Conflict Minerals Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo

Title Conflict   Minerals Rebels and Child Soldiers in Congo
Director(s) Suroosh Alvi
Date released (year) 2011
Production company Vice
Length 38mins
Location Congo
Keywords/tags Minerals, mining, civil war,   violence
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYqrflGpTRE
Synopsis The Democratic   Republic of Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world and thanks to   an insanely complicated mix of politics, armed conflict, and corruption… it’s   also one of the most under-reported. It also happens to be home to a   nondescript black rock known as Coltan… a vital ingredient in the production   of nearly every cell phone and computer on the planet. Without Coltan, our   technology-driven lives would come to a screeching halt, and Congo has 80% of   the world’s supply. Since the mid nineteen-nineties, armed groups have used   these minerals to fund a series of fantastically complicated and horrifically   violent wars.

Vice founder Suroosh   Alvi travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo and makes one of the most   grueling treks of his life to see first-hand where this so-called “conflict   mineral” comes from and to meet some of the rebels involved in the seemingly   never-ending conflict in Eastern Congo.

Source: http://www.vice.com/en_za/vice-news/the-vice-guide-to-congo-1?Article_page=8

Reviews/discussion From the BBC: The Human Cost of Coltan Mining

By Karen Allen
BBC News, South Kivu

It   was midnight when Elise and her husband were woken by armed men in the   Democratic Republic of Congo. Soldiers of DR Congo’s National Army burst into their shack, sent the   husband into another room, and then raped the mother of five at gunpoint.

“They put their guns on my   chest and said: ‘Don’t talk, don’t cry, don’t complain’… then they started to   rape me,” she said.

The perpetrators were not the   feared militia of the FDLR, who are currently the focus of a major military   operation in South Kivu.

They were from the FARDC – the   National Army that now controls this area in eastern DR Congo.

It is an area carpeted with   minerals such as coltan and cassiterite, which are used in the production of   consumer durables and gadgets sold in the rich world.

But people are now beginning to   ask: what is the human cost of a mobile phone?

Scarred for life

In Shabunda territory, where   Elise was attacked, there have been 112 rapes reported since April, when the   military operation started.

These official figures are   almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, because most sexual crimes go   unreported here.

Since 2006 there have been   2,883 recorded rapes in the Shabunda territory.

Many of the women have not only   been sexually violated but physically scarred for life.

And Shabunda is just one   territory out of eight in the province of South Kivu – a tiny pin-prick in   this vast country.

“Sexual attacks peak when   there’s fighting,” said Shabunda-based human rights activist Papy   Bwalinga Kashama.

“The reason the military   and militia are fighting is to control the mines,” he said.

Civilians get caught in the middle.   Control the men with guns who guard and earn tax from the mines, he argued,   and you reduce the terrible violations endured by women.

It may sound simplistic, but he   has a point.

Predatory militias

In the mining area of Nyabembe,   rusting pieces of mining machinery poke out from a thick layer of grass.

They reflect a time in the   mid-1970s, when commercial mining was carried out in this area – a   two-and-a-half hour motorbike ride from the town of Lulingu.

Five years of civil war,   followed by protracted skirmishes with the militia, saw those operations move   out and freelance miners move in.

These men are now exposed to   predatory militias and also the military who demand a cut from what they dig.

When they are not exacting   local taxes, the gunmen move into the village and terrify the local   population – stealing, killing and raping.

“They take what they want,   even our women, and there is nothing we can do about it,” sighed Simon,   a young teacher who has swapped his school books for a shovel, because it is   the only way to make a living.

Blood on their hands?

Global electronics and metals   giants now face uncomfortable questions: Are they inadvertently fuelling the   conflict in eastern DR Congo? Are they buttressing a market by sourcing   supplies from militarised zones (a practice that is not illegal but ethically   questionable)?

“There is nowhere and   no-one we won’t buy from,” said Masumbuko Moari, who represents   middlemen who supply to the big exporters.

He laughed when I suggested   they might have blood on their hands as a result of buying from the men with   guns.

