Monday, August 08, 2022

The "Green" Jihadists?

 As energy prices rise Somalis are turning to affordable sources, charcoal, driving unsustainable logging.

The situation is acute in the Lower Shabelle region’s Wanlaweyn district, the centre of the charcoal trade, about 55 miles (90km) north-west of the capital. Lower Shabelle is one of many parts of the country that is largely out of the control of the Somali government, and there are no structured, government-driven efforts to restrict logging.

“The levels of deforestation have gotten so severe that most of the trees along the banks of the Shabelle River have been cleared out,” says Abdilatif Hussein Omar, the executive director of Action for Environment, a conservation organisation that operates in the Horn of Africa.

In the south of the country, the lives of many pastoralists and farmers have been disrupted by extreme weather, so they have been looking for other ways to earn money.

Hussein says the environmental damage has caused a vicious cycle. “It rains less because people are cutting down more trees to meet the demand for charcoal, which means crops are not able to grow, which affects farmers and livestock who depend on the land for survival,” he says.

The jihadist group al-Shabaab, which exercises control in some regions, has been trying to grow its influence in recent years by playing a quasi-governmental role on issues such as environmental protection. In 2018, it imposed a ban on single-use plastic bags and is enforcing crackdowns on the cutting down of leafy trees. The Islamist group brutally enforces its policies.

“Some of the loggers have received threatening calls from al-Shabaab, while others have been physically harmed,” says Guled Warsame, a logger. Despite the dangers and environmental harm, Warsame says he needs the work. “Al-Shabaab has ordered us to stop cutting dry trees but we can’t. It’s our only way to make money.”

Dahir Abdalla, a lorry driver, says he was recently detained by al-Shabaab for a few days when transporting dry wood, but was eventually released. He believes that the group may be in the process of initiating a crackdown on logging and transportation of wood from dry trees, but says that, for now, the only clear ban is on the cutting and transporting of wood from leafy trees.

“We only pick up dry tree wood in our lorry and never leafy wood because al-Shabaab doesn’t allow that. If they catch us transporting trees that still have leaves, they will set our vehicle on fire,” he says.

Despite the crackdown, reports show that revenue from the trade is an important income stream for al-Shabaab, with a 2014 estimate suggesting that the group earned an annual total between £6.5m and £14.5m from imposing charges on charcoal traders at one road block alone.

Amina Mohamed and Saynab Hersi say they face double taxation – from the government when the lorries travel through major cities and districts, and from al-Shabaab when travelling through the countryside.

Even so, dealers say they make enough to keep them in the trade. Yasmin Salad, who has been in the business for eight years, says she makes a profit of 1.8m Somali shillings (£2,600) for every 510 bags of charcoal, which she sells at 11,700 shillings each, over a six-month period.

Inside Somalia’s vicious cycle of deforestation for charcoal | Global development | The Guardian

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Kenya's "Deep State"

  The phrase  "deep state" conveys the idea of a powerful shadowy cabal, not officially elected to the government but, nonetheless, directing the country. The so-called cabal is said to influence choice positions and lucrative contracts in government and business.

In Kenya, supporters of leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga have always claimed that there was a conspiracy at the highest levels of government to deny the former prime minister, who lost the 2002, 2007, 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, the role.

In December 2019, former Deputy President Kalonzo Musyoka made possibly the earliest local mention of the phrase, in an interview with local private broadcaster Citizen TV. 

“Kenyans must know that there is a ‘deep state’ government,” he said. “A country is never run by these politicians who shout the loudest.”

A year later, Musyoka, an influential member of the Azimio La Umoja coalition which backs Odinga, said, “I don’t know if there is a deep state, what I know is there are interest groups and some of them have an enabling capacity.”

In September 2021, Francis Kimemia, a former public service head and current governor for Nyandarua county in central Kenya said, “The state exists. I can assure you it is deeper than deep. If you have two candidates at the rate of 50-50, and the ‘deep state’ backs one, you can be sure which one will win. The international community plays a great role in who becomes elected.”

