COP 15: Better to have no deal at Copenhagen than one that spells catastrophe

The only offer on the table in Copenhagen would condemn the developing world to poverty and suffering in perpetuity

On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2C increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3–3.5C increase in Africa. That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger”, and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people”.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale … A global goal of about 2C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”

And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2C increase and offers developing countries just $10bn a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.

It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position … If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent … What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.“And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”

We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400bn a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10bn. Similarly, we do not know what happened when secretary of state Hillary Clinton met Philippine president Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.

We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9C, as Bill McKibben puts it.

Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development – one of the most influential advisers in these talks – says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the south. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than “the importance of sharing the sky”.

Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market – $1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern – with the paltry $10bn on the table for developing countries for the next three years, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan”. He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal … Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”

For months now NGOs have got behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to “seal the deal”. Everywhere we look in the Bella Centre, clocks are ticking. But any old deal isn’t good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won’t solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between north and south and locking them in indefinitely.

Augustine Njamnshi of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2C proposal in harsh terms: “You cannot say you are proposing a ‘solution’ to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change.”

Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would “lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020” – well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it’s not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. “I’d rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they’ll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.”

At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2C would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is “better to have no deal than to have a bad deal”. That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state – but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.
Ref: guardian

VICTORY: El Al Flights to Johanesburg may come to an end

El Al may cancel its three weekly flights to Johannesburg by mid-January if a dispute with the South African government over the status of the Israeli security detail in the airport there is not solved by then.

Foreign Ministry officials said that quiet talks are taking place with South African officials to solve what has turned into a diplomatic issue over whether Israeli security guards protecting EL AL flights can carry diplomatic passports granting them diplomatic immunity from possible criminal proceedings stemming from their work. For instance, there is concern that if customers take issue with having their bags checked, or being pulled aside for extensive searches, they could file suit, unless the security guard has this diplomatic immunity.

The same issue held up the initiation of El Al and Arkia flights to three Russian cities this summer, an issue that was solved earlier this month when the Russians agreed to the diplomatic passport arrangement.

EL Al spokesman Ran Rahav issued a statement saying that the issue with the South African authorities is being dealt with by the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. “El AL hopes that the crisis with the South African government will be solved quickly. In the event that a solution is not found, El AL will have difficulty fulfilling the Israel Security Agency’s directives to that destination, and the significance of that is clear.”

The whole matter of EL AL security became an issue in August when a fired EL Al security official of 19 years appeared on the country’s leading television investigative program, Carte Blanche, and accused the airline of being a front for Israeli clandestine operations in the country, and alleged that the airline conducted lengthy baggage searches, issued threats and practiced racial profiling.

Carte Blanche 0producers sent a Muslim man with a hidden camera to the Johannesburg airport to meet a friend near the El Al check-in desk. He was thoroughly interrogated by men claiming to be airport security personnel.

The program caused a storm in the country, and
the South African government demanded that the chief of El Al’s security, who had a diplomatic passport, leave the country by the end of the November.
Now his job is being filled by people flying in on a weekly basis, an arrangement that is to expire by mid-January when the arrangement will either go back to what it was previously, orthe airline will stop flying to the country.

The security procedures for El AL are set by Israel’s security services, and not the airline.

Ref: Jpost

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FIGHT ISRAHELL: Have Israeli Spies Infiltrated International Aiports? (WATCH OUT!)

We need to FIGHT every instance of Israeli arrogance, hatred, racism and violations towards human rights and international law. Every victory will be a step towards our goal.




VIDEO: Shell killing in Nigeria (so that white fat americans can drive to the mall for yet another burger)

In May 2009, multinational oil giant Shell will stand trial in United States federal court to answer to charges that it conspired in human rights abuses including murder in Nigeria in the 1990s. This mini-documentary tells the story of the rise of an inspiring and nonviolent movement for human rights and environmental justice, and the lengths Shell was willing to go to stop it.

Don’t Let Shell Kill Again (1997) 13:39 TRT…this video was edited from two films (by CATMA) to support the City of Berkeley’s boycott of Shell Oil Company because of its environmental impact on N…

This epic documentary, courtesy of Aljazeera TV clearly indicate that successive Nigerian Governments, including the current one appear not have awoken to the fact that a genuine desire to sooth the minds of these poor youths of Ogoni, as well as other such communities would and should begin with a task force for reconstruction and creating jobs, rather than the display of power. The courage of the Ogoni youths is heavily admired, despite the unacceptable practice of roguery and kidnappings, by a minority section of the community.

Where do calls to intervene in Somalia come from?

There have been new calls for United Nations intervention in the East African country of Somalia. In a statement issued on behalf of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional organization, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said, “The prevailing security situation in Somalia is worrying and greatly threatens regional peace and stability.”

IGAD wants the United Nations to take complete control of the 2,600-member African Union peacekeeping force already operating in Somalia. This call for U.N. intervention was made at an IGAD summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 15.

