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VICE: POST-COLONIAL COLONIALISM: The West Extorts Way More Money from Africa Than It Gives in Aid June 16, 2017

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Many decades after the official end of the western empires in Africa, the continent is still being sucked dry by a cartel made up of small local elites, multi-national companies and foreign governments. The money given to Africa to help its so-called “development” is referred to as “aid”, when in fact it should be seen as a form of reparations for a history of colonisation and ongoing domination that has left the African people almost as far from economic and social justice as they were when the European empires packed up and left in the years following the end of the Second World War.

The West Extorts Way More Money from Africa Than It Gives in Aid


We should be putting our western guilt to good use and pressuring government to regulate “investment” in the continent.

The world’s second-largest continent, Africa, is still defined in the western media in just two principle ways.

The more “woke” understanding of Africa is the idea of “Africa Rising”, which is defined by images of young people on bustling streets speaking on mobile phones. “Africa Rising” stories tend to focus on smart entrepreneurs doing something tech-related in massive urban centres like Lagos, Nairobi or Cape Town. They promote an image of the continent that is considered modern and future-focused. These stories are often, as the Kenyan journalist Parselelo Kantai once put it to me, “insidious little fictions manufactured by global corporate finance”.

The other main narrative is the more familiar one: hapless Africa, the tragic continent that can only continue to survive with the help of aid money provided to it by outsiders. This is the narrative of Live Aid and Bono, the story told to us immediately after news reports of famine and unrest in places that, we are made to believe, just can’t get by without western charity.

Given these two themes, it would seem unlikely that more money is taken out of the 47 countries that form what is commonly called “Sub-Saharan Africa” than is put back in. Yet, British and African campaign groups, including Global Justice Now, released a report this month which found that, in 2015, much more money was taken out of Africa in the form of illegal extraction of natural resources, tax avoidance and spiralling interest on debt repayments than was “given” to the continent in the form of aid and grants.

The report, entitled Honest Accounts 2017 , finds that the countries of Africa are “collectively net creditors to the rest of the world, to the tune of $41.3 billion [£32.2 billion] in 2015”.

Rather than Africa being a hapless continent dependent on the rest of the world, it is the exploited continent whose natural resources are enriching a local and global elite at the expense of the vast majority of its citizens, and whose governments can do little about the illegal syphoning of revenue into tax havens.

According to War on Want, 101 (mostly British) companies listed on the London Stock Exchange control an identified $1.05 trillion (£820 billion) worth of resources in Africa in just five commodities: oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. Twenty-five of those companies are incorporated in tax havens.

While African countries receive around $19 billion (£14 billion) in aid in the form of grants, $68 billion (£53 billion) is taken out in capital flight. The main culprits are multinational corporations and corrupt officials with their large infrastructure of lawyers, bankers, accountants and financial advisors skilled in tax dodging.

The main device used is transfer pricing. By overpricing imports and under-pricing exports on customs documents, companies and individuals can move money to tax havens. This means that multi-national companies deliberately misreport the value of their imports or exports in order to reduce the tax they have to pay on them. Furthermore, these same companies repatriate $32 billion (£25 billion) in profits made in Africa to their home countries every year. Money made on the continent of Africa, then, is returned to enrich those outside of Africa.

The report goes on to say that African governments paid out $18 billion (£14 billion) in debt interest and principal payments in 2015. Though they received $32.8 billion (£25.6 billion) in loans, the overall level of debt is rising rapidly, and loans often lock African governments into even more debt: private lenders, the report notes, “are encouraged to act irresponsibly because when debt crises arise, the IMF, World Bank and other institutions lend more money, which enables the high interest to private lenders to be paid, whilst the debt keeps growing”. Ghana is losing 30 percent of its government revenue to debt repayments. Private lenders benefit, while ordinary Africans suffer.

Illegal logging, fishing and the trade in wildlife and plants are also hurting Africa, with an estimated $29 billion (£22.6 billion) a year being stolen from the continent through these practices. Climate change is hitting the continent particularly badly; though of course the extractive and industrial practices that led to climate change were a phenomenon of non-African countries.

As Bernard Adaba, policy analyst with ISODEC in Ghana, says: “‘Development’ is a lost cause in Africa while we are haemorrhaging billions every year to extractive industries, western tax havens and illegal logging and fishing. Some serious structural changes need to be made to promote economic policies that enable African countries to best serve the needs of their people rather than simply being cash cows for western corporations and governments.”

