September 2009


Ruaraka Export Processing Zone, EPZ, near Nairobi.  This is the fifth or sixth hour of production.  The 900 indicates the total number of jeans produced at that time.  But the daily target is indicated on the green papers, which is between 1200 and 1500.  If the EPZ workers do not meet this target by 5pm, they will have to stay until they finish.  They will not be paid overtime because they were supposed to reach the target in 8 hours.  (picture from Pamoja Tunaweza slideshow)

Ruaraka Export Processing Zone, EPZ, near Nairobi. This is the fifth or sixth hour of production. The 900 indicates the total number of jeans produced at that time. But the daily target is indicated on the green papers, which is between 1200 and 1500. If the EPZ workers do not meet this target by 5pm, they will have to stay until they finish. They will not be paid overtime because they were supposed to reach the target in 8 hours. (picture from Pamoja Tunaweza slideshow, link below)

In Jendayi E. Frazer’s 4-Point Plan to Plunder and Pillage Africa Sophia Tesfamariam writes a devasting indictment of the AGOA program, the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Tesfamariam has also collected and included some of the most searing criticisms made by a variety of people familiar with the program. She shreds all of Frazer’s points, but AGOA gets the most extensive treatment.

Almost 10 years since the introduction of AGOA by the Clinton Administration, oil imports to the US from Nigeria, Angola and Gabon still make up over 94% of Africa´s export to the US under AGOA. So who benefited? As we shall see later, the much touted “success” in the textile sectors were a gross exaggeration and in some cases actually reversed development of these sectors and destroyed nascent industries. Many African economists and analysts had reservations about AGOA and I, as a longtime Africa observer, had strong reservations about it and said so. I was actually happy when Eritrea was unceremoniously removed from the list…it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I was not alone in my suspicions of AGOA; here are some of the voices that were just as skeptical and critical of AGOA from the very beginning, voices that were ignored and gagged by the likes of Frazer:

“…African countries are pressured to adopt WTO-like, and even WTO-plus, provisions relating to intellectual property rights protection, investment and financial liberalisation, and labour – all in exchange for some illusory benefits. The AGOA is a US law enacted by the US for the purpose of securing opportunities for US businesses, to the detriment of African economies. It offers no benefits for African economies. The AGOA is a Trojan horse used to trap African governments into giving up their legitimate rights under the WTO…”-(Dakar Manifesto 2001)

“… we reject on principle the “conditionality” approach, which tramples on the sovereignty of African nations and the democratic rights of its people to shape national policy…”-(Letter signed by 35 Africa based NGOs)

“…This is a matter over which we have serious reservations… To us this is not acceptable…”- (Former South African President Nelson Mandela )

AGOA is the “Africa Recolonization Act”-(Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.)

“…the only groups targeted for assistance are the multinationals who largely control Africa’s trade and access to rich markets…”-(The Association of Concerned African Scholars)

“…To argue that AGOA will be the means by which we can penetrate the US market is a delusion. The main effect of AGOA is to link aid to economic reform, [such as] the dismantling of a states regulatory environment. There are no benefits, and the costs include clear manifestations of deepening structural adjustment and deregulation. AGOA is simply another way of undermining Africa´s ability to mobilize domestic resources for development…”-(Charles Abugre, director of the Integrated Social Development Center in Ghana)

There are several conditions that have to be met to become eligible for AGOA, including one that says that the country has to have a “market-based economy” and has to “eliminate all barriers to US trade and investment”. There is also a provision of AGOA that is not listed amongst the formal conditions for eligibility and is not often mentioned by Frazer and her cohorts. It is the one that says that unlimited duty-free exports of textiles and apparels are allowed only if they are produced with American raw materials. In addition, the President has the authority to suspend duty free apparel if they “cause serious damage, or threat thereof” to the domestic US industry. So Africa, with its unlimited raw materials had to sell in the world market at lower than cost to others who then turn around and sell finished products to Africans who then make the apparel to send to the US. It is actually mind boggling that African leaders actually agreed to do it, essentially destroying their own farmers.

Since Frazer mentioned Lesotho´s textile sector, let us take a look at Lesotho and three other countries, Madagascar, Namibia, and Uganda to appreciate the effects of AGOA on nascent African textile industries.

Imagine my shock when I found out that there were over 50 Taiwanese-owned clothing factories in Lesotho, a very small country (the size of Maryland) that is completely surrounded by South Africa. The way Frazer talks about Lesotho, you are led to believe that the people of Lesotho owned the factories that were producing these AGOA eligible products. The Taiwanese sought to take advantage of AGOA and Lesotho´s proximity to South Africa´s good roads, highways and ports to ship million of jeans, T-shirts and other apparel to American stores such as the GAP, K-Mart, J.C Penney at low cost. As for the thousands of new jobs for women, Frazer forgets to tell her readers that the job migration to the capital was a result of the collapse in rural farming which used to be entirely run by women. The men in Lesotho used to earn a good living by going to mine in South Africa, but they have lost their mining jobs because South Africa stopped importing foreign workers, and decided to use mechanized mining, leaving the men in Lesotho without any livelihood. That is how the women of Lesotho became the breadwinners.