In addition to the existing AU force in Somalia, other nations from the international community would be requested to supply troops and equipment to ostensibly restore order and implement a June 9 peace agreement signed among various political organizations in Somalia.

Somalia has not had an internationally recognized government since 1991, when the Western-backed regime of Mohammed Siad Barre collapsed. A U.S.-led military intervention, under the auspices of the United Nations, occurred between 1992 and 1994. In December 2006, the Bush administration encouraged and backed an Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia that has been met with growing resistance among the population.

The recently signed peace agreement has not won the support of leading resistance movements inside the country. An Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia has agreed to halt attacks within one month on the condition that Ethiopian troops withdraw from Somalia within four months. However, the Al-Shabaab Islamist movement reiterated on June 13 that its fighters would not adhere to the agreement.

The Western-backed government of President Kibaki in neighboring Kenya has taken the lead in the current thrust for international intervention in Somalia. At the June 15 IGAD conference, Kibaki blasted the member countries of the regional organization, which includes all countries in the area with the exception of Eritrea, for not doing enough to stabilize the situation in Somalia.

President Kibaki condemned the resistance forces in Somalia for embracing violence in order to overthrow the U.S.-imposed Transitional Federal Government and for scaring away the AU peacekeeping mission.

“As a region, we cannot accept those who use violence, pirates and kidnap syndicates to continue killing and kidnapping people. … In particular, it is critical that the United Nations Security Council urgently consider transforming the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) into a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission,” Kibaki continued.

Kibaki also stated that he “appreciated the pledges made by African countries to deploy troops to AMISOM, and in light of the prevailing security challenges in Somalia, I am urging Benin, Ghana and Nigeria to deploy their troops without further delay.”

Fighting rages in Mogadishu and other areas

Despite claims by the Western media that the recently signed peace agreement on June 9 will improve the security situation in Somalia, fighting has escalated in the capital of Mogadishu and in other areas of this nation located in the Horn of Africa. According to reports published by on June 15, armed Islamic Court combatants launched mortar attacks against Ethiopian troops at the Heila Barise military camp, resulting in an hour-long battle.

“They are fighting with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns,” said resident Hassan Nor, who was afraid to leave his home because of gunfire in the area. “There is now intense fighting going on around Heila Barise in north Mogadishu.”

According to, “It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the earlier mortar strikes on the Ethiopian troop’s army base, where more than a dozen explosions could be heard.”

The resistance fighters have vowed to attack any foreign troops and the interim government, since their forces were routed by the Ethiopian military in an invasion coordinated by the United States and Britain in December 2006. Since then, U.S. forces have carried out several aerial bombardments of Somali territory under the guise of attacking al-Qaeda bases.

Meanwhile, in the central part of the country at Beledweyne, Ethiopian troops have withdrawn their forces from the area after repeated attacks by the guerrilla forces opposed to the occupation. Residents told that the Ethiopian soldiers had been driven out of the area. The occupation forces used civilian vehicles to avoid detection as they retreated.

In Kismayu, located 328 miles (528 km) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, attacks were carried out June 14 against a military base in the area. One soldier was reported killed before the armed combatants escaped the vicinity surrounding the camp.

French firm Secopex signs deal to patrol coast

A French military services firm, Secopex, has signed a contract with the U.S.-backed Somalia Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to purportedly boost security off the country’s coast. This is being done to control reported acts of piracy taking place in the region.

A statement issued by Pierre Marziali, CEO of the private security company, stated that the deal would “strengthen maritime business” off the coast of Somalia.

This deal has been estimated to be worth anywhere between 50 million to 100 million euros annually and is slated to be in effect for the next three years. The contract comes just two months after the seizure of a French luxury yacht by Somalis. During the ordeal, which resulted in a weeklong standoff, all 30 crewmembers were released without injury. Nonetheless, French Special Forces operating in the area attacked the Somalis, arresting six.

Marziali told the French Press Agency (AFP): “Our core business is primarily in the U.S. We will set up a unified coast guard, creating a comprehensive coast guard information system” as well as forming a special security detail to protect the U.S.-backed TFG president of Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed.

“These measures mean we can offer a concrete response to any armed attack,” Marziali said. “The economic facet of this contract is also important for Somalia, victim not just of pirates but also the victim of huge pillaging of its natural fish stocks off its coastline.”

Secopex claims that it is capable of mobilizing as many as 2,000 armed security personnel in 40 categories of specialization including skilled trades, divers, translators, pilots and nurses.

The firm was founded in 2003 and supplies private security forces and bodyguards, as well as security consulting and auditing. The division located in Carcassonne in southern France specializes in private military services to various countries.

What’s at stake for imperialism in Somalia?

The way in which the nation of Somalia is portrayed in the Western media makes it appear that the country is a humanitarian disaster in desperate need of U.S. or U.N. intervention. Yet the current crisis in security, food deficits and internal displacement largely results from the U.S.-backed and coordinated invasion and occupation that utilized the government of Ethiopia.