“That’s a political   issue,” he said, and our conversation ended.

With mining being the only game   in town, radical change is bound to be resisted.

And that is the argument that   international purchasers of minerals use, to justify their trade: so many   jobs depend on it.

‘Abnormal situation’

During a recent visit to South   Kivu, DR Congo’s Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito admitted to the BBC that there   was a genuine problem about militarised mining.

“We want people and   companies to be able to work in good conditions,” he said. “Once   the environment improves, the army won’t be in a position to exploit the   mines.

“It’s an abnormal   situation at the moment because the government doesn’t have full control.”

The Congolese government faces   international pressure to address military exploitation of DR Congo’s mines.

It claims to control 80% of the   mines but if you are prepared to ride by motorbike for a few hours, or trek   through the forests on foot, it is not hard to find mines in the hands of men   with guns.

Under the wire

During US Secretary of State   Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to the country, grand statements were made to   get the military out of the mines, but change requires clear political will.

“We have to destroy the   commercial circus of the mines, by reasserting the control of the   state,” said Mabolia Yenga, a mines trouble-shooter who advises DR   Congo’s ministry of mines.

Commercialising the mining   sector is not a magic bullet, but it might be a start if the big operators   are closely watched.

Mr Yenga believes that for   minerals like coltan and cassiterite, a process of certification to ensure   the mining does not fund violence – such as with the Kimberley process for   diamonds – is long overdue.

But such a process would   require input from DR Congo’s neighbours, which act as transit points for   illicit exports.

Neighbours such as Burundi,   Rwanda and Uganda have long been accused of benefiting from DR Congo’s mines,   operating “under the wire” and gaining from the country’s   instability.

The Congolese government wants   to invite mining companies back in and use the tax revenues from mining to   rebuild this shattered country.

It is a hard message to sell to   a population which has seen virtually no infrastructural growth from its   mineral riches – simply war.

But it may be a small step to   making mining more transparent in DR Congo. It may also help to ensure that   some of the 1.8bn mobile phones in the world are a little   “cleaner”.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8234583.stm

An excellent book on this topic:

Michael Nest, 2011, Coltan. Wiley   Press. http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745649313

Description

A decade ago no one except geologists had heard of tantalum or   ‘coltan’ – an obscure mineral that is an essential ingredient in mobile   phones and laptops. Then, in 2000, reports began to leak out of Congo: of   mines deep in the jungle where coltan was extracted in brutal conditions   watched over by warlords. The United Nations sent a team to investigate, and   its exposé of the relationship between violence and the exploitation of   coltan and other natural resources contributed to a re-examination of   scholarship on the motivations and strategies of armed groups.

The   politics of coltan encompass rebel militias, transnational corporations,   determined activists, Hollywood celebrities, the rise of China, and the   latest iGadget. Drawing on Congolese and activist voices, Nest analyses the   two issues that define coltan politics: the relationship between coltan and   violence in the Congo, and contestation between activists and corporations to   reshape the global tantalum supply chain. The way production and trade of   coltan is organised creates opportunities for armed groups, but the Congo   wars are not solely, or even primarily, about coltan or minerals generally.   Nest argues the political significance of coltan lies not in its causal link   to violence, but in activists’ skillful use of mobile phones as a symbol of   how ordinary people and transnational corporations far from Africa are   implicated in Congo’s coltan industry and therefore its conflict. Nest   examines the challenges coltan initiatives face in an activist ‘marketplace’   crowded with competing justice issues, and identifies lessons from coltan   initiatives for the geopolitics of global resources more generally.

Source:   http://www.polity.co.uk/book.asp?ref=9780745649313

Links to other resources Dena Montague (2002) Stolen Goods: Coltan   and Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. SAIS Review   22.1 (2002) 103-118 [Access article in PDF]
Click here to help: http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/Watch more VICE documentaries here: http://bit.ly/VICE-Presents

See Blood Coltan:https://ejoltdocumentaries.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/blood-coltan/

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Colonialism in 10 Minutes: The Scramble For Africa

 

Title Colonialism in 10 Minutes: The Scramble For Africa
Director(s) Jesse   James Miller and Pete McCormack
Date released (year) 2006
Production company Mindset Media
Length 10mins
Location Uganda
Keywords/tags Colonialism, civil war, natural resources
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAJ7XmTFs4A
Synopsis An   excerpt from the film Uganda Rising showing in a brief overview the utter   decimation of Africa that took place via colonialism and the so-called   “Scramble For Africa.”