So there was no real increase in overall employment and because only women were being hired at these plants to sew and thread etc. the men were left unemployed and desperate. The situation did not create wealth for the people of Lesotho. Corporate America benefited from cheap labor and transportation costs. As a matter of fact, despite what Frazer wants us to believe about Lesotho, the textile industry in Lesotho was well underway before AGOA ever came into the picture and AGOA may have actually irreversibly stunted its growth and development. The real and serious challenge to Lesotho is what happens to it in 2015 when the initiative ends and Lesotho made products no longer have privilege to enter the United States market.

AGOA was a nightmare for the people of Namibia, they became victims of the predatory transnational corporations like Ramatex Textile & Garment Factory, a Malaysian company moved to Namibia in 2001 to take advantage of AGOA. The plant turned cotton (imported duty free from West Africa) into textiles for the US market. Herbert Jauch, head of research and education for the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI) in a 26 March 2008 Report stated that:

“…A study carried out by LaRRI in 2003 found widespread abuses of workers rights, including included forced pregnancy tests for women who applied for jobs; non-payment for workers on sick leave; very low wages and no benefits; insufficient health and safety measures; no compensation in case of accidents; abuse by supervisors; and open hostility towards trade unions etc…Ramatex used a significant number of Asian migrant workers, mostly from China, the Philippines and Bangladesh. Although the company claimed that they were brought in as trainers, most of them were employed as mere production workers with basic salaries of around U$ 300 – 400 per month which were higher than their Namibian counterparts…”

In the end, Ramatex, the only beneficiary under AGOA in Namibia, closed its factory leaving hundreds and thousands of Namibians unemployed. Rauch writes:

“…Ramatex represents a typical example of a transnational corporation playing the globalisation game. Its operations in Namibia have been characterised by controversies, unresolved conflicts and tensions…Worst affected were the thousands of young, mostly female workers who had to endure highly exploitative working conditions for years and in the end were literally dumped in the streets without any significant compensation…Ramatex had shown the same disregard for workers when it closed its subsidiary Rhino Garments in Namibia in 2005…”

On 19 November 2007 the Namibian paper quoted President Pohamba as saying:

“…AGOA has not yielded the desired results as far as American investment is concerned despite the incentives provided by African governments to potential investments…”

The story of Tri-Star in Uganda is basically the same story of exploitation and destruction of nascent indigenous industries, plunder of abundant human and material resources and another example of how African governments have squandered the peoples´ resources in order to curry favor with Washington. Lowery Museveni´s Ugandan government promoted Tri-Star in order to cash in on AGOA. During its operation, Tri Star imported fabric from Asia and then made finished clothing products for US markets, even though there is ample cotton in Uganda. Instead of investing Uganda´s resources on establishing milling factories, the Government of Uganda chose instead to do what was the quickest and best option for US importers. The expectations were high. According to a report published by the BBC in 2004:

“…The Tri-Star apparel factory in the Kampala suburb of Bugolobi is bright and clean. Large motivational signs urge staff to build the nation. Banners on the wall read “Made in Uganda, sold in USA”…Tri-Star supplies clothes to a range of US companies…There are more than 2,000 workers at the site, stitching clothes to sell to American companies such as Wal-Mart, JC Penney and Target…”

Judy Auma, a Uganda based Staff Writer for African Executive wrote the following about Tri Star, in a January 2007 article:

“…The factory, which was launched 5 years ago, received high government support and was viewed as an opportunity for Uganda to exploit USA´s tariff and quota free market. Ugandans were made to believe the establishment would not only nurture a rich and stable market for Uganda´s struggling cotton farmers, but also become a reliable source of employment…Since its inception, the factory has neither bought a single bail of Uganda´s local cotton nor exported a stitch from locally produced fabric. Worse still, it has promoted nearly zero growth in terms of employment and the development of the cotton sector…”

The company left the country without repaying any of its debts, leaving behind a destitute workforce and an industry struggling to remain afloat.

What about Madagascar, the other nation that Frazer and company tell us benefited from AGOA? It too has not fared well. A segment of the population, again, only women, may have benefited from its textile sector, but all that is at risk today, not because of anything of their doing but because of political problems in that country that may disqualify Madagascar from the AGOA list. As for AGOA benefiting the Malagasy people, let us take a look at the statistics. A 29 March 2009 Africa Rising report says:

“…the promised AGOA benefits have not translated to a better life for Madagascar´s people. Madagascar ranks at 143 out of 179 countries measured by the United Nations´ Human Development Index Despite its economic progress on paper, the country ranks 164th in terms of gross domestic product per capital…”

Reports surfaced in June 2009 about Washington threatening to pull the plug on Madagascar´s AGOA certification. These reports said:

“…Madagascar could be removed from eligibility for trade preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act due to a recent change in government that the U.S. has determined was “undemocratic and contrary to the rule of law… the State Department has classified the change in government as a coup d´etat and is therefore moving to suspend assistance to the government of Madagascar…”

Madagascar is a good example of the US State Departments hypocrisy and duplicity. Everyone knows that Ethiopia is by no means a democratic country and that the minority regime has:

Violated international law and the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commissions´ final and binding delimitation decisions and numerous Security Council resolutions on Eritrea and Ethiopia, it has also violated both the African Union and the United Nations Charters by invading and occupying sovereign Eritrean and Somali territories

Committed international crimes in Somalia including rape, murder and wanton destruction.

