Saturday, April 29, 2017

Stopping Dirty Diesel

 Despite having significant oil reserves, West Africa lacks sufficient refinery resource to process its own higher quality oil and has therefore welcomed cheaper imports from abroad. European standards prohibit the use of diesel with a sulfur content higher than 10 parts per million (ppm), diesel with as much as 3,000 ppm is regularly exported to Africa. From July 1, diesel being sold at the pumps in Ghana and Nigeria will have to meet a maximum 50 ppm standard. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Vice President of Ghana, said that the introduction of the new regulations would see Ghana "moving to be at the same level as the western countries or the East African countries."
He added that the changes "will reduce respiratory diseases triggered by fuel toxins with higher sulfur content."

Africa's cities are growing quickly. Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, has a population of 21 million, and estimates suggest this number could almost double by the year 2050. Bigger cities mean a much greater risk from air pollution. While rapid urbanization and the poor quality of the largely second-hand car fleet in the region are partly responsible for the high levels of air pollution, low quality diesel also has a significant impact. Fuel pollutants have been linked to the development of asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.  Switching to low sulfur fuel in Africa, as well as introducing cars with modern emissions control technologies, could prevent 25,000 premature deaths in 2030 and 100,000 in 2050.

Diesels trading companies are using a process known as "blending" to combine low and high specification fuel, creating a mixture that complies with weak African regulations. The closer to the specification boundary the product lies, the larger the potential margin for the trader. This sub-standard product, known in the industry as "African Quality," could not be sold in Europe, but it is not illegal for it to be sold elsewhere. The blending process - which takes place either in European ports or en route to Africa, via a "ship-to-ship" transfer.  The two main commodities companies implicated were Trafigura and Vitol. Both told DW that, while they accepted that the problem of high sulfur fuel needed to be dealt with, the onus was on the governments in Africa to ensure the quality of diesel being sold at the pumps.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Gentrification in Lagos

Thousands of Nigerians have been rendered homeless after police stormed Otodo-Gbame, a riverbank community in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, razing homes and chasing away residents with bullets and teargas. 

On paper, all Nigerians have rights. In practice, state power is often brazenly deployed to subjugate the poorest and weakest citizens in the interests of the rich and powerful who usually operate above the law. Hence, Nigerians often say the only true crime in Nigeria is being poor. In a state where to be poor means to be utterly powerless and stripped of dignity.

The truth is, while only the wealthiest can afford homes in the kind of luxury enclaves that will likely be built on land seized from the Otodo-Gbame settlement.

Uganda and Farming Reform

Food production has become a critical issue for Uganda. According to the UN, Uganda has the third fastest-growing population in Africa with about six children born to every mother. The University of Denver estimates that Uganda’s population of 39m will double within 15 years. Almost half the population is under 15 while a fifth is under five. “It’s a demographic time bomb,” says a diplomat in Kampala. “Uganda exports food but it needs to start making reforms now.” 

The Uganda president’s brother General Salim Saleh is spearheading Operation Wealth Creation, a nationwide programme to promote commercial farming. But aid agencies say the initiative has been beset by problems and that Gen Saleh has failed to deliver the results that were expected.

Against the clamour for more land to be handed to commercial farmers to feed Uganda’s exploding population, Bruce Robertson strikes a cautionary note. The Cambridge-educated Mr Robertson has been working in agriculture in Uganda since 1995 and warns that the rush to create big farms could backfire. Robertson, a South African whose Gulu Agricultural Development Company works with 90,000 small farmers in northern and eastern Uganda explained “ The large agriculture schemes that I have seen have not been successful. It is best to invest in smallholder farmers’ production.”


The primary reason commercial farming will have only a limited effect is that there simply is not enough arable land available, he says. Only 20 per cent of Ugandans live in towns and cities, meaning the rural areas are relatively well populated. “Where are all these large tracts of fertile land?” Mr Robertson asks. “If you do find some open land there’s probably a good reason nobody’s living there.” This is partly because much of the land is owned by communities and families, which means it is often unclear who has the right to sell property. Land claims and disputes have grown even more complicated after the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army rampaged through the region in the 1990s and early 2000s, killing 100,000 people and displacing 2.5m more, according to the UN. “If you work with these subsistence farmers and help them introduce better seeds and provide training, you will double food production,” says Mr Robertson. “That way you will create jobs rather than lose jobs, which happens with big commercial ventures.”

