Friday, December 28, 2012
Washington balking at democratic transition in Syria
Posted in Syria by what's left on December 27, 2012
By Stephen Gowans
Last June world powers called for a transitional government to succeed the current government in Syria. The United Nations and Arab League appointed Lakhdar Brahimi to negotiate a settlement with the Syrian government and opposition forces. So far, Brahimi has made little headway. That’s to be expected. The deck is stacked against him.
With Washington, London, Paris and various Sunni Arab monarchies providing political and military support, the opposition has little motivation to negotiate. They must see their eventual victory as all but guaranteed.
At the same time, Washington must see recent rebel military gains as a sign that an opposition military victory is a very real possibility. It, too, then, has little motivation to see a settlement arrived at which stops short of its regime change objective.
Brahimi met this week with Syrian president Bashar Assad and various opposition groups and will meet with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Saturday. Russia has also held talks with Syria.
One proposal under discussion, which has the backing of Assad’s allies in Moscow, would see the Syrian president’s authority gradually transferred to a transitional government, while Assad stays on as a figurehead president until his term expires in 2014. At that point, elections would be held.
If accepted, the proposal would end a civil war that has displaced hundreds of thousands and killed tens of thousands. It would also allow Syrians to decide their future peacefully in free elections, rather than at the point of a gun.
Given that Assad’s ally, Russia, floated the proposal, that Assad’s position is weakening, and that the proposal allows him to stay in the game, it’s likely that Assad is onboard.
Not so the other side.
Predictably, Radwan Ziadeh of the Syrian National Council dismissed the proposal, while Washington, equally predictably, insists that Assad step down as a precondition for talks.
But that’s not all. Washington is also demanding Assad’s disqualification from running in future elections.
Neither condition helps end the conflict, nor serves the interests of Syrians as a whole.
Allowing Assad to stay on as a figurehead president is a concession of little significance, since power would eventually reside with a transitional government.
And why shouldn’t Assad be permitted to stand for re-election? If Syrians truly despise him, and wish to see him gone—as Washington and its allies would have us believe—he’ll get the boot at the polls.
Moreover, if the opposition is truly a popular movement for democracy, it can hardly object to Assad standing for election.
On the other hand, if Assad isn’t as unpopular as Washington and the rebels insist, he might emerge from a free election as victor, dashing the regime change agenda of the Sunni jihadists and US imperialists who object to his secular Arab nationalism.
Is the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which Washington and many of its allies have unilaterally dubbed the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, afraid that a free election might show that it is not the legitimate representative Washington says it is?
The truth of the matter is that the National Coalition, which is the brainchild of the US State Department, is representative of US military and economic interests in Syria.
Funny how Washington presents the conflict in Syria as a democratic struggle, but wants to limit who can run in elections. Sad too that it would let this anti-democratic condition stand in the way of arriving at a settlement to end a bloody civil war.
Sunday, 23 December 2012 22:54
Vice President Joice Mujuru has implored Dotito farmers to invest in irrigation equipment to counter the effects of climate change. She said through irrigation, farmers would be assured of household and national food security.
In a speech read on her behalf by Mashonaland Central Governor Martin Dinha at the commissioning of the Dotito Drip Irrigation Scheme, VP Mujuru said climate change had affected farming seasons and led to consecutive droughts. A local company, Pedstock, donated the five-hectare drip irrigation equipment.
“We can increase food production through irrigation. Irrigation also enables farmers to harvest rainwater and use it later to produce food,” she said.
VP Mujuru said it was disturbing for a society to depend on donors for food.
“Farmers should move away from subsistence to commercial production. A farmer should produce enough to feed the family and ensure there is surplus to sell,” she said.
VP Mujuru expressed concern over farmers’ shift from food crops to tobacco farming.
She discouraged farmers in the area from totally switching off from food to cash crops such as tobacco, which was highly paying.
“Mashonaland Central province is a major tobacco producer but there is a need to also produce food and reduce hunger in the area.”
VP Mujuru advised the farmers to add value to their crops by processing them to at least the next line from raw products.
She said it was disheartening that there were lots of fruits in the area, which were rotting yet farmers could produce some juice and increase income.
VP Mujuru congratulated Dotito District for taking heed of President Mugabe’s advice of investing in irrigation and water harvesting.
“You have become the first district to launch an irrigation scheme soon after the Zanu-PF’s annual national people’s conference,” she said.
Mt Darwin North Member of Parliament, Cde Dickson Mafios, bemoaned the absence of funding for small-scale farmers.
Cde Mafios said there was a need for loan facilities that did not require farmers to produce collateral security.
“We have faith that the irrigation scheme will empower members and boost household food security,” he said.
Mt Darwin is rated fourth among hunger-stricken districts in the province according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
The main advantage of the drip irrigation method is being able to water plants using a small amount of water delivered through pressurised pipes and drippers and it reduces moisture stress.
One of the most important aspects of this method is that the watered zone is only along the plant line, leaving the rest of the field dry, thus using the least amount of water possible.
Sunday, 23 December 2012 21:03
Jeffrey Gogo - Climate Story
CLIMATE change has greatly increased rainfall and water variability worldwide. Now that’s more than just a wake-up call for Zimbabwean farmers and communities to take water harvesting seriously.
The thin infrastructure that exists in some parts of the country to capture rainwater and store it for future use should be urgently strengthened and new ones established in areas that need them most.
Zimbabwe now needs new innovative approaches to agriculture, which are climate smart.
Indeed, water harvesting is nothing new.
If anything, it’s an age-old practice. But what makes it more important today is its ability to neutralise the severe water stress levels generated by a changing climate and its pivotal role in the food-water nexus.
Well-structured and co-ordinated water harvesting strategies would be critical in building drought resilience and enhancing capacity for climate change adaptation for poor rural farming communities.
This is very crucial particularly in the country’s drought-prone and water-scarce ecological regions four and five, that’s the whole of Matabeleland North and South provinces, large parts of the Midlands and Masvingo, and some areas in the north and north-east.
These areas, which represent over 60 percent of all state land are typically high temperature, low-rainfall regions receiving below 600mm rain per year and experiencing more frequent, severe droughts.
Recent studies predict both region four and five will become drier, more arid and have already expanded 5,6 percent and 22,6 percent respectively, which is essentially an expansion into hunger.
Yet, the main food-producing ecological regions two and three have declined by 49 percent and 13 percent in that order.
The statistics point to a possible reduction in food production and, therefore, a threat to food security. The Midlands State University researchers said the shifting in the natural regions’ boundaries “strongly points to evidence of climate variability and change”.
This is where water harvesting comes in, and more so given UN forecasts two-thirds of the world population will experience significantly reduced access to water resources by 2025.
Over time, techniques for collecting rain-water have vastly changed, allowing for large-scale water accumulation and storage for various purposes including drinking, irrigated farming and for livestock.
It is very possible and practical for farmers to capture water and store it for different uses in the future.
Rain may be collected from rooftops, run-offs or in open spaces, capturing drop for drop, as it falls from the sky.
Storage can be in large surface or underground tanks, mini-dams even, emphasising the facilities minimise pollution and evaporation.
The larger projects could be capital intensive meaning Zimbabwe may have to cast its net wider searching for development finance.
“The rainwater collected can be stored for direct use or can be recharged into the groundwater,” explained the National Water Harvesters Network, an India-based international network that addresses global water issues.
“Rain is the first form of water that we know in the hydrological cycle, hence is a primary source of water for us.
“Rivers, lakes and groundwater are all secondary sources of water. In present times, we depend entirely on such secondary sources of water.
“In the process, it is forgotten that rain is the ultimate source that feeds all these secondary sources and remain ignorant of its value.”
The network says water harvesting means to understand the value of rain, and to make optimum use of the rainwater at the place where it falls. However, Harare agri-business development expert Mr Midway Bhunu decried the lack of Government support in establishing management and development frameworks that cushion farmers and communities from the effects of declining water resources caused by climate change.
“While water harvesting is a very noble idea and feasible in Zimbabwe, there is a lack of support at national level towards such projects that help communities to make good use of rainwater.
“In Zimbabwe success stories of water harvesting are very few. We need to change our response rate to issues concerning climate change,” Mr Bhunu said.
Water harvesting is just one of the many strategies that could be employed in building climate resilient communities.
Encouraging farmers to plant drought-resistant crop varieties is an equally important response.
This may be aided by transforming climate data into usable formats for policymakers and individual farmers.
Farmers now require much more than the usual monotonous “below to normal rainfall” sermons regularly churned out by the weather-man or woman.
They need timely and frequent weather and climate information that is specific to their farming regions, which would aide in planting, planning and other agricultural work.
In East Africa, the Kenya Rainwater Association, supported by the African Water Facility, is implementing a pilot programme aimed at increasing drought resilience and climate change adaptation, using integrated rainwater harvesting management.
Targeting three districts — Baringo, Kiambu West and Laikipia — the programme is expected to bolster water harvesting infrastructure development, use complementary water harvesting technologies to improve livelihoods and generate income, and encourage knowledge sharing among community members.
