Kenya


Kenya held its presidential election on March 4th. Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as president on April 8. A number of candidates were competing. The winner, with 50.07% of the vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, is son of the first president, Jomo Kenyatta.  Uhuru is the richest man in Kenya according to Forbes .  His victory was challenged in court by the nearest runner up, Raila Odinga, but the Kenya Supreme Court upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga probably won the previous election in 2007, but the counting was shut down and the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, encouraged by the US ambassador, made an electoral coup.

Uhuru Kenyatta is under indictment by the Internation Criminal Court for crimes against humanity following Kenya’s 2007 election. Since the election the witnesses against him and his Deputy President William Ruto, a long time associate of former President Moi, have been recanting their testimony and otherwise withdrawing. There are strong rumors of threats and intimidation of the witnesses.

Regarding the 2007 election, b real writes this comment on March 11 2013:

my read of events in 2007 was that kibaki lost fairly but the u.s., alone at first among external handlers, refused to let odinga win — [US ambassador] rannenberger even spoke openly of this –and managed to get odinga to allow himself to concede w/ the shared post and idea that he would be groomed to win in the next eletion, once he had proven his competence at running this anchor nation approvingly. he believed the u.s. But now rannenberger is gone and things are a little different.

There are those that say the US now needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the US.

In addition to a variety of businesses, Uhuru is:

. . . heir to some of the largest land holdings in Kenya. He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.

Forbes called Uhuru the richest man in Kenya, but that position is probably held by Daniel arap Moi, president of Kenya 1978-2002. However, most of Moi’s holdings and business dealings are not publicly available information.  Moi is widely perceived as Uhuru’s mentor.

All Kenya's presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago. Thanks to Digital Records Tech.

All Kenya’s presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago, left to right: Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, Daniel arap Moi. Thanks to Digital Records Tech. Looks more like oligarchy than democracy.

The immediate concern of ordinary Kenyans will be how the incoming government implements a new Constitution designed to devolve power and money to the counties. The document is seen as the key safeguard against a return to the “winner-takes-all” system of old. But historians warn that when Kenya tried devolved governance before, at independence in 1963, the experiment was swiftly sabotaged by Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenya's fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Kenya’s fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Looking back over recent electoral history:

December 29th, 2002

Moi. Is. Going. There was a time you didn’t dare speak the words.

My father’s voice exults over static from Nairobi to San Francisco.

Kenya’s election results are rolling in. Mwai Kibaki, the presidential candidate fielded by the rainbow coalition of opposition parties, has won 65% of the vote. Titans of single party rule have lost their seats. An unprecedented eleven women have been elected to parliament. The era of Daniel Arap Moi, and the ruling party KANU, who have plundered Kenya at will for 24 years, is over.

For Kenyans, this is the Berlin Wall coming down. This is a Florida recount where the truth prevails. Kenyans were killed for this. People were tortured, exiled, imprisoned, for resisting single-party rule. I never believed I would see it end in my lifetime.

I’m glued to my monitor, shooting jubilant emails to other Kenyans in Boston, London, New York. We are sitting up all night watching results come in. Tears of hope and renewed pride rolling down our faces.

December 27th, 2007

A record eight million Kenyans rise as early as four a.m. to vote. We queue for up to ten hours, in the sun, without food, drink, toilets. I know a woman who gets out of her hospital bed, pulls the drip out of her neck, crosses the city on matatu and foot with bloodstained bandages visible – to vote. The country speaks through the ballot. Against greed. Against corruption. Against neo-colonialism. Against feudalism. It is the largest, best organized non-violent mass protest in our history.

Opposition observer. Says the tally just announced is different from the one he confirmed in the constituency.…..

The anchor is reporting from outside the conference center. There has been a power blackout at Kenyatta International Conference Center. The media have been ejected by paramilitary police who are arriving in trucks…..

Then, all the channels go dead, except for the government mouthpiece KBC.

There are only three tribes in Kenya. The haves. The wanna-haves. The have-them-removed.

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Patrick Gathara is a talented artist, cartoonist, and fan of biting political cartoons, see KenyaToons or Scarycature. He also writes a blog that is particularly useful for understanding the recent election in Kenya, Gathara’s World, which also features some of his artwork. He is a keen and profound observer. Here are some of his observations, please visit the links for more information and more context.

We had already normalized the abnormal, making it seem perfectly acceptable to have two ICC-indicted politicians on the ballot. At the first presidential debate, moderator Linus Kaikai had been more concerned with how Uhuru Kenyatta would “govern if elected president and at the same time attend trial as a crimes against humanity subject” and not whether he should be running at all. Any suggestion of consequences for Uhuru’s and William Ruto’s candidature had been rebuffed with allegations of neo-colonialism, interference and an implied racism. People who had spent their adult lives fighting for Kenyans’ justice and human rights were vilified as stooges for the imperialistic West for suggesting that the duo should first clear their names before running for the highest office in the land.
March 10,2013

 

Those who oppose impunity, who take a stand against corruption and electoral malpractice, who demand the freedom to speak their thoughts or dress as they wish – these are today’s enemies.

I can’t help wondering whether we have just struck a grand bargain with our murderous elite. Whether we have not traded in justice for peace and values for prosperity. A laptop for our kids and superhighways, virtual and real –these are today’s struggles. Notions of equality and accountability are so yesterday. The imperialist West with its flaky notions of freedom and human rights and its flailing economies no longer holds any attraction for us. We prefer the hard pragmatists in the East. Our new political model is China. What does it matter if you break a few eggs to bake the national cake? Liberal democracy may sound nice but it won’t put food on the table.
April 5, 2013

 

National security has always been the excuse of choice for repressive governments seeking to clamp down on dissent. It is such an attractive ploy because the definition of what constitutes national security, let alone a threat to it, is not only extremely vague but very much dependent on what shadowy figures with “intelligence” declare it to be.

In 2007, so we are told, historical grievances, sparked by the refusal to accept a stolen election, led to a spontaneous orgy of killing and destruction. This, I think, is largely a work of fiction. Or at best, it is a selective retelling. It seems pretty much everyone who has looked into it has concluded that most of the violence was premeditated and prearranged. Meetings had been held and targets pre-selected; pre-outraged thugs had been paid, prepped, armed and ferried about. Politicians and radio stations incited, homes and churches were burnt and people died.

Today, it is not the fact of pre-ordained violence that we are constantly reminded of. Rather, it is the refusal to accept the official version of events, what many saw as a plainly fraudulent outcome, that is portrayed as the casus belli. The narrative of our sojourn into hell has been spun as a consequence of defying our betters, of demanding to see the intelligence and make up our own minds.

To extricate ourselves from this pernicious ideology, we need to go back to the beginning. To recognise that we have been gullible and begin to reconstruct narratives that more accurately reflect the truth.
April 3, 2013

 

The idea of Kenya that had blossomed in 2002 thus proved to be nothing more than a transient phenomenon, a moon flower. Perhaps it was the irrational exuberance of youth that led us to believe that a different Kenya was possible; perhaps it was our sheltered upbringing as privileged members of an aspirational middle class nurtured on a diet of false patriotism, fantastical promises of development, western sitcoms and CNN. Perhaps we wanted to see in ourselves something that wasn’t really there.

