brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

October 31, 2008

Declaration of Maputo

Filed under: General,human rights,resource — admin @ 3:46 pm

Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008

Declaration of Maputo: V International Conference of La Via Campesina

Food Sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!

We are men and women of the earth, we are those who produce food for the world. We have the right to continue being peasants and family farmers, and to shoulder the responsibility of continuing to feed our peoples. We care for seeds, which are life, and for us the act of producing food is an act of love. Humanity depends on us, and we refuse to disappear.

We, La Via Campesina, are a worldwide movement of rural women, peasants and family farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples, rural youth and afro-descendents from Asia, Europe, America and Africa, gathered together in Maputo, Mozambique from October 19 to 22, 2008, for our V International Conference. We were received in a warm and fraternal fashion by our hosts, the National Union of Peasants (União Nacional de Camponeses/UNAC) of Mozambique. We met to reaffirm our determination to defend peasant and family farm agriculture, our cultures and our right to continue to exist as peoples with our own identity. We are more than 550 people, including more than 325 men and women delegates, from 57 countries, representing hundreds of millions of farming families. We women represent more than half of the people producing food in the world and here we celebrate with energy and determination our Third Worldwide Assembly of Women. We are also celebrating our Second Youth Assembly of La Via Campesina, since only with the decisive participation of youth can a present and a future for rural areas be guaranteed. In this V International Conference we also ratified 41 organizations as new members of La Via Campesina, and we have the participation of many organizations and allied movements from all over the world, in our First Assembly with the Allies of Via Campesina.

Four years of struggle and Victories

In this V International Conference we have evaluated our main struggles, actions and activities since the IV International Conference that took place in Itaici, Brazil, in June of 2004. Among them we highlighted the massive mobilizations against the WTO, against Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in different parts of the world, and against the G8 in Rostock and Hokkaido. In 2005 La Via Campesina was very present in the days of struggle against the WTO Summit in Hong Kong, thus participating in the most recent of the actions with which we social movements have paralyzed the negotiations at WTO summits since Seattle in 1999. We have also played central roles in other mobilizations against the WTO over the last 4 years, from Geneva to India.

In 2007 we organized, with our principal allies, the International Forum on Food Sovereignty in Nyéléni, Mali. This was a crucial moment in the building of a broad and global movement for Food Sovereignty. More than 500 delegates from the most important social movements of the planet participated, and we defined a strategic agenda for the coming years. Both before and after Nyéléni we organized many national and regional meetings on Food Sovereignty. In recent years we have been able to get the concept sovereignty incorporated in national constitutions and/or laws in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Nepal, Mali, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Through our Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform, which is the expression of our struggles for land and in defense of territory, we co-organized the World Forum for Agrarian Reform in Valencia, Spain in 2004, and in 2006 we organized the International Meeting of the Landless in Porto Alegre, Brazil, before the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN). There we participated in the Brazilian women’s mobilizations against the ’green deserts’ of Eucalyptus monocultures of the TNC Aracruz, on March 8, and in the Parallel Forum, achieving important advances in the positions of the governments. In 2007 in Nepal we organized the International Conference on Food Sovereignty, Agrarian Reform and Peasant Rights.

In 2004 we held an international fair for exchange of local seed varieties, in the context of our IV Conference in Brazil. In 2005 we organized the International Conference on Seeds called “Liberate Diversity,” as part of our global struggle in favor of peasant seeds and against GMOs and terminator technology. Via Campesina Brazil organized powerful mobilizations during the International Conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) in March, 2006 in Curitiba, Brazil. We had major activities on these same issues in Mysore, India that same year, and in 2008 in Bonn, Germany, and in France where our hunger strike was key to achieving prohibition of Monsanto’s GMO maize. In Brazil in 2007, Keno, a leader of the MST, was assassinated by a gunman hired by Syngenta; but one year later we forced Syngenta to hand illegal areas used for GMO experimentation over to the government.