In Kenya's current election campaign, the phrase is assuming dangerous dimensions. The term has been popularised by the Kenya Kwanza (meaning Kenya First in Swahili, – over the elite) – a nationalist coalition movement headed by deputy president and the other main presidential candidate, William Ruto.  A skilled orator, he is now framing the election as one of “hustlers” versus “dynasties”. This is in reference to the Azimio la Umoja coalition which has in its fold President Uhuru – scion of the Kenyattas (beginning with inaugural President Jomo Kenyatta in 1964) – along with the other leading presidential challenger Odinga (whose father Jaramogi Odinga was Kenya’s first vice president in 1964) and their supporter Gideon Moi (son of former President Daniel arap Moi). Members of the "deep state" are believed to be in the presidency, the security agencies, the electoral commission and other parts of the civil service that supposedly work in tandem as an “All-Seeing Eye”.

Ruto said at an August 6 press conference, “Irrespective of where we come from, today we stand together as a people and we have overcome the so-called system, the so-called deep state,” alluding to there being higher powers at play wanting to rig the elections against him. Ruto alleges that there were threats against his family and several communities, arising from “meetings that are being organised in dark places to orchestrate disharmony” including one that the president had supposedly attended.

Rival politicians, including Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe, say Ruto, one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential politicians, would himself be embedded in a “deep state”, if it were to exist.

The ‘deep state’ conspiracy theory tainting Kenya’s elections | News | Al Jazeera


Mali Massacre by Mercenaries

 A 78-page report by the U.N. experts doesn’t name Wagner in connection with any incidents, but it describes several operations where Malian forces were joined by white soldiers, including one on March 5 in the town of Robinet El Ataye in the Segou region near the border with Mauritania. 

According to testimony the experts said, a group of “white-skinned soldiers” arrived in the town, which has a water well frequented by Mauritanians who cross the border in search of pasture for cattle, rounded up men and boys, tied their hands behind their backs and blindfolded them. Women and children were told to go home and the soldiers that reportedly stripped houses of “all possessions including bedding, cellular phones, jewelry, cooking utensils and clothing,” they said.

Later in the morning, the panel said, Malian soldiers arrived in the village started beating the bound and blindfolded men “with heavy sticks used by the herders on their flocks.” The women heard screams but were blocked by soldiers from leaving their homes, and the Malian forces then released some younger men and carried off at least 33 men, 29 Mauritanians and four Malians who were ethnic Tuaregs, it said. The women waited for the return of the men, but the panel said they were notified by relatives a day later that the men’s bodies had been found about 4 kilometers away, and they “had been shot and then burnt,” the experts said.

The panel said “a similar pattern of pillage and beatings” occurred at five other locations, but the only place civilians were killed was at Robinet El Ataye.

“In two other locations visited by the Malian Armed Forces, a helicopter carrying `white-skinned soldiers’ allegedly landed at the beginning of the operations” it said.

12 million people need humanitarian assistance, a sharp increase from 5.9 million last year, including 1.9 million people facing the threat of “acute malnutrition” during the current lean season which lasts through August.

UN experts: Malian military and 'white' soldiers killed 33 | AP News

Friday, August 05, 2022

Religious fanaticism kills in Uganda (2000)

 From the July 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard


The tragedy that befell Uganda in the month of March this year is worth analysing and talking about. This was in South Western Uganda in the village of Kanungu. Over 500 religious believers, belonging to a sect (cult) called The Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, set themselves ablaze and all perished in the inferno. Worse still, as police continue to search, mass graves of believers of the same cult were found in different places in the homes of the followers’ leaders and elsewhere.

The impact of religion on people especially in Africa is that of doom. The principles of religion are all similar and only differ on the surface. First, there is a belief in supernatural power. Second, there are prayers and rituals. And third, there is a belief in life after death.

