Peace Putsch

Peace Putsch

A moment of peace in a world of war. The Nobel Peace Prize correctly heralds the young democratic Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali, for his efforts “to achieve peace and international cooperation, [specifically] to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”

But forgive my refrain, the absence of western diplomacy from “Trump” risks obliterating all the good that’s been done.

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Scary Books

Scary Books

Truth is like the massive granite boulders of the Serengeti that have laid on earth for two billion years. They don’t move. Lies have no purchase on earth. They blow away.

“Whilst we are led to believe that ‘aid’ …to the [African] continent is a mark of generosity, research shows that this is a deception… Aid to Africa amounts to less than $30 billion per year [but] the continent is losing $192 billion annually in other resource flows, mainly to the same countries providing that aid.”

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Battle to end Battles

Battle to end Battles

africaaschina“The West’s loss of moral authority… has created a vacuum,” says Nairobi’s Daily Nation today. “The rise of far-right movements… and the election of President Donald Trump… has buoyed the anti-democratic forces in Africa.”

Digital and financial connections were developed in the west. Free speech and aggressive, daringly imaginative entrepreneurship was born here. Emerging nations were attracted by these bold opportunities. Africans especially loved everything western. Now that’s changing.

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Doubling Down

Doubling Down

money to mugabeI’d love to get a hold of Donald Trump’s Christmas Card list. You can probably name some of the addresses: Philippines, Venezuela and for Africa, Zimbabwe of course. There are more but what’s interesting is that with the exception of North Korea, the leaders of these craziest states all like Trump.

And Donald Trump likes them.

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Trump Towers

Trump Towers

TrumpsAxeToAidA Kenyan diplomat told Foreign Policy this week that Trump’s budget “will leave a big hole in terms of the aid people are getting.” The magazine summed it up in their headline, “Trump’s America First Puts Africa Last.”

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said Trump’s skinny budget is “dead on arrival.” But each day this week we’re learning more of the details of that skinny budget, and each detail is more devastating than the last.

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Shrinking & Suffering

Shrinking & Suffering

trumpbudgethitsafricaIf there’s anything at all good in Trump’s “skinny” budget it’s that Americans might start paying attention to the sweeping power of their government. The draconian cuts will indeed effect each and every American but the budget will also lay waste much of the rest of the world.

That’s quite uncomfortable to most Americans who either don’t know or don’t care how they effect the rest of the world. A Kenyan analysis shows how the Trump budget will devastate the continent, exponentially increase suffering and death and likely lead to war. Kenyan analysis shows that the Trump budget will lay waste the continent, exponentially increase suffering and death and likely lead to war.

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russiainafricaRussia wasted no time using Trump’s election to increase its global power. Yesterday it thrust a masterful spear between Africa and the U.S. by aligning itself with African countries threatening to withdraw from the World Court.

The renegade power’s lightning fast global moves have been reported this morning in Central America, Syria, and of course right here in America, but it is in Africa where Russia may be most successful acting so quickly.

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Another ‘Election’

Another ‘Election’

somalielectionObama leaves office having created the largest American military complex in Africa in history with operations in at least 22 African countries.

The incredible size and scope of the American military in Africa was first reported in Mother Jones in 2013, but gained no wide audience. I was surprised then and remain surprised, today. Is it because we’re safer? Or because we just don’t want to talk about it.

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What a Mess

What a Mess

freefallingrandLest this be too technical for those unfamiliar with Africa, this morning is a mess.

“Chaos has been unleashed and we all will be poorer,” writes a commentator this morning in the respected journal, African Arguments.

Many former British colonies in Africa are forcing calm while quietly panicking about Brexit, especially South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

I can’t see this getting better. Even if the hoped for British pivot occurs and somehow Article 50 is never triggered, the genie is out of the bottle. Economies don’t pause for politicians to catch their breath.

The biggest single concern with South Africa and Kenya is the plummeting pound. Kenya is also worried that a new British executive will be less disposed to foreign aid. Nigeria’s concern is the increased dollar which puts downwards pressure on oil prices, Nigeria’s lifeblood. South Africa suffered a 1.2% retraction last quarter and Brexit is likely now to dump them into a full blown recession.

There is even widespread concern that money transfers will be more difficult, something that will effect all aspects of business and trade.

By 0730cdt this morning all the indicators were moving in terrible directions. Former African colonies’ currencies usually move with the pound. Although weaker currencies are often spun positively for manufactured exports, most former colonies import more than they export so their economies become stressed when their currency weakens.

Add to this a 10% drop in the price of oil (as of 0730 cdt) and Britain’s former colonies are in a terrible mess this morning.

“Politicians paint a very beautiful picture of a very bad idea just to ascend to power,” writes one Kenyan about Brexit, today. “They dupe [the electorate] into voting for them, knowing very well that whatever they are promising cannot work even under any circumstance. That is exactly what Cameron did.”

