Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zambian Politics

Zambia is the world's seventh largest copper producer. This metal is essential to economic development in the global North and BRICS. While Chinese investment is growing, the main player in the Zambian mining sector is white capital from South Africa and the West.
There are considerable reserves of uranium, a mineral in high demand with the increase of civilian nuclear energy projects around the world. Uranium is of strategic interest to global superpowers. Zambia has close trading links with Democratic Republic of Congo, especially the copper-rich Haut-Katanga Province in the southeast.
Zambian politicians operate as local agents of foreign capital. Big capital from the West and BRICS have coopted local politicians at the expense of the vast majority of citizens. They sold off national assets for a fraction of their value and brought taxation revenues and public spending to appalling lows. 
According to a 2015 report, the country is losing $3bn a year in tax dodging by multinational mining companies. Repeated attempts by successive governments to change this state of affairs have been neutralised by mining lobbies.
President Edgar Lungu could not have won the 2016 election without the support of former President Rupiah Banda, who led the exodus of powerful factions of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) into the PF ranks. The MMD was in power from 1991 to 2011. Banda has strong ties with big capital, and exerts considerable influence over government economic decisions.
Despite his recent anti-colonial rhetoric, Lungu himself has ordered the state's mining investment arm to drop a $2.3bn fraud court case against Canada-based mining company First Quantum Minerals. The dispute will be settled out of court.
The government is in negotiations with the IMF over a $1.3bn loan to avoid default on its public debt. The details of the deal have been kept outside public scrutiny, but the IMF's familiar rhetoric about fiscal discipline suggests hefty conditionalities. 
In recent years, Zambia and other African states borrowed heavily on the international bond markets. Since the commodity downturn in 2015, investors' confidence and state revenues have gone down, while interest on debt has gone up. Zambia risks losing the few strategic assets still under state control. The announced 75 percent electricity tariff rise will further aggravate the dire economic conditions of most people, who are struggling with mass unemployment caused by the contraction of the mining sector. Cuts to fuel subsidies are also in the cards.

The Prospect of a Uganda Refugee Crisis

UN funding appeals for refugees remain grossly underfunded, leaving millions of refugees in destitute conditions, and dismally few resettlement places are being offered, contrary to international obligations for responsibility-sharing among states.

With more than 900,000 South Sudanese refugees already on its territory, and with thousands more arriving each day, Uganda is facing one of the world's biggest refugee crisesUganda has kept its doors open to refugees against financial odds, but it is buckling under the pressure and needs global support.

Over 64 percent of the refugees from South Sudan in Uganda are children under the age of 18. Many are at risk and in need of urgent support

Known and praised for its progressive refugee policy,  refugees are given pieces of land to live on and farm, and have equal access to basic services as citizens, including healthcare and education. They also have the right to work and own businesses. The authorities aim for refugees to be self-sufficient within five years - and to no longer have to rely on aid agencies.
Yet the international community has still failed to provide Uganda and its refugees with adequate support. By May 2017, the South Sudan Refugee Response Plan for Uganda was only 15 percent funded. In 2016, it was funded up to 51.4 percent. Not only does this lack of funding risk the sustainability of Uganda's progressive refugee policy, it also has a direct and devastating impact on refugees' lives.
Now, instead of full support to live in dignity in Uganda, many South Sudanese have been left struggling to cope. Even the most vulnerable, such as trauma victims with urgent mental health needs, have been neglected. Despite appeals by the Ugandan government, the United Nations and aid agencies have fallen on deaf ears.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Aid as profit

Up to half the food aid meant for people who have fled Nigeria's Islamist insurgency has reportedly not been delivered, the government says.
It described it as a "diversion of relief materials", which correspondents say is a euphemism for theft. The statement from acting President Yemi Osinbajo said aid going missing had "dogged food delivery" and then cited reports saying that more than 50 lorries out of every 100 sent to the north-east never reach their destination. Last week 200 tonnes of dates were found on sale in local markets.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" (Shakespeare)


 Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.
“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.
Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men


Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.
Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men


“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.
The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”


From IPS News

Friday, June 16, 2017

Empire and Poverty (1943 - Pages from South African History)

 From the July 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Pages from South African History


A corner stone in the British Empire is the Dominion of South Africa, the Prime Minister of which. General Smuts was made a Field-Marshal of the British Army on his 71st birthday two years ago. The approval accorded to him in the British Press contrasts rather forcibly with the rather nasty epithets bestowed upon the politicians of other countries who have accepted office under their conquerors, during the past year or so.