Violated and continues to violate the human rights of the Ethiopian people by detaining thousands across the country for voting against the regime in the 2005 elections. Thousands more are being held on trumped up charges, including Birtukan Medeksa, a prominent Ethiopian opposition leader and a judge. It should be noted here that Ethiopia is one of the countries used by the Bush Administration in its extraordinary rendition program where prisoners are taken to places like Ethiopia where in secret CIA run prisons they are interrogated and tortured.

Committed genocides in the Gambela, Ogaden and Oromia regions of Ethiopia. Genocide Watch and other rights groups are seeking a ICC indictment against the regime.

Yet, the US State Department that is threatening to remove Madagascar from the list for violating one of the AGOA conditions today, has refused to take any punitive actions against Meles Zenawi´s regime that has committed even graver crimes.

I am in no way suggesting that Ethiopian textile workers pay for the crimes committed by Meles Zenawi and his regime by having their AGOA status revoked, I am however suggesting that the US State Department, if it wants to salvage its fledgling credibility, can “look the other way” and don´t punish the Malagasy textile sector workers for the “coup” in Madagascar, for which they had no part. By the way, Madagascar may turn out to be the only “success” story on AGOA.

Today, the US State Department´s own Inspector General in his August 2009 agrees with this author and others who were skeptical of AGOA from the get-go. Here is what he said in his scathing Report about Frazer´s Bureau of African Affairs and AGOA:

“…the economic impact of AGOA has been limited even though most of sub-Saharan Africa is now in AGOA… Many African countries have yet to benefit substantially from AGOA preferences. Poorly developed infrastructure, a lack of affordable credit, weak merchandising, and an inability to meet U.S. phytosanitary regulations are among the many factors that thus far have limited the intended trade promotion and diversification effects of AGOA… The bulk of AGOA exports result from petroleum and other extractive industries. When U.S. imports of African petroleum products are excluded, the sum of trade for which AGOA can make some boast for promoting is relatively small…”

Johnnie Carson, the new US Secretary of State for African Affairs ought to take a closer look at AGOA and make realistic and non-parasitic recommendations to the Obama Administration.

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Picture above from the Ruaraka slideshow by Pamoja Tunaweza, scroll down to the bottom of this page to view the pictures, and read what people say about being in or near the EPZ.

The US Africa Command, AFRICOM, is beginning to put together a US military base in the Seychelles.

US to Base Drones in Seychelles to Fight Piracy

The United States is planning to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles in the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks …
Dozens of American military and civilian personnel will also be based at the airport to oversee the Navy-led mission for the next several months.

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques)

MAHE ISLAND, Seychelles - Members of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3, show Seychelles Coast Guard divers how to conduct underwater searches during an exercise at the coast guard base on Mahe Island, Seychelles, August 5, 2009. Members of the EODMU-3 are currently deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trina Jeanjacques

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

SEYCHELLES - Seychelles President James Michel (right) shakes hands with General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa command, during Ward's visit to the island nation in August 2009. Michel and Ward engaged in discussions on security-related issues, including the strengthening of U.S. surveillance in collaboration with the Seychelles government to fight against piracy. (Photo courtesy of Seychelles, Office of the President)

In addition to the Reaper UAVs, the U.S. military is also considering basing Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Seychelles for a limited time. Like the Reaper, the Orion can survey a large region and help deter attacks.

As you can see from the picture above, the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 3 are doing training in the Seychelles. So it looks like they may be preparing for dives looking for explosive ordnance at some point. So far there is no indication Somali pirates have sunk any explosive ordinance, although US military contractors may have done so in Lake Victoria.

The leadership of the Seychelles seem pleased with the US presence.
US Navy steps up Seychelles piracy protection

The president of the Republic of Seychelles, James Michel, has hailed this week’s discussions with General William E. Ward, commander of US Africa Command(AFRICOM), as “extremely warm and fruitful.”
President James Michel has welcomed the announcement by the United States of America of its intention to operate surveillance assets, to include P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles in Seychelles.
The announcement follows in depth high-level discussions between the two countries on means of strengthening the security situation in the region, which builds on recently ratified provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement by the Seychelles National Assembly

“This new venture is both a concrete step in the fight against piracy and a symbol of the trust and understanding which exists between the governments of the Republic of Seychelles and the United States of America. We look forward to continually strengthening this partnership based on our mutual desire for peace and stability in the region,” the President stated following the meeting

A Status of Forces Agreement is one necessary preliminary for any basing activity. You can see the warm and fruitful meeting of General Ward and President Michel in the picture above.

