Category Archives: Nigeria

Genocide Warnings for Three African States

These genocide warnings concern current threats to the peoples of Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. Beyond the primary concern for all the people in national groups, a pattern is emerging globally which should remind North Americans of past genocides against native American peoples: the masses of people forced from their homelands, the refugee camps which are meant to both save and contain the displaced, the senseless killing of civilians, the slaughter by hunger, arms and disease which lower the population numbers, and the relentless attack on native cultures to incapacitate the will to resist. The inability to recognize genocide at home limits the ability to understand other contemporary genocides in progress.

After a massive loss of life in Rwanda, Libya, and Ivory Coast where the old leadership was removed by war and these were wars won by forces with Euro-American support, there’s an increased sensitivity to the early warnings of war such as destabilization. These population losses in Africa have followed the extreme example presented by the destruction of Iraq and its infrastructure by bombs and missiles. The process of replacing uncooperative government leaders with tractable puppets was and is a disaster for each person of the millions displaced, forced into exile, in mourning for all those lost whether to armed violence, or sickness and hunger.

In areas of Africa with increasingly high numbers of displaced persons we’re likely to find the covert hand of colonialism reasserting its need for corporate profits. The current news from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi, lends insight into how and why genocides do occur or could occur., while the challenge of understanding is to stop them.

1. Cameroon

Concerned with the increasing violence and repression in Cameroon1 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet visited the country last May to meet with government ministers, opposition leaders, and Cameroon’s President Biya who assured full cooperation with the UN on issues of Human Rights.

To summarize the situation: 20% of the French speaking country is Anglophone, and the sparse public services are particularly diminished for the English-speaking areas. A portion of Anglophone leaders support secession of an English speaking region, of an Anglophone state, Ambazonia, abutting Nigeria. Not far from the inland portion of Ambazonia, in Nigeria, begins Boko Haram territory. Since about 2009 Boko Haram, a Sunni Muslim fundamentalist group, worked northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Chad.

A Boko Haram military tactic was, and is, reprisal, answering occasional military defeats with wiping out rural Christian villages in Cameroon. In Cameroon the government responded with an ongoing low intensity conflict to protect the area’s Muslim and Christian population. Cameroon’s forces became veterans of war against a military known for atrocities and kidnapping young women and entire schools.

In 2015 Boko Haram pledged allegiance to a larger Sunni Muslim fundamentalist group, ISIS, known for its atrocities in Syria and Iraq.

In 2016 Cameroon’s Anglophone lawyers whose rights were not well-respected, chose to go on strike. The nonviolent strike was joined by Anglophone teachers and students. Responding with military force and arrests the government imprisoned a number of lawyers to try for treason, which led to more violence. When forced to extremes the struggle for Anglophone rights made people choose sides. The result suggests it’s better not to force language struggles to extremes.

In 2017 Ambazonia declared itself a separate Anglophone country which initiated its own defense forces, militias etc. The region’s educational system was / is periodically shut down with threats effected against those who try to teach or attend school. The Cameroon government’s police stations are burned, government police dismembered, government forces engaged. Human rights violations by government forces were / are brutal and recurring. The separatist Ambazonian leader, Julius Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, was recently sentenced to life in prison which occasioned more violence and military reprisal. About half a million people have left their homes in Cameroon.

On August 26th 2019, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada2 with the support of two human rights NGOs, presented a statement3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council noting crimes by Cameroon’s government against the country’s Anglophone minority, as well as responsive “violent acts” against the government. The statement requests international concern and encourages international action to prevent “further mass atrocities.” It asks the Government of Cameroon to end its violence and investigate the human rights abuses. The statement relies on and furthers the evidence and guide supplied by the report, “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe: Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,”4 authored by the two NGOs supporting the statement.

What can be said for Paul Biya’s dictatorial democracy and rule for 36 years is that in 2018 he was supported by 70% of the voters (Anglophone parties refused to vote). UN News reports “Cameroon is also hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria,”5 And Paul Biya has allowed Cameroon to survive without the epidemics, starvation, aggressions, war, massacres or genocide, which have tormented many African countries since their Independences from colonial rule in the 1960s.

Until 2016 found the government’s military forces suddenly engaged on two fronts – against ISIS in the far North and Anglophone militias in the West. Few journalists or reports mention both fronts in the same article and, for example, LRWC’s multi NGO statement to the Human Rights Council addresses only the Anglophone problem. This is also true of the NGO jointly authored “Report.” Neither mentions that the country is engaged in a war.

There is no mention at all in the LRWC statement or the “Report,” of Northern Cameroon’s Christian communities. When these are targeted by Boko Haram / ISIS they’re wiped out. Fulani tribesmen are also blamed for the attacks. With last July’s attacks on villages 1100 additional families were displaced.6 A Bible translator was killed, his wife’s left hand cut off. The rainy season until October makes it hard for government troops to deploy to villages. Christian sources note that across the border in Nigeria “Tens of thousands have died over the last 20 years.”7 Last November in Bamenda 80 students were kidnapped from the Presbyterian school, not by ISIS but Ambazonian separatists.8 Generally the region’s Muslims and Christians get along. In mid-August Bishop George Nkuo of Kumbo in the northwest made a plea to end the conflict and within hours two priests were kidnapped.9

The U.S. which provided military aid to Cameroon’s fight against ISIS has reacted to reports of the military’s human rights violations by withdrawing aid. The rights violations against Anglophones receive international coverage. Cameroon is only twenty percent Anglophone so Anglophone and Ambazonian leaders have encouraged intervention by outside forces.

Is Anglophone strategy to initiate conflict that would require outside intervention? This pattern of gaining outside support and cutting in foreign interests was followed in Cote d’Ivoire and led to the current head of state Alassane Ouattara’s victory. The Christian group revolutionary leader was replaced with a Muslim group’s former World Bank employee and friend of France’s Nicholas Sarkozy more friendly to French business interests.

Since LRWC, CHRDA and RWCHR are lobbying the UN Human Rights Council to encourage intervention in Cameroon, shouldn’t we know more about them?

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada affirms the rights of lawyers globally and addresses points of international law. Logically it would have to address Anglophone lawyers’ evidence of their government’s persecution.

LRWC is joined by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA)10 with offices in Cameroon and the U.S. CHRDA was founded in 2017 by the Cameroon Anglophone attorney, Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongo, who has studied at universities in Cameroon, Nigeria, the U.S. (Notre Dame), Brussells and Leipzig. He has worked in human rights for the U.N. When imprisoned for treason during the 2016 lawyers’ strike in Cameroon, the Ontario Bar and the U.S. RFK Human Rights NGO and his former professor at Notre Dame among others, protested until he was released. An eloquent lobbyist for the Anglophone cause in Cameroon his NGO encourages “democracy” for all African peoples. He’s among the original lawyers who misjudged the regime’s response which resulted in Cameroon’s 2016 destabilization.

The third NGO presenting the UN with encouragement to intervene is the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) founded by former Canadian Minister of Parliament / Minister of Justice, expert on international law, Professor Irwin Cotler. Both Cotler and Nkongo introduce the “Report” on Cameroon.

With its roots in WWII’s Holocaust of European Jewry RWCHR is a heavy hitter for human rights. And like many Canadian human rights NGOs it is…sanctified. But it takes political rather than moral stands. For example, this NGO has declared the BDS movement anti-Semitic and it generally supports Israel politically. According to Wikipedia RWCHR recently advised Canada’s government that Venezuela’s President Maduro is responsible for war crimes. RWCHR attempted to persuade European Parliament to take the Venezuelan government to International Criminal Court. RWCHR is providing legal representation for Venezuela’s opposition leader, Leopoldo Eduardo López Mendoza. And the NGO was very supportive in the referral of Venezuela to the International Criminal Court made by members of the Organization of American States. In any case, RWCHR’s position aligns with U.S. and Canadian government policy in the attempt to take over a sovereign nation, Venezuela. The NGO is apparently not against aggressive Euro-American takeover of a sovereign state.

To consider Cameroon then, the media haven’t noticed that the Boko Haram / ISIS attacks on Cameroon complement the interests of the Ambazonia secessionists, and vice versa. Both destabilize the State and so encourage outside intervention. A supplier of Ambazonian arms is found to be an Anglophone leader (Marshall Foncha, chair of the Ambazonia Military Council) living in the United States.11 Other Ambazonian arms are sourced from English speaking Nigeria. Boko Haram / ISIS is said to steal its sometimes advanced weaponry from Nigerian military and security forces. But there’s also verified evidence that ISIS is supported in Yemen by both the U.S. and Israel.12 Is Boko Haram /ISIS at the service of foreign interests in the destabilization of Nigeria and Cameroon?

Why did the leaders of the Anglophone movement initiate strikes and secession at a time when the country’s resources were strained by refugees, and when villagers of Cameroon were beng massacred by foreign forces? The more uncompromising Anglophone leadership is, the more inevitable the armed conflict in a country where 41% of the population has malaria13 and Médecins Sans Frontières has warned of a cholera epidemic in the north.14

On September 10th President Biya ordered his government to start a “national dialogue” to resolve the language conflict and he asked foreign nations to stop Cameroon’s diaspora from furthering the violence which is increasing in his country.15

2. The Democratic Republic of Congo

Neo-colonial inroads in the Democratic Republic of Congo16 are seen in the overt resource exploitation of the country’s East and terrible cost in human lives and displaced people, refugees and exiles. Death toll from the First and Second Congo Wars (1996-2003) could be as high as 6.2 million people. UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency in 2017 estimated 4.5 million displaced people within the country and in 2019, 856,043 hosted in other African countries.

Currently17 the DRC is suffering an Ebola epidemic which continues the depopulation of a resource rich region. The epidemic demands cooperation with countries which are otherwise stripping the country’s resources and with the United Nations World Health Organization. WHO has become entirely necessary globally to counter epidemics, plagues and biological warfare. It also provides and distributes pharmaceuticals.

As the number of Ebola cases passes 3000 (2000 deaths) two new pharmaceutical treatments for Ebola are being applied in the Congo without massive pre-testing: REGN-EB3 and mAb114. These are proving at least 90% effective on application.18 Fears of the lack of containment of Ebola in the city of Goma were eased by the announcement of success in the trials of new drugs. The new drugs use monoclonal antibodies to directly attack the Ebola virus. Testing of two less successful drugs was dropped. The difference in fatalities among various drug testing programs may have added to the anxiety of those withholding their trust in the doctors administering products of different pharmaceutical companies. Uganda is testing another drug (Jansen pharmaceuticals) on 685 Ugandans and expects the results to show them how long the drug’s effectiveness will last. A follow-up study for those receiving anti-Ebola medication during the West African epidemic in 2013-2016 found an abnormally high rate of subsequent kidney disease, re-hospitalization and death.19

As of September the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has 30 responders working in the DRC. The CDC is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) which is providing the pharmaceutical producer Merck 23 million dollars (in addition to the 176 million already invested in the inoculative drug), toward doses of an Ebola vaccine it hopes will obtain licensing.20

Unlike the Ebola epidemic the efforts to combat measles have received only 2.5 million dollars of the 8.9 million required.21 In the world’s largest outbreak of measles currently, from January through August 2019, the disease killed 2700 children in the DRC, among the 145,000 infected. Médecins Sans Frontières has been able to vaccinate 474,863 children.