More specifically, the project will raise awareness on rainwater harvesting techniques, promote improved water management models, use watershed conservation, install water tanks and promote good hygiene practices.
Mobilising and applying resources for the water and sanitation sector would be critical for African countries in the successful implementation of the Africa Water
Vision (2025) and in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Zimbabwe can learn from similar projects.
God is faithful.
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By The Post
Fri 28 Dec. 2012, 10:00 CAT
Everything big starts with something small. Nothing great is created suddenly. Nothing can be done except little by little. People who think they are too big to do little things are perhaps too little to be asked to do big things. Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
With a little thing lies a big opportunity. Small things make a difference; therefore, do all that it takes to be successful in little things.
When we are faithful in those small opportunities, God says to us, "You have been faithful in handling this small amount…so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Begin your joyous tasks I have assigned to you."
You never do great things if you can't do small things in a great way. All difficult things have their beginning in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.
One of the major differences between people who have momentum and those who don't is that those with momentum are growing by taking advantage of small opportunities. The impossible, many times, is simply the untried.
Small and medium enterprises in Zambia have difficulties in growth due to lack of finance. They hardly grow beyond start-up stage. Others go out of business at a very early stage.
And as Bank of Zambia governor Dr Michael Gondwe has correctly observed, there is need for the establishment of venture funds in the country to ease access to funding of small and medium businesses who still have great difficulties accessing finance from commercial banks.
Small and medium businesses have few alternatives of accessing finance other than relying on their retained earnings to finance their investments.
Lack of access to credit is a major constraint inhibiting the growth of small and medium enterprises in our country. The issues and problems limiting small and medium enterprises' acquisition of credit include lack of tangible security, coupled with an inappropriate legal and regulatory framework that does not recognise innovative strategies for lending to small and medium enterprises.
Limited access to formal finance due to poor and insufficient capacity to deliver financial services to small and medium enterprises continues to be a constraint in their growth and expansion.
Our commercial banks generally perceive small and medium enterprises as high-risk and commercially unviable. As a result of this, only a few small and medium enterprises access credit from commercial banks in the country.
There has been political pressure on our commercial banks, urging them to lend to small and medium enterprises. But this pressure has not yielded much. There are serious challenges commercial banks face in lending to small and medium enterprises.
In addition to lack of security, there is also a serious culture of not paying back debts in our country. Those from the small and medium enterprise sector who happen to have access to commercial bank credit often fail to pay back. Some of them misuse, misapply the credit. They use the money they have borrowed for business on non-business expenditure - they buy expensive automobiles, construct mansions and engage in other wasteful spending. And this leaves very little money for the business activities the funds have been advanced for.
And it is time we started to address, as a nation, the conduct of business under limited liability status. If this culture of not paying debts is not seriously addressed, even venture funds will fail to rescue or provide finance to our small and medium enterprises.
The government is right in trying to pay special attention to the development of small and medium enterprises. Countries throughout the world are nowadays turning their attention to small and medium scale enterprises. This is because attempts to promote economic progress by establishing large industries have usually failed to improve the lives of the majority of the populations concerned.
Therefore, small and medium enterprises are now viewed as important in even and equitable development. Small and medium enterprises are not only seen as providers of goods and services but also as drivers in promoting competition, innovation and enhancing the enterprise culture, which is necessary for development and industrialisation. Small and medium enterprises seem to be efficient and effective in responding to the challenges of creating productive and sustainable employment opportunities, promoting economic growth and poverty eradication.
There is no doubt that, if well nurtured, small and medium enterprises will play a significant role in contributing to our national goal of wealth creation and making Zambia a middle-income country by 2030.
Therefore, access to finance by small and medium enterprises is an important ingredient to development. And the financial constraints being faced by small and medium enterprises are likely to affect business creation and improvement. We cannot continue with this situation where small and medium enterprises in Zambia have difficulties accessing both credit finance and equity.
Venture capital is one source of non-commercial bank financing options for financing small or start-up businesses. Venture capitalists are organised providers of financing for winning but risky business proposals by small and medium enterprises that have a promising, yet unproven idea.
If the venture capitalists are convinced that a business idea is promising, they will take an ownership stake in the business whose growth has been constrained by shortage of capital or increased cost of borrowing and provide the necessary finance.
There is no doubt increased venture capital finance will have a significant impact on the development of small and medium enterprises in our country. And we shouldn't forget that small businesses don't remain small forever, they grow. And small businesses have been and are the stepping stone of industrialisation.
And as we have already pointed out, lack of finance has been a major contributor to the small and medium enterprise failure in Zambia. The encouragement, by the government and the Bank of Zambia, of venture capital finance will greatly help increase the number of small and medium enterprises in our country and help Zambia achieve its 2030 vision.
Continued reliance on commercial banks to finance small and medium enterprises will not achieve much positive result. It may help consolidate the few well-managed and established small and medium enterprises who have accumulated some assets to pledge as security for credit but it will certainly not do for start-up ones. Initiatives are needed for the setting up of venture funds. And the government should start serious work in the creation of the necessary environment and incentives for the establishment of venture funds.
The Development Bank of Zambia, which the government wholly owns and controls, has not functioned that much as an effective venture fund. And in the process, it has lost a lot of money by trying to lend to very risky undertakings without positioning itself as a venture fund.
And the other schemes, such as the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission, have been a disaster because they have not been lending in a manner that can be said to be prudent. And moreover, they did not also have the discipline and structure of a venture fund and, as a result, and also given our culture of not paying debts, have not done well and have lost money.
What is needed are more venture funds. And these institutions are necessary in bridging the levels of access to finance, and they should be top of our government and Central Bank's priority.
By Moses Kuwema
Fri 28 Dec. 2012, 14:00 CAT
PRESIDENT Michael Sata yesterday said that reporting late for work at State House was a dismissible offence. And President Sata says millers selling a 25-kilogramme bag of mealie-meal above K50,000 risk having their licences revoked.
Meanwhile, Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) says there is need for stiffer market regulation so that prices of commodities such as mealie-meal do not sky-rocket.
Speaking when he swore in Kabompo East MMD member of parliament Danny Chingimbu at State House as lands, natural resources and environmental protection deputy minister, President Sata told Chingimbu that he was allergic to reporting late for work.
"If there is one thing which I am allergic to, it is coming late to work. Here at State House, coming late is a dismissible offence because when you are coming to work late, you are stealing money for the poor people. All of us who are here we are getting taxpayers money, what are we doing for the taxpayers?" he said.
President Sata urged Chingimbu to emulate finance minister Alexander Chikwanda, whom he said reported for work at 07:00 hours.
"Show a good example at home to your children, madam and at work. Because some people they think because you are a minister, you go to work at 16:00 hours. Behave like Minister of Finance. If you go to Ministry of Finance at 07:00 hours, you find Mr Chikwanda is in the office.
You must be an example. The biggest problem we have in this country….when I was a young man and when there was Northern Rhodesia government, we were far much richer than all the countries in the region. We were even richer than South Africa, that's why the Europeans forced us to go into the federation because they wanted to steal our riches. But today, we don't work. We are too lazy. Our currency is very weak, even if it has recovered by two cents but it is not what it used to be," President Sata said.
He warned Chingimbu against using his position to organise the MMD.
"We welcome you. You are MMD and a member of parliament. We have picked on a member of parliament because the Constitution says ministers will come from members of parliament. When you find that people from PF are keeping a distance from you, the choice is yours.
The only thing I want from you is to be a leader. Don't use your ministry position, cars, office and telephone to organise MMD. If you want to organise MMD go and ask jail master Nevers Mumba to give you the money to organise MMD. We will always relieve you," he said.
Meanwhile, President Sata said Kabompo could only become the provincial capital of North Western Province once the people in the district were united.
"The capital of North Western Province is supposed to be in Kabompo but you the people in Kabompo must be united. Once you are united then the sky is a limit. I know North Western Province very well because from Kabompo it is very easy to get to Yambezhi Zambezi, Chavuma, Mwinilunga, Mufumbwe and Solwezi.
But you people yourselves you have to work hard, " he said. "You know that Kabompo and Mwinilunga, we need to do that road, I have driven on that road, some of you don't even know where it is. Even Mrs Inonge Wina does not know where Kabompo is and we need to put a bridge to go to Manyinga district. There is a new Manyinga district, we need the roads."
On the mealie-meal prices, President Sata said the price of the commodity had continued to go up uncontrollably and warned the millers that the government would not hesitate to re-introduce price controls if the trend continues.
"I would like to warn the millers, we as the government, we can re-introduce price controls if they want to exploit the people in the villages and townships who don't work. And then you say mealie meal can cost K80,000. Any retailer…miller who is selling mealie meal for more than K50,000, they have their licence hanging," he said.
But CUTS-International Zambia executive director Simon Ng'ona said much as the President has the right to impose such market controls, the forces of demand and supply should be the order of the day.
