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Coolies: How Britain Re-Invented Slavery

Coolies: How Britain Reinvented Slavery tells the astonishing and controversial story of the systematic recruitment and migration of over a million Indians to all corners of the Empire. It is a chapter in colonial history that implicates figures at the very highest level of the British establishment and has defined the demographic shape of the modern world.

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ignoring Canada’s real history in Uganda very poor scholarship

By Yves Engler | December 7, 2015

A recent Globe and Mail article (reprinted on Rabble.ca) by Gerald Caplan detailing Canadian relations with Uganda made me mad.

Why?

It was not so much for what’s in the article, but rather what it ignores, which is reality. Any progressive author writing about Canada’s foreign affairs betrays his readers if he ignores the bad this country has done and feeds the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth.

Canadians have had ties to Uganda for many decades”, writes Caplan, a self-described “Africa scholar” citing the establishment of diplomatic relations soon after independence. He also mentions many Canadians who “found their way to the country” amidst instability and the federal government taking in Asians expelled by Idi Amin. The former NDP strategist points to some private Canadian aid initiatives in the country and details a Canadian lawyer’s contribution to a suit over the Ugandan government’s failure to provide basic maternal health services, which may violate the Constitution.

But, Caplan completely ignores the unsavory – and much more consequential – role Canada has played in the East African country.

For example, he could have at least mentioned this country’s role during the “scramble for Africa” when Canadians actively participated in subjugating various peoples and stealing their land. This is necessary to acknowledge if we are ever to build a decent foreign policy.

In the late 1800s a number of Canadian military men helped survey possible rail routes from the East African Coast to Lake Victoria Nyanza on the border between modern Uganda and Kenya. The objective was to strengthen Britain’s grip over recalcitrant indigenous groups and to better integrate the area into the Empire’s North East Africa-India corridor.

Beginning in 1913 dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies and undermine indigenous customs. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”

In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.”

British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.

Canadians were also part of the British colonial authority. Royal Military College of Canada graduate Godfrey Rhodes became chief engineer and general manager of Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours in 1928. The Victoria, BC, native was in Uganda for over a decade and was followed by Walter Bazley, a colonial administrator in Bunyoro from 1950 to 1963 (after Ugandan independence, Bazley joined the Canadian public service).

Throughout British rule Ottawa recognized London’s authority over Uganda. After fighting in the 1898 – 1902 Boer War Henry Rivington Poussette was appointed Canada’s first trade commissioner in Africa with “jurisdiction extending from the Cape to the Zambesi, including Uganda.”

Poussette and future trade representatives helped Canadian companies profit from European rule in Africa. By independence Toronto-based Bata shoes controlled most of the footwear market in Uganda while a decade before the end of British rule Falconbridge acquired a 70% stake in the Kilembe copper-cobalt mine in western Uganda. In a joint partnership with the London controlled Colonial Development Corporation, the Toronto company’s highly profitable mine produced more than $250 million ($1 billion today) worth of copper yet paid no income tax until its capital was fully recovered in 1965. In 1968, post-independence leader Milton Obote increased the country’s copper export tax and then moved to gain majority control of the mine. Falconbridge quickly stripped out $6 million in special dividend payments and threatened to withdraw its management from the country.

Falconbridge: Portrait of a Canadian Mining Multinational explains:

Although Kilembe Copper was both profitable and socially important in the Ugandan economy, this did not prevent the Falconbridge group from withdrawing capital as rapidly as possible just before president Obote forced it to sell Uganda a controlling interest in 1970. The implication was that its management team would be withdrawn entirely if the government did not restore Falconbridge’s majority ownership. Dislocation in the lives of Ugandan people was a price the company seemed willing to pay in this tug-of-war over the profits from Uganda’s resources.

The Kilembe mine also contaminated Elizabeth National Park and tailings seeped into Lake George, near Uganda’s western border with the Congo.

Upon taking office, General Idi Amin returned control of the Kilembe mine to Falconbridge. (This was maintained for several years, after which Amin returned the mine to his government.) He had managed to overthrow Obote’s government in January 1971 with the aid of Britain, Israel and the US. A British Foreign Office memo noted that Obote’s nationalizations, which also included Bata, had “serious implications for British business in Uganda and Africa generally… other countries will be tempted to try and get away with similar measures with more damaging consequences for British investment and trade.”

