For my friends at the African Studies Association annual conference this week . . .
Tanzania represents a success story for developing and emerging-market countries in a time of changing donor-recipient relations. Through a series of reforms to increase transparency, good governance, and country-led development, President Kikwete has helped Tanzania become a strong partner with the United States and the business community. Tanzania is the recipient of a $698 million Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, hosts a robust PEPFAR program, launched the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor (SAGCOT) initiative, and was among the first countries selected for the Partnership for Growth—all of which have helped Tanzania make gains in enhancing food security, reducing poverty, and creating economic opportunities.
Dr. Catherine Boone at the University of Texas has a timely and important new paper just out from the African Studies Review that I highly recommend in this election season:
This paper argues that even with the incorporation of land policy provisions into Kenya’s new constitution, there is every reason to believe that in the near future, highly politicized land conflict will continue. This is because land politics in Kenya is a redistributive game that creates winners and losers. Given the intensely redistributive potential of the impending changes in Kenya’s land regime—and the implications of the downward shift in the locus of control over land allocation through decentralization of authority to county governments—there is no guarantee that legislators or citizens will be able to agree on concrete laws to realize the constitution’s calls for equity and justice in land matters. This article traces the main ways in which state power has been used to distribute and redistribute land (and land rights) in the Rift Valley, focusing on post-1960 smallholder settlement schemes, land-buying companies, and settlement in the forest reserves, and it highlights the long-standing pattern of political contestation over the allocation of this resource. It then traces the National Land Policy debate from 2002 to 2010, focusing on the distributive overtones and undertones of the policy and of the debate over the new constitution that incorporated some of its main tenets.
The land provisions of Kenya’s 2010 constitution call for the establishment of a new National Land Board answerable to Parliament, and the enactment of sweeping parliamentary legislation to enact a National Land Policy that is based on principles of justice and equity. It is heartening to view this as a clear advance over the highly politicized and often demonstrably corrupt land regime that has prevailed since the early 1960s (if not before). It is encouraging to think of Kenya’s smallholders and other land-users as a vast national constituency with a shared interest . . . Yet even if all or most Kenyans would benefit in the long run from clean implementation of democratically chosen land laws, there is reason to believe that in the near future, at least, highly politicized land conflict will continue.
This is because land politics in Kenya is first and foremost a redistributive game that creates winners and losers. . . .
. . . .
Unlike land politics in many African countries, which often centers on the use and abuse of ostensibly customary authority (and is thus “repressed” or bottled-up at the local level), the major land disputes in much of Kenya
are focused on how the power of the central state has been used to allocate land (see Boone 2011b). Struggles over land are therefore played out as struggles to capture or retain state power. This makes the national public sphere a prime theater of land conflict.
. . . .
Approximately fifteen hundred people were killed and three hundred thousand were displaced in the 1991–93 and 1997 election periods. Deaths and displacements of approximately the same magnitude occurred in postelection violence in 2008 (although some observers argue that up to five thousand people were killed at that time).2 Much of the world press reported these episodes as outbursts of ethnic violence. A deeper look confirms that for grassroots participants in many localities, the political issue at stake was not ethnic power per se, or as an end in itself. Rather, as Throup and Hornsby (1998:555) put it, “land ownership remained at the core of the argument.” Opportunistic politicians manipulated local issues and fomented violence for electoral gain, but the tensionsthey manipulated were, to a large extent, land-related and long-standing. These tensions, their origins and persistence, and how they cleaved rural society in the Rift Valley are the focus of the present analysis. . . .
It’s a far cry from Cajun country, but a U.S. crayfish used in Southern cooking is now eating its way across Africa, scientists say. Without any native predators to keep it in check, the Louisiana crayfish, also known as the red swamp crayfish, is gobbling up small freshwater fish, fish eggs, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants. The 6-inch-long (15-centimeter-long) invader is already widely distributed in lakes and other bodies of water throughout Kenya, as well as in Rwanda, Uganda, Egypt, Zambia, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and South Africa.
Conservationists are now concerned the crayfish will reach the East African lakes of Malawi, Tanganyika, and Victoria, which are home to hundreds—and probably thousands—of species found nowhere else. “By removing animals and plants from wetlands, [the crayfish] can upset the balance of ecosystems and reduce valuable ecosystem functions,” said Geoffrey Howard, global coordinator for invasive species for the Species Programme of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Louisiana crayfish were first imported in the 1970s into Kenya and South Africa, where the species was grown in aquaculture operations. People bred the species in Kenya’s Lake Naivasha and sold the delicacy to Scandinavian buyers after that region’s native crayfish had been wiped out by disease. “They are rarely seen or recognized as a threat,” Howard said, “but they have certainly affected the fishery in Naivasha.” That’s because, “by eating fish eggs and fingerlings, [crayfish] can reduce the populations of fishable fish.” . . .
This morning at church, on a beautiful, sunny, cool day in coastal Mississippi, we had a “packing event” for international food aid for Somalia through the group “Stop Hunger Now”. We also donated $5,000 through special offerings collected by our youth. We have done these events before, but our minister was aware of this crisis now and called to say that we wanted to respond.
Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief agency that has been fulfilling its commitment to end hunger for more than 12 years. Since 1998, the organization has coordinated the distribution of food and other lifesaving aid to children and families in countries all over the world.
Stop Hunger Now has provided more than $70 million dollars worth of direct aid and 34 million meals to 72 countries worldwide.
Stop Hunger Now created its meal packaging program, in 2005. The program perfected the assembly process that combines rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals into small meal packets. Each meal costs only 25 cents. The food stores easily, has a shelf-life of five years and transports quickly.
Stop Hunger Now works with international partners that ship and distribute the meals in-country. Stop Hunger Now primarily ships its meals to support school feeding programs, but also provides meals to our in-country partners for crisis relief.
The packaging operation is mobile, (i.e. it can go wherever volunteers are located), and can be adapted to accommodate as few as 25 and as many as 500 volunteers at a time. One SHN packaging event can result in the packaging of more than 1,000,000 meals or product servings. The use of volunteers for product packaging has resulted in an extremely cost-effective operation while, at the same time, increasing awareness of global hunger and food insecurity issues across a broad cross-section of the US population.
Economic conditions remain far more challenging in Kenya in the pre-election period than they were in 2006-2007, as policy makers struggle to respond to another 20 percent decline in the Kenya Shilling versus the dollar this year. Business Daily reports “Kenya shilling falls to 97.20 against dollar”:
At an emergency meeting last week, the Central Bank of Kenya said it would defend the shilling. But some traders said its
absence from the market on Tuesday when the shilling fell through 96.0 for the first time showed its resolve was weak.
“The central bank needs to back up its words,” said another trader. “The trend has been talk big, don’t act.”
Some market players said, however, that if the bank simply offloaded hard currency the reprieve could be short.
“If central bank comes in (to sell hard currency), you may see a reprieve, the shilling may come off its all-time low, but
it’s not sustainable. The shilling will just slip back,” the trader said. “The shilling is on its own.”
Double-digit inflation, deteriorating balance of payments and a crisis of confidence in Kenya’s monetary policy-making
have battered the shilling this year.
Kennedy Butiko, deputy Treasurer at Bank of Africa, said the central bank might not intervene because the shilling’s demise was driven by strong demand for the dollar both at home and abroad.
Another example of the bite of food inflation, also from the Business Daily:
Kenyan households are paying the highest price for breakfast in two years after this week’s double digits rise in the cost of milk.
Leading processors of fresh milk on Monday announced a 10 per cent increase in prices, adding weight to last month’s doubling in the price of sugar and a steep rise in the cost of energy needed to prepare breakfast – the day’s most important meal.
KCC, Brookside and Limuru effected the price changes citing acute supply shortages, and the steep rise in the cost of transportation and packaging.
A half-litre packet of KCC Fresh milk, Ilara and Fresha now sells at Sh33, adding pressure to household budgets – especially at the bottom end of the income bracket.
President Museveni has reiterated his criticism of the West and attacked Nato for disorganising a friend, whose 42-year rule faces a humbling end.
Speaking at the annual Muslims Iftar dinner at State House, Entebbe on Saturday, Mr Museveni addressed himself on two fundamental issues: The economic crisis at home and the battle for Libya. He accused the West of greed and defended Col. Gaddafi’s mistakes even though, he said, the Libyan leader attempted to go behind his back to hijack his chiefs in Kampala.
“Gaddafi had his own mistakes, he came here and organised my chiefs without telling me. We cancelled that meeting and I warned chiefs because it was wrong,” Mr Museveni said. “But Gaddafi built a mosque for us and as a leader, he had his mistakes, but those Europeans have more mistakes and problems. They think the rest of us are fools except themselves. When there are riots in Africa, they call them pro-democracy and in London, they call them, criminals.”
While inflation in Uganda has hit a 20-year high of 21.4%:
Ugandans will be bracing themselves for even harder times ahead as the continued depreciation of the local currency, rising prices for fuel, essential commodities and food combined to push inflation to a new 20-year high, further threatening the economy’s growth.The Consumer Price Index (CPI) released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics yesterday indicates that inflation rose from a revised rate of 18.8 per cent in July to 21.4 per cent in August.
This represents a 2.6 percentage point rise, which, though lower than the 3.1 percentage point increase registered in July, still dragged the battered economy over another double digit threshold.
The Director for Macro-Economics Statistics at Ubos, Dr Chris Ndatira Mukiza, said food inflation, which rose to 42.9 per cent from 40.7 per cent, remains the main driver of inflation.
One is reminded of Marie-Antoinette of France. Are these leaders in touch with reality? Do they understand the condition of ordinary people of Uganda? And how many Ugandans really depend on land, and how productive is that land? What percentage of farmers are producing for the market? Even for those who have access to land, can they get all that they need from that land? In any case, the root of this inflation can be traced to the colossal amount of money poured into the country during the recent election campaigns. And this was largely by President Museveni himself.
A “must read” this morning on culture, trade and agriculture in the Horn of Africa, from Phillip Hedemann in Die Welt translated at Worldcrunch–read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:
For many Africans khat is a stimulant drug that also stills hunger pangs. But the world’s biggest seller of khat doesn’t fit the typical profile of a drug dealer.
In Somaliland, not a lot works. Somaliland is a republic in the north of Somalia, which, although it declared itself a sovereign state, is not internationally recognized as such. But one thing you can count on here: Suhura Ismail’s trucks, driven at breakneck speed, arriving as regular as clockwork every night on the unpaved roads. The trucks are delivering khat, a drug that is mostly forbidden in Europe.
In Somaliland, on the other hand, the business is legal – and booming. Up to 80% of all men in the tiny country in the Horn of Africa are addicted to khat. Suhura Ismail says she herself has never tried chewing the bitter leaves. But it has made her rich, and in her homeland, Ethiopia, she is a highly respected entrepreneur.
“I was just voted Businesswoman of the Year,” she says. “And then I got a bill for back taxes amounting to 48 million Birr (1.9 million euros.) But we’ll figure something out. I have good connections with the Prime Minister.”
The 49-year-old mother of ten is the biggest khat dealer in the world. And although she does have a flashy gold tooth, there is none of the usual baggage about her that usually attends international dealers: no body guards, no fake names, no fear of other drug cartels or the police — though the tax man is a bit of a bother.
Then again, this Ethiopian woman would not describe herself as a drug dealer. The devout Muslim sees herself simply as an entrepreneur. Her family business sells between 30,000 and 40,000 kilos of khat each day.
