January 2009


ricemadagascar

Rice fields in Madagascar

Glenn Ashton of the The South African Civil Society Information Service has written a telling article about the new colonial land grabs in Africa titled Madagascar: the new land grab.

Just when colonialism was considered dead and buried, along comes neo-colonialism in its latest guise. Allied with its close relatives globalisation, free marketeering and lack of transparency, it is currently launching a new offensive on the disempowered population of this continent. …

Neo-colonialism is now garbed in new clothes. Powerful interests are presently seeking and gaining access to land in government-to-government deals as well as through private capital. These arrangements ostensibly offer to manage land that is not being economically utilised in order to improve food security. But for whom? …

The global food security focussed NGO, GRAIN, issued a report on this phenomenon in October 2008, where they cited more than 100 examples of this new neo-colonial land grab. These land grabs are primarily by nations that have insufficient natural capital or space – such as the desert-bound nations of the Middle East and overpopulated nations such as China and South Korea. They seek to improve the food security of those nations while undermining the ability of host nations to access similar benefits, through the alienation of prime agricultural land. The ecological impacts can also be significant.

Since the GRAIN report was published, the land grab has continued apace. The recent acquisition of a reported 1.3 million hectares (ha) of land in Madagascar by the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation on 99-year lease has raised eyebrows around the world. This land represents around half of that island nation’s arable land.

In Madagascar a reported 70% of the population suffer from food shortages and malnutrition. Nearly 4% are fed through aid programmes. Besides this, more than 50% of the population is below the age of 18. What hope is there for local youth when South African farmers are reportedly being recruited to run the highly mechanised and automated farms under the Daewoo lease? …

China is also actively seeking new land. Given its massive population and constrained access to farmland, China has moved aggressively into Africa with land interests in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. …

Even the World Bank is continuing its role as a neo-colonial consensus agent by actively pursuing and financing access to ‘under-utilised land’ around the world through its International Finance Corporation.

Of course much of the land is “under-utilised” because African countries were following World Bank recommendations and requirements. Malawi used to provide free seeds and fertilizer to its farmers.

The results were impressive, but the subsidies ran afoul of the pro-market policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which argued that subsidies were “crowding out” commercial sales and constituted undue government interference in the economy. Under considerable pressure from these financing institutions, the programme was phased out. The IMF also insisted that Malawi sell much of its national grain reserve to pay off the debts of the state-owned maize marketing agency.

Most Malawian farmers, however, were too poor to pay commercial rates for fertilizer and seeds. As a result, maize yields plunged. When drought struck in 2001 neither farmers nor the government had adequate grain stores to see them through, and more than a thousand people are estimated to have died. Then after the failed 2005 harvest left 5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people on the brink of starvation, the newly elected government of President Mutharika defied the donors and launched the subsidy scheme with its own funds.

Without the seeds and fertilizer, the land was “under-utilized.” People starved because they could not farm. This has been World Bank and IMF policy throughout Africa. As Ashton points out:

… international finance instruments run by the then G5 (now expanded to the G8), such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used aid and so-called development finance instruments to further their interests.

It has been established by repeated research over decades that the smaller the farm the greater the yield. For more information read the article Small is Bountiful, and check the references listed at the end. There are economies of scale with big agriculture. Big agriculture allows the proceeds to be concentrated among a few people unrelated to the people actually living on the land. It is generally harmful to the land, due to the use of toxic chemicals needed to sustain monocultures, and due to unsafe genetic engineering. It is harmful to the people who live in its vicinity, depriving them of their livilihood and damaging their health.

Ashton continues:

Perhaps more sinister is the recent news of leasehold rights being acquired for approximately 400,000 hectares of land in the Southern Sudan from the family of former warlord Gabriel Matip. In a deal struck by US financier Philippe Heilberg, who has used a British Virgin Islands subsidiary of his Jarch Group to facilitate the deal, private interests have intervened directly in disputed territories. Co-directors of the group reportedly include ex-CIA operatives. Given the ongoing instability in that nation and the forced eviction of millions in the neighbouring Darfur region, this sort of land acquisition is perhaps a harbinger of an unsavoury trend in who gets to control the land in disputed territories.