For Kenya had not been founded as a community of Kenyans but as a playground for the privileged. The uplifting of the living standards of the majority of the people has never seemed to be the goal of our politics and our politicians. As I have written before, it has always been about the wenyenchi, not the wananchi. Democracy, human rights and all other fashionable slogans have been for them little more than a pathway to power and riches.

Any who thought otherwise were quickly shunted aside. Today we glorify their courage as we trample underfoot everything they stood for.
March 19,2013
[Note: Wananchi literally means "people of the nation." However, it is not to be confused with wenyenchi, for which the closest English translation is "citizens" or "owners of the nation." Within the political discourse, these two terms are opposites; they suggest class distinction, between the majorities who live and work at local levels, and the elites who control the upper echelons of the nation.]

 

The richest man in Kenya is now its leader and in his first address has indicated that he is viewing our problems from a distinctly economic and technological angle. Throughout the inauguration ceremony, we heard promises of double digit economic growth, free laptops, free maternity health, a fund for women and youth.

But the events of the last month have exposed have exposed deep rifts in the national psyche that cannot be papered over with money alone.

In a very real sense, if President Uhuru Kenyatta is to live up to his promise of working towards “a rich and abiding peace,” he will have to confront the very system that has put him where he is. He, perhaps even more than the rest of the country, would need to confront and expose painful realities about the conduct of his family and its old friends. He would have to live up to his name and free himself, and thus his countrymen, from the shackles of the past. If he found the courage to do so, he might just be the best thing that ever happened to Kenya. So, Godspeed to him.

But we all know that this is unlikely to happen.
April 9, 2013

East Africa’s Great Rift includes four rift systems that promise to hold significant deposits of oil. Africa Oil Corporation has been exploring and drilling here, and prepared a report that includes a number of excellent maps and graphics of seismic data. I’ve selected a few to show you here, but you can see them in greater clarity and detail in the PDF report Hunting Elephants In East Africa’s Rift Basins = January 2012 PDF.

Four major rift systems in East Africa.


four rifts key


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The four rift systems from different geologic time are illustrated above and below. You can click the maps to enlarge enough to read.
Tertiary Rift: runs through Uganda Kenya Ethiopia
Cretaceous Rift: runs through Sudan Kenya Mali
Jurassic Rift: crosses to include Yemen and the Puntland region of Somalia
Permian Triassic Rift: crosses the sea from Ethiopia through southern Somalia to Madagascar

The Tertiary Rift

Tertiary Rift Uganda Kenya Ethiopia: Tullow's Uganda discoveries now at 2.5+ billion barrels of reserves. Tertiary rift in Kenya/Ethiopia contains the same source and reservoir system as Uganda as confirmed by Leperot discovery by Shell in 1992.

The Cretaceous Rift

Cretaceous Rift Kenya Mali Sudan: Over 6 billion barrels of oil discovered on trend in the analogous system in Sudan. Thick oil stained section in the 1980s vintage Amoco/Total wells confirms hydrocarbon system.

The Jurassic Rift

Jurassic Rift Yemen Somalia: Prolific, proven play in Yemen expected to extend into Puntland, which shares a common geologic history. Yemen fields produce from high quality Cretaceous and Jurassic reservoirs and source rocks. Numerous oil shows from wells drilled by previous operators confirm Jurassic source rock.

The Permian Triassic Rift

Permo-Triassic Rift Ethiopia Madagascar: Multi-TCF gas reserves have been discovered in Triassic sandstones. Light oil has been tested in fractured Jurassic carbonates. El Kuran field discovered by Tenneco in the 1970s confirmed oil and gas in both systems.

Here is some detail of the Dharoor block in Puntland Somalia.

Dharoor Puntland Somalia

Here is some detail on Block 10A in Kenya where they are beginning to drill.

Block 10A Kenya

A seismic cross section of the Pai Pai prospect, site of drilling in Block 10A.

Pai Pai prospect Block 10A

A map of East Africa suggesting the underlying petroleum system.

East Africa petroleum system

These are the local totals for potential barrels of oil that Africa Oil Corporation expects to be able to recover from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Puntland in Somalia.

Potential

This is the total size of the potential oil prize in both barrels of oil and dollars.

Size of the prize in billions of barrels

Do note the caveat:

There is no certainty that any portion of the resources will be discovered. If discovered there is no certainty the the discovery will be commercially viable to produce any portion of the resources.

All of these countries and locations mapped are of interest to the United States and its Africa Command, AFRICOM. Many aspects of that interest have been covered here in this blog.

These earlier posts, along with their comments, are particularly relevant to East African oil.
Uganda – Stepping On the Mission Creep Accelerator
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy
Uganda – Oil Reserves To Rival Saudi Arabia?

The dumbest war ever continues.

When we thought Dubya had waged enough dumb wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have kenya army with 2,000 infrantry invading a lawless somalia with apparently no plan; no objective;no real mandate from constitution or international law; no real support from international bodies; no support from somalis; no nothing. Just a shadowy suspicious dumb “war”. RV Pundit

The competition for the dumbest war ever is fierce, but the Kenyan invasion of Somalia is certainly in the running. The problem is, if they “win” what then? Who governs Somalia? And how?

As a headline in the East African put it: Kenya’s headache: Al Shabaab goes, then what?

Cartoon by Amin Amir of Kenyan troops trying to figure out the way forward in Somalia.

Kenya’s troops are untested and it isn’t clear if they are prepared for a long-term occupation requiring counterinsurgency skills — a scenario that ended U.S. and Ethiopian interventions during Somalia’s 20-year-old civil war. The Somalia operation is Kenya’s biggest foreign military commitment since independence in 1963. (Garowe online)

According to the same article the French are continuing their imperial military adventuring in Somalia:

Kenya on Sunday said that France’s navy bombed a town in Somalia near a stronghold of al-Shabab, the first confirmation that a Western military force is involved in the latest push against the Islamist militia.

Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said the French navy bombed the town of Kuday near the southern al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo on Saturday night. A Nairobi-based diplomat told The Associated Press last week that France was carrying out military attacks in Somalia; French officials in Paris denied French forces were carrying out any attacks.

The Ethiopians have returned: Ethiopian troops cross into Somalia

And the Israelis are getting involved: Israeli terror drones kill 17 in Somalia Thu Nov 24, 2011

This invasion certainly looks like the Kenyans are going into Somalia as US proxies. Although the article says this:

U.S. officials told AP last week that the United States had been pressuring Kenya to “do something” in response to a string of security incidents along the Kenya-Somalia border, but that Kenya’s invasion of Somalia took the U.S. by surprise.

I think I’ll maintain some skepticism about the US being surprised.

The same US/Anglo/French imperialists that used NATO and the UN to destroy Libya are at work on Somalia and Kenya. The Brits are staging their own commando raids into Somalia. British commandos raided into Somalia to snatch a clan leader for discussions. The Brits also claim Somalia is training UK born terrorists. The Chinese are meddling in Somalia as well.

The US has taken the opportunity created by the Kenyan invasion to practice the use of its assassination drones. There has been about one strike per day since the Kenyan invasion began on October 16. I am listing them here: Bombing The Starving For Target Practice In Somalia

From On Kenya’s war against Al-Shabaab by Abena Afia:

The invasion has already helped to revive Shabaab’s fading appeal, enabling them to appear as genuine freedom fighters to Somalis. Press statements released by the extremist group display a distinct and deliberate departure from their usual fundamentalist rhetoric, employing a more nationalistic approach that has earned them a growing support. Unanimity on their call could establish the ascent of Shabaab domination.

