April 2009


KIGALI, Rwanda - General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (left of center), claps along to the spirited singing of Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) soldiers celebrating the conclusion of a live-fire demonstration at the RDF's Gabiro School of Infantry in Gabiro, Rwanda, April 21, 2009. The demonstration was part of a tour for a U.S. Africa Command delegation led by General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The Gabiro School is the RDF's primary facility for infantry, armor, artillery and engineering training of RDF officers and enlisted members. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Kenneth Fidler)

KIGALI, Rwanda - General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command (left of center), claps along to the spirited singing of Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) soldiers celebrating the conclusion of a live-fire demonstration at the RDF's Gabiro School of Infantry in Gabiro, Rwanda, April 21, 2009. The demonstration was part of a tour for a U.S. Africa Command delegation led by General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command. The Gabiro School is the RDF's primary facility for infantry, armor, artillery and engineering training of RDF officers and enlisted members. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Kenneth Fidler)

Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report has done an evaluation of President Obama’s first 100 days. He has listed 18 categories to evaluate Obama’s performance so far, and what it indicates for the future. He assigns each category a number of points, with a potential total of all points equalling 100. I am focused just on the Africa Policy section here. Bruce Dixon’s analysis is always worth reading, and I recommend the entire article: Obama’s First 100 Days — The Black Agenda Report Card.

On the subject of Africa Policy Dixon is absolutely right on the mark. Dixon allows 5 potential points for performance on Africa Policy.

Obama’s Africa Policy: Our Brotherman and the Motherland

In recent years the US has provided arms transfers, military training and military assistance to more than 50 out of Africa’s 54 nations. Hence Africa is the most war-torn region on earth, containing millions of square miles in which hospitals, schools, agriculture, industry and civil society have collapsed into vast law-free zones, such as the eastern Congo, where 5 million souls have perished since the mid 1990s. These law-free zones have proven an ideal business-friendly environment for the extraction of Congo’s timber and mineral wealth, including 90% of the world’s coltan, an essential strategic mineral found in every cell phone, computer, aircraft and modern electronic device. Resources extracted from law free zones in the Congo and elsewhere in Africa invariably find their way into “legitimate” markets of Western Europe and the US.

While the death toll in neighboring Darfur the death toll is a twentieth or a hundredth that of the Congo, according to Mahmood Mandani and others who are in a position to know, but the Obama Administration, just like the Bush Administration before it, calls Darfur a “genocide,” and not the Congo. The difference, say many, is that the Sudanese oil is being pumped out by the Chinese, while the profits from 5 million Congolese dead end up here. The “genocide” label is about as truthful as Saddam’s WMD, another excuse for military intervention.

Barack Obama has been to Somalia, but his administration continues the twenty year low-intensity war against that unhappy country. Somalia hasn’t had a central government in two decades not because its people don’t want one, but because successive US Republican and Democratic administrations brand as “terrorist Al Qeada sympathizers” any Somali government that won’t grant the US the exclusive rights to the untapped lake of oil beneath the country.

The Bush administratin established AFRICOM, the US imperial command on the continent, a move so unpopular that only one African government in 54 will dare openly accept it, fearing the wrath of their own constituents. Although it is a military command headed a black US general AFRICOM is seconded by a civilian from the State Department, and liberally sprinkled with representatives of every US civilian governmental, and some ostensible non-governmental entity which does business in Africa. Thus AFRICOM deliberately blurs the line between US civilian and military involvement on the African continent, and even more thoroughly militarizes US policy toward Africa.

Nobody who thinks half a minute about it imagines that the militarization of Africa, and of US policy toward Africa is a good thing. It has been US policy for more than two decades. Among the bipartisan designers of this policy are Obama’s top foreign policy advisors including Madeline Albright and Susan Rice. You can look awfully hard for some good news in Obama’s policy toward Africa so far, and find no reason for optimism.

We’ll give him one point out of five anyway, for no good reason. Call it hope.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th occupant of the Golden Stool as Asantehene, on April 26, 2009 held a grand durbar at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to climax activities marking the 10th Anniversary of his enstoolment. The photo gallery shows some of the rich cultural display and personalities at the occasion.  Photos by Isaac Yeboah and David Andoh

Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th occupant of the Golden Stool as Asantehene, on April 26, 2009 held a grand durbar at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to climax activities marking the 10th Anniversary of his enstoolment. The photo gallery shows some of the rich cultural display and personalities at the occasion. Photos by Isaac Yeboah and David Andoh

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President Mills and his entourage and other dignitaries at the event. They include (from left) Lady Julia, wife of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II; Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, Attorney Generarl and Minister of Justice, President Mills and Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr. Opoku Manu.

