Posts tagged Africa

Monday Lazy Linking

The Corporate Enclosure Movement Comes to Ethiopia

Corporate Land Grab in Africa. Free Association (2010-03-27):

Much of the modern world has been shaped, alas, by governments' grabbing land from peasants and yeomen, whose families had worked it for hundreds of years, in order to give it to the nobility or other privileged interests. As a result, many self-sufficient farmers became tenants of politically created absentee...

No doubt 40 years from now, if agribusiness dominates Ethiopia and the dispossessed majority has to rent their lives away in factory labor or other forms of corporate-controlled mass labor, some "pro-globalization" type will come along to tell us all about the neoliberal revolution and how the market outcome is obviously the result of market efficiencies, the division of labor, comparative advantage, and economies of scale.

In reality, this is just another round of privateering, and a massive, corporate-engineered, government-inflicted violation of poor farmers' property rights. Carried out largely with the purpose of enriching foreign corporations and the domestic political class, on the excuse that the folks being stolen from are just too stupid to know how to "develop" their own land or the fruits of their own labor. Genuinely free and equal exchange -- the consensual social order that would emerge from free trade among working people when they are freed of existing government restrictions and government borders, and also left in possession of their own, without massive dispossession in the name of forced modernization -- would look absolutely nothing like the rigged markets we have, and nothing like gigantic screwjob that is passed off as "freedom" by modern neoliberalism.

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Dialogue.

  • Libertarians Against Property Rights and Freedom of Association. (Cont’d.) Vin Suprynowicz Vs. Rad Geek on so-called illegal immigration. In which I argue keep your borders off my property and Suprynowicz argues that a libertarian community ought to have the government constitutionally policing people’s political views. Democracy, you know.

News and Comment.

Arts.

Communications.

Failed state policy in Somalia

Here’s a short bit from Against All Flags a generally excellent Nervous Interview sort of article by Jesse Walker, on piracy, international government-to-government aid, imperial failed state policy, and anarchy in Somalia.

But when the troops pulled out, didn’t everything go to pot?

You’ve got it backwards. The U.S./U.N. intervention made things worse: It undercut local farmers by dumping free food into circulation, herded self-reliant nomads into disease-ridden refugee camps, and disarmed civilians while leaving the warlords’ stockpiles largely untouched. At every point during the country’s crisis in the early to mid 1990s, the most constructive responses came from the Somalis themselves. (The local Red Crescent Society was responsible for more successful relief than all the foreign efforts combined.) When the outsiders left, the peacemaking elements of Somali society were able to reassert themselves, with elders arbitrating truces between the clans and entrepreneurs establishing a growing economy.

. . .

Wait. Back up. America aided the warlords?

Yes. The Bush administration worried that jihadists were seeking shelter in Somalia, so it allied itself with secular Somalis, who styled themselves the “Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.” They included some of the very same figures the U.S. had battled in the early ’90s.

How did that work out?

The warlords used the aid to pursue their own agendas, and the fighting ramped back up. The chaos pushed ordinary Somalis into the arms of the Islamic Courts Union, a confederation of sharia-based arbitrators that gradually took over roughly half the country, including the nominal capital, Mogadishu.

Displeased with this result, Washington backed an Ethiopean invasion and occupation of the country. This was supposed to establish a central government for once and for all. Instead it was a gory failure whose chief effect was to rip apart civil society and turn the country into a violent free-for-all. As Human Rights Watch reported in 2008, “the last two years are not just another typical chapter in Somalia’s troubled history. The human rights and humanitarian catastrophe facing Somalia today threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of Somalis on a scale not witnessed since the early 1990s.” [Ed.: That is, not witnessed since the last time people were pushing hard to get a government established in Somalia. —R.G.]

One effect was to push more people into desperate and risky ways of making a living. Such as piracy.

. . .

Let me get this straight. To combat communism in east Africa, the United States propped up a Marxist dictator. After sending troops to battle the warlords, it intervened again to assist the warlords. It did this about-face to stanch the growth of Islamism, but the effect was to put an Islamist group in charge of the country. And after Washington backed an invasion and occupation of the nation to end the Islamic Courts Union’s control, the result was a government run by a former commander of the Islamic Courts Union?

You can see why I’m skeptical about a war on the pirates. It’ll probably end with Obama dedicating a 60-foot statue of Blackbeard in the middle of Mogadishu.

— Jesse Walker, reason online (2009-04-17): Against All Flags: Questions and answers about pirates and Somalia

Read the whole thing.