The belief in supernatural powers, a god and a spirit world arose out of people’s lack of understanding of the universe and their own particular limited environment. This was coupled with their own curiosity, desires and needs. Humans have been the creator and inventor of God in their own image. In fact, it’s not a case of God creating Man but of Man creating God. God and all gods exist in people’s minds only.

The Kanungu incident is a case of religious fanatics whose leaders had predicted the end of the world come December 31 1999; they believed that there was not to be a year 2000 with the old generation but a new generation with they, believers of this cult, going to heaven. So they made their heaven.

Their mass graves at Kangunu, like any other graves, are an indication that there is no life after death. There is only death after life. Their testimony was based on biblical extracts. However, as usual, false testimony always testifies against itself. It is an easy thing to tell a lie but it’s difficult to support a lie after it has been told.

By extracting verses from the bible and relying on them in addition to trying to put them into practice, some religious groups have gone as far as destroying fruit trees, having free sex and not accepting family planning methods, refusing medical treatment, and selling their possessions.

Christians marching ‘the way of the cross’ in Uganda

The bible, which claims to be a holy creation and the foundation for christianity and several other religions, was of course a human creation and there is still a minority today who would accept it word for word. Yet it is inconsistent and self-contradicting. In fact it would stand no favour had it to face a court of law. It’s a book of lies. Today numbers of “educated” and “artistic” people are employed to blend truth and lies in whatever proportion they calculate is most effective in misleading the public. The big lie being that people should be contented with the life which the market system imposes on us while waiting for “a paradise life” after this life.

From childhood people are mentally conditioned into religious beliefs, superstitions and the like. And as people sense a lack of control in an increasingly complex and alienating world, they are more susceptible to beliefs in the supernatural whether religion, magic, dreams, creatures from other planets or whatever. People who have religious beliefs replace faith for reason and logic.

We live in a harsh, competitive society where everyone’s hand is turned against everyone else. Yet human beings need social contact and companionship. The harsher the reality the more fantastic the solace offered by religion. It is no accident that early christianity spread amongst the slaves of the Roman empire, nor that in Africa and Asia where poverty is so harsh, we have the devout religious zealots.

The religious view sees workers as incapable of solving the problems that confront them. The consolation they offer is one beyond the grave. They believe that human beings should adapt a slavish attitude, be humble, be grateful and not attempt to abolish the ills that afflict them.

We socialists see humans as an animal species that has succeeded in adapting the natural world to meet its needs. We view with wonder and astonishment its magnificent accomplishments in the fields of science, medicine, agriculture and advanced technology. We place our faith not in gods and supernatural forces, but in the intelligence and knowledge of the working class.

The transformation of society will not be brought about by the action of gods, but by real men and women determined to end capitalism and establish socialism.

Weijagye Justus 
(Uganda)

Capitalism rips us off, NGOs soothe the pain (2000)

 From the July 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

When governments and business have done with keeping us in line and exploiting us, NGOs step in to soothe us with left-overs

“Give us fish and you feed us for a day, Give us the fishing rod and you feed us for life”
Non-governmental organisations in general come in to assist where governments fail. Today however many of them claim they are now shifting their focus to the economic development of poor countries. But it is common knowledge, from the concrete situation on the ground, that the main thrust of NGO activity is still within the framework of alleviation and not eradication of poverty and want. And even in that regard, a cursory glance at their intervention reveals nothing but a catalogue of failures and deceit. But what else is expected of any organisation that tries to reform a system which is inherently evil and incorrigible? In this article three reasons are advanced to explain why NGOs are like the proverbial decorated donkey which is “still an ass”.

The unholy trinity
Even if NGOs were groups genuinely seeking, on humanitarian grounds, to reach out to the needy (as some may honestly do) they would still not escape being branded blind groups groping in the dark. But a closer scrutiny of the entire NGO set-up reveals almost a sinister plot against the wretched of the earth—those whose suffering they claim to be alleviating. This is easily understood when one considers the life and role of the NGO as being largely determined by a three-dimensional interplay of forces.