While this country’s “Africa scholars” have largely ignored Canada’s position towards Amin’s rise to power, the available documentation suggests Ottawa passively supported the putsch. On three occasions during the early days of the coup (between January 26 and February 3, 1971) the Pierre Trudeau government responded to inquiries from opposition MPs about developments in Uganda and whether Canada would grant diplomatic recognition to the new regime. Within a week of Obote’s ouster, both External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp and Prime Minister Trudeau passed up these opportunities to denounce Amin’s usurpation of power. They remained silent as Amin suspended various provisions of the Ugandan Constitution and declared himself President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Army Chief of Staff and Chief of Air Staff. They failed to condemn a leader, now infamous, for plunging the nation into a torrent of violence.

In African Pearls and Poisons: Idi Amin’s Uganda; Kenya; Zaire’s Pygmies, Alberta bureaucrat Leo Louis Jacques describes a conversation he had with the CIDA liaison officer in Uganda who facilitated his 1971-73 appointment to the Uganda College of Commerce. Asked whether the change in government would affect his CIDA-funded position, the aid agency’s liaison officer in Uganda, Catrina Porter, answered Jacques thusly: “‘Yes, there was a coup on January 25th, 1971 and it was a move that promises to be an improvement. The new administration favours Democracy and Western Civilization’s Democracy, while the former one favoured the Communists.’ I [Jacques] said, ‘I understand the present government is being run by the Ugandan army under the control of a General named Idi Amin Dada. What is he like?’ Porter said ‘General Amin’s gone on record as saying he loves Canada and the Commonwealth. He also vowed that his country of Uganda would have democratic elections soon. The British and Americans have recognized him as the Ugandan government and so do we.’”

Two years after the coup the Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi visited to ask Amin to reverse his plan to nationalize Bata shoes. After the meeting, the High Commissioner cabled Ottawa that he was largely successful with Bata and also mentioned that “KILEMBE MINES (70 PERCENT FALCONBRIDGE OWNED) IS DOING WELL.”

But, just in case you think it’s just our unsavoury history that Caplan ignores, there’s more. He also also ignores more recent developments such as SNC Lavalin’s alleged bribery in the country, Montréal-based Canarail’s contribution to a disastrous World Bank sponsored privatization of the Kenya and Uganda railway systems or Ottawa’s “logistical support and some funding for the Uganda led [military] force” dispatched to Somalia to do Washington’s dirty work.

Why did this article make me so mad? Because it’s part of a pattern of the social democratic Left ignoring how Canadian corporations and governments impoverish the Global South. Too often social democrat intellectuals dim, rather than enlighten, progressives’ understanding of Canada’s role in the world.

To preserve his position at the Globe and Mail and CBC Caplan may feel he needs to feed the benevolent Canadian foreign-policy myth. But, he should at least show some decency and spare Rabble.ca from this nonsense.

December 8, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

UN, banks and oil palm giants feast on the stolen land of Uganda’s dispossessed

By Anne van Schaik & Oliver Tickell | Ecologist  | February 19, 2015

A small community in Uganda is challenging a UN-backed international oil palm venture that has expropriated small farmers and obliterated an entire forest on a Lake Victoria island to establish a vast plantation. Three years after the grab, Friends of the Earth groups are backing the islanders legal action, which is launched today.

Fighting a land grab can seem like a hopeless cause: the odds are hardly even when farmers without land or a source of income are pitted against multinational corporations, European banks and UN Agencies. However in Uganda, one community is fighting back.

Four years ago, an oil palm plantation partly operated by the oil palm giant Wilmar International began on Bugula, a highly biodiverse island on Lake Victoria. Then home to about one hundred small-scale farmers, the project was sold to them with extravagant promises of employment and development.

Yet today, 3,600 hectares of pristine forest have been destroyed, replaced with a vast swathe of oil palm, and many farmers and their families find themselves destitute with little compensation – if any – awarded to them for the loss of their land.

Finding themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances, three of them are today launching their legal action on behalf of the rest of the community against the oil palm company, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL), demanding the restitution of their land and compensation for lost crops and income.