Many decades after the official end of the western empires in Africa, the continent is still being sucked dry by a cartel made up of small local elites, multi-national companies and foreign governments. The money given to Africa to help its so-called “development” is referred to as “aid”, when in fact it should be seen as a form of reparations for a history of colonisation and ongoing domination that has left the African people almost as far from economic and social justice as they were when the European empires packed up and left in the years following the end of the Second World War.

Recognising the troubling role western governments and companies play in the impoverishment of Africa could serve as a beginning to reverse this process. The Honest Accounts report proposes a number of steps that can be taken to help reverse the flow of money out of Africa, including putting less faith in the extractives industry, enabling transparent and responsible lending and regulating the investment that corporations bring in to African countries.

Tax havens are a key issue, one that was recognised in Labour’s election manifesto, which said that the “current global tax system is deeply unjust”. Jeremy Corbyn’s party promises to “act decisively on tax havens”, which play a key role in allowing vast sums of money to be taken out of Africa. The UK enablesthis wealth extraction to take place and sits at the head of a vast network of tax havens.

Finally, there is the need for more public recognition of what is going on. This is not about stoking up western guilt; it is about identifying the causes behind rising inequality in Africa and elsewhere, and about correcting a lazy media narrative that patronises and insults Africans while keeping everyone in a state of ignorance. The truth is this: Africa is still being plundered. It is time western governments and the western media stopped pretending otherwise.



Vice News: #OromoProtests: Ethiopia’s massive protests are getting desperate – and dangerous October 21, 2016

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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

“We don’t care if we get killed”


Ethiopia’s massive protests are getting desperate – and dangerous

The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency in the country as it intensifies a crackdown on widespread anti-government protests born of frustration that’s been fomenting for decades. In the past two weeks alone, authorities have arrested thousands of protesters, overwhelmingly young people by some accounts.

In the unprecedented anti-government protests sweeping the country, this week alone has seen more than 2,600 people detained in the Oromia and Amhara regions, with 450 arrested in the capital Addis Ababa. Those detained include business owners who closed their shops and teachers who “abandoned their schools.” In June, Human Rights Watch reported that “tens of thousands” of protesters had been arrested since the unrest that began 11 months ago.

However, the number arrested is already likely much higher than the figure quoted by the government, according to Fisseha Tekle, the chief researcher for Amnesty International in Ethiopia. He told VICE News that arrests are ongoing and that the focus is on younger people.

“They must have some list, the security forces, because they are not arresting everyone, but they really target the youths, because it is the youths who have been protesting for the last year,” Tekle said. “They don’t arrest older people; students are the main target.”

The protests began last November, triggered by plans made by the government to extend the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia. That plan has since been shelved, but the protests have continued, with decades-old frustration and anger at the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition coming to the surface.

“This coalition has been in power for 25 years now and a lot of people want to see something different,” Clementine de Montjoye, the head of advocacy atDefend Defenders, a group that protects human rights workers in Ethiopia, told VICE News.

Because the Ethiopian government limits the operations of human rights activists in the country, many are wary about speaking on the record. One source within a human rights group operating in Ethiopia, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told VICE News that protesters had told them “we don’t have anything to lose anymore, we don’t care if we get killed.”

An Amnesty International report published this week says that in total 800 protesters have been killed by security forces in Ethiopia since these protests began last November.

The government declared a state of emergency on Oct. 9, giving them sweeping powers to crush any dissenting voices. They have also cut internet connectivity in most of the country — including the capital — for the last three weeks.

This has made it difficult to get accurate details of what is happening, especially outside of Addis. And even if a connection can be made, people are still afraid to talk. “People are suspicious because of online surveillance and also mobile phone surveillance, so people might not be [comfortable] talking over the phone about what is happening,” Tekle said.

VICE News contacted several activists on the ground in Ethiopia to talk about the current situation, but due to a combination of fear and lack of connectivity, we were unable to talk to them.

The declaration of a six-month state of emergency followed a high-profile incident at the beginning of the month when a stampede during Irreecha, an Oromo holiday festival, resulted in 55 people killed. As well as increasing the powers of the security forces in Ethiopia to arbitrarily arrest and detain people, the state of emergency aims to silence criticism of the regime. It is now illegal to contact those termed “outsiders” on social media like Twitter and Facebook. “The military command will take action on those watching and posting on these social media outlets,” Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia’s minister for defense, said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has made two calls for access to conduct an international, independent, and impartial investigation into the alleged violations, both of which have been rejected by the Ethiopian government. The regime has also sought to limit the impact of human rights organizations in the country with the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which states that if you receive more than 10 percent of your funding from foreign sources, you can’t work on human rights issues in Ethiopia.

Tekle says that Amnesty is refraining from contacting the human rights workers left in the country to avoid revealing their location.

In a report to be launched late Thursday, Defend Defenders has documented at least 27 cases of journalists who have been charged with terrorism since the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation was enacted in 2009. “They have intimidated, arrested, chased away most of the independent media. So if people want to express their frustrations, the only way they have to do it is [by taking] to the streets,” de Montjoye said.

So why isn’t the West doing more to sanction the Ethiopian government?

One reason is Ethiopia’s strategic importance in Africa, helping stem the tide of migrants entering Europe and stopping the spread of Islamic extremism.

According to the European Union’s foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini, citing a report published this week, Ethiopia is among five key African countries that have achieved “better results” in the past four months as part of the EU’s efforts to better manage migration.

Ethiopia is also viewed as a strategic bulwark against the further spread of violent Islamic extremism in the horn of Africa, and it’s been the main military player in fighting the terrorist group al Shabaab in Somalia for years.

Ethiopia is a close ally of the U.S. and given that the political climate in neighbouring countries like Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt is fairly shaky, keeping Ethiopia relatively stable is seen as key to preventing chaos in the region.

#OromoProtests: Tear gas and bullets from security forces have become a regular part of the state’s crackdown in Ethiopia’s Oromia state February 23, 2016

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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in EthiopiaOromoProtests @Finfinnee University  Dec. 7, 2015

Security Forces in Ethiopia Have Killed More than 200 People, Rights Group Says

By Kayla Ruble,    Vice News, February 23, 2016

Gudina dreams every night of the student she saw with blood pouring out of their mouth after being struck by a bullet fired by Ethiopian security forces during a protest in December. At a related protest in a different town, 17-year-old Gameda saw security forces enter a school compound and shoot three students point blank, and then carry the bodies away.

Tear gas and bullets from security forces have become a regular part of the state’s crackdown in Ethiopia’s Oromia state, as students keep up a protest movement against the government’s plan for expansion and development of the capital, Addis Ababa. Many say the plan will push the Oromo people off their lands.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch this week, Ethiopia has continued to violently suppress the demonstrations that sparked in November, killing protesters and arresting thousands more without charges. Several people the advocacy organization spoke with said they were subjected to torture and sexual assault while detained.

“Continuing to treat the protests as a military operation that needs to be crushed through force shows the complete disregard the government has for peaceful protest and freedom of expression,” said Felix Horne, Human Rights Watch’s researcher for the Horn of Africa.

“Things have become considerably more violent in the last few days,” he said. “Given the limitations on independent reporting on the ground, it’s hard to know precisely what has been happening.” The organization, which is the source of the eyewitness accounts, has changed the names of people it mentions and even avoids specifying their gender, to protect them for the crackdown by the government Tensions are longstanding between the Oromo and the government, lead with a heavy hand by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

The demonstrations started in mid-November in Oromia, the nation’s largest state and home to 27 million people, including 3.3 million living in Addis Ababa. The Oromo, who are the country’s largest ethnic group, are opposed to the government’s Addis Ababa and Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Development Plan. Activists claim the development agenda will swallow up Oromo land and displace farmers as the capital grows outward.

That expansion reflects Ethiopia’s status as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The International Monetary Fund ranks it among the top five expanding economies globally, with a gross domestic product that expanded 10.3 percent from 2013 to 2014. The capital development plan is in line with the economic and urban growth, with plans for building highways, roads, parking lots, market areas, and an airport.

On November 12, elementary and high school students formed the first demonstration in the town of Ginci, about 55 miles from Addis Ababa. As a part of the controversial development project, work had just begun on clearing a forest at the edge of town. Activists said the students engaged in peaceful demonstrations, and videos at the time showed them often standing in silence.

Over the next few weeks, protests began to spread to towns throughout the state as part of a larger and years-long Oromo movement. The Oromo account for more than 80 percent of the Oromia state population. Nationally, they represent more than 35 percent.

Many Oromos say they have not benefitted from the country’s development. Literacy rates and government representation are bleak for the Oromo.

This is not the first protest against the so-called Master Plan; there was a similar uprising in April and May of 2014 after the development plan was approved. A crackdown by security forces left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

As the current movement unfolded, the recent demonstrations quickly surpassed the scale of those from 2014. By January activists estimated upwards of 140 people had been killed and, according to Human Rights Watch, killings and violence have been reported daily. That figure has since risen to more than 200 people.

With Desalegn and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front controlling the parliament and the judiciary, while having eroded independent civil society and media, Horne said that the protest crackdowns were limiting one of the few outlets for criticism left.

