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Hvad får mennesker til at ofre livet over Middelhavet?

Når du møder Middelhavets kyst i din søgen mod Europa, er det første du møder mørket, råben, skrigen og bølgernes evindelige larmen. Du har sandsynligvis aldrig set eller hørt havet før. Du ser et mørke og dyb, der har taget så mange liv før.

Det kræver en særlig desperation selv at sætte sig ned i båden eller sende sine børn ud på denne rejse.

I dette indlæg vil jeg fokusere på menneskene, der forsøger at indrejse i Europa illegalt ved at forsøge at tage turen med gummibåd over Middelhavet fra Libyen oftest. Dette er en vigtig diskussion. Ikke blot fordi, at over 5000 personer skønnes druknet i deres forsøg på at krydse Middelhavet i 2016 alene, hvilket svarer til 14 personer hver eneste dag året rundt, også juleaften. Også fordi at der er intet, der tyder på, at bådturerne slutter foreløbigt. Derfor er det nødvendigt, at vi som europæere forstår, hvad der er på spil for personerne i bådene.

Dette skal også tjene som en uddybning af mediedækningen. For ofte har medierne en tendens til at gøre dette til en statistik på et excel ark. Derigennem forvandles mennesker til tal, og deres agentur og vores medmenneskelighed forsvinder.

De manglende informationer misbruges kynisk af magtbegærlige politikere og meningsdannere, der styrker fordomme og snigende xenofobi.

Jeg vil ikke bruge begreber som immigrant, asylansøger eller flygtning. Disse begreber er ikke ligegyldige, men jeg mener, at de risikerer at overskygge for den bagvedliggende motivation hvorfor, at afrikanere søger mod Europa.

Hvert begreb danner automatisk association hos læseren, der igen risikerer at fjerne opmærksomheden på selve problematikken og fra personen begreberne dækker over. Det er også svært at vurdere, om en person tilhører den ene, anden eller tredje kategori eller flere kategorier samtidigt.

For personen, der flygter, er det ligemeget, om denne kaldes en flygtning, immigrant eller asylansøger. Det gør ikke personens rejse anderledes eller ændrer på, hvem personen er.

Verdens flygtninge er ikke i samlet flok på vej mod Europa. Derfor er det så meget desto vigtigere at forstå motiverne for de personerne, der vælger at tage den potentielt dødelig færd over Middelhavet.

Jeg vil tage et kritisk blik på de mest presserende afrikanske lande, og det vil ske i alfabetisk rækkefølge.

Eritrea, Etiopien, Guinea, Marokko, Nigeria, Senegal og Somalia.

Jeg håber, at du som læser vil finde det interessant.

Eritrea

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Landet oplever ikke en borgerkrig som landene i regionen, som Yemen eller Sydsudan. Landet har aldrig oplevet et kup siden dens uafhængighed d. 23. maj, 1993, og landet er stabilt.

Hvorfor flygter folk så? Eller endnu værre, hvorfor forsøger desperate forældre at få deres børn ud af landet?

At få deres børn til Europa indkluderer en tur gennem Sudan og videre igennem Libyen, en tur kendt for ubeskrivelig vold, voldtægter, afpresning og slavearbejde fra menneskesmuglernes side, før børnene ender i en utæt gummibåd på en strand. Her bliver børnene mødt af mørke, råben, skrige og bølgernes evindelige larmen. Et mørke og dyb, der har taget så mange liv før. Det kræver en særlig desperation at sende sine børn ud på denne rejse.

Min beskrivelse af Eritrea passer også på et andet land, Nordkorea, og Eritrea er mere end en gang blevet sammenlignet med Nordkorea . Landet gennemlever en hungerskatastrofe. Ifølge ACAPS er op mod 50% af alle børn ramt af fejlernæring. Dette til trods afviser det autokratiske styre, med præsident og diktatoren Isaias Afwerki i spidsen, at erkende problemet, og derfor afviser de hjælp fra omverden.

Eritrea bruger store dele af sit begrænset budget på militæret, og der er obligatorisk tvungen værnepligt, kaldet sawa. Problemet er, at hvad der på papiret er en tidsbegrænset stilling, i realiteten er en livstidsdom. Det tvinger folk væk fra deres jorde, og store dele af befolkningen tilbringer deres liv i arbejdslejre, hvor vold, undertrykkelse og underernæring er normen.

Prøver en person at flygte fra et liv i arbejdslejr er dette at anse som landsforræderi og kan straffes med døden. Det sammen kan det, hvis du er flygtet ud af landet, Styret er ikke bleg for at lade straffen gå ud over familiemedlemmer. Hvis et barn er flygtet, kan styret finde på at straffe familien, hvor brug af tortur er systematisk og udbredt. Lige sådan har grænsevogterne fået besked på at skyde for at dræbe efter egne borgere, der forsøger at krydse grænsen illegalt ind til Etiopien. Mange grænsevogtere fortæller helt anonymt, at de forsøger ikke at ramme, omvendt er de bange for følgerne ved ikke at følge ordre.

I øjeblikket er antallet af flygtninge fra Eritrea til Europa faldende, dog udgjorde eritreanerne den syvende største gruppe, der forsøgte at komme til Europa i 2016.

Faldet skyldes ikke bedre lokale forhold, snarere tværtimod, men at EU forsøger aktivt at fralægge sig sine internationale forpligtelser. EU gav ydeligere Eritrea € 200 millioner tilbage i 2015 for at få Eritrea til at reformere landet og for at undgå de mange flygtninge. Surprise, pengene endte i styrets kasse uden ændringer i den førte politik. Pengene kunne også ses som forsøg på at få Eritrea til at fremstå bedre, der ville legitimere hjemsendelse af folk fra Eritrea. Hvilket svarer til at sende folk tilbage til Nordkorea.

EU har også indgået en aftale med Sudan. Sudans Præsident Omar al-Bashir er tiltalt for folkedrab af den Internationale Straffedomstol (International Criminal Court) for uhyrlighederne begået i Darfur mellem 2003-2008.

I april 2016 udbetalte EU €215 millioner til Sudan til at styrke landets grænsekontrollen til Eritrea og generelt undgå, at Sudan bruges som transitland for folks rejse mod Middelhavet.

Følgevirkningerne af EUs pengedonationer er ifølge en anonym menneskerettighedsmedarbejder:

The crackdown on migrants and refugees has escalated (…) The government feels empowered to do whatever they want. They think they can get away with human rights violations like this. They see them as goodwill gestures to the EU to show they are controlling the flow of migrants.

I februar 2017 udtalte MEP, Joгo Pimenta Lopes om EUs støtte til Sudan dette:

Sudan is trying to get its hands on EU funding, seeking to bypass and overcome international sanctions. And the EU is trying to take advantage of the Sudanese government’s intentions in order to enforce its criminal anti-migration policies in the region.

The EU Observer beskriver hvordan, at intensivering styrker Sudans eget militær, som bruger sit eget militær mod egne borgere.

In May, its air force dropped barrel bombs on Heiban, a village in the south. Among the victims were six children from the same family.

I 2016 ankom anslået  20.000 personer illegalt fra Eritrea til Italien.

Ethiopien

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Nabolandet Etiopien gennemlever store problemer. The Ogaden Liberation National Front (OLNF) kæmper aktivt mod det etiopiske styre i den sydlige del af Etiopien grænsende op til Somalia. Ethiopiens kamp mod ONLF beretter Human Rights Watch og Amnesty International om grove og brutale menneskerettighedskrænkelser. Human Rights skriver i deres rapport om Ethiopien:

The Liyu police, a Somali Regional State paramilitary police force without a clear legal mandate, continued to commit serious human rights abuses in their ongoing conflict with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, with reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and violence against civilians who are accused of supporting or being sympathetic to the ONLF.

I Oromo-Regionen er der også store problemer. The Oromo Liberal Front (OLF) kæmper for øget selvstyre men ikke autonomi. Oromo Regionen er den største region, og der bor ca. 33 millioner. Oromo befolkningen har i længere tid oplevet, at deres jord og rettigheder tages fra dem af etparti-regimet i Addis Ababa og vedvarende marginalisering og undertrykkelse. Siden 2015 er demonstrationer taget til efter Tigray-eliten ønsker at udvide landets hovedstad Addis Ababa. En udvidelse vil tage jord fra Oromo, der i forvejen oplever land grabbing. At fratage personer jord, er som hvis staten i Danmark tog din bank- og pensionsopsparing fra dig.

I oktober 2016 indførte regimet et seks måneders undtagelsestilstand rettet mod Oromo, hvor flere tusinde er arresteret og kun få kommer for en dommer for at undgå noget, der kunne blive en borgerkrig. Der rapporteres om overgreb, vi også ser hæren begå mod ONLF.

Igen spiller Verdenssamfundet en negativ rolle i at holde undertrykkelsen og regimets brutalitet i live, ifølge Human Rights Watch:

Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of donor aid in Africa, receiving almost $3 billion in 2015 despite allegations of human rights abuses associated with some development programs, including forced displacement in Gambella and the Omo Valley. There are no indications that donors have strengthened the monitoring and accountability provisions needed to ensure that their development aid does not contribute to or exacerbate human rights problems in Ethiopia.

Foruden vedvarende tørke der bringer hungersnød i dele af landet. Denne lurende katastrofe forværres af styrets brutale undertrykkelse af lokalbefolkningen og øgede udgifter til militæret.

Guinea

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Vi skifter nu fra Afrikas Horn til den afrikanske vestkyst. Guinea har været ramt af den ene ulykke efter den anden. Guinea har en svag og klientistisk stat, der har efterladt en stor del af befolkningen i armod. Det blev udstillet i 2014, da landet blev ramt af ebola. Over 2500 personer nåede officielt at dø af ebola i Guinea mellem 2014-2016, fordi landet ikke havde et velfungerende sundhedssystem eller infrastruktur.

I den seneste rapport fra Afrobarometer gik mere end 50% af befolkningen sultne i seng mere end en gang i 2015. Landet vurderes ydeligere til at være det fjerde fattigste land blandt de 36 afrikanske lande, Afrobarometer undersøgte.

Landet har ligeså en af jordens yngste befolkning, hvor 74% af befolkningen endnu ikke er fyldt 30 år. Den endnu ikke fungerende offentlige sektor gør, at de unge finder job i den uofficielle sektor, hvor mangel på stærke institutioner gør, at vold, trusler og voldtægt er en del af hverdagen og en ussel løn. Landet oplevede også kortvarigt et kup i 2008, hvor landet fik en ny præsident i 2010.

Pga. de manglende fremtidsudsigter søger flere lykken i Europa. Det er en blanding af jagten på en bedre fremtid, eller bare en fremtid, og især for kvinderne, at komme væk fra deres udsatte position og volden fra gaden og politiet.

Marokko

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Landet adskiller fra alle andre lande på det afrikanske kontinent ved, at det rent fysisk grænser op til Europa gennem Spanien. Spanien har to små stykker jord som et levn fra deres kolonitid i Afrika. Det er de to autonome byer Melilla og Ceuta. De er hverisær omgivet af en mur. Når europæere tager afstand fra Trumps ønske om udvidelsen af muren til Mexico, glemmer de fleste europæere, at vi allerede har bygget en sådan mur, som Trump taler om.

De fleste fra Marokko, der kommer i både, er yngre mennesker. Ligesom tilfældet er i Guinea, er der en høj arbejdsløshed, hvor udsigten til en fremtid ikke er den bedste. For nogle er der også tale om en manddomstest at tage turen med båd til Europa og skabe sig en ny fremtid.

Mange er gadebørn eller tidligere gadebørn, der er vokset op med vold og stofmisbrug, hvor de kommer fra en ødelagt familie med vold, alkoholmisbrug og skilsmisseproblemer blandt forældrene. De møder sjældent et system i Europa, der forstår deres baggrund, hvor de bliver mødt af dæmonisering og ses som ballademagere. Stort set ingen europæiske myndigheder er i stand til at imødegå de særlige udfordringer og behov, denne gruppe har, eller udnytter de styrker, disse migranter besidder.

Nigeria

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Kontrasternes land. Nigeria har kontinents andenstørste økonomi, kun overgået af Sydafrika. Landet har olierigdomme, der kunne gøre Norge jaloux, tilmed er olien er langt bedre kvalitet og derfor har en højere værdi end olie fra Skandinavien eller Mellemøsten.

Men Nigeria er også landet, der altid har haft svært ved at fungere. Nigeria har siden sin fødsel år 1960, forsøgt at få de forskellige etniske grupper til at samarbejde. Allerede i 1967 brød det sammen, hvor de fleste har hørt om Biafra-krigen, hvor majoritetsbefolkningen af igbo forsøgte at løsrive sig fra Nigeria. Det blev slået hårdt ned. Siden fulgte det ene kup efter det andet.

