diaspora were responsible for Cameroon's economic boom, sending back money to invest in the once-mushrooming building trade and return visits to share their largesse. Visiting returnees found themselves arrested - some are now in the maximum security prisons of Yaoundé or Douala - while others simply disappeared accused of bankrolling the Anglophone rebellion. Bushfallers' money has dried up and none of them now visit.

The war has seen an explosion in unwanted teenage pregnancies with girls who have been forced to flee their homes becoming victims of sexual violence and exploitation by both sides.

Cameroon's Bamenda, where only the coffin trade is booming - BBC News

Sunday, August 21, 2022

“Neocolonial Greenwash,”

 Governmental failures in the face of the climate crisis, exemplified by scorching summer temperatures and drought, are matched by inadequate responses to economic crises. Food and fuel prices are soaring globally.

The EU backs a scheme to import “green” hydrogen, produced from renewables, from north Africa and to boost gas production in Africa, with exports to Europe substituting for Russian gas supplies.

In May, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signed a deal with Senegal President Macky Sall to explore for gas that would be liquefied and sent by ship to Europe.

 In June, African Union leaders discussed making a joint call to the COP27 international climate talks in Egypt in November, for expansion of oil and gas output across the continent.

Oil and gas producers are considering new projects worth more than $100 billion in Africa.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Italy’s energy group Eni has signed new deals with Algeria, Egypt and the Republic of Congo, geared to exporting more gas to Europe; TotalEnergies of France is considering restarting a stalled $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique, and Equinor of Norway has joined Shell to sign an agreement with Tanzania on building a liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal there.

A blueprint presented to African Union leaders failed to explain “why current, largely centralised, largely fossil fuel-dependent, largely export-oriented energy systems have failed to deliver energy access to hundreds of millions of ordinary Africans,” NGOs stated. The focus for each region should be on using each continent’s own “massive renewable energy potential” to end energy poverty domestically, they demanded.

The focus on gas export can only increase the burden borne by Africa’s poorest people, who have little or no access to electricity or other modern forms of energy. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people without electricity access rose by about 4 percent between 2019 and 2021, to 590 million (43 percent of the population), due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns and energy prices, effectively reversing gains made in 2014-18. The number of Africans lacking access to clean cooking fuels also rose, to more than 970 million, almost three-quarters of the continent’s population. For cooking, most of them rely on gathered wood, and agricultural and animal wastes.

Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, said that locking Africa into “a fossil-fuel-based future” would be “a shameful betrayal.” 

Lorraine Chiponda of Africa Coal Network said the oil and gas investment plans are “not directed by Africa’s needs, but by the energy crisis in Europe.” 

Energy specialists argue that developing Africa’s gigantic solar and wind potential is the means to address energy poverty. Resources poured into LNG export terminals undermine this potential.

The same companies and governments that seek to ramp up fossil fuel production in a climate emergency also seek neo-colonial subjugation of Africa.

Europe Is Trying to Solve Its Energy Crisis With Fossil Fuel Projects in Africa (

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Tigray's Critical Condition

 An update on the Tigray situation shows nearly one in three children under five are malnourished and the UN said urgent action is needed to prevent them from dying.

In the new emergency assessment carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP), 29% of very young children are suffering from global acute malnutrition (GAM). More than half of pregnant or breastfeeding women are also malnourished.

 Malnutrition rates of 15% or over indicative of an emergency situation where the humanitarian needs are critical. In one area of Tigray, 65% of children under five were malnourished. In another, the proportion was 55%, with 16% suffering from the more serious severe acute malnutrition. A malnourished child is estimated to be 12 times more likely to die than their well-nourished counterparts. 

Claire Nevill, a spokesperson for WFP in Ethiopia, said the figures were extremely worrying and likely to worsen. WFP’s funding to treat malnutrition across northern Ethiopia was “fast running out”, Nevill added.  There was no reliable data on mortality that would point to a famine declaration. “We just don’t know,” she said. “But we do know that the next three months [before the autumn harvest] are critical, and if we don’t scale up our response and get this food into the hands of communities now as the lean season approaches, people will certainly move closer to the edge.”

The WFP said, 5.2 million people – nearly 90% of the population – are now deemed “food insecure”, an increase of six percentage points on the last assessment. Out of this, 2.4 million people (47%) are considered “severely food insecure”, which WFP defines as having “extreme food consumption gaps”.

