Famine looms in East Africa as strikes erupt in Nigeria, South Africa
Published Jul 14, 2011 10:42 PM
As the world capitalist economic crisis accelerates, growing food deficits,
poverty and imperialist militarism have prompted dislocation and unrest
throughout the African continent. Africa has been subjected to the price
fluctuations for raw materials and agricultural commodities sold to the West.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon and NATO are intervening in the internal affairs of
former colonial states.
Big capitalist financial institutions and their military forces are strangling
Africa. The impact can be seen in East Africa. The Horn of Africa region and
surrounding nations potentially face the worst drought in six decades.
The corporate media do not draw the link between climate change and drought.
However, African specialists on this phenomenon say that the increasing floods,
lack of rainfall and consequent crop failures can be attributed to the
so-called developed countries’ industrial policies. Moreover, drought
does not necessarily translate into famine — the inability of populations
to adequately feed themselves. Today, famine is largely derived from the
unequal distribution of food and water resulting from capitalist
underdevelopment in Africa.
Most East African countries that face large-scale dislocation and starvation
have governments which are politically and economically dominated by the U.S.
and other imperialist powers. Washington supports the regimes in Somalia,
Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti and provides them with military and security
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government gets hundreds of millions of
dollars annually from the U.S. Pro-U.S. regimes in Burundi and Uganda
militarily prop up the TFG; 8,000 troops currently occupy Somalia to stop the
Al-Shabab Islamic resistance movement from seizing power.
Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi government is subsidized militarily by the U.S.,
which has used that regime to occupy Somalia on its behalf. Ethiopia is hit
hard by the drought; however, U.S. partnership and assistance have not led to
success in feeding the population or maintaining stability.
The Kenyan-based East African newspaper reported, “Perhaps no country in
the region is as badly affected as Somalia. The Somalia Food Security and
Nutrition Analysis Unit estimates that 2.85 million people — a third of
the population” are in “humanitarian crisis and in need of urgent
assistance.” This is 42.5 percent more than in December. (July 10)
The Manila Bulletin noted, “Two successive failed rains have left ... 11
million people ... across Southern Ethiopia, Northern Kenya, and Somalia facing
famine because of food shortages.” The lack of water has caused
large-scale cattle deaths, “leaving families unable to cope with the loss
of food and livelihood.” (July 11)
The Financial Times wrote, “Livestock mortality has risen dramatically
... when staple cereal prices have also increased sharply.” The wholesale
price of maize in Kenya has risen 160 percent since July 2010, while red
sorghum’s retail price has jumped 169 percent. (July 5)
Mass uprisings & labor unrest
In December, high unemployment, low wages and poverty sparked Tunisian workers
and youth to carry out unprecedented demonstrations and general strikes, which
toppled longtime Western-backed dictator, President Zine-el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Since December, countries in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula have
erupted with mass uprisings and labor unrest.
On Jan. 25, Egyptian workers and youth launched similar actions in response to
rising prices and political repression. On Feb. 11, the massive people’s
movement pushed out the U.S.-backed 30-year dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Similar unrest spread through Yemen and Bahrain. The imperialists intervened in
Libya in March in an effort to engineer regime change and seize control of
Africa’s largest oil reserves.
Labor actions are escalating. Nigerian trade unions are pushing for crucial
wage increases. Per capita income is very low — even though Nigeria is
one of the largest exporters of crude oil to the West.
The July 11 Nigerian Tribune reported, “The Maritime Workers Union of
Nigeria has vowed that all [Nigerian] ports will be shut ... during the planned
nationwide strike by organized labor over the delay in the implementation of
the N18,000 national minimum wage by the federal, state and local
governments.” It added that unions have warned that this strike could
start after the Nigeria Labor Congress’ and Trade Union Congress’
ultimatum expires on July 14.
South Africa’s Times Live “predicted a marked increase in strike
activity [there] during 2011 by 22 percent compared to last year.” (July
11) Since July 4, 200,000 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of
South Africa have been on strike. They are demanding a 13 percent pay hike
— a living wage.
An additional 70,000 workers, members of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing,
Wood and Allied Workers Union, joined the NUMSA strike on July 11. Peter Rapoo,
the union’s vice-president, warned of petrol shortages if the strike goes
on. (South Africa Business Day, July 11)
Labor actions in the two largest African economies reflect the vagaries of
today’s capitalist crisis, in which workers worldwide face rising
unemployment and attacks on their wages.
These developments, although posing monumental challenges for workers, provide
greater opportunities for international solidarity and joint actions aimed at
reversing the austerity and repression imposed by capitalism and imperialism.
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