In the 1990s, when coffee prices fell, many farmers in Ethiopia switched to growing khat. Since then, the drug has become one of the country’s major export goods – and the government of the world’s 12th poorest country wants its share. Ismail brings in foreign currency, or at least she does when she pays what she owes the state, which is 30% of her profits.
. . . .
The girl who used to hawk khat from a roadside stand is now an entrepreneur with more than 1,000 employees, as well as her own airline, Suhura Airways. “In the world khat trade, Suhura is uncontestably numero uno,” says Ephrem Tesema, who wrote a thesis at Basel University on the production, distribution and use of khat. “And in Ethiopia she is thought to control over 50% of the market.”
Ultimately, Ismail’s great breakthrough was in removing the stigma associated with the drug. “She did a lot of PR, so in Ethiopia now the leaves are just another commercial product,” says Tesema.
Suhura Ismail says she would like to expand into Europe, and is hoping that the continent’s biggest market, Germany, will legalize the drug. It’s a country she’s familiar with. When her husband started having trouble with his teeth she flew with him to Frankfurt for dental work. Now, back home, his teeth are again in good shape, and he can return to chewing his daily consumption of the green leaves.
Here are excerpts from “Q&A: Somalia Expert Ken Menkhaus on the Famine”, at the “Enough Said” blog (h/t to AidNews)
How are independently governed areas like Somaliland and Puntland faring? I understand the crisis hasn’t been as severe in those areas, but it’s interesting to consider how governance factors in to either prevention or response to the famine.
MENKHAUS: Actually, the drought has been quite severe in the north of Somalia as well, but what is interesting is that the north is generally much more arid than the south. The south has rivers and generally has better rainfall. But the north, despite being more arid and being affected by the drought, has not seen famine. The reason for that is pretty straightforward: There is a social peace, [managed by clan elders]. There is governance. The Somaliland government has been able to maintain a reasonable level of security and stability that has allows for the flow of commercial food, and as the drought hit, for the flow of international assistance. As a result, they have been hosting more and more displaced people from the south.
There have been conflicting reports on whether the militant group al-Shabaab would let aid groups into the most gravely affected parts of Somalia or not. But you’re in touch with people in the region all the time – local sources, aid groups, governmental entities. How has the group’s presence impacted the response?
MENKHAUS: We’re pretty sure that Shabaab is splintering now. The famine has been a source of tension within the organization, and the hope is that we’ll see some breakaway wings again that would say, ‘our people are starving, and we welcome aid.’ It would be very risky for those splinter groups, but desperate times call for desperate measures. That could open some space for aid groups to come in. That’s the last best-case scenario we’ve got left, because right now we have people flooding the Kenyan border, and that creates a massive, long-term refugee crisis that will haunt us.
It’s important to flag the breaking news that Shabaab has pulled out of Mogadishu. We’re still trying to make sense of that – Is it a tactical measure? Do they want to launch more hit-and-run attacks instead? There are a lot of possible explanations, but it could be that the social pressure now is so great that clans are rebelling, that the group is fragmenting and actually being pushed out by local Somali communities. That would be a major break for the famine response. Regardless, Shabaab’s in trouble. [The famine] is just disastrous for this group – by blocking food aid, blocking people from getting out, they have just shredded what little credibility they had left with Somalis and jihadist around the world.
What lessons should the international community take away from this present humanitarian crisis? How should the U.S. government revamp its approach to Somalia or to the Horn more broadly to help prevent crises from continuing to occur in regular intervals?
MENKHAUS: This crisis is a potential opening, both for humanitarian response and for new policy directions on Somalia. The scale of this crisis has forced people to do a fundamental rethink of all of our policies and assumptions. . . .But the broader question is what do we do about governance in this country. Shabaab may be crumbling, but the TFG remains irrelevant and is just a source of massive corruption. I think what we’re going to see over the next year is a rethink about continuing to support the TFG versus finding alternatives. But it’s difficult to get people to think about alternatives when we’ve got such immediate problems.