what apartheid has done with affordable transportation

A week of riots and clashes sparked in the capital as the government attempted to raise fuel prices by 50%. Mozambique is often unheard of in international news, but a week of violent riots in Maputo leaving 100 injured and four dead were enough to bring the world’s poorest country to the headlines. The fuel price jump was proposed as a response to the 14% rise in diesel fuel costs. Food prices have also experienced an increase due to the rise in fuel costs. The reason that riots erupted was not only because of rising fuel costs, but mainly because of the low wages that people in Mozambique make. The more interesting question may be why is Mozambique so poor and why would the government seek a 50% increase in price to meet the demand?

Mozambique is moderately large country on the East coast of Africa. With a history of Portuguese colonial rule, civil war, effects of apartheid, and a wide-reaching famine, Mozambique has had great difficulty in bringing its people out of desperate poverty. Mozambique gained independence in 1975, but was quickly pulled into war against white rule in Rhodesia and South Africa. The apartheid government of South Africa not only oppressed its own people, it engaged in near full-scale war with Angola and Mozambique as well as raiding and blockading Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. “This was a war against ordinary people, in which schools and health posts were primary targets and civilians were massacred on buses and trains. At least two million Mozambicans and Angolans died in the war South Africa waged against them; millions more had to flee their homes.” writes Action for Southern Africa and the World Development Movement in an Africa Action Report.

A generation of children never received education because schools were destroyed, mothers and children died because health services were devastated, and now the region cannot rebuild because they are asked to pay again for the injustices of the apartheid regime through debts. The war waged by the South African apartheid government made Mozambique one of the poorest countries in the world. Over one million people died between 1977 and 1992, the economy was destroyed along with the countryside, and the country was left with a legacy of landmines. The South African government supported a rebel group called RENAMO. RENAMO or Mozambican National Resistance was formed after independence as an anti-communist conservative political party. It fought against the FRELIMO (Mozambican Liberation Front) and the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe which was overthrowing the white Rhodesian rule. RENAMO received support from South Africa as well as the Central Intelligence Organization of Rhodesia and the CIA of the United States. RENAMO was known for its widespread brutality and human rights abuses. It was instrumental in destroying the economy of Mozambique and ensuring that a southern African country under black rule could not be stable.

The US and South African backed RENAMO insurgency destroyed the basic infrastructure and industry of Mozambique. With this extreme loss of income Mozambique was forced to turn to the IMF and World Bank in order to create the infrastructure destroyed by apartheid. “Mozambique has been forced to delay universal primary education until 2010 because it has to repay the apartheid-caused debt.” notes the Africa Action Report. This debt cause by apartheid South Africa is easily deemed odious. Meaning the debts imposed were against the interests of the local populace, and as such should be written off as unlawful under international law.

On top of the apartheid debt and lack of infrastructure, in 2001 Mozambique experienced terrible flooding that has threatened nearly a quarter of the country with death by famine. Again in 2007 terrible flooding forced almost 60,000 people to be evacuated from the Zambezi River Valley. It was said to have been worse that the flooding in 2001. Roads were destroyed, bridges washed away, hundreds of homes disappeared under water – this on top of apartheid debt and a landmine scarred countryside. There is hope for Mozambique. Tourism is increasing and international investment is at a high, but at what cost? The government of Mozambique needs to ensure that it does not sell out its future in investment schemes that will rob indigenous peoples of their lands and leave the country empty of resources.

Mozambique has suffered and is still suffering from the white empowered South African apartheid government system backed by none other than the United States of America. If you would like to understand the current rioting in the capital of Maputo, you need only look back to apartheid to recognize why the 170th of 175 countries listed on the development index sits right next to the richest country in all of Africa.

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democractic movements as terrorism

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is the Zimbabwean political party focused on promoting democracy in a country where it has become very dangerous to associate with politics. Formed as an opposition party to the Zimbabwean African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), which is led by current President Robert Mugabe, the MDC brings together a number of civil society groups. The MDC is now labeled as a terrorist organization by Mugabe’s government, political activists are regularly beaten and arrested, and known members of the MDC disappear. The MDC front webpage tells of three recent deaths of people closely affiliated with the MDC. The site notes that this is becoming an all too common.

In a 2000 parlimentary election MDC candidates won overwhelming majorities, but there were calls of unfair elections and the issue remains caught up in Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court. The South African Development Community (SADC) and the South African Ministerial Observer team both maintain their positions that the election was free and fair. MDC members say there was harassment and force used by the ZANU-PF government at the polls. In 2004 the MDC split over the decision to take part in the 2005 parlimentary elections because of the “illegitimate outcome” of the last election. The MDC voted to take part in the elections (33-31), but Morgan Tsvangirai voted the decision down saying it was a waste of time. The MDC then split into Tsvangirai’s decision supporters and pro-senate members, led by the former MDC deputy. Some say that the split was ethnic based.