Tigray: almost one in three children under five malnourished, UN says | Hunger | The Guardian

Zimbabwe's Cost of Living

Zimbabwe’s inflation shot from 96 percent to 132 percent in May, with food inflation alone climbing from 104 percent to 155 percent. The country’s monthly inflation spiked from 15.5 percent in April to 21 percent in May.

Bread now costs 1,30 USD in Zimbabwe, up from 0,90 cents five years ago.  The cost of a kilogram of choice beef has risen to 9 USD, while five kilograms of chicken drumsticks now cost 21,000 Zimbabwean dollars, about 22 USD.

In May 2022, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said a family of five required 120 000 Zimbabwean dollars a month in local currency to survive, about 300 USD. Still, it could be much higher this time amid ever-rising inflation.

World Food Program Southern Africa Director Menghestab Haile, in May this year, urged Zimbabwe and surrounding countries to increase food production.

“SADC region has water, has land, has clever people, so we are able to produce in this region. Let’s diversify and let’s produce for ourselves,” WFP’s Haile said then.

Starvation Pounds Inflation-Hit Urban Zimbabweans | Inter Press Service (

Friday, August 19, 2022

Ignore the warnings at one's peril

 It cannot be stressed enough that in East Africa, millions of people are facing starvation due to drought. In Somalia, vegetable and grain production is expected to drop by about 80% this yearOver 3.5 million (75%) of the total refugee population in the wider region is affected by cuts to food assistance  –  including  Ethiopia and  Kenya,  where refugees are only receiving 60% of a full ration. Meanwhile, the cost of a food basket has already risen by 66% cent in Ethiopia and by 36% cent in Somalia, leaving many refugees and IDP families unable to afford even basic items.

Over 50 million people in East Africa will face acute food insecurity this year7 million children are suffering from malnourishment. 300,000 people are projected to face Catastrophe in Somalia and South Sudan in 2022, with a Risk of Famine occurring in eight areas of Somalia through September in the event of widespread crop and livestock production failures, spiraling food costs, and in the absence of scaled-up humanitarian assistance.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained, “Now to the Greater Horn of Africa, where millions of people are facing starvation and disease in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Drought, conflict, climate change and increasing prices for food, fuel and fertilizer are all contributing to lack of access to sufficient food. Hunger and malnutrition pose a direct threat to health, but they also weaken the body’s defenses, and open the door to diseases including pneumonia, measles and cholera. Food insecurity also forces some people to choose between paying for food and health care. Many people are migrating in search of food, which can also put them at increased risk of disease, and reduced access to health services.”

“Our region has been hit like never before”, says Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). “The combination of climate extremes, conflict, and macroeconomic challenges makes it almost impossible for our otherwise very resilient communities to sustain multiple shocks. The figures we are releasing today are heartbreaking, and I’m very worried they could increase even more as the outlook for the October to December rainy season is bleak.”

Dr. Chimimba David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and FAO Representative to the African Union and UNECA, stated, Now more than ever, we must implement short-term livelihood-saving responses with long-term resilience building aimed at addressing the root causes of food crises in our region”.

 Michael Dunford, the World Food Programme’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa, said, “Sadly, there is a very real risk of famine in the region, and we must do everything possible to prevent this from happening. At the same time, together we must start building the capacity to prepare and respond to future shocks which are increasingly inevitable because of a changing climate.”

Drought Pushes Millions In East Africa To Starvation| Countercurrents

DRC's Neo-Colonialism

 In its simplest form, neo-colonialism is the perpetual influence of former colonial masters over African countries, through interventions in politics, economic policy and security.

Forests are losing out to fossil fuels and foreign finance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On July 28, the country’s government auctioned 27 oil blocks and three gas blocks overlapping with some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems...This enormous auction is bound to render certain communities who live and depend on the rainforest homeless, degrading their lands and disrupting their way of life, polluting their air and waters for generations to come. If history is a guide, a few senior officials will line their pockets and big international business will be the biggest winner...There is an endless supply of examples all over Africa of how such deals have enriched a few elites and left millions of ordinary people in greater hardship...

...the country’s government has framed as an act of nationalism to advance its economy. “We care more for human beings than for gorillas,” the minister of communications has argued. “We have a duty for our people, while NGOs don’t,” the minister of environment has said, in defence of this environmental catastrophe in the making...

...The nationalistic narrative is not only grossly misleading, but masks the true acts of nationalism that are required in Africa. First and foremost, the government has not even bothered to inform and consult the numerous Congolese people whose lives will be affected by oil and gas exploration and production...

...It comes at a time when many rich economies seem to have forgotten their climate pledges and are now rushing to service their carbon-intensive lifestyles. And like every neo-colonial act before this, their race for resources keeps the needs of Africa’s people repressed...