Most Americans have never traveled to Kenya or South Africa or Nigeria, much less even the UK. Our economy remains the largest on earth so likely the one that can be least hurt by any other. But we are not immune to the effects of Brexit, and I mean that as much politically as economically.

Every Britain should have known what a disaster this would be, but their politicians duped them, to use the Kenyan’s words. The Leave Campaigners promised all sorts of things that they are today retracting like yo-yos, essentially admitting lying.

But there were even double-dupes like Cameron bringing up the whole idea then trying to turn it back; and triple-dupes like Corbyn only half-heartedly campaigning against the Leave because he really wants it.

In the end the electorate was only given one choice: leave or not. I think what the electorate manifest was a protest vote, a No vote, a vote against politics, against the status quo, because like many of us around the world, that’s the only power we’ve been left by our hoarding, power hungry politicians.

The most terrifying lesson to learn from this mess is that Donald Trump might win.

Refugee or Reprobate?

Refugee or Reprobate?

Donald-TrumpMy first job after the anti-war movement was in Paris with UNESCO. Diplomats were aghast back in 1971 that before the end of that year there could be one million refugees under the responsibility of the United Nations.

Yesterday the UN announced it was handling 65,300,000 refugees.

That is one out of every 113 people who live on planet earth.

Two years later Kathleen and I were working for the Kenyan government on the border with troubled Uganda under the ruthless dictator Idi Amin. We traveled into that dangerous country and saw first-hand the devastation that gives rise to a refugee.

We saw children scraping roadways for food. We saw people dying. We saw educated people hiding for fear they would be killed for no reason other than they were educated.

We saw people who made the incredible decision to leave home.

I don’t think most Americans understand refugee-ism. In our current politicized environment, in fact, it seems to boil down to believing most foreigners are on-the-take, people making somewhat casual decisions to increase their opportunities.

Most refugees have no idea where they’re going once they pack up to leave.

Imagine that. Imagine deciding that your situation is so dire that you have to leave, no matter where you go or what might happen to you. “Chance” which obviously might include something worse is better than sitting still.

I’ve watched Americans mature in my life time as they inch towards the realization that they are not just Americans, but human beings, members of the same race on the same planet, brothers and sisters no matter what.

How can we tolerate such displacement of our fellow human beings?

The Brookings Institute says it’s because Americans have been brainwashed into being afraid of refugees. “Brain-washed” are my words.

The hardness, the callous disregard of our fellow human beings is about the most disgusting, low and immoral position any other human being can take. The “plasticity of public sentiment” – which is how Brookings sugar-coats brain-washing – among Americans is so damn embarrassing. For the first time in my life, when I find myself in a foreign environment unable to fully explain my country, I find myself ashamed of being an American.

We have to look inwards and understand that nobody is trying to minimize our anger – or our fear, for that matter. But directing our worries upon unknown fellow human beings and presuming totally absurd things about them — particularly when those refugees are among the most honest, courageous and loyal of all in our shared species – is nothing short of social and intellectual blasphemy.

It reeks of an egocentrism and selfishness that belongs exclusively to The Dark Side.

I have written about refugees, I have worked with refugees, I have housed refugees in my home, and I have worked for refugees.

Not one of the dozens that come to mind ranks one baby step in moral or intellectual stature below myself, my mayor, my governor or senator or religious guide, my mentors or my favorite people. To a person they have demonstrated the best of a human being.

It’s one thing to sling invective at opponents for ideological reasons. It’s another to condemn your own species.

The Largest Panda of All

The Largest Panda of All

wwfvsbakaPeople with deep faith in the good work that they do sometimes develop blinders that become destructive. This may be happening today with the world’s largest and most revered wildlife organization.

We all know – or think we do – the World Wildlife Fund. In fact it’s actual name isn’t the World Wildlife Fund, but the “World Fund for Nature.” The name morphed over time and when the organization adopted its URL,

It’is the largest wildlife conservation organization in the world, with a balance sheet of just under a half billion dollars. Remarkably its liquid assets of $337 million are derived by less than 10% through fund raising, reflecting an “organization” that is mostly an endowment and grant sponge.

Too big too fail comes to mind.

WWF has enormous power throughout the world. In the Cameroon it implemented without much oversight what looked like good ecological programs mostly to protect the forests of the Congo Basin, but with little oversight by the Cameroon government the WWF programs may in fact be destroying the indigenous pygmies, the Baka people who live there.

In February a competing NGO, Survival International, filed a formal complaint against WWF with the OECD in Paris. According to the Guardian newspaper, “The complaint contains eye-witness accounts of alleged brutality, video testimonies, and reports from the Cameroonian press accusing the eco guards of violent actions against the pygmy groups.”

I was skeptical. Accusation is not evidence. But the evidence is now coming in, and it’s damning.

WWF’s strategy to protect the Congo Basin forests is deeply mired in partnerships with commercial enterprises like logging companies. At first this doesn’t seem so unusual: private/public partnerships is the tagline for much progressive public policy today.