I wrote about this in an earlier post: Jarch Colonial Holdings, and quote Heilberg: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”. His intentions are clear. The Jarch management contains people with connections to both the current and the previous US administrations. You can see their management listed on the Jarch LLC website.

Ashton concludes:

Activities to increase agricultural growth in Africa have also been severely compromised by questionable alliances. For instance AGRA, the African Union endorsed ‘Association for a Green Revolution in Africa,’ has seen the undemocratic and unsolicited intervention of supposedly neutral funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The relationship between these funders and pro-genetically modified food interests (in what is now termed bio-colonialism) has served to actively undermine local agricultural collectives, NGOs and projects that aim to promote and share proven solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of neo-colonialism as it operates behind a veil of philanthropy while (wittingly or unwittingly) undermining democratic structures and interests. The obscene profits accrued by capital over recent decades, instead of being taxed and distributed by state organs, are now in the hands of ill-informed and often ideologically biased do-gooders. For instance, given the technocratic origins of the Gates fortune, it is logical that undue emphasis will be placed on similar technocratic agricultural solutions.

These ‘solutions’ are imposed through slick public relations and the support of corporate aligned agri-business interests such as Africa-Bio and A New Harvest, both of which are linked to GM corporations such as Monsanto, the worlds biggest seed company and genetically modified seed distributor.

There is an urgent need to examine these new neo-colonial thrusts. Careful and objective analysis must be undertaken as to how food and land sovereignty is being compromised through naïve interaction with the new global powers of finance and trade. The interests of global capital need to be tempered by intervention and through more pragmatic approaches that take account of the historical relationships between land, community, food security and economic development.

It is ironic that while Africans have fought to cast aside colonial oppression and its concomitant heritage, we have instead opened gates (pun intended) to a new wave of colonial interests that threaten, yet again, to bypass the marginalised whilst enriching a well-connected minority.

It would be tragic to cast aside Africa’s recently won freedom for a yoke of a different design.

Under democratic governance the people who live on the land would determine how their land is used. As Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.

The US claims to support and foster democracy. This is a test. In fact, it is probably THE test. Without food, none of us survive.

Added January 31:

From the GRAIN website:

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN PARTS TO THIS LAND GRAB BRIEFING:

1. A summary and announcement – available online here:
http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=610

2. The full report is available here:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
Also available in PDF format:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212&pdf

3. The Annex to this briefing is a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf

4. GRAIN has released a Google Notebook with full-text news clippings collected during the research for this briefing as a support to those who want to read more.
http://tinyurl.com/landgrab2008

The notebook is only available online, and the news clippings are not in any order, but it can easily be searched. We are doing this because this is not always an easy subject to research on the internet, if you want a broad picture. People may add further clippings to the notebook as they wish, to further build this collective resource – if you would like to participate, please send an email to landgrab@grain.org . GRAIN will not be maintaining nor be responsible for it. Most of the articles are at present in English. (A backup copy is available in PDF format from here: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=209 )

JonesKagame2005

Retired US Marine is to be Obama’s new National Security Advisor. As Rick Rozoff records:

“Jones is expected to play a key role in the Obama administration. According to U.S. press reports, he will be as strong as Henry Kissinger, the all-powerful national security adviser to President Richard Nixon.”

Under Bush:

Jones was appointed to the NATO post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and the overlapping, essentially co-terminous one of Commander, United States European Command (COMUSEUCOM) in the first Bush term and is part of the two-thirds of the Obama administration’s foreign policy triumvirate – National Security Adviser, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense – inherited from the preceding administration.