Although nominally independent, OPUL is 90% owned by Bidco Uganda, itself a joint venture between the oil palm giant Wilmar International, Josovina Commodities and Bidco Oil Refineries, a Kenya-based company. Wilmar International holds at least 39% of the shares in OPUL and is providing technical expertise for the project.

In launching the legal action in Masaka today, the Bugula islanders are taking on more than just these mighty corporations.

The oil palm project is backed by the Ugandan government, which even helped to finance it, and by a United Nations agency: the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which is “directly overseeing” the project after providing a $52 million loan.

So this is ‘improving access to land and tenure security’?

Established in 1974 after the World Food Conference, IFAD’s ‘motto’ is “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”. Its Financing Policies and Criteria state that the projects it finances should incorporate “engagement with indigenous peoples” and “improving access to land and tenure security”.

The Bugula project is carried out under IFAD’s ‘Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2‘ which claims to be aimed at “increasing the domestic production of vegetable oil and its byproducts, thus raising rural incomes for smallholder producers and ensuring the supply of affordable vegetable oil products to Ugandan consumers.”

According to IFAD, “Oil palm activities are carried out on Bugula Island in Kalangala District (Ssesse islands) and Buvuma Island in Mukono District. In the course of the project, about 3,000 smallholder farmers will directly benefit from oil palm development and 136,000 households from oilseed development. The project is directly supervised by IFAD.”

It records a total project cost of $146.2 million, to which it is contributing a $52.0 million loan repayable in 2018, co-financed with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, which is contributing $0.3 million. It claims to benefit 139,000 households.

The Ecologist spoke today with Alessandro Marini, IFAD’s Country Representative for Uganda by telephone, but he repeatedly refused to comment at that time because he was “on his way into a meeting”. He has since failed to respond to our email requesting his views.

The UK is the single biggest contributor to IFAD.

John Muyiisa’s story

In January, Anne van Schaik of Friends of the Earth Europe joined NAPE / Friends of the Earth Uganda in a fact-finding mission to Bugula Island, Kalangala, and visited the house of John Muyiisa, one of the plaintiffs.

John saw his 43-acre plot taken for the palm oil project, and has since not stopped fighting to get it back. John showed us the state of his house, which is about to collapse because he doesn’t have the resources to repair it. The foundations of the new house he was planning to build for his family have been left abandoned since the project began.

When he showed us the small plot that was left to him, John said: “We all depended on this land. My land was not only my income but also a secured future income for my children. It would have provided me with the money I needed to buy a new house. Now I have lost my land and our plans are shattered.” These concerns have found little sympathy among local government officials.

We also visited the nearby island of Buvuma, where IFAD has financed another oil palm project. When we expressed our interest to hear from the local community about the effects of the island’s palm oil project, they exhausted themselves by explaining the benefits of the project.

“There will be electricity, employment, new roads, and extra income for local palm oil growers”, officials told us. This sounded all-too familiar to what we heard during a visit in 2013, but two years on, these promises seem emptier than ever.

Once we had finished speaking with the officials, we joined them at a community meeting at the district house to discuss compensation for lost land. When the chairperson gave farmers the floor to talk about the effects of the project, many raised their hands.

They talked about how the compensation had been inadequate, how it is totally unclear to them how it had been calculated, and how some of them didn’t want to leave their land but were given no choice. Clearly embarrassed and annoyed, a local official responded and corrected them. “People should not first sign an agreement and then complain after”, he said.

His unsympathetic stance was mirrored by other government officials on both islands. Often we heard jokes about how farmers drank away their compensation money in bars, got themselves a second wife or otherwise managed to fritter it away.

This indifference, although unspoken, is implicitly shared by IFAD, BIDCO, OPUL and Wilmar. Indeed, the chain of responsibility stretches back further – to banks in Europe and the USA whose financial support sets the wheels in motion for these devastating land grabs.

Europe’s mega-banks financing palm oil explosion

Taking the case of Wilmar International, in 2014 US and EU financiers had a total of €371 million of shares in the corporation, and 1.1 billion Euro in loans outstanding to them.

For instance in the Netherlands, ING held more than €26 million in shares; the British bank HSBC held €298 million in loans, while BNP Paribas and Dutch Rabobank held €189 million and €111 million respectively. Deutsche Bank held €4 million in shares and €12 million in outstanding loans.