Somalis have resisted occupation from previous foreign interventions, the US in 1992 and Ethiopia in 2006, ending in humiliating withdrawals. Provisions in the road map would have allowed Kenya to hold a significant stake in Somali resources. If Somalia was occupied and annexed by Kenya, tourism and business would again flourish. The decision to resurrect Somalia’s territorial claims caused anxiety to its neighbours.

Deals long exist between Kenya and multinational petroleum companies for offshore exploration blocks; of particular interest is block L5, thought to have the highest concentration of oil. Pursuit of this part of the block lying within the perimeters of Somali territorial waters is illegal.

In accordance with Article 10 of Somali Law No. 37 Territorial Sea and Ports (1972), Somalia has the right to territorial waters of 200 nautical miles (nm) and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nm provided in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It seems of little coincidence then that an invasion has taken place following the fall of the roadmap, reinforcement of Somali law and protection of its sea.

… Kenya has not sought permission to enter and war crimes increase each day that they remain. Somalis already in a desperate situation continue to suffer.

Somalia, a current hotspot for international interest owing to its East African coastal location, oil explorations and other ‘free for all’ attractions such as illegal fishing and lucrative international piracy activity, now hosts Blackwater and Saracen mercenaries who have built base in Puntland. The unsettling presence of such ‘private security firms’ could see the orchestration of Somalia’s current internal war handled and controlled by more lawless but “professional” killers, whose interests do not coincide with those of Somalis.

The calamity engulfing Somalia is often blamed on an inability to manage its own country but active aggressors play a major role in its stagnation and underdevelopment.

Meanwhile, there is another pressing issue in Kenya that everyone is ignoring. Somalia is not an ideal breeding ground for terrorists. There is little infrastructure and strangers stand out. Kenya on the other hand does provide an ideal breeding ground for terrorists:

Kenya: Perfect breeding ground for Al-Shabaab terrorists by Rasna Warah

Kenya is a perfect breeding ground for terrorists and suicide bombers because it has the two ingredients that make recruitment to terrorist organisations so attractive – a high unemployment rate among youth and widespread corruption.

Impressionable and unemployed youth who have nothing much to look forward to can be easily lured to become terrorists, if presented with incentives such as money or a better afterlife.

Jobless, dejected and disillusioned youth may find the idea of becoming a martyr to a cause attractive. Some may become terrorists just for adventure.

Corruption ensures that would-be terrorists escape the security dragnet easily. I wonder how many Al-Shabaab have got away scot-free at police checks and border posts by parting with as little as Sh200.

Corruption, incompetence and lack of respect for ordinary citizens are the conditions under which terrorism thrives.

In addition to the corruption and high youth unemployment, Kenya has a third feature making it a welcoming environment for terrorists. Kenya has a diverse population and many urban environments into which people can blend or disappear far more easily than in Somalia.

William Oeri | NATION Kenyan troops heading to Amuma border entry point to flush out al Shabaab militants. The army captured a pirates haven of Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia on October 20, 2011 and were advancing towards the al Shabaab stronghold of Kismayu.

Regarding the coverage of the war, Henry Makori writes: Kenya’s media in bed with the military

These are the daily media images of the Kenyan war in Somalia. A clean war. Not a drop of blood. There have been frequent reports of killings of al-Shabaab militiamen and bombing of their bases. But no one has seen any images of the ‘frontline gains’ as NTV once described the army’s progress.

The headlines on TV and in the newspapers have been entirely celebratory since the fighting began on 16 October 2011 – except on those days when suspected retaliatory grenade attacks rocked Nairobi; the media has played down subsequent grenade attacks in other parts of the country.

Some observers believe Kenya decided to enter Somalia after a plan to create a new state (Azania) in the south of the country to act as a buffer between Kenya and al-Shabaab-controlled areas failed. The question that has not been openly asked – or answered in the military and political briefings – is why Kenya decided to pursue al-Shabaab inside Somalia and not the other militias inside other neighbouring countries which have for years attacked, killed and robbed Kenyans living near the national borders.

The invasion was said to be in response to the kidnapping of some Western tourists by al-Shabaab. But the militia group never claimed responsibility for those kidnappings, but actually denied the allegations.

One could get an idea of what is going on at the ‘frontline’ by speaking to reporters who have been there. Patrick Injendi, a journalist with Citizen TV, spent three weeks with the soldiers. The media has been reporting that the Kenyan army has ‘captured’ or ‘liberated’ town after town in Somalia apparently with little resistance from al shabaab as the soldiers make their way to the militia’s stronghold in the port city of Kismayu. But Injendi says the only ‘towns’ he ever saw were settlements with two or three buildings.

How do the reporters get their ‘frontline’ stories? ‘There is no freedom of movement’, Injendi says. ‘You couldn’t just wake up and decide you were going to look for news in a certain place. You must be accompanied by soldiers for security.’ That means the media reports are merely what the soldiers tell the reporters.

What about Somali civilians killed in the bombings? How many are they so far? No numbers have been published, or even the mention of civilian deaths.

The vice-chair of the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, Hassan Omar says the anger may not be reported in the Kenyan media but it is there, boiling in blogs run by Somalis. … ‘There is a lot of anger there. Don’t ever underestimate it because of the fact that it is not reaching the Kenyan media.’

Because of civilian casualties, says Omar, the Kenyan army could end up facing charges of war crimes.

Radio journalist Kassim Mohammed who has reported on Somalia … ‘The Kenyan media has failed in reporting this war. On the other hand, the Somali media has done very well: they question, they criticise a lot of the things going on.

there is no doubt that the truth about what is exactly happening will eventually come to light. Trouble is, immense damage would already have been done.

With no real plan and no truthful reporting in Kenya, there is a lot of supportive evidence to RV Pundit’s observation that this is the dumbest war ever.

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.

________

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.

Secretary Clinton is visiting seven countries in Africa this week, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. She is visiting to secure safe profits from Africa for American corporations. She began her trip by addressing an AGOA conference in Kenya.

Waiting for work in the EPZ

Waiting for work in the EPZ

Tuendelee Mbele EPZ Workers Welfare is a registered self-help organization founded in 2004 by workers in Kenya’s Export Processing Zones (EPZ).  EPZs have been set up around the world to provide cheap labour to corporations. In Kenya’s zones, as in those of other countries, national labour standards are not enforced. In Kenya companies get a 10 year tax holiday, exemption from import/export tariffs and no restriction on foreign investment and ownership. When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end.
Pamoja Tunaweza, a registered Kenyan CBO (non-profit), is currently delivering an outreach project with a focus on workers, women and teens. EPZs have been set up around the world to provide cheap labour to corporations. In Kenya’s zones, as in those of other countries, national labour standards are not enforced. In Kenya companies get a 10 year tax holiday, exemption from import/export tariffs and no restriction on foreign investment and ownership. When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end. Photos by Phil Vernon

AGOA is an act of the US Congress passed to benefit the US. It is not a treaty or an international agreement. In Kenya Steve Ouma Akoth writes that there are a number of subjects which are taboo in discussion of AGOA both for the US and for the countries supposedly benefitting from AGOA. He describes three of these taboo subjects.