There are two main ethnic groups in Zimbabwe, the Shona (75%) and Ndebele (19%). Ndebele was an ethnic category that grew out of the military state created by the British in 1830. The ethnic term of Ndebele encompassed people of many different origins and in fact Shona people lived in this conquered area, but were placed under the Ndebele label. However, the ethnic identifications of and between these two groups were very low and there was no historical enmity between them. In 1896-7 these ethnic groups actually joined in the Ndebele-Shona Chimurenga resistance to the British. Guerilla forces grew and became political parties, but neither was purely ethnic based and recruited across the board. Needless to say the ‘ethnic conflict’ in Zimbabwe was the least serious of all African ethnic conflicts. The greatest conflict was between Black and White in Zimbabwe. There have been recent talks to reunite the split political parties.

This is the real historical problem that has led to Zimbabwe’s current problems. The problem in Zimbabwe can be summed up to a battle between Pan-Africanism and Neo-colonialism. Mugabe has called for White people to leave and so it makes the situation difficult when British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said that he is working closely with the MDC to create a regime change. Well there may be a high degree of internal pressure, the external powers cannot be dismissed. In order for the Western powers to achieve the goal of regime change they will use their secret services, CIA, network os military bases, and economic tactics. There is this other side of the argument that says maybe the MDC is not promoting democracy at all and is really a facade for Westerners to experiment in African politics yet again (Zaire’s Lumumba?).

Back to democracy, regardless of conspiracies the basics for democarcy do not exist in Zimbabwe. Recently six MDC members were arrested under the “Law and Order Act” for holding illegal political meetings. The 2008 Presidential election is close and the MDC and ZANU-PF are in negotiations. Tsvangirai has said that the MDC wants to participate, but they want to ensure that it is a free and fair election. The MDC wants to participate to create democratic change and not to give legitimacy to a system favoring one side. The MDC is demanding that there be international control of the elections and that millions of Zimbabweans abroad be allowed to vote, a new voters’ roll and the appointment of an independent Zimbabwe Election Commission to supervise the polls. South African president, Thabo Mbeki has been chosen by the SADC to mediate the negotiations between the two political parties. There is worry that Mugabe will not comply with demands.

Zimbabwe Timeline from: 1200-2007

the new military frontlines – africa?

In an article written by a Washington Post blogger and later briefly analyzed and linked to on the Foreign Policy website, the new Africa Command, which has been created to supposedly focus on the globe’s most neglected region, approved by Donald Rumsfeld, will be operational within two months. Some say this mark an important change in US policy more focused on preventative measures rather than Cold War posturing. Currently there are five commands, three of those split the African region. It has been suggested that the creation of the Africa Command will allow a single organization for agencies like the State Department and CIA. Now stop, the State Dept. and CIA? The last time US military was based in Africa was during World War II. More recently the CIA has been involved on the continent throughout the Cold War and, I am fairly certain, currently. Through the US government the CIA did some ‘wonderful’ work: propping up numerous “democratic” dictators (Milton Obote and Idi Amin in Uganda) and assassinating a true democratic leader, Lumumba in Zaire (DRC), and setting another dictator, Mobutu. These are just a few examples of the track record of the US military and CIA on the African continent, not to mention the misguided attempts in Somalia and the fearful neglect of the Rwandan genocide. The US military has many links to rebel movements and the put-down of rebel movements in roughly six African countries since 1990.

The Washington Post blogger, William Arkin, is quoted in the Foreign Policy blog that he does not believe the new Africa Command will be a positive for the continent. The FP piece then asks: “Why?” The obvious answer to that question is just look at what the US government has done or attempted to do in Africa. With the US’s current actions and their ‘putting Africa on the back burner’ (or maybe its not even on the stovetop) I really do not think much has changed. A new command to place the US military and CIA present on the continent cannot be a positive change in policy. The US has provided military support to Sahel countries with known oil resources such as Chad and Ethiopia, but not Sudan. The US military is afraid of actual action on the African continent since the 1993 Somalia mission. A genocide is by far too much for the current administration to handle. Bush on genocide, “Not on my watch.” Try opening your eyes.

Interesting to take note of is China’s Africa Policy released last year. Last year I wrote a post, check it out, about the new African policy focused on helping to build infrastructure regardless of political regime type in exchange for natural resources. A policy without ethics some might say. Is this new Africa Command a front to the recent increase in Chinese aid and involvement on the continent? Keep your eyes on the lookout for US military actions in Africa. Also check out the Times article on the Africa Command.