President Mills and his entourage and other dignitaries at the event. They include (from left) Lady Julia, wife of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II; Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, Attorney Generarl and Minister of Justice, President Mills and Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr. Opoku Manu.

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Otumfuo being paraded through Kumasi as thousands lined the streets to cheer him

Otumfuo being paraded through Kumasi as thousands lined the streets to cheer him

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My Joy Online carries a beautiful photogallery, 55 pictures of the grand durbar of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. The photographs are the work of Isaac Yeboah and David Andoh. GhanaWeb also features a smaller photogallery, also with beautiful pictures.

[Added May 5:
There is another beautiful picture gallery of this event at Kumasi.info.]

From articles at GhanaWeb:

Kumasi, April 26, GNA – Asanteman is today holding a durbar of chiefs and people at Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi to climax activities marking the 10th anniversary of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s ascending of the Golden Stool.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu II 10 years ago swore the customary oath to the chiefs of the Kumasi Traditional Area at “Dwaberem” at the Manhyia Palace in Kumasi.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu, who was then 49 years old, succeeded Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, who died on February 25 1999. He held the “Mponponsuo”, the state sword, in his right hand, espoused the greatness, achievements and conquests of his ancestors and pledged to blaze their trail. “If I fail to continue the exploits of my ancestors and fail in my duty I contravene the Great Oath of Asante”

Kumasi, April 26, GNA – The Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has announced plans to roll out new ambitious economic development initiatives to complement the achievements chalked under his leadership in the last 10 years.

He said under his newly launched Charity Foundation, which had been incorporated in Ghana, United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), a number of development initiatives in the areas of environmental sanitation, ICT, private sector development, tourism and education among other things would be tackled.

Over the last decade, he had applied the traditional way of resolving conflicts and this had yielded positive results, he said. The Asante King called on the people to support him to carry through with these initiatives.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu used the occasion to honour four former African Heads of State for their contribution towards the deepening of democratic governance on the Continent. They were Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone; Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana and Festus Mogae of Botswana.

They received beautifully designed kente clothes and citations. Former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, who was also present, was honoured by the Asantehene for his love and support for Africa. He also received a kente cloth and a citation.

Kumasi, April 26, GNA – Authentic African culture, glamour, royalty, pomp and pageantry were on full display at a durbar of chiefs and people of Asanteman to climax activities marking 10 years of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene’s coronation.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu dressed in richly designed kente cloth and adored with gold, rode to the durbar grounds in a palanquin under the canopy of large umbrellas and amidst the throbbing of “fontomfrom’ and “kete” drums and clattering of executioners swords at exactly 1100 hours.

Moments later, President Mills also drove in and on arrival exchanged pleasantries with the Asantehene. All this while, Paramount Chiefs from the 63 Paramountcies that make up the Asanteman and their subordinate chiefs had taken their seats under huge multi-coloured umbrellas.

President Mills lauded Otumfuo Osei Tutu and labelled his decade reign as 10 years of positive and exemplary leadership. He cited the immense support the King was providing in the areas of education and health in the country and said “Otumfuo deserves our commendation”.

The presence of peoples from across the world at the durbar, he pointed out was an eloquent testimony of the fact that the Asantehene had touched the lives of many and was a unifying factor.

President Mills used the occasion to encourage Ghanaians to ensure a united front, saying: “We must always remember that we belong to Mother Ghana.” Otumfuo Osei Tutu said the celebration was to recognize African civilization and demonstrate to the world that Africa had a great culture and traditions.

imfpoultryEU dumping chicken parts on Ghana, cartoon by Khalil Bendib for corpwatch.org

Once again it looks like Africa will get to to subsidize the disasters of western capitalism.

In past global downturns, the severity of the impact on Africa varied considerably from state to state. This downturn is washing up on all of the continent’s shores, cramping both the formal and informal sectors as currencies lose value, the cost of imports rise, and living standards fall. As the big engines of regional growth have slowed – South Africa in the south, Nigeria in the west, and Kenya in the east – the contagion has spread to poorer countries in the landlocked interior.

Economists, investment analysts and policymakers were all slow to see this coming. Until late last year, many believed that the poorest continent would escape relatively unscathed from the gathering storms. This was partly because African banks were not exposed to the toxic assets eating away at Wall Street and the City of London.

