Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ethiopia

Africa, Uncolonized:

A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent

Note: Maps were drawn upside down during the Arabic Empire and they skew the current traditional eurocentric point of direction.
Africa was called before the European colonization Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan meaning ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’
Frank Jacobs, November 12, 2014
Uitsny_suid_afrika

What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans?

The Reconquista in Spain would have never happened.

Spain and Portugal don’t kickstart Europe’s colonization of other continents in the 16th century. And this is what Africa might have looked like.

The map shows an Africa dominated by Islamic states, and native kingdoms and federations. All have at least some basis in history, linguistics or ethnography.

None of their borders is concurrent with any of the straight lines imposed on the continent by European powers, during the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and in the subsequent Scramble for Africa.

By 1914, Europeans controlled 90% of Africa’s land mass. Only the Abyssinian Empire (modern-day Ethiopia) and Liberia (founded in 1847 as a haven for freed African-American slaves) remained independent.

This map is the result of an entirely different course of history. The continent depicted here isn’t even called Africa [1] but Alkebu-Lan, supposedly Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ [2].

That name is sometimes used by those who reject even the name ‘Africa’ as a European imposition. It is therefore an ideal title for this thought experiment by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon.

Essentially, it formulates a cartographic answer to the question: What would Africa have looked like if Europe hadn’t become a colonizing power? 

To arrive at this map, Cyon constructed an alternative timeline. Its difference from our own starts in the mid-14th century.

The point of divergence: the deadliness of the Plague.

In our own timeline, over the course of the half dozen years from 1346 to 1353, the Black Death [3] wiped out between 30 and 60% of Europe’s population. It would take the continent more than a century to reach pre-Plague population levels. That was terrible enough.

But what if Europe had suffered an even more catastrophic extermination – one from which it could not recover?

Allohistorical Africa, seen from our North-up perspective. The continent’s superstates (at least size-wise): Al-Maghrib, Al-Misr, Songhai, Ethiopia, Kongo and Katanga.

European colonies in Africa in ‘our’ 1913.

Blue: France, pink: Britain, light green: Germany, dark green: Italy, light purple: Spain, dark purple: Portugal, yellow: Belgium, white: independent. Lines reflect current borders.

Cyon borrowed this counterfactual hypothesis from The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternate history novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. The book, first published in 2002, explores how the depopulation of Europe would have altered world history.

Robinson speculates that Europe would have been colonized by Muslims from the 14th century onwards, and that the 20th century would see a world war between a sprawling Muslim alliance on the one side, and the Chinese empire and the Indian and native American federations on the other.

Cyon focuses on Africa – or rather, Alkebu-Lan – which in his version of events doesn’t suffer the ignominy and injustice of the European slave trade and subsequent colonization.

In our timeline, Europe’s domination of Africa obscured the latter continent’s rich history and many cultural achievements. On the map of Cyon’s Africa, a many-splendored landscape of nations and empires, all native to the continent itself, gives the lie to the 19th- and 20th-century European presumption that Africa merely was a ‘dark continent’ to be enlightened, or a ‘blank page’ for someone else to write upon.

Basing himself on Unesco’s General History of Africa, Cyon built his map around historical empires, linguistic regions and natural boundaries. His snapshot is taken in 1844 (or 1260 Anno Hegirae), also the date of a map of tribal and political units in Unesco’s multi-volume General History.

Al-Andalus, in this timeline still a dependency of Al-Maghrib; and the Emirate of Sicily to the left of the map.

Zooming in on the northern (bottom) part of the map, we see an ironic reversal of the present situation: in our timeline, Spain is still holding on to Ceuta, Melilla and other plazas de soberania in Northern Africa.

In Cyon’s world, most of the Iberian peninsula still called Al-Andalus, and is an overseas part of Al-Maghrib, a counterfactual Moroccan superstate covering a huge swathe of northwestern Africa. Sicily, which we consider to be part of Europe, is colored in as African, and goes by the name of Siqilliyya Imārat (Emirate of Sicily).

The Arabic is no accident. Absent the European imprint, Islam has left an even more visible mark on large swathes of North, West and East Africa than it has today. Numerous states carry the nomenclature Sultānat, Khilāfat or Imārat. The difference between a Caliphate, Sultanate and Emirate?

A Caliph claims supreme religious and political leadership as the successor (caliph) to Muhammad, ideally over all Muslims. I spot two Caliphates on the map: Hafsid (centered on Tunis, but much larger than Tunisia), and Sokoto in West Africa (nowadays: northwest Nigeria).

Sokoto, Dahomey, Benin and other states in country-rich West Africa. 