Like Wilmar, many of these financiers have adopted policies to address the environmental, social and governance impacts of their investments. However, there is no accountability mechanism in place for most of these commitments, and so there is no financial or legal incentive for financiers to follow through.

This means that many European financial institutions, through their investments in agribusiness projects, are supporting a significant number of what are in fact land grabs in the global South. Such incidents are widespread and growing: new cases are reported to civil society organisations on a near-weekly basis in countries from Cambodia and Papua New Guinea to Indonesia, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Europe needs to take action at the political level. Both by ensuring financial institutions on its soil are not complicit in land grabs, and by voting this year to finish reforms to halt the expansion of agrofuels which compete for cropland.

UN-IFAD must hang its head in shame

And clearly IFAD is an organization crying out for abolition. Its financing of the Bugula Island land grab is in clear violation of its financing principles and criteria, indeed the very purpose of its existence – “Enabling poor rural people to overcome poverty”

While IFAD speaks of “community-driven development approach to fighting rural poverty“, “improving access to land and tenure security”, “dynamic and inclusive rural development“, “food and nutrition security for all”, “inclusive growth and poverty eradication”, and “sustainable smallholder agriculture” it is actually financing land-grabbing projects that achieve the precise reverse of all its empty rhetoric.

Indeed it is robbing poor farmers and farming communities of their land and livelihoods, leaving them destitute, and handing over their wealth for plunder by foreign corporations and profiteering financiers.

As for John and the rest of the former farmers of Bugula, the next steps in their fight for justice will be taken in court in Masaka. With pressure coming at them from both sides, the message to oil IFAD, palm companies and financiers alike is clear: the battle against land grabs is on.


Action: to support John Muyiisa’s struggle in his search for legal redress for the farmers of Kalangala, please visit our crowdfunding page.

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rwandan War Criminals Defeated in Congo, But AFRICOM Riding High

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | November 6, 2013

After 17 years and the death of six million Congolese, the United States has finally shifted gears in its efforts to dominate central Africa. Earlier this year, Washington cut off military aid to Rwanda, which, along with Uganda, another U.S. ally, has been looting and terrorizing the mineral-rich eastern Congo since 1996. All those years, U.S. Democratic and Republican administrations have lavished arms and money on the two client states, and protected them from sanction by international forums and courts. The genocide in the Congo was central to U.S. policy in the region. While 8 percent of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population was dying, Rwanda and Ugandan soldiers and thugs got rich acting as middlemen, funneling Congo’s precious minerals to multinational corporations. Meanwhile, both Rwanda and Uganda supplied soldiers to every U.S.-approved military mission on the continent, acting as America’s mercenaries in Africa.

So, why did the U.S. alter its policy? First, international pressure finally made it untenable for Washington to continue deploying its Black henchmen to destabilize central Africa. President Obama appointed former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a liberal by American standards, as his emissary to the Great Lakes region of Africa, and halted delivery of weapons to Rwanda. The Americans allowed the United Nations to form a special, 3,000-man intervention brigade empowered to use force against the so-called rebel group M23, which is actually led by the Tutsi-dominated government of Rwanda. This week, UN intervention forces backed up the Congolese army defeated the M23, sending its remnants fleeing across the Rwandan and Ugandan borders. The “rebels” announced they would end their insurgency.

However, Rwanda has pulled these tricks before, and has never acknowledged that M23 is its own creation, or that many of the fighters’ top officers are, in fact, members of the Rwandan armed forces. According to Friends of Congo, the Washington-based advocacy group, there is only one way to ensure that M23 will not resurface by some other name, and that is to bring these genocidal criminals to trial. However, this would require that Rwanda turn them over to the Democratic Republic of Congo or some international authority. Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame cannot be expected to turn on his own men, and the United States would not relish a series of trials in which its own role in the slaughter of millions would be revealed in embarrassing detail.