While still in his twenties Smuts became State Attorney of the Transvaal Republic under Kruger, whose administration (according to most British accounts) was one of the most corrupt on earth. After the war of 1899—1902 the Boer politicians were out of the limelight, their territory being annexed and administered by a High Commissioner of the Crown. The grant of responsible government a few years later, however, gave them their chance once more. General Louis Botha (who had succeeded Joubert as commander during the war) formed Het Volk and secured a majority in the first elections 1907. From that time onwards Smuts was in close association with Botha, until the latter's death in 1919, occupying ministerial positions under him and eventually succeeding him as Premier of the Union. He held this office till 1924, when he gave way to General Hertzog and the National Party, triumphant at the polls with the aid of the Labourites. Some eight or nine years later, however, when the economic blizzard had affected the popularity of Hertzog's ministry, we find Smuts again in office as Minister of Justice in a Coalition with his late rival. Since then Smuts has reaped the reward of his pertinacity and occupied the supremacy so dear to him.

Smuts cannot be accused of neglecting his opportunities, a fact which can be appreciated best against the background of history.

His countrymen fought the war of 1899-1902 in the desperate attempt to preserve their political independence. This had been in a precarious state ever since the British occupied the Cape; and some three-quarters of a century earlier the Boers in large numbers had trekked northwards to avoid British control. Their primitive mode of life was gradually complicated by the discovery of minerals and the arrival in the country of prospectors and their hangers-on, and this led to a clamour for annexation. One attempt in 1877 lasted over three years. The Boers tolerated the position while the British were engaged in their struggles with the natives (chiefly the Zulus) and then revolted successfully, resuming' the status of a Republic in 1881. A few years later the discovery of gold on the Rand laid the foundations of the economic “fifth column," which led to its final downfall.

A description of some of the gentry the Boers were expected to tolerate is contained in a small volume, "South Africa" by J. I. A. Agar-Hamilton, lecturer in modern history at Pretoria University. ("South Africa" Modern States Series: Arrowsmith.)

      Pioneers are always pleasanter in retrospect than in close proximity in the flesh, and many of the earliest inhabitants of Barberton and Johannesburg were drunken rowdies and ne'er-do-wells, who were a pest to any law-abiding citizen. In the second wave came international crooks, swindlers and bullies, criminals of every sort who needed a respite from the attentions of the European police. (P. 36.)

More formidable were the large financiers such as Rhodes, who became Prime Minister of Cape Colony in 1890 with the support of Hofmeyr, the leader of the Cape Dutch. The Rand magnates backed the demand for the enfranchisement of the alien element in the Transvaal. .The answer of the Kruger Government was to raise the residential qualification to fourteen years (1890), and any prospect of a more moderate attitude was killed by Dr. Jameson (Rhodes' friend and Administrator of Rhodesia), who "invaded" the Transvaal in 1895 in the vain hope of bringing to a head a much talked of rising on the Rand. The Boers rounded him up with his 500 men and handed the captives over to the British High Commissioner. This magnanimity, however, did not indicate any weakening of their purpose. In October, 1899, the Transvaal and Orange Free State, making common cause, demanded the withdrawal of British troops and the war was on. The Boers could not maintain their initial success. In June, 1900, their capital, Pretoria, was in British hands and Kruger was in flight. None the less, the conflict dragged on, guerrilla fashion, for another two years. To bring it to a conclusion. Kitchener had to evacuate the rural population; concentrate them in camps, and supply them with rations.