A Sultan is an independent Islamic ruler who does not claim spiritual leadership. Five states in the greater Somalia region are Sultanates, for example: Majerteen, Hiraab, Geledi, Adāl and Warsangele. Others include Az-Zarqa (in present-day Sudan), Misr (Egypt, but also virtually all of today’s Israel), and Tarābulus (capital: Tripoli, in our Libya).

An Emir is a prince or a governor of a province, implying some suzerainty to a higher power. There’s a cluster of them in West Africa: Trarza, Tagant, Brakna, all south of Al-Maghrib. But they are elsewhere too: Kano and Katsina, just north of Sokoto.

Islam of course did not originate in Africa, and some would claim that its dominance of large areas of Africa, at the expense of pre-existing belief systems, is as much an example of foreign cultural imperialism as the spread of Western religions and languages is in our day.

But that is material for another thought experiment. This one aims to filter out the European influence.

Neither European nor Arab influence is in evidence in the southern part of Africa – although some toponyms relate directly to states in our timeline: BaTswana is Botswana, Wene wa Kongo refers to the two countries bearing that name. Umoja wa Falme za Katanga is echoed in the name of the DR Congo’s giant inland province, Katanga.

Rundi, Banyarwanda and Buganda, squeezed in between the Great Lakes, are alternative versions of ‘our’ Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

Some familiar-sounding names around the Great Lakes.

There is an interesting parallel to the Africa/Alkebu-Lan dichotomy in the toponymic ebb and flow of Congo and Zaïre as names for the former Belgian colony at the center of the continent.

Congo, denoting both the stream and the two countries on either of its lower banks [4], derives from 16th- and 17th-century Bantu kingdoms such as Esikongo, Manikongo and Kakongo near the mouth of the river.

The name was taken up by European cartographers and the territory it covered eventually reached deep inland. But because of its long association with colonialism, and also to fix his own imprint on the country, Congo’s dictator Mobutu in 1971 changed the name of the country and the stream to Zaïre.

The name-change was part of a campaign for local authenticity which also entailed the Africanisation of the names of persons and cities [5], and the introduction of the abacos [6] – a local alternative to European formal and businesswear.

Curiously for a campaign trying to rid the country of European influences, the name Zaïre actually was a Portuguese corruption of Nzadi o Nzere, a local term meaning ‘River that Swallows Rivers’. Zaïre was the Portuguese name for the Congo stream in the 16th and 17th centuries, but gradually lost ground to Congo before being picked up again by Mobutu.

After the ouster and death of Mobutu, the country reverted to its former name, but chose the predicate Democratic Republic to distinguish itself from the Republic of Congo across the eponymous river.

Kongo – a coastal superstate in the alternative timeline.

This particular tug of war is emblematic for the symbolism attached to place names, especially in Africa, where many either refer to a pre-colonial past (e.g. Ghana and Benin, named after ancient kingdoms), represent the vestiges of the colonial era (e.g. Lüderitz, in Namibia), or attempt to build a postcolonial consensus (e.g. Tanzania, a portmanteau name for Tanganyika and Zanzibar).

By taking the colonial trauma out of the equation, this map offers a uniquely a-colonial perspective on the continent, whether it is called Africa or Alkebu-Lan.

Map of Alkebu-Lan and excerpts thereof reproduced by kind permission of Nikolaj Cyon. See it in full resolution on this page of his website. Map of Africa in 1913 by Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons User: Sting), found here on Wikimedia Commons.

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Strange Maps #688

[1] A name popularized by the Romans. It is of uncertain origin, possibly meaning ‘sunny’, ‘dusty’ or ‘cave-y’.

[2] The origin and meaning of the toponym are disputed. The Arabic for ‘Land of the Blacks’ would be Bilad as-Sudan, which is how the present-day country of Sudan got its name. Other translations offered for Alkebu-Lan (also rendered as Al-Kebulan or Alkebulan) are ‘Garden of Life’, ‘Cradle of Life’, or simply ‘the Motherland’. Although supposedly of ancient origin, the term was popularized by the academic Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan (b. 1918).

The term is not a 20th-century invention, however. Its first traceable use is in La Iberiada (1813), an epic poem from 1813 by Ramón Valvidares y Longo. In the index, where the origin of ‘Africa’ is explained, it reads: “Han dado las naciones á este pais diversos nombres, llamándole Ephrikia los Turcos, Alkebulan los Arabes, Besecath los Indios, y los pueblos del territorio Iphrikia ó Aphrikia: los Griegos, en fin, le apellidaron Libia, y despues Africa, cuyo nombre han adoptado los Españoles, Italianos, Latinos, Ingleses y algunos otros pueblos de la Europa”.

[3] A.k.a. the Plague, a very contagious and highly deadly disease caused by Yersinia pestis. That bacterium infested the fleas that lived on the rats coming over from Crimea to Europe on Genoese merchant ships.

