Years of imperialism-generated war, appalling poverty and severe drought have left more than 20 million people facing famine in a vast stretch of African and West Asian regions. Two million hungry in Nigeria, three million in Somalia, five million in Sudan and 14 million in Yemen are staring at death. Over 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition face “imminent risk” of death. “We stand at a critical point in history. What I saw and heard was distressing – women and children walk for weeks in search of food and water. They have lost their livestock, water sources have dried up and they have nothing left to survive on. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death,” Stephen O’Brien, U.N. humanitarian chief, has told his council members. The dreaded pictures of rickety skeleton-all human beings wailing for food make one wonder if we are in the jet-digital age of 21st century. Even in medieval barbarity, people did not die like this out of starvation. But why is this procession of death? Is it because of paucity of resources or natural calamities? Facts speak to the contrary. This dreaded situation has been precipitated by the power-hungry avaricious imperialist forces headed by US imperialism and their allies. Let us go country by country.
Situation of Yemen, the poorest nation in the Arab world, is catastrophic and largely out of view. It is facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with two-thirds of the population, or nearly 19 million people, needing assistance. Yemen has long been targeted by Western imperialism. For much of the 20th century, Yemen existed as two separate countries – the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in the north and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in the south. Until the incredibly late date of 1967, south Yemen, then called Aden, was a British colony. After winning independence, a leftist government in South Yemen, called the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, instituted many reforms, particularly in women’s rights and education. After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, South Yemen was forced to reunite with the Saudi-influenced, right-wing state to the north, under the brutal U.S.-backed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Republic of Yemen was created. Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass. Hence, US-backed Saudi regime is desperate to hold on to its control on Yemen. In 2011, during the “Arab Spring’’, Saleh was ousted and Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi became president. But Hadi too continued to toe the US line and allowed his country to be a hotbed of military and espionage activities of the Pentagon rulers. This infuriated Yemen people and grievances began to brew. Seizing on that discontent, Houthi-rebels forced the resignation of Hadi and his cabinet and took an anti-Saudi stand. Saudi Arabia feared that a Houthi takeover would threaten free passage of oil through the strait. Naturally, Saudi with the approval of its other allies in the gulf and of course US imperialism began bombing Yemen to destabilize Houthi rebels. But this decision of the Saudi-US combine to launch a full-scale military action proved counter-productive as it was seen as an act of aggression by most Yemenis who stood behind the Houthis. Behind these aggressive moves by regional powers is Washington’s military escalation in the entire region, aimed at expanding the corporate, financial and strategic interests of the US super-rich. Now, the US rulers are directly involved in airstrikes on Yemen. Also Al Quada, another terrorist group allegedly funded by the imperialist sharks also started to extend its influence through armed interventions. As a result, Yemen remains wracked with internal conflict between militia factions and outside aggression in the form of sustained military assault by Saudi and US. The military assault on Yemen is clearly a part of a wider campaign for the US-NATO-Saudi-Israel axis to secure their political, economic and military dominance in the region. Like the US—NATO war on Syria, the war on Yemen functions as an attempt to subvert the anti-US powers like the Iranian government which extends support to Houthi rebels. Most Yemenis are angry with the US for aiding and abetting the Saudi carnage in their country which has devastated them. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 13 Yemeni civilians die every day on an average as a result of the Saudi-imposed war. The UN estimates that around 2.8 million Yemenis have been forced to flee their homes because of the war. The country suffers from a long-standing acute water shortage which none of the governments has addressed nor had they done anything to conserve resources and improve the country’s ability to feed itself. Eighty-two per cent of Yemen’s population of 24 million is in need of aid of some sort or other. Sixty per cent are in dire need of food aid. More than 7 million people face hunger today, a staggering increase of 3 million people since January last. Moreover, people’s lives are ravaged by outbreak of epidemics, including cholera.
Somalia, an East African country, is rich with enormous natural resources, including uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt and natural gas. It has two as yet untapped rivers. It has 8m hectares of cultivable land. It has a 3,000 km coastline, the longest in Africa, full of marine resources. Due to its proximity to the oil-rich Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Somalia has substantial reserves of oil. Diamonds of low quality are also reportedly mined in this area. Its forest reserves are also quite formidable. Naturally, it became one of the sought after destinations of western colonial powers like Britain, France and Italy. Italy and Britain colonized Somalia into British Somaliland (in Somalia’s northwest) and Somalia Italiana respectively. Britain wanted to take over the coast of Somalia, in order to guard the Suez Canal apart from plundering its resources. France also colonized parts of the Somali coast. In the event, the year 1960 brought independence to both the British and Italian colonies, in June and July respectively. But, the independence was virtually on paper. It continued to be victim of neo-colonial exploitation with US imperialism having emerged more powerful after the Second World War that weakened the European colonial powers considerably, intervening with its policy of cash and violence. Needless to say that like the people of other African colonies, the Somalian people were also subjected to ruthless oppression. They were virtually treated as slaves, kept in the stupor of ignorance, denied education and healthcare and made to accept survival at the mercy of the colonial rulers. The colonial rulers used to find suitable people who would yield to the lure of power and privilege and govern their own fellow countrymen as stooges. In neo-colonial regime, the situation hardly changed.