"The problem which is there in this sector is lack of regulation. What the President should be doing is challenging the ministers or the regulators in the market to ensure that there is effective regulation so that prices don't sky rocket," Ng'ona said.
He said the other problem that could be there was the holding of maize by millers, saying the government had not done a thorough forensic audit of the maize stocks.
"These are some of the issues which should be looked at not the issue of taking us to the price control. The government should allow more private sector participation in the value chain of maize production, maize buying and I think it will bring about efficiency and effectiveness," said Ng'ona.
And President Sata said MMD president Nevers Mumba would be the next person he was going to swear in.
He said the only problem was that he did not know which job to give Mumba.
While walking outside for the photo shoot, President Sata mockingly told justice minister Wynter Kabimba that it was nice to be in government as he could afford to bring people from other political parties and make them ministers.
He said all MMD members of parliament would soon join PF.
"Mr Wynter have you seen how nice it is, we can even go to other parties and bring people and make them ministers," said President Sata as Kabimba responded: "I wish I was MMD, I would have been sworn in."
President Sata then said: "the MMD are coming, all of them. Tomorrow today it's 'Nerves' MMD president Nevers Mumba who is going to come but the biggest problem, is what job to give him."
By Henry Sinyangwe
Thu 27 Dec. 2012, 12:20 CAT
SOME Barclays Bank clients have complained of having their accounts over-debited whenever money is being recovered for unprocessed Visa debit payments.
But Barclays Bank Zambia has apologised to its customers for the inconvenience. Several customers expressed concern that the bank was not immediately deducting money from their accounts each time they made electronic transactions such as swiping.
The clients further complained that some of the transactions that took place many months ago were being deducted this month without any notice.
They also criticised what they termed "over-deducting and unnecessary bank charges".
"We are being inconvenienced because there are so many anomalies," said a client, who refused to be named.
They also wondered why the bank only debited their accounts months after transactions had taken place as some of them did not have enough money in their accounts.
But Barclays Bank Zambia says the debit problem was caused by its remedial action to recover the unprocessed Visa debit payments from customers who made transactions using Visa electron.
Reacting to the customers' concerns in a joint statement yesterday, head of customer service Agatha Yowela and communications manager Banji Gwaba Lufungulo assured customers that the bank remained committed to resolving any concerns that they may have regarding the recent debiting of their accounts with unprocessed Visa debit payments.
"Barclays Bank Zambia Plc wishes to apologise to our esteemed customers who have been inconvenienced during this recovery process. We further wish to advise customers that the Bank will continue to keep its communication channels open with them should they require clarity on the matter," they stated.
By Gift Chanda
Thu 27 Dec. 2012, 14:00 CAT
ZAMBIAN Breweries Plc has flooded the market with 18.9 million bottles of Mosi and Castle larger to avert shortages this festive season.
The brewer of Mosi and Castle lager said it had so far offloaded over 1.3 million bottles (5,000 hectoliters) of clear beer from the Ndola plant and 17.6 million bottles (66,000 hl) from its Lusaka plant into the market to prevent shortages.
"We have not received any complaints in the last week and so we believe we are actually satisfying the market," said Zambian Breweries corporate affairs manager Yuyo Kambikambi in an interview yesterday.
"5000 hectoliters have been offloaded so far from the Ndola plant and the Lusaka plant has been offloading as per usual full capacity and for December alone 66,000 hl has been offloaded. So it has been a huge success because we are not getting any more complaints about shortages."
The SABMiller subsidiary, in November, began production at its new US $90 million (K450 billion) brewery plant in Ndola to romp up output following years of continued shortages especially during the festive season when demand is at its peak.
Beer consumption in the country increased 15 per cent in 2010 and was up 31 per cent last year mainly due to an increase in income levels and a rapid growing middle class.
Zambian Breweries, which accounts for about 90 per cent of beer output in the country, said it was steadily well on its way to operating at full capacity at the new Ndola plant.
The new brewery in Ndola will have an annual production capacity of 100 million litres, or 267 million bottles, a year.
"Therefore there is no need for people to panic buy because we are now well and able to meet the demand for our products with the new 1 million hectolitre plant which will officially be opened next year," Kambikambi added.
SABMiller plans to spend up to US $500 million a year for the next three to five years on building and upgrading breweries in Africa to ramp up beer production and meet growing demand from the continent's new middle classes.
By Allan Mulenga
Thu 27 Dec. 2012, 14:00 CAT
THE Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has notified the Lusaka City Council (LCC) over PF councillor Chikutano Nkhoma's alleged involvement in illegal sale of shops and stands for K10 million each in his ward. Nkhoma is the councillor who incurred a US$2,000 beer debt while in Addis Ababa on an exchange programme.
According to a letter dated December 18, 2012 to the Lusaka City Council town clerk Andrew Mwanakulanga signed by ACC chief investigations officer Vincent Machila, Nkhoma, who is Silwizya ward 13 councillor, and four other officials had allegedly been selling shops and stands at Lusaka's Northmead Market without remitting the proceeds to the Lusaka City Council.
"On 13th December 2012, this Commission received a complaint from Northmead Market traders alleging that Mr. Chitukano Nkhoma, councillor for Silwizya Ward 13 and his ward officials namely; Mrs. Rosemary Phiri, Ernest Ndwi, Gertrude Chanda and Limbikani Jere were allegedly selling shops/ stands at Northmead market for K10,000,000 each. It was suspected that the proceeds thereof were not being remitted to Lusaka City Council," read the letter in part.
ACC had also asked for LCC's co-operation over the matter.
"It was felt that this is a matter that your office would be able to handle appropriately and provide redress since this Commission has not instituted investigations. We would be grateful to receive feedback on the action to be taken," read the letter.
Three weeks ago, the LCC slapped a six-month suspension on Nkhoma and ordered him to pay the U$2,000 beer debt he incurred while in Addis Ababa on an exchange programme.
Ethiopian authorities detained him after he failed to settle a US$2,000 (K10 million) alcohol bill he accumulated within four days at Addis Ababa's Sheraton Hotel.
Nkhoma was in Ethiopia in the company of other councillors who were invited by the Addis Ababa City Council on an exchange programme.
By Moses Kuwema
Thu 27 Dec. 2012, 12:10 CAT
THE MMD leadership is suspects their national treasurer Mwansa Mbulakulima of being PF because of his close relationship with the party's former chairman for elections Gabriel Namulambe.
But Mbulakulima says such tactics would not help the former ruling party, adding that it is not a crime for him to be friends with Namulambe. According to sources within the party, Mbulakulima is being suspected of trying to cross over to the PF.
"There are people within the NEC who are being told they are PF because they are friends with Namulambe, and Mbulakulima is one of them," the sources said.
But when contacted, Mbulakulima said such tactics would not help the MMD.
"I don't think those tactics will be helpful. If you belong to PF, it will show and in some cases, it has even shown. You can hide for some time but it will definitely show. I want to believe that the people in MMD are careful enough and will not fall for that," Mbulakulima said.
He said there was nothing wrong with people being friends even when they belonged to different political parties.
"Being friends when you belong to different political parties is not a crime. Definitely you cannot disown a friend by virtue of their political party. There must be co-existence," he said.
On the defections of the MMD leaders in Luapula Province to the PF, Mbulakulima, who is the only member of parliament from the opposition in the province, said the MMD was still intact and they would move on.
"How genuine are the defections from Luapula because you colleagues from the media were reporting that the entire leadership has resigned.
That is an exaggeration. Out of the provincial executive members, only five have defected. If it was the other way round, then we would have said almost the entire. The leadership is there so that must be clarified…19 where are they? How many district chairmen and women have gone if you are talking about the entire leadership? Most of them are intact," said Mbulakulima.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
By Global Research News
Global Research, December 26, 2012
Monthly Review 1 January 2012
Miguel A. Altieri and Fernando R. Funes-Monzote
When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, parts, and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on imported synthetic chemical inputs, and became a world-class case of ecological agriculture.1 This was such a successful turnaround that Cuba rebounded to show the best food production performance in Latin America and the Caribbean over the following period, a remarkable annual growth rate of 4.2 percent per capita from 1996 through 2005, a period in which the regional average was 0 percent.2Much of the production rebound was due to the adoption since the early 1990s of a range of agrarian decentralization policies that encouraged forms of production, both individual as well as cooperative—Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) and Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS). Moreover, recently the Ministry of Agriculture announced the dismantling of all “inefficient State companies” as well as support for creating 2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and the distribution of the use rights (in usufruct) to the majority of estimated 3 million hectares of unused State lands. Under these regulations, decisions on resource use and strategies for food production and commercialization will be made at the municipal level, while the central government and state companies will support farmers by distributing necessary inputs and services.3 Through the mid-1990s some 78,000 farms were given in usufruct to individuals and legal entities. More than 100,000 farms have now been distributed, covering more than 1 million hectares in total. These new farmers are associated with the CCS following the campesino production model. The government is busy figuring out how to accelerate the processing of an unprecedented number of land requests.4
The land redistribution program has been supported by solid research- extension systems that have played key roles in the expansion of organic and urban agriculture and the massive artisanal production and deployment of biological inputs for soil and pest management. The opening of local agricultural markets and the existence of strong grassroots organisations supporting farmers—for example, the National Association of Small Scale Farmers (ANAP, Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños), the Cuban Association of Animal Production (ACPA, Asociación Cubana de Producción Animal), and the Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians (ACTAF, Asociación Cubana de Técnicos Agrícolas y Forestales)—also contributed to this achievement.
But perhaps the most important changes that led to the recovery of food sovereignty in Cuba occurred in the peasant sector which in 2006, controlling only 25 percent of the agricultural land, produced over 65 percent of the country’s food.5 Most peasants belong to the ANAP and almost all of them belong to cooperatives. The production of vegetables typically produced by peasants fell drastically between 1988 to 1994, but by 2007 had rebounded to well over 1988 levels (see Table 1). This production increase came despite using 72 percent fewer agricultural chemicals in 2007 than in 1988. Similar patterns can be seen for other peasant crops like beans, roots, and tubers.
Cuba’s achievements in urban agriculture are truly remarkable—there are 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables with top urban farms reaching a yield of 20 kg/m2 per year of edible plant material using no synthetic chemicals—equivalent to a hundred tons per hectare. Urban farms supply 70 percent or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.
Table 1. Changes in Crop Production and Agrochemical Use
Crop Percent production change Percent change in agrochemical use
1988 to 1994 1988 to 2007 1988 to 2007
General vegetables -65 +145 -72
Beans -77 +351 -55
Roots and tubers -42 +145 -85
Source: Peter Rosset, Braulio Machín-Sosa, Adilén M. Roque-Jaime, and Dana R. Avila-Lozano, “The Campesino-to-Campesino Agroecology Movement of ANAP in Cuba,” Journal of Peasant Studies 38 (2011): 161-91.
All over the world, and especially in Latin America, the island’s agroecological production levels and the associated research efforts along with innovative farmer organizational schemes have been observed with great interest. No other country in the world has achieved this level of success with a form of agriculture that uses the ecological services of biodiversity and reduces food miles, energy use, and effectively closes local production and consumption cycles. However, some people talk about the “Cuban agriculture paradox”: if agroecological advances in the country are so great, why does Cuba still import substantial amounts of food? If effective biological control methods are widely available and used, why is the government releasing transgenic plants such as Bt crops that produce their own pesticide using genes derived from bacteria?
An article written by Dennis Avery from the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, “Cubans Starve on Diet of Lies,” helped fuel the debate around the paradox. He stated:
The Cubans told the world they had heroically learned to feed themselves without fuel or farm chemicals after their Soviet subsidies collapsed in the early 1990s. They bragged about their “peasant cooperatives,” their biopesticides and organic fertilizers. They heralded their earthworm culture and the predator wasps they unleashed on destructive caterpillars. They boasted about the heroic ox teams they had trained to replace tractors. Organic activists all over the world swooned. Now, a senior Ministry of Agriculture official has admitted in the Cuban press that 84 percent of Cuba’s current food consumption is imported, according to our agricultural attaché in Havana. The organic success was all a lie.6
Avery has used this misinformation to promote a campaign discrediting authors who studied and informed about the heroic achievements of Cuban people in the agricultural field: he has accused these scientists of being communist liars.
The Truth About Food Imports in Cuba
Avery referred to statements of Magalys Calvo, then Vice Minister of the Economy and Planning Ministry, who said in February 2007 that 84 percent of items “in the basic food basket” at that time were imported. However, these percentages represent only the food that is distributed through regulated government channels by means of a ration card. Overall data show that Cuba’s food import dependency has been dropping for decades, despite brief upturns due to natural and human-made disasters. The best time series available on Cuban food import dependency (see Chart 1) shows that it actually declined between 1980 and 1997, aside from a spike in the early 1990s, when trade relations with the former Socialist Bloc collapsed.7
Chart 1. Cuba Food Import Dependency, 1980–1997
Chart 1. Cuba Food Import Dependency, 1980–1997
Source: José Alvarez, The Issue of Food Security in Cuba, University of Florida Extension Report FE483, downloaded July 20, 2011 from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FE/FE48300.pdf.
However, Chart 2 indicates a much more nuanced view of Cuba’s agricultural strengths and weaknesses after more than a decade of technological bias toward ecological farming techniques. Great successes have clearly been achieved in root crops (a staple of the Cuban diet), sugar and other sweeteners, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and seafood. Meat is an intermediate case, while large amounts of cooking oil, cereals, and legumes (principally rice and wheat for human consumption, and corn and soybeans for livestock) continue to be imported. The same is true for powdered milk, which does not appear on the graph. Total import dependency, however, is a mere 16 percent—ironically the exact inverse of the 84 percent figure cited by Avery. It is also important to mention that twenty-three other countries in the Latin American-Caribbean region are also net food importers.8
Chart 2. Import Dependence For Selected Foods, 2003
Chart 2. Import Dependence For Selected Foods,
Source: Calculated from FAO Commodity Balances, Cuba, 2003, http://faostat.fao.org.
There is considerable debate concerning current food dependency in Cuba. Dependency rose in the 2000s as imports from the United States grew and hurricanes devastated its agriculture. After being hit by three especially destructive hurricanes in 2008, Cuba satisfied national needs by importing 55 percent of its total food, equivalent to approximately $2.8 billion. However, as the world food price crisis drives prices higher, the government has reemphasized food self-sufficiency. Regardless of whether food has been imported or produced within the country, it is important to recognize that Cuba has been generally able to adequately feed its people. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Cuba’s average daily per capita dietary energy supply in 2007 (the last year available) was over 3,200 kcal, the highest of all Latin American and Caribbean nations.9
Different Models: Agroecology versus Industrial Agriculture
Under this new scenario the importance of contributions of ANAP peasants to reducing food imports should become strategic, but is it? Despite the indisputable advances of sustainable agriculture in Cuba and evidence of the effectiveness of alternatives to the monoculture model, interest persists among some leaders in high external input systems with sophisticated and expensive technological packages. With the pretext of “guaranteeing food security and reducing food imports,” these specific programs pursue “maximization” of crop and livestock production and insist on going back to monoculture methods—and therefore dependent on synthetic chemical inputs, large scale machinery, and irrigation—despite proven energy inefficiency and technological fragility. In fact, many resources are provided by international cooperation (i.e., from Venezuela) dedicated to “protect or boost agricultural areas” where a more intensive agriculture is practiced for crops like potatoes, rice, soybean, and vegetables. These “protected” areas for large-scale, industrial-style agricultural production represent less than 10 percent of the cultivated land. Millions of dollars are invested in pivot irrigation systems, machinery, and other industrial agricultural technologies: a seductive model which increases short-term production but generates high long-term environmental and socioeconomic costs, while replicating a model that failed even before 1990.
Last year it was announced that the pesticide enterprise “Juan Rodríguez Gómez” in the municipality of Artemisa, Havana, will produce some 100,000 liters of the herbicide glyphosate in 2011.10 In early 2011 a Cuban TV News program informed the population about the Cubasoy project. The program, “Bienvenida la Soya,” reported that “it is possible to transform lands that over years were covered by marabú [a thorny invasive leguminous tree] with soybean monoculture in the south of the Ciego de Ávila province.” Supported by Brazilian credits and technology, the project covers more than 15,000 hectares of soybean grown in rotation with maize and aims at reaching 40,500 hectares in 2013,with a total of 544 center pivot irrigation systems installed by 2014. Soybean yields rank between 1.2 tons per hectare (1,100 lbs per acre) under rainfed conditions and up to 1.97 tons per hectare (1,700 lbs per acre) under irrigation. It is not clear if the soybean varieties used are transgenic, but the maize variety is the Cuban transgenic FR-Bt1. Ninety percent of machinery is imported from Brazil—“large tractors, direct seeding machines, and equipment for crop protection”—and considerable infrastructure investments have been made for irrigation, roads, technical support, processing, and transport.
The Debate Over Transgenic Crops
Cuba has invested millions in biotechnological research and development for agriculture through its Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) and a network of institutions across the country. Cuban biotechnology is free from corporate control and intellectual property-right regimes that exist in other countries. Cuban biotechnologists affirm that their biosafety system sets strict biological and environmental security norms. Given this autonomy and advantages biotechnological innovations could efficiently be applied to solve problems such as viral crop diseases or drought tolerance for which agroecological solutions are not yet available. In2009 the CIGB planted in Yagüajay, Sancti Spiritus, three hectares of genetically modified corn (transgenic corn FR-Bt1) on an experimental basis. This variety is supposed to suppress populations of the damaging larval stage of the “palomilla del maíz” moth (Spodoptera frugiperda, also known as the fall armyworm). By 2009 a total of 6,000 hectares were planted with the transgenic (also referred to as genetically modified, or GM) variety across several provinces. From an agroecological perspective it is perplexing that the first transgenic variety to be tested in Cuba is Bt corn, given that in the island there are so many biological control alternatives to regulate lepidopteran pests. The diversity of local maize varieties include some that exhibit moderate-to-high levels of pest resistance, offering significant opportunities to increase yields with conventional plant breeding and known agroecological management strategies. Many centers for multiplication of insect parasites and pathogens (CREEs, Centros de Reproducción de Entomófagos y Entomopatógenos) produce Bacillus thuringiensis (a microbial insecticide) and Trichogramma (small wasps), both highly effective against moths such as the palomilla. In addition, mixing corn with other crops such as beans or sweet potatoes in polycultures produces significantly less pest attack than maize grown in monocultures. This also increases the land equivalent ratio (growing more total crops in a given area of land) and protects the soil.
When transgenic Bt maize was planted in 2008 as a test crop, researchers and farmers from the agroecological movement expressed concern. Several people warned that the release of transgenic crops endangered agrobiodiversity and contradicted the government’s own agricultural production plans by diverting the focus from agroecological farming that had been strategically adopted as a policy in Cuba. Others felt that biotechnology was geared towards the interests of the multinational corporations and the market. Taking into account its potential environmental and public health risks, it would be better for Cuba to continue emphasizing agroecological alternatives that have proven to be safe and have allowed the country to produce food under difficult economic and climatic circumstances.
The main demonstrated advantage of GM crops has been to simplify the farming process, allowing farmers to work more land. GM crops that resist herbicides (such as “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans) and that produce their own insecticide (such as Bt corn) generally do not yield any more than comparable non-GM crops. However, using these GM crops along with higher levels of mechanization (especially larger tractors) have now made it possible for the size of a family corn and soybean farm in the U.S. Midwest to increase from around 240 hectares (600 acres) to around 800 hectares (2,000 acres).
In September 2010 a meeting of experts concerned about transgenic crops was convened with board and staff members from the National Center for Biological Security and the Office for Environmental Regulation and Nuclear Security (Centro Nacional de Seguridad Biológica and the Oficina de Regulación Ambiental y Seguridad Nuclear), institutions entrusted with licensing GM crops. The experts issued a statement calling for a moratorium on GM crops until more information was available and society has a chance to debate the environmental and health effects of the technology. However, until now there has been no response to this request. One positive outcome of the year-long debate on the inconsistency of planting FR-Bt1 transgenic corn in Cuba was the open recognition by the authorities of the potential devastating consequences of GM crops for the small farmer sector. Although it appears that the use of transgenic corn will be limited exclusively to the areas of Cubasoy and other conventional areas under strict supervision, this effort is highly questionable.11
The Paradox’s Outcome—What Does the Future Hold?
The instability in international markets and the increase in food prices in a country somewhat dependent on food imports threatens national sovereignty. This reality has prompted high officials to make declarations emphasizing the need to prioritize food production based on locally available resources.12 It is in fact paradoxical that, to achieve food security in a period of economic growth, most of the resources are dedicated to importing foods or promoting industrial agriculture schemes instead of stimulating local production by peasants. There is a cyclical return to support conventional agriculture by policy makers when the financial situation improves, while sustainable approaches andagroecology, considered as “alternatives,” are only supported under scenarios of economic scarcity. This cyclical mindset strongly undermines the advances achieved with agroecology and organic farming since the economic collapse in 1990.
Cuban agriculture currently experiences two extreme food-production models: an intensive model with high inputs, and another, beginning at the onset of the special period, oriented towards agroecology and based on low inputs. The experience accumulated from agroecological initiatives in thousands of small-and-medium scale farms constitutes a valuable starting point in the definition of national policies to support sustainable agriculture, thus rupturing with a monoculture model prevalent for almost four hundred years. In addition to Cuba being the only country in the world that was able to recover its food production by adopting agroecological approaches under extreme economic difficulties, the island exhibits several characteristics that serve as fundamental pillars to scale up agroecology to unprecedented levels:
Cuba represents 2 percent of the Latin American population but has 11 percent of the scientists in the region. There are about 140,000 high-level professionals and medium-level technicians, dozens of research centres, agrarian universities and their networks, government institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture, scientific organizations supporting farmers (i.e. ACTAF), and farmers organizations such as ANAP.
Cuba has sufficient land to produce enough food with agroecological methods to satisfy the nutritional needs of its eleven million inhabitants.13 Despite soil erosion, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity during the past fifty years—as well as during the previous four centuries of extractive agriculture—the country’s conditions remain exceptionally favorable for agriculture. Cuba has six million hectares of fairly level land and another million gently sloping hectares that can be used for cropping. More than half of this land remains uncultivated, and the productivity of both land and labor, as well as the efficiency of resource use, in the rest of this farm area are still low. If all the peasant farms (controlling 25 percent of land) and all the UBPC (controlling 42 percent of land)adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry, and even export some food to help generate foreign currency. All this production would be supplemented with urban agriculture, which is already reaching significant levels of production.
About one third of all peasant families, some 110,000 families, have joined ANAP within its Farmer to Farmer Agroecological Movement (MACAC, Movimiento Agroecológico Campesino a Campesino). It uses participatory methods based on local peasant needs and allows for the socialization of the rich pool of family and community agricultural knowledge that is linked to their specific historical conditions and identities. By exchanging innovations among themselves, peasants have been able to make dramatic strides in food production relative to the conventional sector, while preserving agrobiodiversity and using much lower amounts of agrochemicals.
Observations of agricultural performance after extreme climatic events in the last two decades have revealed the resiliency of peasant farms to climate disasters. Forty days after Hurricane Ike hit Cuba in 2008, researchers conducted a farm survey in the provinces of Holguin and Las Tunas and found that diversified farms exhibited losses of 50 percent compared to 90 to 100 percent in neighboring farms growing monocultures. Likewise agroecologically managed farms showed a faster productive recovery (80 to 90 percent forty days after the hurricane) than monoculture farms.14 These evaluations emphasize the importance of enhancing plant diversity and complexity in farming systems to reduce vulnerability to extreme climatic events, a strategy entrenched among Cuban peasants.
Most of the production efforts have been oriented towards reaching food sovereignty, defined as the right of everyone to have access to safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. However, given the expected increase in the cost of fuel and inputs, the Cuban agroecological strategy also aims at enhancing two other types of sovereignties. Energy sovereignty is the right for all people to have access to sufficient energy within ecological limits from appropriate sustainable sources for a dignified life. Technological sovereignty refers to the capacity to achieve food and energy sovereignty by nurturing the environmental services derived from existing agrobiodiversity and using locally available resources.
Elements of the three sovereignties—food, energy, and technology—can be found in hundreds of small farms, where farmers are producing 70–100 percent of the necessary food for their family consumption while producing surpluses sold to the market, allowing them to obtain income (for example, Finca del Medio, CCS Reinerio Reina in Sancti Spiritus; Plácido farm, CCS José Machado; Cayo Piedra, in Matanzas, belonging to CCS José Martí; and San José farm, CCS Dionisio San Román in Cienfuegos). These levels of productivity are obtained using local technologies such as worm composting and reproduction of beneficial native microorganisms together with diversified production systems such as polycultures, rotations, animal integration into crop farms, and agroforestry. Many farmers are also using integrated food/energy systems and generate their own sources of energy using human and animal labor, biogas, and windmills, in addition to producing biofuel crops such as jatrophaintercropped with cassava.15
A rich knowledge of agroecology science and practice exists in Cuba, the result of accumulated experiences promoted by researchers, professors, technicians, and farmers supported by ACTAF, ACPA, and ANAP. This legacy is based on the experiences within rural communities that contain successful “agroecological lighthouses” from which principles have radiated out to help build the basis of an agricultural strategy that promotes efficiency, diversity, synergy, and resiliency. By capitalizing on the potential of agroecology, Cuba has been able to reach high levels of production using low amounts of energy and external inputs, with returns to investment on research several times higher than those derived from industrial and biotechnological approaches that require major equipment, fuel, and sophisticated laboratories.
The political will expressed in the writings and discourses of high officials about the need to prioritize agricultural self-sufficiency must translate into concrete support for the promotion of productive and energy-efficient initiatives in order to reach the three sovereignties at the local (municipal) level, a fundamental requirement to sustain a planet in crisis.
By creating more opportunities for strategic alliances between ANAP, ACPA, ACTAF, and research centers, many pilot projects could be launched in key municipalities, testing different agroecological technologies that promote the three sovereignties, as adapted to each region’s special environmental and socioeconomic conditions. These initiatives should adopt the farmer-to-farmer methodology that transcends top-down research and extension paradigms, allowing farmers and researchers to learn and innovate collectively. The integration of university professors and students in such experimentation and evaluation processes would enhance scientific knowledge for the conversion to an ecologically based agriculture. It would also help improve agroecological theory, which would in turn benefit the training of future generations of professionals, technicians, and farmers.
The agroecological movement constantly urges those Cuban policy makers with a conventional, Green Revolution, industrial farming mindset to consider the reality of a small island nation facing an embargo and potentially devastating hurricanes. Given these realities, embracing agroecological approaches and methods throughout the country’s agriculture can help Cuba achieve food sovereignty while maintaining its political autonomy.
1. ↩ Peter Rosset and Medea Benjamin, eds., The Greening of the Revolution (Ocean Press: Melbourne, Australia, 1994); Fernando Funes, et. al., eds., Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance (Oakland: Food First Books, 2002); Braulio Machín-Sosa, et. al., Revolución Agroecológica (ANAP: La Habana, 2010).
2. ↩ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The State of Food and Agriculture 2006 (Rome: FAO, 2006), http://fao.org.
3. ↩ MINAG (Ministerio de la Agricultura), Informe del Ministerio de la Agricultura a la Comisión Agroalimentaria de la Asamblea Nacional, May 14, 2008 (MINAG: Havana, Cuba, 2008).
4. ↩ Ana Margarita González, “Tenemos que dar saltos cualitativos,” Interview with Orlando Lugo Fonte, Trabajadores, June 22, 2009, 6.
5. ↩ Raisa Pagés, “Necesarios cambios en relaciones con el sector cooperativo-campesino,” Granma, December 18, 2006, 3.
6. ↩ Dennis T. Avery, “Cubans Starve on Diet of Lies,” April 2, 2009, http://cgfi.org.
7. ↩ Fernando Funes, Miguel A. Altieri, and Peter Rosset, “The Avery Diet: The Hudson’s Institute Misinformation Campaign Against Cuban Agriculture,” May 2009, http://globalalternatives.org.
8. ↩ FAO, Ibid.
9. ↩ FAOSTAT Food Supply Database, http://faostat.fao.org, accessed July 28, 2011.
10. ↩ René Montalván, “Plaguicidas de factura nacional,” El Habanero, November 23, 2010, 4.
11. ↩ Fernando Funes-Monzote and Eduardo F. Freyre Roach, eds., Transgénicos ¿Qué se gana? ¿Qué se pierde? Textos para un debate en Cuba (Havana: Publicaciones Acuario, 2009), http://landaction.org.
12. ↩ Raúl Castro, “Mientras mayores sean las dificultades, más exigencia, disciplina y unidad se requieren,” Granma, February 25, 2008, 4–6.
13. ↩ Fernando Funes-Monzote, Farming Like We’re Here to Stay, PhD dissertation, Wageningen University, Netherlands, 2008.
14. ↩ Braulio Machin-Sosa, et. al., Revolución Agroecológica: el Movimiento de Campesino a Campesino de la ANAP en Cuba (ANAP: La Habana, 2010).
15. ↩ Fernando Funes-Monzote, et. al., “Evaluación inicial de sistemas integrados para la producción de alimentos y energía en Cuba,” Pastos y Forrajes (forthcoming, 2011).
Miguel A. Altieri (agroeco3 [at] berkeley.edu) is Profesor of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley and President of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA). He is the author of more than 250 journal articles and twelve books.
Fernando R. Funes-Monzote (mgahonam [at] enet.cu) is currently a researcher at the Experimental Station Indio Hatuey, University of Matanzas, Cuba. He is one of the founding members of the Cuban Association of Organic Agriculture.
By Stephen Lendman
Global Research, December 26, 2012
Region: sub-Saharan Africa
It’s more than about oil, stupid. It’s for vast African riches. Resource/mineral wars define America’s agenda. On December 15, 2006, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) was authorized. On February 6, 2007, it was announced. On October 1, 2007, it was established. On October 1, 2008, it became operational. It’s mission is controlling Africa’s riches.
They’re vast. They’re some of the world’s largest and richest. Potential new deposits await to be found. Others known about await development. Modern exploration methods enable global exploitation. Virtually nothing escapes discovery. Africa’s rich in oil, gas, gold, silver, diamonds, uranium, iron, copper, tin, lead, nickel, coal, cobalt, bauxite, wood, coltan, manganese, chromium, vanadium-bearing titanium, and much more.
Continental agricultural lands are valued. So is offshore fishing.
Congo, Southern Sudan’s Darfur region, Gulf of Guinea, Libya, Nigeria, and Niger, among other areas, hold special interest.
So does Mali. Last October, Reuters headlined “Mali war plan to be ready within weeks: AU,” saying:
Military intervention is planned to reclaim territory seized by “Islamist militants.” On March 22, an army coup toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure.
At the time, France signaled readiness to intervene. Malian junior officers revolted. They control northern areas. Obama officials call Mali a “powder keg.” Conditions threaten regional destabilization, they say.
Reasons are invented to intervene. Obama wants congressional funding. He prioritizes wars. He’s eager to begin term two with new ones. Permanent ones define his agenda.
NATO/EU partners are pressured to go along. Last October, the Security Council approved an international military mission to Mali. Ban Ki-moon was enlisted to help develop military intervention plans. Finalizing them was planned for end of November.
France drafted the UN resolution. It was Washington’s lead attack dog on Libya. It may have the same role on Mali. US special forces and drone attacks may be planned.
They’re already involved. Covert ops and surveillance began months ago. They’re prelude for what’s planned. Operations may replicate Somalia, Yemen, or Libya 2.0 with less sustained air support.
Reuters called Mali “paralyzed by twin crises.” Leadership is divided. Last June, reports said African Union officials asked for Security Council intervention authority.
On December 20, it came unanimously. Timing was left unaddressed. Authorization signaled Washington’s intention to intervene. Obama already has. Greater invention is planned.
Security Council members voted days after Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra’s resignation.
Coup members arrested him. They forced him out. He strongly supports intervention.
Django Cissoko replaced him. He’s silent so far on favoring it. Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly called authorization “historic.” His government supports it.
It asked Ban Ki-moon to “confirm in advance the council’s satisfaction with the planned military offensive operation.”
Ban’s a reliable imperial ally. He’s replicated the worst of Kofi Annan’s failures and betrayal.
Both men abhor peace. They support Washington’s wars and occupations. They ignore Israel’s worst crimes. They’re indifferent to human suffering. They call aggressive wars liberating ones.
They endorse America’s agenda. Mali’s in line to be attacked, destroyed and controlled. Ban’s comfortable with more African bloodshed. The entire Sahel region and beyond are threatened.
The Security Council resolution authorized an unspecified troop strength African-led International Support Mission (AFISMA). An initial one-year period was called for.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) wants 3,300 troops in Mali. They’ll be US/Western proxies. Nigerian forces appear designated to lead them.
They’ll conduct ground operations. US, French, and other NATO logistical, air, and intelligence operations will support them.
Timing remains undecided. Tactics are being planned. Clarity may come post-holidays. Perhaps after Obama’s January 21 inauguration.
UN peacekeeping head, Herve Ladsous, suggested that logistical planning may delay intervention until September or October.
France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, called it premature to say when military operations will begin. African and Malian troops must be trained, he said. Much depends on political considerations.
Extreme weather may intervene. In late March, monsoon season begins. It lasts months.
Timbuktu’s Mayor Halle Cisse asked for “rapid military action to liberate our cities.”
“There is no school. There is no work and no money,” he added. “We are fed up with this situation.” Timbuktu depends on tourism. Conflict keeps people away.
Media scoundrel fear mongering said Islamists imposed sharia law. Managed news misreporting made lurid claims. Propaganda substitutes for truth. Claims about banned public male/female socializing were featured.
Other accounts stressed attacking bars selling alcohol, recruiting child fighters, stonings, whippings, beheadings, amputations, and other punishments against non-believers.
Public sentiment is being prepared for intervention. US-style responsibility to protect (R2P) perhaps plans Libya 2.0 light.
For months, France and Washington held secret intervention talks. Rousting “Islamist militants” is pretext. So is waging war on terror. Resource control is policy.
Thursday’s resolution welcomed ECOWAS troop pledges. It called for member states’ help. Chad, Mauritania and Niger were asked to contribute. Their troops have desert warfare experience.
Resolution language stressed two-track planning. Political and military were called for.
US and French special forces operate in Mali. They’re active in other regional countries. They conduct covert operations. They’re training Malian forces. Stepped up efforts are planned.
AFRICOM head General Carter Ham called Malian and other regional conditions “vastly different than they were previously. There are now non-Al Qaeda associated (militant) groups that present significant threats to the United States.”
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) raises most concern, he said. It’s also called “the Salafist Group for Call and Combat.” Other regional groups include “the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa.”
“It is clear to me they aspire to conduct events more broadly across the region, and eventually to the United States,” claimed Ham.
“That is the ideology. That is the campaign plan. Establish the caliphate and spread the ideology. Attack Western interests. Attack democrat forms of government. We are certainly seeing it.”
America creates pretexts to intervene. When enemies don’t exist they’re invented. Imperial strategy prioritizes it.
Algiers University Professor Ahmed Adhimi believes Afghanistanizing the Sahel region looms.
Military intervention will attract “adventurers, terrorists, and all those who want to fight the Crusaders” like flower-containing pollen and nectar draw bees to produce honey.