[4] In fact, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, capitals of the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, are positioned across from each other on the banks of the Congo River – the only example in the world of two national capitals adjacent to each other.

[5] The ‘founder-president’ himself changed his name from Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga. The capital Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa, after an ancient village on the same site.

[6] Despite the African-sounding name, abacos is an acronym of à bas costumes, or: ‘Down with (Western) suits’.

 

Ethiopean Virgin blood: A Fiction story?

I had sold my powerful but rickety BMW:  I could no longer afford frequent repairs or filling a quarter of the gas tank.

Having learned to be optimistic, I decided to walk to the near-by private library, 3 miles back and forth.  I love this library, cuddled in a two-story house, and surrounded with a garden.

The library is connected to the internet (pretty slow though) and I enjoy fresh incoming books, magazine, and a Lebanese daily.  I read, publish articles on my blog, and borrow books:  What else can anyone demand?

On my way to the library, I noticed many “imported” Ethiopian girls working as maids; most of the girls are pretty, tall, and connected with a network of other Ethiopian girls. Actually, they managed to build a church for their expanding community in our district.

I had this project of visiting a region in Ethiopia where a tribe still lives in primitive conditions.  The documentary showed a community looking happy and contended.  I have watched a documentary on that tribe and on Ethiopia.

I have read and heard that Ethiopia is a lovely country to tour:  Ethiopia has a diversity of climatic and environmental regions, spanning from virgin forests to desert-like area, from high mountain chains to high plateaus to vast plains.

Ethiopia is certainly rich in water resources:  One of the main sources of the Nile River comes from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a very ancient civilization and was practically self-autonomous for millennia until Mussolini of Italy decided to colonize this country in the 30’s.

Ethiopia was ravaged by civil wars since the military coup on Emperor Hela Selassie in the 70’s.  Ethiopia had to wage a protracted war on Eritrea (the only sea port of Ethiopia) claiming independence; and Eritrea got its wishes.

Ethiopia engaged in frequent wars against Somalia:  With the support of the Soviet Union, the Ethiopian troops defeated Somalia and dismantled the independent State of Somalia.

The latest war was last year, supported by the USA, with the purpose of dislodging the extremist Islamists in power, before it withdrew its troops for the overwhelming anarchy established in Somalia.

One morning, I approached a smiling face who returned my “good morning”.  I exposed to the lovely girl my curiosity of knowing the Ethiopian people in a face to face meeting and my project.  I bribed her with two packs of beer.

A week later, I met the girl on my way to the library and she volunteered to extend a date for the meeting.  She said that she will invite 5 of her female friends and that her name is Maria.  I guess she figured out that she will be guaranteed at least two cans of beer.

We met at the basement of a rented apartment and I brought Lebanese beer Almaza (tastier than all the imported beer).  It is not that I wanted to show off that I promote our national products, but I actually prefer this beer to all other imported beer:  Almaza does not have this sweet or the after taste sweetness that imported beer leave.  The meeting lasted an hour.

The first 30 minutes of the meeting generated laughter from the girls whispering to one another.  My pronunciation of Amharic words counted for the remaining giggles.  The second half of the meeting witnessed heated discussions: The girls were not from the same provinces. I didn’t want to impose or embarrass their patience in the first meeting.

The second meeting was at 6:30 pm on a Saturday.

I reckoned that the girls planned to get slightly tipsy before venturing with their Saturday night plan.  One good-looking girl arranged to get singled out from the “crowd” and be noticed.  She volunteered that we meet again on a date.

I am no longer used to dating and this approach frazzled me: I am very apprehensive of getting together with foreign maids, fearing their clever schemes, but I agreed for curiosity sake and defiance of my apprehension.

I prayed audibly: “May this night last very long.  May I be as happy for long time.  May Maria stay happy all night long.  Amen”

Maria said: “Are you into magic? Is that an incantation ritual?”

I said: “This evening feels magical.  You demand to be happy and the night obliges to your orders”

Maria made a face, grinned, and laughed heartily.  We laughed, had tears pouring down our faces, for no good reasons, just willing to be happy. We cuddled softly for a long time: we had nothing more urgent and important than feeling so close and sensing our warmth.

We made love for ever; we were not rushing into anything stupid as intercourse.

I rediscovered every inch of Maria’s body and took my time to visualizing the entire picture in all its perspectives.  I love well-shaped feet, very stable on the ground and having walked bare feet as a child and liking to walk bare feet at every occasion.

We made love: Intercourse felt more like a break to her than constant touching, kissing, and licking.

I asked her to introduce my penis and let her take command of the activities.  Maria circled slowly and I guessed the location of her G-point that coincided with heavy breathing and quick counter-clockwise maneuvers. (The latest notion is that there is no physical G-point: It is mostly a psychological inclination to enjoy love-making…)

We were exhausted. I was exhausted for playing the passive part.  As I felt like coming I asked Maria to take command: Versatility is good in any game.

After sex, I discovered with fright that my penis was painted red and the thighs of Maria were reddish, sort of blood related tanning. Maria comforted me saying:  “Don’t worry.  I am no virgin. It is just betadine.”

I know what is betadine: It is used to disinfect wounds.  I waited for further clarifications.

Maria explained: “You see, I try to get two birds in one shot.  I insert a piece of cotton imbibed with betadine for two reasons. First, it might protect me from bacteria and germs and second, males feel more excited when they see blood after intercourse.  Many times I get bonuses.”

I needed to breath fresh air and calm my fright.

I said: “Let’s go out for a stroll in this full-moon night.”  Maria had remnants of superstition concerning full-moon night: I refrained from asking further explanations:  a few secrets need to remain intact for healthy relationships.

Maria wanted to take a quick shower before going out and I disproved the idea:  I wanted that both of us feel dirty walking out:  It is always a challenge to go counter to our habits. I like to be surprised of discovering new realities that are welcomed unconsciously.

We held hands and smelt the beast in each other.  We almost jogged, holding hands, as if fast swinging arms impute a running pace. Our breathing was light compared to the previous lying position.

We seemed to be walking effortlessly, managing to laugh at every surprise, sound, movement, and scene.

It was night when we fell asleep.  It was night when we woke up. We stank and were ravenous.

We decided to take a long bath first, as if feeling clean is higher in the survival priority scale than eating.

We bathed with stomachs sounds reminding us of reversed priority choices. Nevertheless, I enjoyed taking my time rubbing Maria’s back and many secret corners; she returned the favor and was more mischevous.

Cooking was another project done in common.  I think that I learned one Ethiopean recepe but forgot it:  It was hot.

We write about what we feel and experience.

Wwe write about what we believe we know.

But most importantly, we write of what we think we know will never happen again in our real lifetime.

There are currently over half a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.  They settled in refugee camps during three major phases:  First, they settled in refugee camps after the “Independence of Israel”, a State recognized my a single and simple majority vote in the UN in 1948, and second, after the 1967 preemptive Israeli war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, and third, after the defeat of the Palestinian resistance by the Jordanian monarchy in 1971. 

Already, one hundred thousand Palestinian refugees got the Lebanese nationality, not included in the half a million previously mentioned.  Those who got the Lebanese nationality are of three categories:  First, the mostly Palestinian Christians, in order to re-establish sectarian “balance” when the Maronite Christian Presidents of Lebanon had vast authorities before the Taif Agreement in 1989, and second, Palestinians originating from Lebanon such as those who lived in Northern Israel and the Seven Villages and are mostly from the Islam Chiaa sect, and third, the wealthy and business men Palestinians such as the families of Baidass, Sabbagh, Khoury, Nemr, Nahoum, Faress, Nasr, Kattan, Yutajy, Freij, Gharghour, Oweida, Irathy, Saba and many other families.

It appears that the refugees inscribed in the UNRWA, those residing continuously in Lebanon, number around 200,000 or 5% of the total estimated population in Lebanon.  The remaining Palestinians had managed to settle or work abroad with Lebanese travel documents.

Recent statistics show that over 92% of Palestinian refugees want to return to their Homeland, Palestine.  That is a case closed:  the UN resolution #198 of 1948 guarantees the right of Palestinians to return to Palestine and there is no way to cancel or drop that civic and human right accorded to all refugees who were forced to flee under duress and genocidal treatments.

The US, European Union, and Russia are demanding that the Palestinian refugees drop the right to return before extending compensations.  This is an impossible political condition that cannot be satisfied.  The UN should compensate immediately every adult Palestinian and Palestinian families in refugee camps (without any clause pertaining to dropping their rights for return) so that they decide what to do with that money.  Every State around the world, especially the US and European States, will welcome rich Palestinians capable of owning real estates or establishing businesses.  After two years of paying taxes and valid residency papers, the immigrated Palestinians would be having a recognized citizenship.

Since Israelis are entitled to dual citizenship then, it should be so to Palestinians.  For the time being, the UN institution of UNRWA has been caring for the Palestinian refugees in matters of education, health, and survival food since 1948.  The UNRWA budget has been cut frequently while the number of refugees has been increasing dramatically.  Currently, the  UNRWA budget is half a billion dollars; the portion allocated to the refugees in Lebanon is just $70 millions. 

There is a heated debate in Lebanon on how to securing the civic and human rights of the refugees.  There are less than 60 types of jobs that Palestinians are entitled to applying for; and they are denied owning properties, though rich Arabs and foreigners can purchase and own properties. 