To begin with, it is evident that governments, big business and NGOs constitute the three sides of a triangle. The three are one and their efforts are complementary. Are we in the poor peripheral countries not constantly reminded, both in the print and electronic media, of some three “basic facts”?
(a) that government has no business doing business, that government only provides an “enabling environment” for free trade,
(b) that the business community, aka Foreign Direct Investment, aka private sector is the key to, and the engine of, our economic development,
(c) and that NGOs are partners in development, the third estate of African economic development.
In real terms what the three propositions mean is that whilst governments keep the people in check with their armies, police, prisons, the judiciary, etc, the capitalists rip us off through exploitation and retrenchment. The NGOs then intervene to soothe, console and cajole the victims with sweets and second-hand (discarded) materials.

Though this unholy collaboration is done in a discreetly Mafia-like style, it is not uncommon, once in a while, to see such back-scratching manifested openly. A case was seen in Ghana in the mid-1990s, when an NGO—The 31st December Women’s Movement—diverted huge sums of aid money to the ruling NDC government to foot its electioneering campaign bills. Another example of this government/NGO collaboration is the issue of World Vision International helping the Honduran government to track down and kill suspected dissidents (Graham Hancock, Lords of Poverty, London, 1989). Where NGOs fail, to fulfil their part of the unwritten connivance, governments do not hesitate to take firm measures against such NGOs. In 1989, for instance, when Oxfam advocated sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, it (Oxfam) was censured by the England and Wales Charity Commission for contravening UK charity law. Then in 1995 the Ghanaian government was bitterly confronted by the opposition for trying to impose an NGO Act on the people. The law was meant to boot out all NGOs which were not subservient to the government. In a similar vein, NGOs are known to be promoters of big business through the purchase of (sometimes expired) drugs and food and also obsolete or faulty machinery. It is on record for instance that Bob Geldof’s Band Aid wasted $4 million in purchasing eighty unusable lorries from a Kuwaiti business group and dumped the junk as aid to Sudan (Independent, 25 November 1987).

Fund raising
The second dimension to the three-pronged characteristics of the NGO system relates to their source of funds. It is an undeniable fact that individuals filled with fellow feeling donate to NGOs to assist the needy. However, large sums do come from owners of capital, corporate bodies and governments. The donations of these latter, like “aid” in a profit-oriented society, are not without ulterior motives and strings. Who pays the piper calls the tune and even since one does not bite the finger that feeds one, whatever well-meaning intentions that motivated the setting up of the NGO is sooner or later compromised in favour of having more funds. They would henceforth dance to the tune of “major” donors and benefactors.

Such tendencies reduce many an NGO to a complete business enterprise where “profit” now their major concern. This is expressed in the methods employed to attract funding. Advertising is an expression of an unwholesome competition in the quest for profits. NGOs spend huge sums on adverts. Sometimes this is done using typical capitalist fraudulent methods. A clear example is the famous “wire fraud” of World Vision International, on the Los Angeles-based relief agency Operation California. The latter had organised a fundraising concert for Kampuchea refugees which was televised by CBS. Unknown to the organisers WVI had managed to have its toll-free number flashed at regular intervals during the concert for potential donors to pay into that account (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, 21-27 December 1982).

Another dishonest method of ensuring a bumper harvest is the raising of false alarms through a gross exaggeration of the plight of “vulnerable groups”. In the NGO business the commodity is the misery of the downtrodden. So intense is this hunt for super-profits that the bugbear of unhealthy rivalry (typical of big business) often raises its ugly head within the NGO community. Part of the causes of the Somali famine in the late 1980s , for instance, was a result of the refusal by relief groups to heed Oxfam’s fully substantiated warning of imminent hunger. These agencies rejected the warning just so that Oxfam would not take the credit (Lords of Poverty).