La Via Campesina, together with other social movements, organized the “Solidarity Village” as a parallel event to the Conference on Climate Change that the UN organized in Bali, Indonesia (2007), where we advanced the argument that peasant agriculture cools the planet.

In 2008 in Jakarta, Indonesia, we organized an international conference focused on our proposal for an International Declaration of Peasant Rights. Prior to this international conference we held an Assembly of Women on the Rights of Peasants

The commitment to solidarity of La Via Campesina was made evident in 2004 with our global efforts to channel alternative aid to the victims of the Tsunami, in 2007 with three delegations to meetings with the Zapatistas in Mexico, and every year with important actions in solidarity with those who are being victimized by the criminalization of social protest on all continents.

The displacement of rural peoples as a result of the neo-liberal model is provoking the mass movement of peoples, turning migration into a critical issue for Via Campesina. Since 2004 we have been developing strategies and actions on migration in our new International Working Group on Migration and Rural Workers. We have undertaken major actions against the ’wall of shame’ being built in the United States.

From town to town and country to country, we have taken up the struggles of La Via Campesina. Our movement is present in almost every place on the Earth, wherever neo-liberalism is being imposed on peasants and rural communities.

The struggle of La Via Campesina inspires, stimulates and generates resistance by social movements against neo-liberal policies. The number of countries with progressive governments is on the rise, gaining power as a result of years of popular mobilizations. A good number of local and national governments have accentuated their resistance, and their interest in the agenda of Food Sovereignty, as a result of popular mobilizations and as a response to the global crisis of the food prices.

The offensive of capital in the countryside, the multiple crises, and the displacement of peasant and indigenous peoples

In the current global context we are confronting the convergence of the food crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis and the financial crisis. These crises have common origins in the capitalist system and more recently in the unrestrained de-regulation in various spheres of economic activity, as part of the neo-liberal model, which gives priority to business and profit. In the rural zones of the world, we have seen a ferocious offensive of capital and of transnational corporations (TNCs) to take over land and natural assets (water, forests, minerals, biodiversity, land, etc.), that translates into a privatizing war to steal the territories and assets of peasants and indigenous peoples. This war uses false pretexts and deliberately erroneous arguments, for example to claim that agrofuels are a solution for the climactic and energy crises, when the truth is exactly the opposite. Whenever peoples exercise their rights and resist this generalized pillage, or when they are obliged to join migrant flows, the response is always more criminalization, more repression, more political prisoners, more assassinations, more walls of shame and more military bases.

Declaration of Peasant Rights

We see a future UN Declaration of Peasant Rights as a key tool in the international legal system to strengthen our position and our rights as peasants and family farmers. For this reason we are launching the Global Campaign for a Declaration of Peasant Rights.

Food Sovereignty: the solution to the crisis, and for the life of peoples

Nevertheless, the current situation of crisis is also an opportunity, because Food Sovereignty offers the only real alternative both for the life of peoples, as well as for reversing the current global crises. Food Sovereignty responds to the food, climate and energy crises with local food grown by peasants and family farmers, attacking two of the principle sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the long distance transportation of foods and industrialized agriculture. It also offers relief to a particularly nefarious aspect of the financial crisis, by prohibiting speculation in food futures contracts. While the dominant model truly means crisis and death, Food Sovereignty means the life and hope of the rural peoples and of consumers. Food Sovereignty requires the protection and re-nationalization of national food markets, the promotion of local circuits of production and consumption, the struggle for land, the defense of the territories of indigenous peoples, and comprehensive agrarian reform. It is also based on the transformation the production model toward agro-ecological and sustainable farming, without pesticides and without GMOs, based on the knowledge of peasants, family farmers and indigenous peoples. As a general principle, Food Sovereignty is built on the basis of our concrete local experiences, in other words, from the local to the national.

The crisis is causing incalculable suffering among our peoples and has eroded the legitimacy of the neo-liberal model of “free trade,” such that some progressive local, state and national governments have begun to seek alternative solutions. In La Via Campesina we must be capable of taking advantage of these opportunities.