During his tenure Jones has not been reticent about his intentions:

Jones has been president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. Until his Dec. 1 selection by Obama, he also served as a board member of the Chevron Corp.” (Houston Chronicle, December 25, 2008)

Establishing such a group [military task force in West Africa] could also send a message to U.S. companies ‘that investing in many parts of Africa is a good idea,’ the general said.” [U.S. Department of Defense, August 18, 2006)

And, just as candidly, he and his NATO civilian cohort declared:
“NATOs’ executives are ready to use warships to ensure the security of offshore oil and gas transportation routes from Western Africa, reportedly said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO’s Secretary General, speaking at the session of foreign committee of PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe]. “On April 30 General James Jones, commander-in-chief of NATO in Europe, reportedly said NATO was going to draw up the plan for ensuring security of oil and gas industry facilities. “In this respect the block is willing to ensure security in unstable regions where oil and gas are produced and transported.” (Trend News Agency, May 3, 2006)

Note that while speaking to those he assumes to be interested and complicit parties, Jones is quite candid in moving his finger across the map of the world and indicating precisely where the Pentagon’s – not the State Department’s, say, or the US Department of Energy’s – priorities lie.

In 2006 Afriquechos reported (machine translation):

Interviewed in his headquarters in Stuttgart in Germany by the “Wall Street Journal”, the boss of the European command of the U.S. Army, General James Jones (photo-against), is categorical. For three years, 70% of his time and all that of his deputy, General Chuck Wald, is devoted to Africa. With three obsessions in mind: radical Islam, energy security and the growing influence of China on the continent. The fact that all three are gathered around the Chadian crisis clearly explains the keen interest shown by American diplomats and military to the latest developments of the situation in N’Djamena.

Jones interest in Africa was reported in the Ghanaian news Insight in 2006, from GhanaWeb:

Marine General James L. Jones, Head of the US European Command, who made the disclosure said the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to two kinds of bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African Countries.

The new US strategy based on the conclusions of May 2001 report of the President�s National Energy Policy Development group chaired by Vice President Richard Cheney and known as the Cheney report. …

In its efforts to promote greater diversity in oil supplies, the Bush Administration is focusing its attention on six African countries, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Chad and Equatorial Guinea. …

The major risks associated with hosting US military installation include terrorist attacks, the destruction of national culture and more direct US control over the lives of the host people

The picture above, of Jones with with Rwanda’s President Kagame is from this 2005 article about military cooperation between the US and Rwanda.

I just heard Hilary Clinton, as Secretary of State (MSNBC Thursday January 22) talking about bringing the 3 Ds, Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. She was followed on the broadcast by a clip of Vice President Biden also speaking about the 3 Ds, but emphsizing the diplomacy and development angle. The 3 Ds have been touted numerous times by spokepersons for AFRICOM. It will be easy to tell what they mean by this. Look at the budget. Where is the money being appropriated and how is it being spent?

And for anyone who knows African history, 3 Ds sounds like a cynically mocking reference to the 19th century 3 Cs, in which Europe was going to bring Africa Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization. We all know how well that worked for Africa. If you need a refresher see Scramble for Africa, or King Leopold’s Ghost, a saga whose murderous ramifications continue to this day. And if you want to see exactly what 3 Cs, now 3 Ds are doing today, Click here to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold.  Or read the book Curse of the Black Gold, and look at the pictures.  Considering what happened with the 3 Cs, I am continually surprised to hear US spokespersons speaking as though the 3 Ds are anything other than an insult. As Omotaylor at the AfricanLoft said, upon hearing of the 3 Ds: “I see the 3 Fs in their endeavour, – Foolery, Fallacy and Failure.”

With two of Obama’s three major foreign policy positions going to people who were architects of AFRICOM under Bush, Gates as Secretary of Defense, and Jones as a powerful National Security Advisor, it does not look like there will be much of a change in approach. When it comes to US military designs on the continent of Africa, creating proxy wars, manipulating governments, and recolonizing the people who live there are likely to continue. This will be done for the sake of US resource hegemony. I think Clinton is tough, but I don’t know if her focus and interest are all that different from Jones and Gates. I truly hope I am wrong in all this, that Obama has better intentions.  I’ll continue to watch the evidence.

