|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
AID agencies are warning of a fresh catastrophe looming in Africa that may dwarf the crises in Niger and the Sahel, putting four million lives at risk.
Severe food shortages are beginning to hit southern Africa, with Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe worst affected. Some ten million people are reported to be facing severe food shortages, with the crisis set to peak between November and February.
As was the case in Niger, aid has been slow coming in. The appeals for assistance for those countries affected by the tsunami earlier in the year, coupled with the Niger appeal and now the hurricane-affected United States, appear to have depleted resources and created a threat of donor fatigue.
Oxfam is urging United Nations member states to commit an additional $1 billion into a UN emergency reserve fund to enable resources to be released when they are needed.
Yesterday one of the aid agencies senior African officials, the Malawi country manager Nellie Nyang'wam, warned that the fate of millions of people depended on the international response.
"If we respond, we will save lives," she said. "If there is no response, we will lose more lives."
She estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of the ten million people expected to be affected by food shortages would be in danger of losing their lives.
"Even with a response, there will be severe suffering," she said, adding: "The Niger crisis was forecast six months in advance, yet rich countries did almost nothing until the 11th hour. People died as a direct result.
"Now, there is an impending crisis in southern Africa. The situation is very different, but the principle is the same. If rich countries wait, once again, until TV crews arrive before giving enough money, people in southern Africa will pay the price of their neglect."
The international community, and the UN in particular, was heavily criticised last month for failing to react to the warnings over Niger, where only a last-minute rush of aid averted a complete disaster. Then, as now, aid agencies had been warning for months that a combination of severe drought and other factors would be impossible to overcome.
In the case of southern Africa, the fear is that a population already weakened by the spread of HIV/AIDS will be less able to withstand the additional strain of famine.
Ms Nyang'wam, who was visiting Scotland yesterday, conceded that there was a risk that other disasters might make it harder to raise money for another African famine.
But she said: "It is simply not good enough to make excuses when so many lives are at stake. We have to respond when these events occur. It is not good enough to stand by just because disasters all happen at once."
Oxfam started food distribution in Malawi this week. The agency estimates that four million people are at risk there, just three years after the last major famine to hit the country.
Another four million people are at risk in Zimbabwe, one million in Zambia, 400,000 in Mozambique, 500,000 in Lesotho and 200,000 in Swaziland.
Oxfam blames a "cycle of deepening poverty" for the impending crisis. The agency says that the ability of people in the region to deal with the failure of the rain has been hampered by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other economic factors.
The UN is due to discuss the request for emergency funding at a summit in New York on 14 September.
Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam in Scotland, urged the UN to come up with a permanent fund that could be used to avert future crises.
"Rich countries spend $1 billion every day on supporting their farmers. If they pledged the same amount every year to a permanent emergency fund at the UN, preventable crises like Niger and southern Africa would not happen because money would be available as soon as a country needed it," she said.
The next harvest in southern Africa is due in March and although there has been sufficient rain in some parts of the region, long dry spells at crucial points in the growing season have hit the development of the maize crop.
While there are some food surpluses available in the region, in South Africa, Tanzania and north Mozambique, the problem is a shortage of funds in the affected countries to pay for it.
The two countries expected to be hardest hit are Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, where life expectancy is a mere 39 years, and Zimbabwe, where the policies of Robert Mugabe's government have been blamed for creating avoidable hardship.
HARARE -- President Robert Mugabe’s government will launch fresh farm seizures to ensure every “native black Zimbabwean” owned a piece of land by the start of the next rainy season around November.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who doubles as land reform chief, on Tuesday said the government would move to take remaining land from white farmers for its controversial fast-track resettlement programme, which analysts say has largely benefited Mugabe’s cronies.
Mugabe denies the charge, and his government says the reforms have created more than 500 000 black farmers, up from the 4 500 white commercial farmers who used to own 70 percent of the most fertile land in Zimbabwe.
The Harare government has also publicly said it had completed land seizures and was now working on improving output on the former white-owned farms.
But Mutasa told ZimOnline: “We are going to take the land from whites and we are not mincing our words about that ....we will not rest until every black person, every native Zimbabwean has a piece of land.”
Mutasa’s comments came in the aftermath of the passage in Parliament of a constitutional amendment Bill last week, which seeks to bar white farmers from challenging the seizure of their land in court.