Mens store dele af det afrikanske kontinent oplevede en demokratisering i starten af 1990erne, sad Nigeria fast, efter valget i 1993 blev erklæret ugyldigt, da regeringen tabte. General Abacha kuppede magten hurtigt og styrede landet med brutal hånd. Landet overgik først til demokrati i 1999 efter Abachas død.

Pga. olien har forskellige ledere fokuseret på de hurtige penge end på at udvikle landets industri og landbrug, der førte til den hollandske syge. I dag er landet stadig en monoøkonomi. Det betyder, at landet kun har en reel eksportvare, olie. Et råstof er let at kontrollere, hvilket har medført, at landet har en lille rig elite, mens ca. 50% af befolkningen på omkring 200 millioner lever for under FNs fattigdomsgrænse ($1.90 per dag).

Kender du ikke den rette person, patron, kan det være svært at få et arbejde, der giver en løn, du kan leve af, uden du skal stå langs en vej for at sælge vand, legetøj, slik, spejle, tøjdyr, mad, malebøger, og meget andet i 16 timer i den bagende sol for at tjene småøre. Lokalbefolkningen kan sikkert kritiseres for meget, men at være dovne er ikke en af dem.

At en elite sidder på magten og pengene kan ses i de mange såkaldte nigeriabreve (4-1-9 letters), du nok også har modtaget. Indholdet er ofte, at jeg er en prins fra Nigeria, og jeg vil gerne dele min formue med dig.

De fleste folk laver enten sjov med disse email, og andre håner afsenderne. De færreste går ind og forstår indholdet.

Indholdet reflekterer, hvordan afsenderne forstår Nigeria og deres egen situation. Personerne, de forgiver at være i brevene, er ubeskrivelig rige. Jeg er personligt blevet tilbudt $36 millioner (DKK 250 millioner). Ingen er i tvivl om, at eliten er rig i Nigeria, men deres rigdom gøres større end den med rimelighed må anses at være i disse mails. Ved at gøre de rige rigere, gør afsenderen sig selv fattigere og følelsen af magtesløshed forøges.

Indholdet afspejler også, at afsenderen af mailen har mistet tilliden til system og staten. De rige fremstilles, at de ikke ønsker at dele deres penge med befolkningen, men forsøger at gemme pengene i udlandet. Hvad der også overses er, at afsenderne ser verden globalt. De rige samarbejder med vestlige lande, hvor de kan gemme deres penge i vores banker. Den del er ikke forkert forøvrigt. Brevene er delvis fiktion, men de afspejler skræmmende godt de ulighedsfremmende mekanismer og vestlige landes hykleri.

Livet på gaden er også præget af vold fra kunderne, politiet og andre sælgere, og voldtægt er heller ikke ualmindeligt. Det får mange til at søge andre steder hen, og Europa er et af stederne. Sydafrika er også populært. Det er også her, at årsagen til, at nigerianske kvinder sælger sex på Istegade blandt andre steder. Fattigdom, hvor mange forsøger at tage kontrollen med deres eget liv ved at søge andre jobmuligheder.

Går du en tur langs gader i Nigeria, vil du af lokalbefolkningen blive vejledt om hvem, der bor i de dyre huse med de næsten dyre biler parkeret i garagen. Om de heldige, der kom til Europa som fattige og vendte tilbage rige. Men det er de få der huskes, og de mange der glemmes. Som at se på vinderne i pyramidespil eller i lotto, og glemme alle de 99,9% andre, der ikke vandt, men kom tilbage lige så fattige, som da de tog afsted.

Det nordlige Nigeria er traditionelt fattigere end det sydligere. I det NV Nigeria er det bureaukratiske system fra det førkoloniale Sokoto Kalifat stadig bevaret. Det var det største rige i Vestafrika indtil 1903, hvor Storbritannien afsatte kaliffen. Det giver dem en magt, der gør, at de får del i oliepengene. I det NØ Nigeria lå det tidligere Borno Kalifat, en opponent til Sokotokalifatet. Den NØ region tilhører den absolut fattigste del af Nigeria, især de to regioner Borno og Adamawa. Det NØ Nigeria grænser op til Chadsøen, der pga. klimaforandringer og rovdrift på søen fra bønder fra Nigeria, Chad, Niger og Cameroun, der er ved at tørre ud.

0281-lakechad-EN_0.jpgKilde: ECC Library

Det, sammen med længerevarende tørke, har forstærket den allerede stigende fattigdom.

Det forstærker også vold og mord mod marginaliserede grupperinger internt i befolkningen, når der kæmpes om de samme knappe resourcer. Kampe, der fører til gengældelsesangreb. Nomadegruppen fulani er en særlig risikogruppe.

Blandingen af fattigdom, ekstrem ulighed, at staten ikke har investeret i landbrug og industri og klimaforandringer gør, at befolkningen søger nye græsgange. Det har også givet ilt til terrorgruppen Boko Haram, der også genererer flygtninge gennem deres hærgen og tvungen forsøg på at rekruttere unge mænd. Det nigerianske militærs krigsforbrydelser har også skubbet på for, at folk forsøger at skabe sig en fremtid et andet sted. I 2016 udgjorde folk fra Nigeria den andenstørste gruppe fra Afrika, og den ottende største gruppe i alt, hvilket i runde tal dækker over  36.000 nigerianere.

Senegal

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Landet fremstår som det gode eksempler på et stabilt afrikansk land. Landet er blandt de mest stabile lande i Afrika overhovedet. Siden landets uafhængighed fra Frankrig i 1960, har landet aldrig oplevet et kup, og landet er kendt som en fredelig og sikker rejsedestination for især fransktalende. Men bag facaden lurer et oprør. Oprøret brød ud i lys luge i 2012, og i dag er årsagerne til oprøret stadig ikke løst.

I 2012 forsøgte den tidligere Præsident Abdoulaye Wade at genopstille for en tredje præsidentperiode. Det er ulovligt iht. forfatningen, hvor en præsident maks. må genvælges en gang. Under Præsident Wade var mad- og huspriserne steget kraftigt, der tog hårdt på lokalbefolkningen. Da han søgte om genvalg for anden gang udbrød der kraftige demonstrationer.

Wade tabte valget til landets nuværende Præsident, Macky Sall. Han igangsatte reformer af fødevaresektoren, men siden er meget lidt sket.

Senegals primære indtægt har været fra fiskeri og jordnøddeproduktion. Men den intensive jordnøddeproduktion har udpint jorden, og fiskeri besværliggøres af udenlandske fiskere og især fiskemelsfabrikker.

Fabrikkerne medfører, at:
1) prisen på fisk fortsætter med at stige

2) fisk, der kunne blive brugt til at brødføde lokalbefolkningen, i stedet eksporteret til vesten, hvor de ender som billigt dyrefoder.

Folk søger derfor andre steder pga. fødevareknaphed, klimaforandringer, en udpint jord, høje priser på fødevarer, og at EU med flere eksporterer landets knappe fødevareressourcer ud af landet for at brødføde vores dyr.

Hvis situationen ikke snart ændrer sig, kan oprøret i 2012 være en forsmag på den revolution, der ligger og venter om hjørnet.

Somalia

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Somalia har oplevet problemer lige siden kolonitiden, hvor Storbritanniens og Italiens politik ødelagde nomadesamfundene, der medførte en menneskelig katastrofe, og lagde fundamentet til mange af problemerne i Somalia i dag.

Somalias situation forværres af nabolandet Ethiopien i nord. I 1977 brød den Kolde Krig ud på Afrikas Horn. Ethiopiens Derg-regime blev støttet af Sovjetunionen og Somalia støttet af USA. I juli 1977 angreb Somalia Ethiopien, hvor Somalia mente at hele Ogaden-regionen tilhørte dem. I marts 1978 opgav Somalia deres krav om kontrol af Ogaden efter flere nederlag.

Angrebet sidder stadig i Ethiopien. På den ene side er Ethiopien ikke interesserede i, at terrorgruppen for fodfæste i Somalia, på den anden side er de ikke interesserede i, at Somalia bliver for velfungerende. Et stabilt Somalia kunne påny udgøre en trussel mod Ethiopien og deres magtposition. Ethiopiens støtte til Somalia i kampen mod al-Shaabab er derfor et tveægget sværd.

Somalias naboland i vest Kenya har også skjulte motiver i deres støtte til Somalia. I regionen, der grænser op til Kenya, er der store mængder olie, hvor Kenya anklages for forsøg på at få adgang til denne resource på illegal vis. Kenya har derfor også en interesse i, at Somalia ikke bliver for stærk en stat.

Samtidig lider Somalia under, at landet reelt ikke længere findes pga. klanopgør, autonome stater, som Somaliland, at fødevaresektoren er brudt sammen, og at voldelige grupper dominerer. Den mest kendte er terrorgruppen al-shabaab.

Vestens støtte til Ethiopien er et stort problem, som nævnt under afsnittet om Ethiopien. Verdenssamfundet lod også stå til mens at udenlandske aktører dumpede giftigt affald ud for Somalias kyst, mens andre aktører bedrev rovfiskeri. Disse aktiviteter ødelagde det lokale fiskeri, der igen var en medfaktor hvorfor, at lokalbefolkningen begyndte at angribe udenlandske skibe der eskalerede til organiserede pirateri.

I dag flygter folk fra vold, usikkerhed, en stat i opløsning, tørke der forværres af klimaændringerne, og selvmordsbombere.

Borgerkrige i Afrika

Hvis du læste godt efter, vil du have opdaget, at de lande i Afrika, hvor flest folk er på flugt, at de lande ikke er omtalt blandt de syv førnævnte. Det er fordi, som tidligere nævnt, at de fleste folk ikke er på vej mod Europa. Borgerkrigen i Burundi får folk til at flygte til nabolandene, især Uganda og Tanzania. Borgerkrigen i den Central Afrikanske Republik får folk til at søge til Sudan og Cameroun. Borgerkrigen I Sydsudan får folk til at flygte til Ethiopien, Uganda, Darfur i Sudan og Kenya. Kun et fåtal ender i Europa.

Det kan ses bedst ved, at 2/3 ud af de anslået 65 millioner mennesker på flugt på verdensplan, aldrig forlader deres lands grænser. Når de gør, er det til nabolandene.

Europa er ikke verdens navle, og Afrikas flygtninge er dermed ikke i samlet march mod Europa. Det mere end illustrerer, at Europa ikke har en flygtningekrise, vi har en politisk krise, selvom vore politikere hævder det modsatte. Det giver sig udslag ved at Dublinforordningen er brudt sammen, og EU-landene ikke har formået at gennemføre en mere fair fordelingspolitik. At de store konflikter i fx Afrika sjældent mærkes i Europa understreger dette faktum.

Folk fra de førnævnte lande flygter selv til andre afrikanske lande. Personer fra Somalia og Nigeria har diaspora over hele jorden.

Flere afrikanske lande har en reel flygtningekrise. For at sammenligne Danmark og Uganda. Uganda tillader flygtninge at arbejde, mens Danmark har vedtaget en lov, der lovliggør beslaglæggelse af asylansøgeres værdigenstande for at kunne betale for den financielle byrde, og mens en asylansøgers sag behandles skal denne sidde på et center afskærmet fra det omgivende samfund. Når en ansøger forsøger at benytte de rettigheder denne har, kaldes denne for grisk af den danske Integrationsminister, Inger Støjberg.

Det til trods for at Danmarks anslået BNP er næsten 100x større end Ugandas, er det Danmark, der hiver det økonomisk kort op af lommen, mens Uganda stadig står med åbne arme. Uganda huser allerede 600.000 flygtninge, og FN forventer, at ydeligere 300.000 fra Sydsudan ankommer i løbet af 2017. Til sammenligning gav Danmark asyl til lidt over 6.000 personer i 2016.

I øjeblikket  huser Uganda, Kenya og Ethiopien ca. 700.000 flygtninge hver.

Konklusion
Den ene konklusion ville korrekt være, at den Afrikanske Union ikke er noget værd, at flere afrikanske ledere er aktivt med til at forværre situationen for egne borgere.

En anden og ligeså korrekt konklusion ville være, at EU spiller en aktiv rolle i at forværre situationen på kontinentet, der negativt påvirker antallet af mennesker på flygt. Det er at fratage mennesker deres levebrød i Senegal og bruge det til foder til vores dyr. At give penge til ledere i Eritrea, Ethiopien og Sudan, der styrker diktatoriske leders greb om magten, skaber flygtningestrømme, og begår grove menneskerettighedskrænkelser med EUs velsignelse. Og Vestlige landes accept af at opbevare penge fra korrupte ledere i vores banker.