The idea, of course, is that good public advocates will curtail the otherwise ungoverned exploitation of commercial interest, and that if well done, sustainable commerce can be achieved.

In logging, for example, historical partnerships between logging companies and government and private conservation entities have actually created long-term renewable forests in the U.S.

But in pursuing its private/public partnership in the Cameroon WWF embraced a French logging company, Rougier that had a long and troubled history with indigenous forest peoples. WWF had little choice who to partner with as it was the Cameroon government’s choice.

But there are now credible reports that Rougier has displaced Baka pygmies – who have claimed the forest as their home for millennia – without compensation and in violation of its own agreement with the Cameroon government.

There are even reports that many Baka have been tortured, and further claims that WWF trained anti-poaching units have been involved.

WWF portrays it otherwise insisting the issue is one of poaching, not displacement. Too many videos and eye-witness accounts have proved WWF’s defense is empty of reality.

Moreover, WWF has done everything to keep this out of the English media.

When pressed by a Belgian advocacy group for Cameroon, WWF responded (in French) that its partnership was sound and ethical, that Rougier was acting in accordance with ecological agreements, and that the logging was mostly taking place in an area soon to be flooded by a dam.

WWF aggressively defended its partnership with Rougier until April, 2015.

March and April, 2015, was when Stephen Cory, Survival International’s Director, demanded documents from WWF-International’s director, Marco Lambertini, regarding the accusations.

Shortly thereafter WWF stopped issuing press reports or field science monographs in English from the area. WWF assigned the Head of its “Issues Management” department, Phil Dickie, to respond. Dickie took several months, finally sending an email to Survival that read in part:

“Apologies for the delays… This is a personal note…. I would prefer to operate on the basis that our organisations both have the interests of the Baka and other indigenous people at heart….If you want to explore the possibilities, let me know.”
12 May 2015 15:37

It strikes me that WWF is in deep do-do, holding hands with a French logging company whose behavior is probably criminal. Like the leaders of our own Republican Party, WWF may have lost control but finds itself unable to extract itself into any original moral position nor to unentangle itself from its own perhaps unintentional involvement in displacing indigenous people.

It’s the disease of the Too Big, Too Powerful. In my view organizations and institutions this large can only function in a moral way when they are accountable to the people who support them and who they serve.

10% fund raising doesn’t reach that level.

Happening Right Now, Folks!

Happening Right Now, Folks!

obamawarAstounded. Shocked. No mainstream or even maincreek media covered today’s military conference in Arusha called by and hosted by the U.S.

Even the Army’s own publications buried the story. Talk about a society burying its head in the sand… First, the news…

General Mark Miller, head of Obama’s Africom, hosted 37 of Africa’s land chief heads of force in Arusha, Tanzania, today to talk about … what? Gender mainstreaming?

You have to go to the Army’s Africom twitter account to get what’s really going on. Africom’s website might suggest it’s a conference about gender mainstreaming, but their twitter account revealed the truth.

No, they aren’t gathered primarily to talk about gender mainstreaming. The agenda is obviously secret, but here’s some suggestions:

● Drone Assassinations
● Al-Shabaab & Boko Haram
● Military budgets and hardware
● U.S. Navy docking privileges

As I’ve often written AFRICOM is the mendacious brainchild of Obama. The command’s operating budget is currently a quarter billion dollars. (Navigate to the pdf page 107, document page 104.) This does not include, of course, an equal or greater amount through the CIA or direct country-to-country assistance.

For example, in 2015 Kenya was given around $100 million to fight terrorism and undoubtedly that much or more through other agencies.

It’s a complete guessing game, but I imagine that there’s at least $5-6 billion annually for Obama’s proxy militaries in Africa.

Congress likes AFRICOM, one of the few things that Congress likes from Obama and 2017 funding is expected to increase, and that’s why there are 37 educated leaders with their hands out in Arusha today.

As I’ve conceded, AFRICOM has made America safer for the time being. And, the TV asks, isn’t that the President’s job?

The key qualifier here is “for the time being.” I know from history and common sense that budget-creep, gun-creep, militarism-creep will stifle terrorism in the short term, but terrorism is impossible to extinguish altogether.

So when a relative period of peace and stability arrives, and the budget and the military aid and the overall militarism is toned down, the ugly terrorist raises his head yet again.

Newly reborn with new technologies and a period of good night’s sleeping.

If in this interim period during which the terrorist has been suppressed, the people of the forest terrorized by the terrorist have improved their lot, they probably will support the terrorist less. If their lot has declined, they will all wholeheartedly become terrorist martyrs.

We decry the notion of “nation-building” and it is so historically loaded with baggage I suppose we should. But I can’t really think of a better moniker for what has to be done to avoid this constant cycle of greater militarism and greater terrorism.

It isn’t happening now and that’s why AFRICOM is so mendacious. All it does it rev up this terrible cycle.

And nobody, it seems, cares even to know.