It also resulted from the belief that the continent’s strengthening economic performance has been the result of interwoven trends, not just the commodity boom. …

it now seems painfully obvious just how vulnerable this emerging recovery was likely to be, given its roots in world trade and a relatively narrow base of exports.

Ghana has already suffered at the hands of the free marketeers, the banksters who are eliminating the middle class, and crushing the poor everywhere. Ghana has been the victim of agricultural dumping, chicken and tomatoes from the EU, plus rice from the US. From CorpWatch in 2005:

In 1992 domestic poultry farmers supplied 95 percent of the Ghanaian market, but by 2001 their market share had shrunk to just 11 percent. The imported chicken is available (wholesale) at a price that is only slightly more than half of the wholesale price of local chicken.

The accompanying loss of jobs has also been remarkable. The industry has lost 150 jobs in the past few months alone, say the Farmers Associations. Commercial poultry farms — which do not include small rural producers — employ up to 5,000 people. Any job loss has far reaching implications for Ghana’s 20 million people because each worker often provides support for numerous others in their household.

Foreign producers currently pay a 20 percent tariff or tax on the poultry they send to Ghana. Two years ago, the Ghanaian Parliament passed a law allowing an additional 20 percent tariff to be imposed on imported chicken, bringing the overall tariffs to 40 per cent.

In a dramatic move, just two months after the law was passed, the Customs and Excise Preventive Services (CEPS), the body responsible for implementing the tariffs, issued an order reversing the decision. The new tariffs were said to be in conflict with regional tariffs. In other words, the proposal have been blocked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an institution in which the Ghanaian government has less than 0.5 per cent of the vote.

Adding insult to injury:

The IMF made it clear that it was opposed to the higher tariffs on the grounds that it will hurt Ghana’s poverty reduction program.

Wheareas IMF policies consistently increased the number of unemployed, expanded poverty, and decreased productivity and self sufficiency in Ghana as in most countries.

There is some question as to whether a 40 percent tariff on the chicken would actually solve the problem. According “For Richer or Poorer” an April 2004 report released by Christian AID, it was estimated that “tariffs would need to be 80 percent, four times their current level” to allow local producers and processors to compete fairly with EU imports,” because “European producers gave enjoyed decades of subsidies, support and protection from their government.”

In fact IMF policies expand and increase the reach of poverty:

“It is through no fault of ours that our production costs are high,” he adds. “Just look at electricity and water tariffs, as well as the price of petrol and diesel. So, in plain terms, our government is telling us to fold up.”

As pointed out farther along, those electricity and water tariffs are the direct result of IMF actions.

In fact, most members of the once thriving 400,000 member National Association of Poultry Farmers have folded up. And Ghana’s rice and tomato industries are equally threatened.

… Ghana was on the way to becoming self-sufficient in rice production in the 1970s and 1980s. But the IMF structural adjustment program halted farm subsidies to rice farmers. Ghana now produces a mere 150,000 tonnes of rice, or 35 percent of its domestic need.

No longer able to farm because of the high prices of agriculture inputs, many young people are flocking to the urban centers searching for non-existent jobs. More displaced people from the rice and poultry sectors are bound to increase the numbers drifting to the urban centers, causing social problems.

The greed and theft of Wall Street are hitting Ghana through no fault of Ghanaians:

This is a good place to survey what Wall Street and the City of London did to the world. Ghana, which has met its millennium goals on children in primary education and cutting poverty, has been an economic and political success story, with high growth. A centre-left government has just taken over after hard-fought but peaceful elections. It is better protected than some, the prices of its gold and cocoa holding up in the recession. Offshore oil will flow in a few years.

But last year world food and oil prices soared. China’s slashed demand for raw materials is harming much of Africa. Global warming caused a drought that drained the dam powering Ghana’s electricity, requiring crippling oil imports. The last government borrowed to cover these unexpected costs, the currency dropped in value, inflation rose to 20% and credit has dried up.

Economists at the NGO Oxfam point out that this was not caused by profligacy, but by external events last year. A further source of bitterness: if rich countries had kept their 2005 Gleneagles promises, as Britain did, Ghana would have received $1bn, with no need to borrow at all.

Where should Ghana turn? To the IMF, of course, now the G20 has swelled its treasury. But there is deep political and public resistance after previous bad experience. Remember how humiliated Britain felt going cap in hand to the fund in 1976. Ghanaians know how World Bank and IMF largesse came with neoliberal quack remedies.