The result of this business-oriented voluntarism is the tendency to accumulate. The recent imprisonment of Allan Boesak in South Africa for embezzling NGO funds is only the tip of the iceberg. There is also the case of International Christian Aid (ICA) a US-based NGO, which was accused, in 1985, by the UN and the US State Department of failing to send anything to Ethiopia though it had raised $18 million for famine there (Daily Mail, 14 January 1985). Many more monstrous cases of this nature are either not discovered or hushed up in the interests of the dubious capitalist fraternity. Thus set up to help the needy NGOs often only help themselves.

Activities
Needless to say, the work and assistance programmes of NGOs cannot be anything but a red herring. Having been brought into existence by the exploitative money-oriented system and being completely dependent on the same underhand methods of this unfeeling system for their survival what else can the activities of NGOs be if not messing about in trivialities? The main problem confronting humanity revolves around ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing (social) wealth. How many NGOs mount platforms to explain this simple truth to their target groups? How many NGOs ever distribute tracts about working people replacing this profit-oriented system with a higher social system based on collective and democratic ownership of the means and instruments of production?

It is not by accident therefore that NGO activities in poor southern countries never approach education, shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, etc with a view to finding a lasting solution to them. These areas are the exclusive lucrative business of private capital. A good lot of NGO programmes involve organisation of seminars and talk-shops on such superstructural issues such as female circumcision, the empowerment of women, prostitution, drug abuse, etc. Most of the relatively few projects end up as white elephants or never even get complete. No wonder then that as the number of NGOs keeps rising, ignorance, homelessness, hunger, poverty, disease, etc are getting out of control (instead of the other way round).

Of course poverty and want are necessary offshoots of the capitalist socio-economic formation. Trying to get rid of the former whilst leaving the latter intact amounts to putting the cart before the horse. The only genuine assistance the NGO community could lead to the suffering people of this capitalist world is to stop collaborating with the owners of capital and instead, join forces with socialists to get rid of this system based on money. NGOs could use their resources to help usher in a system where production is not for profits’ sake but for the satisfaction of needs. Under such a system nobody will have to run around begging for funds in order to help the needy—in fact, there wouldn’t be any more needy people.

Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, 
The Gambia

Somalians still suffering

 More than 900 000 people in Somalia, mostly living in rural areas, have moved to internally displaced persons camps since January 2021 due to the drought and lack of livelihood support. There is a reasonable chance of famine in eight areas by September 2022 if crop and livestock production failure is widespread, key commodity prices continue to rise, and humanitarian assistance fails to reach the most vulnerable.

FAO Somalia urgently requires $131.4 million to assist 882 000 people across 55 districts with immediate lifesaving and livelihood support. These famine prevention efforts in Somalia are only 46 percent funded.

Somalia: “We cannot wait for famine to be declared; we must act now” - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Life Expectancy Grows

 Despite the customary bad news that usually emerges from Africa, this item is better news although there will be the eco-pessimists who will present it as a potential over-population problem.

Life expectancy is rising in Africa - with people living nearly 10 years longer, from 46 years to 56 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The rise is because of better access to health services in the continent although the numbers are "still well below the global average of 64 years", according to the health agency.

Healthy life expectancy in Africa rises by almost ten years - World | ReliefWeb

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Evictions in the name of Conservation

The Maasai are a pastoralist society, with a strong connection to the land.  The Tanzanian government is forcing the Maasai out of their homes

 "The Tanzania government doesn't want the Maasai because people coming here don't want to see the Maasai. Before we didn't think too much (or too badly) about tourism but now we understand that tourism is people coming with money, which makes the government think 'If we move the Maasai, more people will come here with money'."

At the start of June, the Tanzanian government announced their plan to "upgrade" Loliondo Game Controlled Area to a Game Reserve: which in practice means that Maasai houses and grazing will be banned. 

On June 8 dozens of police vehicles and an estimated 700 officers arrived in Loliondo to mark out this new area. 