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US, Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US on the Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Some excerpts from his Inaugural Address that I thought relevant to topics covered in this blog.  The entire speech was eloquent and  resonant.  (full text here)

Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

… a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

… our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

This exercise supports a lot of U.S. goals“, U.S. Air Force Major Eric Hilliard, of the Africa Command (Africom)

DAKAR, Jan 13 (Reuters) … Communications experts from around 25 African armies and the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) are meeting in Senegal this week to plan a continental exercise in Gabon in July, the third of its kind and intended to pave the way for a common communications platform.

“The aim is to devise a transmission architecture for control, command and coordination, as well as an information system, for an eventual African Union peacekeeping force,” Captain Mouhamadou Sylla, of the Senegalese army, told Reuters.

This exercise also helps cement the US Africa Command in place as an imperial colonial power organizing and directing proxy armies, controlling the tools, techniques, perhaps the language of their communication. It would be nice if the US would invest in standardizing communications between first responders in the US, or in enableing their communication devices to communicate across the board with each other.

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:

The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question. The long-term ramifications of irresponsible training and equipping should be taken into consideration before the U.S. military is awarded more power in Africa. PMC’s should be debated and scrutinized by the African people and parliamentary bodies in every country should be encouraged to enact legislation against their operations. Propping up and arming corrupt leaders is no path to stability in Africa. The U.S. must act as a credible force for peace, not an overzealous superpower that employs private contractors to conduct military operations in Africa.

Many question the idea of training and coordinating African militaries at all. Many African military forces are primarily used against their own people in order to keep the current regime in power.

South African poet and activist Breyten Breytenbach spoke of US interest in Africa:

… it would seem that the two major sources of interest when it comes to the African continent for the United States is security, the way they interpret it, in other words, how to counteract the possibility of Islamist influence in Africa.

And the second one, of course, is the access to natural resources, particularly to oil. Same effect. In other words, you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.

He also spoke in the larger context on government in African countries:

If I may step back for a minute, there’s a big picture that’s emerging in Africa. Africa is rapidly moving to the point where we’re going to have to reconsider the viability of the nation-state concept, when it comes to the African continent, because governments are falling apart. These are plundering elites, as in the case of Zimbabwe, and as is the case with Senegal, for that matter, who use the notion of sovereignty, of national sovereignty and of national independence to be able to plunder and pillage their own people. African armies don’t fight one another; they fight the civilian population.

But you have—parallel to that, you have developing a network, a continental network of civil society organizations, women’s organizations, children’s organizations, the youth, cultural organizations, human rights organizations. Those really, to a large extent, now produce very essential services. One should invest in these organizations. That’s the way it should happen. But, of course, it’s a complicated thing, because you are then denying this club, this very well fed, comfortable club, international club of rulers recognizing one another.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes more on these civil society groups that are actually doing the work of governing in much of Africa:

But there’s another side of Africa, the one that pushes back. This side is comprised of political and social organisations and activists, school teacher organisations, journalists, and health professionals, as well as women, worker, and youth organisations that patiently chip away at Africa’s problems usually with no funding, media coverage, or national and international recognition to speak of.

These Africans work against great odds to prevent famine, war, human rights abuse, the spread of AIDS, and a host of other urgent issues. When tragedy strikes, they work hard to ameliorate the effect. But even when they aren’t facing political persecution, they are under-funded and without the protection that comes with media coverage. They are the unseen, under-supported and unrecognised pillars of African societies.

… the question is why it is much easier for us to listen to philanthropists talk about what is wrong with Africa rather than the serious and dedicated political activists on the ground. Why are we not helping those who are helping themselves?

We love glossy packages that promise big bangs and super solutions. Take the Bill Gates Initiative, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa that promises super seeds for super plants to end famine in Africa. A simpler and more long-lasting solution lies in organic African farming, growing more food crops over cash crops, the diversification of African agriculture, and the depoliticisation of food and other basic human necessities.

The point is that every little bit of support counts and it can come in many forms – moral solidarity, awareness-raising, or financial support. But this help should not be afraid of the Africa that pushes back, or come at the expense of long-term solutions. One helping hand should not kill dreams with the other.

It looks like Breyten Breytenbach is correct when he says to the US:

“… you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.”