A recent Ecoterra International SMCM update makes the point that the Seychelles are:

… a key transshipment point for poached tuna from the Indian Ocean to Japan.

Although much of the piracy in Somali waters is illegal and unregulated fishing, the international navies gathered in Somali waters seem disinclined to do anything to prevent this particularly profitable form of piracy.

From the Stars and Stripes: U.S. plans land-based UAV patrols to combat piracy

About 75 U.S. military personnel and civilians will be headed to the Seychelles islands in the coming weeks to set up the Reaper operations, which could start in October or November. U.S. Africa Command is calling the Navy-led mission Ocean Look.

The mission should last several months, with a Reaper airborne at all times, Crawley said. Details on exactly how long the UAVs would be in the Seychelles are still being worked out, he said.

The UAVs would not be armed.

“We will get it up and running and see for a few months if it is the right assets and location (for counterpiracy). It is a very strategic location

It is a very strategic location for a lot more than counterpiracy, which looks a bit like an afterthought in that sentence.

From the Seychelles Nation on August 12,

US surveillance plane visits Seychelles
As part of US support for Seychelles against piracy and other security threats, a P-3 Orion aircraft of the United States Africa Command arrives in Seychelles today.

The visit of this military plane is said by the US embassy in Port Louis, Mauritius, to be a further sign of the ongoing partnership between the people of the US and of Seychelles.

The P-3 Orion, a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft, has been the US Navy’s frontline, land-based maritime patrol aircraft since the 1960s.

Originally designed as a long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol plane, the P-3C’s mission has evolved since the late 1990s to include surveillance either at sea or over land, where its long range and long loiter time have proved invaluable assets.

The P-3C has advanced submarine detection sensors such as directional frequency and ranging sonobuoys, and magnetic anomaly detection equipment.

The avionics system is integrated by a general purpose digital computer that supports all the tactical displays and monitors, automatically launches weapons and provides flight information to the pilots. The system also coordinates navigation information and accepts sensor data input for tactical display and storage.

This looks like the US is looking for a lot more than just Somalis in surface boats.
h/t to b real’s africa comments, August and September 2009 for much of this research.

And an IMG Press reports AFRICOM pitched their tents TO SEYCHELLES It reports much of the same information as above, but adds something about the money involved (via google translator Italian to English):

The U.S. military presence was requested by local government after the attacks of pirates against ships at sea, some among the islands. Last April, the President of Seychelles, James Michel, had interrupted an official visit to Japan after two national units had been seized off the Comoros islands. A few days later, the cruise ship MSC Melody “, en route from Durban (South Africa) to Genoa with over 1,000 passengers and 550 crew members, was approached by a pirate boat but was readily detected and blocked by a Spanish frigate. “Such incidents – said President Michel – are dangerous not only because they are acts of terrorism, but because it might push the cruise ship out of our territorial waters and seriously wounding the national tourism.”

The dependence of the country from foreign currency is total. Unable to think of any form of development or at least self-centered to a diversification of sources of economic input to the government authorities the defense of luxury tourism becomes vital, at the cost of accelerating the transfer of islands and islets to individuals and give way for the U.S. militarization of the archipelago. Already a year before the crisis linked to Somali pirates, the employment rate of the hotel industry had suffered a decline of 60-65 percent. In favor of the Seychelles is the International Monetary Fund intervened with an emergency loan, while the Paris Club has canceled 45% of a debt of 215 million.

An anti-pirates, the Seychelles have equipped their coastguards two modern fast boats. They also asked a number of countries to transfer their military units in defense of territorial waters. The legislative authority has already approved a pact of “military cooperation” with the U.S. military, while the Department of Defense has allocated $ 300,000 for the country in the 2008-2010 period of the training program “IMET International Military Educations and Training “. Military advisers and specialists of “Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA)”, the U.S. joint forces unit stationed in Djibouti, working alongside the local military since 2005. In May 2009, the men of Africom Command in Stuttgart have held a weekly cycle of conferences and meetings with local military and civilian authorities in view of “improving procedures for air traffic control” and a “strengthening of bilateral for security and intelligence and reduce criminal activity in the Indian Ocean. ” The next month, in the main ports of the Seychelles have made a long stop operating naval units of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, the multinational force set by the command of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain to patrol the waters of the Indian and Gulf of Aden. Alongside the military boats in the Seychelles work well for some time a ship of the Indian Navy helicopter carrier, armed with guns “Bofors” 40 mm .. Sixty French marines are aboard a dozen large vessels for tuna fishing in the waters of Seychelles that will remain until the end of October.

I think this provides a clue as to why the Seychelles allowed, and may have invited a US base. They need the money badly. Tourism has collapsed, probably due to the global economy as much or more than piracy. Supposedly this US military activity is only a temporary arrangement. But the base at Djibouti was supposed to be temporary, but is now digging in for permanent residence. And I wonder if the French marines may be protecting the tuna pirates.