 

For   two decades, the Acholi people of Northern Uganda have been caught in a civil   war between a rebel group whose main objective is inhumane terror and a   government whose military response has often increased misery and suffering.   Over 1.5 million people have been displaced into camps and over 25,000   children have been abducted to be used as soldiers and sex slaves.

And   yet through it all, every day across Acholi-land something remarkable   happens. Against a backdrop of dismal statistics, miniscule opportunity and   unpredictable terror, in a part of Uganda forgotten by the world, children   who have never known peace, face the day as if to live this way is normal, as   if they still believe in the future. These children are the embodiment of   resilience and hope. This film is the story of Uganda, her stolen children,   and the fight to be free.
Source: http://www.mindsetfoundation.com/feel/uganda-rising/

Reviews/discussion Uganda Rising

                                                                      Uganda Rising is a   feature-length documentary solely produced by Mindset Foundation (formerly   Mindset Media Society). Shooting for the production began in 2004 and   completed in April 2006. Uganda Rising had its world premiere at the 2006 HotDocs   International Film Festival on May 14th in Toronto, Ontario,   Canada. The film has since been invited to participate in many prestigious   film festivals such as Hollywood International Film Festival, Vancouver   International Film Festival and the Paris International Human Rights   Film Festival. The film was the recipient of many Best Documentary   awards at festivals such as the Full Frame Documentary Film   Festival and Wt Os International

Source: http://www.mindsetfoundation.com/feel/uganda-rising/

 

The Colonization of Africa

Ehiedu E. G. Iweriebor – Hunter College

Between the 1870s and 1900,   Africa faced European imperialist aggression, diplomatic pressures, military   invasions, and eventual conquest and colonization. At the same time, African   societies put up various forms of resistance against the attempt to colonize   their countries and impose foreign domination. By the early twentieth   century, however, much of Africa, except Ethiopia and Liberia, had been   colonized by European powers.

The European imperialist   push into Africa was motivated by three main factors, economic, political,   and social. It developed in the nineteenth century following the collapse of   the profitability of the slave trade, its abolition and suppression, as well   as the expansion of the European capitalist Industrial Revolution. The   imperatives of capitalist industrialization—including the demand for assured   sources of raw materials, the search for guaranteed markets and profitable   investment outlets—spurred the European scramble and the partition and   eventual conquest of Africa. Thus the primary motivation for European   intrusion was economic.

 

Source: http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africanaage/essay-colonization-of-africa.html

Links to other resources World Bank Refuses to Stop   Funding African Land Grabs, October 8, 2012, African Globe. Source:   http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/world-bank-refuses-stop-funding-african-land-grabs

 

Thomas Pakenham (1992) The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s   Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. See: http://www.amazon.com/Scramble-Africa-Conquest-Continent-1876-1912/dp/0380719991

Welcome to Lagos

Title BBC’s Welcome to Lagos
Director(s) Solomon Sydelle
Date released (year) 2010
Production company BBC
Length 10.11mins
Location Lagos Nigeria
Keywords/tags Toxic waste, poverty, violence
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c
Synopsis First 10 minutes of the   Part 1 of the documentary.

Three part observational   documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most   extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, Nigeria

Reviews/discussion Economy: Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil   producer; more than half of its people live in poverty(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13949550)

 

From the program editor’s blog:

First   stop was the city’s main dump site, Olusosun. This definitely   isn’t on the tourist trail of Lagos, but then Lagos doesn’t have much of a   tourist industry at the moment. Some 5,000 people work on the dump, and we   were immediately struck by how organised and efficient everything was.