According to reports issued by various relief organizations operating in Somalia, the humanitarian situation has become the worst crisis on the African continent since the events of December 2006. Although the Union of Islamic Courts and other organizations have repeatedly stated that they are not affiliated with al-Qaeda, the U.S. continues to utilize these false claims to justify their ongoing involvement in the region.

The nation of Somalia is strategically located near the Indian Ocean, where the transport of minerals and oil makes it valuable to the multinational corporations that dominate the commerce of the region. In addition, Somalia itself contains a number of important minerals and other resources that Western interests seek to control.

For example, exploration for titanium and uranium has taken place in the country since the 1970s. Oil exploration concessions have also been held by various multinational firms including the British Burma Oil Company, Elf-Somalie, the former Federal Germany and Gulf Oil going back to the 1970s.

The country’s mineral resources also include atomic minerals with deposits at Alio Ghelle and in the Bur region, with possible reserves of 250,000 metric tons containing 8,050 tons of thorium, 290 tons of uranium oxide, and 205 tons of yttrium. The total reserve could well exceed 1 million metric tons with additional deposits in the Ludugu area.

Bauxite deposits have also been discovered in Mana Daimir. Other mineral deposits include marble located north of Bur Acaba; sepiolite at El Bur in exploitable quantities; sulfur at Berber; and titanium in the Giubi River with reserves estimated at 10 million metric tons. There are also uranium deposits in the Wabo region.

Most importantly during this period, however, is the question of oil in the ongoing conflict in Somalia. An article published by the Canadian-based Center for Research on Globalization in 2001 stated: “According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush administration’s decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.”

Consequently, the principal motivation of U.S. imperialism and its allies is to secure the oil and other strategic mineral resources and waterways, in order to utilize the national wealth of Somalia to enrich the multinational corporations and their surrogates. By creating a humanitarian disaster, the U.S. administration can utilize this crisis to justify Western intervention.

Anti-war and anti-imperialist movements must focus on the necessity of the Somali people to determine their own future. The lessons of U.S. and U.N. intervention during the 1990s clearly indicate that such interference cannot benefit the Somali masses.

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. PANW articles have appeared in publications and Web sites throughout the world.

Ref: Global Research

South Africa: not yet post-colonial

Recent violence between the poor and the poorer in South Africa was the by-product of the country’s stagnation – it has achieved what it set out to do racially, but not economically or socially. The old colonial model of modernity is still the basis for power

The image of an unknown young black man being burned alive in a South African township street defined the recent xenophobic violence, mostly by black South Africans against black foreigners, many of them refugees from Zimbabwe. (Investigations by a veteran journalist, Beauregard Tromp, from the Johannesburg daily, The Star, later identified him as Ernesto Nhamuave, 35, from Mozambique.)

It reminded us of the violence that engulfed the townships in the final years of apartheid – except that it happened 14 years into South Africa’s post-apartheid democracy. The world was once again shocked, especially as this violence came soon after another racist incident that made the international headlines: a video clip of four Afrikaner students at the historically Afrikaans University of the Free State in Bloemfontein playing humiliating “practical jokes” on blacks, mostly older women, who work in their student residence.

How could this racism and xenophobia reappear in Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation which was held up as a model of reconciliation and hope for the African continent and the planet? To answer this, we have to look beyond the romantic image of post-apartheid South Africa. The image was an illusion, with its own script: that South Africa’s main historical challenge was to overcome the division between whites and blacks, which had been achieved with Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president on 27 April 1994. And with a model liberal democratic constitution and promises of real economic growth, the country could now look to a bright, unified, non-racial future.

Race is important in South Africa. But this illusion spoke more of the prevailing Manichean world-view and its simplistic belief in good triumphing over evil, and a hopeless global epoch desperately seeking stories of hope, than about South Africa itself. To understand what is happening in South Africa we need a much longer timeline than the few decades of apartheid, namely the colonial era, which hasn’t yet ended. It was from the British colonisation of the Cape after 1806 that the main characteristics of the modern South African political economy evolved. 

Political alliance

In the 19th century, and first half of the 20th, western Europe exported its modernity to Africa and other parts of the world via colonialism; this included the idea of a unified nation-state with a dominant national language, an industrial economy, a national schooling system and modern technology. The British imposed most of this in South Africa between the discovery of gold and diamonds in the 1860-1870s and the founding of the Union of South Africa in 1910. The founding more or less completed the unification of the territory of present-day South Africa, and firmly sealed the political alliance between its most powerful white communities, those of British descent and the Afrikaners (1).

By this time South Africa’s industrialisation was well under way, based on its huge mineral wealth. A system of railways, then of roads, was built to link the main areas of white settlement and industrial economic activity. By the middle of the 20th century the state and a few big corporations together established control over the South African media, which rarely threatened the status quo. The state was designed to keep a minority in government, and the government’s main economic function was to serve as gateway between South Africa’s wealth and the colonial motherland, later broadened to include its main trading partners (2).