Det vigtigste er dog at huske, at ofrene er de samme, personerne i bådene. De flygter fra arbejdsløshed, fattigdom, vold, krig, alkoholiserede forældre, og staters ligegyldighed i søgen på det samme som os: sikkerhed, håb og en fremtid.

PS: læser man nyhederne alene, kan man få det indtryk, at migration er noget nyt. Mennesket har altid migreret, ellers var der ingen mennesker i Danmark. Migration på tværs a Middelhavet mellem Afrika og Europa har fundet sted i flere tusind år, og det vil mure og andet ikke ændre på.

You Want to Set Up a Farm in Africa?

Before I start, what do I know about farming, and why should you listen to me? Firstly, my grandparents were farmers, where I spend a lot of time as a child. I have, however brief, worked for the largest Danish agricultural lobby organisation, the Danish Agriculture and Food Council as a culture, market and security analyst on African countries, I have visited local farmers in Ghana, and I have read on the issue of agriculture in Africa among other issues at the University of Copenhagen in relation to my Master’s in African Studies and Human Rights.

That were the formalities, let’s get down to the hard facts; the population of Africa is on the rise, and so is the urbanisation. Currently, the population of Africa is estimated 1.2 billion people. By 2040, the African population is said to have doubled to two billion people.

On urbanisation, in 2030, it is expected that half of all Africans live in the cities. That leaves nearly 1 billion people completely reliant on buying foodstuff for personal consumption since few would be able to grow the food they need themselves. Meaning a huge and expanding market larger than that of the EU and the USA combined.

But, there is always a but, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. This piece will cover the cons and pros about farming in Africa, and end with some few piece of advice in how to prosper as a farmer in Africa. This piece predominantly targets foreigners contemplating trying to start an agricultural business in Africa. Though, I hope there might be some useful material for local farmers. It is a rather long piece so you might want to skip the parts that do not relate to your needs.

1) Cons

  • Poor Soil Quality
  • The Purchasing Power is Limited
  • An Expensive Investment
  • Corruption and Ports
  • Climate Change
  • Flawed Infrastructure
  • You Are at the Bottom of the Value Chain

2) Pros

  • Growing Population and Expanding Market Possibilities
  • Possibility to Harvest Twice a Year
  • Access to Educated Labour
  • Add Value to Your Products Domestically and Internationally
  • Tax Exceptions

3) General Knowledge in How to Succeed and CSR

4) The End

1) Let’s Talk about the Cons 

Poor Soil Quality
Africa is the second largest continent in the world. It covers 30,370,000 km2 (11,730,000 sq. mi), and as previously mentioned, consists of just above 1 billion people. Hence Africa is smaller than Asia, and having a population smaller than that of China or India. But Africa is so big, that you can fit China, India, the US, and the Western and Eastern Europe inside Africa, and still have room left. Meaning, on paper, there is a lot of land available for agriculture. The problem is the soil quality is poor in large parts of Africa. Not only places like the Sahara or the Kalahari Desert, but huge chunks of Africa are unsuitable for farming.

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Despite the fact, that the continent of Africa is huge, and the continent, compared to Asia or Europe, is extremely under-populated, it is very important to do extensive research on the soil quality at the location, you want to set up a farm. Also to add cost and what kind of fertiliser, you would need in order for you to produce enough to earn a surplus. You should also investigate how huge fields might create soil erosions, that forces you to have smaller plots and to grow more than one food crop.

In parts of Africa, the soil is fragile, and the nutrients are located in the top layer, making it impossible to apply the plough. If you plough too deep, the nutrients are gone, and the soil becomes barren. In several places, like Senegal and the Gambia, the extreme focus on just one crop, groundnuts, have degraded the soil removed most of the nutrients there once were.

So you would have to check the soil quality, and you would also not be able to apply the same means of farming in Africa as in Europe or America.

The Purchasing Power is Limited
Even the population of Africa is big and growing, the people are generally poor. In 2011, a report from the African Development Bank (AfDB) argued, that 34% of the African population or 326,664,000 people belonged to the African middle class. However, to reach this number, they included everyone having an income between $2 – $20 a day. Earning $2 a day does not make you a member of the middle class, which the AfDB acknowledges themselves in the report by referring to this group as the “floating class” and not the middle class. But they still included the floating class as part of the middle class, making the middle class significantly larger than it is.

In 2015, Credit Suisse released a report saying, that just below 19 million Africans were part of the middle class or 3.3% of the African population. The majority of the middle class live in South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt. 0.2% of the African population belongs to the upper class, again according to Credit Suisse.

More significantly, the middle class of Africa was not growing. The double-digit economic growth benefitted a small group of people, but it did not benefit the vast majority of the African people, the main conclusion was.

But you have to bear in mind, that the data from several African countries are poor. And how does one measure the value of housework, landownership, and cattle? Often an African country does not even know how much food is produced by local farmers. That makes it hard to calculate how large or small a middle class really is. Several people are also floating middle class depending on harvest and the definition of what a middle class is.

My point is, that whatever size the middle class, your potential buyers, is said to be, it will always be an estimate based on real numbers, educated guesses, and at times just guesses. That regardless if the numbers come from Credit Suisse, AfDB, or the World Bank. Use the numbers, but also do not take these numbers at face value.

An Expensive Investment
You will likely need to import everything you need in order to run an effective and efficient farm. That being tractors, machines, the spare parts to each tractor and each machine, but also fertiliser and generators, because of frequent power outages. An option could be to invest in solar cells.

Furthermore, you would need to train your local staff to be able to operate this new equipment and to teach how to fix common problems that do occur handling the tractors and machines. That is why this shall be seen as an investment. It is like buying a stock. You need to spend money to make money. In this case, you would need to invest a lot of money.

Corruption and Ports
Another problem is to get your goods through the ports. Farmers report about months of waiting to get access to their imported equipment.

Even when farmers are invited to settle, it can take a long time to get even simple things through the various ports. In 2011, the government of the Republic of the Congo (not to be confused with the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo) invited farmers from South Africa to settle in order to revitalise the Congolese agricultural sector, where they were giving land in the fertile Niari valley. Not only did the farmers have to clear the land first, they also reported that it took months to get their equipment through the ports. In 2014, only 9 out of the 28 South African farmers were still trying, the rest were forced to give up due to debt and other difficulties.

The situation is much better in several other African countries, but it is a general problem.

Then we have not even dealt with everyday corruption, that varies a lot. But it can prolong the process when trying to get documents accepted for instance.

Climate Change
Climate change is real, and it is already affecting several areas in Africa. Once you could be sure when the rainy seasons and dry seasons began or ended. Today, these seasons are becoming increasingly unreliable. The dry seasons are longer, and the showers tend to be fewer but more intense. When we talk about this huge continent, sure the effects of climate change varies, but it is a fact, that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. That means the crops you were able to grow some few years ago, those same crops might no longer be suitable. The heavy rainfalls further risk to literally wash the crops of your field away, forcing you to replant. That is costly.

Also due to the prolonged dry seasons, we begin to experience, locating your farm near a major lake could be an option to have access to water during the dry seasons. Another risk is desertification due to soil degradation, deforestation, and dry weather.

Flawed Infrastructure
It is no secret, that the roads in most parts of Africa are in a detestable state. Even several African countries have begun to do some serious upgrading of their roads and railways,

Circle_night.jpgKwame Nkrumah Circle, Accra, Ghana, 2016

these upgrades are mostly occurring in or near the cities, or the new roads are constructed from the mining areas to the nearest port. Meaning not where your farm likely will be located. That also impacts how to get your equipment to the farm, for your workers to get to work, and for you to get your harvest crops from the farm to the destination, whether that been the port for export or to the local market.

These challenges have different solutions depending on the country, the distance to the nearest paved road, among other things.

As formerly mentioned, the water and power supply will as well be unreliable, where you need to take that into account.

You Are at the Bottom of the Value Chain
The more a product is processed, the higher value it gets. You earn more money selling chocolate than cocoa beans. You earn more selling butter than milk. You earn more selling juice than fruits.

As a farmer, you produce the raw, unprocessed material. You are at the bottom of the value chain. Every time someone processes your crop value is added to your product. That means you have to be able to produce larger quantities in order to make a profit due to the limited value your crops represent.

That happens at the same time, that you rely on the weather, and as aforementioned, due to climate change, that has become less and less reliable. That is a constraint since you rely on the ability to produce enough every year while doing so in an effective and efficient manner.

2) Let’s Talk about the Pros

Growing Population and Expanding Market Possibilities
Because of the growing population, there are enough people in the rural areas as well in order to run a successful agriculture business. Previously, the underpopulation meant, that it was economic unsound to start a green revolution. Today, it makes economic sense.

Furthermore, under the cons, I discussed the growing middle class perhaps was a mirage. Both AfDB and Credit Suisse measure poverty in economic terms.

But the African think tank, the Afrobarometer, uses a different method for measuring poverty, the Lived Poverty Index. Instead, to measure the perceived income of a person, they ask if the person has faced a shortage of basic necessities within the previous year.

In 2016, their latest conclusion was that not only is lived poverty declining but also that fewer people go to bed hungry. The divide is stunning, however. In Burundi, 72% of the people have gone to bed hungry at least once in the past year. In Ghana, it is only 28%. But if we only look at the total number of people, who often or alway go to bed hungry, then 86% of the total African population included in the survey go to bed with full stomachs. 54% of the population never go to bed hungry at all. Just 14% of the population are too poor to be able to purchase food. As just mentioned, the numbers vary a lot between countries.

That means, even the level of poverty is striking, the vast majority of the people can afford to buy foodstuff, meaning there are a growing market and local buyers for your products. Since the population is growing, it will double within the few decades, the market is ever expanding.

Possibility to Harvest Twice a Year
Due to the rainy seasons and the warm climate, you can harvest twice a year, which is a major upside compared to the situation in the cold North.

Access to Educated Labour
African countries spend a large sum of money on importing foodstuff, so they have begun to focus on improving their own agricultural sector and to improve the training of young people. This varies a lot from country to country, and several countries find it hard to motivate the young people to work on a farm when they prefer to live in the cities. Anyhow, education is improving, more people can read and write, also more complicated material. Some might as well be skilled in farming. Use the available skilled labour force.

Add Value to Your Products Domestically and Internationally
There are several ways in adding value to your product. One way is to become organic. Because of the soil, you will discover, that to be an organic farmer produces greater yields. If your farm is recognised as an organic farm, not only would you be able to have greater yields, you would also be able to demand a higher price for your crops.

You also have to decide, if you would like to produce for the local or the international market. The different markets have different demands, you have to take into account. Also the cost of exporting the harvest crops to e.g. Europe. It is also often the European markets, where people are willing to pay extra for organic foodstuff. Though, the African middle and upper class are also showing increasing interest in buying organic foodstuff.

You can also begin to process your harvest crops. Begin to produce biscuits, ice cream, soya milk, canned tomatoes, or chocolate. The possibilities are endless. People can buy the same products in stores, but these are often imported, therefore expensive, and only available for the rich elite. You would be able to produce the same products better and cheaper. You can then decide to lower the price notably to reach a greater segment of the population, or to lower the price some, so the people going to the big shopping malls favour your products.

If you choose the first option, your profit margin will be significantly less, but more people will be able to purchase your product. If you choose the second option, your profit margin can be big, but you will compete with other companies trying to reach the same small rich segment of society.

What is the best solution? That depends on the product, the country, and other factors.

Tax Exceptions
To attract farmers from other countries, several African countries offer favourable deals. At times these include you do not have to pay taxes for a certain period of time, you do not have to pay a tariff of imported equipment, and/or you will enjoy other benefits. Each country has different offers, so remember to make inquiries about what benefits you can enjoy.

3) General Knowledge in How to Succeed and CSR
Regardless if you enjoy tax exception or not, it is highly recommendable to support the local community, you will become a part of. It could be to donate money to the local school, the church/mosque, and to support local initiates.

Remember as well to respect the elderly and the chiefs. Become part of the community.

I cannot guarantee, that you will succeed when becoming a respectful member of the local society, but I can almost guarantee, that if you do not, you will fail.

You can also see the local farmers as possible trading partners. You do not use your machines 90% of the time anyway, so a possibility could be to rent some of your machines to the other farmers to earn some extra. When importing fertiliser, import extra and sell it to the other farmers for a reasonable price.