Cutting public services, making the poor poorer, putting cash crops and trade before welfare was the old IMF way. It was the IMF that insisted on meters for Ghana’s water supply, demanding full cash recovery for the service, steeply raising costs for the poorest. The World Bank insisted on a private insurance model for Ghana’s health service that has been administratively expensive and wasteful. The new government rejects it, promising free healthcare for children. The IMF wants subsidies for electricity removed, again hitting the poorest hardest. A market policy of making individuals pay full cost for vital services instead of general taxation has made the IMF hated; Ghana has now voted for more social democratic solutions. Freedom from the IMF feels like a second freedom from colonialism to many countries.

No wonder the new government hesitates to apply for a loan

The IMF protests that it has changed: it no longer prescribes or monitors so oppressively, and countries seeking loans can set their own goals. A British cabinet minister was quoted on G20 day as saying that it should be no more stigmatising than “going to a spa to recuperate”. Arnold Mcintyre, the IMF’s representative in Ghana, insists that it would be entirely up to the government to propose its own measures. This is, to put it politely, disingenuous.

Every government knows what it has to do to get credit, so Ghana has already said it will lower its deficit from 15% to 9.5% of GDP in one year, steeply cutting public sector costs. “They can do it through efficiency savings, with no damage to services,” says Mcintyre breezily. The government grits its teeth and says it can, and will: IMF economic thought often enters the soul of finance ministers. IMF power makes it the sole credit-rating agency for all other donors and lenders – an IMF thumbs-down means money from everywhere is cut off.

Oxfam’s senior policy adviser and economist, Max Lawson, doubts such cuts are needed, just a loan to tide Ghana over. “The IMF is too brutal … demanding balanced books within one or two years. The only way to make such a deep cut is in social spending: teachers’ salaries are the main item.”

It’s a strange irony that Barack Obama and Gordon Brown embrace a Keynesian fiscal stimulus and in its name pour out global largesse to the IMF to distribute. But loan recipients risk a Friedmanite tourniquet, cutting off their economic lifeblood. Will Obama and Brown see how their policy is translated on the ground?

Free market is a religion, a belief. It is not science or economics. We have brutal global evidence that it does not produce the advertised results, or live up to its promises. As long as the true believers are in charge, there will be no substantive change. The article quoted above points out that microcredit, and local credit unions are the way to raise productivity, relieve poverty, and increase the numbers of children in school and spending on education. The tiny local credit unions in Ghana discussed in the article have a 0% default rate on their microloans. But none of that is big and glamorous, and it does nothing to add to bankster CEO salaries and bonuses. So I doubt we will see much change in the behavior and policies of the IMF.

Note (4/28/09):
Khalil Bendib very graciously extended permisssion to use the cartoon above.  His cartoons combine elegant drawing with witty and incisive commentary.  You can see more at his website: The Pen is Funnier Than the Sword.  
You can buy his book here.

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h/t to AfriGadget for this alert on Maker Faire Africa to be held in Accra Ghana this August 13-15. The following is from the AfriGadget blog:

As Emeka puts it:

The aim of a Maker Faire-like event is to create a space on the continent where Afrigadget-type innovations, inventions and initiatives can be sought, identified, brought to life, supported, amplified, propagated, etc. Maker Faire Africa asks the question, “What happens when you put the drivers of ingenious concepts from Mali with those from Ghana and Kenya, and add resources to the mix?

We came at this event from a specific angle – we mixed the types of individuals who show up on AfriGadget and Timbuktu Chronicles, and the ethos of the greater MAKE community, all with the blessings of the good folks at Maker Faire. The dates were chosen to coincide with Amy Smith’s and MIT’s International Development and Design Summit (IDDS), which will run for 3 weeks before MFA, also in Ghana.

How You can Support MFA

First off, help spread the word!

Let people know where and when it will be. Share the link to the site, grab a badge, blog it.

Second, be a sponsor, and help us find sponsors.

If you know an organization or individual who would like to support this amazing event, put us in touch with them. It could be monetary, or it could be donating some cool gadgets, gear, tools or devices for people to hack on while there. (example idea: we’d love to get some LEGO Mindstorm kits for the local high schools). Be a sponsor.

Third, come.

If you have the time and ability, we’d love to have you, your ideas and your gadgets at MFA.

The Team

Want to get involved yourself? Get in touch!