“If Oromia’s citizens have concerns how are they to peacefully express it?” he said. “As we’ve seen the last three months, if you take to the streets you run the risk of being shot by security forces who view protest movements as something to be crushed through brutal force.”

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB



Oromia: Vice News: Deadly Protests in Ethiopia as Students Defend Farmers from Urban ‘Master Plan’ December 11, 2015

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Say no to the master killer. Addis Ababa master plan is genocidal plan against Oromo people#OromoProtests of 7 December 2015‪#‎OromoProtests‬ Global Solidarity, Switzerland, 11 December 2015

Deadly Protests in Ethiopia as Students Defend Farmers from Urban ‘Master Plan’

 By Kayla Ruble, news.vice.com, December 11, 2015

In the last two weeks, protests have spread to more than 50 towns as part of a larger and years-long movement against the Ethiopian government’s controversial development plan. It’s not the first protest against the so-called Master Plan; there was a similar uprising in April and May of 2014 after the development plan was approved. A crackdown by security forces left dozens dead and hundreds arrested.

By all accounts, according to Jawar Mohammed, the founder of Oromo Media Network, the recent movement is much bigger than its predecessor. The Minnesota-based Ethiopian said reports indicate farmers and other citizens have even begun to join in on the demonstrations over the last few days.

“This is the biggest protest by far that I have seen in the last 25 years,” Mohammed said.

In addition to being more widespread than previous demonstrations, this year’s protests have reportedly been better organized, according to American-based Ethiopian journalist Mohammed Ademo. While improved access to social media has played a role, Ademo said the size can also be attributed to a growing dissatisfaction among the public with what he called the “government’s top-down, non-participatory approach to development.”

“Gone are the days when the central government can displace Oromo farmers and forcibly implement any policy,” he said. “Continued crackdown on the protesters only ensures Oromos’ growing estrangement from the state.”

The estrangement has a strong economic component. The expansion of Addis Ababa, the headquarters of both the African Union and the international airline carrier Ethiopia Airways, is a symptom of both the wider urbanization in sub-Saharan African cities and the booming success of national economy.

Addis Ababa has seen growing foreign and economic investment in recent years, while at the same time becoming a regional business hub, Bill Moseley, a geography professor at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota, said.

“Ethiopia’s seen as this kind of up-and-coming country with a lot of investment that’s posturing to make Addis more of a global city, so I’m sure that’s feeding into this sort of push to expansion,” Moseley explained. “It’s these small farmers that lose out, but it’s rationalized in sort of these broader development goals.”

Generally, said Moseley, when governments pave the way for urban growth they often use this development as a way to justify land grabs. According to Moseley, this situation is not exclusive to Addis Ababa and Ethiopia, but one seen in other cities across sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.

For the Oromo, specifically, activists claim they have not benefited from the country’s growth and prosperity. The regional ethnic group, which counts Oromia as its homeland, makes up more than 80 percent of the state’s 27 million people. Nationally it represents upward of 35 percent.

Literacy rates are bleak and the group is underrepresented in government. According to Mohammed, nearly a dozen Oromo clans have been swallowed up in the city’s horizontal expansion as they are forced off their lands. In Ethiopia, the government owns all of the land, but the constitution does provide some protections for the public. Oromo activists say these rights have been ignored in the rush to expand.

“The capital city is in the middle of Oromia, but you don’t see any Oromo identity in it,” he said. “Every time [Addis Ababa] expands it just destroys them. They’re saying the development has to incorporate us…. You can’t just leave us stranded.”

The planned development has also hit home for the Oromo, who have a very close connection with their land, according to Human Rights Watch Horn of Africa researcher Felix Horne.

“They’re concerned if a large portion of land outside of Addis Ababa comes under control of the city administration that farmers will be displaced from the land,” he explained. “[That] they won’t receive compensation from their livelihoods. And they won’t have the ability to feed their families.”

The government has a history of cracking down on the Oromo people, who represent a majority of the population and a perceived threat to power to the minority-led coalition. Horne said that anytime Oromos expresses dissent or simply asks a question about land development policies, they can be subject to arbitrary detention and mistreatment.

Beyond discrimination and crackdown on the Oromo, freedom of press and other expression is heavily curtailed in the country as a whole. Horne said coverage of the recent protests has been almost non-existent.

“Ethiopia is often applauded internationally for its economic growth and development initiatives, but that’s only one part of the story,” he said. “Anyone who expresses any form of dissent in Ethiopia is in trouble.”