Right now nobody is calling it a base, rather a temporary agreement. But it is clear that what is going on is preliminary to setting up more activities and more infrastructure. The Seychelles needs the income, and the US wants a base in that strategic location, and is putting up the money. But the US is not without competition, as b real points out:

… , the Seychelles archipelago is a valuable geostrategic Indian Ocean asset in the eyes of all the big players on global stage. China and India are currently wooing its government. Neocons and kin are worried about China challenging U.S. naval dominance & superpower status by utilizing this “”unsinkable aircraft carrier” in its line of communications w/ Africa:

Taking into account the fact that the Republic of Seychelles 110 Islands are scattered over a wide surface of the Western Indian Ocean, which includes a vital oil route and taking into account that important oil producing Nations are within rocket striking distance, the geo-political importance of Seychelles cannot be under-estimated.

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For more on drones over Africa see: Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies

It is not only at the US Embassy in Afghanistan that there are problems with the ArmorGroup/Wackenhut security guards, particularly the supervisors, as has been recently documented by POGO. And ArmorGroup/Wackenhut are not the only contractors to operate without serious and adequate supervision, or who fail to fulfill their US contracts in a safe and ethical manner.

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Godwin and Barnabas, Ugandan security guards in Iraq

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

Looking for opportunity: Ugandan recruits hoping to work as private security guards in Iraq undergo basic firearms training in Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 15 2008, Max Delany

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO [Project on Government Oversight] believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

State has repeatedly warned AGNA [ArmorGroup North America] about its performance on this security contract, but its threats have been empty. As a result, violations of the contract continue.

the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out. The language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act could be strengthened to prohibit the reliance on private security contractors for inherently governmental functions, and to include protection of the diplomatic mission in a combat zone as being inherently governmental. If embassy security in combat zones is determined not to be an inherently governmental function, the State Department should consider requiring military supervision of its private security contractors guarding U.S. embassies in combat zones.

By now most people have seen the grotesque pictures of the lewd and abusive games played by the ArmorGroup contractors in Afghanistan. It appears primarily the supervisors who are out of control. The State Department has neglected to supervise or hold anyone to account for grievous violations of their contracts. State has remained intentionally blind to the problems of contractor negligence and abuse.

The the Concerned Foreign Service Officers have issued a statement:

Concerned Foreign Service Officers has for years lamented that the internal corporate culture of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security promotes the concept that all things are allowable in defense of the nation’s security, and that employees who perform illegal acts in the name of security will be protected. The directors of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s security infrastructure promote an all-for-one team mentality which encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law. Complaints of improprieties in investigations and other activities are routinely ignored. Internal oversight is a joke and external oversight is blocked. The ugly photos currently making the news are a particularly ugly manifestation of that culture.

CFSO believes however that such aberrations do not occur when organizations promote a culture of accountability. Large-scale improprieties occur only when perpetrators feel secure that their actions will be either tolerated or ignored. …

Concerned Foreign Service Officers hopes that the search for explanations for the events at the American Embassy in Kabul will not stop at the front lines, but will also target the culture in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that allowed these activities to occur, and those directors of State’s security infrastructure who promote that culture.

There are many security guards from Uganda in Iraq, and by now there are probably some in Afghanistan as well. US PMCs have hired many of their security personnel from Uganda, including guards at the US Embassy in Uganda:

Uganda: Guards Petition American Embassy Over Mistreatment

by Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, August 27th, 2009

At least 200 security guards protecting various American facilities in and around Kampala have petitioned the embassy protesting what they describe as unfair treatment by their bosses.

The guards were contracted by the American Embassy through a local private security, Armor Group. However, Armor Group recently sold its interests to Group 4 Securicor which currently provides security at US offices and residences in the country -a development vehemently opposed by the guards .Group 4 Securicor runs the contract through the US Defence Systems -Uganda arrangement.

According to the guards, the May 22, 2008 takeover by Group 4 Securicor flouted various clauses that govern their contract under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. “The presumed acceptance of the terms and conditions of services of G4S by the members of the Local Guard Force and the subsequent transfer of our earned fringe benefits amounted to abduction, forced labour and human trafficking which are all forbidden not only by the laws of Uganda but also by other international conventions that govern and protect the rights and dignity of the human person,” reads part of the petition addressed to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy.

In their petition dated August 6, the guards also accuse their employer of failure to compensate colleagues who sustain injuries while on duty. “Under the Defence Base Act it is a requirement by the employer to provide adequate compensation to the employees but no member of LGF has been compensated for injuries while on duty,” the statement reads.

The American Embassy Assistant Regional Security Officer Mr Daniel Glick declined to comment on the petition but another official at the embassy who requested to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media said they had rejected the petition on grounds that the petitioners never followed the proper procedures.

“Under normal circumstances it is the contracted firm (G4S) to petition the embassy so that we can take action but not the employees as it is in their case,” said an official at the Embassy.

The guards also accuse their employers of frustrating their efforts to join a trade union as a way of boosting their bargaining power. “This has led to the Court Martial and subsequent dismissal of the chairman/spokesperson of the guard’s committee (Mr Opige Elyau) who championed the same course,” the petition said.