GEGGADE DESERT, Djibouti - French and American forces head out to a U.S. Marine CH 53 helicopter for transport to desert survival training in the Geggade Desert, Djibouti March 23, 2009. The training provided by the French Forces in Djibouti integrates U.S. service members deployed to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti and French military personnel while teaching survival skills specific to the Djiboutian deserts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)

GEGGADE DESERT, Djibouti - French and American forces head out to a U.S. Marine CH 53 helicopter for transport to desert survival training in the Geggade Desert, Djibouti March 23, 2009. The training provided by the French Forces in Djibouti integrates U.S. service members deployed to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti and French military personnel while teaching survival skills specific to the Djiboutian deserts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)

Daniel Volman and William Minter describe the problem succinctly in Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa:

The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

When the GAO published its February report on AFRICOM, PDF: Actions Needed to Address Stakeholder Concerns, Improve Interagency Collaboration, and Determine Full Costs Associated with the U.S. Africa Command, the conclusion was:

This report addresses three challenges that could affect the ultimate success of AFRICOM. First, DOD has not yet fully allayed concerns about the command’s role and mission both inside the U.S. government and with potential African partners. Second, AFRICOM has not yet determined how many personnel it needs from other U.S. government agencies or what functions they will perform, and interagency planning processes are still immature. Third, DOD has not yet decided the locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and presence on the continent, or agreed upon criteria with stakeholders for making such decisions, leaving considerable uncertainty about future costs at a time when defense budgets are projected to become increasingly constrained. DOD and AFRICOM are working to address these challenges but it is unclear when their efforts will be completed. Unless these challenges are addressed, the effectiveness of the command may suffer and costs are likely to escalate.

What the GAO report does not address is any overall justification for the command to exist at all. It assumes the command is a good thing and should go forward. It treats African and US skepticism as “misperception”. To assert this is to take the erroneous approach that all the problems are public relations problems: the truth does not matter, what an organization is doing does not matter, only the image projected in the advertising campaign matters.

AFRICOM hurts brand America, and stands in the way of any genuine multilateral efforts towards peacemaking or peacekeeping. AFRICOM stands in the way of civil society groups who are trying to strengthen democratic institutions in their own countries. It is often a threat to these same groups, treating them as “insurgents” or “terrorists” and assisting repressive governments to crack down on them. Bilateral military ties strengthen the military sector in its efforts to suppress competition and regulation from the civilian sector. This comes when Africans throughout the continent want the military out of government and back in the barracks. When the US supports only the military, the civilian sector can whither. We currently see this US policy at work in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the DRC, Rwanda, the Niger Delta, Mali, Senegal, just to name a few places. This hurts the people in those countries, and by doing so hurts the interests of the United States. It hurts support and goodwill for the United States.

Militarism limits the possibility of developing a climate where entrepreneurs can create business, except those businesses that can be carried out at the point of a gun. And it makes it difficult or impossible to develop the civil infrastructure and institutions necessary for peace and democracy. This strengthens the enemies of the US, by demonstrating the US does not care about the majority of the citizens in Africa or the world, and weakens US influence. Militarism is a lavish gift to the enemies of the US, giving those enemies more credibility, and enhancing their support and ability to attack US citizens and institutions.

Brand America has generally been popular in Africa. Bush policies did it tremendous damage. So far Obama seems to be continuing those same policies. The opportunity for positive change is still open.

At the Summit of the Americas yesterday Obama said:

“It’s a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence.”

The US War on Drugs has been an unbroken failure, and has now driven the drug trade to West Africa.  AFRICOM has been trying to promote its efforts at drug interdiction in Ghana and throughout West Africa as a way to get its foot in the door. The same goes for “terrorism” interdiction, and “insurgency” interdiction throughout the continent. Both Latin America and Africa would like to leave militarism behind. Let us hope Obama understands and means his own words.

To repeat and expand the wise words of Volman and Minter:

The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

There’s no one prescription for those countries now facing violent conflicts, much less for the wide range of issues faced by over 50 African countries. Africa’s serious problems, moreover, will not be solved from outside, either by the United States or by the “international community.”

Nevertheless, it’s important to ensure that U.S. Africa policy does no harm and that the United States makes a significant contribution to diminishing the real security threats on the continent. Once one recognizes that U.S. national security also depends on the human security of Africans, some essential elements of such a framework do become clear. To what extent they can be embodied into practice will depend not only on the internal deliberations of the new administration in Washington, but also on whether Africans working for peace and justice on the continent can themselves chart new directions and make their voices heard.

Africans working for peace and justice on the continent can only be heard if someone is listening. The US needs to listen to these groups, and find ways to include them in the conversation. Working towards democratic processes is needed everywhere. The US needs some work on democracy at home after the past eight years. It cannot be done with guns, or with structural adjustment programs. Without democratic oversight, capitalism is just organized crime.  Democratic oversight requires democratic participation of the people who live in a place.  The people on the ground throughout Africa must be able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Unless the US is willing to engage with other than its military, it is wasting its money, showing its weakness, and making it far more difficult to achieve its goals or increase its influence. As Obama said:

“… if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence.”