    The farmhouses were then systematically destroyed and blockhouses and barbed wire sought to restrict the movement of the commandos. ("South Africa," p. 44.)

So great a havoc was wrought that no indemnity from the vanquished was possible. On the contrary, the victors had to advance considerable sums to restore agricultural production.

Although the Boers could hardly be suspected of aiming at world domination, the workers in Britain were fed the customary pap about their "enemies" being skulking cowards who hid behind rocks to snipe the manly British Tommy, who, as often as not, had to beg his bread in British streets when the war was over. The bioscope shows of the day depicted the ruthless Dutch farmers attacking the hospitals (plainly marked with red crosses) and molesting the helpless and attractive nurses. A large percentage of the wounds were supposed to be due to "dum-dum" bullets. Then of course the Boers were brutal to the niggers; but this did not prevent them being allowed to retain their rifles, when peace was signed, "for their protection" against these same niggers, and they were "secured against a native franchise." (South Africa, p. 44.)

    From the Orange to the Limpopo the countryside lay waste, without house or inhabitant, and its simplest agricultural needs were imported from elsewhere— Swiss milk, Australian butter and Irish eggs. The whole rural population had to be repatriated, the economic machinery of the country must be set going once more, and a new civil service and administration recreated. (p. 48.)

Under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that Botha and Smuts felt their dependence on their conquerors, and that their policy of conciliation received the support of the majority of their countrymen for a period of several years. In the Orange River Colony which had no large English-speaking population like the mining towns in the Transvaal, this policy was by no means so popular. Nevertheless the Union of the two ex-republics with the British colonies of the Cape and Natal was eventually effected in 1910.

Botha became the first premier. He expanded Het Volk into the South African National Party aiming to include British as well as Boer supporters. The mining interests of the Transvaal, however, combined with British elements in the Cape to form the Unionist Party, which retained its independent existence for ten years. The Labour Party, though strong in the Transvaal towns, was naturally weak in an agricultural country run on unenfranchised native labour, and "direct action" has, on more than one occasion, led to considerable violence on the Rand.

It was not long before the Government found itself in conflict with this element of the working-class. In July, 1913, a miners' strike brought out the whole Imperial garrison to restore order. Six months later an attempt at a general strike, including the State railwaymen, "was countered by the Proclamation of Martial Law. . . . Nine trade union leaders were summarily deported without trial" (South Africa, p. 58.)

A few months earlier, Hertzog (one of Botha's ministers who was dropped on account of his open hostility to the British elements) formed a new National Party. When the European War broke out in 1914, he advocated neutrality. The Botha Government, however, proceeded to send an expedition to invade German South-West Africa. A 'rebellion led, among others, by De Wet, gave them some trouble, but the leaders of the Nationalist Party had little confidence in its success and Botha kept control of the situation; his party lost ground, however, as the followers of Hertzog increased in number. Smuts held a place in the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917 along with Lord Milner, the High Commissioner of Boer War days.

Botha died "execrated among his own people" but "the hero of the Imperialists" (South Africa, pp. 62-3) and " Smuts inherited a peck of troubles. The elections (1920) returned the Nationalists as the biggest single party, while the Unionists lost heavily to the advantage of Labour in the towns" (p. 65). Smuts had only one course in order to retain office. He secured support from the Unionists who sank their identity in his party and allowed three of their members to join the Cabinet. Botha's dream of conciliation was realised—a Dominion of the British Empire in South Africa had been established.

March, 1922, saw a revival of the Rand trouble. Strikers drilled openly on the Reef, the defence commandos were called out and aeroplanes and field artillery were finally required to quell the rising.

At the next election in 1924 the Labour Party formed a pact with the party of Hertzog to avoid splitting the anti-Government vote. As a piece of tactics it was an immediate success. The Nationalist-cum-Labour coalition had a substantial majority and two Labour leaders entered the Ministry.