Montgomery McFate - lead scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System
Montgomery McFate – lead social scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain system is supposed to provide information to the military on local people and local culture. I have written about it in relation to AFRICOM previously here: Human Terrain mired in a swamp.

HTS seems to be mired deeper than ever.

John Stanton describes:

Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater, destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.

… Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described by HTS personnel as “a poisonous individual,” “the crazy aunt in the room”, and a “hustler”. One said “you’ve got to watch your six with her.”

Here are some quotes from people involved in the Human Terrain project:

“The HTS program is a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, and in the midst of a recession. Millions have been wasted. And the moronic management of the HTS program seems to have absolutely no problem placing poorly trained individuals in harm’s way, going so far as to falsifying training documents.”

“The amount of cash flying around the HTS program with very little oversight or accountability is disgusting. I continue to work for the HTS program out of obligation because I finish what I start, but trust me, I am counting down the days.”

“I feel for the people whose careers are being ground up in this HTS program mess.”

“It never ceases to amaze me how many egotistical individuals are involved with this HTS program.”

The article points out:

It isn’t really necessary to bring in academics to try to understand psychology, except perhaps for rare pathologies that are not likely to be encountered in everyday life [evolutionary psychology can speak to that]. Where HTS could have helped a lot is in understanding cultural norms and they did try to do that. But it seems to me that HTS over-promised when they claimed that they could help front-line tactical troops with specific situational awareness problems. The key thing to remember is that the differences between any two humans’ behaviors will be greater than the differences in behaviors between cultures.”

As someone who has moved between cultures a certain amount, I heartily endorse this last sentence.

Montgomery McFate, pictured above, is a major player in the fraud and failure. There is a great version of the picture of her here. And more about her domestic spying at Mother Jones.

More from journalist John Stanton on HTS:

Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends.

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”

Interesting about AFRICOM HQ being located in Botswana. I have wondered about this. I have read other speculation on Botswana as the location. The current President of Botswana seems amiably disposed towards western militarism. So far I have seen nothing official.

jarch
Because it is YOUR Land,
YOUR Natural Resources,
WE put boots on the ground to keep YOU In Line!

This looks like a job for AFRICOM.

From the Financial Times: US investor buys Sudanese warlord’s land. (h/t to b, and to b real for his extensive research)

A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa’s biggest private land deal. …

… In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr Heilberg is gambling on a warlord’s continuing control of a region where his militia operated in the civil war between Khartoum and south Sudan.

“You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York.

Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company that counts on its board former US state department and intelligence officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and expert on Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and under former president Bill Clinton at the White House.

Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, and have yet to be clarified in a planned land act. For this reason, some foreign experts on Sudan as well as officials in the regional government, speaking on condition of anonymity, doubted Mr Heilberg could assert legal rights over such a vast tract of land. …

Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia, are all primary targets of interest for AFRICOM, all are targeted for “nation building” and for training proxy militaries.

“If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is any value,” he said, adding that he was also in contact with rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.

This is what is important to remember. As b at Moon of Alabama writes:

An political connected outfit like Jarch will not make such an investment when it is not sure that it can push the U.S. government to protect it.

This looks like work for AFRICOM, and those nation “building” mercenaries employed by the State Department and the Pentagon, the same ones who have done so much for the Iraqi people, and for America’s image in Iraq.

The lease agreement was also described in the Sudan Tribune:

“Jarch has leased approximately 400,000 hectares gross of prime farmland from General Paulino Matip. In addition, Jarch will acquire more farm land within Southern Sudan,” said a statement issued by the investment group.

The statement also noted that Mayom county, where the farmland was leased, contains some mineral resources, for which contracts will be executed by the Government of Southern Sudan in early 2009.

There was another story about this in the Financial Times: Quest to create a new Sudan bread basket.

Unity state does border the White Nile and its flat, arable land could, with billions of dollars of investment in irrigation and roads, be transformed into a world-class bread basket.

Mr. Heilberg has no problem with war, violence, and death.

Mr Matip fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement against the northern army before gaining notoriety during one of the bloodiest episodes in Sudan’s civil war, when he switched sides to form his own militia, with backing from parts of his Nuer tribe and the Khartoum regime.