Therefore, although Washington has put distance between itself and Rwanda, the U.S. has no intention of allowing anything approximating justice to break out in central Africa. The U.S. military command, AFRICOM, has grown by leaps and bounds under President Obama – who has permanently stationed a brigade of U.S. troops in Africa – and the reinforced United Nations military presence in the region does exactly what the United States tells it to. And finally, at the end of the day, the Rwandan and Ugandan regimes understand that they are only cogs in the imperial machine, and must do as they are told. The U.S. empire is alive and growing in central Africa.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Far from a Humanitarian Savior, the U.S. Causes Vast Misery In Africa

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford | July 24, 2012

The United States has finally made a token effort towards reining in its central African client state, Rwanda, whose destabilization of neighboring Congo has contributed to the deaths of six million people over the past 16 years. A United Nations panel charged that Rwanda has been supporting a Tutsi tribal rebel group in Congo. Rwanda and another U.S. puppet regime, Uganda, have profited enormously from stealing the mineral resources of eastern Congo, in collaboration with U.S. and European mining companies. At the end of last year, 1.7 million Congolese remained homeless, largely because of Rwanda’s continued interference in Congolese affairs.

Bowing ever so slightly to world opinion, Washington announced that it would cut military assistance to Rwanda. As it turns out, the only money the U.S. is withholding is for an academy for Rwandan non-commissioned officers – a measly $200,000 out of a total Rwandan aid package of $528 million. The gesture is an insult to the millions of Congolese who have been killed or displaced by the U.S. and its Rwandan and Ugandan mercenaries.

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that the number of Somalis forced to leave their country has reached the one million mark. At root, this is also an American crime against humanity. Somalia ranks behind only Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia in its number of displaced persons. And, like the other three countries, Somalia’s humanitarian crisis is the result of Washington’s imperial military strategies.

The U.S. dragged Somalia into hell in December of 2006, when it funded and armed an Ethiopia invasion of the country. Tens of thousands were killed outright, and Somalia was robbed of a chance to build peace under a moderately Islamist government. In the capital city, Mogadishu, alone, nearly two million people were forced from their homes, and soon the United Nations declared Somalia “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.”

In the ensuing five years, the United States methodically attempted to starve out the Somali Shabaab resistance forces, so that when the worst drought in 60 years struck the region, last year, mass deaths were inevitable. By now, the U.S. had ensnared most of Somalia’s neighbors in its war – Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti, a whole region in flames – in order to facilitate an expansion of U.S. military influence in the region.

Far from playing a humanitarian role in Africa, the United States is the main vector of mass carnage and misery, from Somalia to Libya to Congo and so many points in between. American policy in Africa is to create chaos, and then to present itself as the cure. Economically, the U.S. offers nothing to Africa, except rigged deals and endless debt. Years ago, China eclipsed the U.S. as a trading partner, and now offers Africa more and better quality foreign aid than the Americans. Unable to compete on a level laying field, Washington exports death to Africa, in the form of weapons systems and Green Berets. There is nothing good that the United States can do for Africa, but leave.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

July 25, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

African population, food and the future

By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe | Pambazuka News | 2012-06-21

Africa is often said to be overpopulated. But it is quite easy to debunk this myth. The continent is a spacious, rich and arable landmass that can support its population well into the foreseeable future.

It should be obvious in this discussion that our goal is definitely not to contribute to the ‘politically correct’ rhetoric bandied about incessantly which calls for some ‘decrease’ in African population because we do not believe that Africa, in the first instance, is overpopulated. We must now examine this issue. The population argument is usually advanced on a number of fronts. First, there is a ‘theory’ that the given landmass which presently defines Africa and its various so-called nation-states cannot sustain the existing populations, but, more critically, the ‘projected populations’ in years to come. We shall examine the degree to which this ‘theory’ is able to stand up to serious scientific scrutiny first by comparing Africa’s landmass vis-à-vis its population and those of some of the countries of the World.

Africa’s population is currently 1 billion (all the statistics here on countries’ population, land mass and the like are derived from The World Bank, World Development Report 2011 and United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2011) covering an incredibly vast landmass (11,668,599 sq miles). Ethiopia’s landmass is 471,775 sq miles, five times the size of Britain’s 94,226 sq miles. Yet Britain’s population of 62 million is three-quarters that of Ethiopia’s at 83 million. As for Somalia, it is 2.6 times the size of Britain but has a population of only 9 million. Sudan and South Sudan provide an even more fascinating comparison. Whilst both countries are 10 times the size of Britain, they support a population of 45 million – about 70 per cent the size of Britain. In fact the Sudans have a landmass equal to that of India which is populated by 1.22 billion people i.e. more than the population of all of Africa! Britain is one-tenth the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which has a landmass of 905,562 sq miles, similar to the Sudans and India. In other words, the DRC is about ten times the size of Britain but with a population of 71 million, just nine million more than the population of the latter.