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wreckage from the Ilyushin 76, photo/Reuters

On March 9 an Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, Soviet era plane, owned by Aerolift, known gunrunners, and chartered by Dyncorp, one of the largest suppliers of mercenaries, burst into flames and crashed into Lake Victoria. Supposedly it was carrying tents and water purification equipment to the AMISOM, African Union Mission in Somalia, soldiers in Somalia. Reports say 11 people on the plane were killed. Dyncorp is currently under contract with the US Department of State.

From Uganda’s New Vision, a description of the crash:
Entebbe place crash kills eleven

The accident occurred moments after the Ilyushin cargo plane, S9-SAB, operated by Aerolift left the airport. Dynacorp, an American company, had chartered the plane.

The aircraft plunged into the water at a place referred to as Magombe, loosely translated as graveyard, owing to the disasters that have occurred there in the past. Several boats have reportedly capsized in the area, fishermen disclosed.

Magombe, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority, is about 5.5 nautical miles (9.9km) south of the airport. The plane burst into flames before it hurtled into the water and got submerged, witnesses said.

“It left the airport after a Kenya Airways flight but it made an awkward sound. It caught fire soon after it got off the ground,” an officer at Kigungu Police post said.

A policeman, Gerald Ssesanga, who resides near the airport, said he saw the blaze but thought it was a fire lit along the shore. Juma Kalanzi, a fisherman, also saw the fire but initially thought it was on the nearby Nsaze Island.

“I realised it was a plane when the fire started spreading on the lake,” he stated.

So big was the blaze that it caught the attention of the early risers along the shores of the lake.

A search and rescue team comprising the army, the Police and CAA staff rescued two tired fishermen, Karim Mubajje, and another only identified as Deo. Mubajje and Deo narrowly survived after their boat capsized as the blazing plane plunged into the lake where they were fishing.

Mubajje recounted hearing a loud explosion as they drew nets out of the water. “In a few seconds, the plane spun several times and tumbled into the water, capsizing our boat,” he said.

They held onto the wooden pieces of their boat for four hours until they were rescued.

Responding to a question on whether the crash was the work of terrorists, Masiko remarked: “I am not ruling out anything and I am not including anything. Don’t speculate. Let us wait for the investigations.”

On the plane’s airworthiness, the minister disclosed that it was okay, adding that it flew to Somalia 20 times in February.

There are only 28 days in February, that means this plane, chartered by Dyncorp, was making almost daily flights to Somalia during February. What was it carrying? Who was paying for the cargo? Was it in violation of the UN Arms Embargo? And was it only flying these trips in February, did it start before that? Does Dyncorp continue to charter Soviet era Aerolift planes registered in Sao Tome for flights back and forth to Somalia?

Further description of the crash from Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Mr Yusuf Buga, a fisherman, said he heard an explosion first and then about 10 miles away from where he was winding up his fishing, a fireball fell from the sky into the lake.
“It was not a plane that plunged into the water; by the time it hit the water, it was a fireball that continued to burn on the water surface for about an hour,” Mr Buga says.
Mr Charles Kiwanuka, 19, seems to have seen even more action than Mr Buga.

“By 5:00am, we were all packing up because we fish at night. From our boat we heard an explosion and, on looking up, saw a fireball headed for the waters where two other fishermen dozed on their canoe. The aircraft exploded from the air before falling into the lake as a fire.”

The two fishermen Mr Kiwanuka refers to, who survived by holding onto a piece of crap from the shattered aircraft …

Also from Uganda’s Daily Monitor: Crashed plane ‘not inspected’

The Illyushin-76 cargo plane carrying 16 tonnes of supplies including tents and water-purification equipment for Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in Somalia plunged into Lake Victoria soon after take-off from Entebbe Airport.

The aircraft was on a support flight carrying water purifiers and other equipment for ugandan peacekeeping troops in Somalia.” It seems unlikely that the plane was carrying 16 tonnes of just tents and water purification equipment for the 3700 AMISOM troops. So what else was on the plane? Additionally, three high ranking Burundian officers were in the plane, including a brigadier general and a colonel.

SA plane crash victim identified

Duncan Rykaart, a former special forces operator and colonel, was one of 11 people aboard a Ilyushin 76 cargo plane that crashed into Lake Victoria on Monday.