“I am sure Paulino has killed many, but I am sure he did it in protection of his people,” Mr Heilberg says in his defence.

Which is very convenient and, of course, makes everything OK.

Mr Matip’s son Gabriel, who controls the company in which Jarch has bought a majority stake, told the Financial Times that he had negotiated with tribal leaders to secure access to more land.

He said the company also had written agreement for the agricultural development of the land, and other land it may secure in the south of the country, from the ministry of agriculture and forestry in south Sudan.

This means that people, who are likely illiterate, are being cheated out of their traditional lands, lands that have been in their clans and families for centuries. Written contracts backed up by guns and “law” will make that certain. Based on how this works in other places, it will have particularly adverse effects on women, who generally have some economic protections under traditional property practices. When these practices are “westernized”, women lose that traditional protection and get nothing in return.

b asks:

Now ask yourself why the U.S. is fighting terror in Somalia.

Who might have financed the tanks and other weapons from the Ukraine with destination to South Sudan and captured by Somali pirates?

And who finances the Safe Darfur campaign that wants the U.S. to militarily intervene in Sudan?

Mr. Heilberg, Joe Wilson and the investors who pay them are obviously ruthless about the consequences of their enterprise. But it is certain that this will end in war which will have to be endured by the people living on the fertile land Mr. Heilberg leased.

Why is such behavior still or again considered legal?

AFRICOM was designed for just such purpose. This is the “stabilization” and “nation building” that are more traditionally and more accurately called colonialism and imperialism.

On the Jarch Capital LLC website, with Africa highlighted in red, pictured above, it says: Because it is YOUR Land, YOUR Natural Resources!

Mr. Heilberg shows his true intentions and true contempt for Africans when he says: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”

___________________________________________

Added May 2009:

New York investment firm mulling more land leases in S. Sudan
Sudan Tribune
16 April 2009

Jarch Management Group, Ltd., a US investment firm, disclosed that it is considering additional opportunities to lease large tracts of farmland in Southern Sudan.

This report follows the announcement in January of a massive lease agreement that prompted some tension within governing circles in Southern Sudan.

In an apparent change of course from oil investing to agriculture, Jarch Management took a 70% interest in the Sudanese company Leac for Agriculture and Investment and leased approximately 400,000 hectares of land claimed by General Paulino Matip, a figure now straddling a deep fissure within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

In a statement emailed to Sudan Tribune today the company disclosed that it aims to lease another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.

“Since its January 2009 announcement that it had leased about 400,000 hectares, the Company has had a multitude of offers to buy and lease farmland from around the world,” said a statement from the management of the company.

“However, the Company is focused on frontier African countries and continues to look for opportunities in farmland and other natural resources in these countries. As such, the Company hopes to conclude more deals for more leased farmland. The Company is hopeful that it can lease at least another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.”

South Sudanese law requires that large leases of land be approved by two local government bodies. Accordingly, a January statement from Leac Company noted that the acquisition would include dealings with local land authorities and stressed that “the state and local governments shall have budgets for development because of the cash flows from the agricultural schemes the two companies will operate.”

While U.S. companies are banned from doing business in Sudan, agriculture in Southern Sudan is exempted from sanctions provided that the national government does not have any stake in the business and provided that no imports or exports pass through non-exempt areas.

Jarch Management Group, Ltd, which is registered in the Virgin Islands, is managed by New York investor Philippe Heilberg, commodities traders and former State Department and Central Intelligence Agency officials, among others.

mandela-cellphone

MXit

From the CMS Watch Trendwatch Blog, Theresa Regli writes of a visit to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Most of the schools and homes in this area (including our translator’s) had no electricity or plumbing; in these parts, it costs approximately 300 ZAR (about US$30) to send a child to school for the year (including textbooks). Most people don’t own cars, so oftentimes groups of people stand along the side of the road waiting for a ride.

And while they wait, they tap away text messages on their mobile devices.