PRECARIOUS AND POVERTY JOBS
NATIONAL LABOUR LAWS AND PRACTICE
TRADE POLICIES OF THE US GOVERNMENT AND PURCHASING PRACTICES

Of the first, precarious and poverty jobs, he writes:

… for the first time after the industrial revolution, such huge numbers of unorganised labourers, especially women, are coming under the productive sway of large-scale capital.

Although the zones boast of creating 30,000 jobs, mostly for women, many of the women workers interviewed feel that their jobs are failing to help them and their families work their way out of poverty. So they are struggling and campaigning to turn their jobs into the potential they promise – to be a path for poverty reduction for themselves, their households and their communities.

Of national labour laws:

… there has been enormous pressure on the government of Kenya to trade away workers’ rights, in law and in practice, for a place in the global economy.

Pressure has also been coming from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The two institutions, which were major sponsors of the EPZs, have advised the government of Kenya to adjust their labour laws to meet sourcing companies’ demands. This conveys an unspoken message: Labour standards should be defined not by governments, but by market forces.

This creates horrendous conditions for workers, who among other practices are forced to work extensive unpaid overtime. This is slavery:

Workers are forced to sign-out for official records and then remain locked in factories to meet the ‘targets’.

And of US trade and purchasing practices:

The third taboo subject relates to trade policies of the US government and their corporate courtiers who are the sourcing companies from Kenya’s EPZs. Take textiles for instance. Under AGOA, Kenya is expected to attain sustained and competitive domestic production of cotton by 2012. 2012 is the sunset date for the exception under the rule of third party origin. Thus for Kenya to continue exporting apparel products to the US, the cotton used from 2012 must originate from Kenya. The idea of producing cotton domestically is a good one. But this assumes that all cotton producing countries or those with the potential for production like Kenya are collectively governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. This aspiration is silent on America’s trade-distorting domestic subsidies which amount to about US$3.8 billion or 80-90 per cent of total US support for cotton. Domestic subsidies also make up almost all of the European cotton subsidies. The over-subsidy of cotton by the US (held at ransom by big corporations and its domestic farm barons) has been a taboo topic not only in AGOA but also within the WTO circles. During the WTO meeting in 2005, the African Ministers had demanded that 80 per cent of domestic subsidies for cotton be eliminated by the end of 2006, and the rest within a few years. There has been no move on this subject. It is a taboo subject that received not even a mention from the US President Obama during his most recent trip to Ghana.

Phil Vernon of SOLID and Pamoja Tunaweza, reports regarding the Kenyan EPZs:

When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end.

If you scroll down the Pamoja Tunaweza page, you will find a slide show of pictures revealing more about working and living conditions with the EPZs.

Steve Ouma Akoth tells us the attitude towards labour of US corporations operating in Kenya, and in other countries under AGOA is simple:

Make it flexible and make it cheap. …
The companies’ toolkit includes hiring more vulnerable workers who are less likely to organise – women, often immigrants into the urban centres – and intimidate or sack those who do try to create trade unions and stand up for their rights.

Firoze Manji writes:

With China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other emerging powers competing for access to Africa’s natural resources, including oil, there is little doubt that the US belligerence during the era of the Bush junta has potentially created conditions favourable to the new players. Clinton’s visit is directly related to seeking to protect and advance American corporate interests in oil and natural resource exploitation in Africa.

However, as reported by Reuters: China, others shove US in scramble for Africa

A presidential visit followed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s African tour cannot conceal a stark reality: China has overtaken the United States as Africa’s top trading partner.

Chinese labor practices also involve horrendous slavery conditions. But these are the way China practices business at home. This is capitalism without democracy.

In Sudan China focuses on oil wells, not local needs.

Andrew Small, a China specialist at the German Marshall Fund, a public policy institute, points out that many of Beijing’s worst practices in Africa today stem not from colonialist attitudes, but from China’s own level of development. “Every mining disaster in Zambia, forced resettlement around [Sudan's] Merowe dam,and corrupt deal with government officials, has its counterpart in[China's] Dongbei, the Three Gorges dam, Shanghai, and elsewhere,” he points out.

“There is an attitude among many Chinese that Africa – like Asia decades before – is primed for a developmental take-off … making it a business and investment opportunity rather than just a benighted part of the world that needs to be saved or solely a repository of natural resources,” he says. “[China] will be in the unusual position of being both a superpower and developing country for some time to come, with parts of the Chinese interior having far more in common with Africa than with the West.”

True, perhaps, but the colonial comparison itself is meaningless, says Robert Rotberg … the Chinese are stripping thecontinent of raw material as fast as they can and are fairly ruthless about bringing their own laborers for projects and ignoring locals.

And more from Firoze Manji regarding the breathtaking arrogance of the US Africa Command:

And that brings us to the third dimension. This visit is also about negotiating for AFRICOM to have greater presence in Africa. It is hardly a coincidence that just as Clinton begins her junket, so AFRICOM announces its MEDFLAG initiative in Swaziland.

‘African Command’ does not mean Africans in command, just as the African Growth and Opportunity Act is not about growth and opportunity for Africa, but rather for US corporations. Security is high on the agenda. But it is the security of US corporate interests that is at the heart of Clinton’s agenda, not human security, the security of ordinary people to thrive, to be secure that their children will be safe from impoverishment, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to work; and working, to transform their world to serve the interests of humanity, not the narrow interests of a minority in the North.

There is no democracy in the institution of the Africa Command, as there is no democracy in the trade practices described above facilitated by AGOA. America’s advantage is as an example and advocate of democracy and human rights. When the US undermines democracy and human rights, as with the labor practices in the EPZs, it undermines its own advantage in Africa. Although Bush did enormous damage to the US brand, it may be possible to recover, but only if the US practices some of the democratic and human rights principles it preaches. Being poor does not mean people are blind or stupid. They know when they are being cheated and abused. As Steve Ouma Akoth points out:

People who sell their labour have certain inalienable rights. These rights are premised on the fundamental belief that human beings are entitled to a dignified life. Therefore, working conditions must satisfy the minimum requirements of dignified existence. And this is a fundamental principal in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. It is on this logic that ILO prohibits any form of slavery, servitude and forced labour. The practices above and sexual harassment that constitute the trademark of EPZs in Kenya are coming under microscopic scrutiny due to the value attached to human dignity.

________

Added September 18, 2009:

I made some updates and corrections above as advised by Phil Vernon in the comments. He also recommends reading:

Manufacture Of Poverty

Abstract:
In its advocacy for worker’s rights, the Kenya Human Rights Commission’s research into Women Working in Precarious Conditions in Export Processing Zones confirms the negative effects the conduct and actions of these key non-state actors have on human rights. Hence, justifying the need for monitoring by civil society in this new world order, where private corporations exercise inordinate influence over local laws and policies. With the decline in state authority, focus must therefore be turned to those sectors that have filled the void. The conduct and actions of these non-state actors have a direct impact on human rights ranging from violations of workers’ rights to environmental degradation.