In a separate interview, Mr Elyau said he was dismissed on allegations that he was inciting the guard force against management. He promised to challenge his dismissal.

In the comments Feral Jundi writes:

The customer receiving these guard services has some responsibility too. These men are protecting you with their lives, the honorable thing to do is to step up and listen to what they have to say. The unethical thing to do, is look the other way and hope it just fixes itself. pfft

And Bravo2 writes:

For example if the company was still ArmorGroup, a UK Company, they would most likely had been carrying some type of workmans comp on these employees as required by local or UK Law, but when it changed to a local Ugandan company, the Ugandan company only needs to follow Ugandan employment laws.

While I can understand they are pissed off to no end, such as the locals we employ here in Africa and other places I have worked, they have every right to be. This is the art of contracting…squeezing every possible penny out of everyone. These local companies such as the Ugandan one is little more than a broker only…. someone who makes money on another person, while doing absolutely nothing. The contract I work here in Africa…AfriCom was forced into this brokering agreement thru the Djiboutian Govt, and there is nothing they can do about it. The Brokers take 2/3 of the locals pay the US pays them. Suxs ass but thats life.

And in another article Eeben Barlow writes:

… the same company that are acting out their Ramboesque dreams whilst getting paid for it in Afghanistan are treating their staff in Uganda as though they own Africa.

I am aware of similar practices by some companies working in East Africa and the locals are viewing them with increasing contempt. Maybe they are unaware of just how offending their behaviour has become, but it has not gone unnoticed. It is very possibly also proving to be a great recruiting campaign for the insurgents.

The US State Department and the Africa Command are working with numerous mercenaries, PMCs, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in Africa, particularly East Africa. The practices revealed in Afghanistan, and those described above, damage the US irreparably with potential friends, and strengthen potential foes.

The top picture above, from apple.jack on Flikr, comes courtesy of tumwijuke, who writes:

My 23-year-old cousin, Benji, is serving as a Ugandan guard in Iraq.

Benji is a tiny man with a big heart. He dreams of active service, fighting for peace and heroism. He’s not content with hearing about the exploits of the military. He wants to be there at the frontline in the midst of action. He says he has understood his place in the world and he needs to fulfill his destiny.

I think of Benji every morning at 5:00 a.m. when a gang of scraggly men and women jog past my house singing part-nonsensical, part-nostalgic, part-motivational war songs penned by Brig. Gen. Chefe Ali and the NRA. I think of Benji when I hear the instructors yelling at the hapless gang, calling them idiots and children and insulting their mothers. I think of Benji when I hear in the distance, the solitary shot of a trainee firing from an AK-47. I think of Benji when after a month, the guards are deemed ready for service, congratulated at a colorful ceremony in a dusty playground and shipped off to war.

Today I read this:

Security Issues Discovered at U.S. Bases in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — A commission investigating waste and fraud in wartime spending has found serious deficiencies in training and equipment for hundreds of Ugandan guards hired to protect U.S. military bases in Iraq, The Associated Press has learned.

The problems at Forward Operating Bases Delta and Hammer include a lack of vehicles used to properly protect the two posts, a shortage of weapons and night vision gear, and poorly trained guards. Both bases house several thousand U.S. military personnel.

Concerned the shortages leave the bases vulnerable, the Commission on Wartime Contracting alerted military officials in Iraq and at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

“Incidents such as this are a concern in their own right, but they are a particular concern to the commission if they prove to be indicators of broader, systemic problems that impede the delivery of critical services to American military forces in a war zone,” said Bob Dickson, the commission’s executive director.

I think about Benji and I weep.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the training of potential guards in Uganda:

As President Barack Obama announces plans to withdraw US troops from Iraq, thousands of young Ugandans are increasingly desperate to be sent to the war-torn country. Already, the Ugandan government says there are more than 10,000 men and women from this poverty-stricken East African nation working as private security guards in Iraq. Hired out to multibillion-dollar companies for hundreds of dollars a month, they risk their lives seeking fortunes protecting US Army bases, airports, and oil firms.

The war in Iraq is the most privatized conflict in history. Since the invasion in 2003, the US Department of Defense has doled out contracts worth an estimated $100 billion to private firms. Covering a vast range of services from catering to dry cleaning to security, one in every five dollars the US spends in Iraq ends up in the pockets of the contractors, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. Increasingly these jobs have been outsourced to developing countries.

hiring Ugandans is cheap. Since the first Ugandans were sent to Iraq in late 2005, competition from other developing countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent has seen the government cut the minimum wage from $1,300 to $600 a month. That compares with the $15,000 that one industry insider estimated an American guard could make each month. Nevertheless, competition is fierce, and for those Ugandans who land a job, Iraq can prove a bonanza.

Discussing one Ugandan guard, who has built himself businesses back in Uganda from his Iraq pay:

the fact that he is putting his life on the line to help US companies make massive profits is not lost on him. “If I am earning $600 a month and these companies are making billions, it is not fair,” he says.