See also:

Inciting people to rise against the government and reporting falsehoods about people being killed

Here is the front page, above-the-fold story from the current issue of the Industrial Worker, on troubling news from Zimbabwe, a rich and fertile country immiserated and stripped by a century of kleptocratic armed factions — first the land-grabbing colonialists, and then an independent white apartheid government, and now a violent anti-colonial, revolutionary government, which has intoned populist slogans in order to justify government patronage to its political supporters, while assaulting all popular movements independent of the government — especially workers’ unions — on the grounds that any movement independent of, or opposed to, the anti-imperial government must therefore be a tool of white imperialism. The government that claims the right to rule Zimbabwe has, through this and other means, made itself into one of the most violently anti-worker governments in the world today.

Zimbabwe [sic] arrests unionists, opposition

Zimbabwe’s ruling party and paramilitaries are conducting a terror campaign of arrests and captive meetings of opposition supporters before the presidential run-off election on June 27.

Police arrested the union president Lovemore Motombo and general secretary Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on May 8. Police charged them with inciting people to rise against the government and reporting falsehoods about people being killed during a May Day rally.

The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe has said that 40,000 farm workers are affected by the current terror campaign that has led to violence and eviction from their workplaces.

Teachers in rural classrooms are among those being targetted as MDC supporters. Two have been killed to date, with a third abducted by Zanu-PF paramilitaries. The teachers’ union has received reports that the Zanu-PF are chasing teachers out of schools, beating them, and demanding repentance fines in the form of cash, goats, and cattle, according to IRIN, a United Nations news service report. The situation in the schools resembles war zones, and there is no way teachers can report for work to face those death squads, Raymond Majongwe, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, told IRIN.

Our fear is that more could be under torture, or have been killed, said Majongwe.

The MDC has placed the death toll since the March 29 election at 43 people, with hundreds beaten and more than 5,000 people fleeing to the mountains and elsewhere to escape Zanu-PF militias.

People who have tried to file complaints to the police are, in turn, detained and interrogated, said the MDC, which means few people are coming forward.

On April 25, armed police raided the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) headquarters in Harare and arrested more than 300 men, women and children who had taken refuge there from political violence.

National and international unions have condemned the Zanu-PF for the violence against union members and party activists.

Dockworkers affiliated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions in South Africa and dockworkers in Mozambique refused to unload a ship loaded with AK-47 machine gun bullets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades sold by China to Zimbabwe. The ship returned to China without unloading its cargo.

In a speech to the Zanu-PF’s Central Committee on May 16, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Zimbabwean democracy was stronger than ever and blamed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for inciting rural violence to benefit Western political and corporate interests.

Such violence is needless and must stop forthwith. Our fist is against white imperialism; it is a fist for the people of Zimbabwe, never a fist against them.

The same day, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai delayed his return to Zimbabwe, saying that his party alleged that the military planned to kill him and at least 36 other opposition leaders.

Tsvangirai had been lobbying neighbouring countries and the United Nations to pressure Mugabe to release and accept the election results.

While the MDC refers to Tsvangirai as the President on its web site, it has agreed to contest the presidential run-off in a bid to avoid violence such as that seen in Kenya after its election.

Despite the violence, MDC activists are gearing up for the presidential election campaign. The MDC said that 20,000 activists attended a rally in Harare.

The people are very clear on what they want. They want change. The dictatorship is dead and on 27 June we must attend its burial, said MDC parliamentarian Nelson Chamisa.

— The Industrial Worker 105.04 (June 2008): Zimbabwe arrests unionists, opposition

It’s hard to know what to do in the face of this kind of violence, especially when it is so far away. There may not be much that American workers really can do other than bear witness and hope. But I do want to call special attention to the vital importance of actions like those of the dockworkers in South Africa and Mozambique — an inspiring example both of direct action on the shop floor, and also international labor solidarity. In the end, the actions of workers both in Zimbabwe and in international solidarity campaigns will matter far more than even the fairest, most transparent, most open elections ever will or ever could. What is needed is more — not just inspiring examples, but a coordinated campaign of industrial action against the entire coercive apparatus of Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwean state, to choke off their capacity to attack and terrorize workers.

What Mugabe and his apparatchiks are doing to workers in Zimbabwe is abominable, but we must never forget that the workers have more power standing with our hands in our pockets than all the combined wealth and weapons of the bosses — whether economic, social, or political.

Further reading: