(en) Africa/Middle East (2/2)

Sat, 8 Mar 1997 00.00 GMT

FOCUS ON... KENYA Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are experiencing the consequences of drought once again. In the North East of Kenya very little rain has fallen for some 2 years now. For the country's 3.5m nomadic pastoralists drought is simply another factor in their way of life. The problem is land. ------------------------------------ MORE ON AFRICA? http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/search.html ------------------------------------ Charles Eliot, who was Kenya's first colonial govenor, is quoted by George Mombiot(1) as having written in 1904, that in his mind there could, 'be no doubt that the Maasai and many other tribes must go under. It is a prospect which I view with equanimity and a clear conscience'. As Mombiot went on to point out it was not the people themselves he wished to destroy but rather their tribal structures and traditions which keep them uncivilised. Money had to be made and for this to happen the market economy had to be imposed. Settlers were to grow crops which would be sold in order to make the economy economically viable. Indeed today tea and coffee account for nearly 50% of Kenyan exports with the UK being the number one customer. Other, more exotic, crops are harvested by businessmen - often related to powerful politicians - who use the scarce resource that is water on their ostrich and flower farms. More revenue comes of course from the tourists who flock to the parks from which the nomads have been banned. Africa's problems are often seen in the West in terms of too little water, too many cows and too many people. We'll take them in in reverse order. Of the 40 most densely populated countries in the world only two (Rwanda and Burrundi) are in Africa. Yet Africa goes hungry and the overcrowded West feeds and drinks her tea. Kenya's population density is 44/km2 compared with, say, the UK which has 238/km2. Both figures hide regional differences within the borders. In Kenya 75% of the population is crowded into 10% of the overall territory - a figure largely reflecting urbanisation and giving over 400/km2 in places. -------------------------------- >>>>Fact File<<<<
=KENYA= ***Population*** 25.4m ***Population per Km sq.*** 44 ***Human Development index.*** 43 ***Average inflation. 1989-94*** 23.8% ***Main Export Destination*** United Kingdom (16%) ***Foreign Debt as % of GDP.*** 135.2 ***Cost of Living Sept 1994 (New York=100)*** 64 ------------------------------------ They can't all live on tea. Which brings us to livestock. That there is too much in the area as the economists say is to see the region through neo-liberal spectacles. As the drought extends cattle prices (exchange value) are falling, according to The Economist (18/1/97), pointing out along the way how the government has been slow to acknowledge the problem having now asked the United Nations World Food Programme to feed some 500,000 people. We have already shown in a recent focus how such policies have exacerbated this same problem in neighbouring Somalia.


If Western agribusiness is to be given a new dumping ground the mid-term future may be bleaker than it currently is. To those nomads in the area who remain the exchange value of the cattle is not as important as its use value. That is to say as food. They have, as we say, experience of dealing with drought and do so by keeping large herds in order to compensate for the losses they are bound to bear. Their dream is a world without borders where they can roam in freedom. For them the reality is not too little water, too many people and too many cows instead it's too little land, too many guns and too many hostile governments. For example the Randille would head for the slopes of Mount Marsabit when the plains went dry. These areas, however, are now reserved for the tourists and wild life. The traditional leaders of the nomadic tribes have been replaced by officials and appointees who care little about the local people. "The government only serves the interests of agriculturalists," says soru Bonaya, an elder of the Boran tribe. "We elders have been complaining for a long time about overgrazing. There are too few water sources left. But we can't stop outsiders-other nomadic tribes-coming in to graze their cattle. The government has taken away our authority to solve problems with them. It's the district commissioner that decides who can graze where, and he's influenced by political and tribal interests". As they find themselves trapped in this way violence is often close at hand and so are weapons from over the border and into Somalia. Aggression between Somalis and Samburu and Turkana tribesmen in which the national army has been involved has recently broken out. Troublesome nomads are hunted down by helicopter. Retaliation followed last December when one of these helicopters was shot down. The reaction was swift with dozens of the alleged offenders killed. Mombiot explains the background to some of this in his book. While staying with the Takanna he spoke with one of the tribal elders about the tribal confrontations with the Toposa. The elder replied, 'In the old days those people had honour. They would fight us in daylight, with spears, and they came only to steal our cattle. No women were killed, no children were killed. If they killed men they speared them honourably in battle. When we raided the Toposa, we did the same'. But times had changed and now the Toposa have been armed by the Sudanese in a governamental hope that by doing this the Taposa would help them fight their enemy the SPLA (Sudanese People's Liberation Army). Instead they turned their guns on their rival tribe. The Economist article concludes "This vision of nomads economically productive while living harmoniously alongside wild animals in open lands could be realisable if roads and a slaughterhouse were built, and nomadic tribes allowed to develop their own leadership. But Kenya's rulers will not allow it. "Our fate does not play a role in national politics," says Abdul Nassir, son of a nomad and now a businessman. "The government does not help us to develop."' More than likely it never will. It is a different page of history they wish to write.