Possibly the highest price paid for the establishment of the modern colonial political economy was the cultural humiliation and economic weakening of its indigenous communities. (This is not to say that the pre-colonial era was a peaceful idyll.) Indigenous norms of cultural and economic excellence were damaged to the point that the humiliated quietly accepted South Africa’s imported, colonial modernity as the norm. This was colonialism’s most significant and longest-lasting effect. And its acceptance can be seen in the behaviour of the two most successful indigenous political resistance movements once they won power, Afrikaner and African nationalism.

Afrikaner nationalism is now viewed through the prism of its dying days in the violent, racist 1970s and 1980s. People overlook the truth that Afrikaner nationalism was, in important ways, a classic, indigenous African anti-colonial movement. Such movements often assumed that salvation meant taking over the state from the colonists. This goal became so important (and was often achieved after a long armed struggle, in which few state 
and economic management skills were developed) that the real challenge was only identified much 
later: how to reconcile imported colonial modernity with local needs.

Vehicle of patronage

Instead, new elites used the state as a vehicle of patronage (often for their ethnic constituencies), replacing the former colonial elites as the outside world’s gateway to local riches, and changing very little in the lives of most of the citizens.

When Afrikaner nationalism’s vehicle, the National Party (NP), won the election in 1948, it quickly set about distributing patronage through the state to its ethnic constituency. Although the state and the civil service were seen as primarily in the service of the whites, the westernised Afrikaners who took over the state, using their mother-tongue, were, like post-colonial elites all over the third world, fiercely nationalist while at the same they craved western recognition (3). Afrikaner nationalists sought this recognition through further technological, economic and bureaucratic modernisation, which, in spite of many impressive achievements, failed where it mattered most: in reconciling imported colonial modernity with the needs of all the indigenous communities.

In these circumstances, when it became clear in the 1950s that the NP was not interested in serious dialogue with black political groupings, African nationalism’s main vehicle, the African National Congress (ANC), under the spirited and brave leadership of such people as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, gained momentum. Crucially for an African resistance movement, the ANC’s target was not a foreign colonial power, but a local power acting colonially, the NP. This explains why one of the key concepts of Nelson Mandela’s generation of leaders was non-racialism, through which they refused the racism of the NP; it has still has to become a reality in South Africa.

Instead of learning from the NP’s failures, the ANC repeated the anti-colonial errors of judgment: they also assumed that if only they could take over the state, there would be a truly new dispensation. The ANC, mostly under the influence of the South Africa Communist Party, also realised the need to take control of the economy, but until the fall of the Berlin Wall it was thought that nationalising key sectors would be the main way to do this.

By the time the ANC came to power in 1994, there were at least three powerful factions, belonging to two generations of leaders. These were the “Robben Islanders”, the older generation of leaders under Mandela (many were in prison with him); the “exiles”under Thabo Mbeki, a younger generation of leaders who had been in political exile from the 1960s to the early 1990s; and the “in-ziles”, also a younger generation, mostly former civil society activists who hadn’t gone into exile, with prominent names like the lawyer and now businessman Matthews Phosa, and the former trade unionist and also now businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The “Robben Islanders” under Mandela first led the ANC after its unbanning in 1990, and the government from April 1994. Their guiding ideology was a non-racial nationalism and they laid strong emphasis on reconciliation. The combination of Mandela’s extraordinary unifying power, a relatively strong state and infrastructure, and the huge goodwill and trust in the future by the majority of citizens gave them a unique chance in South Africa’s history to balance imported modernity with outstanding local needs.
Laying the ground for social reform

Unfortunately they did not grasp this because of a failure to understand that even non-racial nationalism is an effect of the colonial political economy, rather than its alternative; a failure to rise to the challenges of the “Washington Consensus”, which meant South Africa, under Mbeki’s stewardship, was the first African government to “voluntarily” adopt the WC’s approach through the neo-liberal GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) economic policy in 1996 without consulting the country or the ANC; and an adoption of race-based policies of positive labour discrimination (affirmative action) and economic empowerment of the poor (Black Economic Empowerment, BEE).

The last two factors, especially, laid the ground for the African race-nationalist exile faction led by Mbeki, who was deputy president at the time, and played the role of an executive prime minister. Their moment arrived at the ANC’s 50th national conference in December 1997 in Upington, when Mandela announced (in a speech widely believed to have been written by Mbeki) that the era of reconciliation was over, and the era of social transformation had begun, as envisioned in the Mbeki faction’s cherished project, the “National Democratic Revolution” (NDR).

The aims of the NDR have been stated bluntly by Mbeki’s senior policy aide, Joel Netshitenzhe – that the ANC as “vanguard” of the “masses of our people” should deploy its “loyal cadres” to take control of all sectors of society, including the economy, in which BEE, affirmative action and land restitution were to be key policy tools, and where the achievement of blunt racial quotas effectively became the main criterion of “success”.

The real disaster is a basic error of logic: wanting to correct the social injustices of the racist apartheid era by using race as guiding principle, instead of language or income levels, both of which overlap on the race-based social injustices of the past, but do not maintain an ugly fiction of race in the corrective policies.

