|Africa News Digest
World Bank Shifts to Mini-Agriculture, Low-Carbon Energy
Oct. 21 (EIRNS)The World Bank is making a shift in its policy towards Africa, to an emphasis on small-scale agriculture which will supposedly serve as a motor for development of African countries, as well as emphasis on a transition to low-carbon economies. At the IMF/World Bank annual meeting in Washington, D.C., World Bank President Robert Zoellick today won support from Bank member countries for his strategy for the next five years, according to Reuters. The IMF/World Bank annual meeting ends tomorrow.
The Bank's annual World Development Report, released the week preceding the annual meeting, noted that "A greater focus on agriculture will boost overall growth and can offer multiple pathways out of poverty." There was no mention of development of infrastructure or industry to facilitate this.
In preparation for the policy shift, an internal World Bank report was recently made public by the Bank, which admitted that its policy for the 1980s and 1990s had willfully neglected agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Oct. 15 New York Times. The Bank had pushed for the public sector in African countries to pull back from involvement in agriculture, saying that market forces would step in and solve the problems. The Bank pushed governments to cut or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, decontrol prices, and privatize agricultural input supply and marketing institutions. But the private sector did not move in, and food production fell.
Without access to significant credit, roads, and fertilizer markets, the theory that higher prices to farmers for their products, resulting from deregulation, would fuel development, fell flat in those two decades. The new policy focusses only on "small holders," and not on infrastructure or industry.
Somalia Crisis Escalates as UN Official Is Kidnapped
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)In the wake of the sabotage of recent efforts to reconcile the Somali government with opposition factions in Mogadishu, the situation in the country has plunged further into chaos. Yesterday, Idris Osman, the head of the UN World Food Program in Mogadishu was seized at gunpoint by up to 60 heavily armed Somali government security officers, who had forced their way into the WFP offices, according to news reports. This action prompted the WFP to stop desperately needed food-aid distribution. The kidnapping occurred on the eve of a confidence vote for Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, and in the aftermath of some of the heaviest fighting in weeks in the capital, Mogadishu. On Oct. 10, Gedi was the target of a suicide bomb attack near his residence.
The Interior Ministry denied responsibility in the kidnapping Osman. Everything indicates that the escalation of violence has been engineered to sabotage a process of reconciliation which Prime Minister Gedi had been part of. On Oct. 9, Gedithe leader of the Hawiye, the most powerful clan in Mogadishuhad signed a truce deal that was seen as a major step in bringing about reconciliation between the Ethiopian-supported transitional government and the anti-government Islamic militias.
The agreement between Gedi and the Hawiye clan had been supported by the Italian government, which the cabinet chief of the transitory government, Abdisaid M. Ali, had called on for help. Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Patrizia Sentinelli promised support on the condition that "the Somali executive must take concrete steps towards the inclusion of the clans and of the political forces which have not participated in the work of the reconciliation conference." On Oct. 10, the Italian government announced the formation of a working group to come out with concrete suggestions for Somalia. This reconciliation process is now jeopardized.
Last week, Gedi's government imploded, as the occupying force, Ethiopia, withdrew its support and now backs Gedi's rival, President Abdullahi Yusuf. Relations between Gedi and Yusuf worsened last month, after Gedi dismissed a close political ally of Yusuf. In the aftermath of a Oct. 10 suicide attack, 22 ministers out of 30 abandoned the government coalition.
Abdullahi Yusuf is from the Darod clan. His power base is in Puntland, an autonomous region in Somalia state. In October 2006, the Puntland autonomous government entered into a contract with the small Australian company Range Resources Ltd, selling off 50.1% of the exclusive rights to all mineral, oil exploration and development in Puntland.
Any solution for stability in Somalia involves the Islamic Courts and the transitional government. The Ethiopian occupation force, although key in overthrowing the former Islamic government, is not able to control the territory.
Meanwhile, an alliance of opponents to the Ethiopia-backed transitional government has been recently formed in Eritrea. "A situation suggesting ... a proxy war" is taking place, wrote the Catholic press service Fides Oct. 10, pointing to the fact that foreign interests are eager to put their hands on water, oil, and other interests in the region. "The most worrisome development for observers is the growing tension between Somaliland and Puntland." Both are in the former British-controlled part of Somalia, both are heavily dependent on Ethiopia, and Somaliland wants independence from Somalia.
The Sool region, contested by Puntland and Somaliland, is ethnically aligned with Puntland, but, in classic British colonial style, was formerly part of British Somaliland. "In the first days of October at least ten persons died in clashes in the Sool area, at the border between the two Somali regions, where there are years-long tensions over the control of water-rich areas," Fides wrote.
Confidence Vote on Somali Premier Postponed Again
Oct. 21 (EIRNS)The vote on the no-confidence motion brought against Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has been delayed again, according to Garowe Online today. Originally scheduled for Oct. 17, it was delayed until today because Gedi was meeting high-level officials in Ethiopia for three days. Upon his return today, the vote was put off until tomorrow, because President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed was conducting closed-door talks with senior legislators and administration officials.
While in Ethiopia, Gedi said he would follow legal procedures and step down, so as to avoid a divisive struggle. He does not have a private army, as do many of the political figures in Somalia. He is from the Mogadishu-centered Hawiye clan, one of the two largest clans in Somalia, significant numbers of which are opposed to the President and the Ethiopian military presence. Gedi has had differences with Yusuf since 2004.
Gedi has been appealing to feuding clans to settle their differences peacefully. Since Ethiopia militarily intervened in Somalia last December, there has been a growing insurgency, which, Gedi charges, has many external stakeholders. Mogadishu is becoming more and more like Baghdad; some pilots are now refusing to fly into Mogadishu.