Commonly hired on short-term contracts – or with no contract at all – women work at high speed for low wages, in unhealthy conditions, and they are forced to put in long hours to earn enough just to get by. Most get no sick leave or maternity leave, few are enrolled in health schemes and almost none have savings for the future. The insecurity of these jobs is not only material: they work under threats of sexual harassment. Traditionally, women are the care-givers in the home – raising children and caring for sick and elderly relatives. Women are still forced to play that role even when they have become cash-earners. Doubly burdened, and with little support from their governments or employers to manage, the stress can destroy their own health, break up their family lives and undermine their children’s chances of a better future.

The result? The very workers, who are the backbone of export success in many developing countries, are being robbed of their share of the gains that trade could and should bring. The impact falls on poor communities in rich countries, too, where workers employed in competing trade sectors likewise face precarious conditions. Many workers in the Kenyan Textile Industry feel worn-out after several years of hard work.

somalia-kenya-sea

Reverse Robin Hoods are still busy off the Somali coast, stealing from the poor to give to the rich, stealing fish from the sea, pouring poisons in the sea, and now trying to steal the sea itself.

Kenya is making a bid to expand its territorial waters into Somali territory. The Kenya government, and the TFG government of Somalia, installed by the US, have signed a Memo of Understanding.

NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 11 (Garowe Online) – The governments of Somalia and Kenya inked a Memorandum of Understanding last week that has stirred socio-political controversy across Somalia, re-igniting memories from half a century ago when Kenya was “awarded” Somali territory by withdrawing European colonizers.

A copy of the MoU, obtained by independent Somali news agency Garowe Online, indicated that the Somali and Kenyan governments will pose “no objection in respect of submissions on the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf beyond 200 Nautical Miles” to a United Nations body tasked with enforcing the the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The MoU between the governments of Somalia and Kenya regarding the continental shelf has stirred public debate among the Somali people, who are already weary of foreign agendas.

The MoU signed between the governments of Somalia and Kenya leaves room for different intepretations, as the document openly admits that upcoming submissions to the UN body may allow the two countries to lay claim over the so-called “area of dispute.”

This vague clause throws into question Somalia’s sovereign rights over natural resources found on the continental shelf, as the long-standing “maritime dispute” between Somalia and Kenya has been placed on hold to allow Kenya to lay claim over the so-called “area of dispute” within the 10-year submission deadline period required under international law.

there is the sense that since Somalia is a weaker nation-state, the MoU was written to empower Kenya to lay claim over an area of ownership that has apparently been in “maritime dispute” for years.

The signing of this MoU comes at a time when Kenya is intensifying its search for oil, especially in offshore blocks, with Swedish and Chinese firms leading the effort.

Rebels opposed to the TFG in the Somali capital Mogadishu have spread information and accused the Somali government of “selling the sea” to the neighboring Republic of Kenya.

This information, rightly or wrongly, has largely been accepted at face-value by a Somali public reeling from nearly 20 years of civil war, gross abuse of public trust and a legacy inherited from the colonial years
.

The central regions of Somalia fall under the control of various groups, including clan militias and Islamist fighters. Support for Sheikh Sharif’s government in these regions is very fluid and uncertain.

In the northwest, the unrecognized breakaway republic of Somaliland has refused to recognize President Sheikh Sharif’s government, strictly following a separatist policy since the early 1990s.

The Puntland regional authority, in northeastern Somalia, has adopted a wait-and-see approach, although the region’s leader has repeatedly supported federalism as the only acceptable system of government for Somalia.

It is not clear what impact the MoU between Somalia and Kenya will have on the rest of the country, but the document has stirred debate across the country as Somalis largely view such agreements hidden from the public with suspicion.

The TFG does not represent much of the country. This agreement will give Kenya rights to waters that belonged to Somalia. The current Somalia government was installed with a great deal of help from the US Ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Ranneberger, who remains tireless in his efforts to suppress democracy and strengthen America’s enemies.

MOGADISHU, April 8 (Xinhua) — The Somali government on Wednesday defended a controversial maritime boundary agreement signed with the Kenyan government this week.

The two governments on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding on their maritime boundary but some in Somalia suggested that the agreement cedes Somali maritime territory to Kenya.

According to the provisions of UNCLOS, coastal states intending to delineate the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles are required to submit particulars of such limits with supporting scientific and technical data.

Some local media reported that the Somali government agreed the demarcation of the maritime boundary between the two east African countries in favor of Kenya.

Somalia which had not functioning government for nearly two decades has the longest coast in Africa but its case for drawing its continental reach will be complicated by internal division and the lack of capacity to generate supporting scientific and technical data.

Oil is at the heart of this move, and possibly some fishing rights. If Kenya owns more of the sea, it means more potential money from oil leases. The oil majors have recently returned to Somalia, and Kenya would like a piece of the action.

Kenya: Can Government Beat the Deadline to Lay Claim to Expanded Territorial Waters?
The question of where exactly to draw the offshore border between Kenya and its northern neighbour Somalia has long been a concern for Kenya’s efforts in oil exploration in the Lamu region. However, with no central government or any legitimate governing body, Somalia will not be in a position to file the necessary documentation to secure its coastal areas, and therefore may lose its erritorial waters to Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Yemen. With the increased incidences of piracy in its waters too, it is likely that the international community will be more than willing to see the waters of the country be fall under the jurisdiction of one of its more stable neighbors. Already, the UN security council has given the green light to states to patrol the waters of Somalia to curb the incidences of piracy. Under the UNCLOS, this would actually not be allowed as it will be encroachment of a sovereign country’s territorial waters.

offshore oil leases == $$$$$$
Posted by: b real | Apr 9, 2009 11:37:34 AM | 33

Since US Ambassador Ranneberger is in charge of Kenya and Somali policy for the US. We can be sure he is involved in this diplomatic activity, robbing from the poor to give to the rich. In this case the rich are oil interests. They are moving back into Puntland. And it looks like someone is sending arms into Somalia:

MOGADISHU, Somalia Apr 12 (Garowe Online) - Witnesses and workers at Mogadishu’s main seaport said African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) closed off roads near the port and entered nearby neighborhoods as a ship docked.

“There were many AMISOM soldiers in our area…on top of buildings and they refused us to leave [homes],” said a witness.

Port workers said the ship unloaded military hardware, including vehicles, which were transported to AMISOM bases in Mogadishu.

The spokesman for Islamist hardliners Al Shabaab vowed to continue the war against the government of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed after accusing the government of “selling the sea.”

President Sheikh Sharif’s government and the government of Kenya signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Nairobi that has stirred political debate across Somalia. READ: Somalia-Kenya sign MoU for maritime ‘area of dispute’

Al Shabaab rebels control many regions in southern Somalia, including regions near the border with Kenya.

President Sheikh Sharif’s government, which controls some sections of Mogadishu, is the 15th attempt by the international community to restore national order in Somalia.

Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its seas have been ruthlessly exploited since 1992. All of the navies supposedly fighting pirates are also guarding the illegal fishing and the illegal toxic dumping that have been ongoing and increasing since 1992.

The international navies are protecting their piratical raids on Somali resources, and calling the Somalis pirates when they try to fight back. This internationally sponsored piracy is completely brazen, and no one is held to account. The fishing pirates openly request the assistance of the supposedly anti-pirate navies in Somali waters:

Ecoterra Intl. – SMCM (Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor) Part IX
Leaders from the National Association of Freezer Tuna Vessel Owners (ANABAC) and the Big Frozen Tuna Vessels Producers Association (OPAGAC) have also sent written requests to the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs for the establishment of a secondary Atalanta Operation command centre in Mahe, Seychelles, or Mombassa, Kenya, that would bolster protection of tuna fishing vessels from Spain and the EU that operate off southern Somalia.

