When African liberators metamorphosed into shameless autocrats and looters of state resources

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A liberation movement used to be that superfluous, high-sounding tag that gave so much aura of legitimacy to any rebel leader who fashioned himself as a commander of an armed struggle. With benefit of hindsight, it turns out most of such organizations were actually a bunch of fortune hunters who simply took advantage of the prevailing socials injustices to seek power for their own self aggrandizement.

It’s worth probing whether a truly genuine liberator can metamorphose into fully blown kleptocrat that we have seen across Africa. Yet what we see across Africa is a continent that has been failed by it leaders. Outside of patriotic revolutionary leaders like Thomas Sankara, few liberation leaders can be labelled as being patriotic.
It’s becoming apparent that most African autocrats who rose to power from the auspices of revolutionary movements are purely preoccupied by keeping themselves in powers and enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else.

Huge sums of monies are committed to useless ventures such as developing and financing patronage networks. This is in spite of the pathetic state of delivery of social services. Most health care services in some of these Africa countries under the stewardship of revolutionary leaders are in wretched states. Instead of fixing these obviously serious problems, officials instead opt to fly themselves to expensive hospitals abroad. Ironically, the hefty costs associated with seeking medical services aboard is actually enough to improve healthcare conditions for all citizens.

Far from liberating their people as they once clamored,  this bunch is responsible for so much suffering and repression. Anti-corruption activists who raise voices against excesses are promptly arrested as corrupt cronies are promoted to sensitive positions.

After receiving lots of money as aid from bilateral donors and well as international development organisation, no much gains has been registered. This is largely because much of this aid money is embezzled by the corrupt political.  It is this monies that they bank in tax havens such as Switzerland and Luxembourg.

While they pretend to be wooing prate investors, the thieves are keeping their loot in other countries. Lots of monies that should be changing lives are kept idle.

It is quite shameful that basic things such as clean water, education are still distant dreams for many Africans.

With this highly disappointing leadership of liberators,  the need for change shouldn’t in itself drive African masses into blindly supporting anyone who promises change. Instead the main focus should be on building credible institutions. With great institutions, a lot of transformations can take place regardless of who is in power.  This institutions can also provide checks and balances.

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Biological Weapons: A poor man’s nuclear bomb

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If terrorists used biological weapons at the Sochi Olympics, hospitals and emergency wards around the world could not cope. The 1918 flu pandemic killed millions of people in a year — no infection, war or famine has killed so many in as short a time — but the risks of biological weapons are higher. Hospitals worldwide could be overwhelmed if there were a biological attack on athletes and spectators attending the Olympics who then head home on public transportation networks.

At least 12 states either possess or are pursuing offensive biological and chemical capabilities, including several hostile to Western democracies: Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Syria.

We have learned, in hindsight, about Syria’s chemical weapons, but it would have been cheaper for President Bashar al-Assad to develop biological weapons. Estimates vary from $2 billion to $10 billion for a nuclear program, to tens of millions for a chemical program, to less than $10 million for a biological program.

These huge cost differentials have been known for decades. When Assad’s father Hafez became Syria’s president in 1971, the UN estimated the cost of causing one civilian casualty per square kilometre was about $2,000 with conventional weapons, $800 with nuclear weapons, $600 with chemical weapons and $1 with biological weapons.

Unlike their more expensive counterparts, biological weapons are difficult to detect and easy to disseminate. The 2008 International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction concluded terrorists are more likely to use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment estimates an attack with less than 100 kilograms of aerosolized anthrax spores could cause three million casualties, rivaling the lethality of a nuclear weapon. But unlike a nuclear attack, a biological attack could go unnoticed for days. The attacker could repeat attacks to exhaust resources, such as hospitals and border patrols. Because biological weapons are hundreds to thousands of times more potent than the most lethal chemical warfare agents, a little goes a long way.

While biological weapons are inexpensive to produce, they are costly and time-consuming to counter. Transforming a pathogen can take three years, but developing a bio-defence vaccine typically takes eight to 10 years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

Biological agents are available in all sorts of civilian industries, such as wine and beer making, pharmaceutical research and development, and food and agriculture sectors. They also attract less suspicion than trying to somehow assemble a nuclear bomb in your basement. Since many biological agents are dual purpose, pharmaceutical companies may produce large quantities of them — like botox, which can be used as botulinum toxin. Adding to the threat is the number of trained microbiologists who overwhelmingly outnumber nuclear physicists.

North American security experts tend to agree, behind the scenes, that biological warfare is the gravest security challenge we face. In 2001, I participated in a three-day workshop in San Diego that focused on biological warfare. A prominent member of the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations explained that the U.S. government’s decision to refrain from talking publicly about the dangers of biological warfare was due to the widespread panic this would cause. A famous scientist warned that technology was developing such that terrorists could render an entire roomful of unsuspecting adults infertile without them knowing it. At NATO headquarters in 2006 and 2011, I heard about drones the size of hummingbirds that could carry biological toxins across borders.

Since 2001, NATO allies have spent billions preparing against a possible biological weapons attack. The U.S. dedicated more than $62 billion to bio-defence between 2001 and 2011.

Some argue the threat of biological terrorism is exaggerated to justify spending bio-defence and keep people in a state of fear. Certainly the 2001 anthrax attacks led to merely five deaths, while malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS together kill over five million people every year.