Faced with terrifying biological challenges endangered countries could become entirely reliant on the Euro-American pharmaceutical companies which can provide the cures, or lose portions of their populations.

The purpose of the Euro-American corporations is profit. Curative drugs and vaccines can be extremely expensive or withheld. Historically, disease (smallpox and tuberculosis) was used in North America in the genocide of North Americans. Slow to admit the practice of genocide at home, North Americans are reluctant to question the possibilities of contemporary application.

Corporate and government agency transparency is necessary. Information about contemporary U.S. biological warfare and disease experiments rarely reaches the public. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention monitored the Tuskegee syphilis experiment from 1957 until 1972 when a whistleblower exposed it to the newspapers. The experiment studied impoverished African American sharecroppers with syphilis who weren’t told they had the disease and were denied treatment. During the Vietnam war the U.S. Army experimented with release of bacteria in the New York City subways as one of 239 biological warfare experiments nationally in its covert testing from 1949 to 1969.

Ebola was first recognized in 1976, in South Sudan and in the same year, in the Congo Belge / Zaire / DRC. It is a hemorrhagic fever virus extremely similar to the Marburg virus and the CDC considers both Category A Bioterrorism Agents. The Marburg virus first appeared in a Marburg German laboratory in 1967.22

3. Burundi

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi23 has issued a report24 which states conditions exist in Burundi which lead to genocide. Conditions weren’t good last year and are worse now. As many as 400,000 have fled into exile. The UN has suspected the possibility of genocide occurring in Burundi for several years now. The Government of Burundi doesn’t agree.

In a health emergency not noted by the world’s press the Voice of America reported in 2017 that according to the WHO in 2016, 73 percent of Burundians were affected by malaria.25 Others say at least half the 11 million population of Burundi has malaria which is the leading cause of death. The disease is usually countered with pharmaceuticals but Burundi is the 2nd poorest country in the world.

The Voice of America blames Burundi’s violence and unrest on President Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to run for a third term which may have countered the country’s constitutional law. A similar instance of President Kagame’s third term in Rwanda didn’t bother the U.S. Burundi’s government tends to blame the unrest on Kagame and Tutsi-controlled Rwanda. Hutu controlled Burundi shows a Hutu / Tutsi ratio of 85% /15%. Rwanda thinks Burundi is hiding Hutu participants in Rwanda’s genocide.

Burundi’s government isn’t convinced by the UN’s good intentions and has denied UN investigators access. Burundi does have a history of events which could be defined as tribal warfare, civil wars, or genocides. If the incipient divisions are forced to extremes as they were in Rwanda it would likely be caused by exterior destabilization.

It could be argued that outside pressures forced the destabilization of Rwanda to the point of genocide in 1994. These should be noted by any monitoring of Burundi. Both Rwanda and Burundi of similar culture and language have dealt with the simplicities of tribal difference for over 500 years. One could argue that the responsibility for any contemporary genocide could only rest with “First World” interference, supplying armaments and taking sides to its own advantage. Burundi’s national language is African, Kirundi.

US / UN support for the Kagame Tutsi government’s official narrative of the Rwandan Genocide has both ignored and denied the genocide of Hutu during the recognized genocide of Tutsi at Kagame’s takeover of Rwanda, to the point of imprisoning those who have attempted to memorialize Hutu victims.

The UN report on Burundi includes, without specifically identifying covert programs, the threat of foreign attempts to intervene in the country’s politics and elections. With elections approaching next year the foreign media has stepped up its attacks on the present government. The BBC and Voice of America are no longer licensed to operate in Burundi. Since 2015 the European Union and US have applied selective sanctions to the country so Burundi has closed down all foreign NGOs. The Anglican Church of Burundi at work in the region since the 1930s is still able to provide its health, educational, environmental, community and religious services and programs.

International pressure for intervention in Burundi began as early as November 2016.26 By January 11, 2017 Night’s Lantern notes:27

The government cabinet Minister of the Environment has been assassinated. This continues a lethal back and forth between the government and its opposition, which threatens the region with a lapse into violence. Euro-American policies suggest military intervention to preclude the possibility of a genocide (see previous), an intervention likely to lead to corporatization of the country’s assets. This is a strong factor encouraging a genocide. Calls for intervention have coincided with major mining contracts gained by Russian and Chinese companies. Destabilization is encouraged by the privatization of Burundi’s coffee industry at the insistence of the World Bank; private interests have delayed delivery of pesticides and fertilizers; the crop and industry have been damaged. The Parliament of Burundi has had to place controls on international NGO’s in Burundi who are considered to support rebels against Burundi’s President Nikurunziza. Burundi has also withdrawn from the International Criminal Court so the Euro-American human rights industry is not well disposed toward President Nikurunziza and any non-African reporting on Burundi should require multiple verification. The attempt to wrest political power from African leaders who are uncooperative with US/NATO corporate takeovers is familiar.

Night’s Lantern has noted Burundi’s people as a national group under genocide warning since 2015. The UN report’s conclusion places an additional genocide warning for the people. To avoid interference by corporate interests Burundi’s government will have to be angelic in resisting attempts to subvert it. If the society continues to break down and a genocide is initiated will it be Burundians who are responsible?

  1. The author’s previous considerations of Cameroon are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide warnings.”
  2. To maintain transparency: although not involved with its response to this issue the author is a non-lawyer member of LRWC and supports many of LRWC’s statements and position papers for the Human Rights Council.
  3. “Human rights Catastrophe in Cameroon.” “Written statement* submitted by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status,” A/HRC/42/Ngo/1, August 21, 2019. Human Rights Council 42nd Session 9-27 September 2019.
  4. “Cameroon’s Unfolding Catastrophe” Evidence of Human Rights Violations and Crimes against Humanity,” June 3, 2019, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa & Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
  5. “Cameroon: Clear ‘window of opportunity’ to solve crises rooted in violence – Bachelet,” May 6, 2019, UN News.
  6. “Boko Haram displaces Thousands in Northern Cameroon,” July 23, 2019, Persecution.
  7. “Nigeria is the biggest killing ground of Christians today,” current / September 14, 2019, Persecution.
  8. “The political conflict in Cameroon threatens the freedom of Christians,” Jonatán Soriano, December 5, 2018, Evangelical Focus.
  9. “Cameroon bishop: ‘I am not safe; after speaking out against conflict,” Crux staff, August 20, 2019, Crux.
  10. This should not be confused with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (CHRDCA) – headquartered in Cameroon’s capital, which is the regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  11. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International,” Gareth Browne, May 13, 2019, Foreign Policy.
  12. “The Smoking Gun in the Islamic State Conspiracy: Documents Prove US Arming Islamic State,” Gearóid Ó Colmáin, September 5, 2019, American Herald Tribune.
  13. “Chinese Mosquito Coils Breaking Grounds in Malaria Control in Cameroon,” September 15, 2019, Journal du Cameroun.com.
  14. “Project Update,” August 21, 2019, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
  15. “Cameroon: Biya Orders Immediate Dialogue to Solve Cameroon’s Problems,” Moki Edwin Kindzeka, September 11, 2019, Voice of America.
  16. The author’s previous considerations of the Democratic Republic of Congo are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide Warnings.
  17. Suppressed News: Democratic Republic of Congo, July 17, 2019, Night’s Lantern.
  18. “New Ebola Drugs Show Exciting Promise With Up to 90 Percent Cure Rate,” Global Information Network, August 14, 2019, Black Agenda Report
  19. “Ebola survivors may face increased risk of death after hospitalization,” Chris Galford, September 6, 2019, Home Preparedness News.
  20. “DRC Ebola outbreak reaches deadly milestone,” Chris Galford, September 3, 2019, Homeland Preparedness News.
  21. “Democratic Republic of Congo,” Eric Oteng (AFP), September 15, 2019, africa news.
  22. “Zaire ebolavirus,” current, Wikipedia; Marburg Virus, current, Wikipedia.
  23. The author’s previous considerations of Burundi are linked from Night’s LanternGenocide Warnings.
  24. “Report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi,” A/HRC/42/49. August 6, 2019. Human Rights Council Forty-second session 9-27 September 2019.
  25. “Burundi Says Malaria Reaches Epic Proportions,” Edward Rwema, March 14, 2017, VOA.
  26. 2016 Suppressed News,” November 18, 2016, Burundi, Night’s Lantern.
  27. 2017 Suppressed News,” January 11, 2017, Burundi, Night’s Lantern.

Health Care Imperialism: Looting The World’s Doctors

To poach and rely on highly skilled foreign workers from poor countries in the public sector is akin to the crime of theft.

—  “Migration of Health Workers: An Unmanaged Crisis,” The Lancet, May 28, 2005

What is striking about the tyranny of the medical industrial complex is not only its unconscionable oppression of the American working class, but also its assault on the health care systems of other countries. These acts of barbarity and pillage allow the Anglo-American elites to keep the countries of the global south in a state of backwardness and dependency, and one of the ways this is done is by enticing doctors from developing nations to abandon their countries and practice in the West.

One such example is India, a country with horrendous unmet health care needs. Snakebites are a serious problem and lead to the deaths of over 45,000 Indians each year, the overwhelming majority of whom are villagers in isolated rural communities. Following a snakebite, the afflicted person often has to travel vast distances to reach a medical facility, typically battling poor roads in the process. An unreliable power grid results in these remote areas having intermittent access to electricity, which exacerbates the problem as the anti-venom must be refrigerated.

So lax are India’s ethics laws that her destitute masses are frequently used as clinical guinea pigs by powerful pharmaceutical companies in the testing of new drugs, which has resulted in tens of thousands of adverse reactions and thousands of fatalities. The number of clinical trials has risen dramatically following a relaxing of drug testing laws that was implemented in 2005, and many of these patients are unable to read the consent forms which are printed in English. India also has an egregious doctor-patient ratio, with less than one doctor for every thousand patients.

Speaking on the troubled state of Indian health care, Tatyarao P. Lahane, MD, said in an interview with The Times of India:

A skewed doctor-patient ratio in our country is the major cause of trouble. In almost all leading countries of the world a doctor in a government hospital checks a maximum of 30 patients a day. In India, any doctor on an average checks at least 150 patients a day.

Inadequate environmental regulations have led to extremely poor air quality, which has likewise contributed to unsatisfactory health outcomes. Furthermore, India’s downtrodden masses continue to be oppressed by an inhuman multi-tier system. In an article titled “More Indians die of treatable diseases than lack of access to healthcare,”  Swagata Yadavar writes:

Poor care quality leads to more deaths than insufficient access to healthcare –1.6 million Indians died due to poor quality of care in 2016, nearly twice as many as due to non-utilisation of healthcare services (838,000 persons).

In addition to these problems that are a pox on Indian society, there are over 59,000 Indian physicians working in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, countries which have the resources to easily train their own doctors. Two thirds of that number work in the US. Lamenting the staggering number of Indian doctors that go abroad in “Doctors For The World: Indian Physician Emigration,” Fitzhugh Mullan writes “that their clinical and political energies will never address the improvement of health care in India.”

In an ironic twist, private hospitals that cater to affluent Indians are turning a profit through the peculiar phenomenon of “medical tourism,” whereby uninsured and underinsured Americans can receive medical care for a minuscule fraction of what they would be billed in the US.

Significant numbers of African doctors, virtually all coming from countries with poor doctor-patient ratios, are lured to practice in the US, and are also beguiled by false promises of excellent training and superior working conditions. Many hail from countries with poor health indicators, such as Ghana, where life expectancy is 63. Moreover, as Jonathan Wolff writes in “Why America Steals Doctors From Poorer Countries“:

If a doctor from Ghana is recruited to the US, not only does Ghana lose its doctor, it loses the money paid for the training. It may be that the doctor is likely to send a portion of earnings back home (known in the development business as “remittances”). But this is scant compensation. In sum, the US is receiving a massive subsidy from the developing world in training its medical staff.

Nigeria has a doctor-patient ratio of one doctor for every five thousand of her citizens, a life expectancy of 55 for men and 56 for women, and a maternal mortality rate of over 800 deaths per 100,000 live births. Over half of Nigeria’s doctors practice abroad.

International medical graduates (IMGs) that hail from developing countries are often sent to work in rural areas where American physicians are reluctant to practice, and yet many never return to their native lands. In an article titled “U.S. Recruiting Africa’s Doctors for Placements No One Wants,” by Austin Drake Bryan, the author writes:

The United States is recruiting the world’s doctors — and from the very places that need MDs the most. Dubbed the “international brain drain,” the United States leads the way in attracting international doctors, especially those from Africa.

The United States, with its high salaries, attracts more international doctors every year than Britain, Canada and Australia combined. However, for every 1000 people, Africa has only 2.3 health care workers, while the United States has almost 25.

IMGs are frequently brought into the US on guest worker visas, and can have their visa revoked if they complain. This bolsters the stranglehold of the health insurance companies, hospital executives, and pharmaceutical companies, and exacerbates the challenges of unionizing a newly proletarianized and increasingly dehumanized workforce. Indeed, foreign doctors on the J-1 visa are particularly vulnerable to abusive and exploitative working conditions. Decrying the exploitation of IMGs in Australia, Sue Douglas, MD, writes in The Australian “that international medical graduates are a vulnerable group that have been exploited by the government, abused by their own profession and ignored by the public.”

In an interview with Pamela Wible, MD, and Corina Fratila, MD, Fratila, who is from Romania, speaks of training in the US and being forced to work 126 hours a week with minimal supervision, while also struggling with the danger of fatal miscommunications that can easily occur between doctors and nurses who are coming from different countries and do not share English as their native language.

Another disturbing trend is the growing number of American medical graduates that do not match into a residency position. In an article published on April 16th, 2019, titled “The National Resident Matching Program No Longer Meets Doctor Needs,” Joe Guzzardi writes:

In the most recent match, which happened last month, 1,162 U.S. medical school seniors and 811 previous U.S. graduates did not match to a residency at a teaching hospital, so nearly 2,000 U.S. grads did not get residency. Without fulfilling residency requirements, doctors can’t practice medicine. In last month’s match as well, 4,028 non-U.S. citizen students/IMGs matched and were granted residency, bringing the total number of IMGs placed in U.S. residencies since 2011 to 31,894.

It is important to remember that residency positions are subsidized through Medicare funds, which are in turn subsidized by the American taxpayer. Passed over for a residency position and often saddled with terrible student loans, some unmatched medical school graduates have even taken their own lives, as exemplified by the tragedy of Robert Chu. The increasing reliance on foreign doctors is also curious, in light of the fact that vast numbers of American high school students are not receiving an education in basic math and science.

A ruthless war is being waged against universal health care, both at home and abroad. US military interventions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan (under the communists), and Yugoslavia brought about the destruction of comprehensive (and in the case of Afghanistan, burgeoning), single-payer health care systems. Juan Orlando Hernández, the US puppet overseeing the Honduran junta following the putsch that ousted the progressive government of Manuel Zelaya, has taken measures to privatize that country’s health care system. Hence, “democracy has been restored.”

The progressive governments in Cuba and Venezuela both offer free health care to their citizens. Consequently, they are “rogue” states. Syria has been ravaged by the US-NATO-Israel bombing campaigns and the “international community’s” support for a generous array of barbarians and religious fanatics, yet still offers free health care to her citizens. This is also the case with the rebel government in the Donbass which even gives free health care to captured neo-Nazis.

The poaching of foreign doctors is consistent with the desire of the Western elites to keep the global south under the iron heel of subservience and destitution. This devilry has also played a role in transforming the American medical profession into a diabolical sweatshop devoid of unions and labor laws, with the deteriorating rates of infant mortality, life expectancy and maternal mortality that have inexorably followed. To borrow a phrase from Yeats: “anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Unless we find a way to disenthrall ourselves from the despotism of the medical industrial complex, the health care oligarchs will continue to enslave us all.

The Bolton Speech on Africa: A Case of the Wolf and the Foxes

Malcolm X reminded us that we had to be careful about the difference between the wolf and the fox. The wolf for black people was the hardcore, racist white folks with the hoods and clearly articulated stance in support of white supremacy. The fox, on the other hand, was the liberals who were supposed to be our friends. Their ultimate support for white supremacy was always just as deadly but sugarcoated in diversionary language like “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect.” The game, according to Malcolm, was that black folks would recognize danger of the wolf and run from the wolf straight into the jaws of the fox with the consequence being just as fatal because both the fox and the wolf are members of the same canine family.

This captures in many ways not only the nature of the ongoing saga of U.S. politics in general where there is really no substantial difference in the class interests and fundamental priorities of the two capitalist parties, but specific policies like U.S. policy in Africa.

In a speech last week before an audience at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, John Bolton unveiled the Trump administration’s “new Africa Strategy.” In what could only be characterized as another example of the White supremacist racial blind-spot, Bolton revealed an understanding of Africa and the role played by the U.S. and Europe that was a compete departure from the reality of the systematic underdevelopment of that continent by Europe and the U.S.

In Bolton’s world, the predatory powers in Africa were not the European powers that raided the continent for black bodies to create the wealth of Europe and then carved up a weakened and devastated Africa among those same powers in 1884. It wasn’t the U.S. that murdered African leaders, overthrew African states and imposed brutal neo-colonial leaders.  No, the real threat to African states were the “predatory” Chinese and, for whatever reasons, he threw in the Russians, that, according to Bolton “stunt economic growth in Africa and…threaten financial independence of African nations.”

Therefore, in typical colonialist arrogance in which Bolton’s analysis represents objective truth, he states that African states have a choice. Either surrender to Chinese and Russia interests, or align themselves with the U.S. to secure “foreign aid” and avoid subversion from the U.S.!

Of course, there is a different position, a reading of African history from the point of view of the African. From that perspective, it was the predatory practices of European and U.S. imperialist policies that reduced Africa to its present situation as the richest continent on the planet in terms of natural resources, land and people – to a balkanized continent of 54 nations, economically disarticulated, politically fragmented and still suffering the cultural effects of alien colonial cultural imposition.

Whatever the national intentions China or Russia may have in Africa, only the most jaded or confused could conclude that economic relations with these states and in particular with China provides African states a modicum of space to exercise more effective national sovereignty than had ever been afforded them by the European colonial powers that craved up and unmercifully exploited African labor and land.

But that is the point and the intent of U.S. Africa policy over the last seventy-three years since the end of the second imperialist war in 1945.

Bolton and the racist policy-makers in Washington don’t want to see African nations with any space to act independently of the dependence imposed on them by predatory trade regimes, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund debt peonage.

While China provides investment in African infrastructure and production capacities, the U.S. offers Africa militarism and subversion from Libya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bolton didn’t mention in his statement that U.S. strategy for Africa which centers military recolonization would be a continuation of the U.S. policies of the last few decades and in particular during the Obama administration that saw the expansion of the U.S. military presence by 1,900 %.

It is clear that the Trump “strategy” offers nothing substantially different. The policy continues to be more guns, more bases and more subversion.

The destruction of Libya that resulted in the enhanced military capacities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, the disastrous decision to carve up the Sudan and create yet another colonial entity called South Sudan, military and political support for President Kagame of Rwanda, President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Museveni of Uganda and expansion of AFRICOM reflects the murderous continuity of U.S. African policy.

When Bolton claims that in order to assist with African economic development it is “developing a new initiative called “Prosper Africa,” which will support U.S. investment across the continent, grow Africa’s middle class, and improve the overall business climate in the region.”

This approach is not in any way a departure from the Bush-Obama “African Growth and Opportunity Act” which made similar claims and focused on a concentration of extractive trade policies to exploit African natural resources and served as basis of continued conflict over those resources in nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo where more than six million Africans have died in resource-based conflicts.

Bolton’s claim that it is Russia and China that “stunt economic growth in Africa, and “threaten financial independence of African nations”, represents another example of either cynicism or the psychopathology of the white supremacist colonialist mind that renders it unable to cognitively apprehend objective reality.

Therefore, Bolton’s speech and Trump’s administration policy was not so much a new strategy but a cruder reaffirmation of a political stance on Africa that has always put U.S. interests first, absent the flowery language and liberal pretentions of Obama’s Cairo speech earlier in his administration. From Obama’s “exceptional nation” to Trump’s “Make American Great Again,” it has always been about putting the interest of U.S. imperialism first.

The people of Africa must not allow the African continent to be drawn into competing blocs during last death thrones of a dying neo-liberal capitalist world system.

We say to Bolton, Trump and the neo-liberal democrats: U.S. out of Africa, Shut down AFRICOM, Africa for Africans at home and abroad!

Our radical imaginations can conceive of a world in which the choice is beyond the wolf and the fox. We are on the side of the majority, the majority of the world that is suffering the structural violence of a global neo-liberal capitalist/imperialist system. But Africans in the U.S. must make a choice. Malcolm said you cannot sit at the table and not have any food in front of you and call yourself a diner. Africans in the U.S. have been sitting at the table of U.S. citizenship and calling themselves “Americans” while our people are murdered, confined to cages in prisons, die giving birth to our children, die disproportionately before the age of five, live in poverty, are disrespected and dehumanized. A choice must be made: do you throw in with this dying system or do you align with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world.

The people of the global South are clear. They can make intelligent distinctions between friends and enemies, between their national interests and the national interests of other nations and where those interests might converge, if only temporarily. But the one thing they are also clear about is that the U.S. and Europe have nothing to offer for the new world that must be built. In fact, when Europe and the U.S. are reduced in power and influence globally, it will be one of the most important events for collective humanity in the last thousand years.

Peace is a Cliché: When the West cannot Control the World Unopposed it Means War

The West likes to think of itself as a truly “peace-loving part of the world”. But is it? You hear it everywhere, from Europe to North America, then to Australia, and back to Europe: “Peace, peace, peace!”

It has become a cliché, a catchphrase, a recipe to get funding and sympathy and support. You say peace and you really cannot go wrong. It means that you are a compassionate and reasonable human being.

After addressing East African left wing opposition at Venezuelan embassy

Every year, there are “peace conferences” taking place everywhere where peace is worshipped, and even demanded. I recently attended one, as a keynote speaker, on the west coast of Denmark.

If a heavy-duty war correspondent like myself attends them, he or she gets shocked. What is usually discussed are superficial, feel-good topics.

At best, ‘how bad capitalism is’, and how ‘everything is about oil’. Nothing about the genocidal culture of the West. Nothing about continuous, centuries-long plunders and benefits that virtually all Westerners have been getting from it.

At worst, it is all about how bad the world is – “all people are the same” cliché. And, also, there are increasingly, bizarre, uninformed outbursts against China and Russia which are often labeled by Western neo-cons as “threat” and “rival powers”.

Participants of these gatherings agree “Peace is Good”, and “War is Bad”. This is followed by standing ovations and patting each other on the back. Few heartfelt tears are dropped.

However, reasons behind these displays are rarely questioned. After all, who would be asking for war? Who’d crave for violence, terrible injuries and death? Who’d want to see leveled, charred cities and abandoned, crying infants? It all appears to be very simple, and very logical.

A three year old Iraqi child with cancer, Mohammed, in Kos, Greece

But then, why do we not hear too often that “peace speech” pouring from the devastated and still de facto colonized African or the Middle Eastern countries? Aren’t they suffering the most? Shouldn’t they be dreaming about the peace? Or are all of us, perhaps, missing the main point?

My friend, a great Indian writer and thinker, Arundhati Roy wrote, in 2001, reacting to the Western “War on Terror”:

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” America’s favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: “We’re a peaceful people.” So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.

When it comes from the lips of the Westerners, is ‘peace’ really peace, is ‘war’ really a war?

Are people in that ‘free and democratic West’, still allowed to ask such questions? Or is the war and peace perception just a part of the dogma that is not allowed to be questioned and is ‘protected’ by both the Western culture and its laws?

Afghan kid from slums

I’m not in the West, and I don’t want to be. Therefore, I’m not sure what they are allowed to say or to question there. But we, those lucky people who are ‘outside’ and therefore not fully conditioned, controlled and indoctrinated, will definitely not stop asking these questions anytime soon; or to be precise, never!

*****

Recently, through Whatsapp, I received a simple chain of messages from my East African friends and Comrades – mostly young left-wing, revolutionary opposition leaders, thinkers and activists:

Free Africa is a socialist Africa! We are ready for war! The young Africans are on fire! Death to the imperialist forces! Viva Bolivarian revolution! South-South Cooperation! Today we take the battle to the streets! Africa Must Unite!

Such statements would sound almost ‘violent’ and therefore could be even be classified as ‘illegal’, if pronounced openly in the West. Someone could end up in Guantanamo for this, or in a ‘secret CIA prison’. A few weeks ago, I directly addressed these young people – leaders of the left-wing East African opposition – at the Venezuelan Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Yes, they were boiling, they were outraged, determined and ready.

For those who are not too familiar with the continent, Kenya has been, for years and decades, an outpost of the British, US and even Israeli imperialism in East Africa. It was playing the same role that West Germany used to play during the Cold War – a window shopping paradise, stuffed with luxury goods and services.

In the past, Kenya was supposed to dwarf the socialist experiment of Tanzania under the leadership of Nyerere.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi with over 1 million inhabitants

Today, some 60 percent of Kenyans live in slums; some of the toughest in Africa. Some of these ‘settlements’, like Mathare and Kibera are housing at least one million people, in the most despicable, terrible conditions. Four years ago, when I was making my documentary film, in these slums, for South American network TeleSUR, I wrote:

…Officially, there is peace in Kenya. For decades, Kenya functioned as a client state of the West, implementing a savage market regime, hosting foreign military bases. Billions of dollars were made here. But almost nowhere on earth is the misery more brutal than here.

Two years earlier, while filming my “Tumaini” near Kisumu city and the Uganda border, I saw entire hamlets standing empty like ghosts. The people had vanished, died – from AIDS and hunger. But it was still called peace.

US med experiments in Haiti

Peace it was when the US military medics were operating under the open sky, on desperately poor and sick Haitians, in the notorious slum of Cité Soleil. I saw and photographed a woman, laid on a makeshift table, having her tumor removed using only local anesthetics. I asked the North American doctors, why is it like this? I knew there was a top-notch military facility two minutes away.

“This is as close as we get to real combat situation”, one doctor replied, frankly. “For us, this is great training.”

After the surgery was over, the woman got up, and supported by her frightened husband, walked away towards the bus stop.”

Yes, all this is, officially, peace.

*****

In Beirut, Lebanon, I recently participated in discussion about “Ecology of War”, a scientific and philosophical concept created by several AUB Medical Center doctors from the Middle East. Doctor Ghassan ‘Gus’ Abu-Sitta, the head of the Plastic Surgery Department at the AUB Medical Center in Lebanon, explained:

The misery is war. The destruction of the strong state leads to conflict. A great number of people on our Planet actually live in some conflict or war, without even realizing it: in slums, in thoroughly collapsed states, or in refugee camps.

During my work, in almost all devastated corners of the world, I saw much worse things than what I described above. Perhaps I saw too much – all that ‘peace’ which has been tearing limbs from the victims, all those burning huts and howling women, or children dying from diseases and hunger before they reach their teens.

I wrote about war and peace at length, in my 840-page book Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

When you do what I do, you become like a doctor: you can only stand all those horrors and suffering, because you are here to help, to expose reality, and to shame the world. You have no right to decompose, to collapse, to fall and to cry.

But what you cannot stand is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is ‘bulletproof’. It cannot be illuminated by correct arguments, by logic and by examples. Hypocrisy in the West is often ignorant, but mostly it is just self-serving.

So, what is real peace for the people in Europe and North America? The answer is simple: It is a state of things in which as few Western people as possible are killed or injured. A state of things in which the flow of resources from the poor, plundered and colonized countries is pouring, uninterrupted, predominantly to Europe and North America.

The price for such peace? How many African, Latin American or Asian people die as a result of such arrangement of the world, is thoroughly irrelevant.

Peru – Lima:  Is it really peace?

Peace is when the business interests of the West are not endangered, even if tens of millions of non-white human beings would vanish in the process.

Peace is when the West can, unopposed, control the world, politically, economically, ideologically and ‘culturally’.

“War” is when there is rebellion. War is when the people of plundered countries say “No!”. War is when they suddenly refuse to be raped, robbed, indoctrinated and murdered.

When such a scenario takes place the West’s immediate reaction ‘to restore peace’ is to overthrow the government in the country which is trying to take care of its people. To bomb schools and hospitals, to destroy supply of fresh water and electricity and to throw millions into total misery and agony.

As the West may soon do to North Korea (DPRK), to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran – some of the countries that are being, for now, ‘only’ tormented by sanctions and, foreign -sponsored, deadly “opposition”. In the Western lexicon, “peace” is synonymous to “submission”. To a total, unconditional submission. Anything else is war or could potentially lead to war.

For the oppressed, devastated countries, including those in Africa, to call for resistance, would be, at least in the Western lexicon, synonymous with the “call for violence”, therefore illegal. As ‘illegal’ as the calls were for resistance in the countries occupied by German Nazi forces during the WWII. It would be, therefore, logical to call the Western approach and state of mind, “fundamentalist”, and thoroughly aggressive.

{Originally, in a slightly shorter version, published by RT ]

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Peace is a Cliché: When the West cannot Control the World Unopposed it Means War

The West likes to think of itself as a truly “peace-loving part of the world”. But is it? You hear it everywhere, from Europe to North America, then to Australia, and back to Europe: “Peace, peace, peace!”

It has become a cliché, a catchphrase, a recipe to get funding and sympathy and support. You say peace and you really cannot go wrong. It means that you are a compassionate and reasonable human being.

After addressing East African left wing opposition at Venezuelan embassy

Every year, there are “peace conferences” taking place everywhere where peace is worshipped, and even demanded. I recently attended one, as a keynote speaker, on the west coast of Denmark.

If a heavy-duty war correspondent like myself attends them, he or she gets shocked. What is usually discussed are superficial, feel-good topics.

At best, ‘how bad capitalism is’, and how ‘everything is about oil’. Nothing about the genocidal culture of the West. Nothing about continuous, centuries-long plunders and benefits that virtually all Westerners have been getting from it.

At worst, it is all about how bad the world is – “all people are the same” cliché. And, also, there are increasingly, bizarre, uninformed outbursts against China and Russia which are often labeled by Western neo-cons as “threat” and “rival powers”.

Participants of these gatherings agree “Peace is Good”, and “War is Bad”. This is followed by standing ovations and patting each other on the back. Few heartfelt tears are dropped.

However, reasons behind these displays are rarely questioned. After all, who would be asking for war? Who’d crave for violence, terrible injuries and death? Who’d want to see leveled, charred cities and abandoned, crying infants? It all appears to be very simple, and very logical.

A three year old Iraqi child with cancer, Mohammed, in Kos, Greece

But then, why do we not hear too often that “peace speech” pouring from the devastated and still de facto colonized African or the Middle Eastern countries? Aren’t they suffering the most? Shouldn’t they be dreaming about the peace? Or are all of us, perhaps, missing the main point?

My friend, a great Indian writer and thinker, Arundhati Roy wrote, in 2001, reacting to the Western “War on Terror”:

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” America’s favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: “We’re a peaceful people.” So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.