We have to develop a working methodology that includes critical and constructive dialog to achieve successful cases of implementation of Food Sovereignty with these governments. We also need to take advantage of international spaces of “alternative integration,” such as ALBA and Petrocaribe, to advance in this terrain. But we must not only bet on governments, but rather build Food Sovereignty from below in the territories and other spaces controlled by popular movements, indigenous peoples, etc. The time has come for Food Sovereignty and we need to take the initiative to make progress in all of our countries. We peasants and family farmers of the world can and want to feed the world, our families and our communities, with healthy and accessible foods.

Multinational corporations and free trade

Our reflections have made it clear to us that multinational corporations and international finance capital are our most important common enemies, and that as such, we have to bring our struggle to them more directly. They are the ones behind the other enemies of peasants, like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the FTAs and EPAs, neoliberal governments, as well as aggressive economic expansionism, imperialism and militarism. Now is also the time to redouble our struggle against FTAs and EPAs, and against the WTO, but this time more clearly indicating the central role played by the TNCs.

The advance of women is the advance of La Via Campesina

One issue was very clear in this V Conference, that all the forms of violence that women face in our societies -among them physical, economic, social, cultural and macho violence, and violence based on differences of power – are also present in rural communities, and as a result, in our organizations. This, in addition to being a principal source of injustice, also limits the success of our struggles. We recognize the intimate relationships between capitalism, patriarchy, machismo and neo-liberalism, in detriment to the women peasants and farmers of the world. All of us together, women and men of La Via Campesina, make a responsible commitment to build new and better human relationships among us, as a necessary part of the construction of the new societies to which we aspire. For this reason during this V Conference we decided to break the silence on these issues, and are launching the World Campaign “For an End to Violence Against Women.” We commit ourselves anew, with greater strength, to the goal of achieving that complex but necessary true gender parity in all spaces and organs of debate, discussion, analysis and decision-making in La Via Campesina, and to strengthen the exchange, coordination and solidarity among the women of our regions.

We recognize the central role of women in agriculture for food self-sufficiency, and the special relationship of women with the land, with life and with seeds. In addition, we women have been and are a guiding part of the construction of Via Campesina from its beginning. If we do not eradicate violence towards women within our movement, we will not advance in our struggles, and if we do not create new gender relations, we will not be able to build a new society.

We are not alone: the building of alliances

By ourselves, we peasants and family farmers cannot win our struggles for dignity, for a just food and agrarian system, and for that other world that is possible. We have to build and reinforce our organic and strategic alliances with movements and organizations that share our vision, and this is a special commitment of the V Conference.

Youth provide our hope for a better future

The dominant model in rural areas does not offer any options to young people. Youth are our base for the present and the future, so we commit ourselves to the full integration and creative participation of young people in all levels of our struggle.

Education to strengthen our movement

In order to have greater success and victories in our struggles, we need to dedicate ourselves to the internal strengthening of our movement, by political formation to build our capacity to interpret and transform our realties, by training, and by improving communication and articulation among ourselves and with our allies.

Diversity and unity in the defense of peasant agriculture

As an international social movement, we can say that one of our greatest strengths is our ability to unite different cultures and ways of thinking in one single movement. La Via Campesina represents a common commitment to resist, and to struggle for life and for peasant and family farm agriculture. All the participants of the V Conference of La Via Campesina are committed to the defense of food and of peasant agriculture, the right to Food Sovereignty, to dignity and to life. We are here, the peasants and rural peoples of the world, and we refuse to disappear.