It was then I learned the Zulu word uma-khala-khukhwIni, which translates literally as “thing that rings in the pocket.” In a country where unemployment hovers around 25%, men in rural areas tend to leave for several weeks at a time to work near a city, then come home with money and things for the kids, like mobile phones. Those who don’t have electricity go to a general store in town to plug the phone in and charge it. These kids may not have running water, but they can look things up on Wikipedia.

Naturally I was curious about the economics: how could these kids afford to rack up SMS messaging costs in an area where wealth is still largely measured by cattle, and public education only arrived after the fall of apartheid?

It turns out that the communication happens via a service called MXit, a free instant messaging software application that runs on GPRS/3G mobile phones with Java support, and native to South Africa. MXit doesn’t charge for sending and receiving person to person messages, and while some service providers charge for GPRS/3G data cost, these costs are comparatively minuscule, about 1 ZAR cent, or one tenth of a US penny.

Smart companies have the foresight to think about content distribution beyond the technology elite … where mobile phones far outnumber PCs, you’d be wise to do the same.

Texting to tackle HIV

CNN reported in December:

One million free text messages will be sent every day for 12 months from Monday in South Africa in a bid to raise HIV awareness and encourage testing for the disease.

The ambitious Project Masiluleke is being rolled out across the country after a pilot period that saw calls to a AIDS national helpline shoot up by 200 percent, organizers say.

‘Project Masiluleke,’ or ‘Project M’ was set up to try to encourage people to seek testing and treatment in a country where cell phones are abundant.

Africa is cited as the fastest growing mobile-phone network in the world. In South Africa, more than 80 percent of the population has one — the country has a population of 49 million, and it is estimated that 43 million have cell phones. Almost 95 percent of the phones are prepaid.

The initiative plans to broadcast millions of health messages every month to phones across South Africa.

“This is the largest ever use of cell phones for health information,” said Gustav Praekelt, one of the project’s originators.

There is near universal coverage,” said Praekelt during the launch of the project. “And in the absence of other services, the mobile phone has become the central component for people to get access to information.”

Organizers say ‘Project M’ will offer South Africans the privacy to get tested and pursue treatment options and counseling by staff who are HIV positive themselves.

The system sends the messages using a so-called “Please Call Me” (PCM) service. This free form of text messaging, common across Africa, allows someone without any phone credit to send a text to a friend asking them to call.

Each sent PCM message has the words “Please Call Me,” the phone number of the caller, and space for an additional 120 characters. The extra space is normally filled with advertising, which helps offset the cost of running the service.

The message reads: “Frequently sick, tired, losing weight and scared that you might be HIV positive? Please call AIDS Helpline 0800012322.”

Encouraging people to get tested is a huge challenge in a country where people with the AIDS virus still face stigma and shame.

However, ‘Project M’ appears to be having an impact, since it was initiated in October.

“We have observed a dramatic increase in the call rate to the AIDS Helpline — from approximately 1,300 calls per day to a new average of 3,600,” said Milo Zama, Projects Development Manager for LifeLine, one of the partners.

Trained operators provide callers with accurate healthcare information, and referrals to local testing clinics

Many of the messages are broadcast in English and in local languages such as Zulu.

Political Robocalls in Ghana

Political robocalls are nothing new in the US. Many people regard them as more a curse than a blessing. So some may not see this as a great leap forward. Still, I suspect the trend may be just beginning in Ghana. David Ajao reports from right before the December 7 general election:

A Phone Call from Nana Akufo-Addo
By Oluniyi David Ajao
December 4th, 2008

When I saw a call on my cellular phone from a number +233 10 0000, my heart missed a bit. And why not? This was a very strange phone number that I know does not exist but I still answered the phone, albeit cautiously. Lo and behold, it was the voice of the ruling NPP’s Presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, speaking in Twi and essentially asking me to vote for him. The message lasted exactly 45 seconds.

I could tell that it was a recorded message. This must be one of the last minute campaign strategies by the New Patriotic Party, to sway the floating voters. I can see that we are indeed moving forward with technology in Ghana.

Unfortunately Nana, I am not an eligible voter. All the same, may the best man win!

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