Since 2001, the U.S. has carried out extensive covert operations involving reconnaissance missions, bombings and capturing Al-Shabaab militants, the jihadist group vying for power in Somalia. Rulers of Kenya and Ethiopia, two U.S. allies, have also invaded Somalia. The term “failed state” was coined by erstwhile infamous US President George W Bush to be the byword of US policy in Somalia. The country was put on the list of those associated with terrorism and, thereafter, any country that risked relations with Somalia was subject to American sanctions. True the country has been torn apart by warlordism, terrorism, piracy and sustained bloody clashes among various war groups. There have been problems of displacement and influx of refugees on account of that. But all these problems are attributable to sustained foreign intervention and the deliberate fragmentation of the country into fiefdoms, enclaves and tribal territories by the alien powers, the latest of them being the US imperialists. Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government gets hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the US imperialists. 8,000 troops belonging to pro-US regimes in Burundi and Uganda currently occupy Somalia on the pretext of preventing rebel groups from seizing power. African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops numbering 22,000 operating in Somalia are funded, trained and coordinated by the Pentagon and the CIA. Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi government is subsidized militarily by the U.S., which has used that regime to occupy Somalia on its behalf. While the US is using its brute military power to keep that country under its domination, drought has left nearly 3,00,000 children on the brink of famine and caused death to many animals which are the main source of income for millions of nomads staying there. In 2011, Somalia experienced a famine that killed 260,000 people. Now, protracted war, drought and a collapsed economy have brought Somalia to the edge of a famine of much greater dimension. Some local officials of Somalia say they are digging mass graves because they fear large numbers of people will die quickly. Had not there been persistent conflict largely engineered by the US imperialists and their associates, people here could have adequate food and other resources to raise their standard of living.
Sudan has been a land of great ethnic diversity, with people having lived in harmony over centuries sharing common cultural and religious traits. But, like other countries rich in mineral resources, Sudan also was under British colonial rule for a long time. But, as it remained undeveloped and poor, despite its resources, and often faced famine, drought, and other calamities causing acute food shortage followed by rampant starvation and malnutrition, discontent mounted among the people against the British rulers. Lest this outrage should be directed them, the British rulers in pursuit of their age-old policy of divide and rule to perpetuate their colonial rule, instigated various ethnic groups against each other and got them locked in internecine clashes to divert the outburst of rage. As a result, the tribal-populated south Sudan has remained a hotbed of sinister imperialist machinations and torn apart by sustained ethnic conflicts and clashes shattering normal life. Sudan became independent from 1956. Since its independence in 1956, the history of Sudan has been plagued by internal conflicts and civil wars, the first continuing upto 1972 and the second one from 1983 to 2005 instigated by foreign imperialist powers. Later, when it came to light that Sudan has oil reserve even richer than that of Saudi Arabia, it became a prime target of the US imperialists. Finding that the then regime of independent Sudan led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was unbending before their dictates, US rulers falsely charged him of crime against humanity and charged him of large scale killing at Darfur in Western Sudan. US even moved the International Criminal Court (ICC), a stooge of the imperialist bloc, against him and got him indicted of war crimes. It was just a repetition of the way they had attacked and occupied independent sovereign Iraq under fraudulent pretext of President Saddam Hussein possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Finally, the US intrigue succeeded and South Sudan seceded from Republic of Sudan on 9 July 2011. And in the process, untold misery and penury gripped the people of Sudan on either part with food insecurity reaching catastrophic levels. Needless to mention that this famine is man-made. Even the World Food Programme country director admits it. The people are predominantly farmers and this orchestrated war and ethnic strifes has disrupted agriculture. People lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they could find and whatever fish they could catch to stay alive. Consequently, cholera which broke out in June 2016 has spread to more locations. More than one million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished across the country, including 270,000 children who face the imminent risk of death. Now, a famine has been declared. The formal famine declaration in South Sudan means people there have already started death from hunger.