Second, let us examine similarly sized countries. France has a landmass of 211,206 sq miles close to Somalia’s. However, France’s population of 65 million is about seven times the population of Somalia. Similarly, Botswana is slightly larger than France at 254,968 sq miles but with a population of 2 million, a minuscule proportion of France’s. Uganda’s landmass at 91,135 sq miles is comparable to Britain’s, yet with a population of only 33 million. Similarly, Ghana’s landmass of 92,099 sq miles makes it approximately equal to the size of Britain. Ghana is however populated by only 25 million people, far less than one-half Britain’s population.

Southern World to Southern World comparisons can also prove useful in exposing the fallacy of either Africa’s ‘large population’ or ‘potential explosive population’. Iran’s size of 636,292 sq miles is about the same as Sudan and South Sudan combined. Yet, its population, unlike the Sudans’ 45 million, is at least one and one-half times as large at 75 million. Pakistan’s landmass of 310,402 sq miles is just about Namibia’s 333,702 but Pakistan’s population is 174 million while Namibia’s is 2 million. Even though Bangladesh’s 55,598 sq mile-landmass makes it roughly one-eighth the size of Angola (481,350 sq miles) as well as that of South Africa’s (471, 442 sq miles), Bangladesh’s population at 159 million outstrips Angola’s 13 million and South Africa’s 50 million. If we were to return to our earlier comparisons, Angola and South Africa are about 4-5 times the size of Britain but with one-fifth and four-fifths respectively of the latter’s population.

Finally, we should turn to the question of resource, its availability or lack of it, and therefore its ability or inability to support the African population – another component of Africa’s ‘over-population’ fallacy. Well over 50 per cent of Uganda’s arable land, some of the richest in Africa, remains uncultivated. Were Uganda to expand its current food production significantly, not only would it be completely self-sufficient, but it would be able to feed all the countries contiguous to its territory without difficulty. It must be stressed here that Uganda does not need any GM food technology to acquire this capability. Indeed no African country requires any shred of GM technology to acquire food sufficiency and security. None, whatsoever.

STATISTICS OF TRANSFORMATION

The overall statistics of the African situation is even more revealing as with regards to the continent’s long-term possibilities. Just about a quarter of the potential arable land of Africa is being cultivated presently.[1] Even here, an increasingly high proportion of the cultivated area is assigned to so-called cash-crops (cocoa, coffee, tea, groundnut, sisal, floral cultivation, etc.) for exports at a time when there has been a virtual collapse, across the board, of the price of these crops in international commodity markets. In the past 30 years, the average real price of these African products abroad has been about 20 per cent less than their worth during the 1960s-70s period which was soon after the ‘restoration of independence’. As for the remaining 75 per cent of Africa’s uncultivated land, this represents 66 per cent of the entire world’s potential.[2] The world is aware of the array of strategic minerals such as cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial diamonds, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, titanium, uranium, and of course petroleum oil found in virtually all regions across the continent.

Despite the ravages of history of foreign conquest and occupation and the virulence of locally-brewed tyranny of genocidal regimes and fellow-travellers, Africa remains one of the world’s most wealthy and potentially one of the world’s wealthiest continents. What is not always or simultaneously associated with the wealth profiles of Africa is that it has vast acreage of rich farmlands with capacity to optimally support the food needs of generations of African peoples indefinitely. In addition, the famous fish industry in Senegal, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for instance, Botswana’s rich cattle farms, West Africa’s yam and plantain belts extending from southern Cameroon to the Casamance province of Senegal, the continent’s rich rice production fields, etc., etc., all highlight the potential Africa has for fully providing for all its food needs. Again, without a shred of GM technology needed or emplaced. Thus, what the current African socio-economic situation shows is extraordinarily reassuring, provided the acreage devoted to cultivation is expanded and expressly targeted to address Africa’s own internal consumption needs. Land use directed at agriculture for food output, as opposed to the calamitous waste of cash-crop production for export or the parcelling away of land up and down the continent (the ‘land grab’ that is becoming a designer label all over the place!) must become the focus of agricultural policy in the new Africa.