...Few countries in the world can match the DRC’s mass, minerals and biodiversity wealth, yet more than 60 years after independence it still ranks among the poorest nations in the world. If selling off its rainforest and its other natural treasures were ever an act of nationalism, the country would have been a G7 nation by now. Instead, the rush to sell raw materials has only made it poorer and more corrupt, with horrific images of child labour and other hardship in its mines...

Pitching plunder as patriotism is what the DRC government is doing.

DRC’s forests-for-oil sale reeks of neocolonialism | Environment | Al Jazeera

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Tigray Tragedy

 The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – himself an ethnic Tigrayan – described the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as “the worst disaster on Earth”.

“I haven’t heard in the last few months any head of state talking about the Tigray situation anywhere in the developed world. Anywhere. Why?” Tedros asked. “Maybe the reason is the colour of the skin of the people in Tigray.”

He described the situation caused by the conflict in his home country as worse than any other humanitarian crisis in the world.

“Nowhere in the world you would see this level of cruelty, where it’s a government that punishes six million of its people for more than 21 months,” the WHO chief said. “The only thing we ask is, ‘Can the world come back to its senses and uphold humanity?’”

In a sign of just how cut-off Tigray has been, a Covid-19 vaccination campaign was finally launched at the region’s flagship hospital only in July, an improvement from a months-long period of deprivation in which hospital workers described running out of essential medicines and trying to treat wounds with warm salt water. It was the first Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Tigray.

‘Colour of the skin’: WHO chief hits out over Tigray crisis indifference | Ethiopia | The Guardian

Friday, August 12, 2022

Africa: left to rot (1993)

 From the August 1993 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa has begun to look like an immense illustration of chaos theory. Much of the continent has turned into a battleground of contending dooms: poverty, starvation, illiteracy, corruption, social breakdown, war, and drought. It has become the basket case of the planet, the poorest of the third world, a vast continent in free fall.

In the face of political instability. disintegrating roads, airports and telephone networks, and other disincentives, investors from Europe, USA and Japan are withdrawing from Africa and looking elsewhere; why risk expropriation or failure in a continent with a weakness for one-party dictators, where drainage by corruption often equals the legitimate economic intake?

Expatriate businessmen estimate that wealthy Nigerians have enough money in personal deposits abroad to pay off the country’s entire foreign debt, more than £36 billion. Zaire’s President Mobuto Sese Seko has a personal fortune that has been estimated at from £4 billion to £6 billion, somewhere not far below the level of the country’s external debt. He has isolated himself from his subjects—and from gathering political unrest—aboard a luxury yacht that cruises the Zaire river, with a helicopter waiting on deck.

There are 160 countries on the United Nations Annual Development Index, a measure of comparative economic and political progress; 32 of the lowest 40 are in Africa.

For decades Africa could count on the Cold War as a kind of economic resource. The USA and the former Soviet Union struggled with each other through African proxies, poured in money (though mostly for strategic purposes rather than development) to prop up pro-Western or pro-Soviet surrogates. Now the Cold War is over and so is the geopolitical game, at least for the time being.

As the Berlin Wall tumbled, a Le Monde article was luridly dismissive of the continent:
our priorities are elsewhere, in Europe, in Asia. At a time when our brothers on the other side of the Iron Curtain (eastern Europeans), after having chased out the infamous, desperately need us, why continue favouring ghastly African regimes?
Africa’s inner rhythms of evolution and development were shattered many years ago by the intrusion of Europeans, who brought in alien controls, boundaries and forms of government. Colonialism was slowly introduced as a direct control of Africa. This colonization eventually developed into a direct and brazen exploitation of natural resources and peoples for the exclusive benefit of foreign imperialists.

The African states which exist today are an imposition from the West. The political map of Africa drawn up by the colonizers was dictated by a European cartography of power rather than by any internal dynamic of allegiances. Africa was in this manner brought to the threshold of capitalism with new social divisions, those of capitalists and wage-workers.

Despite the great enthusiasm for liberation and independence of African countries in the 1960s, the African continent is still dependent upon subservience to the highly developed capitalist powers. But the nature of dependency in these times is different from classical colonialism; in fact the so-called independent states have been aided by the colonial-imperialists to break down the old. outworn colonial set-ups which have become a hinderance to the latter’s effective control in Africa. For example, the abolishing of apartheid in South Africa is not an accident or an act of good will from De Klerk; it is being done under pressure from the Western capitalists, who believe that they will benefit more under a President Mandela.