He also told state media after the amendments were passed that the government would issue new title deeds to black farmers resettled under the much criticised reforms.
According to the amendments, farmers have up to 30 days to surrender title deeds once their land is gazetted for resettlement.
Most white farmers have clung to their title deeds even after being forcibly removed from their farms.
Mutasa yesterday said the unavailability of land to many Zimbabweans was partly responsible for worsening poverty in the southern African country. “We are poor not because we do not have the skills, but because we do not have the land which is what we fought for,” the Security Minister said.
Government critics blame the land seizure drive, which was led by bands of war veterans from the ruling ZANU PF party, for destabilising commercial agriculture and plunging once food exporting Zimbabwe into severe food shortages since 2001. But Mugabe says repeated drought is responsible for his country’s long-running food crisis.
Yesterday, farmers’ organisations said their members had not yet accessed inputs and loans for the 2005/06 farming season, once again threatening production in the key sector. - ZimOnline
ZNet | Africa
The Man Who Betrayed the Poor
|by George Monbiot; September 06, 2005|
Two months have not elapsed since the G8 summit, and already almost everything has turned to ashes. Even the crustiest sceptics have been shocked by the speed with which its promises have been broken.
It is true that they didn't amount to much. The World Development Movement described the agreement as "a disaster for the world's poor."(1) ActionAid complained that "the G8 have completely failed to deliver trade justice."(2) Christian Aid called July 8th as "a sad day for poor people in Africa and all over the world."(3) Oxfam lamented that "neither the necessary sense of urgency nor the historic potential of Gleneagles was grasped by the G8."(4) But one man had a different view. Bob Geldof, who organised the Live8 events, announced that "a great justice has been done. .. On aid, 10 out of 10; on debt, eight out of 10 ... Mission accomplished frankly."(5)
Had he not signed off like this, had he not gone on to describe a South African campaigner who had criticised the deal as "a disgrace"(6), Geldof could have walked away from the summit unencumbered by further responsibility. He could have spent the rest of his life on holiday, and no one would have minded. But it was because he gave the G8 his seal of approval, because he told us, in effect, that we could all go home and stop worrying about Africa that he now has a responsibility to speak out.
The uses to which a Geldof can be put are limited. Before the summit he was seen by campaigners as naïve, ill-informed and unaccountable. But he can make public statements with the potential to embarrass politicians. While they don't usually rise above the "give us your focking money" level, they do have the effect of capturing the attention of the press. But though almost everything he said he was fighting for has fallen apart, he has yet to tell the public.
Immediately after the summit, as the world's attention shifted to the London bombs, Germany and Italy announced that they might not be able to meet the commitments they had just made, due to "budgetary constraints"(7). A week later, on July 15th, the World Development Movement obtained leaked documents showing that four of the IMF's European directors were trying to overturn the G8's debt deal(8). Four days after that, Gordon Brown dropped a bomb. He admitted that the aid package the G8 leaders had promised "includes the numbers for debt relief."(9) The extra money they had promised for aid and the extra money they had promised for debt relief were in fact one and the same.
Nine days after that, on July 28th, the United States, which had appeared to give some ground at Gleneagles, announced a pact with Australia, China and India to undermine the Kyoto protocol on climate change(10). On August 2nd, leaked documents from the World Bank showed that the G8 had not in fact granted 100% debt relief to 18 countries, but had promised enough money only to write off their repayments for the next three years(11). On August 3rd, the United Nations revealed that only one third of the money needed for famine relief in Niger, and 14% of the money needed by Mali had been pledged by the rich nations(12). Some 5 million people in the western Sahel remained at risk of starvation.
Two weeks ago, we discovered that John Bolton, the new US ambassador to the United Nations, had proposed 750 amendments to the agreement which is meant to be concluded at next week's UN summit. He was, in effect, striking out the Millennium Development Goals on health, education and poverty relief, which the United Nations set in 2000(13). Yesterday, ActionAid released a report showing that the first of these goals - equal access to schooling for boys and girls by 2005 - has been missed in over 70 countries(14). "Africa", it found, "is currently projected to miss every goal." There is so little resolve at the UN to do anything about it that the summit could deliver "a worse outcome than the situation before the G8." Yet Geldof remains silent.