When you do so, it will not only benefit your own business, but it will benefit the entire community.

It is also a good idea to demand stricter rules of yourselves than what the legal requirements demand. The rules are changed constantly. By setting a higher bar for yourselves, not only can you produce a better product, you also become less vulnerable to sudden legislative changes.

Lastly, CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, is a fancy word, but to make it short, treat your workers and the surrounding society with respect, and be a good employer.

The End
Why Africa? Since the time of Brazza and Stanley, European countries believed Africa was home to an El Dorado. Where a poor man could become rich easily. For most men, life became very different than what they had hoped upon their journey from Europe to Africa. The same is the case today. As every place else, you must work hard to succeed, and you shall think of the long term objective.

It takes a special personality to settle in an African country. You shall be able to think out of the box, learn to haggle, to see opportunities where other people see obstacles.

Despite the problems, unlike Europe, where it is hard to find a farm, to buy land is expensive, and the competition tough, Africa is still underpopulated, and the demand for foodstuff is just on the rise. The potential of Europe and the US for that matter have been exploited to the fullest. Africa is still waiting for the green revolution, and the time is ripe.

You like to set up a farm from scratch and to see it grow and feel the pride in turning a piece of land into a thriving business. You are willing to become part of a new community, and to be able to not only see yourself succeed but to assist in making your new employees and the society you become a part of succeeding as well.

Of course, there are several other things to be aware of, and I have not even touched the issue of aquaculture, or the various political, culture, market and security analyses needed. Why it would be a good idea to team up with a person with an intimate and in-depth knowledge on Africa (like me) before jumping into the farming business in Africa. But when you make the final decision, even it is hard work, with the right preparation and humbleness, you will not regret it!

For more info, back in 2016, I wrote this short piece (Danish): Vi ved for lidt om Afrika

How Bad Are Numbers On Africa Really?

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The movie “The Big Short”, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis published in 2010, tells the story how the housing market collapsed because the banks sold shit based on bad numbers. Just a few people cared to crush the numbers to see that the housing market was built on said shit:

Mark: “Mortgage bonds are dog shit. CDOs are dog shit wrapped in cat shit?
Jared: “Yeah, that is right”

The premise of the movie is, that no one cared about the trustworthiness of the numbers for several reasons, which I will return to later.

This blog is about Africa, and the subject regarding numbers are bad if not shit is relevant here as well. A lot of numbers are floating around concerning Africa. A lot of numbers are created right now.

I want to ask, if much of the information about Africa, in reality, is dog shit wrapped in cat shit, later to be served as trustworthy to the audience by credible agencies?

If yes, is information about Africa a shit bubble waiting to burst?

This is important! Numbers matter because they are our umbilical cord. Without credible numbers, we are screwed. These numbers are used by NGOs, the UN, companies, governments, and you and I. Numbers are the bedrock of our knowledge about African and each African country. And about your own country.

If the numbers about Africa are wrong, the Africa we are presented does not exist, and policy makers, journalists, market analysts, everybody, end up producing policies and strategies based on shit. Such policies and strategies will fail.

 

Trustworthiness of the World Bank?
Metadata
Metadata is the data in how the numbers came to be. How many people were asked, when where they asked, how were they asked, who were these people, and how were they located? Quantitative or qualitative research?

It defines definitions. If you said, that you interviewed the youth, what is the definition of youth?

See it as an ingredient list. When you buy a food product, you like to know what is in it. If the company did not include an ingredient list, you have every reason to doubt the content of the product, you are about to purchase. The same is the case for numbers.

It is the metadata that indicates if the numbers used are reliable or unreliable.

That is the core problem, for long periods of time, we do not have any metadata for several African countries. But we shall have numbers.

In the movie, the credit rating agencies gave triple AAA ratings to loans that actually belonged in the trash. In Africa, the World Bank and other institutions give data credibility. But are these numbers credible?

 

Credibility of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
The World Bank and the IMF get their numbers from the African statistician officers and their own people. According to economist Morten Jerven, the officers in the vast African countries are:
1) Understaffed
2) Under-paid
3) Under-financed
4) Under-appreciated
5) Not skilled due to the above-mentioned problems.

These institutions know this, but they forget to tell the readers that when reports are released.

Jerven especially criticises the per diem allowances. It provides the statisticians a reason to stay in the field collecting data, but there is little incentive to actually sit at the desks to analyse the collected data.

He directly states, that data from Chad and Malawi is virtually non-existent, but the institutions do not even add a footnote telling the readers about this fact (Jerven 2013:101).

To make matters worse, to be able to measure a reliable growth and hence the size of a country’s GDP, you need a base year. The recommendation is, that the base year is revised every 5th year. Some African countries have not changed their base year for 20 years or more. Some countries do not even have a base year. Meaning, the majority of African countries’ GDP are nothing more than a guess.

To make it worse, several base years are from the 1980s when African countries were severely affected by the economic crises. The growth rates at that time were unusually slow and are not representative of the country in question in how it normally performed. The consequence is that several African countries’ GDP are significantly higher in reality than shown on paper. It is even higher if we included remittances, which are three times greater than aid given by foreign donors.

When Ghana revised its base year from 1993 to 2006 its economy grew by +60%. When Nigeria did the same in 2012, its economy became Africa’s biggest overnight. After 2012, the new estimate said that Nigeria’s economy grew by the size equivalent of 52 times Malawi-sized economies (Jerven 2015:105).

 

Imaginary Growth Rates?
Another result is when rebasing occurs infrequently and growth appears, then we do not really know anything else than the economy was bigger than expected. We do not know when the growth took place.

It is like you stepping on the scale. You went on the scale in the year 2000 and your weight was 120 kg. You need to lose weight. In  2017, you step on the scale again and this time your weight in 70 kg. You have lost 50 kg. That is great news. But we only know that you have lost weight somewhere in between the year 2000 and the year 2017. In theory, you could have gained weight the last year. A man then walks in asking you to accumulate your weight loss retroactively to have happened within the last few weeks. Suddenly, it appears you have had an amazing weight loss in the past month.

But we both know that is not what happened.

But that is exactly what the IMF asked Nigeria to do.

The IMF asked the Nigerian government to apply the growth retroactively, to be sliced out to the latest previous years. When it was done, it appeared Nigeria had experienced a rapid and recent growth. The reality is, that we do not know. We know Nigeria has experienced growth, but not when the growth occurred. This is done elsewhere as well. Meaning, the so-called African Lion economies might be a statistical illusion.

The variations in base years, growth rates, and more mean, that when various institutions rate African countries on how poor or rich these countries are measured by each country’s GDP, these institutions do not agree. Jerven went through Maddison, WDI (World Bank), and the Penn World Tables.

Guinea is ranked as the 7th, 31st, and 35th poorest country in Africa dependently which source you use.

Liberia is ranked as the 22nd, 7th, and 2nd poorest country in Africa.

Because the numbers are so bad, the above-mentioned institutions derive at different results. Due to limited access to the metadata, the readers have no idea which data set is the most trustworthy if any.

So the numbers are flawed if not useless. The worst example Jerven mentions is the case of  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Even FAO provides data on crops in West Africa, the reality is, we have absolutely no idea how much food is produced (Jerven 2013:78).

 

General Problems in Data Collection Resulting in Poor Number
Bias naturally occurs, when data is collected, but people using the data seem unaware of this fact. The bias is visible when measuring corruption. Transparency International knows this, why it is called the Corruption Perception Index. People’s perceptions are flawed. If you are told that this football team is good and the other team sucks, you are more likely to overstate the greatness of the team, you believe is good, and understate the performance of the other team.

It is called confirmation bias and memory bias. We like to portray the world as we are told.

When you are asked about the level of corruption in Denmark and Nigeria, you are more likely to underestimate the level of corruption in Denmark and overestimate the level of corruption in Nigeria. This is the case because, you have been told, that Denmark has a low level of corruption and Nigeria is extremely corrupt. Hence, we should stay skeptical to corruption ratings. They are inherently flawed.

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
When measuring GDP, women’s work is forgotten. That is especially worrisome in informal economies. If you hire a servant to clean your house, cook your food and so on, that work is included in the GDP. If you marry your servant, and the person does the same job, but now it is no longer credited as work. Consequently, work done my women are excluded and women become invisible.

 

What Does It Mean That the Numbers Are Bad?
That current implication is that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stands on shaky grounds. How do we know the data collected to check if the goals are fulfilled are carried out properly? Furthermore, the SDGs undermine the statistical work. Instead, to fund better numbers, more is done to overburden the personnel. It is the wrong path!

For now, the data available is a mixture of educated guesswork and blind assumptions. At times, the data consists of even extrapolated data. Extrapolated data can roughly be compared to CDOs “dog shit covered in cat shit” to paraphrase the movie. Based on limited data from a few African countries, suddenly scholars make universal claims. You cannot do that! Because you have data from Ghana, that does not mean we know anything about Lesotho.

When the data collecting is carried out by local statisticians, what is not counted? If you have to use your limited funding to investigate issues relevant to donors, like the SDGs, what areas are not forgotten? What is not counted? It might not be relevant to donors, but it could be relevant for the local government.

This is not a critic of the statisticians, they work the best they can and they are doing amazing considering the limited tools they have. They need proper funding, proper personnel, proper tools, and proper respect.

Some Africans countries are trying to improve this sector, like Uganda. The new Ghanaian government has also announced, it is going to reform the statical database. African governments are not the enemies. They have an interest too in having access to trustworthy numbers. Embrace it

However, sometimes it is better to be aware, that you do not have the needed data than to act based on wrong data believed to be true.

 

Cultural Analyses – Hofstede
Another set of data is the ones from cultural studies. Scholars trying to provide the readers with an overview how Africans are, based on various cultural indicators. Sometimes, these cultural analyses are done by people, who clearly have no idea how pluralistic and large several African countries are. The data they produce is clearly extrapolated and based on limited sample sizes (how to lie with statistics). A more popular scholar in this field is  Geert Hofstede. His cultural analyses on African countries are bullshit.

First of all, because the numbers are weak. His sample sizes are ridiculously small, and his methodology severely criticised. The samples are not representative, and he does not even have samples from several African countries, but he still produces data. That is problematic.

The consequences are unbelievably laughable if it was not so tragic.

Nigeria: First of all, he sees Nigerians as a monolithic group. In reality, Nigeria consists of 200 million people divided between various ethnic groups. Nigeria is more diverse than Western Europe. That is completely forgotten, or more likely, Hofstede doesn’t know. Then he points out, that Nigerians do not like to work. Simply false. The level of inequality in Nigeria is huge, and for people to survive, they are willing to work 16 hours straight under the burning sun. They are a hardworking people. Most of them. We all have that lazy nephew. But that is the case everywhere. Our lazy nephew is the exception, not the rule.

He also states that Nigerians do not have a long time orientation. Also false. It takes practice to become good at something. The Nigerian national football team, called The Super Eagles, won the African Cup in 2013. That requires long time orientation. To be good at football, dedicated commitment is requested. We also have Nigerians trying to seek greener pastures in other African countries and/or in Europe. Why? To find work, make a saving, and to start a family. Long time orientation. These cultural traits presented by Hofstede reflects how the researcher views Nigeria, but it does not reflect how Nigeria and Nigerians are.

Angola: According to Hofstede, Angola is a place, where “conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation.”

The reality is, that the country is ruled by the dictator, José Eduardo dos Santos, who through a civil war fought his enemies ruthlessly. Today, Angola is one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, where dos Santos and a handful of people control everything.

If someone applies Hofstede’s cultural dimensions in order to explain an African country, assume bullshit.

For more fun, try it out for yourself:

 

A Shit Bubble?
It appears the information about African countries is severely flawed bordering garbage and at times actually turns into actual shit. And there is a bubble.

Programs are still using the African dummy, that does not exist. People still use these poor numbers, despite the fact the providers of the numbers know that the provided numbers often are nothing but guesswork. The problem is, that we have several people benefitting from the poor quality of numbers.

Western countries and Institutions can use these numbers in the need for SDGs, and there is a risk of losing credibility and face if the providers turn out to be wrong. If the foundation is wrong, then the rest of the projects funded by donors stand at best on shaky grounds.

We shall neither be blind for the systemic ideology in looking for what is missing, aka the subtraction approach. Why is Nigeria not like Denmark? Why is the growth so slow in Senegal?