Globalize Struggle! Globalize Hope!

source: Via Campesina

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:58 am

Sandy Springs in Congo

Filed under: capitalism,congo,human rights,military,resource,sri lanka,usa — admin @ 5:53 am

Another glimpse of a disaster-apartheid future can be found
in a wealthy Republican suburb outside Atlanta. Its
residents decided that they were tired of watching their
property taxes subsidize schools and police in the county’s
low-income African-American neighborhoods. They voted to
incorporate as their own city, Sandy Springs, which could
spend most of its taxes on services for its 100,000 citizens
and minimize the revenue that would be redistributed
throughout Fulton County. The only difficulty was that Sandy
Springs had no government structures and needed to build
them from scratch-everything from tax collection to zoning
to parks and recreation. In September 2005, the same month
that New Orleans flooded, the residents of Sandy Springs
were approached by the construction and consulting giant
CH2M Hill with a unique pitch: Let us do it for you. For the
starting price of $27 million a year, the contractor pledged
to build a complete city from the ground up.

A few months later, Sandy Springs became the first “contract
city.” Only four people worked directly for the new
municipality-everyone else was a contractor. Rick Hirsekorn,
heading up the project for CH2M Hill, described Sandy
Springs as “a clean sheet of paper with no governmental
processes in place.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
reported that “when Sandy Springs hired corporate workers to
run the new city, it was considered a bold experiment.”
Within a year, however, contract-city mania was tearing
through Atlanta’s wealthy suburbs, and it had become
“standard procedure in north Fulton.” Neighboring
communities took their cue from Sandy Springs and also voted
to become stand-alone cities and contract out their
government. One new city, Milton, immediately hired CH2M
Hill for the job-after all, it had the experience. Soon, a
campaign began for the new corporate cities to join together
to form their own county. The plan has encountered fierce
opposition outside the proposed enclave, where politicians
say that without those tax dollars, they will no longer be
able to afford their large public hospital and public
transit system; that partitioning the county would create a
failed state on the one hand and a hyperserviced one on the
other. What they were describing sounded a lot like New
Orleans and a little like Baghdad.

In these wealthy Atlanta suburbs, the long crusade to
strip-mine the state is nearing completion, and it is
particularly fitting that the new ground was broken by CH2M
Hill. The corporation was a multimillion-dollar contractor
in Iraq, paid to perform the core government function of
overseeing other contractors. In Sri Lanka after the
tsunami, it not only had built ports and bridges but was,
according to the U.S. State Department, “responsible for the
overall management of the infrastructure program.” In
post-Katrina New Orleans, CH2M Hill was awarded $500 million
to build FEMA-villes and was put on standby for the next
disaster. A master of privatizing the core functions of the
state during extraordinary circumstances, the company was
now doing the same under ordinary ones. lf disasters had
served as laboratories of extreme privatization, the testing
phase was clearly over.

When we glance at the holocaust in Congo, with 5.4 million
dead, the clichés of Africa-reporting tumble out: this is a
“tribal conflict” in “the Heart of Darkness”. It isn’t. The
United Nations investigation found it was a war led by
“armies of business” to seize the metals that make our
21st-century society zing and bling.

At the moment, Rwandan business interests make a fortune
from the Congolese mines they illegally seized during the
war. Congo is the richest country in the world for gold,
diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, and more. Everybody wanted a
slice — so six other countries invaded.

These resources were not being stolen to for use in Africa.
They were seized so they could be sold on to the West. The
more we bought, the more the invaders stole — and
slaughtered. The rise of mobile phones caused a surge in
deaths, because the coltan they contain is found primarily
in Congo. The UN named the international corporations it
believed were involved: Anglo-America, Standard Chartered
Bank, De Beers and more than 100 others. (They all deny the

The debate about Congo in the West — when it exists at all
— focuses on our inability to provide a decent bandage,
without mentioning that we are causing the wound. The 17,000
UN forces in the country are abysmally failing to protect
the civilian population. But it is even more important to
stop fuelling the war in the first place by buying
blood-soaked natural resources. Rwandan-backed militias only
have enough guns and grenades to take on the Congolese army
and the UN because we buy the loot. We need to prosecute the
corporations buying them for abetting crimes against
humanity, and introduce a global coltan-tax to pay for a
substantial peacekeeping force. To get there, we need to
build an international system that values the lives of black
people more than it values profit.