What were the effects of the Mbeki approach? Its initial (now seriously threatened) achievements at first overshadowed the longer-term crisis that it has created. Through BEE and affirmative action, guided by the centralist NDR, a small black middle-class was created, of which the new black billionaires, such as Ramaphosa, are the proud symbol. But at the same time relatively little changed in the lives of the 60% poor to very poor South Africans, overwhelmingly black and living in townships or squatter camps.

State companies such as the national broadcaster, electricity provider (Eskom), telecommunications company (Telkom) and the civil service, from which more than a 100,000 skilled people (mostly white) have been lost since 1995, became vehicles of party patronage. The most important effect of this was the lack of improvement and indeed further collapse of public health, education, transport and other infrastructure; the 60% of poor, black South Africans suffer most from this.

The combination of the Department of Home Affairs’ collapse, the Zimbabwe crisis (Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” has failed spectacularly), and up to three million Zimbabwean refugees (turned into illegal immigrants by the department’s mismanagement of their status), and the poor control of borders, has caused a refugee crisis that remained unacknowledged by Mbeki, whose main tactic in a crisis is denial: even the 10 refugee camps that are being set up for more than 40,000 displaced Africans from other countries at the time of writing, are not officially called refugee camps, but temporary shelters.

In hindsight, the xenophobic violence that erupted in May was entirely predictable (and had been predicted by several intellectuals, such as Rhoda Khadalie in August 2006 in the daily Business Day, after attacks on Somali citizens in the Western Cape). Against the background of poor service delivery, crumbling infrastructure and continuing poverty in townships and squatter camps (mostly in the richest province, Gauteng, and the second richest province, the Western Cape), where many refugees live in desperate conditions, black South Africans, neglected by the government, finally turned against foreign citizens accused of taking houses and jobs. They had seldom in the 20th century displayed xenophobic behaviour but they now were perfect exemplars of the traumatised victim who demands recognition through violence against a weaker party.

Perhaps the most worrying sign for the Mbeki government is that its chief anti-poverty tool, social grants, financed by strong commodity and mineral prices, and (according to the minister of finance) currently provided to 12.4 million South Africans, did not buy the political stability that the government probably hoped for as pay-off for the devastating effects of its neo-liberal economics and state mismanagement.

In the broader colonial period of South Africa’s history, the Mbeki government has, through the threatened small black middle-class, reconfirmed the old post-colonial pattern of including a small part of its constituency in imported modernity without reforming it to address local needs. More crucially, through the erosion of the state and infrastructure (as well as its failure to stop the flood of skilled, mostly white, emigration), the Mbeki government has destroyed significant parts of the imported modernity. This is why anti-modern pathologies, which manifest in similar conditions all over the world (racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia and fundamentalist forms of religion), are on the rise.

Does this mean that all hope is lost for South Africa? It needn’t be. Mbeki’s eviction as leader of the ANC in December 2007, and his replacement by Jacob Zuma, who connects both the exile and inzile factions, has opened up a space for serious national debate. Just as Mbeki’s eviction acted as a pressure-release valve for simmering anti-modern discontent, it also released new ideas from civil society into the public space. Whether South Africa slides further into anti-modern pathologies, or whether it re-invents itself, depends on how fast existing alternative policies, emphasising indigenous languages more, and community-orientated economics are adopted by the ANC, or by the new party the country now needs.

The trouble with the ANC is that the policy alternatives talked about by its main (and increasingly powerful) allies, the trade union federation Cosatu and the South Africa Communist Party, are still in a command-style economic vein, which will not work in the absence of an effective state, or in the presence of the country’s rich cultural diversity. Besides this, a new group of dubious characters in the Zuma camp, including convicted criminals elected in December to the ANC’s National Executive Committee, have vested interests in maintaining the illusion of a strong unified ANC as a vehicle of continued state patronage, tenders and contracts.

The main political hope for South Africa is now in its powerful civil society and rich cultural diversity. Together they have a wealth of local experience for workable policy alternatives and a record of true participation in change. But they will need help from friends all over the planet for the push beyond imported modernity and nationalism that must eventually come.

Ref: Le MOnde By Johann Rossouw

Speculate to accumulate

he International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation promised that more trade would help to eradicate poverty and hunger. Foodcrops? Self-sufficiency in food? They had a better idea. Local farms would be closed down or encouraged to concentrate on exports. This would make the most, not of natural conditions which might be good for growing tomatoes in Mexico or pineapples in the Philippines, but of the fact that production costs are lower in Mexico and the Philippines than they are in Florida or California.

Farmers in Mali would rely on more highly mechanised, more productive producers in the Beauce or the Midwest for grain supplies. The farmers would pack up, move into town and get jobs in some western firm that had relocated to take advantage of cheaper labour than it could find at home. The countries on the East African seaboard would lighten their load of foreign debt by selling their fishing rights to the factory ships of wealthier countries. The Guineans would import tinned fish from Denmark or Portugal. Never mind the additional pollution generated by transporting all these goods. A life of bliss was guaranteed and so were the profits of the middlemen – wholesalers, shippers, insurers, advertisers.

