Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
No government can withstand the unified strength of a people held together by a common and just cause, acting peacefully in honor of freedom and justice.


It is a new-year in Ethiopia, (belated) happy 2005 one and all. With it comes a new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, deputy PM under Meles Zenawi who died some time in August or was it July. A fog of misinformation and uncertainty surrounds the final months of Meles life, ingrained secrecy being both a political and national characteristic that works against social and ethnic cohesion, strengthening mistrust and division.


It is unclear what route the deputy PM, a Protestant from humble beginnings in the small, desperately poor Wolayta community, took to step into the prime ministerial shoes. Some believe the US administration through its powerful military machine Africom, engineered the sympathetic replacement. The US is Ethiopia’s main donor, giving around $3 billion a year, Ethiopia for it’s part and in exchange for such generosity perhaps, allows the US military to station and launch drones from it’s sacred soil into Somalia, or indeed anywhere the Pentagon hacks choose and the deadly drones can reach.


New Prime Minister same old regime story


The new Prime Minister has worryingly vowed, the BBC 21/09/12[i] report, to continue Mr. Meles "legacy without any change,” a legacy littered with human rights violations and injustices, which has little to recommend it. Meles ruled over a single party State in all but name, for, as the International Crisis Group (ICG)[ii] make clear, “Meles engineered one-party rule in effect for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and his Tigrayan inner circle, with the complicity of other ethnic elites that were co-opted into the ruling alliance, the Ethiopian ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
The Election Year Outsourcing that No One’s Talking About

In the 1980s, the U.S. government began funneling aid to mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan as part of an American proxy war against the Soviet Union. It was, in the minds of America’s Cold War leaders, a rare chance to bloody the Soviets, to give them a taste of the sort of defeat the Vietnamese, with Soviet help, had inflicted on Washington the decade before. In 1989, after years of bloody combat, the Red Army did indeed limp out of Afghanistan in defeat. Since late 2001, the United States has been fighting its former Afghan proxies and their progeny. Now, after years of bloody combat, it’s the U.S. that’s looking to withdraw the bulk of its forces and once again employ proxies to secure its interests there.


From Asia and Africa to the Middle East and the Americas, the Obama administration is increasingly embracing a multifaceted, light-footprint brand of warfare. Gone, for the moment at least, are the days of full-scale invasions of the Eurasian mainland. Instead, Washington is now planning to rely ever more heavily on drones and special operations forces to fight scattered global enemies on the cheap. A centerpiece of this new American way of war is the outsourcing of fighting duties to local proxies around the world.

While the United States is currently engaged in just one outright proxy war, ...

Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa.

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks.  Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa. 


Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map.  Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa.  It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”

In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make.  They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.

On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes.  The same is true in other African countries.  The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
Africa has for long been the object of western domination, control and usury, under the British, French, and Portuguese of old.

It is a colonial phenomenon, appropriate land for the needs of the colonists and to hell with those living upon the land, indigenous and at home. Might is right, military or indeed economic. The power of the dollar rules supreme in a world built upon the acquisition of the material, the perpetuation of desire and the entrapment of the human spirit.

Africa has for long been the object of western domination, control and usury, under the British, French, and Portuguese of old. Now the ‘new rulers of the World’ large corporations from America, China, Japan, Middle Eastern States, India and Europe, are engaged in extensive land acquisitions in developing countries. The vast majority of available land is in Sub-Saharan Africa where, according to The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues report, ‘The Growing demand for Land, Risks and Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers’  “80 per cent (of worldwide land) –about 2 billion hectares that is potentially available for expanded rain-fed crop production” is thought to be. Huge industrial agricultural centres are being created, off shore farms, producing crops for the investors home market. Indigenous people, subsistence farmers and pastoralists are forced off the land, the natural environment is levelled, purging the land of wildlife and destroying small rural communities, that have lived, worked and cared for the land for centuries. The numbers of people potentially affected by the land grab and its impact on the environment is staggering. The UN in it’s report states “By 2020, an estimated 135 million people may be driven from their land as a result of soil degradation, with 60 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”

This contemporary ‘Land Grab’ has come about as a result of food shortages, the financial meltdown in 2008 and in light of the United Nations world population forecast of 9.2 billion people by 2050, and ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Governments are dealing secretly with investors, to lease or sell enormous areas of the best arable land. Local farmers who don’t own the land they work are informed of these deals at the very last moment, when they are told to leave.”