The Lebanese have no jobs, no electricity, no potable water, no health coverage for more than 50% of the population, public education neglected for over 30 years, and things are going to hell.  I am pretty sure if Palestinian refugees would consider bartering their UNRWA facilities for a Lebanese nationality card then, most Lebanese would gladly relinquish their stupid cards that are more of a problem than a privilege.

 The UN should establish an international fund to aid and support the Lebanese government improve the infrastructure in the refugee camps and providing health insurance.  Palestinian kids are suffering from diseases due to bad health environment.  The education facilities are deteriorating in the camps.  Camps are becoming hotbeds of insecurity to all the youth not finding an outlet to development and assuring the minimum level of dignity.

The working force in construction, gas stations and sanitation are filled by Syrians, Egyptians, and Bangladeshis.  In-house maids and outside are from Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Madagascar… May be Lebanese and Palestinians should be allocated quotas to work alongside the foreign workers. 

If Lebanon enjoyed an economic and financial boom in its first 30 years of its independence it is mainly because of the flux of Palestinian wealth and knowhow.  Many English-speaking Palestinian refugees worked in the Arab Gulf States and supported their families in Lebanon.  They also made a qualitative development for the American University of Beirut and taught there and constituted the prime English tributary to our economy and finance.

If Lebanon had ever been tad of a State, it would have sustained its financial standing and maintained a modicum of sovereignty.  The Palestinian Resistance Organization (PLO) became a State within a State and even more powerful and more organized since 1972.  The dollar changed for just two Lebanese pounds because of the hard currencies that the PLO poured in our economy; it is currently 1,500 LL

Maid living in the Mistress house?

There are many States that allow private agencies to import foreign maids to serve in private families.  The maid lives in the house with the family and work from 6 am to midnight, always standing and serving, and cleaning until the last member of the family is gone to bed.

The maid in Lebanon cost $150 a month and the entire yearly amount is paid to the agency upfront when the commissioned maid arrives in Lebanon “legally”?  Most of the time, the contract of the hired foreign maid is for two years.

Maids arriving to Lebanon are mostly from Ethiopia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and from other African States.  Workers at gas stations are mainly from Egypt.  Construction workers are from Syria.  Sanitation workers are from Bangladesh.  You have the impression that every foreign State has a specialty work to do in Lebanon.

Lately, a semi-official report from Madagascar’s Minister of Public and Social Affairs, Nadine Ramorson, denounced in the weekly “Jeune Afrique” the ill treatments of the maids in Lebanon and that many returned home dead or badly injured.  The number of maids from Madagascar climbed from one thousand in 2006 to over 7,000 in 2010.

Before the civil war in Lebanon that started in 1975, maids were hired from Syria.  The child maid’s father would show up once a year to cash in his dues and leave without even sitting and talking to his child daughter of less than 13 of age.

When a kid, I never asked the maid to fetch me a glass of water or for any personal needs; it is shameful to see parents considering as legitimate and right for their kids to be ordering maids around for simple tasks they can and should be doing on their own.

I can testify that the Lebanese, in general, are racist with respect to the poorer classes.  It is worse, when this domestic or worker is from a foreign land.  A black colored worker is called Black or coal.  The higher the number of maids the higher the status of a family.  I can see families bringing more than one maids to events and ceremonies in order to wash dishes, take care of every whims of kids, and serve on tables.

There were periods when Lebanese were respectful to older members and had a sense of shame working others overtime.  Social life is going bad.  You may pay a visit to our prisons to witness the carelessness we handle human rights and human dignity.

Many foreign maids are incarcerated for months without any due process, simply because they could not pay to renew their work permit or purchase a ticket home.  Many maids had committed suicides and we never hear of these cases or the follow-up investigations, if any.

Fact is, we the Lebanese are living in a big prison, with no way out if you have not the money to getting out.  Maybe 5% of the Lebanese are well off (mainly the public servants and families of deputies) but the rest of us are living under $150 per month, with a standard of living higher than Paris and London.

It is no enigma if most Lebanese are servile to their sectarian leaders who were the culprit of this civil war that lasted more than 13 years:  They want to survive and seek political and employment supports.

It is no enigma of this growing racist tendencies when the leaders of the civil wars returned as ministers and deputy after the civil war and have been totally absolved of their genocides by a Parliament of their own.

We have no dignity left to start demonstrations and revolts.  If it were not for Hezbollah’s steadfastness then, Lebanon would have been a State from the past, a non-entity….

I published in my autobiography the following passage:

“At the time it was the custom for well-off family to hire girl child helpers from Syria around Safita.  My family was no exception. The father of any of these children between 10 to 12 years old would visit once a year to collect his money and leave.  Over the span of 6 years, we had 3 child helpers. The first one was named Salimeh and she was my age of 12 but was much taller, robust and all muscles; I recall that I used to box her buttocks, hard as rock.  She was not pretty but she loved us dearly and we got used to liking her cheerful attitude.