Amy Goodman interviewed Mohamed Abshir Waldo for Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Abshir Waldo, explain how what you call “fishing piracy” began.

MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Fishing piracy means fishing without license, fishing by force, even though the community complains, even though whatever authorities are there complain, even though they ask these foreign fishing fleets and trawlers and vessels that have no license, that have no permit whatsoever, when they tell them, “Stop fishing and get out of the area,” they refuse, and instead, in fact, they fight. They fought with the fishermen and coastal communities, pouring boiling water on them and even shooting at them, running over their canoes and fishing boats. These were the problems that had been going on for so long, until the community organized themselves and empowered, actually, what they call the National Volunteer Coast Guard, what you would call and what others call today as “pirates.”

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying illegal fishing is happening off the coast of Somalia. What countries are engaged in it?

MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: The countries engaged include practically all of southern Europe, France, Spain, Greece, UK. Nowadays I hear even Norway. There were not many Scandinavians before, but Norwegian fishing now is involved in this, you know, very profitable fishing business. So, there are others, of course. There are Russian. There are Taiwanese. There are Philippines. There are Koreans. There are Chinese. You know, it’s a free-for-all coast.

And to make things worse, we learned that now that the navies and the warships are there; every country is protecting their own illegal fishing piracies—vessels. They have come back. They ran away from the Somali volunteer guards, coast guards, but now they are back. And they are being protected by their navies. In fact, they are coming close to the territorial waters to harass again the fishermen, who no longer have opportunity or possibility to fish on the coast because of the fear of being called pirates and apprehended by the navy, who are at the same time protecting the other side.

So the issue is really a matter of tremendous injustice …

AMY GOODMAN: A little more on the issue of toxic dumping, if you would, Mohamed Abshir Waldo. I don’t think people in the United States understand exactly what it is you’re referring to and how it affects people.

MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Well, toxic dumping, industrial waste dumping, nuclear dumping, as you are probably aware and have heard and many people know, for quite some time, in the ’70s mainly, in the ’80s, in the ’90s, there was a lot of waste of all these kinds that companies wanted to get rid of, following very strict environmental rules in their countries. So where else to take but in countries in conflict or weak countries who could not prevent them or who could be bought? So these wastes have been carried to Somalia. It’s been in the papers. It has been reported by media organizations like Al Jazeera, I think, like CNN. Many had reported about the Mafia, Italian Mafia, who admitted it, dumping it in Somalia for quite some time, for quite a long time.

And as we speak now, I heard yesterday, in fact, another vessel was captured in the Gulf of Aden by community—this time not pirates, by the community, when the suspected it, and it was carrying two huge containers, which it dumped into the sea when they saw these people coming to them. They have been apprehended. The vessel had been apprehended. Fortunately, the containers did not sink into the sea, but they are being towed to the coast. And this community has invited the international community to come and investigate this matter. So far, we don’t have action. So this dumping, waste dumping, toxic dumping, nuclear waste dumping has been ongoing in Somalia since 1992.

AMY GOODMAN: When I read your article, Mohamed Abshir Waldo, it reminded me of a controversial memo that was leaked from the World Bank—this was when Lawrence Summers, now the chief economic adviser, was the chief economist at the World Bank—in which it said, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that. I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted.”

Using the same excuse people always use for offensive and discriminatory remarks, Summers said he was just being sarcastic. People always try to hide prejudice and offense behind “I was just joking”, or “can’t you take a joke”. Summers was voicing something that many people think, but are not willing to articulate. Do you think anyone in the international community will notice the toxic waste that was just dumped?

Nobody cared when the tsunami washed up many tons of toxic waste in broken and leaking containers, and poisoned whole communities along the Somali coast. Rather than protecting the Somali coast, the international navies are protecting the illegal fishing and toxic dumping, and treating Somali fishermen as if they are all pirates. The only chance Somalia has is to form a central government that has support from a majority of the Somali people. But with th US, Ethiopia, and Kenya, undermining all attempts to do this, things don’t look good. Plus it looks very much like the US wants to invade Somalia. The recent execution of the three teenage pirates is probably just another play in the invasion game. Stealing from the poor to give to the rich will continue unquestioned.

cjtf-hoa-djibouti

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

Kaliti prison, Ethiopia

Kaliti prison, Ethiopia

Kaliti prison, another view

Kaliti prison, another view

In January 2007, after the Ethiopian invasion, and US bombing of Somalia, at least 85 different people from at least 25 countries, including the US, were part of Africa’s first mass rendition of prisoners. At least 18 of these were children under the age of 15. They were people trying to flee the fighting in Somalia by crossing into Kenya, and were arrested by the Kenyans. They were then held without charge. They were flown by Kenya to Somalia, and were taken on from there to Ethiopia. In Ethiopia they were subjected to lengthy interrogations by Americans, who also took DNA samples from them. They were questioned repeatedly, for months.

“A week after we arrived we were interrogated by whites – Americans, British, I was interrogated for weeks,” Salim says.

“They had a file which was said to implicate me in the Kenyan bombings. So I was taken away and was placed in isolation for two months – both my hands and legs were shackled.

“The interrogations went on for five months. Always the same questions about the Nairobi bombings.”

Former detainees have also told the BBC they were questioned by US agents. One said he was beaten by Americans.

Two others said they were threatened and told that if they did not co-operate they could face ill treatment at the hands of Ethiopian guards.

All said they believed it was the Americans and not the Ethiopians controlling their detention and interrogation.

Human rights groups in the region say this was a new form of extraordinary rendition.

The US did not play an overt role in the transportation or detention of suspects as it has in the rendition of other suspected terrorists, but it nevertheless controlled their interrogation and treatment.

Nobody know for certain how many people have been renditioned to Ethiopia. The number 85 above is based on the manifests of three flights out of Kenya on one night. The wife of Salim, quoted above was also arrested.

They were all:

… part of the first mass “renditions” in Africa, where prisoners accused of supporting terrorists in Somalia were secretly transferred from country to country for interrogation outside the boundaries of domestic or international law.

Along with at least 85 others from 20 countries, she was flown back to Somalia – a war zone with no effective government or law – and on to Ethiopia. There, American intelligence agents joined the interrogations – photographing and taking DNA samples, even from the children.

On April 7, three months after her arrest, Ms Ahmed was released. Salim Awadh Salim, her husband and father of her unborn baby, is still in detention. So, too, are 78 of the other passengers aboard the three secret rendition flights. At least 18 are children under 15.

Ethiopia admits holding 36 other “suspected international terrorists” but has refused to give the Red Cross access to them. The rest of the “ghost plane” passengers are missing.

On April 7 Ms Ahmed was put on a flight to Kilimanjaro. Her escort promised that her husband and the others would be released with a week.

That was in April 2007. Her husband is still in prison in Ethiopia, he has not been charged, and has not appeared before a court. She was briefly able to talk to him when he got access to a cellphone:

“The conditions are really bad: we don’t have enough food, we don’t have enough access to medicine. The cell is wet,” he says.

“We sleep on the floor rather than the sodden mattresses. One of the other prisoners was beaten so badly he’s had his leg broken.”