Cross-border conflict may follow. Algeria may become Africa’s Pakistan. Washington may drag Algiers into a war it doesn’t want. It’ll end up victimized like other US targets. Obama perhaps plans it.
A Final Comment
CIA elements operate covertly virtually everywhere. So do US special forces in 120 or more countries.
Fifty-four nations comprise Africa. In 2013, the Pentagon plans sending “small teams” to over 35 of them. Perhaps they’re already in most of the other 19.
Reports about their role limited to training and equipping efforts don’t wash. US forces everywhere are combat trained and ready.
Special forces are assassins. They specialize in search and destroy, extrajudicial assassinations, and other lawless acts.
Washington wants unchallenged African dominance. AFRICOM was established to rape the continent’s riches.
Proxy and direct wars are prioritized. Expect much more in resource-rich areas.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Sunday, 23 December 2012 00:00
MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube has poured out his admiration for President Mugabe, saying he has far more superior leadership qualities compared to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He also said a new constitution is not a prerequisite for the 2013 harmonised elections, which can be held in terms of the existing law.
Speaking to journalists after a rally in Gweru last week, Prof Ncube described President Mugabe as a principled person who exhibited remarkable leadership qualities while Mr Tsvangirai flip-flopped.
He said handing the presidency to the MDC-T leader was similar to “giving a cyclist the responsibility of driving a bus”.
“There are those who say we should remove (President) Mugabe and replace him with (Mr) Tsvangirai. There is a lot of work to be done in Government,” he said.
“Imagine what would happen if he got into office. He would probably open a file and fail to understand what it is all about. Driving a bus requires a class one driver’s licence. You cannot say so and so has experience in cycling, let us give him a bus to drive! He lacks principles. One day he says this and the next morning he says something different.”
Prof Ncube vowed to continue representing the interests of the grassroots.
“He (Prime Minister Tsvangirai) has called me a village politician. Yes, I am a villager who represents the wishes of his fellow villagers.
“If Prime Minister Tsvangirai thinks he belongs to royalty then let him go to England and stay there.”
Prof Ncube also concurred with Zanu-PF that a new constitution was not a precondition for holding harmonised elections next year.
He added that it would be undemocratic to suppress the will of the electorate by delaying polls in order to push for a new constitution.
“We are ready for elections next year with or without a new constitution. The point we are making is that if it is not possible to come up with a new constitution then let us not have a constitution at all.
“We hold elections under the old constitution and then continue to fight for a new constitution after the elections. We, of course, prefer the constitution, which was signed on July 18. However, if the country runs out of time before we have a new constitution we must go for an election and we are ready for that.”
Sunday, 23 December 2012 00:00
Sunday Mail Reporter
Vice-President Mujuru has called on Zimbabweans to continue to uphold the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and PF-Zapu, saying the pact consolidated peace and unity in the country.
In a speech read on her behalf at the Harvest Time Ministries Annual Conference in Bindura yesterday, she said it was important to cherish and safeguard such unity. Cde Mujuru also said Government looks up to the church to reinforce the message of peace and harmony.
“It is important that the church itself guards against falling into the trap of divisions. I urge you all to be alert and know that destruction and disunity are the work of the devil,” she said.
“The world today is faced with a number of ills that are affecting the spiritual, social, physical and economic well-being of the people.
“Our challenge as the church is to empower people to live more fulfilled lives and also pass on good values to future generations.
“Hence, it is important that the church and its leadership, as role models, lead exemplary lives.”
The Vice-President said Government appreciates Harvest Time Ministries’ charitable work.
“Through passionate ministering, you are helping to improve the quality of life of orphans and widows and those who are less-privileged. “Government looks up to the church as a partner in socio-economic development. We need to open our eyes and hearts to the needs of others because there is so much we can do to transform the lives of the underprivileged.”
She added that Government was promoting economic independence through indigenisation and land reforms.
“We should, therefore, take up the challenge through the opportunities that are being opened up for us. I believe hard work and self-reliance preserve the dignity of individuals, families and the nation,” she said.
Vice-President Mujuru donated five tonnes of maize and soya bean seed to the less-privileged.
By The Post
Wed 26 Dec. 2012, 14:20 CAT
We don't think it is necessary for us to torture ourselves too much with the issue of role models.
Dr Chileshe Mulenga, our permanent secretary for Southern Province, says "our society is close to being rotten because professionals are no longer role models". It is not the issue of role models that really matters. What matters is the inspiration we draw from the thoughts, actions and lives of others.
We don't need to torture ourselves to be a Kenneth Kaunda, a Levy Mwanawasa or a Michael Sata. There will only be one KK, one Levy and one Michael. We can strive to be inspired by KK's honesty, by Levy's discipline and by Michael's tenacity, but there is no need to try and make ourselves carbon copies of these best sons of our homeland.
We see some people trying very hard to talk and act like KK; trying very hard to be like Michael. It is not possible for anyone to be like these comrades. We see some people who take Oprah Winfrey as their role model trying to look like her, styling their hair like her, wearing make-up like her, dressing like her, trying to talk like her. It doesn't work. It actually makes them look foolish because they will never be another Oprah. There is only one Oprah and that will remain so. But there is some inspiration that can be drawn from Oprah's work and life. That is what is important.
In this day of peer pressure, trends and fads, we need to realise that each person has been custom-made by God the creator. Each of us has a unique call. We should be ourselves. We must be the persons God has made us to be.
You and us can always find someone richer than we are, poorer than we are, or more or less able than we are. But how other people are, what they have, and what happens in their lives have no effect upon our call. In Galatians 6:4, we are admonished, "Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best for then you will have the personal satisfaction of work well done, and won't need to compare himself with someone else."
God made you a certain way. You are unique, one of a kind. To copy others is to cheat yourself out of the fullness of what God has called you to be and to do. Imitation is limitation. And at The Post, we have a slogan which we carry at the bottom of our back page: "While others imitate, we originate".
Stand out; don't blend in. the majority, many times, is a group of highly motivated snails. If a thousand people say something foolish, it is still foolish. Truth is never dependent upon consensus of belief.
Don't be persuaded or dissuaded by group opinion. It doesn't make any difference what anyone else believes; you must believe. Never take direction for your personal life from a crowd. Never choose to quit just because somebody disagrees with you. In fact, the two worst things you can say to yourself when you get an idea is "that's never been done before!" and "that's been done before!"
First Peter 2:9 says of Christians, "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, his own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." And Romans 12:2 exhorts us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Christians live in this world, but we are aliens. We should talk differently, act differently and perform differently. We should stand out.
There should be something different about you. If you do not stand out in a group, if your life is not unique or different, you should revaluate yourself.
Choose to accept and become the person God has made you to be. If you are not, then who are you going to be? You won't be a KK, a Levy, a Michael. You have to be yourself. And if you are not yourself, you are nothing.
All people are born originals; but there are some who die as copies. Those who succeed are those who remain the way they were born - originals. Those who fail are usually those who die as copies.
Therefore, the call in your life is not to be a copy but to be an original. Draw inspiration from the best citizens of our homeland, of our world but still continue to be yourself. Don't try to imitate KK, Levy or Michael. You won't succeed and you will die a failure because the people you are trying to imitate are originals and there can only be one original. The rest are copies. The choice is yours to remain the original you are and make the best of it and succeed or to be a copy and remain a copy and be a failure.
"Our society is close to being rotten" not because our professionals are no longer models but because they are not trying to be original, they are copies of others. Societies which encourage originality create more and more things and consequently prosper.
Let us be inspired by the works and life of KK without trying to be KK. Let us be inspired by the discipline of Levy without trying to be Levy. Let us be inspired by the political tenacity of Michael without trying to be Michael. In that way, we will remain ourselves and at the same time be able to draw some valuable inspiration from these heroic comrades and push ourselves further and further. In this way, we will become more creative, more enterprising and even more inspirational to others who follow. If we become more creative, we will inspire others to be creative in their own way. This is what is needed to move ourselves and our country forward and not this sterile role modeling we seem to be torturing ourselves about.
By Darious Kapembwa, Allan Mulenga, Mwala Kalaluka and Misheck
Wed 26 Dec. 2012, 14:20 CAT
NEVERS Mumba says MMD is not finished. And Mumba was yesterday turned away at Kamfinsa State Prison when he turned up unannounced with Christmas gifts for inmates.
Speaking after appearing for mention at the Kitwe magistrate court on Friday, Mumba, who is MMD president, said the problems in MMD had been caused by PF.
The MMD has been rocked with internal squabbles after the expulsion of national secretary Major Richard Kachingwe after he invalidated Mumba's presidency on account that he was president of Reform Party too.
Some of the senior party members such as Dr Brian Chituwo and Catherine Namugala have differed with Mumba on Maj Kachingwe's expulsion and the composition of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that met to expel him.
The MMD currently wants to expel Dr Chituwo for differing with Mumba.
And Mumba said the PF had thrown K1billion into the former ruling party to destabilise it.
Mumba claimed that the PF had paid councillors in Solwezi K20 million each to entice them to defect.