But agriculture is not held back by just a lack of available land. Uganda has a chronic lack of electrical power infrastructure, while inadequate transportation links also restrict efforts to increase crop yields and earn foreign currency.

Africom Again

Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge—and hard to miss—complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden.  The US claims other U.S. outposts are few and transitory—“expeditionary” in military parlance. But official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. outposts scattered across 24 African countries.  These include low-profile locations—from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield—that have never previously been mentioned in published reports.  Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including “15 enduring locations.” 

Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs).  “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents.  By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa.  An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22.  Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location. These outposts—of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so—form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate. The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent. Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46—a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.

Nevertheless, Lemonnier remains the crown jewel of America’s African bases, and has expanded from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement.  “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.”  

“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.” 

General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy.  “I would just say, they are on the ground.  They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa.  “We watch what they do with great concern.”
And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind.  He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti.  “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said.  “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”

Full article here

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Africa's Famine - Little Interest

A famine in Africa is occurring on a much larger scale than in 1980 across the Horn of Africa, in the Central African Republic and in Nigeria where an estimated 40 million people are at risk.

Today the causes of famine are largely man made even though below average rain fall has exacerbated local food production in the Horn of Africa over the past 18 to 24 months. However, in Sudan, Niger, the Central African Republic and Nigeria military conflict over the past three to four years has disrupted food production, displaced millions and created conditions which prevent the delivery of humanitarian assistance (assuming it was available).

The factors responsible for famine are complex. But, following the work of Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winning economist, they are well known and should be the focus of western development policy and humanitarian assistance. They include poor governance, inadequate planning, limited investment in development, ongoing violence and large-scale population displacement. Unfortunately, such factors don’t appear on the agendas of western governments.
At the same time, development assistance to Africa has declined since 1990. The continent receives approximately 33% of total Overseas Development Assistance, down from 45% in 1990. And while humanitarian aid has stabilised at 7% to 8 %, funding for economic projects has increased from 17% to 21%.
 Western governments and public are no longer interested in Africa. Their interests are far more insular, a situation reflected in the domestic issues that dominated the US election and the UK Brexit referendum.
The extent of western interest in Africa, indeed with the global South, is focused on securing the flow of oil and other commodities which underpins their consumption. Coupled with this are determined efforts at stopping illegal migrants and refugees from entering the west. This fact is reflected in the $21 billion cost of Trump’s proposed wall between the US and Mexico and the European Union’s €2.5 billion projects to bottle up migrants in Africa to prevent them from reaching Europe. The current cost of humanitarian assistance for Africa pales into insignificance against such sums.
Humanitarian assistance has come very late. What’s on offer is too little and it will be delivered too late to prevent large scale death. For instance the European Union’s pledge of €760 million to the Horn of Africa was only announced in November 2016 while European states made belated and quite small pledges in February this year. The US, for its part, remains the largest provider of food aid but has yet to state what it will pledge to alleviate famine in Africa.

Fact of the Day

The Evangelical Church in Germany has asked descendants of the victims of the Herero genocide in Namibia for forgiveness. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kenya's Rural Neglect

War-torn South Sudan and Somalia are being badly hit by East Africa's hunger crisis. But in Kenya, which is at peace, millions also need food aid. Critics blame the ruling class.


Kakuma is the second largest refugee camp in Kenya after Dadaab which is on the border to Somalia. As in all large UN refugee camps, the UN assumes the role of the state providing inmates with basic necessities such food, water and medical supplies. But funding is running short. The aid the refugees receive ensures their survival but it is not enough to help them make a life for themselves outside the camp. Over time, the refugees become dependent on the aid from the international community. They live in limbo.  The Turkana people are the responsibility of the Kenyan government, not the United Nations. As pastoralists, they depend on their livestock in order to survive. If their animals perish, they lose their livelihoods.


Emathe Namwar is the official in the government of Turkana County responsible for water supplies. He is critical of the central government in far away Nairobi. "There is no attempt at coordination. The national government does not involve us in the search for a solution. It could be that financial relief will be forthcoming, but if there is no coordination, then we will just expend a lot energy without achieving very much."


In Nairobi, Andrew Tuimur, principal secretary at the agricultural ministry, passes the buck to the Turkana local government. 