Another person still languishing in an Ethiopian jail is Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal. His cousin has been working tirelessly to get him back, and to pressure the Canadian government to do something. So far the Canadian government seems to be dragging its feet. His cousin even created a website to keep people informed, and to try to free him, http://www.makhtal.org

Bashir Makhtal and about 100 other foreigners were swept up in “Africa’s Guantanamo,” a little-known chapter of the U.S.-led war on terror in which a series of illegal “rendition” flights took terror suspects from Kenya to Ethiopia, one of the key allies of the U.S. in the Horn of Africa.

Once in Addis Ababa, the detainees were interrogated by security officials, including agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. In April 2007, Ethiopia finally admitted having Bashir and the others, but refused to allow Canadian diplomats to see him. Bashir, however, said plenty through smuggled letters and messages. In his letter of May 2007, he says that he was beaten and forced to record a false confession to various crimes. Two months after that, according to Human Rights Watch, a fellow detainee saw Bashir briefly and reported that “he was limping. He had a deep cut in one of his legs. He looked weak. He looked so famished.”

There are no rights in Ethiopian jails.

Al Amin Kimathi believes Ethiopia was seen as the ideal destination.

It was the most natural place to take anyone looking for a site to go and torture and to extract confessions. Ethiopia allows torture of detainees. And that is the modus operandi in renditions.”

The US is not only not helping, it is actively hindering:

More than a year and a half after the renditions, the US government still refuses to respond to questions on the alleged US role.

“I have no knowledge of it nor as official policy can I comment on such matters,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer told the BBC.

In 2006 a French woman who was living in Addis left Ethiopia. She had been friends with the opposition politicians. The leadership of the opposition party was jailed in 2005. She visited some of them in prison and took the pictures above. She describes the conditions:

Kaliti is a huge waste ground full of big shacks of iron sheet that look built at random. During the rainy season it is muddy, damp and cold. You are not allowed to check the conditions in which the prisoners are living. Yet some views from outside – see below [above] – give a disastrous impression.

According to my experience of stable manager iron sheet shacks are not suitable for horses, they are cold in winter, hot in summer and likely to bring contagious diseases. … where there are iron sheet and food, there are rats… and big ones … flees and parasites prosper.

I was surprised to hear than Woizero Birtukan, for example, was sharing a cell with 70 other female detainees.

There is a network of prisons in Ethiopia.She interviews a friend in Maeklawi prison:

AF: So, how was Maeklawi? Tell me how it looks like… inside…
AA: Conditions are terrible. We were more than 200 prisoners there and only one of us was allowed to go to the hospital daily.
AF: What kind of diseases detainees are suffering of?
AA: You know, coughing, diarrhea… The food is… Well, I have been traveling all around Ethiopia but never saw THAT kind of injera. I could not identify the place it came from. I did not eat it. I had my own food.
AF: I guess they need medical care for being beaten too, no?
AA: Oh yes, of course… broken legs, broken hands…
AF: Did they dare touching you?
AA: No, I was protected because you were coming but others were not that lucky. One of the prisoners even told me they used electric shocks.

And on leaving Ethiopia she writes that it is:

… a police state in which [to] freely express an opinion endangers your life or drives you to prison, a country where young protestors are beaten and shot. I left a jail. … A few days before my departure, a young man told me: “Tell them, tell them how it is to live here, tell them what we endure.”

Salim Lone writes:

Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this region into Africa’s own version of Guantánamo Bay, replete with kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of “disappeared”: a project that carries the Made in America label. Allowing free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who might have, at a minimum, curtailed it.

These people languishing in Ethiopian jails are caught in something large and evil. This week, on February 16, 2009:

In one of the most extensive studies of counter-terrorism and human rights yet undertaken, an independent panel of eminent judges and lawyers today presents alarming findings about the impact of counter-terrorism policies worldwide and calls for remedial action. The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, established by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), has based its report “Assessing Damage, Urging Action” on sixteen hearings covering more than forty countries in all regions of the world.

In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world. Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights. The result is a serious threat to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework,” said Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the Chair of the Panel, former Chief Justice of South Africa and first President of the South African Constitutional Court.

The report illustrates the consequences of notorious counter-terrorism practices such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary and secret detention, unfair trials, and persistent impunity for gross human rights violations in many parts of the world. The Panel warns of the danger that exceptional “temporary” counter-terrorism measures are becoming permanent features of law and practice, including in democratic societies. The Panel urges that the present political climate may provide one of the last chances for a concerted international effort to take remedial measures and restore long-standing international norms. The change in US administration provides a unique opportunity for change.

“Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years. Human rights and international humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats,” said Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland and current President of the ICJ. “It is now absolutely essential that all states restore their commitment to human rights and that the United Nations takes on a leadership role in this process. If we fail to act now, the damage to international law risks becoming permanent”, she added.

The report calls for the rejection of the “war on terror” paradigm and for a full repudiation of the policies grounded in it.

Map of global arms transfers

Map of US global arms transfers

The New America Foundation has issued a report describing US arms transfers around the world: US Weapons at War 2008. They include a section on arms transfers to Africa, U.S. Arms Recipients, 2006/07: Africa.

They write:

U.S. arms transfers to Africa are being carried out against the backdrop of a major strategic shift in U.S. attention toward the continent, as embodied in the creation of the Africa Command. … with the growing U.S. interest in curbing terror and expanding access to oil in Africa, the Pentagon moved to create a dedicated military command for Africa.

AFRICOM has ambitions to be the point of contact for all U.S. assistance to the continent, both civilian and military. In addition to the danger of underutilizing civilian expertise and mismanaging major projects–as happened when the Pentagon was running U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq–this approach could contribute to the militarization of overall U.S. policy toward Africa, undermining diplomatic and cooperative approaches to the region’s conflicts.

In the narrative they select three countries where US arms transfers are particularly counterproductive and destructive.

Ethiopia, which is engaged in military actions in the Ogaden, in Eritrea, and has invaded and occupied Somalia at US behest, is a major recipient of arms transfers:

So far, the Bush administration has not responded to Ethiopia’s crimes against humanity in the Ogaden with any restrictions on U.S. assistance, presumably because of Addis Ababa’s role in helping to fight alleged terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa. This may be a false tradeoff, however. As Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch noted in his testimony before the subcommittee on Africa of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2007, “U.S. support for Ethiopia in its conflicts in the Somali region and inside Somalia is ineffective and counterproductive.… The current U.S.-backed Ethiopian approach will lead to a mountain of civilian deaths and a litany of abuses.… This approach will only strengthen the hand of the extremist minority in Somalia [and] could lead to the escalation and spread of conflicts in the region and may well help to radicalize the region’s large and young Muslim population.”

This ineffective and counterproductive policy that destroys so many lives is what I wrote about in my previous post. It is effective only in killing and hurting people, and in poisoning US relations with countries in the Horn of Africa

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Ethiopia FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $54,360

Kenya has also been a major recipient of arms transfers. Since the disputed/stolen elections there has been ongoing internal violence, and the police and military have strongly overreacted.

Georgette Gagnon of Human Rights Watch has urged the United States and the United Kingdom to “suspend military assistance until there is an independent investigation of the war crimes. They shouldn’t be supporting the military until Kenyan authorities commit to prosecuting those responsible for torture and war crimes.”