North East Nigeria
Nigeria, world’s sixth-biggest oil exporter and a country with the largest gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa catching up with South Africa fast, it is also the world’s poorest oil-rich country. France controls the uranium mines in Niger area. The hand of Britain can be traced to the relentless oil war in Niger Delta from the Victorian times to the present day. Nigeria is an important political and economic partner for the United States since besides oil, it imports over $5.5 billion US-originated goods per year. With 22% of the country’s budget assigned to the military, Nigeria is also set to sign arms deals with the US, Israel, the UK and France. It is also the home to the biggest film industry in Africa which has cultural and social influence across the continent and hence a favoured associate of Hollywood barons. Despite its natural resources, the people are among the poorest in the continent. 70 per cent of people live on less than 60p a day. Unemployment is severe. High world oil prices have boosted Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy in recent years, but most Nigerians have remained outside the loop. Many Nigerian girls are reportedly migrating to European countries and entering into flesh trade. There is no convincing reason for common Nigerians to be poor but for imperialist machination and the connivance of the country’s aspiring bourgeoisie with the neo-colonialists for pelf and power. The country’s oil bounty has not been invested in infrastructure, public works or in private business for employment generation. On the contrary, the Nigerian government has increased spending on defence by whooping Naira (Nigerian currency) 130 billion. Secondly, like many other African countries, it has also been plagued by orchestrated tribal and ethnic rivalries. Over and above, the country is rattled by persistent violence and abduction of girls by the Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist group stated to be propped and funded through black market dealings, local and international benefactors, and links to Al-Qaeda and other well-funded groups in the Middle East. Notably, the US administration had refused to label Boko Haram a terrorist group.
Now famine stares at this country also. 450,000 children are severely malnourished in northeast Nigeria. According to UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado, ‘‘Children are dying because of man-made, conflict-affected disasters. In 2017, that’s shameful.” Three states in north-eastern Nigeria — Borno, Adamawa and Yobe — are severely food insecure. More than 8.5 million people in those three areas need aid. The world could see a mass exodus from a country of 180 million people if no sufficient financial aid is forthcoming and that could create a migrant crisis in West Africa of unprecedented size. In the past four years, 200,000 Nigerians have fled into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. In absence of funds, there is a sudden cut to emergency rations which could drive out even more people from Nigeria in search of relief.
Who is responsible for this horrendousness to oppressed humanity?
As facts bear out, it is world imperialism-capitalism that has endowed this horrendousness to oppressed humanity. As the world capitalist economic crisis accelerates, growing food deficits, poverty and imperialist militarism have prompted dislocation and unrest throughout the African continent. Africa has been subjected to the price fluctuations for raw materials and agricultural commodities sold to the West. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and NATO are intervening in the internal affairs of former colonial states. Big capitalist financial institutions and their military forces are strangling Africa. The impact can be seen in East Africa. The Horn of Africa region and surrounding nations potentially face the worst drought in six decades.
Africa, it is reported, is the fastest-growing region for FDI (Foreign Direct Investment or finance capital of the imperialist powers) worldwide. From 1990 to 2013, FDI inflows in Africa increased 19-fold from $3 billion to $57 billion. Many bourgeois economists-scholars think that such huge inflow of FDI is a good thing for low-income countries especially in Africa, where most countries have small stocks of savings. Attracting FDI would trigger economic growth and create jobs. However, survey reveals, and expectedly so, that this rush of FDI is only good for the investing large corporates and powerful multi-nationals who book enormous profit by using dominant technologies (often fortified by strong intellectual property protection) and employing least number of people. These imperialist giants have made it a motto to keep people poor, hungry, uneducated and bereft of any facility of modern civilization so that there is no rebellion against their loot and plunder. Moreover, they have also been pulling the strings from behind to precipitate and prolong religious-ethnic conflicts, arming the propped up ‘rebels’ and thus keeping the common people plunged in violence and abject poverty. These foreign powers and their local stooges treat people as slaves, if not animals, and force them to survive on morsels of aid. Rabindranath Tagore, in the later phase of his life, captured the morbidity and haplessness of the oppressed persecuted wretched African people in his famous poem ‘Africa’ a few lines of which are apt to describe the situation there today:—
Snatched you away from the bosom
Of the Oriental world, O Africa,
Confining you to the intimate vigil of the tall forest trees,
In the sanctum niggardly in light…..
Behind your dark veil loomed
Unknown the silhouette of your humanity
Facing the vicious gaze of indifference. …
With nails far sharper than those of your packs of wolf
They approached you with their handcuffs of steel,
Appeared hunters of men
Far more blinded by their conceit
than your sunless forests.
The civilised, out of their savage appetite
Stripped naked their shameless barbarity.
It is a shame that UNO says it has just 2 percent of the $5.6 billion it needs to avert disaster in Africa. The situation is further worsened consequent on the Trump administration cutting about 40 percent from the US budget for foreign aid, which includes the UNO. So, it is time for the anti-imperialist democratic-minded people round the world to rise up unitedly against this brutal bestial assault on the African and West Asian people, force the humanitarian bodies including UNO to rush aid and assistance to the affected countries and save the starving African people from the jaws of death. Also it is time to spread the message loud and clear that the only way out is for people to unite against these heinous imperialist war machinations and obsolete world order.