Last week, the national government sent diesel generators to Turkana to supply electricity for water pumps driving bore holes.  But there is no diesel fuel for the generators because the local government says it cannot afford it. The local government is running a fleet of 18 water trucks to keep the population supplied with drinking water. These trucks have a large diesel consumption, which is already a heavy financial burden. Some of them are kept off the road because fuel is so short. Turkana's roads are also in a deplorable state.

Emanthe Namwar from the local government believes the blame lies solely with the national government in Nairobi. "Why don't they do something. The government of Turkana is suffering from 50 years of neglect at the hands of the government in Nairobi, " he said.


Both local and national government officials have yet to explain why so little money flows into rural development, even though the international community is supplying aid for this very purpose. Climate change and drought are the external factors that cause food insecurity. But ignorance and corruption among the political class has left the country vulnerable to the horrendous consequences of drought.  A very high price is being paid for the neglect of rural development by Africa's urban elites. In the Kenyan election campaign, government and opposition are accusing one another of incompetence and misuse of funds. They are not arguing over the ways or means by which sustainable development could be promoted in Turkana. The plight of a million Turkana pastoralists would appear far too insignificant politically to warrant any pledges of a better future. Kenya's political class is relying instead on the oil they hope will soon start flowing from the reserves which were discovered in Turkana in 2012. 


As an African country, Kenya is not unique in this regard. Of some 40 countries worldwide that are dependent on food aid, just under 30 are in Africa.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

ZAMBIA: THE ARREST OF HAKAINDE HICHILEMA

ZAMBIA: THE ARREST OF HAKAINDE HICHILEMA

The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hichilema along with some five other party cadres have been formerly charged with Treason and disobedience to a lawful order. The Zambia Police Inspector General Kanganja labelled the opposition leader’s action in Mongu (Western Province) as unreasonable, reckless and criminal. Hichilema’s motorcade refused to give way to the presidential motorcade when president Lungu was on his way to attend the Lozi traditional ceremony (Kuomboka) on 8th April 2017.

The police charge came in the work of last weekend’s incident which to all purposes could have resulted in a fatal road accident. On Tuesday (11th April) the opposition leader’s residence in new Kasama (Lusaka) was stormed by Zambia Police Officers who it is alleged caused damage to his home and property. The wife of Mr. Hichilema, Mutinta fainted three times as a result of tear gas canisters – she is believed to be asthmatic. It is alleged that the police officers stole colossal sums of Kwacha, South African Rand and US dollars.

The facts of the matter is that the UPND leader waylaid president Lungu’s presidential motorcade enroute to Mongu and refused to give way to the presidential motorcade which was provocative and a show of disrespect to Head of State and a breach of Zambia Police traffic regulations. Western province is among the regions that strongly voted for UPND during the August 2016 Presidential elections and the UPND leader’s actions were meant to showcase the fact that president Lungu was unwelcome to attend the Kuomboka traditional ceremony. After being apprehended, Mr. Hichilema was said to have slovenly insulted the Zambia police officers – something that was unbecoming of a well-respected opposition leader.

The Inspector general of police has opposed the UPNDs application for HABEAS CORPUS stating that the application has been overtaken by events (Hichilema who has been charged will appear in court). Meanwhile, the Zambia police service has unearthed more evidence which proves that the UPND leader is being supported by the International community. There is a story circulating on social media (Lusaka Times) in an article written by Greg Mills entitled NOW OR NEVER addressed to the International community. In the said article, Greg Mills alleges that the arrest and incarceration of Mr. Hichilema could be a feint, to test the response of the International community. Indeed during 2011, Mills wrote an article entitled “Could Uprisings Spread from Northern Africa to Africa South of the Sahara”. This was in response to the Arabs spring uprisings which broke out in Tunisia in 2010 and later spread to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. In his article Mr. Mills, who heads the Brenthurst Foundation based in Johannesburg, South Africa, concludes that the International community should immediately intervene to save the situation in Zambia: “If the International community cares about this, and Human rights and freedom of speech, it should apply pressure on Lungu to release Hichilema immediately .”

The Brenthurst foundation was established in 2005 by the Oppeinheimer family. Ernest Oppeinheimer’s wealth and power could be traced to the Anglo – American corporation formed in 1917. In 1927, he bought over the shares of Cecil Rhodes in De Beers who effectively owned the diamond industry in South Africa. From 1996 to 2005, Greg Mills served as the national director of the South African institute of international affairs. He has lectured at universities in Africa and abroad and he is among the visiting staff of the NATO higher defence college in Rome, Italy and he is also a fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts.