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Kenya FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $84,032

And in Nigeria:

“Widespread government corruption, political and intercommunal violence, police torture and other abuses continue to deny ordinary Nigerians their human rights. During 2007, Nigerian actors including the police, military and elected officials committed serious and persistent abuses against Nigerian citizens with near-complete impunity.”

… Militancy has become a cloak for all forms of criminality in the Niger Delta …

… Rather than attempting to curb this multi-sided violence, more often than not the Nigerian government and Nigerian politicians are complicit in it.

Nigeria has plenty of money, although the vast amount is stolen and misspent:

To give some sense of how much money is available to Nigeria’s various corrupt entities, the country’s top anticorruption official has determined that over $380 billion was stolen or wasted between 1960 and 1999, almost equaling the country’s $400 billion in oil revenues over the same time period.

Nigeria could use some assistance in developing an accountable and responsive government. Arms transfers seem likely only to strengthen the military, to assist it to become a default government, and to continue and expand its abuses.

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Nigeria FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $49,564

These three countries stand out for the amount of arms transfers to them from the US, and for the misuse of those transfers. But they are hardly alone. What is needed is support for government and civilian institutions across the continent. The overwhelming emphasis on arms transfers and military assistance is an incitement to create military governments wherever it occurs.

All of this comes at a time when the citizens of African countries are trying to move beyond military coups and military governments.

Development cannot occur or thrive without local business and local agriculture. Both of these perish in a war zone.

from the Daily Nation

At Moon of Alabama b real has Coup In Kenya: Part II – Exploring U.S. influence in the Kenyan Elections posted. I recommend you read it. It is not a pretty picture. I saw Fareed Zakaria on a Daily Show last week, and he saidwe (the US) like democracy in strategically irrelevant countries, anywhere important, we don’t like it.” US behavior in Kenya is a glowing example of this. Coup In Kenya: Part II went up today, and if it follows the pattern of Coup in Kenya – Part I, it will be worth checking back from time to time over the next week or so to read the comments.

You may also wish to read Countdown to Deception: 30 Hours That Destroyed Kenya by Kenyans for Peace and Justice, also available here. And you might want to read Anatomy of a Rigging by Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, KPTJ.
This last is an hour by hour account -

drawn from the statements of four of the five domestic election observers1 allowed into the verification process the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) . . .

The account illustrates the list of anomalies, malpractices and illegalities that lay behind those results, raising questions as to the ethics, non-partisanship and professionalism of the ECK Commissioners and staff as well as to the validity of the supposed results.

In The Great Divide, authors Holman and Mills write about the political process in contemporary African countries, and say:

the best role that external actors can assume is to be honest in their deliberations about and with these countries, and not attempt to pick and back winners.

from the Daily Nation

Over at Moon of Alabama b real has an excellent writeup of the post electoral Coup in Kenya – Part 1. I recommend you go and read it. In addition to the article, the comments have continued all week, and contain a lot of valuable information and observations, including some from David Barouski who has covered that part of the continent in depth, and for some time. Included is Kibaki’s visit to Uganda, and his use of Ugandan troops against Kenyan citizens to hold his coup in power.

You may also want to take a look at the remarks by Immanuel Wallerstein: “Kenya: Stable Democracy or Meltdown?”

Pambazuka News has several excellent articles on the aftermath of the recent election in Kenya. I’d like to quote three points that sum up a great deal about what has been happening. I have put these in bold. There are lessons here that need to be heeded in a lot of places, in Africa, and around the world, including in the US. From It is the Kenyan people who have lost the election by Firoze Manji:

That the elections results were rigged – of that there is little doubt. The hasty inauguration, the blanket banning on the broadcast media, the dispersal of security forces to deal with expected protests – all these have given the post election period the flavour of a coup d’etat. What was not expected was the speed with which the whole thing would unravel. The declaration of the members of the Electoral Commission that the results were indeed rigged only added to the growing realisation that a coup had indeed taken place.

People across the country took to the streets to protest and were met with disproportionate use of force by the police and GSU. Emotions ran high. And there is evidence that politicians from all sides used the occasion to instigate violent attacks against their opponents constituencies. . . . The western media has been quick to describe these as ‘ethnic clashes’ – but then they appear only to be able to see tribes whenever there are conflicts in Africa. What is ignored by them is that the security forces have been responsible for the majority of killings.

. . .

But the real tragedy of Kenya is that the political conflict is not about alternative political programmes that could address the long standing grievances of the majority over landlessness, low wages, unemployment, lack of shelter, inadequate incomes, homelessness, etc. It is not about such heady aspirations.

No, it boils down to a fight over who has access to the honey pot that is the state. For those in control of the state machinery are free to fill their pockets. So the battle lines are reduced to which group of people are going to be chosen to fill their pockets – and citizens are left to decide perhaps that a few crumbs might fall off the table in their direction.

And the electorate – the mass of citizens who have borne the brunt of the recent violence and decades of prolonged disenfranchisement from accessing the fruits of independence – are reduced to being just being fodder for the pigs fighting over the trough.

M. at the tHiNkErS ROoM writes: where two kiosks and adjacent homes owned by friends of mine were looted and burnt

M at Thinkers Room, and Ory Okolloh at Kenyan Pundit are both thoughtful observers writing from Kenya. They share their observations and some relevant links.

M provides a lot of information and description, about the lead up to the election, and about what happened after, he writes:

Much ado has ben made over the right to vote, and the empowerment of the voter. Kenyans were told that they had the power to shape their destiny and choose their leadership. And so they turned out in colossal numbers and they voted. They were told that they had a voice and that it would be listened to.

And when it came down to it their voice, the ballot was ignored. And so they had only one voice left — protest.
. . .
Supporting this travesty because it favours someone you like is a dangerous and foolish precedent.

What we have lost, my friends, is our voice. The power of the ballot. The right to determine our leadership and our destiny. The very thing our forefathers risked their lives fighting for.

So if you are celebrating because Kibaki ‘won’ or you are bitter becauase Raila ‘lost’ my friends you need to wake up and smell the coffee.

You need to be better because your voice has been stolen from you.

Ory Okolloh at Kenyan Pundit writes:

- Bankelele has a good post that highlights why the conflict is about more than just Kikuyu vs. Luo (can the international media please catch up).
. . .
- For those who are asking about other blogs that are covering the situation in Kenya. Hash has a comprehensive list.

. . .
We are all feeling so helpless and are reduced to platitudes like “let’s hope for the best” and all “we can do is pray” and “it will end soon” and “these guys need to do something” but all we are doing is masking our fear that we are on a precipice.

- Google Earth supposedly shows in great detail where the damage is being done on the ground. It occurs to me that it will be useful to keep a record of this, if one is thinking long-term. For the reconciliation process to occur at the local level the truth of what happened will first have to come out. Guys looking to do something – any techies out there willing to do a mashup of where the violence and destruction is occurring using Google Maps?

. . .

- ODM plans to hold another rally on Saturday. I fail to see the point of these rallies…they’d be better off trying to assist people who have been affected by the violence.
. . .
I’m really just stunned by the fact that the government is not even attempting to avert the humanitarian crisis – there’s no talk of shelters, no talk of relief supplies, zero . . . at minimum they have the resources to alleviate the suffering of those who have been displaced and they’ve done nothing.

African Loft also has some links and comments.

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