From Volume 38, Issue 25 of EIR Online, Published June 24, 2011
Africa News Digest

Malawi President: Continent Can Feed the World

June 14 (EIRNS)—Malawi President Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika, in his address at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington today, asked, "Can Africa Feed the World?"—which he answered with a definitive "Yes."

He presented a summary of an African Union study which he initiated last year while president of the African Union (AU). The study was based on his idea that Africa could become the food basket of the world, provided there were purposeful policy interventions to this effect in agricultural development. The 100-page proposal is entitled, "The African Food Basket: Innovations, Interventions and Strategic Partnerships," which was also the title of his lecture today.

Mutharika began by informing his audience "that the greatest challenge facing the world, was not from nuclear power, but the threat to the security of nations from not producing enough food." He said that 1 billion of the world's people are threatened by starvation, which means that those people are not receiving even one meal per day, and in Africa, 70% of the continent's 900 million people live in rural poverty and squalor.

He called for a new global compact for investment in Africa to eliminate starvation and malnutrition in five years, and eventually turn Africa into the bread-basket of the world. He advocated that African nations allocate 10% of their budget to agriculture, to make themselves food secure, and pointed to the success of his own country, Malawi, which, after severe suffering from famine in the early years of the last decade, has produced surpluses in the last seven years. This includes a surplus of 1.2 million metric tons of maize in 2010, out of a total 3.8 mmt produced, which challenged Malawi with the task of storing the food, since traditionally 40% of the harvest rots from lack of proper storage facilities.

To accomplish this turnaround, Mutharika took personal responsibility to provide Malawi farmers with subsidized or free seed and fertilizers, which he admitted, in an answer to a question from this news service, violated the demands of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which make it "very difficult to concentrate on food production." As a result, the country was able to send 200,000 metric tons of food to Haiti.

He asserted outright "that nations who depend on other nations for food are not sovereign," and called for a "paradigm shift on seed policies" and the right of African nations to provide essential subsidies to its agricultural producers.

With respect to the lack of infrastructure in Africa, he recognized the vital need for rail, road, and water transportation, without which African nations "cannot achieve food security." He cited the failures of the World Bank, which has for decades discouraged investment in rail networks, which he called "disastrous in judgment." He also advocated the significant increase of irrigation, which now only covers a mere 7% of arable land in Africa, compared to 41% in South America and 29% in Asia.

Mutharika is aware that an increase in the production of food would deflate inflated food prices and make food more affordable to poor people, but he advocated relying on the private sector and the "goodwill" of the private G-8 and G-20 to carry out this transformation in food policy to realizing Africa's great agricultural potential.

One Ethiopian official confirmed privately that the food crisis was the most serious issue of this decade.

Settlement of Sudan Conflict, Despite U.S. Congressional Counter-Efforts

June 20 (EIRNS)—Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, lead African Union mediator on Sudan, announced today, according to an AP report, that leaders of North and South Sudan had signed an agreement to pull their forces out of the contested Abyei border area. The agreement calls for an Ethiopian peacekeeping force to enter the area. South Sudan is slated to become an independent state July 9.

As soon as the agreement was reached, Mbeki informed the UN Security Council that both sides wanted the UN to implement the agreement, so that people displaced from Abyei after clashes between the parties, could return.

In his report to the UNSC, Mbeki said that discussions are underway between the North and South on other issues that are sources of conflict, such as currency, trade, and marketing of oil and sharing its proceeds.

This progress is in sharp contrast a hearing in the U.S. Congress which sought to aggravate the conflict between North and South Sudan.

At a June 16 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights hearing on Africa's Newest Nation: The Republic of South Sudan, which was chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), with the participation of ranking member Donald Payne (D-N.J.), most participants, with the exception of Special Envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, continued their attacks on the Khartoum government and President Omar al-Bashir. They called him a "genocidal war criminal," which will not help develop crucially important cooperation between North and South in this tense period.

By their actions, the members of the committee and the speakers giving testimony, demonstrated no concern for the people of Sudan, North or South, and no interest in finding a solution to the escalation of violence that has erupted over recent weeks, as well as no concern for the future of Sudan, as the hearing turned into a jihad to overthrow the Bashir government. Only Lyman provided some diplomatic moderation in outlining a course of action to end the fighting.

Below is a report of some of the rabid comments made during the hearing:

* Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said the U.S. government is not doing enough to stop the killing, and also accused China of "genocide" in Darfur as "they have done to the people of Tibet";

* Payne called for the U.S. military to deploy its special forces to arrest Bashir as he travels to China or other countries;

* Roger Winter, former State Department special representative to Sudan, and unofficial U.S. advisor to South Sudan, accused the Bashir government of killing 3 million civilians, and recommended that the U.S. attack a military installation as a warning to Khartoum, so as to end this "playing around with a peace agreement";

* John Eibner, CEO of Christian Solidarity International, which has collected millions of dollars as part of a money-making slave redemption program that was exposed as phony, questioned whether the U.S. is now in a position to carry out a regime change.

With three weeks remaining until the formal creation of two new states, absolutely no preparations are being made by the West to deal with the extreme economic hardships facing all the people of Sudan. Most especially, the shortage of food, resulting from the lack of an "infrastructure platform" of integrated water, power, and rail development, will impact both North and South Sudan.

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