To look for what is missing in Africa is an old sport. Africa has always been seen through the negative mirror. Lack of light, lack of hope, lack of a future, lack of progress. Perhaps why the African dummy was set in the 1970s, where the African countries’ economic situation were bleak and not in the 1960s when the economies were rather bright. Westerners have always tended to look for what was missing by using ourselves as the point of departure. This approach led to ironic consequences. At one point in history, even Africans were missing from the statistics, because Whites were so busy that they “forgot” the non-whites. During the Colonial Era, several African countries, like North and South Rhodesia (modern day, Zambia and Zimbabwe), the value added productions made by Africans were excluded from the colonial statistics. The work done by millions of people did not count. That means historical growth statistics are inherently systematically and historically flawed.

To look for what is missing simply appears natural. The history matters-economics have been extremely influential in that aspect, unfortunately. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson are among the more vocal voices, likewise is Nathan Nunn and his work on the argued causation between slavery and current poverty. None of it has been proven. Poverty traps have been mentioned by Collier and others. Also debunked by economists like Jerven and Easterly. The imagined poverty traps turned out to be pure bullocks.

Instead, to look for what is missing in Africa, we should look for what is present. We should not ask why the growth is slow, we should ask what promotes the growth that is present? Instead, to ask why Nigeria is not like Sweden (the answer is simple because Nigeria is not Sweden), ask what can be done to improve the country. What can be done to bring forth the best in what makes Nigeria Nigeria. Furthermore, because X worked for Sweden, it does not mean it will work for Nigeria or any other country, and vice versa. We shall learn from each other, but also realise one size does not fit all.

African countries and institution have an interest in keeping this bubble intact too. The numbers indicate rapid recent growth. It might also be shameful to admit, that in spite inviting donors to the country, where numbers are presented by banks in glamours settings, the quality of the groundwork is pitiful.

 

Let the Bubble Burst
To return to the original analogy to the movie “The Big Short”, this shit bubble is different than the housing bubble. When the housing bubble burst, the average person suffered. In this case, it is the unburst bubble that keeps affecting the average person negatively.

Poor numbers make it impossible to do anything properly. Numbers are the foundation of the house. If the numbers are bad, the house itself is weak. When the bubble bursts, we can take an honest look at the numbers, improve the quality, that several African countries have started doing. Good governments need reliable numbers to carry out necessary policies. To know if existing policies are working. We reformed the agricultural sector, do we produce more food? Without honest numbers, governments do politics while blindfolded. That harms the people. Western donors launch projects after projects guided by poor numbers, that as well negatively affects the people.

Reasons are giving why Africa is not like the rest of the world. Like it is a mysterious other. All based on false premise.

This bubble has to burst before sustainable progress can take place.

The good news is that it is happening. Especially African economists have begun airing critical voices, it is scholars and the general audience in the Western world that have to wake up. Some Western scholars have begun to crush the numbers. Actually, a few began to air critique decades ago, but it appears nobody was listening. I hope this time, that the critics can have a positive impact. At least, we should begin to look at the statisticians, and assists local governments in improving the quality of the work. The African think tank, the Afrobarometer has already cited Jerven’s work, why their Lived Poverty Index is better than using the numbers used to calculate African countries’ GDP and GNI used to calculate poverty and inequality.

But why accept a bubble in the first place? The banks did not care about the distorted numbers, not because they were stupid, but because they did not care. It also turned out for good reasons. When the housing bubble burst, they were bailed out.

When it comes to the shit bubble about information on Africa, I honestly do not think, that journalists, economists, and governments are that cynical. But it is also a fact, that the predominance part of people engaged in the usage of poor numbers are not affected if a project or strategy fails.

In the movie, the banks did not care, because they knew if the housing market collapsed, they would be bailed out. They had little to lose, making them more prone to gamble.
The lack of negative feedbacks undermines a willingness to correct possible wrongs and it reinforces a sort of laziness to dig into the numbers supplied.

The donor and aid industry suffer from the same problem. Ritva Reinikka has done an excellent piece titled “Donors and Service Delivery“ featuring in the anthology “Reinventing Foreign Aid” from 2008. He writes on the dangers that donors are not affected by the harm caused by faulty programs and strategies. If a project fails, a new one is set up. If a project goes horribly wrong, it is the local population that suffers. The tragedies inflicted by wrong strategies imposed on the continent during the neo-liberal era were all felt by the African people, not the ones behind the scene. That is a huge democratic problem that furthermore reinforces laziness and lack of scrutiny.

 

Conclusion
Statistics, present as the past, are flawed. At times the numbers are based on nothing but guesswork. The people hired to collect the numbers in each African country are impaired by lack of proper funding, causing the numbers to be poor to non-existent at times. Several African countries have begun to correct the situation, though, but it is still far from satisfying.

Unfortunately, it is the poorest countries that need proper numbers the most, and the same countries are the least equipped and capable of paying the costs to run an efficient statistician office.

When companies and you accept numbers presented by the World Bank and others at face value, you risk reproducing bad numbers. Do not forget, that several numbers do not carry any metadata whatsoever.

It is also concerning, that several numbers and ideas are built on a false premise from the very beginning, such as the African dummy. Especially, that Western economists still tend to look at African countries and find out what is missing, instead to look for what is present. It creates a flawed growth literature, where Africa continues to be victimised, that further nurses the white savior syndrome.

The conclusion is, when it comes to numbers about an African country, do not accept it as face value. Lastly, more should be done to empower the statisticians, whereas we correctly keep making their workload heavier negatively affecting the quality of the numbers produced.

USA – How to Support Both Sides of a War Without Winning

I am not sure if the USA knows this. If they do, then it is good. If they do not, I would not exactly be surprised. According to the French African historian Gérard Prunier (1), the USA did not know, that Ethiopia had annexed Djibouti. An intern knew, but the US intelligence did not. This was the case despite the fact that Djibouti harbours the only American military base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier. It is important to know who is in control of the land where you have your only military base located…or one should think.

Whether the USA knows or does not know this, I find this is an interesting case, that also helps to illuminate how hard it is to be engaged in African affairs, and how complex the situation is on the ground that can lead to tragicomical situations, like this one.

So what is it that I want to talk about?

It is the current situation, where the USA supports both Eritrea and Ethiopia, who are again engaged in numerous proxy wars between each other. As a direct consequence hereof, the USA is engaged in a war between two countries while supporting both countries, countries that continue to destabilise the entire Horn of Africa.

And at the moment, none of the parties in this war is winning.

So how come the USA ended up supporting both sides of a war simultaneously. It sounds odd. And it is. Let me explain.

Before I go any further, this post will be divided into four subsections. If you want to skip the prelude and move directly to the climax, then jump to the section “How the USA Ended Up Supporting Both Ethiopia and Eritrea”.

  1. Reasons for the Proxy Wars Between Eritrea and Ethiopia
  2. Proxy Wars – the Battlegrounds
  3. How the USA Ended Up Supporting Both Ethiopia and Eritrea
  4. Conclusion

Reasons for the Proxy Wars Between Eritrea and Ethiopia

During the era of Colonialism, Ethiopia maintained independence (however, briefly occupied by Italy from 1936 to 1941). Eritrea, on the other hand, was entirely colonised by Italy. This prevented Ethiopia from gaining access from the sea, making it a landlocked country. After the World War II ended and Italy had lost the war, the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie I, convinced the newly founded UN to support a federation consisting of Ethiopia and Eritrea. The UN supported this under UN 390-A(V), and the Ethiopia-Eritrea federation came into being on Sept. 15, 1952.

This resolution clearly stated that Eritrea must keep its autonomy. Selassie I decided to overlook that fact. A document is just words put together on a piece of paper. In a matter of fewer than ten years, the only national language became Amharic, the official language of the Ethiopian elite. On Nov. 15, 1962, Ethiopia officially annexed Eritrea, thereby, annulling the UN-resolution of 1952. It also paved the way for Ethiopia to gain full access to the sea. That started the liberation war of Eritreans who wanted independence from a new colonial power, Ethiopia. The civil war lasted from 1961-1991, and the civilian casualties were huge. Some sources believe up to 600,000 people lost their lives due to the conflict. Not to forget the circa 1 million deaths because of the droughts.

Selassie I was overthrown in 1974, where the leader of the Derg, Mengistu Haile Mariam, came into power supported by the USSR. The new power structures formed a rebellion from Eritrea AND now also within Ethiopia. The Ethiopian coalition called the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) joined hands with The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front led by Isaias Afwerki in ousting the Soviet-backed regime of Ethiopia led by Haile Mariam (2).

In 1991, Mengistu Haile Mariam fled the country in exile in Zimbabwe (where he still lives today) and replaced with Meles Zenawi Asres, the rebel leader of the Ethiopian coalition EPRDF. A referendum, supported by Ethiopia, was held asking Eritreans if they wanted independence or not. The vast majority voted in favour of independence, and it was granted. The first time in history since colonialism, that two African countries drew their own borders. History was truly made. On May 24, 1993, Eritrea could officially celebrate independence.

Then the relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia grew sour. The Ethiopian prime Minister, Meles Zenawi Asres, came under heavy fire from within a powerful fraction of the coalition, Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who saw it as a weak move to lose the access to the sea without any guarantee that the new regime of Eritrea would offer Ethiopia favourable access to the sea.

In 1997, Eritrea introduced their own currency, Nakfa, and Ethiopia saw that as a betrayal. They have sacrificed so much for Eritrea and the president Isaias Afwerki, and now Eritrea was drifting away from Ethiopia. Ethiopia refused to accept the new currency, and people could no longer trade with each other freely using the same currency. The people were predominantly Tigrayans, who shared several cultural, linguistic and religious markers, and the borders created had been nullified, first during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, then briefly under British control, and from 1961-1991, when it was under the control of Ethiopia. Suddenly borders began to matter

The situation escalated and in 1998, and an open war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia on whether Badme located in the province of Tigray belonged to Eritrea or Ethiopia. In 1998, the Eritrean military took control over Badme. Who was to blame for the war is debatable. Some blame Eritrea, while others, like aforementioned Prunier, blame the Tigrean regional government in Mek’ele. They had for a longer period of time provoked Eritrea repeatedly. In this point of view, the conflict was more a Tigrayan ethnic conflict than an interstate one.

Meles came under mounting pressure to meet force with force, and war was declared between Eritrea and Ethiopia on May 6, 1998, and early morning about 5.30 am on May 12, it began when the Eritrean armed forces captured Badme and the areas nearby, hence took Ethiopia by surprise.

The war lasted 2 years, 2 weeks, and 5 days, and ended May 25, 2000. About 300,000 people, predominantly civilians, were killed, and even more suffered. Ethiopia and Eritrea were and still are among the poorest countries in Africa. The money that was earmarked the people were spent on the military budget instead. That ended in humanitarian crises and an upsurge of internally displaced persons (IDP).

The war ended, when the parties agreed to sign the Algier Agreement, where the independent Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission (EEBC) was formed. The Commission would look into the border dispute, and both countries promised to accept the final decision. In 2004, EEBC ruled that Badme belonged to Eritrea, and Ethiopia strongly refused to accept the decision.

To this day, Ethiopian soldiers continue to occupy this territory officially recognised belonging to Eritrea.

The escalating of the conflict and the relationship further complicated Ethiopia’s access to the sea. In the south, Somalia has ceased to exist as a state, and Ethiopia also has border disputes with Somalia so it would be practically impossible to gain access to the Sea through Somalia.

Djibouti, formerly known as French Somaliland, was the only country left that could grant Ethiopia easy access to the sea. Ethiopia couldn’t annexe Djibouti as they had done with Eritrea. It would anger the French and again, the US military base was also located in this small country. Instead, the president of Djibouti, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (IOG), was made into a vassal king. He depends on Ethiopia for virtually everything like water and electricity. Furthermore, IOG is weak due to old age and bad health. The support of Ethiopia gave him a stable ally when in power, and someone to guarantee his safekeeping the day he is no longer in power. IOG also originated from Dire Dawa, the second largest city in Ethiopia, why he might be more open toward Ethiopia. Current rumours even have it, that Ethiopia wants to merge Ethiopia and Djibouti into one country.

As we speak, Eritrea feels surrounded by Ethiopia, where Ethiopia have soldiers on Eritrean soil and has annexed Eritrea’s neighbour Djibouti, which also serves to strengthen Ethiopia as a regional power. On the other hand, Ethiopia never felt Eritrea appreciated the sacrifices it made when the two countries broke up, and it came to open war.

Today, both countries have signed the Algier Agreement, promising each other not to resolve to war. To pretend this status quo, both Eritrea and Ethiopia are engaged in proxy wars, where they support groups and/or parties that are hostile to one another. My enemy’s enemy is my friend strategy. This continues to destabilise the entire Horn of Africa, where Ethiopia is the main cause for the destabilisation due to its size and might.

Proxy Wars – the Battlegrounds

South Sudan

The South Sudan conflict is far more complex than most of us dare to recognise, where several African countries have regional stakes at play. It is further complicated by Eritrea and Ethiopia’s hostile relationship where the animosity almost seems to grow day by day.

The two largest parties in the South Sudan conflict are:
1) Riek Machar, leader of the opposition and chairman of the party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-opposition (SPLM-IO), and former vice-president of South Sudan.

2) Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of South Sudan, and leader of the government party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Kiir is backed by the African Union (AU) and Uganda.

It was for a long period of time rumoured, that Sudan and Eritrea would cooperate in arming the rebel groups under control by Machar. Eritrea rejected the offer, which annoyed the rebels. In the meantime, the relationship between Juba and Ethiopia became increasingly complicated as Juba saw Ethiopia as a partial unsupporting part in the conflict. Basically, as an agent for American interests, while Ethiopia argued it operated as an independent and impartial agent. At the same time, the relations between Juba and Eritrea became friendlier. It is also complicated that the AU agreed to deploy troops to South Sudan in 2016, an offer rejected by Kiir. Months before, Ethiopia had ordered its soldiers to cross the Ethiopia-South Sudan border.

It intensifies the already cold air between Eritrea and Ethiopia, that further affects the relationship between Ethiopia and Kiir. The rivalry halts progress in a region, where too many lives have already been lost, and it further complicates a future peace process.

Somalia

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) fled the Somali capital Mogadishu after the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in collaboration with the Ethiopian armed forces overthrew the ICU. Eritrea then aided the ICU, where they offered shelter for the members in its capital Asmara. Members of the ICU later became the backbone for al-Shabaab. Eritrea continued its possible arming and training of the members of al-Shabaab according to the UN. The UN lamented Eritrea in 2009, where the Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea through Resolution 1907, that included an arms embargo (in 2015, the sanctions were prolonged. However, in 2015, the UN did not find any direct link between Eritrea and a support for al-Shabaab. It should be further noted, the UN was not allowed entrance to Eritrea to verify or reject the claim of the aforementioned alleged support to al-Shabaab).

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a federation consisting of several ethnic groups and regions. The Amharic minority controls the one party state that continues to use brute force when people become too vocal in their discontent with the regime in Addis Ababa. One of the vocal groups is the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) wanting independence. They operate in the southern part of Ethiopia bordering Somalia. According to the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Eritrea offers support to this group. The same for the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) operating in the Oromo Region fighting for autonomy, but not independence.

Both the ONLF and OLF established a presence in Eritrea during the Ethiopian-Eritrean war of 1998-2000 and received training as well as logistical and military support. Eritrea continues to host the leaders of both insurgent movements and leaders of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, and the ONLF and OLF also had a presence in Mogadishu in 2006 (p. 30).

It shall be noted, that this does not mean, that neither the OLF nor the ONLF shall be seen as Eritrean puppets. This situation on the ground is abysmal for several minority groups because of the Ethiopian brute force, the continuing human rights violation perpetrated by the Ethiopian government, and the persistent marginalisation.

Eritrea “just” complicates the situation. Ethiopia’s actions laid the foundation for the vocal demonstrations against the government in Addis Ababa. Not Eritrea. Eritrea just used it to its advantage.

To sum up, the Eritrean-Ethiopian relation is freezing, and nothing appears that the relationship between these two countries has begun to thaw. Eritrea aids various groups hostile to Ethiopia, while Ethiopia keeps its armed forces on international, recognised Eritrean soil. It destabilises the entire region from Somalia to the civil war in South Sudan.

Ethiopia is using the UN to impose sanctions on Eritrea like the arms embargo. However just the sanctions might be, it is a source of conflict. And Ethiopia has taken control over Djibouti, practically surrounded Eritrea. In doing so, Eritrea feels threatened on its existence, which is a cause why the country’s dictator, that Isaias Afwerki is, has de facto imposed infinite conscription (sawa) for its populations in order to protect himself and the regime. In doing so, Eritrea has been dubbed the African North Korea, a named it also earned as it keeps isolating itself from the global community, e.g. prohibiting the UN any entrance. An exodus of people have fled the country in the past years, fleeing from hunger, an elaborate intelligence service equating that of former KGB, and slavering in forced labour camps.

At the same hand, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in October 2016, that will last six months in order to crack down protests of people believed to belong to OLF. Severe human rights violations are reported. The Ethiopian regime has survived on a climate of fear and violence, and it is still the case today, especially in the Oromo and Somali Region.

The rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea does not cause a direct war, but the people in the entire region feel the dire consequences. Currently, both Ethiopia and Eritrea are affected by drought, a situation negatively affected by the large sum of money spent on the military.

What role the USA plays will be illuminated in the following part. Sorry for keeping it so long. I just believe, it is important to know the background first before moving ahead.

How the USA Ended Up Supporting Both Ethiopia and Eritrea

The USA Supports Ethiopia

This is very straight forward. Ethiopia is a stable state in an unstable region. Ethiopia’s neighbouring countries include Somalia and South Sudan, who either can be characterised as failed states or something extremely close, the American camp is in neighbouring Djibouti, and Ethiopia has been the darling of Western donors for decades. The aid-projects serve Western donors to showcase their humanitarian superiority. If Ethiopia as a development project fails, the donors would have to explain to the world and its taxpayers why billions and billions of dollars were poorly spent, and their believed superiority would collapse. An unacceptable loss of prestige. Consequently, donors have an interest in promoting a rosy picture of Ethiopia. Furthermore, ever since Al-Shabaab came into existence, Ethiopia has been a close ally of the USA and is the single largest donor. In 2011, the UK was the second largest giver of aid to Ethiopia, USD 261.8 million. The USA gave three times as much or estimated USD 608.3 million. This is to illustrate, how much money the USA allocates to Ethiopian compared to other countries.

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-12-22-49
Source – USAID: how aid from the US has increased dramatically since the introduction of the War on Terror. A policy continued during the presidency of Obama.

The problem is that in despite billions of dollars allocated to Ethiopia from the US alone, Ethiopia continues to be among the poorest countries, and the human rights violations never been dealt with properly. Yes, the situation has improved on the ground. The infrastructure has improved (even the roads in the rural areas remain largely unpaved), the literacy rate is improving, and so on and so forth. But as several sources reiterate, there is no effective monitoring system in place to ensure the money is spent as promised to ensure that foreign aid is not used by Ethiopia to finance its military used to destabilise the region and the country itself.

In 2013, the think tank the Oakland Institute published this report arguing:

However, they [donors] have failed to take decisive action to prevent policies that deny the basic human rights of some of the poorest and most marginalized people of Ethiopia (p. 1)

In 2016, the Human Rights Watch said:

There are no indications that donors have strengthened the monitoring and accountability provisions needed to ensure that their development aid does not contribute to or exacerbate human rights problems in Ethiopia.

Aid giving by the USA can be and is very likely used by the Ethiopian government to finance its military, which again is a part of the rivalry with Eritrea. Eritrea played a vital role in the formation of al-Shabaab by its willingness to harbour the members of the former ICU.

The USA Supports Eritrea

This support is less straight forward. The relationship between Eritrea and the USA is cold. Since 2005, USAID has not been allowed to operate on Eritrean soil, and neither has any aid agency. In 2008, Eritrea further agonised the USA and Ethiopia by clashing with soldiers from Djibouti.

To fully understand the situation in how the USA ended supporting Eritrea, we have to cross the Red Sea and look toward Yemen. In 1995, Yemen and Eritrea had a dispute over the Harnish Islands, where Eritrea won the brief war. A known strategy of Eritrea. Hit hard and fast, so when entering the negotiation table, you can negotiate from a strong position rather than from a weak one. However, in 1998, Eritrea was forced to hand over most of the islands to Yemen after decision made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

Saudi Arabia is engaged in Yemen, in a war overshadowed by the tragedy in Syria, and Eritrea has suddenly entered the war in Yemen too. Eritrea has allowed the Saudi-led coalition to use Eritrea when launching air strikes against Yemen.

In 2015, the UN Security Council said:

The Group received credible and persuasive testimony from multiple sources and independent reports indicating that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have established a military presence in Eritrea as part of the military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and may be offering Eritrea compensation for allowing its territory and possibly its troops to be used as part of the Arab coalition-led war effort. (p. 11)

This is a clear violation of the arms embargo issued in 2009, as I mentioned earlier.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pay Eritrea money for their support. Saudi Arabia is a close ally of the USA, which the USA reciprocates through military and financial aid to the Saudi Kingdom. The Kingdom then supports Eritrea.

Suddenly, the USA sees some of its support forwarded to the Eritrean regime, where the Saudi-led coalition has been accused violating the arms embargo placed upon Eritrea. Meaning the US military aid to Saudi Arabia also benefits Eritrea.

Conclusion

Eritrea and Ethiopia are involved in a regional rivalry destabilising the entire region due to border disputes and the feeling of betrayal. The USA supports Ethiopia and its fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia, and indirectly Ethiopia’s violent crackdown on domestic protesters through US passivity.

On the same hand, the USA supports Saudi Arabia that supports Eritrea. Thereby, the USA is indirectly supporting Eritrea as well. Eritrea has historically supported and offered shelter to al-Shabaab and other groups hostile to the current Ethiopia government in Addis Ababa, that the US pays Ethiopia to fight.

In the end, the USA ends up supporting both sides in a regional rivalry. Impressively enough, even the USA supports both sides, it is still losing, since none of the participants is willing to back down.

It is the circle of life…oh no, it is the circle of war, which more than anything proves that African leaders are not Western puppets. They have their own agenda, and they know how to play the game in order to gain access to resources from wealthy donors.

The result is prolonged conflicts, where the real victims are the civilians, the ones always carrying the heaviest burden, and the ones that are always forgotten.

For more information, I can warmly recommend Martin Plaut, journalist for the Guardian

Endnote

1) April  10, 2015, lecture, personal notes, Copenhagen, Denmark
2) Haile Mariam is convicted of genocide

Parting words
This is not only a critique of the USA. The EU is worse. Under the Khartoum Process, the EU allocates money to both Eritrea and Ethiopia to prevent refugees coming to the EU. Meaning, the EU pays money to Eritrea and Ethiopia to prevent refugees coming to the shores of Europe, while the same states create refugees due to the ongoing rivalry and destabilisation of the region. The EU is also cooperating with the Sudanese government led by al-Bashir wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The goal is the same. To prevent refugees from entering the EU.

The strategy of the EU appears to be that no problem is so big that it cannot be solved by donating (more) money. Eventually, the idea seems to be that the problems will go away. That is not how the world works, which the EU will discover, also eventually. For more info on the EU –  click here

Skal, skal ikke sende somaliske flygtninge tilbage?

I den forgangne uge har diskussionen bølget frem og tilbage, om det er forsvarligt at sende somalistiske flygtninge tilbage til Somalia. Som tidligere bisidder for børn, der flygter alene for Røde Kors, deriblandt somaliske børn, og jeg er uddannet i Afrikastudier, vil jeg gerne deltage i denne vigtige debat. En debat, der for de involverede parter kan være et spørgsmål, om liv eller død. De somaliske flygtninge fortjener en respektfuld behandling, og en debat om emnet ikke tages på overskrifter, men på en reel risikovurdering.

Dette er desuden ikke den første gang, at de danske myndigheder overvejer muligheden for at sende somaliske flygtninge tilbage. Samme emne var oppe at vende i februar 2013. Også den gang var der modstand.

Men hvad er det, der gør, at somaliere flygter fra deres land, og hvad skyldes, at en mulig tilbagevenden er risikofyldt, måske livsfarlig?

Kort historisk oprids
Det nuværende Somalia er sammensat af de to tidligere kolonier, Italiensk Somaliland og Britisk Somaliland. D. 1. juli 1960 blev disse to enheder til landet Somalia, et land på størrelse med Frankrig beliggende på Afrikas Horn. Landets sidste reelle præsident og diktator var Mohamed Siyaad Barre. Han kuppede sig til magten i 1969, og en mørk januarnat i 1991 måtte han flygte ud af landet for at redde sit liv, og i 1995 døde Barre under sit eksil i Nigeria. Siden 1991 har Somalia stået uden en leder og uden en regering.

Efter Barre flygtede i 1991, erklærede det tidligere Britisk Somaliland sig uafhængigt under navnet “Somaliland”. I 1998 fulgte Puntland efter, og erklærede sig som en autonom stat, og de har i dag reelt selvstyre. Jubaland (Azania), der grænser op til Kenya, udråbte også sin uafhængighed i 1998, men det blev hurtigt slået ned. I 2013 udråbte Jubaland igen selvstyre, og i dag har området eget parliament og grundlov.