The next one was even younger and she used to get lost every time she had to accompany my younger sister Raymonde from school.  Once she lost her way and Raymonde was already at home and she saw Raymonde on the balcony and she hollered to my sister “come down to go home”.

The third helper was short, hard working and pretty and she was in love with me and I was at the age when I could not stand romance and drooping eyes.  I was glad when her father took her away but she was in cry and would not leave.  Mother was hard on the helpers and she made them wake up very early and work all day long for over 13 hours, but mother was meticulous that they keep clean, eating of our own food and wearing decent clothes.  It was hard for me to accept the conditions of these helpers once I became conscious of their alienation, away from their homes for over two years sometimes.”

The late author, Mai Ghoussoub described the life of one these kid helpers in her book “Farewell Beirut” and how she turned out to be a ferocious and fearless fighter during the civil war; most importantly, she never tried to get any revenge on her “masters”, even though the eldest son had raped her and she was confined never to leave the apartment; the girl was just utterly happy to feel free.”

Maybe the commentators are wrong in their analyses, but it is worth reporting the various viewpoints of the commentators’ interpretations.  Israel landing on the leading Turkish “peace boat” is definitely a pre-medidated activity to humiliating Turkey of Erdogan.  

Possibly, Israel meant to humiliate, face to face, Turkish members of the “peace boat” and maybe injuring a few of them.  It would be incomprehensible to understand why Israel would have decided on a slaughter (19 dead and dozens injured).  With the current neurotic Israeli government, everything is possible.  After all, Israel’s policies are based on grand scale State terrorist activities since the inception of the Zionist movement.

Israel’s objective was to warn Turkey of Erdogan that Israel is very unhappy with Turkey’s new drive to be the main player in the Near East conflict:  Turkey is supposed to have a unique political position which is total and unconditional support to the State of Israel; Turkey is to keep its tradition of very lukewarm foreign policies with Arab States.

Personally, I think that Israel is sending the message to the political opponents of Erdogen and his party.  The message is: “Israel can and is ready to destabilize Turkey for the opposition to return to power and resume the unconditional support to Israel.”  This bold tactic is doomed to fail because Turkish citizens would not be humiliated with military antics. 

The Kurdish separatist movement is serious about Turkey’s openess for negotiations to putting an end to this civil war that dragged on for too long and has to end.  So far, Israel has managed to infiltrate a few Kurdish radical factions that are resuming the fight; the entire excercise cannot last long when Turkey is humiliated militarily.

A few commentators would like you to believe that the US administration of Obama did not change policies of unconditional support to Israel; they allude that Obama agreed on Israel’s plan to destabilize Turkey.  That would make no sense at all:  Turkey is in fact the main regional power that the US would never relinquish or weaken under any condition. 

Most probably, the US might have encouraged this stupid Israeli government into more stupid decisions to let it fall quicker as a rotten fruit.  The US would be pleased with a new Israeli government that is more rational and more diplomatically inclined to negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority that the US badly need at this junction; the sooner the better.

Egypt of Mubarak is the sole winner if Egypt sustains it new policy of keeping the borders of Gaza opened.  Egypt needed this opportunity to show its willingness to be an active partner within the Arab League of States:  Four African States, bordering the Nile sources such as Ethiopia, Kenia, Uganda, and Sudan have ratified a treaty for dividing the Nile water without feeling the need to negotiating with Egypt or Sudan. 

In a sense, African States are no longer relying on the regional weight of Egypt for resolving any of their conflict and Egypt got the message loud and clear.  The best way for Egypt to gain any respect is to prove that it is an effective player within the Arab States.

The best criteria for US seriousness in bringing peace in the region is the sustained opening of Egypt’s borders with Gaza.  Israel has no other exit from these recurring flaps but to demand early election.

The world’s food basket: Africa is heaven for agribusiness investments.

( Part 2, Nov. 12, 2009)

You may read part 1: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/11/11/africa-is-targeted-to-be-exclusively-the-worlds-food-basket/

Let us plan for the year 2050; most probably earth will be inhabited by 10 billions humans.  We are barely feeding the current world population and millions are dying of famine related malnutrition.  Many under-developed States with vast “fertile” lands are leased or acquired by foreign agribusinesses. 

So far, 30 millions hectares (the size of 30 Lebanon or the size of the Philippines) are already in use for mass agricultural production.  Even China, rich in water and fertile lands, is leading this policy of “getting out of the borders”. 