As well as all the   scavengers working behind the dump trucks, grabbing anything and everything   they could to re-sell to the re-processing factories, there were shops, bars,   restaurants, a mosque, a barbers, and even a cinema.

The longer we hung   out on the dump (it very soon became one of our favourite places to film,   because the people were all so friendly there) the more astonishing it   became. It turned out that the scavengers even had their own form of   democratically elected chairman, who sorted out any arguments or   disagreements.

The dump became   symbolic of everything we were trying to achieve in the films. It looks at   first sight like a rough, lawless, dangerous place, and most people in this   country will be horrified to see people working there.

But in actual fact,   through the eyes of the people who actually DO work there, it’s a   well-organised place where there’s good money to be earned. Decent, honest   people choose to work there, preferring a life of grime to a life of crime.   Some of them are university graduates.

They are proud of   the fact that they earn an honest living, and are making a better life for   themselves and their families through sheer determination and hard work.

We realised the   scavengers were people to be admired rather than pitied, and it changed our   whole perspective on the place. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, so why   should we feel sorry for them? We decided that the   films should celebrate their resourcefulness, and challenge our   audience’s views of what poverty is.

After the dump we   went to Makoko,   an extraordinary floating slum, where everyone travels round in boats. Some   people call it Lagos’s version of Venice.

There’s 100,000   people living on houses built on stilts, and after a week or so of drifting   around in boats, stopping at people’s houses and talking to them, we stumbled   across Mr Chubbey, who went on to become the star of programme   two.

He has 18 children   to look after, and is always on the look out for some scheme or another which   will help him make more money. He’s like a character from Only Fools And Horses, buying selling,   wheeling and dealing, doing dodgy deals and getting by on his charm and his   luck. All that’s missing is the camel skin coat.

The last film is set   on a beach right in the heart of the swankiest part of town. It sounds   idyllic – white sands, clear blue Atlantic waters, baking hot sunny days –   and in many ways it is.

But it is also home   to 1,000 or so squatters, who have built homes on the sand because they have   nowhere else to go. After a couple of trips, walking along the sands,   explaining what we were doing to the inquisitive children, we met Esther, a   sparky, intelligent, beautiful young woman who had been staying on the beach   for the last six years.

She lived with her   husband Segun in a little house which they had built themselves out of scrap   wood, cardboard and old tarpaulins. It probably cost them about £80.

But when Esther and   her husband started to have problems in their marriage, and it looked like   they were going to split up, they used to have terrible arguments about who   was going to get the house – every bit as vicious as they would be if they   were living in a mansion in Beverley Hills.

We realised then   that all our characters, wherever they lived, however extreme their working   environment, went through all of the same things which we do in the West –   love, heartbreak, marriages, births, deaths etc. It’s just that they live on   a different scale to us, in the slums of the fastest growing city in the   world, and with no money. This forces them to be more resourceful, energetic,   and optimistic than most people in the West.

And yes, they may be   terribly poor, but that doesn’t stop them being human and, if the films have   succeeded, then I hope they’ve succeeded in showing that.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c

Links to other resources Watts,   M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the black gold: 50 years of   oil in the Niger Delta. New York: Powerhouse.

 

The Curse of Black Gold film

Ancient Khoisan (San) Tribe

 

Title Ancient Khoisan (San) Tribe
Director(s) Rehad Desai
Date released (year) 2012
Production company InternalizedConflict
Length 64mins
Location South Africa
Keywords/tags Land and people
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1NamQj-E9I
Synopsis Independent Documentary “Bushman’s Secret” By   Rehad Desai.

Rehad Desai travels to the Kalahari to investigate global interest in ancient   Bushmen knowledge, he meets Jan van der Westhuizen, a fascinating Khomani San   traditional healer. Jan’s struggle to live close to nature is hampered by   centuries of colonial exploitation of the San Bushmen and of their land.   Unable to survive as they once did hunting and gathering, the Khomani now   live in a state of poverty that threatens to see the last of this community   forever.

One plant could make all the difference. Hoodia, a cactus used by Bushmen for   centuries, has caught the attention of a giant pharmaceutical company. It now   stands to decide the fate of the Khomani San.