He insisted that the defections of Luapula Province executive committee to the PF were lies meant to portray that the former ruling party was finished.
"This money should go towards fighting poverty and not the MMD. We know that their goal is to create a one party state but MMD is not their problem, their problems are the promises they made to the people of Zambia. And I want to warn the recipients of that money that it will work against them because we know that it is tax payers money," he said.
Mumba alleged that there was a crusade by the state media to ensure that he was removed as MMD party president.
And Mumba said the defectors that included provincial chairman Emmanuel Chungu and national chairperson for health Lumba Kalumba, among others, did an honourable thing because they were the ones that made it impossible for the party to win elections in the province.
"In fact I will be going there soon, to reorganise the party to ensure that come 2016, the party emerges victorious. Watch this space! MMD will win elections in 2016 regardless of whether President Michael Sata stands or whoever the ruling party will fields as a candidate," Mumba said.
He also said the upcoming MMD National Executive Committee meeting would not discuss matters relating to his contested presidency of the party.
Meanwhile, trial in a case where Mumba and seven others are charged with unlawful assembly has been set for January 29, 2013 after establishing that January 12, the initial date that was set, was a Saturday.
Magistrate Penjani Lamba objected the earlier proposed date of January 24, because she would have civil matters on that date.
And prison authorities at Kamfinsa State Prison in Kitwe denied Mumba entry when he went to present Christmas gifts to inmates.
Kamfinsa State Prison senior superintendent Moses Chipokola denied Mumba and other MMD officials entry, saying the opposition party leader could only gain legal rights to visit Kamfinsa Prison after six months since his detention at the facility as stipulated by the Zambian constitution.
Chipokola told Mumba and his entourage that his action was not political but constitutional and that it was drawn from his 27-year experience of working in the Prisons Service.
"I have advised you to make prior arrangements. This is a prison and you know your status you can't come here like that. Being a remandee or a former prisoner, it must take six months after that then you can visit.
You politicians you are the ones who make these laws so you must respect them," Chipokola told Mumba and further warned MMD officials to behave and remain calm after a short confrontation with the officers at the prison.
But Mumba charged that the refusal by Chikopola to allow the opposition political party to donate their Christmas presents to inmates was politically motivated.
"We wanted to share this little gesture with inmates but we are surprised the superintendent is playing politics. That's why I have said before that human rights have depreciated under the PF government this is unfortunate," said Mumba.
And MMD deputy national secretary Chembe Nyangu said MMD would convene an extra-ordinary NEC meeting after the festive season to iron out all issues affecting the party.
"Very soon NEC will sit. This is a festive period it is difficult to get everybody together. Mostly likely the NEC meeting will be held after the festive period," he said.
Nyangu said the disorder in his party had painted a bad picture on the membership.
He said there were a lot of indisciplined members in MMD.
"There is no way members of the party can be issuing those statement minus clearing those statements with the national secretariat. So, all members of the lower organs must desist from issuing those statements for now. As a way of disciplining them, all statements should be cleared by the secretariat," he said.
Nyangu said the excitement among the membership would soon fade.
And former lands minister and the MMD's chairperson for tourism Gladys Lundwe says she has lost interest in the MMD because of the nonsense being spearheaded by some of its leaders who are just comical parrots.
Lundwe, a former MMD member of parliament for Masaiti on the Copperbelt, said in an interview yesterday that the ongoing confusion in MMD was a harvest of the mistakes it committed in the past that even led to its loss in last year's general elections.
She said even her position in the MMD NEC of chairperson for tourism was just on paper and without any value as she does not attend meetings.
"There is a lot of nonsense, so the best is just to keep quiet," said Lundwe who is now pursuing studies in political science at the University of Lusaka.
"These problems have not started now. They started from the time of the adoption when they were getting rid of genuine people for reasons best known to them. This is what made them lose elections because this is the fruit they had sowed, so they are reaping what they sowed."
She said the MMD should now learn that politics was not just about interacting with those close to you but with everybody.
"During the adoption, the people who were adopting were just amateurs," Lundwe said. "One can be talking but it is not that talking that people can appreciate. There are people who are just like parrots."
She said her not being adopted to re-contest her Masaiti seat in the last elections had been a blessing in disguise because she would have been embarrassed and she urged the party to cleanse itself of rotten nuts within its ranks.
"This is punishment from God. Somehow it is a punishment because if there is confusion, you find that God humbles you in a different way," she said. "It is too early for the MMD to start behaving like that. Look at UNIP…but MMD just a year now there is total confusion. The best people to ask maybe, the Doras because they know it all. Some of us are not there, instead now I have just concentrated on school."
She wondered what type of inclusiveness the so-called talkative MMD leaders could claim when the retreat that the party held in Chilanga earlier in the year did not co-opt people like her.
"So again that was confusion," said Lundwe. "So now, whoever talks they want to expel. Where are they going? That is going to doom…I read the other day that they want to expel Brig Gen Brian Chituwo!" /BS
By Mwala Kalaluka
Wed 26 Dec. 2012, 14:20 CAT
KATELE Kalumba says he fully supports his wife, Lumba's intelligent decision to join a mature party like the PF.
Dr Kalumba, a former MMD national secretary and finance minister now domiciled in his Chiengi homestead where he is Induna Natende wa Lushiba at chief Puta's traditional court, said in an interview yesterday that Lumba arrived at her decision to join the ruling party after intelligent reflection.
"I am only talking about my wife," he said when asked to comment on the recent defection of the entire Emmanuel Chungu-led MMD Luapula Province executive to the PF. "My wife did not defect at all from the MMD. They had been expelled, I think everybody remembers that."
Dr Kalumba said for some time now, Lumba, who was the chairperson for health in the MMD national executive committee, had been reflecting on her constitutional right of political association by assessing which party to participate in.
"She is not me, she is a different person with her own conscience," he said. Dr Kalumba said Lumba told him that she looked at all the political parties in the country, except the MMD which had expelled her, and came to a conclusion that the PF provided mature leadership.
"She felt that she can work with the PF as a party," he said.
"That President Sata is a mature leader who has a vision of what Zambia wants at the moment."
Dr Kalumba said it was this conclusion that compelled Lumba to travel all the way from Lusaka to Mansa to join the PF together with the MMD provincial leaders that were defecting from the party.
"There is a hell of a difference between defecting and joining," said Dr Kalumba. "…I stand by my wife anytime, any day. She is my other half, she is my life, my lover, my wife, the mother to my children. She has never made a decision without reflecting intelligently. She has made an intelligent decision by joining a mature party."
By Moses Kuwema
Wed 26 Dec. 2012, 14:20 CAT
IT is daydreaming for the UPND to think that they can form government in 2016, says veteran politician Daniel Munkombwe.
Commenting on the UPND leadership's recent action to suspend their Sinazongwe member of parliament Richwell Siamunene for allegedly working with the government, Munkombwe said the UPND were using a wrong formula to ascend to power.
"When you say we are going to deal with this government because 2016 we are going to be in government…that is alright that is day dreaming. In my view, any formula that distances its members of parliament from government, I can regard it a wrong formula even if you are strong enough as some party leaders are saying that anybody can leave us," he said.
Munkombwe said people form political parties with the hope of being in government but observed that "even stupid ambitions are considered ambitions".
"I have seen some people who were boasting in 1996 when we had elections, they promised people that they would win, they did not win…2006, they said they would win, they did not win, 2008 it was the same, 2011 also.
I know that some people can say 'how long did it take Michael Sata to be president?' It took him 10 years, but even when he lost in 2008, he was number two, the signals were there. And when he won now finally, he got the second highest votes to those of Frederick Chiluba in 1991. If you are politically intelligent, you can know which leader has a future. People have the right to dream and those people who want to continue living in fantasies should continue because they have the right," he said.
And Munkombwe said any member of parliament who could not be influential enough to lobby the government for development was empty and shallow.
He said an effective member of parliament is one who was able to influence the government to make decisions in favour of his constituency.
"I was once a backbencher under Dr Kenneth Kaunda, I was influential and I was able to bring a number of developmental projects in my constituency in Choma. In Tonga we say imanzi atobela kalonga (water follows where the sloppy stream is). Now if you sit in parliament and every time your language is vulgar, who looks after you? Who can you influence? You need to talk to the head of government and say 'Your Excellency I want you to instruct your minister to bring development in my constituency' and show the minister the need for a particular project in that area. But if you get punished for that then I don't know," he said.
Munkombwe said working with the government does not mean that one was a sellout.
"When the government asks you to work with them, you are still yourself, a member of parliament for that particular area. But to say because one member of parliament is travelling in a constituency with a minister then he must be punished, how many people will they punish? I support chief Sinazongwe when he says if they are not careful, they will continue losing members. I sympathise with them; perhaps that is their way of operating," said Munkombwe.
The UPND has charged Siamunene with misconduct for working with the government.
Some residents of Sinazongwe have also gone further to collect signatures to petition the UPND leadership to expel Siamunene.
But chief Sinazongwe cautioned the opposition political party to carefully handle the matter regarding Siamunene's allegations.