He had been working for Bancroft Global Development, an American company specialising in research on explosive devices and landmines, since January. The company advises the African Union’s peacekeeping troops in Somalia.

Regarding Mr. Rykaart’s history:

November 2001: Guns for hire again

A born-again Executive Outcomes operation is at the centre of allegations of a military contract between ex-South African Defence Force soldiers and the Sudanese army.

We hear South African security has established a link between a local company known as NFD and the Sudan contract.

NFD’s directors include Duncan Rykaart (ex- colonel in the SA Defence Force’s Five Recce Brigade)

NFD Operations Manager Rykaart denies any knowledge of the Sudan contract, though SA military sources pinpoint him as taking the lead role in the negotiations with Khartoum. … Rykaart insists his company has no foreign security contracts currently, although the NFD website boasts a client base in Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Angola and Bulgaria.

As b real points out:

all of the training & arming of somalis on all sides continues in violation of the arms embargo. that’s part of what makes the 20 flights into mogadishu so interesting. and the u.s. sponsored training by the ugandans, rwandans, and kenyans (and possibly even south africans)

He adds some relevant background material on Dyncorp, and its contract with the Department of State:

US hires military contractor to support peacekeeping mission in Somalia

NAIROBI, Kenya: The United States has hired a major military contractor to provide equipment and logistical support to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, bringing U.S. dependence on private military companies in several hot spots to a particularly troubled corner of Africa. The DynCorp International contract is the latest in a series of deals that allow the United States to play a greater role in African military matters, without having to use uniformed troops…

The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include “support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries’ armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to bid documents.

If everything was legit, why was Dyncorp using an uninspected Aerolift plane? The old Russian planes were supposed to be banned in Uganda in 2005, plus, the crew of the plane may have been drunk:

Queries raised over ‘condemned’ aircraft that plunged into Lake Victoria

..as efforts to recover the wreckage and the bodies continued into the weekend, reports were emerging that the aircraft should not have been in Ugandan airspace in the first place because the Civil Aviation Authority had banned aged Russian-type planes from operating in the country in 2005.

Even more intriguing were reports from patrons of a popular pub in Entebbe that the crew drank well into the night before their 5.14 am departure on the flight.

Conceding that the authority suffers from political interference that limits its capacity for safety oversight over ad-hoc operators, highly placed sources in the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority told The EastAfrican that the flying coffins were back in force, operating on the authority of powerful political figures who exert considerable pressure on the regulator.

So far AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, has not been named in this story. But it officially enters the picture in the efforts to recover the wreckage from the lake:

US Army to help Uganda in plane crash recovery
The US government is scheduled to assist the government of Uganda in conducting search and recovery operations of human remains and the flight data recorder from the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria recently.

Service members from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a US body based in Djibouti are expected in Uganda to help in the rescue mission, according to a press statement from the body.

This follows a request by the U.S. Embassy in Uganda and the government of Uganda for U.S. military assistance in recovery operations at the crash site. …

AFRICOM and the Ugandans work on recovering the wreckage:

Ugandan, US divers recover plane wreckage

The Americans have been tasked to retrieve the remains of the dead, recover the black box and advise the investigation team based at the Civil Aviation Authority offices in Entebbe. “US service members are in the Horn of Africa to build relationships with partner nations,” Anthony Kurta, a US commander, said.

“We have deployed a team to support Ugandans in the operations. We work beside Ugandan military forces on a regular basis as part of our efforts to strengthen their own security capacity,” he added.

Two Russians; a captain and the co-pilot, two Ukrainians, three senior Burundian army officers, two Ugandans, a South African and an Indian died in the March 9 incident.

The remains of the Ugandans, Burundians and Ukrainians have been buried.

And the nature of the plane’s cargo, and the recovery efforts take an even odder turn in this press release, with explanatory comments from b real:

From a press release by CJTF-HOA’s public affairs outfit: U.S. Horn of Africa Personnel Dive for Aircraft Wreckage in Lake Victoria

U.S. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa have located the wreckage of an Ilyshin II 76 aircraft that crashed in Lake Victoria and are conducting diving operations to retrieve information.

The divers have found the aircraft tail.

“It was very tall, and it was in the flight path, so we splashed divers on it and there it was,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Scott Bryant, the on-scene diving operations officer. “We also located portions of the fuselage, that are not enclosed, they are cracked open like an egg.”

According to Bryant, divers have also located both wings, landing gear with four tires and what they believe to be one of the engines. However they believe the other engines are sunk and will confirm over the next few days.