In order to secure the support of the Labour Party the Nationalists dropped the Republican clause from their constitution. Nevertheless General Hertzog spent some years trying to clarify the status of the Union. He wanted the right to secede recognised and it took two Imperial Conferences to satisfy him. In economic matters his government pursued a policy of Protection coupled with Factories Acts, Wages Boards and Industrial Conciliation.

In native affairs Hertzog stood for white supremacy and repressive legislation (such as the Colour Bar Bill, 1926, which limited natives in mines to unskilled labour, the Riotous Assemblies Act, 1930, and the Native Service Contract Act, 1932) found its way on to the Statute Book. As Mr. Agar Hamilton points out, he "could always rely on the support of ultra-British Natal for the more repressive side of his policy" (South Africa, p. 122). And, we may add, that of the more short-sighted white members of the working-class who fail to realise the necessity for organising irrespective of race or colour.

In 1929 the Labour Party split over the Question of continuing their pact with Hertzog. In the elections of that year the Coalition lost ground but the Government retained its majority. The following year the world depression made itself felt throughout the Union where the number of mortgaged farms is abnormally high. "Long established landowners were ruined and those small farmers and "bywoners" who normally lived dose to the poverty line suffered appalling privations" (South Africa, p. 80),

The diamond mines were closed as the price of their product collapsed and thousands of diggers in the Western Transvaal found themselves destitute. Relief works became the order of the day.

After a vain struggle to remain on the gold standard the Government finally abandoned it in December, 1932. During the following year negotiations were opened between the Nationalists and the South African Parties. The two Labour Ministers were dropped while Smuts and five of his supporters joined the Government. "Parliament was dissolved, but an adroit system of parcelling out the seats ensured the return of the two big parties very nearly as before " (South Africa, P. 84).

Thus the intrigues and trickery with which we are familiar in the case of the Mother of Parliaments, are very closely reflected in her youngest daughter. Those workers who believe that the British Empire is democratic in principle might reflect on these facts; and, further, ask themselves what is the lot of the workers in the latest addition to the Commonwealth of Nations. According to Mr. Agar Hamilton, "two major problems commonly exercise the minds of the people of South Africa, the Poor White and the Native" (p. 105).

The Carnegie Commission reckoned that in 1929-30, before the effects of the depression were felt, 17.5 per cent, of the white population were "very poor." After 1930 the position became more serious, i.e., 20 per cent. Poverty among white workers in Africa has its peculiar features due to local conditions yet Professor Macmillan says: "The poor whites are little more than the 'reservoir' of unemployed to be found wherever Western industrialism has dislocated the old agrarian system." (Complex South Africa, p. 16.)

The native population of five and a half million may be divided broadly into three groups. First some two and a half million have their homes in "Reserves," i.e., "the last vestiges of the land once occupied by independent tribes" (South Africa, p. 111). They are little more than a breeding ground; for the majority of the able-bodied males are away working in the mines or on farms for the greater part of the year. The Reserves are not capable of feeding their inhabitants and the shortage of production has to be made good by imports paid for largely by remittance from the absent wage-earners.

The second group of two million (the so-called "squatters") reside on the farms of the white invaders who annexed and divided up the land. They pay for the accommodation either in labour or produce according to the requirements of the owners. The remaining group work in the towns.

All alike suffer poverty. In the words of Professor Macmillan: "There is little room left for doubt that the natives of the Union as a whole are a community dragging along at the very lowest level of bare subsistence." (Complete South Africa, p. 221.)

From all of which it would appear that the Commonwealth of Nations is not incompatible with the poverty of its people.

Eric Boden

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Nigeria's child labour problem

More and more children are sent out to work in Nigeria. It is a matter of survival, families say. It is very common in Nigeria to see underage children engaged in manual labor in order to support their families. In northeastern Nigeria specially, many children are sent out by their families to earn some money through street hawking, begging and prostitution.