A study by the Spain-based group Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN), released late February, estimates that some 35 million hectares of land have been sold or leased in 416 recent, large-scale land grabbing deals in 66 countries, mostly in Africa.

Another analysis of land grabs, carried out by the International Land Coalition (ILC), released last January, found that between 2000 and 2010 some 203 million hectares were leased or sold in developing countries, mainly in Africa, but also in Latin America, Asia, and even Eastern Europe, to foreign investors.

"This land area is equivalent to over eight times the size of the United Kingdom," the ILC said in its report 'Land Rights and the Rush for Land - Findings of the Global Commercial Pressures on Land Research Project.'

Most land is used to produce inputs for so called biofuels, ILC pointed out.

In his new book on the subject, award-winning Italian journalist Stefano Liberti says that this massive global land grab is the direct consequence of the privatisation and liberalisation policies imposed for years upon developing countries by international financial institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and investment in agricultural policies promoted by United Nations agencies such as the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

The book, published originally in Italian under the title 'Land ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“How an old business model is finding new relevance all over the world.”

What do coffee growers in Ethiopia, hardware store owners in America, and Basque entrepreneurs have in common? For one thing, many of them belong to cooperatives. By pooling their money and resources, and voting democratically on how those resources will be used, they can compete in business and reinvest the benefits in their communities.

The United Nations has named 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, and indeed, co-ops seem poised to become a dominant business model around the world. Today, nearly one billion people worldwide are cooperative member-owners. That’s one in five adults over 15 — and it could soon be you.

Why Cooperatives?

Cooperatives have been around in one form or another throughout human history, but modern models began popping up about 150 years ago. Today’s co-ops are collaboratively owned by their members, who also control the enterprise collaboratively by democratic vote. This means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced between the pursuit of profit, and the needs of members and their communities. Most co-ops also follow the Seven Cooperative Principles, a unique set of guidelines that help maintain their member-driven nature.

From their beginnings in England, cooperatives have spread throughout the world. In Ethiopia, cooperation helps women and men rise above poverty. In Germany, half of renewable energy is owned by citizens. In America, 93 million credit union member-owners control $920 billion in assets. In Japan, a sixth of the population belongs to a consumer co-op. And in Basque Country, a 50-year-old worker co-op has grown to become a multinational, cooperative corporation.

If a “multinational ...

Published: Saturday 29 October 2011
Published: Tuesday 16 August 2011
There is no question that governments and international agencies have been sluggish in their response to the drought in the Horn of Africa

In the fall of last year, the landscape of the Dadaab refugee complex, about fifty miles from Kenya’s border with Somalia, began to change dramatically. Slipshod tents built from scavenged plant matter and windblown detritus started springing up amongst the acacia trees that dot the arid plains of northeastern Kenya.

Dadaab’s boundaries had been swelling for years, but never so far out, nor so quickly. It started at Dagahaley, one of the three original camps that make up the complex, and then at a second camp, Ifo. With no more designated land to give to arriving refugees—plots had run out in 2008—unauthorized camps, referred to grimly as “the outskirts,” appeared beyond the official sites. The white tarpaulin tents of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gave way to motley hemispherical huts: loose twigs braided together into giant tumbleweeds and draped with old clothing, burlap and scraps of trash.

By February of this year, another ad hoc settlement was spreading, outside of the third camp, Hagadera. The monthly arrival rate at Dadaab had climbed by then from somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 people, to about 10,000. And the settlements kept growing.

By the time famine was declared in two regions of Somalia on July 20—another three regions were deemed certifiably famished in early August—the monthly rate had tripled: at least 30,000 more refugees had arrived between June and July, roughly the number of people each camp was designed to shelter when they were first established in 1991. Now, around 440,000 people live in this camp built for 90,000. Visiting Dadaab makes one thing plain: this crisis did not just “strike” Somalia, contrary to what the ...

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