There are immense advantages to be derived for the Western capitalist powers from the newer types of colonialism, such as the “commonwealth” form as exemplified by Britain and France. By such means the former colonies are transformed into economic satellites. Even more effective than this is foreign "aid’’ (at the highest rate of interest to pay back). This benevolent guise conceals the real purposes and serves the interests of the capitalists. Newly-independent countries must come under the yoke of the Western capitalist because of their dire need for aid. And aid without strings does not exist.

As a consequence of the low development of industry and agriculture, the newly-emerged government leaders are compelled to concentrate their efforts upon developing modern agriculture based on cash-crops, and new industries, new resources and new sources of energy. To do this they have to rely heavily on imports from the developed capitalist countries by diverting their limited home industrial and agricultural products for export.

Avoiding capitalism
The question arises: Can Africa’s problems be solved within the framework of capitalism? Is it in fact necessary for the African countries to go through capitalism before it could have socialism?The answer is no, it is not necessary for Africa to go through to highly developed capitalism. The world today is rotten-ripe for socialism. The development of communications to a split-second level means that, given a victorious Socialist majority in the industrialised world, the painful period of capitalist development could be avoided for the millions of people of the Third World countries.

The collapse after seventy-four years of Soviet-Russian “communist” rule was a bitter disillusionment to some African rulers attracted by Leninism. Things might have been different had the growing maturity of the working class crystallized into Socialist consciousness rather than into a defense of Russian state capitalism. Socialists in Africa and all over the world have a job to do working to spread the truth about real Socialism: a world society in which every man, woman and child has freedom of access to all the resources of the world.

Michael Ghebre

Somalia Suffering Mounts

 In Somalia, the one-millionth person displaced by the drought was registered this week.

"This one million milestone serves as a massive alarm bell for Somalia," said Mohamed Abdi,  Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director in Somalia. "Starvation is now haunting the entire country. We are seeing more and more families forced to leave everything behind because there is literally no water or food left in their villages. Aid funding urgently needs to be ramped up before it is too late."

The number of people facing crisis hunger levels in Somalia is expected to rise from some 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, and rising food prices because of the conflict in Ukraine.

"Vulnerable communities are the hardest hit by the effects of the climate crisis, leaving many families unprotected and increasing displacement"," says UNHCR's Representative in Somalia, Magatte Guisse. "The Somalia situation was already one of the most underfunded before this latest crisis. While we and humanitarian partners are doing what we can to respond, we simply have insufficient resources. The international community must step up to save lives and support this humanitarian response."

One millionth person displaced by Somalia drought - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Zimbabwe - Power Outages Creates Poverty

 Zimbabwe has been reeling under crippling power shortages.  The country has the capacity to generate about 2,240 megawatts of power, but is producing just 1,300 megawatts. People in Mbare, in the south of the capital, Harare, regularly go without electricity for more than 17 hours a day.

Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), urged the government to act.

“People in the informal sector are hard hit. They have nothing to earn because their businesses rely heavily on electricity. Something needs to be done,” he says.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), more than 2.8 million people work in the informal sector in Zimbabwe, compared with 495,000 in formal employment.

‘Electricity can go anytime here’: how Zimbabwe’s iron men ran out of steam | Global development | The Guardian

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Uganda's Food Crisis

 Hundreds of people have died of famine in Uganda’s Karamoja region, and local leaders say that some people are now eating grass to survive.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) estimated that about 518,000 people from Karamoja’s poorest families face critical food insecurity resulting from two seasons of crop failure.

Of the 518,000 people with high levels of food insecurity, 428,000 are experiencing phase three (crisis levels of food insecurity), and 90,000 are at phase four (emergency levels of food insecurity).

For the first time in three years, all the nine districts of Karamoja: Kaabong, Moroto, Kotido, Napak, Nabilatuk, Amudat, Karenga, Abim and Nakapiripit are at crisis level or worse according to IPC classification. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) uses a scale of one to five to measure food insecurity. The situation in Karamoja has reached a crisis level close to catastrophe level.

High food prices have left many families unable to afford nutritious foods. 

“The situation in Karamoja is an example of how a perfect storm of climate change, conflict, rising food costs, the impact of Covid-19 and limited resources is increasing the number of hungry people,” said Abdirahman Meygag, WFP Uganda Representative.

Farmers from regions other than Karamoja have complained of poor or no harvests. Kaleb Ejioninga from the West Nile region along the border between Uganda and DRC is among those whose crops have withered before harvest.