Det, jeg forsøger at sige, er, at når vi kigger på et kort over Somalia, ser vi reelt et Somalia i opløsning, hvor flere dele enten har erklæret fuld selvstændighed eller har udstrakt selvstyre, og derfor er Somalia i øjeblikket en fragmenteret stat, hvis det overhovedet kan kaldes en stat, hvor overgangsregeringen i hovedstaden Mogadishu udliciterer dens opgaver til anden part.

Klanbaserede samfund
For at komplicere situationen yderligere er Somalia opdelt i et utal af klaner og grupperinger. En klan er igen hierarkisk opdelt. Er du i problemer, går du til din klan, ikke til din svage og tandløse regering.

I toppen finder vi hovedklanen, så klan-familien, derefter klanen, subklanen, og vi kan finde sub-subklaner, derefter mag-grupperinger, der består af familieenheder, og til sidst er der din familie. I dette miljø, skifter alliancer hurtigt, hvor klaner og subklaner indgår aftaler med og mod hinanden, der kan gøre de fleste antropologer rundtosset, og samtidig gør, at situationen på jorden kan skifte brat og pludselig.

De store klanfamilier siges at kunne spore deres familie tilbage til en af de to brødre, Saab og Samaal, der igen skulle stamme fra Quraysh-stammen, den samme stamme som profeten Mohammed. Altså en religiøs legitimering af, at lige disse klanfamilier har den magt, de har.

De royale klaner er Darod, Hawiye, Dir og Issaq. Sidstnævnte menes også, at den kunne høre under Dir-klanen. Disse klaner sporer hver deres klan tilbage til Samaal.

Rahanwein/Mirifle og Digil er de resterende to royale klaner, hvor de sporer deres rødder tilbage til Saab. Klanfamilierne tilhørende Saab er hovedsagligt agerdyrkere bosat i det sydlige og centrale Somalia.

Alle disse klanfamilier er som tidligere nævnt inddelt i subklaner, og til tider sub-subklaner, og familieenheder. Jeg vil ikke dykke ned i hver klanfamilier og deres subklaner. Gjorde jeg det, ville jeg aldrig blive færdig. Derfor giver jeg et eksempel på kompleksiteten.

Darod familieklanen er opdelt i tre store grupperinger, Ogaden, Marehan og Harti. Harti består igen af tre klaner, Dulhahante, Warsangeli og Majerteen, der igen er inddelt i familier.

Hvis du er ved at blive forvirret, er det forståeligt.

Der er også grupper og minoritetsklaner, der i stor stil bliver diskrimineret og udsat for hate crimes. Specielt bantu-grupperne er i fare. Flere steder i Somalia kaldes de for “adoon”. Et lokalt ord, der betyder slave. Også religiøse minoriteter, eller en person fra en af de store klaner, som befinder sig et sted, hvor denne klan er i mindretal, kan opleve forfølgelse og vold. Klanerne fungerer dermed både som en beskyttelse og som en modstander afhængig af dit klantilhørsforhold, og hvor henne i Somalia du befinder dig.

Klanstrukturerne er under opløsning
For at gøre situationen mere besværlig, beretter den britiske regering, at al-shabaab har mudret billedet, der stiller spørgsmålstegn ved, hvor magtfulde klanerne faktisk er. Al-Shabaab betyder oversat “ungerne” eller “drengene”, og parablyorganisationen al-shabaab består præcis af unge mænd. De har med våben i hånd indført shariah flere steder, der udfordrer ældrerådene, der benytter sig af lokale regler, kaldet xeer. De unge mænd tilbydes en fremtid i al-Shabaab, hvor de samtidig udfordrer de ældres magtmonopol. Al-Shabaab har været dygtige i at tilbyde en fremtid til desperate unge mænd, der ikke før kunne se en fremtid, og var udelukket for indflydelse pga. de ældre.

Tidligere kunne ældre klanledere ordne uoverensstemmelser, eller bedre tilbyde beskyttelse af et klanmedlem, hvis en udefrakommende udviste en truende adfærd. Men siden al-shabaab, krigsherrer og kriminelle grupper har fået fodfæste, er det i stigende grad dem, der opretholder ro og orden. Det gør de ikke specielt godt, da deres fokus er andet sted. Det gør det sværere for klanerne at stoppe en konflikt, før den eskalerer. Uoverensstemmelser blandt klaner og familier ender nu oftere i blodige konflikter, og det tager længere tid at opnå en våbenhvile. Samtidig har antallet af internt fordrevne gjort, at billedet er mere mudret, hvor tilhørerne af de forskellige klaner opholder sig, og det har bidraget yderligere til en svækkelse af klanernes magt flere steder.

Det gør, at situationen endnu mere uforudsigelig…og vi er medskyldige i denne eskalering.

Det internationale samfund gav plads til al-Shabaab
Nogle af årsagerne til den vedvarende forværrelse i Somalia skyldes, at det internationale samfund ståen til og direkte finansiel støtte til kriminelle grupper, dog ofte på basis af uvidenhed. Ifølge Somalia-eksperten Joakim Gundel er dele af udviklingsbistand systematisk endt i de forkerte lommer. Både under Præsident Barre og efter, blev flygtninge og landets situation brugt til at tiltrække udviklingsbistand. Det førte til deciderede udviklingskarteller i Nairobi. Ifølge Grundel tager de gode somaliske NGOer sjældent til Nairobi, det gør de dårlige ofte, hvor bagmændene stikker pengene i egne lommer. Hvor disse penge kanaliseres hen er et åbent spørgsmål.

Den anden årsag skyldes ifølge det danske forsvarsakademi, at den manglende statslig beskyttelse af havet gjorde, at farvandet ud for Somalias kyst blev brugt til at dumpe giftigt affald og til rovfiskeri af udenlandske aktører. Somaliske fiskere gik til modangreb for at beskytte deres levebrød. Fiskerne opdagede hurtigt, at pirateri var en mere indbringende forretning end fiskeri. Ud af dette fremvoksede al-shabaab. Indtjeningen fra piratangrebene blev derefter hvidvasket på det kenyanske boligmarked ifølge grundlæggeren af Transparency International, Laurence Cockcroft

Først da Somalias problemer blev et problem for verdenshandlen, greb omverden ind. Det er for sent. For det ikke skal være løgn, i 2015 valgte den Europæiske Union at beskære sin støtte til den udsendte styrke fra den Afrikanske Union med 20 procent. Da piratangrebene kom under kontrol, mindskes interessen for resten af Somalia og dens befolkning.

AMISOM  – beskyttelsen svinder dag for dag
Som respons på usikkerheden i Somalia sendte den Afrikanske Union en styrke til Somalia for at støtte overgangsregeringen under navnet AMISOM, en forkortelse for The African Union Mission in Somalia. Da koalitionsstyrken blev indsat i 2007, bistod seks afrikanske lande med soldater. Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Etiopien, Djibouti og Sierre Leone. Denne styrke blev også indsat for at bistå i kampen mod piraterne på landjorden. I 2015 trak Sierre Leone sig ud, og i oktober 2016 trak også Etiopien sig ud, og der med også sine 4.400 soldater. Nu består koalitionen af de fire resterende lande.

Det giver ca. 18.000 soldater på landjorden. Til sammenligning råder Danmark over ca. 15.000 uddannede soldater. Somalia er 15 gange større end Danmark, men der er kun udstationeret marginalt flere soldater, end hvad Danmark har til rådighed. Det siger sig selv, at det ikke er nok til at holde styr på de stridende parter.

Det sås allerede da Etiopien trak sine tropper tilbage. Knap havde Etiopien trukket sig ud, før al-Shabaab havde vundet tabt terræn tilbage.

Der er mere fredeligt, hvor AMISOM er udstationeret, men der er store problemer. I 2014 kom det frem, at flere udsendte soldater fra specielt Uganda og Burundi gruppevoldtog lokale piger og kvinder. Den yngste pige var blot 12 år. Soldaterne havde ansvaret for uddeling af mad og medicin til de lokale.

De udsendte soldater klager selv over manglende udbetaling af løn. I juli 2016 kom det frem, at flere ikke var blevet betalt i seks måneder. I december beklagede den burundiske delegation sig igen, hvor det kom frem, at de ikke var blevet betalt i over et år.

Den Afrikansk Unions problemer med at udbetale løn til soldaterne skyldes som tidligere nævnt, at den Europæiske Union beskar støtten til AMISOM med estimeret 20 procent i 2015.

Det øger også risikoen for, at de udsendte soldater må inddrive løn på anden vis, hvor korruption og anden kriminalitet udgør et alternativ.

AMISOMs fremtid hænger i en tynd tråd. Samtlige lande, undtagen Djibouti, har trukket sig ud, eller truer med at trække sig ud. Etiopien døjer med interne problemer pga. urolighederne i Oromo- og Somaliregionerne. I oktober erklærede Etiopien undtagelsestilstand indtil marts 2017.

Kenya skal til valg d. 8. august i år, hvor 70 procent af kenyanerne frygter, det bliver voldeligt. Ved valget i 2008 udviklede valget sig til en borgerkrig. Det er muligt, at Kenya har behov for sine soldater udsendt i Somalia, for at holde styr på eget hus.

Burundi befinder sig i en endeløs borgerkrig, der hver dag koster flere uskyldige liv, fordi præsident Nkurunziza ikke ønskede at forlade embedet som forfatningen ellers foreskriver. Det kastede i 2015 landet ud i en blodig borgerkrig. Præsidenten har måske mere brug for sine soldater derhjemme end i Somalia.

Spørgsmålet er, om det gør den store forskel, om flere af landene trækker sig ud. I følge den franske afrikahistoriker Girard Prunier, gør AMISOM ikke meget til eller fra. Soldaterne fra  Burundi og Uganda sidder for det meste i deres barakker, hvor de forsøger at undgå at blive skudt. Det var primært de etiopiske soldater, der var i felten og bar den tunge byrde. Og de har som sagt trukket sig ud. Dog er dette fra 2008, og situationen kan være anderledes i dag.

Somalia – stedfortræderkrig og råstoffer
Etiopien har i lang tid bekæmpet the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). De kæmper for uafhængighed i det sydlige Etiopien, hvor den etiopiske regering gør sig skyldig i krigsforbrydelser mod civilbefolkningen. Klangruppen Ogaden hører unden klanfamilien Darod, der også findes i Somalia. Etiopiens deltagelse skyldes dermed også landets ønske om at stoppe ONLFs forsyninger og støtte fra Somalia. Derudover modtager ONLF hjælp fra nabolandet Eritrea, hvor krigen mod ONLF har udviklet sig til en stedfortræderkrig mellem Eritrea og Etiopien, hvor Somalia er den del af kamppladsen.

Ørkenområdet mellem Somalia og Etiopien gemmer på store olie- og uranforekomster. Det gør, at flere lande og grupper er interesseret i at udøve kontrol over dette område. En årsag til at Etiopien bekæmper ONLF intensivt.

Her skal vi også lede efter Kenyas støtte til den autonome state, Jubaland. Gennem støtte til denne autonome stat lyder kritikken, at Kenya forsøger at operere bag Somalias grænser for at få adgang til oliekilderne ud for Somalias kyst.

Kenya er også ved at lukke verdens største flygtningelejr Dadaab ned. Det tvinger i øjeblikket over 300.000 mennesker til at søge andre steder hen. De fleste er somaliere, der nu med magt tvinges til at vende tilbage til Somalia. Hvordan det påvirker sikkerhedssituationen i Somalia er ukendt.

Dermed kan der rejses tvivl om de virkelige motiver bag flere af de afrikanske landes accept at sende soldater til Somalia. Er de der for at skabe ro og hjælpe overgangsregeringen, eller for at mele deres egen kage?

Hvorfor flygter folk?
Klankonflikter, et land i opløsning, voldtægt begået af krigsherrer og udsendte soldater, manglende beskyttelse fra ens egen klan, og tilhører du en minoritet, er du reelt uden nogen form for beskyttelse overhovedet. Fiskerierhvervet er ødelagt pga. piraterne og den efterfølgende indsats mod piraterne. Krige om adgang til naturresourcer er genstand for blodsudgydelser. Og til slut vedvarende angreb fra terrorgruppen al-Shabaab, og vilkårlige overgreb og røveri begået mod civilbefolkningen af diverse krigsherrer og kriminelle grupperinger. Terrorangreb kan se over hele landet, og intet er sikkert i morgen. Der er mange årsager, kan du høre.