“Most of the heavy stuff is underneath the silt. We found parts of the tail that are sunk and the divers had to dig five feet under,” he said. “This is very difficult diving and potentially very hazardous. Probably some of the most difficult I’ve seen in 19 years of service. There is no visibility, especially once you touch the bottom; a powder, like talcum powder, floats up everywhere and you can’t see at all. Because of the wreckage, there are very sharp medal objects pointing everywhere and we have fishing nets to deal with.”

Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in the world. The wreckage is 80 feet under water, buried in approximately 15 feet of silt and 6.8 miles from the closest pier.

CJTF-HOA brought personnel and equipment to Uganda from Bahrain, Italy and Djibouti. Equipment includes sonar systems, self contained under water breathing apparatus (SCUBA) gear, surface-supply diving equipment, a hyperbaric chamber for emergencies and three boats. CJTF-HOA is part of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

As b real points out:

of course the pr piece omits any mention of dyncorp or its contract w/ DoS so that it can portray (“shape” is the popular term these days) the operation as assisting the ugandan govt.

that’s alot of expensive equipment to bring in for the recovery operations. fortunately for them nobody really is asking any important questions

Note the captions of the following pictures of the recovery operation taken from the CJTF-HOA photo gallery:

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Lieutenant (junior grade) Scott Bryant, assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 (EODMU 2), directs a team member to approach a safety boat provided by the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority on Africa's Lake Victoria March 27, 2009. Bryant is the diving officer-in-charge of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Petty Officer 2nd Class John Handrahan, assigned to the forward-deployed U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11), dives into Lake Victoria in Africa March 28, 2009 as part of a search and recovery operation being conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and the government of Uganda. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Cory Drake

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

ENTEBBE, Uganda - Sailors assigned to U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 reflect upon a day of completed dives into Africa's Lake Victoria April 1, 2009. The units are diving as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission to locate the wreckage of an Ilyushin 76 cargo aircraft which crashed into the lake on March 9 and retrieve information for the Ugandan government's investigation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)

Recovery operations include U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8, EODMU 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, and U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11). Again from b real:

at least 3 EODMU units on the scene?

according to the website global security, this represents both “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1” (EODGRU 1) and “Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two” (EODGRU 2)

on the former,

The mission of EODGRU 1 is to provide the Pacific Fleet with the capability to detect, identify, render safe, recover, evaluate, and dispose of explosive ordnance which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material.

on the latter,

EODGRU 2’s mission is to provide combat ready EOD and Diving & Salvage forces to the Fleet per unit ROC & POEs. Eliminate ordnance hazards that jeopardize operations conducted in support of the national military strategy. Clear harbors and approaches of obstacles. Salvage/recover ships, aircraft and weapons lost or damaged in peacetime or combat.

nothing in either of those missions about recovering tents & water purifiers

which is more likely –

1. the EODMU’s are looking for evidence of sabotage
2. the EODMU’s are looking to recover ordnance

After this there is not much more information. At least two accounts say the black box was found, although there was one denial that it was found.  No statements about any information from the black box have been forthcoming.

no mention of dyncorp, dos, dyncorp, amisom, africom, the eodmu teams, ordnance disposal, etc…

okay, hold on a moment.

“The wreckage is still 80ft under the water and 15ft under silt in Lake Victoria that cannot enable the divers get the black box out of the wreckage,” The Air Force spokesperson Captain Tabaro Kiconco has said.

yet

Capt. Kiconco said that the divers had successfully mapped the area w[h]ere the wreckage was found and also retrieved the cracked open portion of the fuselage, plane wings, one of the engines and landing gear with four tyres.

what do you wanna bet that’s not all those divers from the different explosive ordnance disposal mobile units retrieved from the lake?

And that is where the story ends, or at least where the telling of the story ends. There are no serious answers on what caused the crash, or what the plane was carrying that required explosive ordnance disposal units to recover. There are no further questions asked or explanations given. There is no clue as to what those multiple Aerolift flights back and forth to Somalia were (perhaps are) carrying. In fact, no one has posed serious questions to the parties involved, and they are not volunteering any answers.

So all we get is: move along there, nothing to see here, move along, just keep moving. Everything is under control. And it certainly looks like everyone concerned is under very heavy manners. Unless someone with some clout asks some questions, and that does not seem likely, we are unlikely to learn AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria secret.

Note:
I am indebted to the extensive research on this incident by b real, and posted in the comment threads on these articles:
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread
Africa Comments

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

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.

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