When it comes from the lips of the Westerners, is ‘peace’ really peace, is ‘war’ really a war?

Are people in that ‘free and democratic West’, still allowed to ask such questions? Or is the war and peace perception just a part of the dogma that is not allowed to be questioned and is ‘protected’ by both the Western culture and its laws?

Afghan kid from slums

I’m not in the West, and I don’t want to be. Therefore, I’m not sure what they are allowed to say or to question there. But we, those lucky people who are ‘outside’ and therefore not fully conditioned, controlled and indoctrinated, will definitely not stop asking these questions anytime soon; or to be precise, never!

*****

Recently, through Whatsapp, I received a simple chain of messages from my East African friends and Comrades – mostly young left-wing, revolutionary opposition leaders, thinkers and activists:

Free Africa is a socialist Africa! We are ready for war! The young Africans are on fire! Death to the imperialist forces! Viva Bolivarian revolution! South-South Cooperation! Today we take the battle to the streets! Africa Must Unite!

Such statements would sound almost ‘violent’ and therefore could be even be classified as ‘illegal’, if pronounced openly in the West. Someone could end up in Guantanamo for this, or in a ‘secret CIA prison’. A few weeks ago, I directly addressed these young people – leaders of the left-wing East African opposition – at the Venezuelan Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Yes, they were boiling, they were outraged, determined and ready.

For those who are not too familiar with the continent, Kenya has been, for years and decades, an outpost of the British, US and even Israeli imperialism in East Africa. It was playing the same role that West Germany used to play during the Cold War – a window shopping paradise, stuffed with luxury goods and services.

In the past, Kenya was supposed to dwarf the socialist experiment of Tanzania under the leadership of Nyerere.

Kibera Slum in Nairobi with over 1 million inhabitants

Today, some 60 percent of Kenyans live in slums; some of the toughest in Africa. Some of these ‘settlements’, like Mathare and Kibera are housing at least one million people, in the most despicable, terrible conditions. Four years ago, when I was making my documentary film, in these slums, for South American network TeleSUR, I wrote:

…Officially, there is peace in Kenya. For decades, Kenya functioned as a client state of the West, implementing a savage market regime, hosting foreign military bases. Billions of dollars were made here. But almost nowhere on earth is the misery more brutal than here.

Two years earlier, while filming my “Tumaini” near Kisumu city and the Uganda border, I saw entire hamlets standing empty like ghosts. The people had vanished, died – from AIDS and hunger. But it was still called peace.

US med experiments in Haiti

Peace it was when the US military medics were operating under the open sky, on desperately poor and sick Haitians, in the notorious slum of Cité Soleil. I saw and photographed a woman, laid on a makeshift table, having her tumor removed using only local anesthetics. I asked the North American doctors, why is it like this? I knew there was a top-notch military facility two minutes away.

“This is as close as we get to real combat situation”, one doctor replied, frankly. “For us, this is great training.”

After the surgery was over, the woman got up, and supported by her frightened husband, walked away towards the bus stop.”

Yes, all this is, officially, peace.

*****

In Beirut, Lebanon, I recently participated in discussion about “Ecology of War”, a scientific and philosophical concept created by several AUB Medical Center doctors from the Middle East. Doctor Ghassan ‘Gus’ Abu-Sitta, the head of the Plastic Surgery Department at the AUB Medical Center in Lebanon, explained:

The misery is war. The destruction of the strong state leads to conflict. A great number of people on our Planet actually live in some conflict or war, without even realizing it: in slums, in thoroughly collapsed states, or in refugee camps.

During my work, in almost all devastated corners of the world, I saw much worse things than what I described above. Perhaps I saw too much – all that ‘peace’ which has been tearing limbs from the victims, all those burning huts and howling women, or children dying from diseases and hunger before they reach their teens.

I wrote about war and peace at length, in my 840-page book Exposing Lies Of The Empire”.

When you do what I do, you become like a doctor: you can only stand all those horrors and suffering, because you are here to help, to expose reality, and to shame the world. You have no right to decompose, to collapse, to fall and to cry.

But what you cannot stand is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is ‘bulletproof’. It cannot be illuminated by correct arguments, by logic and by examples. Hypocrisy in the West is often ignorant, but mostly it is just self-serving.

So, what is real peace for the people in Europe and North America? The answer is simple: It is a state of things in which as few Western people as possible are killed or injured. A state of things in which the flow of resources from the poor, plundered and colonized countries is pouring, uninterrupted, predominantly to Europe and North America.

The price for such peace? How many African, Latin American or Asian people die as a result of such arrangement of the world, is thoroughly irrelevant.

Peru – Lima:  Is it really peace?

Peace is when the business interests of the West are not endangered, even if tens of millions of non-white human beings would vanish in the process.

Peace is when the West can, unopposed, control the world, politically, economically, ideologically and ‘culturally’.

“War” is when there is rebellion. War is when the people of plundered countries say “No!”. War is when they suddenly refuse to be raped, robbed, indoctrinated and murdered.

When such a scenario takes place the West’s immediate reaction ‘to restore peace’ is to overthrow the government in the country which is trying to take care of its people. To bomb schools and hospitals, to destroy supply of fresh water and electricity and to throw millions into total misery and agony.

As the West may soon do to North Korea (DPRK), to Cuba, Venezuela, Iran – some of the countries that are being, for now, ‘only’ tormented by sanctions and, foreign -sponsored, deadly “opposition”. In the Western lexicon, “peace” is synonymous to “submission”. To a total, unconditional submission. Anything else is war or could potentially lead to war.

For the oppressed, devastated countries, including those in Africa, to call for resistance, would be, at least in the Western lexicon, synonymous with the “call for violence”, therefore illegal. As ‘illegal’ as the calls were for resistance in the countries occupied by German Nazi forces during the WWII. It would be, therefore, logical to call the Western approach and state of mind, “fundamentalist”, and thoroughly aggressive.

{Originally, in a slightly shorter version, published by RT ]

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Great Hunger

Earlier this year, the Sisters of St. Brigid invited me to speak at their Feile Bride celebration in Kildare, Ireland. The theme of the gathering was: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak.”

The Sisters have embraced numerous projects to protect the environment, welcome refugees and nonviolently resist wars. I felt grateful to reconnect with people who so vigorously opposed any Irish support for U.S. military wars in Iraq. They had also campaigned to end the economic sanctions against Iraq, knowing that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children suffered and died for lack of food, medicine and clean water. This year, the Sisters asked me to first meet with local teenagers who would commemorate another time of starvation imposed by an imperial power.

Joe Murray, who heads Action from Ireland (Afri), arranged for a class from Dublin’s Beneavin De La Salle College to join an Irish historian in a field adjacent to the Dunshaughlin work house on the outskirts of Dublin.

Such workhouses dot the landscape of Ireland and England. In the mid-19th century, during the famine years, they were dreaded places. People who went there knew they were near the brink of death due to hunger, disease, and dire poverty. Ominously, behind the workhouse lay the graveyard.

The young men couldn’t help poking a bit of fun, at first; what in the world were they doing out in a field next to an imposing building, their feet already soaked in the wet grass as a light rain fell? They soon became quite attentive.

We learned that the Dunshaughlin workhouse had opened in May of 1841. It could accommodate 400 inmates. During the famine years, many hundreds of people were crowded in the stone building in dreadful conditions. An estimated one million people died during a famine that began because of blighted potato crops but became an “artificial famine” because Ireland’s British occupiers lacked the political will to justly distribute resources and food. Approximately one million Irish people who could no longer feed themselves and subsist on the land emigrated to places like the U.S. But seeking refuge wasn’t an option for those who couldn’t afford the passage. Evicted by landowners, desperate people arrived at workhouses like the one we were visiting. Our guide read us the names of people from the surrounding area who had been buried in a mass grave behind the workhouse, their bodies unidentified. They were victims of what the Irish call “Greta Mor”—”The Great Hunger.”

It was recently, as I tried to better understand the migration of desperate and starving people now crossing from East Africa into Yemen, that I began to realize how great the hunger was.  During that same period, in the latter half of the 19th century, there were 30 million people, possibly fifty million, dying of famine in northern China, India, Brazil and the Maghreb. The terrible suffering of these unknown people, whose plight never made it into the history books, was a sharp reminder to me of Western exceptionalism. As researched and described in Mike Davis’s book, The Late Victorian Holocaust, El Nino and La Nina climate changes caused massive crop failures. What food could be harvested was often sent abroad. Railroad infrastructure could have been used to send food to people dying of hunger, but wealthier people chose to ignore the plight of the starving. The Great Hunger, fueled by bigotry and greed, had been greater than any of its victims knew. And now, few in the prosperous West are aware of the terror faced by people in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, northern Kenya and Yemen. Millions of people cannot feed themselves or find potable water.

Countries in Africa which the U.S. has helped destabilize, such as Somalia, are convulsed in fighting which exacerbates effects of drought and drives helpless civilians toward points of hoped for refuge. Many have chosen a path of escape through the famine-torn country of Yemen. The U.S. has been helping a Saudi-led coalition to blockade and bomb Yemen since March of 2015. Sudanese fighters aligned with Saudi Arabia have been taking over cities along the Yemeni coast, heading northward. People trying to escape famine find themselves trapped amid vicious air and ground attacks.

In March, 2017, Stephen O’Brien, head of the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, traveled to Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Northern Kenya. Since that trip, he has repeatedly begged the UN Security Council to help end the fighting and prevent conflict-driven famine conditions. Regarding Yemen, he wrote, in a July 12, 2017 statement to the UN Security Council that:

Seven million people, including 2.3 million malnourished (500,000 severely malnourished) children under the age of five, are on the cusp of famine, vulnerable to disease and ultimately at risk of a slow and painful death. Nearly 16 million people do not have access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene, and more than 320,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in all of the country’s governorates bar one.

This number has since risen to 850,000.

Ben Ehrenreich describes famine conditions along what the Israeli theorist Eyal Weizman calls the ‘conflict shoreline’, an expanding band of climate change-induced desertification that stretches through the Sahel and across the African continent before leaping the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. He notes that this vast territory, once the site of fierce resistance to colonial incursions, is now paying the heaviest price, in disastrous climate conditions, for the wealth of the industrialized north. As the deserts spread south, ever more dire conflicts can be expected to erupt, causing more people to flee.

Of a drought-stricken area of Somaliland, Ehrenreich writes: “People were calling this drought sima, ‘the leveller,’ because it affected all of the clans stretching across Somaliland and into Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the south.”

“The women’s stories were almost all the same,” writes Ehrenreich, “differing only in the age and number of children sick, the number of animals they had lost and the number that survived. Hodan Ismail had lost everything. She left her husband’s village to bring her children here, where her mother lived, ‘to save them,’ she said. ‘When I got there, I saw that she had nothing either.’ The river and streams, their usual source of drinking water, had gone dry and they had no option but to drink from a shallow well at the edge of town. The water was making all the children sick.”