The World Bank, prime promoter of this “development” model, now tells us that there may be food riots in 33 countries. And the WTO fears a resurgence of protectionism: some food-exporting countries – India, Vietnam, Egypt, Kazakhstan – have decided to reduce exports in order to feed their own people. What a nerve! The North is easily upset by other people’s selfishness. The Chinese eat too much meat, that’s why the Egyptians are short of wheat.

Some states have followed the World Bank and IMF advice and turned over their food crops. They can no longer keep their produce for themselves. Well, they will pay, that’s the law of the market. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation figures, their bill for grain imports has risen by a massive 56% in one year. Naturally the World Food Programme (WFP), which feeds 73 million people in 78 countries every year, is asking for a further $500m.

Someone must have decided this was excessive, as it got only half that amount. But the sum it sought was only what the war in Iraq costs every couple of hours, and a tiny fraction of what the sub-prime mortgage crisis will cost the banking sector, which has been bailed out by the state. To look at it another way, the WFP asked on behalf of millions of starving people for 13.5% of the sum earned last year by John Paulson, the astute hedge fund manager who realised that thousands of Americans are in negative equity and face ruin. No one knows how much the incipient famine will yield or who will reap the profits, but nothing is ever lost in a modern economy.

History repeats itself, one speculation after another. The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy encourages debt, first the internet bubble, now the real estate bubble. In 2006 the IMF was still saying there was “every indication the mechanisms for granting loans on the US property market were still relatively effective”. Market effective. Perhaps the two words should be welded together once and for all. The real estate bubble has burst. So the speculators are resurrecting an old eldorado: the grain markets. Purchasing contracts to deliver wheat or rice at a future date and counting on selling them at a higher price. And what ensures prices will keep on rising? Famine.

So what does the IMF do? The IMF, which has “the best economists in the world” according to its managing director, explains that “one way to solve the problem of famine is to increase international trade”. The poet Leo Ferré once said that “all you need to sell despair is the right formula”. It looks as though they’ve found it.

Ref: Le Monde

Is China the key to Africa’s development?

ARUSHA, Tanzania—Inside a dark shop opposite a frenetic bus station, transistor radios are stacked beneath newfangled LED flashlights and belts hang like snakes from the ceiling, their buckles emblazoned with the decidedly un-African word Guangzhou. Outside, in the equatorial sunshine, men who crowded inside the store become mobile versions of it, strapping to their backs 4-foot-wide square racks interlaced with watches, wallets, belts, and other items.
A lanky young vendor whom I’ll call Charles walks miles to the city’s outskirts shouldering a weighty rack of trinkets, hoping to unload it along the way. Charles, who asked that his real name not be used because it’s illegal to vend in the city center, hawks plastic watches for 40 cents and leather belts for $1.80, but his sales are consistent, and on a good day he takes home $45 in earnings. What is impressive about Charles’ operation is not only the low, low prices of the Chinese goods he sells but that he brings them to people in the slums who’ve never bought these things before.

“These new Chinese products help low-income people because they can’t afford the European or American stuff,” says Mr. Abasi, who owns the store that supplies Charles and other vendors. “People know these products are not good quality, but they buy them because they look expensive.”

While the United States and Europe still loom large here as cultural and economic icons, China is making inroads into Africa in rivulets. In this city, Tanzania’s second largest, the rivulets take the form of manufactured goods, construction projects like roads and cell-phone towers, and a smattering of Chinese restaurants. For a desperately poor country like Tanzania, this “South-South” trade with China has created massive new opportunities for accelerating economic development.

In recent years, the increase in trade flows between sub-Saharan Africa and Asia has been dramatic—exports from Asia to Africa have grown at an annual rate of 18 percent since 2002. Part of the equation is that low-cost goods from China fit economies like Tanzania’s well. Goods like those sold by Charles are low-quality and sometimes fake, but they are creating new microenterprise opportunities for entrepreneurial Africans. Charles told me he, like many other Arusha vendors who had regular jobs before going independent, worked in a shoe shop until he was laid off.

The new opportunities to trade with China are so tantalizing for Africans that some are returning from abroad to invest in their homelands. Georgine Spake is an elegant, tall Congolese woman who speaks English with a thick French accent and lives in the leafy suburbs of Washington, D.C., with her American husband and four children. Upon visiting her birthplace of Kinshasa last June, after a nine-year hiatus, Spake told me she was dumbfounded to discover that most of her friends and family were traveling to and from China to do business. Lured by the promise of turning her own respectable profit, Spake flew to the bustling manufacturing hub of Guangzhou, China, to investigate import opportunities with a cousin who was already importing security cameras and telephones. She stayed for a month, paying a Congolese man who lived there $150 to be her translator and fixer throughout her stay. By the end, she arranged for the shipment of 30 tons of garlic to be sold at wholesale in Kinshasa. She chose garlic, she said, because there has been great demand for it since the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which traditionally cultivated garlic and onions, fell prey to conflict.