For Uganda, however, another country’s war on a continent far away has proved to be lucrative. “The Iraq opportunity brings in about $90 million dollars, whereas our chief export, which is coffee, brings in around $60 or $70 million a year,” says the former state minister for labor, employment, and industrial relations, Mwesigwa Rukutana, now minister of higher education. That figure is mostly made up of remittances.

But domestic criticism has been fierce, with some equating the system to human trafficking or slavery. Reports of abuse, ranging from poor conditions and changeable contracts to sexual assault, have appeared in the media
.

And what will happen to Uganda when all these experienced soldiers bring their battle hardened expectations back to Uganda. The country may be sitting on a time bomb, as Charles Onyango Obbo wrote about in Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps. And the potential for political conflagrations is far greater with the recent discovery of oil.

It is smarter to make friends than enemies, it gives you more options. If the US wants to make friends, and to keep the friends it has in Africa and elsewhere, it needs to examine its policies with care. An ethic of squeezing every possible penny out of everyone is very short term thinking for the long term interests of a country. A culture that encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law is guaranteed to make enemies. If the State Department wishes to engage in credible diplomacy, it needs to clean its own house, and practice some oversight and accountability at home.

Large sums were misappropriated, and just plain stolen by the people managing the celebrations and observances for Ghana@50 in 2007, Ghana’s golden jubilee celebration. On June 17 2009 President Mills established a 90 day Commission to look into what happened, and deliver a report.

Ghana@50 scandal over vanished funds

Ghana@50 scandal over over stolen property and vanished funds

Quite a few, though not all, of the relevant articles can be found in this list: Ghana@50 Dossier
[Nov. 18, 2009:  That list appears to have been removed.  But you can get a good selection of relevant articles by going to the GhanaWeb Search the News Archive page, select the year 2009, and search for Ghana@50.  It is not comprehensive, but you'll get a good overview.]

From Commission of inquiry into Ghana@50 inaugurated the Commission is to provide:

… an objective, fair and just enquiry that establishes the cold hard facts of all transactions and activities related to the 50th anniversary celebration.

Reports and stories of malfeasance have been trickling out for some time. They really gathered steam after the election, though it was obvious well before then that something was seriously wrong. I gather from people watching the hearings of the Commission on tv, that it is breathtaking how much money just disappeared, and how those responsible appear to be totally unprepared for any reckoning. Those being questioned are twisting and squirming, and many of the major players are yet to be interviewed. I understand a few have fled the country to avoid being held accountable.

From Ghana@50 Cost US$60m:

… another irony of the situation was that while GH¢12 million was raised and used for the procurement of Jubilee Souvenirs, only GH¢318,417 was realized as proceeds from the sale of those items.

Ghana@50 in arrears; already spent $60 million:

Accra, Jan. 26, GNA – The Ghana@50 Secretariat charged to organize Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations two years ago is in arrears of more than GH¢18 million to contractors.The Secretariat has reportedly already spent US$60 million and with the arrears, the expenditure so far incurred stands at US$78 million against the US$20 million which Parliament approved for the celebration in 2007.

Government auditing officials on Monday told the sub-Transition Team on Executive Assets sitting in Accra that only one out of 25 toilets for which an amount of GH¢19 million was allocated had so far been provided.

Auditor General, Mr Edward Dua Agyemang … said neither staff nor records to assist in the auditing were available, and the Auditor General’s Department had to put receipts and payments together to determine whether there was value for money.

“We just had to put things together to be able to form our opinion. There wasn’t any account over the $60 million account,”

Ghana@50: More Revelations!

27 January 2009 The interim report of the Auditor General on the Ghana@50 celebrations reveals dinner wear for 48 houses at the AU Village in Accra was procured in excess of GH¢108,000 ($100,000) and were not used.

A company was overpaid in excess of GH¢43,000 for the supply of 288 decanters or flasks and sample count of items costing over GH¢1million revealed that items valued at over GH¢467 were missing.

A loan of approximately GH¢1.3 million granted by the Secretariat to the Ghana Trade Fair Company has not been refunded.

The Secretariat is said to have overdrawn its bank account with Prudential Bank in the sum of GH¢1.2 million.

The report noted that management of the Secretariat could not provide invoices and receipts covering procured receipt books and so the omission prevented the audit team from determining missing receipt books

Ghana@50: No trace of 139 vehicles – CEPS

Jan. 27  One hundred and thirty nine vehicles imported for the office of the President by five motor firms in the country cannot be located by the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS).

CEPS has also described the mode of disposal of the vehicles as questionable, as no records on them can be traced.

The 139 saloon and 4×4 vehicles were imported on behalf of the Office of the President …

Giving a breakdown of its finding in the letter dated January 19, 2009, the CEPS commissioner noted that 968 vehicles were imported by the Office of the President between 2003 and 2008 with the value of tax forgone on the said vehicles amounting to GH¢7,892,935.67.

It explained that imports made on behalf of and for the Office of the President were tax exempt.