There are two main reasons for China investing in agriculture overseas:

First, more water is diverted to the thousands of giga-urban centers;

Second, water is so heavily polluted by heavy industrialization that agriculture is suffering,

Third, climatic changes are transforming main wheat fields in the north into semi-desert lands,

Fourth, while the US and Britain are fighting their preemptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, China takes the great opportunity to sureptitiously invest in infrastructures in Africa that lead to the raw material fields

Africa is the target continent because it has four large and long rivers such as the Nile, the Congo, and the Niger Rivers.  The Sudan, Mozambique, and the Democratic Congo are prime targets in the medium-term. Vast fertile lands are left unproductive for lack of investment and manpower.

  Theoretically, we should have win-win situations, but the facts are that the contracts of the multinational agribusinesses are not transparent:

1. There are no clauses on specificities that might benefit the population either in technology or land development.

2. Most of the contracts are barely three pages long and contain no precisions on investors’ obligations toward investing in infrastructures, durable management of the natural resources, or the training of the local peasants for developing small parcels of land and applying the technology. 

The President of Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown,  said:

“Essentially, the technologies used by these agro-investments are meant for massive commercial production and not adaptable to the concerned small local farmers.  There is basically no transfer of technology or training. Thus, what the foreign investors are acquiring in lands is not going to feed the local population as we might hope.”

Let us consider the case of the oil rich Arab Gulf States: rice is their main staple and it has to be imported in totality. These States imported a third from India and then India had to curtail its exportation of rice due to climatic problems in order to feed its citizens.  These Emirate Gulf States imported 10% from Thailand (the first exporter of rice in the world) but then Thailand doubled the price of its rice to $1,000 the ton. 

How the Arab Gulf States were to counter this difficulty?  Their Sovereign Funds could be invested in rice fields in Thailand and that what they started to do. You could have a win-win situation: there are vast lands in Thailand that are not cultivated; increasing rice production should not hurt Thailand since rice prices are increasing and Thailand needs to secure oil provision. 

Instead of purchasing 10% of its need in rice from Thailand, the Arab Gulf States might increase it to 40%. One happier story: Thailand needs to establish a rice warehouse in the Arab Gulf to distribute rice at affordable prices.  Things should look pretty promising.  Joint-ventures in agribusinesses where Sovereign Funds invest the money and the Thai peasants got to work in jobs they are proficient in should not raise so much fuss: should it?

The problem is that internal politics in Thailand want a scapegoat: Arabs buying lands in Thailand; or rice production is a strictly national occupation and should be 100% reserved for citizens (as if the Arab is going to relocate to plant rice in Thailand!); or Thailand is not Africa and we are a developed nation.

Another case is Madagascar, a vast Island in East Africa. 

The standard of living in Madagascar has fallen below the one in 1960.  Why Independence pride has to be highly correlated with miseries in the former colonial States?  Major deforestation is the norm in Madagascar: people need to cook their meals! The South Korean Daewoo wanted to lease 1.3 million hectares for 99 years.

What it is with this taboo of 99 years lease of lands? Does every investor has in the back of his head to let his grand child witness his greatness and pray for his great spirit? The deal fell apart after the President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, fell out of power.

Apparently, not much transparency and communication were accompanied to that deal. In the meanwhile cattle thieves “dahalo” are on rampage. Even the tiny Maurice Island acquired lands (10,000 ha) in Mozambique for the island food sufficiency. Ramakrishna Karuturi (the king of rose production in 4 millions hectares) is leasing the hectare for two dollars a year in Ethiopia! Now, there can be no doubt that the Ethiopian government had received a fat bribe for such a lousy deal.

The Congo with Capital Brazzaville is half the size of France with barely 4 million citizens concentrated in the Capital and the other city Pointe-Noire on the coast. This African States was a French colony and is rich in minerals and uranium.  It cultivates potatoes.  

South Afrikaners who lost 30% of their agricultural lands for redistribution programs to the black citizens want to acquire or lease lands in this Congo; the Agri SA (South Africa) has 1,700 agribusinesses interested in producing soja, sugar cane, and corn. Ten million hectares were literally offered to the Afrikaners (a land stretching 500 by 200 km, twice the size of Switzerland) and its location is not yet decided upon; maybe entire virgin forests might be burned for agriculture. The Agri SA is promising to build agro-villages with ready-made houses contracted to Israeli firms.  What if the deal demanded that thousands of Congolese be trained to develop and grow lands after two years of working in the Afrikaners’ lands?  This deal is a striking political and ecological scandal because the terms of the deal are fishy and not communicated to the citizens.

Kazakhstan is practically a continent in size and barely 1% of the land is privately owned.  This rich and newly independent State imports 40% of milk, 30% of meat, and 45% of fruits and vegetables. The population is mostly rural. The States lease lands for 49 years. 

The State of Kazakhstan has set aside 35,000 square-kilometers to lease to foreign investors but only China is interested. Europe is not interested in leasing lands in Kazakhstan but China is.  China has already leased 40,000 hectares and planning on increasing its agribusinesses.