In 1993, at the Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit,” delegates conveying the views of then-President George Bush Sr., voiced a refrain of the statement, “the American lifestyle is not up for negotiation.” U.S. demands of the summit incalculably restricted the changes to which it might have led. Representing President Bill Clinton six years later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended planned bombardment of Iraq, saying “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”

There is danger that must be recognized.  The danger is real and the danger is spreading.  Violence spreads the famine, and the famine will spread violence.

I find myself repulsed by assertions voicing U.S. exceptionalism, yet my own study and focus often omits histories and present realities which simply must be understood if we are to recognize the traumas our world faces. In relation to conflict-driven famines, it becomes even more imperative to resist the U.S. government’s allocation of 700 billion dollars to the Department of Defense. In the U.S., our violence, and our delusions of being indispensable stem from accepting a belief that our “way of life” is non-negotiable. Growing inequality, protected by menacing arsenals, paves a path to the graveyard: It is not a “way of life.” We still could acquire a great hunger: a transforming hunger to share justice with our planetary neighbors. We could shed familiar privileges and search for communal tools to preserve us from indifferent wealth and voracious imperial power. We could embrace the theme of the Irish sisters at their Feile Bride gathering: “Allow the Voice of the Suffering to Speak” and then choose action-based initiatives to share our abundance and lay aside, forever, the futility of war.

Remembering Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Revolutionary African Musician

Fela Kuti was a revolutionary African musician, the inventor of a genre which he called ‘Afro-Beat’ and the scourge of successive military dictatorships and civilian governments whose misrule of Nigeria has blighted the development of Africa’s most populated country. Fela was an iconoclast who challenged the powerful in society, a rebel whose bohemian lifestyle traversed the boundaries of socially prescribed behaviour as well as a social commentator whose lyrics, often suffused with coruscating barbs and comical vignettes, laid bare the daily tragedy of the lives of the suffering African proletariat. His death twenty years ago was mourned by millions of his countrymen and his legacy of social activism, critique of Nigeria’s governance as well as his Pan-Africanist aspirations remain as valid today as they did at the time of his passing.

*****

Fela was born into the upper-middle class elite of colonial-era Nigerian society in the Yoruba city of Abeokuta. The first part of his original hyphenated surname, Ransome-Kuti, was bestowed on his grandfather Josiah Jesse Kuti, an Anglican clergyman, by an English benefactor. Josiah was a talented composer of Christian hymns and a church organist. Fela’s father, Israel Ransome-Kuti was a prominent educator and his mother, Funmilayo Kuti was a feminist and social activist with Marxist leanings who was part of several national delegations representing Nigeria at conferences which were designed to set out a pathway to independence from Britain.  It is from these antecedents that Fela’s talent for music, a predisposition to rebel and his interest in politics and the plight of the ordinary person stem.

Fela formed his first band Koola Lobitos in London when studying at Trinity College of Music where he enrolled in 1958. He learned classical music by day and played the trumpet at nightly and weekend gigs which catered to the tastes of Britain’s West African and Afro-Caribbean communities. He played conventional West African-style highlife music: songs about love and the mundanities of everyday life. It was a style he continued with on his return to Nigeria in 1963 right through to the period of the Nigerian Civil War when most of the federation was pitted against the secessionist state of Biafra in a bloody civil war that raged between 1967 and 1970.

It was not until he embarked on a tour of the United States during the war that Fela’s music and his raison d’etre undertook a radical shift. His association with Sandra Isidore, a black American immersed in the politics of the Black Panther Party and the growing drift towards Afrocentricity, ignited in Fela a new vision that involved integrating black politics with a hybrid style composed of contemporary horn-driven Afro-American popular music, psychedelic rock and the African rhythmic cadences of vocal and instrumental expression. A key part of this musical expression was the drumming of Tony Oladipo Allen whose input first in regard to an increasingly jazzified element to the music of Koola Lobitos and then with the new breed of politicised and funked-up music qualify him as being the co-creator of Afro-Beat.

The musical rebirth led to Fela renaming his band the Africa 70. American funk and soul collided with Yoruban rhythms which were accompanied by lyrics layered with Pan-Africanist sentiment. Fela’s new model sound, a symbiosis of Afro-Diasporan elements, sounded fresh but also natural. The Yoruba culture is one which is highly syncretic in nature.

The new bent towards protest singing was also consistent with Yoruban modes of expression. In contrast to the praise-singing directed at the wealthy and the important in traditional society was abuse-singing. Fela’s Yabis songs which ridiculed and denigrated the rich and powerful in Nigerian society would form the backdrop to many popular compositions as well as a multitude of iron-fisted reprisals from the authorities. His popularity markedly increased as the 1970s developed and his audience ravenously anticipated his next incendiary epistle on long-playing vinyl.

Fela lampooned the high-handedness of police officers and soldiers in “Alagbon Close” and “Zombie”. His disdain for the ‘foreign imported’ religions of Christianity and Islam and his belief that they served as an opiate for the masses was reflected in “Shuffering and Shmiling”. He criticized middle class Nigerian aping of Western mannerisms in “Gentleman” and mocked African females who bleached their skin in “Yellow Fever”. His uncompromising position on eschewing the colonial-derived mentality and promoting black pride formed the backdrop to his dropping ‘Ransome’ from his surname. In its stead, he adopted the name ‘Anikulapo’ which means “he who carries death in his pouch”.

He had established his pan-African outlook via his album “Why Black Man Dey Suffer” in 1971 but when criticising the racist regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa in songs like “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” and “Beasts of No Nation”, did not fail to remind his listeners of the hypocrisy and the brutality of Nigeria’s military rulers. He sang against imperialism and neocolonialism while pointing out that he felt certain of Nigeria’s elite such as the wealthy businessman, Moshood Abiola, were agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. Abiola, who rose to be the Vice President of the African and Middle Eastern region of the International Telephone and Telegraph company (IT&T), was lambasted in the song “ITT (International Thief Thief)” in a diatribe against the exploitation of Africa by multinational companies and the African ‘big men’ who aid them in this endeavour.

Corruption and the inhumanity of Nigeria’s elites were a consistent topic for Fela in his recordings, his stage banter at his popular club ‘The Shrine’ and in his frequent utterances to the press. When Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, he refused to perform at the gathering in protest at the corruption surrounding the event. “Money is not Nigeria’s problem”, the overthrown General Yakubu Gowon had said a few years before, “it is how to spend it.” And ‘Festac’, the abbreviated name of the festival, had induced a wild spending spree by the Nigerian government which proceeded with the obligatory backhanders for organising officials.

The bringing together of artistic talent from Africa and the African Diaspora had appealed to the Pan-Africanist sentiments of Fela who as a young boy had been introduced to its greatest champion, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, by his mother. He felt that the gathering could be used to “redirect the thinking of the common man”. He had been invited to join the National Participation Committee for Festac along with other luminaries from Nigerian drama, music and literature, including his cousin the future Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, but along with Soyinka and a few others withdrew disillusioned.

When the festival commenced, Fela denounced the military government in nightly sermons delivered at ‘The Shrine’ where musicians flocked to pay him homage. Among them were Stevie Wonder, Sun Ra and Hugh Masekela. The Brazilian artists Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil who for a time had been forced into exile by the military junta of their country also met Fela.

Fela would pay a heavy price for his harangues. Less than a week after the end of the festival, the army surrounded his commune, known as the Kalakuta Republic, before storming it. Its inhabitants, not least Fela were beaten and the female members of his entourage sexually violated. Fela’s mother who resided at the residence was thrown from a first floor window and although initially surviving the attack died a few months later from injuries that she sustained.

It was a dark period for Fela. He spent 27 days in jail and suffered different bone fractures. He was put on trial and an official inquiry whitewashed the invasion and destruction of his compound concluding that the damage to his property had been perpetrated by “an exasperated and unknown soldier”. To top it all off Fela was branded a “hooligan”.

He went into temporary exile in Ghana and responded with lamentations of his experiences with the songs “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” and “Unknown Soldier”. In the former, Fela rails in his trademark pidgin English which was readily accessible to the common person:

So policeman go slap your face
You no go talk
Army man go whip your yansh (buttocks)
You go dey look like donkey

Fela’s allusion to Army brutality, a common occurrence in 1970s military-ruled Nigeria, carried a resonance among the many civilian victims who had been verbally humiliated, maimed and even killed by soldiers.

Yet Fela remained defiant. He partook in a traditional marriage ceremony with his entire female entourage of 27, performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1978 and in anticipation of the first civilian elections to be held in Nigeria since the middle 1960s, he formed a political party, the Movement of the People Party, and offered himself as a presidential candidate in 1979.

Fela continued to release music and embarked on many tours of European and American cities gaining a wider audience and respect from members of the rock community. He had known Ginger Baker, famous as the drummer for the 1960s blues-rock trio Cream, during his sojourn in England in the 1960s and both men collaborated in the 1970s and met each other frequently while Baker was resident in Nigeria from 1970 to 1976.

Paul McCartney was introduced to Fela when he went to Nigeria to record his album ‘Band on the Run’. After an awkward first meeting that had Fela accusing McCartney of coming to Africa to “steal the Black man’s music”, both men developed a friendship. McCartney would later confess to have been reduced to tears by the power of Fela’s music. In his autobiography published in 1989, Miles Davis acknowledged Fela as a force in music.

Fela would continue to endure numerous arrests: many of them for possession of Indian Hemp but also one last major politically-motivated arrest in 1984 which involved an alleged violation of currency regulations just before he was due to embark on a tour of the United States. His detention under the military regime which had overthrown the civilian government that had been elected in 1979 led to an international campaign spearheaded by Amnesty International to free him. Soon after his release in 1986, he played alongside artists such as U2, Sting and  Peter Gabriel in a series of benefit concerts for Amnesty.

Over a million people turned out for his funeral after a lengthy illness. His brother Olukoye, a medical practitioner, announced that Fela had stubbornly refused to seek medical help and that by the time he agreed to be taken to hospital was not cognizant of the diagnosis of AIDS.

The cause of death many blamed on a hedonistic lifestyle. The image he frequently portrayed in songs and interviews of a playboy were real enough. Alongside  the praise he earned from many of his country men were the denunciations of others. During his life he was criticised for corrupting the nation’s youth due to his fondness for marijuana and his projection of hypersexuality. While he may have spoken up for the nation’s downtrodden underclass, Fela was attacked for exploiting young women many of who came from poor backgrounds. The accusations of misogyny were often backed up by evidence of his living arrangements, the interviews that he gave as well as songs such as “Mattress”.