The Zambian government has reacted very angrily against Mr. Mill’s article and branded him an imperialist stooge bent on sponsoring regime change in African countries. Political pluralism to differentiate it from one party state is a litmus test for western-style parliamentary democracy – defined as a periodic change of government through open and transparent elections. It is true that in Africa presidential elections come to elicit frightening ethnic and tribal prejudices between ruling and opposition political parties. In Zambia, the political pluralism which started in Ernest in 1991 has slowly stalled into ethnic and tribal animosities that have left the country divided in terms of voting patterns.

Because the UPND leader Hichilema perceives politics in terms of ethnic and tribal animosities it may come to pass that the recent treason charges levelled against him has been interpreted as a political and ethnic marginalisation of the Tonga and Lozi who massively voted for the UPND during the 11th August 2016 presidential elections. The relationship between Hichilema and the International Community stems from his academic and professional background and many politically vested groups in Zambia believe that Hichilema’s private wealth originates from his connection with the Anglo – American corporation. All told opposition parties in Africa tend to base their arguments on the issues of Human Rights and press freedom and in the process of defending this human rights and freedom of the press instigates social and political unrest. This is what is happening in Zambia today.

Cephas Mulenga
Box 280168, Chimwemwe
Kitwe – Zambia.

13th April, 2017.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Solidarity with fellow workers

Prosecutors in the northern Nigeria state of Kaduna have charged a group of 53 people with conspiring to celebrate a gay wedding.

Homosexual acts are banned in socially conservative Nigeria and are punishable by up to 14 years in jail. Nigeria has an influential Christian evangelical movement in the south and strong support for Islamic law in the north, both of which oppose homosexuality.
The ban on homosexuality, brought into effect in 2014, is used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimise abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence" are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, HRW said in a 2016 report.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kenya's Woes

 "The image of Kenya as a middle income country doesn't do justice to the reality on the ground," Werner Schultink, country head for the UN children's agency UNICEF, told AFP. He was referring to the hunger which is plaguing the north of Turkana. In the Kibish region, squeezed between Ethiopia and South Sudan, more than half of children aged six months to five years are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In the early part of this decade, politicians made rash promises of rapid modernization that would consign to history decades of deliberate marginalization, first by British colonialists and then by Kenya's governing elite in Nairobi, who shared a disdain for the pastoralists and their way of life.
"Expectations were disproportionate," said John Nakara, a Turkana parliamentarian. "Those changes don't happen in five years, but in 20, at least."
That didn't stop the promises. An ambitious plan for roads, railways and oil pipelines crossing northern Kenya was launched with great fanfare in 2012, but it has been slow in coming.
Instead Turkana remains crisscrossed with dirt tracks that become impassable when it rains, and where the few sealed sections are so badly potholed that drivers prefer the dirt shoulders.
That same year, British company Tullow Oil announced the discovery of large crude reserves in Turkana. Production is expected to begin in June, but local and national officials are still arguing over the distribution of revenues and no pipeline has yet been built, meaning the oil will have to be trucked to the port of Mombasa, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away.
In 2013, Kenya and the UN cultural body UNESCO announced the discovery of large reserves of groundwater beneath Turkana that promised irrigation and enough water for all. But the reality has proved rather different. The aquifer holding the groundwater is hard to exploit, the water is deeper underground and less pure than predicted.
"The announcement was very optimistic and based on very limited information," said Sean Avery, a Kenya-based consultant on water issues.
Tens of thousands of pastoralists fled from Turkana in Kenya to Uganda last week to escape the drought. A total of 60,000 Turkana pastoralists and 127,000 livestock have moved to Uganda's Karamjoa sub-region over the last seven days.  
The drought remains a country-wide problem. Kenya has declared it a "national disaster" and appealed for international aid.
Three million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, and, while the response has been more effective than the last time, in 2011, still more needs to be done, aid workers say.
"In the current situation, this is clearly not enough," said Schultink.
 As the drought bites, the road ahead looks longer than ever for Turkana where some 92 percent of its 1.4 million people live below the poverty line and only a fifth know how to read and write.