“We planted maize and sorghum. They all wilted. The government should come to our rescue. If possible, they should find us quick-maturing seed varieties. Because even when the rain comes, if we plant the same seed, they may not grow,” Ejioninga appealed.

“The problem is known. Climate change is real." Uganda’s Minister for Agriculture, Frank Tumwebaze said.

 Tragic Irony of Hunger Deaths in Karamoja, Uganda | Inter Press Service (

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ethiopian Hunger

 The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) appealed today for US$73m to provide food rations to over 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia, over the next six months. WFP will completely run out of food for refugees by October, leaving vulnerable families who are dependent on food assistance at risk of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, susceptibility to diseases/infection and increased protection risks. More resources must be mobilized urgently to meet immediate food and non-food needs of refugees to avert further suffering.

“Three quarters of a million refugees will be left with nothing to eat in just a matter of weeks unless we receive funding immediately,” said Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative and Country Director for Ethiopia.

WFP has already been forced to cut rations for 750,000 registered refugees living in 22 camps and five sites in hosting communities in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Somali and Tigray regions of Ethiopia.

more households continued to adopt negative coping strategies by reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, consuming less expensive or less preferred foods, or limiting the portion of the meals served. More households reported to have engaged in demeaning activities, including engaging children in income generation activities, the collection and sale of firewood, while several borrowed cash, relying on friends/relatives for food. This forces refugees to rely on the resources of the hosting community and environment they live in which also increases the likelihood of resource-based conflicts between refugees and host communities.

“The ongoing resource constraints create conflict and stress due to competition over the existing scarce local resources. The persistent budget cuts and the recent 50 percent deduction of the food and cash assistance to refugees from the minimum recommended standard seriously affect the lives of refugees, exposing them to chronic hunger, anaemia, sexual exploitation, and deaths, as more than 85 percent of refugees in Ethiopia are fully dependent on the monthly WFP food rations. This will drawback the positive development of Ethiopia towards ensuring the self-reliance and co-existence of refugees and host communities and above all make the entire life-saving efforts difficult,” explained the Ethiopian Government Refugees and Returnees Service Director General, Tesfahun Gobezay.

“We are very concerned about the lack of food for refugees. The continued lack of full rations for refugees, coupled with the impact of the most severe drought that the country has experienced in over 40 years, will greatly undermine the gains made in refugee protection and risk impacting the peaceful co-existence between refugees and their host communities,” said UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Margaret Atieno. “We are grateful for what donors have provided so far, but more funding is needed and quickly.”

WFP, UNHCR, RRS appeal for funding to continue feeding over 750,000 refugees in Ethiopia - Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

The Tragedy of Two Worlds

 "One person is dying every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia alone," said Oxfam. "Against this backdrop, food billionaires have increased their collective wealth by $382 billion since 2020. Less than two weeks' worth of their wealth gains," the group calculated, "would be more than enough to fund the entirety of the U.N.'s $6.2 billion humanitarian appeal for East Africa. The appeal is currently woefully funded at merely 16%."

"Food inflation in East African countries where tens of millions of people are caught in an alarming hunger crisis has increased sharply, reaching a staggering 44% in Ethiopia—nearly five times the global average," Oxfam said.

"There have been 62 food billionaires created in the last two years," Oxfam found, pointing to the global food corporation Cargill—one of a handful of businesses that collectively control more than 70% of the worldwide market for agricultural commodities—as a striking case in point.

Cargill is "87% owned by the 11th richest family in the world," Oxfam observed. "The combined wealth of family members listed on the Forbes billionaire list is $42.9 billion—and their wealth has increased by $14.4 billion (65%) since 2020, growing by almost $20 million per day during the pandemic. This has been driven by rising food prices, especially for grains. Four more members of the extended Cargill family have recently joined the list of the richest 500 people in the world."

Hanna Saarinen, Oxfam's food policy lead, said Monday that "a monstrous amount of wealth is being captured at the top of our global food supply chains, meanwhile rising food prices contribute to a growing catastrophe which is leaving millions of people unable to feed themselves and their families."

"World leaders are sleepwalking into a humanitarian disaster," Saarinen warned. "This fundamentally broken global food system—one that is exploitative, extractive, poorly regulated, and largely in the hands of big agribusinesses—is becoming unsustainable for people and the planet and is pushing millions in East Africa and worldwide to starvation."

"We need to reimagine a new global food system to really end hunger; one that works for everyone," said Saarinen.

Just Two Weeks of Food Billionaire Wealth Gains Could Fund Anti-Hunger Effort in East Africa (