Somalia som et farligt land gengives i den seneste opdatering fra det danske Udenrigsministerium d. 29. november 2016. De skriver: “Somalia har længe været et land uden et fungerende regeringsapparat, hvor forskellige fraktioner i de interne konflikter opererer som lokale myndigheder uden respekt for menneskeliv, lov og orden.”  

og

“Der er krigslignende tilstande i og omkring hovedstaden Mogadishu, i visse dele af det sydlige og centrale Somalia samt i visse dele af Puntland”

Kan nogle somaliere sendes tilbage?
Det er det store spørgsmål. Al-Shabaab har mistet indflydelse, men genvinding af terræn i november 2016 viste med al tydelighed, at de bestemt ikke skal undervurderes.

Flere rapporter viser dog også, at mange ikke anskuer deres klanforhold som genstand for bekymring. Men en forsker udtaler til en britisk rapport, at dette syn på ens klantilhørsforholds vigtighed er afhængig af din klan. Personer fra stærkere klaner mener ofte, at ens klantilhørsforhold er af mindre vigtighed, end personer, der tilhører minoriteten eller svagere klaner.

Altså, kan det ikke ligges til grund for en vurdering, om det er trygt at vende tilbage, eller hvor vigtig en rolle ens klan spiller baseret på udtalelser fra personer, der tilhører en af de stærkere klaner. Billedet kan være ganske anderledes for personer tilhørende andre klaner  og grupper.

Dette gør, at en myndighed ikke kan ligge til grund om en person kan sendes tilbage ud fra generelle forhold. Om en person er i sikkerhed eller ej kommer an på, om personen tilhører en minoritet og personens (manglende) klantilhørsforhold. Har personen været væk i længere tid, kan denne blive set som en nyankomne. Som ny tilhører du ikke en klan, og du er derfor i en særlig udsat position for overgreb og i yderste konsekvens mord.

Dette bliver bekræftet af de danske myndigheder i 2012 og 2013.

I rapporten fra 2012 kan vi læse at:
“UNHCR Somalia explained that today there is no guarantee of clan protection in Somalia, in particular members of minority clans and ethnic minority groups are vulnerable” (s. 74)

Og i rapporten fra 2013 kan vi læse at:

“Information about a newcomer, particularly, when he/she does not belong to the existing clans or nuclear families or when he/she originates from an area formerly or presently controlled by an insurgent group; would certainly attract adverse attention. Even those who originate from the Mogadishu may be perceived as newcomers, if they left a long time ago and have lost all links with their clan-based community.” (s. 32)

Ved den seneste fact-finder mission i december 2016 turde delegationen slet ikke at besøge Somalia. De fuldførte missionen fra nabolandet Kenya. Det bedre end noget illustrerer, hvor farlig Somalia er.

Dette betyder ikke, at en eller flere personer ikke kan sendes tilbage til Somalia. Personer fra stærke klaner står bedre end personer fra svage klaner eller fra minoritetsgrupper.

Men intet sted kan personer tilhørende minoritetsklaner eller -grupper regne med beskyttelse. Dette er tilfældet både i de meget usikre områder i Somalia, men også i det mere stabile Somaliland, er der begrænset beskyttelse af minoriteter. Men det at komme fra en af de store klaner gør ikke, at du automatisk er i sikkerhed, hvis du ender et sted, hvor din klan er en minoritet, eller hvis din klan ikke kan yde nogen beskyttelse.

Dette gør, at hver somalier skal ses som en unik sag. Dennes klanforhold, hvor længe har denne været væk, og dennes etniske og religiøse skal tages i betragtning. Det kræver et næsten umenneskeligt kendskab til lokale klanforhold og indviklinger, der nærmest ændres dag for dag.

Samtidigt skal det tages med i betragtningen, at AMISOMs tilstedeværelse og styrke er en ukendt faktor, både på den korte og længere bane. Svækkes AMISOM kan kriminelle grupper få bedre fodfæste igen, der forværre situationen påny.

Opsummering
Som det ser ud på nuværende tidspunkt, handler konflikten i Somalia om en stedfortræderkrig mellem Eritrea og Etiopien. Kenyas ønske om adgang til Somalias råstoffer. Krigsherrers ønske om hurtige penge. Unge mænds desperation, der gør, at de søger mod grupperinger som al-shabaab. Nye og gamle klankonflikter. Og en ikke-eksisterende overgangsregering, der forsøger at styre et ikke-eksisterende land.

Personligt er det svært at se, at Somalia er trygt nok til at sende nogen retur.

At sidde som sagsbehandler hos Udlændingestyrelsen og vurdere en somaliers opholdstilladelse er på nuværende tidspunkt at gamble med menneskers liv, så længe situationen er uforudsigelig på landjorden. Vores manglende kendskab til klanforholdene gør, at der er en forøget risiko for, at en forkert beslutning tages, der i værste fald kan koste den somaliske ansøger livet. Tvivlen bør komme ansøger til gode.

Africans We’ve Lost in 2016

I got annoyed when I watched Channel 4 News’ enlisting the ones we have lost in 2016. The people honored all deserved to be remembered. But not a single African made the list. Not even Papa Wemba or the Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow. That is not okay!

This is an explorative list of Africans we have lost in 2016. Feel free to add more names to the list. Write the names and why in the section below.

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March 13, Ghana, Samuel Kwadwo Buabeng aka Bob Okala, comedian. Collapsed shortly before meant to go on stage during a carnival (1957-2016)

March 28, Nigeria, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. A human rights activists, politician, and lawyer. A critic of the Nigerian 1999 constitution saying it encourages corruption by granting immunity to presidents and governors (1934-2016)

April 15, Gambia, Ebrima Solo Sandeng. politician and leader of the opposition  tortured and beaten to death by Gambian authorities (19??-2016)

April 24, DR. Congo, Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba aka Papa Wemba. Musician. He died suddenly while performing on stage (1949-2016)

May 24, Nigeria, Senator Martin Offia Nwali, and first black person to obtain Ph.D. in Computer and Analytical Studies from Harvard University (1943-2016)

June 29, Nigeria, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. Former Foreign Minister during the Yar-Adua administration 2007-2010, and Minister of Culture and Tourism during the Obasanjo-Administration 2001-2003. Known for his pro-stance on biking (1945-2016)

July 29, Ghana,  Daasebre Gyamenah aka Ahoofe. Musician (1979-2016)

Aug. 1, Ghana, George Brigars Williams . Actor (1929-2016)

Aug. 7, Sierra Leone, Gibril Santigie Moseray Fadika aka Super. Flagbearer for the current party in power and one of the richest persons in Sierre Leone was suddenly found dead (19??-2016)

Aug 14, Tanzania, Aboud Jumbe Mwinyi. Second president of Zanzibar, vice-chairman of the government party CCM, and much more (1920-2016)

Aug. 30, Liberia, Mamadee Diakite. Journalist and talk show host. Best known for hosting the radio show, the Truth Breakfast Show (1974-2016)

Sept. 18, South Africa,  Mduduzi Tshabalala, aka Mandoza. Musician died after rushed to hospital undergoing treatment for brain tumor (1978-2016)

Sept. 19, South Africa, Allister Haddon Sparks. Journalist, writer and commentator. Editor of The Rand Daily Mail. Actively involved in uncovering the horrifying deaths occurred during the apartheid regime and on the transition from apartheid (1933-2016)

Oct. Gambia, Fatim Jawara, one of Gambia’s most prominent goalkeepers on the national team confirmed drowned when trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe (1997-2016)

Oct. 3, Rwanda, Jean de Dieu Mucyo. Senator and former minister. Best known for his inquiry into the involvement of France in the 1994 genocide (1961-2016)

Oct. 17, Rwanda, King Kigeli V or Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa. The last king of Rwanda who fled the country in 1961 (1936-2016)

Nov. 4, Kenya, Owiso Odera. Actor. He died suddenly while performing on stage (1973-2016)

Dec 1, Senegal, Ousmane Sow. Sculptor and first black person to have been elected a membership as a foreign associate member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France (1935-2016)

Dec 25, Kenya, John Keen, politician during the Moi-administration (1926-2016)

Band Aid – with commentaries  

Do They Know It’s Christmas? 

It’s Christmas time
There’s no need to be afraid

Don’t worry, be happy.

At Christmas time
We let in light and we banish shade

Several African countries are pretty close to the equator. People look for shade. They want shade. They got plenty of sunlight, they do not need you to find light.

Are you referring to the dark and cold North? Support Norway

And in our world of plenty
We can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
At Christmas time

Grab your neighbour and dance. Or that is not what you mean?

But say a prayer
Pray for the other ones
At Christmas time it’s hard

Inequality is rising. More people than ever before are in prison. The elected president is unqualified. Christmas is pretty hard for Americans.

But when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear

Where? There are a lot of sad places. Have you ever been to New Jersey or Lolland? Or Disneyland after dark?

Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears

Jokes aside, if we accept the premise, that this is about the CONTINENT of Africa, then there are numerous rivers and lakes in Africa. The longest river in the world, the River Nile, is in Africa. We also have the Congo River, Uele River, Kazinga River, Niger River, and the Hawash River. The last one is found in Ethiopia. And many, many, many more rivers and lakes.

And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom

No, the chimes are from churches filled with people singing Christmas songs. Not doom.

Well tonight thank God it’s them
Instead of you

What? How about you focus on your own family. Your uncle will likely drink too much.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time

That is plain wrong. Before global warming really took off, there were plenty of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya. Today, the snow left on Mt Kenya is melting at a dangerous rate. Snow is still common on Mt Kilimanjaro. Snow is also found on the Grand Atlas Mountains in Morocco. In the southern part of Africa, the tiny country Lesotho has a ski resort. How much more snow do you want?

It would also be horrible if snow fell in the parts of Africa where snow is uncommon. The buildings are not constructed to withstand cold. Why is it even bad, that there won’t be snow at Christmas? I am from Denmark, and we hardly have snow at Christmas either. You don’t see people making songs about our snowless Christmas.

The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life (oooh)

Is life not a great gift? But how about being with friends and family. Receiving presents. Enjoying a good meal. Going to the cinema. Going dancing. Looking into the eyes belonging to the love of your life. What do you think people in Africa do?

Oh, I get it, you want to give them better gifts? Africans are just passive recipients, that can’t do anything themselves. Give me a break. Open a f—king book

Where nothing ever grows

Africa has rain forests. And where do you think your tea, coffee, chocolate, flowers, and several of your fruits in your local shop come from? That is right, Africa.

No rain or rivers flow

I have been in Ghana, it rains! And to repeat, there are several rivers in Africa. Africa is not all the Sahara desert, just as the USA is more than the Nevada Desert or California.

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Are you bloody kidding me? More than half of all Africans are Christians, meaning +500 million people in Africa are Christians. When we are at the subject, Christians were found on the African continent shortly after the death of Jesus, where it soon spread to the Horn of Africa. Christianity has existed in present Ethiopia since the 1st century CE. So yeah, they know it is Christmas.

However, not all Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25. In Denmark, it is celebrated on the evening on Dec. 24. In the Coptic Orthodox Church in Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on Jan. 7. Did you know that? Or you thought that the USA was the world? That was a rhetorical question.

Here’s to you
Raise a glass for everyone

You feel so good about this song, that you have to intoxicate yourself to believe in these lyrics. That…actually makes sense. Cheers!

Here’s to them
Underneath that burning sun

So first you bemoan that there is no light, and now you bemoan the burning sun. Make up your mind.

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Yes, they do! Do not repeat your own ignorant nonsense

Feed the world

Great, donate money to your local trusted charity foundation. Purchase made in Africa products to improve local business in Africa. How about open your own window. Do you see a poor person? Invite that person over. How about supporting the increase of the minimum wages in your country, so workers can have a decent Christmas. Or raise taxes to provide a helping hand for people not having a job. You know, improve your welfare system. It is easier to help your neighbour than the world. I mean, the world starts at your front door. Take one step at a time.

Feed the world

I get it. You think repeating this chant makes you a better person, and you are making a difference. You are not.

Feed the world

Shut up.

Let them know it’s Christmas time again – feed the world

They do know! Do have to repeat myself?

Let them know it’s Christmas time again

You’re drunk. Go to bed.

PS: The cash revenues generated from this song in 1984 exacerbated the hunger catastrophe in Ethiopia. The local regime used the food as a weapon to mass deport people into camps. The conservative estimate is that 100.000 people died during the “resettlement programme”. Sometimes doing nothing is worse than doing something when you do not know what you are doing. Just like surgery. Doing something because it feels good, does not make it good.

img_1822Picture: Accra Mall, Dec. 2015. Mathias Søgaard