According to Spake, Guangzhou was swarming with Africans. Each night, many of them congregated at a bar called the Elephant, where African musicians and dancers performed. There she exchanged business tips in hushed tones with Senegalese, Cameroonians, and Zimbabweans, as their local handlers hovered nearby to prevent their clients from being poached by other handlers.

Spake now communicates with a Chinese partner by e-mail and phone and plans to return to Guangzhou this June to arrange more shipments of garlic and, perhaps, tomato paste.

Though the trade balance between China and Africa is heavily weighted toward Chinese exports, Africa’s exports to China grew by 48 percent annually between 1999 and 2004, according to the World Bank. Just as it has grown ravenous for Sudan’s oil and the DRC’s gold, China is discovering Tanzania’s natural resources. In the southern coastal region, Chinese companies are buying millions of dollars’ worth of indigenous hardwood logs to feed China’s construction and furniture industries, which supply companies like IKEA with products. Nonprofit organizations that monitor the trade in illicit goods have tracked the flow of ivory from and through Tanzania to China.

But as China’s investments grow increasingly hard to resist, the fast-flowing trade is ripe for corruption in weak African states like Tanzania. A report released in May 2007 by TRAFFIC International, a joint program of the WWF and IUCN—the World Conservation Union, found that Tanzania had lost $58 million in timber revenue to corruption, in part because the majority of the timber sales were illegal. Most of the benefits from the trade were lumped among a select few groups with little trickling down to the communities living closest to the forests.

One way to ensure that local communities benefit from the logging is to process timber products on African soil before exporting them, says Rogers Malimbwi, a professor of natural resources at Sokoine University in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s timber sector is beginning to build mills to process the timber, but much of it still leaves the country as intact logs, he said.

Meanwhile, African consumers are also beginning to experience the ugly side of trading with China, a lesson Americans learned all too well last year with the massive recalls of Chinese-made dog food and toys. In October 2007, counterfeit electrical equipment from China caused fatal electrical fires in Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial capital, according to the Confederation of Tanzania Industries, which called for a crackdown on counterfeits.

“The Chinese medicines are making people sick, and the electrical wires are not safe,” said Spake. “But China is giving the African people a chance to do business and make more money, and for some people that means being able to buy food to eat.”

Eliza Barclay is a writer based in Washington, D.C. who reports on Latin America and Africa. She traveled to Tanzania as a fellow with the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Ref: Slate

Africa says no – and means it

The unimaginable has happened, to the displeasure of arrogant Europe. Africa, thought to be so poor that it would agree to anything, has said no in rebellious pride. No to the straitjacket of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), no to the complete liberalisation of trade, no to the latest manifestations of the colonial pact.

It happened in December at the second EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, where the main objective was to force the African countries to sign new trade agreements by 31 December 2007 in accordance with the Cotonou Convention of 2000 winding up the 1975 Lomé accords. Under these, goods from former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific are imported into the European Union more or less duty-free, except for products such as sugar, meat and bananas that are a problem for European producers. The World Trade Organisation has insisted that these preferential arrangements be dismantled or replaced by trade agreements based on reciprocity, claiming that this is the only way African countries can continue to enjoy different treatment. The EU opted for completely free trade in the guise of EPAs. So the 27 were asking African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to allow EU goods and services to enter their markets duty-free (1).

The president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, denounced these strong-arm tactics, refused to sign and stormed out. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki immediately supported his stand and Namibia also decided not to sign (bravely, since an increase in EU customs duties would make it impossible for Namibia to export or continue to produce beef). Even French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who made unfortunate remarks at Dakar in July 2007 (2), supported the countries that were most strongly opposed to these agreements, saying he was in favour of globalisation but not the despoliation of countries that had nothing left (3).

The EPAs aroused wide public concern. Social movements and trade union organisations south of the Sahara mobilised against them. And the revolt against them bore fruit: the summit ended in failure. The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, was forced to back down and accept the African countries’ call for further discussions. He has promised to resume negotiations in February.

This crucial victory is another sign that things are improving for Africa. In the past few years, the bloodiest conflicts have been settled, leaving only Darfur, Somalia and East Congo. Democratic progress has been consolidated and local economies prosper under the guidance of a new generation of leaders, despite social inequalities.

Africa has another asset in the form of massive Chinese investments. China will overtake the EU as one of the continent’s principal suppliers and could beat the United States to become its most important client by 2010. The time when Europe could impose disastrous structural adjustment programmes is long gone. Africa has had enough.