Sherif Muhammad, an internally displaced person from Bama town in Borno State now living in Maiduguri, told DW that putting his sons and daughters to work is simply a matter of survival. "It is true we send our children to go and work so that they will get some money for us to buy food. We send boys to go to streets and beg. We also send girls to houses to work as domestic servants."

Globally there are over 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 working when they should not. 15 million of them are in Nigeria, which has the highest rate of working children in West Africa. 

 Children's rights activist Zariyatu Abubakar told DW that the situation there is alarming. Children are not only being sent to work to help support their families, "some don't have parents and have to support themselves and their younger siblings," because their mothers and fathers have been killed, Abubakar said. He sees the government as responsible for the welfare of the country's children. She called on it to take action: "These are only children. They need to be supported, to go to school," Abubakar said, adding: "Somebody has to take responsibility. Either the government or nongovernmental organizations have to support and educate them, feed them and provide shelter for them." 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sudan has the shits

Journalist, Yousra Elbagir, has been criticising the Sudanese government's failure to get to grips with a cholera outbreak. After 10 months, Sudan's Ministry of Health finally confirmed that there have been 265 deaths and more than 16,000 infected cases of "acute watery diarrhoea" in 11 of the country's 18 states. Medical professionals have long diagnosed the cases as cholera, despite the euphemisms, the government has insisted on to downplay the severity of the crisis. But cholera by any other name is still cholera. In April, journalist Ammar El-Daw was detained for reporting on the outbreak and accused of defamation by the minister of his home state, Gaderef. The World Health Organization has been ominously silent in the face of the growing crisis. Many assume that pressure from the government - never shy to expel a UN official for saying the wrong thing - has left them at a loss for words.
The Federal Minister of Health, Bahar Abu Garda, told parliament that cases of "watery diarrhoea" were not his business - shifting blame to the Ministry of Water Resources and State Ministers. The private hospital of Khartoum's State Minister of Health, Mamoun Himeda, has a printed sign on the door, refusing the admission of any cases of watery diarrhea. While the country's politicians continue to shirk responsibility and avoid action, the number of cases continues to climb. The first infections were confirmed as early as August 2016, in the White Nile state where the cluster of South Sudanese refugee camps has been identified by the government as the source of the outbreak.
 Sudan's crumbling infrastructure and underfunded healthcare system made conditions rife for the disease to spread. Poor sanitation, meagre emergency services, and underpaid doctors, striking intermittently since October 2016, have left the nation extremely vulnerable. Medics have highlighted the lack of quarantine spaces and photos have been shared online of brackish water pouring out of taps across the country.

Ethiopia faces food shortages

Ethiopia will run out of emergency food aid for 7.8 million people affected by drought at the end of this month, the UN has warned. Ethiopia has been struggling following successive failed rains.
Aid groups and the government are calling for help, but fear donor fatigue with other crises worldwide. The government  allocated $381m (£300m) extra over the last two years, but is unable to sustain it for a third year.
It has left Ethiopia in a "dire situation", according to John Aylieff of the World Food Programme, a UN agency."We've got food running out nationally at the end of June," he told reporters on Friday. "That means the 7.8 million people who are in need of humanitarian food assistance in Ethiopia will see that distribution cut abruptly at the end of June."
John Graham, of Save the Children told AFP news agency: "After [the food runs out], we don't know what is going to happen. And without that basic food then you will have problem falling into severe malnutrition because people are not getting any food. These children become severely malnourished and that's where you have a very dangerous situation."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Keeping it in the Family

 The 25-year-old son of Angolan president José Eduardo Dos Santos, Danilo, spent 500,000 euros at a celebrity auction for a series of photographs by George Hurrell during a gala auction held at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25. 

 Meanwhile, roughly 70% of Angolans survive on less than $2 a day and 90% of Luanda's population lives in slums. Angolan society is divided between the have-nots and the have-a-whole-lots. 

At age 23, Danilo was put in charge of a project at Angola Telecom.