Devastating civil war in Yemen: Is it of any concern to the UN? (Oct. 27, 2009)

The UN did it again!  Civil wars in non-oil producing Arab States are left to run its natural steam until the State is bankrupt and ready to be picked up at salvage price.

The UN tends to get busy for years in collateral world problems when civil wars strike any non oil-producing Arab States.  Occasionally, the UN demonstrates lukewarm attempts for a resolution in oil producing States as long as it is under control.

Lebanon experienced 17 years of civil war.  Morocco still has a civil war in south Sahara for three decades.  Sudan has been suffering of a rampant civil war for four decades.  Algeria is experiencing a resurgence of a devastating civil war that started in 1990 because Europe refused to accept a democratically elected Islamic majority in the parliament.  Iraq was totally neglected while Saddam Hussein was decimating the Shias and Kurds in Iraq for three decades, even after the US coalition forced the Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.  Somalia never got out of its miseries for four decades so far.  Mauritania is rope jumping from one military coup to another. The other Arab States are in constant low-level civil wars overshadowed by dictators, one party, oligarchic, and monarchic regimes.

A week ago, a few trucks were allowed to cross Saudi borders to Yemen carrying tents and necessary medicines to stem rampant diseases where hundred thousands of refugees huddle in refugee camps on the high plateau of North-West Yemen, by the borders with Saudi Arabia that closed its borders and chased out any infiltration of refugees.

The most disheartening feeling is that you don’t see field reporting of this civil war by the western media.  The written accounts are from second-hand sources and decades old. They abridge the problem by stating it is a tribal matter. They feel comfortable blaming Iran; then how this land locked region can be supplied by Iran needs to be clarified. The western media is easily convinced that Al Qaeda moved from Saudi Arabia and was ordered to infiltrate the Somali refugee camps in South Yemen; then how Al Qaeda got to be located in a region of North West Yemen with Shia Yazdi population is irrelevant.

The population of North West Yemen forms the third of the total and it is Yezdi Chiia that agrees to seven Imams and not 12 as in Iran; the Yazdi sect does not care that much about the coming of a “hidden” Mahdi to unite and save Islam.  The western media want you to believe that this war, which effectively started in 2004, is a succession problem to prevent the son of current President Abdallah Saleh from inheriting the power. Actually Saleh’s son is the head of the Presidential Guard which has been recently involved in the war after the regular army failed to bring a clear-cut victory.

Yemen was a backward States even in the 60’s.  South Yemen had a Marxist regime backed by the Egyptian troops of Jamal Abdel Nasser against North Yemen ruled by an ancient Yazdi Imam; a hereditary regime labeled the “Royalists” and backed by Saudi Arabia. After the Soviet Union disintegrated Yemen unified in 1990.  Since then, South Yemen and North West Yemen were deprived of the central State financial and economic distribution of wealth.  President Saleh could present the image of a “progressist” leader as long as Yemen was out of the screen and nobody cared about this bankrupt State.

Yemen is on the verge of being divided into three separate autonomous States, the South, North West, and Sanaa the Capital.  The problems in the Horn of Africa have migrated its endemic instability into Yemen; refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been flocking into the southern shores of Yemen for same climate.  Heavy influx of contraband products are keeping the people of these two regions precariously afloat. The deal between Hillary Clinton and Israel foreign affairs Levny to patrol the Indian Ocean was not just meant for Gaza but mainly to prepare President Saleh for his 2009 campaign against the rebels in North Yemen by monitoring contraband arms shipments to the “hawssy” rebel.

Saudi Arabia, during the duo power brokers of Prince Sultan and Neyef (respectively Ministers of Defense and the Interior) did their best to destabilize Yemen on account of fighting the spread of the Shia sect in the Arabic Peninsula. Yemen has no natural resources to count on and the population is addicted to “Qat” that they chew on at lunch time for hours.

Yemen was the most prosperous region in the Arabic Peninsula for millennia.  Land caravans started from Taez and then passed by Maareb from which town the caravans split to either Mecca (then to Aqaba and Syria) or took the direction to Persia and Iraq. All kinds of perfume, seasoning, and textile landed by sea from India and South East Asia; incense was produced from a special tree grown in Yemen and Hadramout. The British Empire didn’t care about this region; all that it wanted to secure were sea ports for commerce and to defend the entrances of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea to Egypt.

The UN is inheriting the same lax attitude of the British Empire; as long as the US bases are secured in this region then the hell with the people. Qatar arranged for reconciliation in 2007 and Saudi Arabia interfered to fail it. Archaic tribes fighting one another wearing daggers as symbol of manhood are all that there is in Yemen.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2020
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