He was a mass of contradictions. While he may have spoken out against dictators, he ruled his commune in an authoritarian manner. And even the atrocity committed against him by the soldiers ransacking of his home was preceded by an incident in which a number of his employees had a violent confrontation with some soldiers during which they appropriated a motorcycle and later set it on fire. For some, Fela had set himself above the law from openly smoking weed on stage to holding up traffic while he crossed the road on his pet donkey.

Fela was uncompromising. In the early part of his career he turned down offers from foreign record companies to market Afro-Beat to Western audiences in the way reggae music was because it would have meant that he would have had to shorten the length of his songs. Later on he prevaricated over signing a one million dollar deal with Motown records until the offer lapsed. He could have chosen to live a relatively comfortable existence in European exile in a city such as London or Paris but that was never an option.

He had several distinct nicknames each reflecting a part of his multifaceted personage. ‘Omo Iya Aje’, which translated from Yoruba means the son of a witch, alluded to the belief that Fela inherited supernatural powers from his mother, in her prime a powerful female figure. Fela’s unusual disposition and rejection of convention earned him the sobriquet ‘Abami Eda’ (Strange creature). He was the ‘Chief Priest’ because of his practice of traditional Yoruba religious rites which were featured during his performances at the Shrine. Finally, the ‘Black President’ was an acknowledgement of his leadership qualities and his promotion of ‘Blackism’ and Pan-Africanism.

Now fully two decades after his passing, Fela’s music and the message in his music continue to resonate. His records still sell and his life story has been retold in several biographies and through a successful Broadway play “Fela!” He was more than a musician simply because his protest songs were not merely abstractions confined to the music studio or to music festivals. He transcended the role of a conventional musician because he spoke to the masses and confronted successive military dictators at great cost.

Wrote Lindsay Barrett, a Jamaican-born naturalised Nigerian novelist: “It is no exaggeration to say that Fela’s memory will always symbolise the spirit of truth for a vast number of struggling people in Africa and beyond.”

Fela Kuti was born on October 15th 1938 and died on August 2nd 1997.

At Every Door

I come and stand at every door
But none shall hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen

— Nazim Hikmet, I Come and Stand at Every Door


On July 18, 2017, at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing focused on “The Four Famines: Root Causes and a Multilateral Action Plan,” Republican Senator Todd Young, a former Marine, asked officials present if ongoing war in Yemen could fail to exacerbate the catastrophe developing there – one of four countries, along with Southern Sudan, Nigeria, and Somalia, set to collectively lose 20 million people this year, one third the death toll of WWII, from conflict-driven famine. Yemen is being bombarded and blockaded, using US-supplied weapons and vehicles, by a local coalition marshaled by U.S. client state Saudi Arabia.  Yemen’s near-famine conditions, with attendant cholera outbreak, are so dire that in Yemen it is estimated a child dies every 10 minutes of preventable disease.

At the hearing, Senator Young held aloft a photo of a World Food Program warehouse in Yemen, which was destroyed in 2015. Senator Young asked David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, to name the country responsible for the airstrike that destroyed the food warehouse. Mr. Beasley said the Saudi-led coalition blockading Yemen had destroyed the warehouse, along with the relief supplies it contained.

A July 2016 Human Rights Watch report documented 13 civilian economic structures destroyed by Saudi coalition led bombing between March 2015 and February 2016, “including factories, commercial warehouses, a farm, and two power stations. These strikes killed 130 civilians and injured 171 more. The facilities hit by airstrikes produced, stored, or distributed goods for the civilian population including food, medicine, and electricity—items that even before the war were in short supply in Yemen, which is among the poorest countries in the Middle East. Collectively, the facilities employed over 2,500 people; following the attacks, many of the factories ended their production and hundreds of workers lost their livelihoods.”

Asked about the Saudi coalition’s destruction of four cranes needed to offload relief supplies in Yemen’s port city Hodeidah, Mr. Beasley clarified that the loss of the cranes has vastly impeded WFP efforts to deliver food and medicines. Senator Young read from Mr. Beasley’s June 27th letter to the Saudi government, only the latest of multiple requests, asking that the WFP be allowed to deliver replacement cranes. Mr. Beasley said the Saudis had provided no reply. Senator Young noted that, in the three weeks since this last letter had been sent, more than 3,000 Yemeni children had died of preventable, famine-related causes.

Medea Benjamin, of the antiwar campaign Code Pink, was at the “Four Famines” hearing, and later thanked Sen. Young for rebuking the Saudi government’s imposition of a state of siege plus airstrikes that prevent delivery of food and medicine to destitute Yemeni civilians:

One day later, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported on a July 19th coalition airstrike in Yemen, which killed 20 civilians—including women and children—while they were fleeing violence in their home province. The report claimed more than two million internally displaced Yemenis “fled elsewhere across Yemen since the beginning of the conflict, but … continue to be exposed to danger as the conflict has affected all of Yemen’s mainland governorates.”

On July 14, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would potentially end US participation in the Yemeni civil war. In the past, the White House has provided refueling and targeting assistance to the Saudi-led coalition without congressional authorization. Since October of 2016, the US has doubled the number of jet refueling maneuvers carried out with Saudi and United Arab Emirate jets. The Saudi and UAE jets fly over Yemen, drop bombs until they need to refuel, then fly back to Saudi airspace where US jets perform mid-air refueling operations. Next, they circle back to Yemen and resume bombing.

In the summer of 2006, I joined peace campaigner Claudia Lefko at a small school she helped found in Amman, Jordan. The school served children whose families were refugees, having fled postwar chaos in Iraq. Many of the children have survived war, death threats, and displacement. Claudia had worked with children in her hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, to prepare a gift for the Iraqi refugee children at the Jordanian school. The gift consisted of strings of paper origami cranes, folded in memory of a Japanese child, Sadako, who had died from radiation sickness after the bombing of her home city, Hiroshima.  In her hospital bed (the story goes), Sadako occupied her time attempting to fold 1,000 paper cranes, a feat she hoped would earn her the granting of a special wish, that no other child would ever suffer a similar fate. Sadako succumbed too rapidly to complete the task herself, but Japanese children hearing of her folded many thousands more cranes, and the story has been told for decades in innumerable places, making the delicate paper cranes a symbol for peace throughout the world. The Turkish  writer, Nazim Hikmet, wrote a poem, since set to music, about the story. Its words are on my mind today, as I think of the malnourished children from the countries of the terrible Four Famines, and from other conflict-torn, US-targeted countries such as Iraq, and Afghanistan. I think of their months or years of terrible hunger. Their stories may have ended already during the first half of 2017.

I need no fruit I need no rice
I need no sweets nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead for I am dead

The song about “The Little Girl of Hiroshima” imagines a child who comes and stands at every door, unheard and unseen. In reality, we the living can choose to approach the doors of elected representatives, of our neighbors, or stay at home. We can choose whether or not to be heard and seen. Robert Naiman at Just Foreign Policy points out that many people don’t know yet that the House has voted to prohibit US participation in the Saudi war in Yemen. We can focus on progress made, publicize the House votes on social media, push for a House roll call vote on the Davidson-Nolan prohibitions on Defense Appropriation, and push the Senate to pass the same provisions as the House.  I personally oppose all defense appropriations (I have refused all payment of federal income tax since 1980). I recognize that legislative activism, at the heart of an empire addicted to war, is a tool of limited use; but considering the arriving disaster for which, as too few yet understand, 2017 may be hereafter remembered as the worst famine year in post-WWII history – we have no luxury to reject any tools presented to us.

Billions, perhaps trillions, will be spent to send weapons, weapon systems, fighter jets, ammunition, and military support to the region, fueling new arms races and raising the profits of U.S. weapon makers. But, we can choose to stand at the doors of our leaders and of our neighbors, honoring past sacrifices and the innocent lives we were unable to save, as we redouble efforts to stop war makers from constantly gaining the upper hand in our lives.

We can never reverse the decisions to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we cannot prevent all of the dying that is set to come, this fateful summer, in the countries of the Four Famines.  In the song, lost Sadako, long beyond saving even as she folded paper in her bed, doesn’t ask us to erase her own terrible loss, but to achieve the change we can, and to lose no more time in achieving it:

All that I need is that for peace
You fight today you fight today
So that the children of this world
Can live and grow and laugh and play

Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy

This time of year Mediterranean beaches are the destinations of choice for many European holidaymakers; it’s also the beginning of the busiest time of year for the people smugglers based in Libya and elsewhere along the North African coast. July to October is their peak season — during this time in 2016 around 103,000 refugees were crammed into unsafe boats, often in the dead of night, and cast off into the Mediterranean Sea.

Some don’t survive the crossing. Whilst the number of migrants arriving at Europe’s back door may have decreased — from 205,858 in the first five months of 2016, down to 71,029 for the same period this year, the number of dead has dramatically increased, reaching a staggering 1,650. The mortality rate has increased from 1.2% to 2.3% (2016). In 2015, when Europe’s response was properly coordinated, and when Germany opened its doors to over a million refugees, the death rate was 0.37%.

Europe’s politicians seem indifferent to the growing number of fatalities, and with a reported 2.5 million people (according to a leaked German government document) waiting in countries around the Mediterranean, the death count is set to rise dramatically.

The German report states that one million people are holed up in Libya, which, thanks to western ‘intervention’ is now a lawless state without any credible government where refugees are imprisoned, sold as slaves and trafficked into prostitution. Another million are in Egypt, almost half a million are waiting in Algeria, there are 160,000 or so in Tunisia and hundreds of thousands sit patiently in transit countries such as Jordan where there are estimated to be 720,00.

This is in addition to the 3.3 million refugees in Turkey, who have been denied access to Europe by the European Union’s (EU) ‘One in One out’ Syrian migrant deal struck in 2016. A crude financial arrangement of convenience made with Turkish President Recep Erdogan – a quasi-dictator, in which Turkey accepted the return of irregular migrants arriving in Greece in exchange for six billion euros in financial aid, and the loosening of visa restrictions for Turks. The result: tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece, living in intolerable and insecure conditions.

It was bribery by any other name; the aim was to push the refugee issue out of sight, make them someone else’s problem. This remains the EU’s inadequate, irresponsible approach.

It’s easy to see the statistics and forget that the numbers refer to people, human beings trying to escape some form of danger or violent conflict: Syrian Mother, “there was a rocket launching pad right behind my house. For the children, this was the main reason that we left. They became sick, they wouldn’t let me go… At night they’re asleep, they’d wake up crying. And the same thing happened to me. And my husband was not with us.” Others are fleeing persecution: Sudanese Mother, “There is racism in Sudan, between Muslims and Christians. The soldiers or the policemen come and they take half of what I earned, and they say: ‘that is for us’. But they don’t behave like this with everyone, only with Christians from Eritrea. If you try to say no, they will either kill or jail you.”