Yet I worry that infected individuals could become biological vectors unknowingly spreading a laboratory-created disease. An infected individual — or a suicide terrorist — could walk through an airport and the deadly weapon would cross countless borders quickly. The influx of patients to emergency rooms would compromise the health of emergency responders. Highly-communicable pathogens could incite an epidemic in which rotating health-care workers are themselves infected, compromising efforts to control the outbreak and shifting attention away from the attackers.

The 2001 anthrax attacks led some to demand gas masks and antibiotic prescriptions, creating a serious shortage in ciprofloxacin. The attackers were never discovered, although the FBI conducted 10,000 interviews and 80 searches, and collected 5,730 samples and 6,000 items.

The sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway station was also confined to a small area, yet sent approximately 5,000 individuals to emergency rooms, although only 1,000 of them showed symptoms.

Decontamination costs following these attacks were estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars and some facilities did not reopen for more than two years. About $20 million was spent on the Hart Senate Office Building after the anthrax attack, with most of that in a single office.

Effectively combatting the threat from biological weapons requires the international community to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which 170 states-parties have signed. As of this month, Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea ratified the convention. Syria has signed but not ratified. Israel remains a prominent non-signatory. We need to exert more pressure on Syria and Israel to submit their arsenals to inspection.

We could also build more hospital rooms and expanded emergency wards to prepare against the eventuality of terrorists resorting to using the “poor man’s nuclear bomb”. And we need to work closely with tour NATO allies on new methods of rapid bio-defence.

Erika Simpson is the author of NATO and the Bomb and an associate professor of political science who teaches about international security and global violence at Western University.

How Investments in Agriculture can ease Uganda’s unemployment

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Owachgiu Dennis

Most countries lag behind economically because they fail to exploit their competitive advantages. Massive Youth Unemployment in Uganda today correlates directly with the country’s inability to create opportunities in sectors where they have competitive advantages. In Uganda, agriculture is a key competitive advantage because of the large tracks of fertile arable land available countrywide. Uganda’s land can record high yield even without fertilizers.

Since it employs nearly 80% of the population, Agriculture is the sector that can be relied to ignited an increase in household incomes for the greatest number of people. Investment in Agriculture can positively impact on many sectors of the economy simultaneously. Great and mighty economic powers such as the United States of America owes their economic growth to Agriculture.

Farming in Uganda is still largely subsistence

Uganda certainly has numerous untapped opportunities. It is noteworthy that the handful of small holder coffee farmers in Uganda have already made Uganda Africa’s leading coffer exporter and brought in considerable income. Uganda’s production level and earning can still grow up significantly for coffee, just as for other agricultural products. Investments towards processing such products locally could further allow Uganda to export finished products rather than raw materials. Exporting finished products would earn even more money for the country and create many new jobs at the processing plants.

The growth of agro-processing industries to process agricultural products will itself create jobs for multitudes in other related industries. By-products in other manufacturing cycles are automatic raw materials for other products. Other business will emerge to handle Packaging, transporting finished goods etc. When the goods are exported the country will earn the much needed foreign exchange for the economy and improve the balance of payment position.

The fact that countries that are not as endowed as Uganda are doing well means the sky is the limit for Uganda. Arid Egypt grows and exports agricultural products all year round using water from rive Nile, and Uganda has the source of river Nile right here. Israel products several tones of fresh water fish in tanks, and Uganda has the largest fresh water body right here. Botswana exports more tones of beef products globally, yet Uganda has more cows than Botswana. Israel exports more Diary products yet Uganda has more dairy cows than Israel.

It’s time to take advantages of these competitive advantages to uplift the economy. With the bulk of our population being youthful, availability of labour force is in itself another competitive advantage at our disposal. The kind of agriculture that will create enormous opportunities will have to be commercialized intensive agriculture, not the traditional hand-to-mouth subsistence agriculture. This requires real investments and the national budget should reflect agriculture as a priority area.

The huge amounts of money the country can potentially earn from agriculture will automatically spur the growth of other sectors, notably the service sector. Uganda already has a vibrant service sector, but since most people – about 67% live on a 2$ a day- the service sector can’t continually grow in an economy where the majority have a low purchasing power. Agriculture is that one sector that can unlock the purchasing power of the largest portion of the population since it employs the majority. The increase in purchasing power would then increase revenues in the service sector.

Agriculture can thus accelerate economic growth, which will create several new opportunities for citizens.  Most prosperous people who will earn a decent income from agriculture will reinvest the money in other new ventures. It is these new ventures that will create more employments opportunities for our young people. It is on that premise that agriculture must be embraced and allocated up to 10% of the budget annually. As a productive sector, the more money invested in agriculture, the more money government will earn back in tax and non tax revenues. The increased revenues can then be allocated to other crucial budgetary sectors.

The next logical question is where do we get the extra money to invest in agriculture? In my opinion we have three clear feasible ways. One would be to temporarily cut down the state’s administrative costs and use the money to invest in agriculture. Office automation would cut down the required number of personnel, thus saving some money. Reducing on the number of political appointees, by trimming down some non-essential and redundant personnel such as the “senior advisors” who offer no advice at all.

Another strategy is by implementing agricultural and economic zoning in different regions. Zoning will encourage bulk production with the additional advantage of economies of scale. It becomes easy to attract foreign direct investments for agro-processing industries to areas with enough raw materials.

The third strategy would be to formation of individually owned agricultural cooperatives through which many smallholder farmers can pool money together to either carryout farming together or to process agricultural products. The government can set up a cooperative bank or a Bank that is agriculture-friendly to provide financing to the agricultural cooperatives. Alternatively, the government can channel cheaper credit in form of Agricultural loan facilities through existing networks of commercial banks.

          

owachgiu@gmail.com

 

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