Bushman’s Secret features breathtaking footage of the Kalahari landscape, and   exposes us to a world where modernity collides with ancient ways, at a time   when each has, strangely, come to rely on the other.

Evicted from their ancestral lands, forced to abandon their native languages,   and left to fend for themselves in a state of brutal poverty on the fringes of   South African society, the Bushmen now face further exploitation, since the   hoodia cactus (a source of food and medicinal healing) is being taken from   their remaining lands by the conglomerate Unilever for use as a dubious   weight loss product (ironically, Unilever also claims to be the “world’s   largest ice cream manufacturer,” surely a contributing factor to   obesity). Despite an agreement signed with the South African government for   profits from the harvesting of hoodia, the Bushmen have yet to enjoy any financial   returns. Bushman’s Secret serves up a shameful indictment of contemporary   South African government, which would sooner kowtow to multinational   corporate demands than provide basic services for its own people. Highly   recommended.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1NamQj-E9I

Reviews/discussion Oppression of Khoikhoi

 

                                                                                                             

The hunger for land is a central   theme of southern African history from the 17th century onwards. It generated   conflict, sparked off wars and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Expansion

 

The first Europeans in southern   Africa confined themselves at first to the western part of the region,   centring their activities on the Cape of Good Hope. Here the Dutch East India   Company was established in 1652. Gradually the Dutch colony expanded north   and east, displacing, in the first instance, the oldest known inhabitants of   this region, the Khoikhoi (referred to by the Dutch as ‘hottentots’).

Tradition denied

 

The Khoikhoi were part of a larger   group called the Khoisan, spread across southern Africa, sharing much of the   same language. The San branch were hunter gatherers; the Khoikhoi were   herdsmen. As a whole, the Khoisan needed large amounts of land in order to   hunt and graze their cattle. The Dutch refused to recognise their traditional   grazing and hunting rights.

Defeat

 

Not wide enough for both of us

“They objected that there was     not enough grass for both their cattle and ours. ‘Are we not right     therefore to prevent you from getting any more cattle? For, if you get many     cattle, you come and occupy our pasture with them, and then say the land is     not wide enough for us both! Who then, with the greatest degree of justice     should give way, the natural owners, or the foreign invader?‘” – Jan van Riebeek     describing the Khoikhoi objections to the Dutch invasion of their pastures,     quoted by Kevin Shillington in History of Africa.

The Dutch both stole and bought   cattle off the Khoikhoi. In 1659, the Khoikhoi fought the Dutch over grazing   land south of able Bay and lost. Soon the Khoikhoi way of life disintegrated.

The Dutch, who came to be known as Afrikaners (as well as Boers, which means   farmers) started to expand their activities. They cultivated land and hunted   across large distances. Subsequently, they acquired the title of Trekboers,   when they embarked on long journeys or treks to get away from British   officialdom in the Cape Colony.

Subjugation

 

The Khoikhoi   often ended up as slaves, either working in the Cape Colony, or as farm   labourers for the Dutch. The final blow came to them in 1713 when they fell   victim to a small pox epidemic brought on a Dutch ship. The descendants of   the Khoikhoi and San can be found in the deserts of Botswana and Namibia   today.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1624_story_of_africa/page23.shtml

Links to other resources http://khoisan.org

 

Nancy J. Jacobs (2003) Environment,   Power, and Injustice: A South African History, Cambridge university Press.

Africa: States of independence – the scramble for Africa

Title Africa: States of   independence – the scramble for Africa
Director(s)
Date released (year) 2010

 

Production company AlJazeeraEnglish
Length 45mins
Location Africa
Keywords/tags Africa
Link to film http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/2010/08/2010831112927318164.html
Synopsis Seventeen   African nations gained their independence in 1960, but the dreams of the   independence era were short-lived.

This film tells the story of some of those countries – stories of mass   exploitation, of the ecstasy of independence and of how – with liberation – a   new, covert scramble for resources was born.