October 28, 2008

Polarised Thailand to barter rice for oil

Filed under: government,resource,thailand — admin @ 3:55 am

THAILAND said it planned to barter rice for oil with Iran in the clearest example to date of how the triple financial, fuel and food crisis is reshaping global trade as countries struggle with high commodity prices and a lack of credit.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation said such government-to-government bartering – a system of trade not used for decades – was likely to become more common as the private sector was finding it hard to access credit for food imports.

“Government-to-government deals will increase in number,” said Concepción Calpe, a senior economist at the FAO in Rome.

“The lack of credit for trade could lead also to a resurgence of barter deals between countries,” she added. Officials and traders noted, however, that Iran was not typical because the US-led sanctions against its banks meant the country was facing difficulties financing agricultural trade even before the financial crisis.

Bangkok’s commerce ministry yesterday said it was sending a delegation to Tehran to discuss the barter deal. Thailand is the world’s largest rice exporter, controlling a third of the global market, while Iran is one of the top 10 importers.

Last year Iran bought some 600,000 tonnes of rice from Thailand, but so far this year it has bought only 60,000 tonnes as it has waited for prices to fall.

The price of Thai medium-quality white rice soared to an all-time high of above $1,000 (€ 798) a tonne in May but has since dropped to $660 a tonne.

These days, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is being blamed for everything that is wrong with Thailand.

In polarised Thailand, the colour “yellow” symbolises the PAD (an anti-government movement that sees red in anything connected to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai premier who was ousted in a 2006 coup) while “red” represents the pro-government supporters.

The PAD crowd has a jaundiced opinion of Thaksin, blaming him for anything negative that happens to them or their country.

In case of a coup (which is highly likely after army chief Anupong went on television on Oct 16 to urge Somchai to resign), army major-general Khattiya Sawasdiphol vowed to welcome tanks with Molotov cocktails instead of roses that were offered to the soldiers after they deposed Thaksin without any bloodshed.

This will be the first and only time that the people have threatened a counter-coup, if tanks roam Bangkok streets. Tanks usually used in military coups, attached to the Fourth Cavalry Battalion, are old and vulnerable to catching fire.

The anti-PAD crowd said that in Thailand, the second “c” in “democracy” has been replaced with “z” – democrazy.

October 27, 2008

World Press Freedom Index 2008

Filed under: General,human rights,ideology,media — admin @ 3:35 am

The news media advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders released their fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index this week, and it shows that the United States has dropped 9 places since last year, and is now ranked 53rd, alongside Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. The authors of the report say that the steady erosion of press freedom in countries like the US, France and Japan (two other countries that slipped significantly on the index) is “very alarming.”

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognize the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

The organization bases the index on responses to 50 questions about press freedom asked of journalists, free press organizations, researchers, human rights activists and others. Jurist reports that the organization received responses from 168 countries, and “compiled based on “the degree of freedom journalists and news organizations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the state to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

The world’s worst violators of press freedoms remains unchanged from last year: North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China.

October 23, 2008

Vanuatu declares dengue fever outbreak

Filed under: disease/health,global islands,vanuatu — admin @ 3:20 am

Vanuatu health authorities have declared a dengue fever outbreak and a nation-wide campaign to control the spread of the disease. The Non-Communicable Disease Manager, George Taleo says that of the 28 confirmed cases so far, more than 16 were recorded in the last week alone. He says the worst dengue outbreak in recent times was in 1987 when 30 people died, and they don’t want a repeat of this.

October 22, 2008

Filed under: Film,General — admin @ 5:23 am

Alaska to New Zealand non-stop

Filed under: wildlife — admin @ 3:14 am

Tracked bar-tailed godwits set new non-stop flight record for birds.