(1) No Man's Land - George Mombiot (McMillan)

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[recently a subscriber to this list agreed to be interviewed about what is happening in hir country. Let us know if you would like to voice a view in this way - lingvoj@lds.co.uk]

Q: The Middle East - despite the 'peace process' - is still a global flashpoint. How would you assess Israel's geopolitical significance in the region?

A: Israel is part of the first neo-liberal world. It draw most of its political power and backing from the main metropolins - especially the USA. It is used as a threat on the neighboring countries not to get out of line and as a strategic base for emergency need in a future revolt. However, as the Soviet alternative is bankrupt, the services of Israel are less needed and the particular interests of its elite are considered less then before. Moreover, the threat of the fundamentalists in the Arab countries is increasing and thus, the need for compromise with the local capitalists and nationalists is urgent. It seems that the above is the main reason for the Israelian compromise with the Palestinians.

Q How would you describe the attitude of Israelis towards the 'peace process' and the handing over of territory to 'Palestinian control'?

A All the Zionists are very sorry for this. The non-rational religious ones and the extreme nationalists are even furious and want to sabotage it. (They are about 30% of the population. About 20% who are only a bit more realistic, want to compromise as little as possible. They hate the Palestinians. The prime minister and the majority of the government which are more realistic, continue with the 'peace process', but try to harm the Palestinians as much as they can. The previous (center-left) government violated many marts of the agreement and so does the present one. (Economically and in the prevention of free passage frog the Gaza strip to the rest of the Palestinian territories.

Q The PLO has called the proposed new settlement at Har Homa 'an act of war'. Can you assess the significance of the settlements question?

A Israel settled large areas of the occupied territories in a ring around the Arab part of Jerusalem. If they succeed to complete the closer of the ring, the Arab Jerusalem will be annexed more easily and the Palestinians areas in the south of Jerusalem will be cut from those on its north. However, what goes on is like the bargaining in an eastern bazaar: no one know what will be the price... Q Amongst Palestinians how is the power structure developing? How popular is Hamas?

A Among the Arab nations, the Palestinians are the most educated. Before the Israelian occupation system supported the religious organizations they were not too significant. The capitalist Palestinian state is already very stable. Its security services has nearly crushed the dissidents who were not co-opted. The economic flow of many to the Hamas system was cut. The direct occupation was substituted by tens of thousands of Palestinian police man. The Hamas preaching in the Misgads was stoped. Their ability to give social service through their net of welfare neutralized. However, Israel must pay a political price to keep the Palestinian state going and to prevent the mutiny of the Palestinians.

Q What is there in the way of left libertarian organization and opposition in the area?

A I do not know what is going in the Palestinian society. I only heard that there is an anarchist group in Lebanon. In Israel there were all along the last 35 years few dozens of activists who were in the left to the Stalinist party. In the sixties, our organization named Matspen (compass in English) it included in one organization communists anti Zionists of various trends (Jews and Palestinians from the occupation of 1948) with the domination of the libertarian trend. After few splits in the early seventies, nearly all the non libertarians split from us. After the Zionist power on people minds started to crack following the occupation of Lebanon ending in fiasco, and more so after the begining of the Intifada - the uprising of the Palestinians, the left lost its monopoly on the fight against the occupation. In the last few years we are less than dozen activists that still meet regularly - few times a month, and hold the flag... involved in activities of the general left but are not active as an organization.


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