Reviews/discussion Whether in bustling cities or remote   villages, the 1880s and 1890s were years of terrifying upheaval for Africans.   Fleet upon fleet of foreign soldiers armed with new weaponry – and a sense of   entitlement – descended, seemingly overnight.

In the space of just 20 years, 90 per cent of Africa was brought under   European occupation. Europe had captured a continent.

Europe was in the throes of the Industrial   Revolution. The advent of the machine was transforming the cities there into   the workshop of the world – a workshop in need of raw materials. It was the   dawn of industrial-scale production, modern capitalist economies and mass   international trade. And in this new industrial era the value of Africa   rocketed – not only for its materials and as a strategic trade route, but   also as a market for the goods Europe now produced in bulk.

But the scramble for Africa was not just about economics. Colonialism had   become the fast-track to political supremacy in Europe. Rival European powers   convened in the German capital and in February 1885 signed the Act of Berlin   – an agreement to abolish slavery and allow free trade. The act also drew new   borders on the map of Africa, awarding territory to each European power –   thus legalising the scramble for Africa.

But with the Second World War – which saw the peak of Europe’s dependency on   African troops – a powerful genie was released from a bottle – African   nationalism. The tipping point came on February 3, 1960, when Harold   Macmillan, the British prime minister, gave his ‘wind of change’ speech.   Within 10 months, Britain had surrendered two key African territories and   France 14. The rate of decolonisation when it arrived was breathtaking.

Seventeen African nations gained their independence in 1960, but the dreams   of the independence era were short-lived. Africa … states of   independence tells the story of some of those countries – stories of mass   exploitation, of the ecstasy of independence and of how – with liberation – a   new, covert scramble for resources was born.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/2010/08/2010831112927318164.html

BRICS bloc’s rising ‘sub-imperialism’

Is this the latest threat   to Africa?

Patrick Bond

2012-11-29, Issue 608

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85609

Like   Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up Africa   more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided as   ‘Western’ concerns about democracy and human rights.

The heads of state of the   Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) network of governments are   coming to Durban, South Africa, in four months, meeting on March 26-27 at the   International Convention Centre (ICC), Africa’s largest venue. Given their   recent performance, it is reasonable to expect another “1%” summit, wreaking   socioeconomic and ecological havoc. And that means it is time for the first   BRICS countersummit, to critique top-down “sub-imperialist” bloc formation,   and to offer bottom-up alternatives.

After all, we have had some bad experiences at the Durban ICC.

In 2001, in spite of demands by 10,000 protesters, the United Nations World   Conference Against Racism refused to grapple with reparations for slavery and   colonialism or with apartheid-Israel’s racism against Palestinians (hence Tel   Aviv’s current ethnic cleansing of Gaza goes unpunished).

The African Union got off to a bad start here, with its 2002 launch, due to   reliance on the neoliberal New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad)   promoted by Pretoria.

The 2003 World Economic Forum’s African regional meeting hastened   governments’ supplication to multinational corporate interests in spite of   protests.

In 2011, Durban’s UN COP17 climate summit – better known as the ‘Conference   of Polluters’ – featured Washington’s sabotage, with no new emissions cuts   and an attempted revival of the non-solution called ‘carbon trading’, also   called ‘the privatisation of the air’.

(…)
LOOTING AFRICA

Like Berlin in 1884-85, the BRICS Durban summit is expected to carve up   Africa more efficiently, unburdened – now as then – by what will be derided   as “Western” concerns about democracy and human rights. Reading between the   lines, its resolutions will:

– support favoured corporations’ extraction and land-grab strategies;

– worsen Africa’s retail-driven deindustrialisation (South Africa’s Shoprite and   Makro – soon to be run by Walmart – are already notorious in many capital   cities for importing even simple products that could be supplied locally);

– revive failed projects such as Nepad; and

– confirm the financing of both land grabbing and the extension of   neocolonial infrastructure through a new ‘BRICS Development Bank’, likely to   be based just north of Johannesburg where the Development Bank of Southern   Africa already does so much damage following Washington’s script.