In an avian flight of epic proportions, a female bar-tailed godwit alighted from her Alaskan breeding ground and flew south 11,680 kilometers, nonstop, until she reached her winter home in New Zealand. Called E7 by the scientists who monitored her, she flew more than eight days without food, water or rest, on the longest direct flight by a bird ever documented, researchers report online October 21 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A research team also tracked eight other bar-tailed godwits, a type of shorebird, on what researchers call extreme endurance flights. Seven females, which typically have a wingspan of 30 to 40 centimeters, flew an average 10,153 kilometers over, at most, 9.4 days, uninterrupted. That’s the equivalent of flying from Los Angeles to London with 1,000 kilometers to spare.

The two males tracked flew slightly shorter distances over, at most, 6.6 days. But even these godwits shattered the longest nonstop flight record (as far as humans know), previously held by a Far-Eastern curlew that flew 6,500 kilometers over three to five days from Australia to China.

A team of researchers headed by Robert Gill Jr. of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center in Anchorage implanted tiny satellite trackers in female godwits near the Alaska coast. Males, which are typically smaller, were harnessed with external (and lighter) satellite trackers on their legs. Scientists then monitored the changing coordinates of the godwits as the birds made their long flight over the Pacific Ocean.

Assessing the weather patterns in Alaska, the team also found that the godwits timed their departures to coincide with favorable tail winds that helped them fly south. “All birds took off with favorable winds,” says Gill, who added that tail winds caught in Alaska can carry these birds 3,000 to 5,000 kilometers. “Some birds get carried almost to Hawaii,” says Gill.

October 19, 2008

Police Brutality Protestors Found Guilty

Filed under: police,usa — admin @ 3:12 am

The tragic death of Sean Bell revisited New York City recently. This past Oct. 6, eight of the remaining protesters went to trial in a Manhattan courtroom for their participation in the protest of the New York Police Department’s killing of Sean Bell as he was driving a car.

On Nov. 25, 2006, the morning of Bell’s impending wedding, NYC police shot 50 bullets into Bell’s car. In addition to killing Bell, they also wounded Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. None of the three men was armed. New York City has a history of its police targeting Blacks and Latinos in the form of racial profiling and killings.

People in New York City and nationally were outraged by the April 25 verdict acquitting all the officers of every charge in the shooting. On May 7, in New York City and elsewhere people expressed their extreme anger. Many hundreds took to the streets in a mass traffic action out of deep frustration and desperation, surrounded by thousands of supporters.

The protest action blocked bridges and tunnels at several different locations within New York City. The action, initiated by the National Action Network, was well organized. Approximately 250 participants were subsequently arrested for civil disobedience.

The bulk of those arrested had their cases adjourned in contemplation of dismissal at a later date. However, the Rev. Al Sharpton; Sara Flounders, International Action Center co-director; and six others were among the activists singled out for trial on Oct. 6th. One of the arrestees had himself been a victim of a brutal police attack.

Judge Larry Stephen, a former district attorney, refused to accept their “Not guilty—Necessity Defense” plea, and they were declared guilty. In essence, the Necessity Defense motion for dismissal argued that the conduct of the protesters was justifiable and not criminal.

The motion also argued that the desirability and urgency of avoiding further police misconduct and violence should outweigh the civil disobedience offense of blocking traffic; that there were no adequate legal means to prevent further police brutality; that there was an immediate need to break the pattern of police killings; and that the arrestees felt they had no other recourse against the precipitating injustices than the action they took.

On Oct. 8, all eight defendants were sentenced to “time already served in jail” and fined $95 each. Benefield, Guzman and Sean Bell’s fiancée, Nicole Bell, were in the courtroom. Despite no one going to jail, it was another example of justice being denied to the people.

In Flounders’ statement to the court she pointed out that “When the protesters’ defense of ‘justified necessity’ has no basis and the police’s long record and pattern of attacks is not relevant to the protesters’ actions, it only confirms the pervasiveness of police misconduct and that the courts have lost the ability to hear the rising anger.