On PHC Motors Ltd, CEPS indicated that its current records and enquiries did not disclose the current location or mode of disposal of the 35 Chrysler vehicles imported for the Office of the President. It said Fairllop International Ltd imported 40 Jaguar X-Type, 40 Rover 75, two Rover 75V6 and one Rover 45 for the Office of the President.

Out of the number, Fairllop bought back 35 Jaguar X-Type, while CEPS’ enquiries did not disclose the location and mode of disposal of the remaining five Jaguar X-Type and 43 Rovers.

With regard to Mechanical Lloyd, CEPS said the company imported 50 BMW 730 LI, two Land Rover Discovery, two BMW 745 Li high security, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Explorer.

CEPS’ “current records and enquiries did not disclose the location or mode of disposal of two Land Rovers, 10 BMW 730 Li; two BMW Li 745, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Ranger”.

The letter noted that Universal Motors imported 36 VW Passat (Comfort Line) for the Office of the President and subsequently released 35 of the vehicles to the custody of the Ghana@50 Secretariat.

… under the CEPS Law, although items bought for the Office of the President and the Diplomatic Corps were tax exempt, anytime they were to change hands into private hands the new owner was made to pay the appropriate taxes.

Some of the cars were allegedly sold, although CEPS law also requires any sales of vehicles acquired by the government in this way to be open for public bid, and there is no record of any public bid for the vehicles that were “sold” or disappeared.

Spending by Ghana@50 Secretariat questioned

[From] a statement, issued and signed by the Executive Director of NGYL (Next Generation Youth League, an NGO) Benjamin Akyena Brantuo, a former Junior Common Room (JCR) President of the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon …

“Whilst we are equally alarmed, and concerned about the horrifying revelations coming from the report – the total cost of the celebrations (¢60,172,251.8400), fraud in the form of over-invoicing (¢432,000,000), purchases in excess of budget (¢1,080,000,000), failure to account for VAT deductions (¢3,796,575,000), failure to pay withheld taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (¢1,396,400,000), etc, financial recklessness, lack of proper cash books, no stock register of value books, no contract register, technically incompetent financial officer, etc, the total debt owed to contractors and suppliers ¢184,439,340,000 and the lack of priorities in spending, we are far more disturbed about the limited scope of the public debate, which has confined itself to the ability or otherwise of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Secretariat to provide adequate documentations to support expenditures they have engaged in.”

… accountability should not be limited to the ability of public servants, to legally support their whimsical and impulse actions with documentations, but the extent to which such actions have satisfied ethical requirements, which includes adding value and bringing improvement into the living conditions of the people they work in trust for.

… anything short of this, is a proper case of causing financial loss to the state …

“For the sake of argument, let us concede that indeed, the findings in the report amount to witch-hunting, and is a ploy by the NDC-led regime and the Auditor-General to persecute their political rivals. Does that assumption change the fact that the whole concept of Ghana@50 was a fraud by a few political elites to enrich themselves?

Ghana@50 report -Mpiani Milked Ghana

The main concern raised in the report is the total expenditure incurred GH¢71.70, which is almost twice the original allocated amount of GH¢31 million.  Also, out of the 25 much-talked-about jubilee toilets only one has been completed.

For a sample of the proceedings: Prudential Bank boss grilled:

In what could be described as teacher-pupil session, the Managing Director of Prudential Bank, Mr Stephen Sekyere Abankwa, was on Thursday quizzed when he took his turn at the Presidential Commission mandated to investigate the activities of the Ghana @50 secretariat. …

Mr Abankwa had to constantly consult his counsel before giving any answer, attracting the attention of media cameras.

The first hefty punch which was thrown to Mr Sekyere Abankwa by Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah- Oppong- a member of the Commission was that : Did he (Mr Abankwa) sought to enquire whether the Ghana @50 secretariat was a corporate entity when it approached his outfit for loan?

In a shivering mood, the veteran economist (Mr Abankwa) directed the question to his counsel, Akoto Ampah who was sitting beside him to handle the question after sipping some water.

Interestingly, Mr Akoto Ampah’s response to the question was that, “Mr Chairman, my client is not a lawyer so therefore; he can not answer legal questions.”

The answer which obviously made the Commission members to wonder why then did Mr Sekyere Abankwa responded to their invitation since he was aware that the Commission had the powers of a High Court.

And more revelations continue as the Commission of inquiry continues.  There has been much discussion of vast amounts of souvenir cloth that was given away rather than sold, with no accounts kept.  And there are other items missing, houses built, home furnishings that disappeared, and more.

It is obvious that no one ever expected any accounting to be required for any of this.   I hope these proceedings serve as a warning to anyone who joins Ghana’s government who might be planning to chop and go.

On the plus side, because democracy worked in Ghana, these crooks may be held accountable.  In many countries the government would be able to get away with this, no questions asked.  It is obvious the previous government was expecting to continue in this fashion, with no accountability.

________

You can find a more comprehensive list of related stories by searching GhanaWeb here.  Enter the search Ghana@50, and specify the year.  I check the following areas to be searched:
General News
Business News
Politics
Crime & Punishment
Diasporian News
Regional News
You can also choose Feature Article, for opinion pieces.

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