The question is whether in exchange for the Durban summit amplifying such   destructive tendencies, which appears certain, can those few of Africa’s   elites who may be invited leverage any greater influence in world economic   management via the BRICS? With South Africa’s finance minister Pravin   Gordhan’s regular critiques of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund   (IMF), there is certainly potential for BRICS to “talk left” about the   global-governance democracy deficit.

But watch the ‘walk right’ carefully. In the vote for World Bank president   earlier this year, for example, Pretoria’s choice was hard-core Washington   ideologue Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister who with IMF   managing director Christine Lagarde catalysed the Occupy movement’s near   revolution in January, with a removal of petrol subsidies. Brasilia chose the   moderate economist Jose Antonio Ocampo and Moscow backed Washington’s choice:   Jim Yong Kim.

This was a repeat of the prior year’s fiasco in the race for IMF managing   director, won by Lagarde in spite of ongoing corruption investigations   against her by French courts, because the Third World was divided and   conquered. BRICS appeared in both cases as incompetent, unable to even agree   on a sole candidate, much less win their case in Washington.

Yet in July, BRICS treasuries sent US$100 billion in new capital to the IMF,   which was seeking new systems of bail-out for banks exposed in Europe. South   Africa’s contribution was only $2 billion, a huge sum for Gordhan to muster   against local trade union opposition. Explaining the South African   contribution – initially he said it would be only one tenth as large –   Gordhan told Moneyweb last year that it was on condition that the IMF became   more “nasty” [sic] to desperate European borrowers, as if the Greek, Spanish,   Portuguese and Irish poor and working people were not suffering enough.

And the result of this BRICS intervention is that China gains IMF voting   power, but Africa actually loses a substantial fraction of its share. Even   Gordhan admitted at last month’s Tokyo meeting of the IMF and world Bank that   it is likely “the vast majority of emerging and developing countries will   lose quota shares – an outcome that will perpetuate the democratic deficit.”   And given “the crisis of legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness of the   IMF”, it “is simply untenable” that Africa only has two seats for its 45   member countries.

Likewise, South Africa’s role in Africa has been “nasty”, as confirmed when   Nepad was deemed “philosophically spot on” by lead US State Department Africa   official Walter Kansteiner in 2003, and foisted privatisation of even basic   services on the continent. In a telling incident this year, the Johannesburg   parastatal firm Rand Water was forced to leave Ghana after failing – with a   Dutch for-profit partner (Aqua Vitens) – to improve Accra’s water supply, as   also happened in Maputo, Mozambique, (Saur from Paris) and Dar es Salaam   (Biwater from London) in Tanzania.

As a matter of principle, BRICS appears hell bent on promoting the further   commodification of life, at a time when the greatest victory won by ordinary   Africans in the last decade is under attack: the winning of the Treatment   Action Campaign’s demand for affordable access to AIDS medicines, via India’s   cheap generic versions of drugs. A decade ago, they cost $10,000 per person   per year and only a tiny fraction of desperate people received the medicines.   Now, more than 1.5 million South Africans – and millions more in the rest of   Africa – get treatment, thus raising the South Africa’s average life   expectancy from 52 in 2004 to 60 today, according to reliable statistics   released this month.

However, in recent months, Obama has put an intense squeeze on India to cut   back on generic medicine R&D and production, as well as making deep cuts   in his own government’s aid commitment to fund African healthcare. In Durban,   the city that is home to the most HIV+ people in the world, Obama’s move   resulted in this year’s closure of AIDS public treatment centres at three   crucial sites. One was the city’s McCord Hospital, which ironically was a   long-standing ally of the NGO Partners in Health, whose cofounder was Obama’s   pick for World Bank president, Jim Kim.

Source: http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/85609  

Links to other resources Thomas Pakenham (1992) The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s   Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. See: http://www.amazon.com/Scramble-Africa-Conquest-Continent-1876-1912/dp/0380719991  

 

World Bank Refuses to Stop   Funding African Land Grabs, October 8, 2012, African Globe.  Source: http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/world-bank-refuses-stop-funding-african-land-grabs