Ignoring root causes

Two main routes into Europe are used by refugees: the Aegean route via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans which is now virtually closed off, and the Mediterranean crossing from North Africa which is fraught with dangers.

Having travelled for months across unforgiving terrain, suffered abuse and exploitation en route, refugees arriving in Europe all too often find themselves in an unwelcoming, hostile environment, one in which the debilitating politics of fear, intolerance and division has increasingly influenced decisions on immigration generally and an approach to those seeking refuge.

Europe has sought to reduce the numbers making the journey by various short-term measures, none of which deal with the root causes of migration, and indeed the numbers have dropped — not because less people are leaving their troubled homelands, but because they are going somewhere else, or being held, imprisoned, in transit. The problem is not being resolved because the underlying causes have not been faced, those in need are simply being pushed elsewhere: it is a moral disgrace and a new approach is urgently needed.

To Europe’s utter shame there has been no collective response to what is euphemistically called the ‘refugee crisis’, but is actually a worldwide humanitarian issue partly caused by the aggressive foreign policies of America and her allies.

It’s not just war that people are fleeing; it’s a range of issues including human rights abuses and persecution by brutal regimes – Ethiopia, a key ally of the West, for example, and Eritrea where people are fleeing military conscription and poverty. The driving impulses that make people leave home are fear and hope; fear of death and terrorist threats – in Nigeria, for example, where the largest numbers making it to Europe currently come from, fear of torture and violence, and the hope of a better life somewhere else; a peaceful life in a country where the rule of law is observed and human rights are respected.

Refugees make up a mere 0.4% of the total population of the EU (approximately 510 million), and on a global scale refugees represent only around 8% of all migrants, and roughly 85% of all refugees live in developing countries. There is no question that Europe could and should do more, could offer long-term support to more in need.

The sane suggestion of establishing equitable resettlement quotas for all EU states has been completely shunned by selfish, irresponsible national governments concerned not with meeting the fundamental needs of refugees, but by domestic politics. Britain has been at the forefront of isolationism and indifference, with the Conservative government under David Cameron’s leadership agreeing in 2015 to take a paltry 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.

Manipulative, cowardly European politicians hide behind the outdated, unworkable Dublin Agreement, which states that refugees must be processed in the first country they set foot in and can be returned there if they dare to venture beyond its borders. This completely unfair scheme has placed colossal pressure on Italy and Greece – countries that most refugees simply wish to pass though en route to other European countries. In fact, many refugees, according to a study by Warwick University, don’t even want to go to Europe. The report challenges the idea that, ‘destination Europe’, is the dream goal of millions, claiming it is traffickers who often ‘decide’ who goes where: Europe is the most expensive option and therefore the most profitable for the smugglers.

The in-depth report recommends that Europe’s refugee policy, which has focused on deterring people from seeking refuge must be changed to one that is “grounded in an appreciation of — and responsiveness to — the journeys and experiences, as well as the understandings, expectations, concerns and demands of people on the move.” It makes clear that the current approach, which connects aid payments to countries such as Ethiopia, Lebanon, Jordan, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, to preventing migration, should be replaced with proper “interventions that address the diverse drivers of unauthorized movement”.

Deterrents do not work mainly because the situations people are escaping from are a great deal worse than anything that might happen to them when they arrive in a destination country.

The study makes the common-sense suggestion that opening “sufficient safe and legal routes to the EU for people who otherwise have to resort to precarious journeys,” should be a priority, together with investing in decent “reception facilities and improved access to key services,” such as health care and housing. In addition long-term national and regional resettlement programmes are needed, and more humanitarian aid provided to poor countries close to conflict zones that are coping with the majority of the world’s refugees, including Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Like the other major issues facing humanity — the environmental catastrophe, nuclear disarmament and ending armed conflict, economic injustice and terrorism — the displacement of people (currently numbering 65 million globally), of which refugees form a small part, is a worldwide problem and requires an international humane and coordinated response. Unified policies based on the recognition of collective responsibility and group need, not this fragmented nationalistic approach which is intensifying human suffering and does nothing to deal with the underlying causes.

Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy

This time of year Mediterranean beaches are the destinations of choice for many European holidaymakers; it’s also the beginning of the busiest time of year for the people smugglers based in Libya and elsewhere along the North African coast. July to October is their peak season — during this time in 2016 around 103,000 refugees were crammed into unsafe boats, often in the dead of night, and cast off into the Mediterranean Sea.

Some don’t survive the crossing. Whilst the number of migrants arriving at Europe’s back door may have decreased — from 205,858 in the first five months of 2016, down to 71,029 for the same period this year, the number of dead has dramatically increased, reaching a staggering 1,650. The mortality rate has increased from 1.2% to 2.3% (2016). In 2015, when Europe’s response was properly coordinated, and when Germany opened its doors to over a million refugees, the death rate was 0.37%.

Europe’s politicians seem indifferent to the growing number of fatalities, and with a reported 2.5 million people (according to a leaked German government document) waiting in countries around the Mediterranean, the death count is set to rise dramatically.

The German report states that one million people are holed up in Libya, which, thanks to western ‘intervention’ is now a lawless state without any credible government where refugees are imprisoned, sold as slaves and trafficked into prostitution. Another million are in Egypt, almost half a million are waiting in Algeria, there are 160,000 or so in Tunisia and hundreds of thousands sit patiently in transit countries such as Jordan where there are estimated to be 720,00.

This is in addition to the 3.3 million refugees in Turkey, who have been denied access to Europe by the European Union’s (EU) ‘One in One out’ Syrian migrant deal struck in 2016. A crude financial arrangement of convenience made with Turkish President Recep Erdogan – a quasi-dictator, in which Turkey accepted the return of irregular migrants arriving in Greece in exchange for six billion euros in financial aid, and the loosening of visa restrictions for Turks. The result: tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece, living in intolerable and insecure conditions.

It was bribery by any other name; the aim was to push the refugee issue out of sight, make them someone else’s problem. This remains the EU’s inadequate, irresponsible approach.

It’s easy to see the statistics and forget that the numbers refer to people, human beings trying to escape some form of danger or violent conflict: Syrian Mother, “there was a rocket launching pad right behind my house. For the children, this was the main reason that we left. They became sick, they wouldn’t let me go… At night they’re asleep, they’d wake up crying. And the same thing happened to me. And my husband was not with us.” Others are fleeing persecution: Sudanese Mother, “There is racism in Sudan, between Muslims and Christians. The soldiers or the policemen come and they take half of what I earned, and they say: ‘that is for us’. But they don’t behave like this with everyone, only with Christians from Eritrea. If you try to say no, they will either kill or jail you.”

Ignoring root causes

Two main routes into Europe are used by refugees: the Aegean route via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans which is now virtually closed off, and the Mediterranean crossing from North Africa which is fraught with dangers.

Having travelled for months across unforgiving terrain, suffered abuse and exploitation en route, refugees arriving in Europe all too often find themselves in an unwelcoming, hostile environment, one in which the debilitating politics of fear, intolerance and division has increasingly influenced decisions on immigration generally and an approach to those seeking refuge.

Europe has sought to reduce the numbers making the journey by various short-term measures, none of which deal with the root causes of migration, and indeed the numbers have dropped — not because less people are leaving their troubled homelands, but because they are going somewhere else, or being held, imprisoned, in transit. The problem is not being resolved because the underlying causes have not been faced, those in need are simply being pushed elsewhere: it is a moral disgrace and a new approach is urgently needed.

To Europe’s utter shame there has been no collective response to what is euphemistically called the ‘refugee crisis’, but is actually a worldwide humanitarian issue partly caused by the aggressive foreign policies of America and her allies.

It’s not just war that people are fleeing; it’s a range of issues including human rights abuses and persecution by brutal regimes – Ethiopia, a key ally of the West, for example, and Eritrea where people are fleeing military conscription and poverty. The driving impulses that make people leave home are fear and hope; fear of death and terrorist threats – in Nigeria, for example, where the largest numbers making it to Europe currently come from, fear of torture and violence, and the hope of a better life somewhere else; a peaceful life in a country where the rule of law is observed and human rights are respected.

Refugees make up a mere 0.4% of the total population of the EU (approximately 510 million), and on a global scale refugees represent only around 8% of all migrants, and roughly 85% of all refugees live in developing countries. There is no question that Europe could and should do more, could offer long-term support to more in need.

The sane suggestion of establishing equitable resettlement quotas for all EU states has been completely shunned by selfish, irresponsible national governments concerned not with meeting the fundamental needs of refugees, but by domestic politics. Britain has been at the forefront of isolationism and indifference, with the Conservative government under David Cameron’s leadership agreeing in 2015 to take a paltry 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.

Manipulative, cowardly European politicians hide behind the outdated, unworkable Dublin Agreement, which states that refugees must be processed in the first country they set foot in and can be returned there if they dare to venture beyond its borders. This completely unfair scheme has placed colossal pressure on Italy and Greece – countries that most refugees simply wish to pass though en route to other European countries. In fact, many refugees, according to a study by Warwick University, don’t even want to go to Europe. The report challenges the idea that, ‘destination Europe’, is the dream goal of millions, claiming it is traffickers who often ‘decide’ who goes where: Europe is the most expensive option and therefore the most profitable for the smugglers.

The in-depth report recommends that Europe’s refugee policy, which has focused on deterring people from seeking refuge must be changed to one that is “grounded in an appreciation of — and responsiveness to — the journeys and experiences, as well as the understandings, expectations, concerns and demands of people on the move.” It makes clear that the current approach, which connects aid payments to countries such as Ethiopia, Lebanon, Jordan, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, to preventing migration, should be replaced with proper “interventions that address the diverse drivers of unauthorized movement”.

Deterrents do not work mainly because the situations people are escaping from are a great deal worse than anything that might happen to them when they arrive in a destination country.

The study makes the common-sense suggestion that opening “sufficient safe and legal routes to the EU for people who otherwise have to resort to precarious journeys,” should be a priority, together with investing in decent “reception facilities and improved access to key services,” such as health care and housing. In addition long-term national and regional resettlement programmes are needed, and more humanitarian aid provided to poor countries close to conflict zones that are coping with the majority of the world’s refugees, including Lebanon, Jordan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Like the other major issues facing humanity — the environmental catastrophe, nuclear disarmament and ending armed conflict, economic injustice and terrorism — the displacement of people (currently numbering 65 million globally), of which refugees form a small part, is a worldwide problem and requires an international humane and coordinated response. Unified policies based on the recognition of collective responsibility and group need, not this fragmented nationalistic approach which is intensifying human suffering and does nothing to deal with the underlying causes.