“The traffic action by the many hundreds of people,” she added, “was a polite reminder to the powers in NYC of the people’s ability, in response to deep grievances, to bring the city to a halt, even if just for minutes. It also shows the enormous power and potential that people have when they are mobilized. None of us are guilty. The police guilt is what stands. While the police are found ‘not guilty’ there is no justice.”

October 18, 2008

Scrap Metal Crime in Kenya

Filed under: china,kenya,resource — admin @ 4:13 pm

A demand for scrap metal by China is fuelling an unprecedented rate of crime in Kenya and vandalism of key installations to meet a growing demand for raw material. Electricity, phone cables and railway lines have been vandalized as the Chinese importers continue to pay premium prices for metal.

State corporations have as a result lost millions of shillings in stolen cables and structures as thieves go for valued copper steel and aluminum metals all of which are in high demand in the rapidly expanding Chinese economy.

But it is not only the big state corporations that are suffering abandoned houses in villages and town’s cattle dips, livestock inseminations centers and bus stops have all been stripped bare of iron sheet roofing.

Similar fate has befallen street lightning posts, sign posts as have roadside railings on highways endangering lives of motorists and other road users. Abandoned and broken down vehicles have not been spared either as the mad rush for scrap metal intensifies across the country.


In some extreme cases unemployed youths have stolen utensils such as cooking pots from their parents houses which they sell to dealers for about a dollar a kilo , money the spend on illicit booze heightening misery in poor families.

A number of youths have been found electrocuted and hanging from power installations as they tried to bring down power transformers valued for their copper casings.

In a recent incident on the outskirts of Nairobi a young man was killed and his body set on fire by an angry mob as he and 3 others tried to a uproot a steel gate from a compound which they intended to hack into small pieces and later on sell to merchants

Scrap buying yards have sprung every neighborhood, estate and village .Local merchants are profiting big-time buying scrap and selling it to Nairobi’s industrial area based traders, who in turn export to China making huge profits as the country suffers.

Highly valued of all the metals is copper which attracts the highest price the result of which is that Telkom Kenya the sole operator of fixed line phones has lost virtually all it’s infrastructure in parts of Nairobi and environs .

The company has been forced to set up a more aggressive security department as has the Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC) spending millions of shillings on expensive security infrastructure, money that would otherwise have been spent on other priorities.

The youth

Idle youths are spending their daytime spying on where next to pounce on these valued metals after which they come at night to take the loot before selling it to traders who hardly care where such merchandise is coming from.

Sadly the millions of shillings earned by youths from sale of the metal is spent on drink to the last coin.

Some children in slums are as well dropping from school to engage in the trade with many spending their days collecting waste metal pieces .

Victims of the trade are blaming the police for not only laxity but for corruption as well , with hundreds of people mainly traders being arrested daily for buying stolen metal , but are soon set free after paying a bribe.

Peter Gikonyo a scrap dealer in Mukuru slums is one such a person, almost every other week police have raided his premises confiscating telecom cables but has never spent a night in cells after greasing hands.

“ All police are interested in is money “ he said arguing that the amount he pays them was peanuts compared to the more than 400% paid by exporters for prized copper.

Police now no longer arrest he adds but instead pass through his yard weekly to collect protection fees.

“ We must make the hay as the sun shines”, Gikonyo offers, adding that the boom will not last forever.

The government has tried to reign on the trade but little success so far has been realized.3 years ago a 100% export duty was imposed to apparently cushion local industry but the Chinese appetite for the metals and willingness to pay a premium hardly impacted on the trade .

This year the government proposed in the national budget read in July to ban scrap metal exports but the measure is yet to be approved by parliament and the Scrap Metal Dealers Association of Kenya is already up in arms, threatening court action to stop any such legislation.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has in the past complained that local factories unable to offer as high prices as the Chinese risked closure and loss of thousands of jobs.

Two years ago a local Auto battery maker Kenya Battery Manufacturers closed down blaming Chinese importers of starving it of lead, a critical component in batteries, by offering extraordinarily high prices.

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