On June 10 they fired at Maasai who were protesting efforts to evict them: at least 18 men and 13 women were shot, and many more were wounded with machetes. One person is confirmed dead. In the days that followed the police went house-to-house in Maasai villages, beating and arresting those they believed had distributed images of the violence or took part in the protests. A 90-year-old man was beaten by police because his son was accused of filming the shooting. Thousands of Maasai including children are reported to have fled into the bush. A dozen people have been arrested.

The brutality in Loliondo reveals the true face of conservation: daily violations of the human rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities so wealthy tourists can hunt or go on "safari" in so-called "Protected Areas." These abuses are systemic and are built into the dominant racist and colonial model of conservation.

Indigenous Peoples have been living in the most biodiverse places in the world for generations: these territories are now deemed to be important nature conservation areas precisely because the original inhabitants took such good care of their land and wildlife. We can no longer turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed in the name of conservation. This model of conservation is deeply inhumane and ineffective and must be changed now. Protected Areas are failing to save biodiversity and are alienating the local people – those best placed to protect their lands. 

As a Maasai leader explained: "Without us the animals will be killed. We are the real conservationists. This is our land, and we won't leave."

Opinion | The Maasai Are Under Attack in the Name of Conservation: 'This Is Our Land, and We Won't Leave' | Fiore Longo (commondreams.org)

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Smoking Profits Tobacco Industry

 As outlined in research from the University of Bath:

 “To protect their profits, transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) began shifting their business to relatively untapped markets in parts of the world where the opportunity for growth is largely unrestricted … Nowhere is this underexploited prospect as ripe for the picking as Africa. TTCs are expanding into African countries, where, excluding South Africa, the tobacco market grew by almost 70% through the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century.”

The decline in smoking in Africa has been small, and adult prevalence increased in 10 of the continent’s countries between 1990 and 2019. Cheap cigarettes suit international tobacco multinationals. As profits are choked off in the west, big tobacco has homed in on African communities, and especially their young people

Taxation is the most effective way to control tobacco use but Africa has a poor record in this area. Tobacconomics’ cigarette tax scorecard rates nations on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 indicating the best performance. Compared with leaders such as New Zealand or Ecuador (4.63), which are making rapid progress, countries such as Kenya (0.88), Zimbabwe (1.38), Chad and Central African Republic (both at 0.75) show that tobacco is lightly taxed across most of the continent.

Another industry argument is that tobacco cultivation in many east and southern African countries is an important part of the economy. The tobacco industry lobbies governments to stall action for fear of hurting farmers, but the Tobacco Atlas identifies recent research that demonstrates that most tobacco growers are impoverished and governments would serve them better by helping them transition to more profitable crops.

Africa will be the world’s ashtray if big tobacco is able to get its way | Rachel Kitonyo and Jeffrey Drope | The Guardian


China's Secret Army in Africa

 Nine Chinese private security companies (PSCs) are spread in more than 40 African countries.

Beijing DeWe Security Services has 20,000 security-personal, largely drawn from retired PLA personnel, in African countries -- Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Senegal and Angola engaged in guarding, escorting, maritime protection and site protection for Chinese interests.

China Security Technology Group, which was formed in 2016 has 30,000 security personnel, also drawn from ex-PLA ranks, placed in Algeria, Sudan, South Sudan and other African countries. These security personnel provide armed protection, armed 
escorts
 and help in security assessment for China-led projects in the continent.

Another Chinese security firm, Hua Xin Zhong An Security has 21,000 security personnel manning BRI projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and other African countries, while China Overseas Security Group has 20,000 well-trained security personnel to guard China-led projects in all BRI zones of Africa.


Similarly, firms like Genghis Security Advisor, VSS Security, Shandong Huawei Security Group, ZhongjunJunhong Security Service Co have their security personnel to protect and guard China-led oil and gas companies, rail, road and port projects in different parts of Africa. 

As per Beijing-based China Overseas Security and Defence Research Centre, Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) spend around $10 billion annually on security of Chinese interests in Africa and other parts of the world.