Ref: Le MOnde By Ignacio Ramonet

Twisted Priorities – Bush Returns to Africa

This week, President Bush sets out on his second state visit to Africa. The six-day trip will take him to Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania. Yet it is far from clear what the people of Africa stand to gain from the visit. A lame duck president with a hostile Congress at home, Bush has little to offer the continent but platitudes.President Bush has used his presidency to make a succession of grand statements on human rights and democracy, which he has then followed by returning to his own reactionary agenda. The man who campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” has in fact governed with a callous disregard for human life. There was nothing compassionate about his invasion and subsequent abandonment of Afghanistan. And nothing compassionate about launching a second war in Iraq designed to make multinational corporations rich and test out neoliberal ideas of pre-emptive war and “exporting” democracy.And so on the eve of his Africa trip, it’s worth exploring exactly what policies he intends to implement when he makes rosy promises to the African continent.Since his January 2008 State of the Union address to Congress, much of the focus of his visit has been on the promises Bush made regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) promises $30 billion over five years for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. But fully one third of that money is required to go to “abstinence-only” education–programmes popular with Bush’s base back home but proven ineffectual time and again. The bill also makes outreach work with sex workers, a key constituency in the fight against AIDS, nearly impossible.PEPFAR is dressed up to sound like a compassionate plan to help the millions of Africans affected by AIDS, but in fact it sacrifices the suffering of millions to right wing talking points. Helping those in need is never as important as throwing a bone to Bush’s base: extreme rightwingers and big business.When it comes to alleviating the crushing poverty faced by so many Africans, President Bush is guided by the same twisted priorities. According to a White House statement, Bush is seeking to spur development by discussing how the United States can support “free trade, open investment regimes and economic opportunity” in Africa. Poverty reduction is a noble aim, but these prescriptions will not achieve it. Instead they will make rich corporations richer while stagnating–if not destroying–local economies.The Bush administration preaches the gospel of free trade as a cure-all. But free trade, especially as practised by the US, falls short on a number of key levels. While refusing to allow developing countries to protect their own fledgling economies, the US has not recognised the hypocrisy in its own agricultural subsidies. Each year, billions of dollars in “aid” goes to large-scale farmers across the country, and the harmful effects are felt around the world. The US subsidies, and subsequent overproduction of key crops, artificially drive down global prices and have been found illegal by the WTO. One recent study found that if US cotton subsidies were removed, the price of cotton could rise by as much as 14%. The extra income in the pocket of a West African farmers–20 million of whom rely on cotton for income–could feed millions of children each year.On the other side of the equation is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a Clinton-era measure that has undergone several mutations under Bush. AGOA largely removed tariffs and quotas on a number of goods imported to the US from 39 African countries. In exchange for this, African governments were forced to accept American foreign investment and harmful financial liberalisation.Since the measure went into effect, imports from Africa to the US have more than quadrupled. But real benefits have been illusive. While jobs have increased, decent work is still hard to find. Labourers working well over 12 hours a day still fall short of taking home a living wage. The executive director of the International Labour Rights Forum, Bama Athreya, said: “Our goal shouldn’t simply be to provide any job through our trade policy, but to provide really decent jobs that come with dignity, respect, and the possibility that these workers can prosper in the future and expect a better life for their children.”Workers haven’t seen benefits in the short term, and long-term development is also unlikely to materialise. The textile industries in many of Africa’s least developed countries are entirely dependent on foreign capital. Asian companies have set up factories on the continent, and domestic growth in the industry has been nil. And as Chinese exports flood global markets, African textiles have decreased for two years running, making a future upturn increasingly unlikely.But he’s not all bad. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Bush did at least ask Congress to approve a measure that would allow 25% of the US food aid budget to go towards buying food grown locally in developing countries, rather than only benefiting US exporters as it has until now. Such a measure would increase emergency response times, benefit local farmers and prevent economic disasters when markets are flooded with cheap American produce. Bush has announced this plan four years running now. This year, as before, Congress is expected to stop it in its tracks.


Ref: Counter punchEve Bachrach lives in London, where she works for War on Want. She can be reached at:

Africa in 2 maps: A continent exhausted by war and famine + Renewed foreign-power rivalry

famine map

he end of the cold war raised hopes of a new era for Africa. But the Rwandan genocide and the collapse of Congo-Zaire confused the issues. The conflict zones are also areas of famine, concentrations of displaced persons and refugees, and often of malnutrition and food shortages.

See article by Philippe Leymarie, “Africa worn out by war”, April 1999.

Sources : Human Development Report, UNDP-Economica, July 1996; Ramsès, Dunod, 1994; Les réfugiés dans le monde, HCR, La Découverte, 1995; The state of food insecurity in the world, FAO, Rome, 1999; Populations en danger, Médecins sans frontières – Lepac, La Découverte, 1995 ; Le monde peut-il nourrir le monde?, Les clés de la planète, hors-série no 1 (map by Cécile Marin), Croissance, Paris, 1998.

Ref: Le MOnde

Renewed foreign-power rivalry

The situation in Africa is changing fast. France is having to face up to the rising cost of its interventions as well as their disastrous effects, especially in Rwanda. Its influence is clearly on the wane, and its European partners and the United Nations are similarly affected. But the situation is working to the advantage of the United States, eager to muscle in on the new market.

See article by Philippe Leymarie, “Washington sets out to conquer virgin territory”, March 1998.