"We are very critical of what Bob Geldof did during the G8 Summit", Demba Moussa Dembele of the African Forum on Alternatives tells me. "He did it for his self-promotion. This is why he marginalized African singers, putting the limelight on himself and Bono, rather than on the issues. … The objectives of the whole Live8 campaign had little to do with poverty reduction in Africa. It was a scheme intended to project Geldof and Blair as humanitarian figures coming to the rescue of "poor and helpless" Africans."(15)
"Right from the beginning," says Kofi Mawuli Klu of the Forum of African Human Rights Defenders, "he has acted in his own selfish interests. It was all about self-promotion, about usurping the place of Africans. His message was "shut up and watch me". Without even understanding the root causes of the problems, he used his role to drown the voices of the African people and replace them with his own. There are many knowledgeable people – African and non-African – who could have advised him, but he has been on his own, ego-tripping."(16)
I have heard similar sentiments from every African campaigner I have spoken to. Bob Geldof is beginning to look like Mother Teresa or Joy Adamson. To the corporate press, and therefore to most of the public, he is a saint. Among those who know something about the issues, he is detested. Those other tabloid saints appeared to recognise that if they rattled the cages of the powerful, the newspapers upon which their public regard depended would turn against them. When there was a conflict between their public image and their cause, the image won. It seems to me that Geldof has played the same game.
He seized a campaign which commanded great public enthusiasm, which had the potential gravely to embarrass Tony Blair and George Bush. He asked us to focus not on the harm the G8 leaders were doing, but on the help they might give. When they failed to deliver, he praised them anyway. His endorsement and the public forgetfulness it prompted helped license them to start reversing their commitments. When they did so, he said nothing. This looks to me like more than just political naivity. It looks as if he is working for the other side.
I don't mean that this is what he intended - or intends - to do. I mean that he came to identify with the people he was supposed to be lobbying. By ensuring that the campaign was as much about him as about Africa, he ensured that if they failed, he failed. He needed a story with a happy ending.
There is just one thing that Geldof can now do for Africa. This is to announce that his optimism was misplaced, that the mission was not accomplished, that the struggle for justice is as urgent as ever. But while he holds his tongue, he will remain the man who betrayed the poor.
1. World Development Movement, 8th July 2005. G8 condemn Africa to miss Millennium Development Goals. Press Release.
2. ActionAid, 8th July 2005. ActionAid's reaction to the G8 outcome. Press Release.
3. Christian Aid, 12th July 2005. The G8 - in terms of build-ups it couldn't have been bigger. Press release.
4. Oxfam, 29th July 2005. Gleneagles: what really happened at the G8 summit? http://www.oxfam.org/eng/pdfs/bn050729_G8_final.pdf
5. DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa), 8th July 2005. Bono, Geldof Reaction to G8 Africa Communique. Press release; Ewen MacAskill, Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliott, 9th July 2005. G8: hope for Africa but gloom over climate. The Guardian; Mark Townsend, 10th July 2005. Geldof delighted at G8 action on aid. The Observer.
6. Matthew Tempest, 8th July 2005. G8 leaders agree $50bn Africa package. The Guardian.
7. Oxfam, 29th July 2005, ibid.
8. WDM, 15th July 2005. Leaks reveal IMF threat to already weak G8 debt deal. Press release.
9. Minutes of Evidence Taken before Treasury Committee, 19th July 2005. To be published as HC 399-i. House of Commons. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmtreasy/uc399-i/uc39902.htm
10. Eg ABC online, 27th July 27 2005. Australia, US form climate change pact: report. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200507/s1423298.htm
11. World Development Movement and Jubilee Debt Campaign, 2nd August 2005. Leaks reveal G8 debt deal faces funding shortfall. Press release.
12. BBC Online, 3rd August 2005. Hunger in Mali is being 'ignored'. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4741877.stm
13. Eg Julian Borger, 26th August 2005. Bolton throws UN summit into chaos. The Guardian.
14. Patrick Watt, 5th September 2005. Development Under Attack: will the 2005 poverty agenda unravel at the UN World Summit? ActionAid.
15. Demba Moussa Dembele, 3rd September 2005. By email.
16. Kofi Mawuli Klu, 4th September 2005. By phone.