It is an inexplicable and inexcusable tragedy that any African child, woman, or man could go without food in the light of the staggering endowment of resources in Africa. Africa constitutes a spacious, rich and arable landmass that can support its population, which is still one of the world’s least densely populated and distributed, into the indefinite future. There is only one condition, though, for the realisation of this goal – Africa must utilise these immense resources for the benefit of its own peoples within newly negotiated, radically decentralised socio-political dispensations which must abandon the current murderous ‘nation-states’. We now no longer require any reminders that the primary existence of these states is to destroy or disable as many enterprisingly resourceful and resource-based constituent peoples, nations and publics within the polity that are placed in their genocidal march and sights.

It is abundantly clear that the factors which have contributed to determining the very poor quality of life of Africa’s population presently have to do with the non-use, partial use, or the gross misuse of the continent’s resources year in, year out. This is thanks to an asphyxiating ‘nation-state’ whose strategic resources are used largely to support the Western World and others and an overseer-grouping of local forces which exists solely to police the dire straits of existence that is the lot of the average African. As a result, the broad sectors of African peoples are yet to be placed and involved, centrally, in the entire process of societal reconstruction and transformation. Surely, an urgently restructured, culturally supportive political framework that enhances the quality of life of Africans is really the pressing subject of focus for Africa.

ENDNOTES

1. ‘Africa’s Development Disaster’, Comment, London: Catholic Institute for International Affairs, 1985:19.

2. ibid

* Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is the author of Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011). This article was a discussion paper presented at a youth weekend-school, Stratford, London, 16 June 2012.

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on African population, food and the future

Israel Eyes Strong Ties with East African States

Al-Manar | November 18, 2011

Israel is looking at Africa’s east as an important strategic interest, and trying to step up ties with nations in the region under the name of “controlling the spread of Islamic extremists”.

The Associated Press reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted the leaders of Uganda and Kenya earlier this week.

The Kenyan leader has said that the Zionist entity has promised to provide ‘security assistance’ to his country to help protect its borders.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has said Netanyahu promised to help build “a coalition against fundamentalism,” bringing together the countries Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania. The African country also has said Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, has told him Israel is ready to make “everything available to Kenya” for internal security.

For the Israeli part, Netanyahu’s office refuses to comment on Odinga’s claims, while Peres’ office suggests the Kenyan leader has gone too far.

An official in the Peres’ office says he has boasted that Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world regarding homeland security and would be happy to share its expertise with any country fighting “global terror.” But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity says no specifics have been discussed.

Another Israeli official says an alliance with Kenya and other eastern African countries is natural.

An agency quotes Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev as saying: “We have joint interests and we believe that mutual cooperation can be beneficial to us all”.

Uganda and Kenya have been battling al-Shabab, a Somalia-based ‘al-Qaeda’ linked group.

According to AP, the Zionist entity also has intentions to build strong ties with the newly liberated South Sudan whose president has held a meeting with Netanyahu at the United Nations in September.

In Israel’s eyes, eastern Africa poses a potential hinterland where ‘al-Qaeda’ and other militants can potentially forge ties with similarly minded groups just to the north in Egypt and Gaza. Israeli officials already believe that Sudan is a pathway for smugglers providing weapons to militants in Gaza and the Sinai, and that ‘al-Qaeda’ linked groups in Egypt have been behind a deadly cross-border raid in August that killed eight Israelis.

The Zionist entity already has military ties with several African countries, including Nigeria, Tanzania and the Ivory Coast.

Relations with Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan have not yet reached that stage, though Israel’s “Defense” Ministry has given clearance for private Israeli security firms to operate in those nations, including some arms sales. Israeli defense officials say intelligence sharing is limited to a few close allies at this stage.

“The Ministry of Defense has excellent relations with a number of friendly nations in Africa, especially internal security and counterterrorism,” an official said, refusing to elaborate. He was not allowed to be identified under ministry regulations.

Israel has a long history of involvement in Africa, sending experts in agriculture and development, as well as military advisers and mercenaries, over the years.

November 18, 2011 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments