Friday, March 15, 2024

Chad: No such thing as a free lunch?

 The republic of Chad is a landlocked country in Africa. From 1900 to 1960 it was a French colony. Following independence civil wars and dictatorship followed. Idriss Déby ruled as President until his demise in 2021 when  General Mahamat Déby, his son, took power. 

Over a third of Chad’s eighteen million population live in extreme poverty.

World Bank Date has only 11.3 per cent of Chadians having access to electricity (2021)

It’s now being reported that;  ‘Chad's government has announced that it would provide free water and electricity for households until the end of the year.

The monthly household consumption payable by the government is capped at 15 cubic metres (15,000 litres) of water and 300 kWh of electricity.

The government said it would also clear water and electricity bills for residents with outstanding arrears.

It also announced a cut in transport taxes that could lower transport costs, which hiked last month with a rise in fuel prices.

Chad's junta leader and interim President Mahamat Déby sanctioned the policy "to assist households", a joint statement by the presidency and finance minister said.

Some Chadians perceive the move as Mr Déby's attempt to endear to voters.

He will be vying for the presidency when Chad holds elections between May and June.

Some residents also say that the move is meaningless as several parts in the capital, N'Djamena, have faced a power outage for the past two weeks.

But some Chadians have welcomed the measure as a much-needed relief to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.’

A further report states, ‘The authorities stated that they would as well settle water and electricity bills for residents who have unpaid bills.“

A system will also be put in place in agreement with the Ministry of Energy and the Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNE) to guarantee the free electricity consumed by households during the same period from March 1, 2024 for all two social tranches or equivalent, a total of 300 kWh per month and per subscribed household, including for subscribers in prepayment of the SNE,” Finance Minister Tahir Hamid Ngulin said.

“The requirements of this circular must be rigorously observed, and any difficulty in their application must be submitted to my attention,” the minister stated.

Additionally, the authorities announced a 50% decrease in various taxes on passenger transport. This has the potential to lower transportation costs, which increased last month due to rising fuel prices.

The transitional government’s announcement occurred after a month-long energy crisis in Chad, marked by frequent water and electricity supply cuts. The interruptions left many areas of the capital N’Djamena plunged into darkness for weeks.

This initiative comes two months prior to a presidential election scheduled for May 6, 2024. The leader of the military, General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Kaka, and Prime Minister Sukkes Masra are candidates for the top post.

Mahamat Kaka  made a commitment to give power back to civilian authority after an 18-month transition period, but then increased it by two years.

’Whilst any alleviation of suffering by a population would be a positive there is not enough public information so far to conclude whether these are pie crust promises served up by a politician looking to hold on to power. 

For real jam today, and for tomorrow, the abolition of global capitalism and its replacement by Socialism is the only panacea that is practicable.

Promoted by The  Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

DRC-Rwanda crisis

 This is taken from The Conversation.

‘In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),South African, Burundian and Tanzanian troops are fighting against the Rwandan army, which has deployed in support of the rebellion by the March 23 Movement, or M23.

Soldiers from South Africa and Burundi, as well as from the United Nations peacekeeping mission, have recently suffered casualties. In the crossfire, civilians have fled: seven million Congolese are now displaced due to this and multiple other crises in the DRC.

Diplomats are concerned: the conflict in the eastern DRC was the subject of a special meeting at the United Nations Security Council on 20 February 2024 and a mini-summiton the sidelines of the African Union annual meeting of heads of state on 16 February.

Rwanda, which has denied backing M23,says the Rwandan rebel group – Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) – which includes combatants who participated in the 1994 genocide, has been fully integrated into the Congolese army. It also claims that the Congolese government is engaged in “massive combat operations” aimed at expelling Congolese Tutsi civilians.

The Congolese government has mounted a campaign against Rwanda. In December, while he campaigned for re-election, President Félix Tshisekedi compared his Rwandan counterpart to Adolf Hitler and accused him of expansionist aims.

In January, the Burundian president Évariste Ndayishimiye closed his border with Rwanda and accused the country of backing rebels against him. He stopped just short of calling for Kagame’s ouster.

We have been working on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for around 20 years. This wave of violence resembles previous ones, but is also different. At the root of the M23 conflict are countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, intent on projecting power and influence into the eastern DRC, while the Congolese government seems incapable and often unwilling to stabilise its own territory. Donors and United Nations peacekeepers provide humanitarian aid, but do little to transform these dynamics.

Resolving this crisis will require less hypocrisy from foreign donors, the end of Rwandan aggression, and a more accountable Congolese government. But the hopes of a grand bargain are far off, for now. The current peace processes – a ‘Nairobi process’ for domestic negotiations and a ‘Luanda process’ for regional talks – are dead or on life support.

The upcoming elections in Rwanda (July 2024) and the US (November 2024) will likely not help cool heads or focus minds. But it is clear that ending the violence will require a new approach, one that places the lives of innocent Congolese civilians at its centre.

During the early days of his presidency, Tshisekedi’s army collaborated intensely with the Rwandan army, allowing troops to conduct operations against the FDLR on Congolese territory in 2019 and 2020. In late 2019, his government even recommended dropping charges against the M23 commanders, then in exile.

Less than three years after winning power, however, Tshisekedi changed his approach, breaking his coalition with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila, and moving to cement his position in power. He declared a state of siege in two eastern provinces, shuffled generals around in the army, and sidelined key securocrats. He also shifted gears in his regional relations.

By mid-2021, Tshisekedi had begun to privilege relations with Uganda, then a bitter rival of Rwanda. Notably, Tshisekedi gave permission to the Ugandan army to deploy somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 troops to hunt down Allied Democratic Forces rebels, an Islamist Ugandan rebellion based in the eastern DRC. Shortly after that, he did the same for the Burundian army, which had its sights on RED-Tabara, rebels based in the DRC seeking to overthrow the government of Ndayishimiye.

Rwanda suddenly felt isolated, even vulnerable, surrounded by hostile neighbours. According to United Nations investigators, it probably resumed throwing its weight behind the M23 in November 2021. It is above all these regional tensions, coupled with its goal of maintaining influence in the Congo, that pushed it to move.

Since then, the regional fault lines have shifted. Rwanda has patched up relations with Uganda, and the East African Community intervention force – Kenyan, South Sudanese, Burundian and Ugandan troops – that deployed in 2022 to help quell the violence was asked to leave just a year later. This is because their hosts saw them as dragging their feet, if not complicit with the M23. Tshisekedi, who came into office seeing east African countries as allies, has now turned southwards.

Military changes in eastern DRC

Beginning in late 2023, a new force from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began deploying troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi to take the fight to the M23, alongside the Burundian army.

Already, these forces have begun to take casualties. Two South African soldiers were killed on 14 February by a mortar strike; two others were injured when their helicopter took fire. Some sources indicate that Burundian soldiers have taken heavy losses.

The rising degree of military sophistication also raises eyebrows. The US government has accused Rwanda of deploying surface-to-air missiles, UN officials have reported armed drones striking their bases, while Tanzania has sent Soviet-era BM-21 Grad rocket launchers. The DRC has bought nine Chinese CH-4 combat drones (three of which have reportedly been shot down already).

Meanwhile, the Congolese army has partnered with private security contractors as well as with an array of local militia, collectively dubbed Wazalendo (patriots), who are poorly trained and disciplined. There are credible reports from late 2023 that, as in the previous year, they are also partnering with the Rwandan FDLR rebels.

And yet, the Congolese government has been unable to make much headway. In early February, M23 forces surrounded the lakeside town of Sake, just 30km west of the provincial capital Goma. This most recent push has displaced another 135,000 people toward Goma; there are around half a  million displaced people around the town now.

Unlike the previous M23 crisis, influential foreign actors have sent mixed signals. At the UN Security Council on 20 February, the US and France called on Rwanda to withdraw their troops from the DRC. The US has gone the furthest of all of Rwanda’s donors, sanctioning a Rwandan general, suspending all military aid, and attempting to broker a ceasefire in December 2023.

And yet, the US remains, by far, the largest donor to Rwanda, which receives the equivalent of around a third of its budget in aid. Other countries have pushed much less or not at all. While the M23 rebellion was going on, the 

British Commonwealth held its big biannual meeting in Kigali in 2022 and the UK struck a controversial asylum deal with Rwanda.

The EU gave US$22 million to support the deployment of the Rwanda Defence Force in Mozambique. On 19 February, the EU announced a deal to boost mineral exports from Rwanda.

This last piece of news caused an uproar in the DRC, touching on the popular belief that minerals are the root of the crisis. While the causes of the violence are far more complex than that, they have a point: the largest export tfrom Uganda (56% in 2021), Rwanda (23%), and Burundi (29%) in recent years has been gold, almost all of which is smuggled to their countries from the DRC.

In the long term, the DRC government will need to undertake a host of reforms to quell these cycles of conflict. They include reforming the Congolese army, a new demobilisation programme for armed groups, an economic development programme that would allow Congolese to benefit from their resources, a plan for communal reconciliation, and an end to discrimination against Kinyarwanda speakers. But none of that can happen as long as Congo’s neighbours continue to destabilise it.’

Promoted by The Socialist party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN

Friday, March 08, 2024

Nigerian women

 Further to this post from SOYMB, 5 March, comes news that women in Nigeria are being targetted to become more capitalism friendly and contribute toward the profits of Nigerian capitalists.

‘The World Bank, formed at the 1944 Breton Woods Conference is meanwhile concerned that women's rights and gender equality need to progress at a faster pace. Lest anyone think that this organisation’s motives are exclusively altruistic the World Bank says, ‘Closing the gender gap could boost global GDP by over 20%, doubling the world’s growth rate over the next decade.’

‘Women have the power to turbocharge the sputtering global economy,’itother said.

Further, ‘Today, barely half of women participate in the global workforce, compared with nearly three out of every four men. This is not just unfair – it’s wasteful,’

‘The development organization argues that the transition to a gender-equal world could be fast-tracked through accelerating efforts in reforming laws and enacting public policies that empower women to work, as well as to start and grow businesses.’

In other words, on behalf of the global capitalist class the World Bank wants a situation where, along with men, more women can be exploited to produce more surplus value (profits) for capitalists. Women are also part of the majority working class and their interests are best served by working toward the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a social system where quality goods and services are produced for free use not profit.’

‘An initiative to promote the role of women in local Nigerian businesses will receive a grant of 600 million naira ($376,000) that will benefit 1,000 female entrepreneurs, a foundation run by major mobile operator MTM Group has announced. 

During the launch of phase two of what is called the Y’ellopreneur Initiative in the city of Lagos on Tuesday, Odunayo Sanya, the executive director of MTN Nigeria Foundation, highlighted gender inequality as a significant cause of hunger and poverty.

The initiative aims to decrease female unemployment and promote women’s development as entrepreneurs by offering capacity-building programs and providing access to loans, grants, and advisory services to ensure long-term business sustainability.

“MTN is investing 600 million naira in the second phase of the initiative. The sum of $282,000 (N450 million) is available at $1800 (N3 million) each for the top 150 qualified Y’ellopreneurs to access as equipment loans at a low 2.5% flat interest rate. Upon full repayment of the loan, the sum of $70,000 (N112 million) will be refunded between all 150 Y’ellopreneurs as grants,” Sanya explained.

The initiative is tailored to support female entrepreneurs at medium-sized enterprises who possess at least a secondary education and prefer self-employment. Eligible applicants need to have been operating an existing business for at least two years in sectors such as manufacturing, processing, agriculture, ICT, digital services, waste management, and energy generation.

Sanya emphasized that sustained female participation in entrepreneurship and business administration will not only generate income for their families but also significantly contribute to Nigeria’s socioeconomic progress. 

The submission period for applications for the Y’ellopreneur program commenced on Tuesday and will run through March 30. 

MTN Group Limited, formerly known as M-Cell, is a South African mobile communications company that operates across numerous African and Asian nations but derives a third of its revenue from Nigeria, where it holds an approximately 35% market share.

The MTN Foundation was established in 2004 and, according to its website, works with “disadvantaged and rural communities” to help them “become self-sufficient.”’

Promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN.