Aboriginal

Standing Strong Against Big Oil

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been protesting the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would cut through four US states. By early September, the protests reached unprecedented size, as hundreds of environmental activists joined the local community of about 8,000. This is the largest gathering of Native Americans in over a century, with over 90 tribes represented at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, just south of Bismarck, the state capital.

The Native tribes and environmentalists say the pipeline would disrupt a sacred burial ground, as well as threaten water quality in the area. They say that the Army Corps of Engineers should never have granted permits for its construction.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to Illinois. Its supporters claim it will be spill-proof, and that its construction will generate thousands of jobs. Critics respond that any leak would poison the Missouri River, which borders the entire western edge of the Standing Rock reservation.

The protests led to the arrest of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chair Dave Archambault, among others. Work was eventually halted, pending a Sept. 9 ruling by a judge who has heard arguments against the construction. (more…)

Confronting Racism and Fascism

From the Communist Party of Canada

Seemingly unconnected events sometimes reveal patterns which are not immediately obvious. One such pattern is the re-emergence of racist and fascist ideas which had been consigned to history.

South of the border, the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston – the historic church of slave revolt hero Denmark Vesey – was not the act of a disturbed individual. The killer openly upheld the centuries-long “tradition” of white supremacy, which includes countless murders, rapes, lynchings and police killings against Black Americans. The Civil War victory over the southern slavocrats was not enough to root out their inhuman ideology, which survives in a modern United States where corporate profits are boosted by the exploitation and oppression of racialized minorities.

Across the ocean, Hitlerism was smashed on the battlefields of World War Two, with the Soviet people led by their Communist Party playing the decisive military role. But US imperialism refused to complete the task of eradicating Nazism, choosing instead to turn the remnants of the fascist machine against the USSR and its socialist allies. Today the followers of these fascists are in power in Kiev, and spreading xenophobic and homophobic terror across the rest of the continent.

Here at home, Stephen Harper stubbornly refuses to utter the “G” word, maintaining the shameful pretense that the genocidal policies imposed on indigenous peoples by colonialism were “mistakes” – not fundamental characteristics of the racist ideology of white European Christian supremacy. And at the “grassroots” level, neo-nazis are seeking to turn legitimate anger over falling living standards into violence against immigrants and refugees.

Such expressions of fascist and racist ideology are encouraged by a ruling class desperate to maintain control at a time of deepening capitalist economic crisis. These ideas must not be trivialized – they must be confronted and beaten back wherever they emerge.

Saudi Star To Restart Rice Project on Disputed Anuak Lands in Ethiopia

From CorpWatch

Saudi Star Agricultural Development plans to pump $100 million into a rice export project in Gambella region of Ethiopia despite allegations of human rights violations surrounding the “villagization” program under which the land has been taken from indigenous Anuak pastoralists to lease to foreign investors.

The company is owned by Mohamed al-Amoudi, who was born in Ethiopia to a Saudi father and an Ethiopian mother. Al-Amoudi made a fortune from construction contracts to build Saudi Arabia’s national underground oil storage complex. Now a billionaire many times over, al-Amoudi has invested heavily in Ethiopia where he owns a gold mine and a majority stake in the national oil company.

Resettled Ethiopian villagers.

Resettled Ethiopian villagers.

Al-Amoudi was one of the first to invest in a new scheme under which president Meles Zenawi offered to lease four million hectares of agricultural land to foreign investors and his company was also one of the first to become the subject of controversy. After Saudi Star was awarded a 10,000 hectare (24,700 acres) lease in 2008, a dozen aggrieved Anuak villagers attacked Saudi Star’s compound in Gambella in 2010 and killed several employees.

Saudi Star abandoned work at the time but this past November the company announced that it would return to invest millions to grow rice using new large-scale flood irrigation techniques. Saudi Star hopes to sell its produce to Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah’s Food Security Program.

“We know we’re creating job opportunities, transforming skills, training local indigenous Anuak,” Jemal Ahmed, Saudi Star CEO told Bloomberg. “The government wants the project to be a success and see more Gambella people able to work and produce more, that’s the big hope.”

But activists say that Saudi Star’s newly invigorated project in Gambella is likely to have a detrimental impact on the local population, notably pastoralist groups like the Anuak as well as the Nuer.

“Sadly, right now, the Anuak, nearly all small subsistence farmers, are becoming refugees in their own land as they are internally displaced from indigenous land their ancestors have possessed for centuries,” Obang Metho, Executive Director of Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, told the Africa Congress on Effective Cooperation for a Green Africa.

“They have become ‘discardable’ by a regime that wants their land, but not for them, in order to lease it to foreigners and regime-cronies for commercial farms,” he added.

All told as many as 1.5 million subsistence farmers are expected to be offered voluntary relocation to new settlements where the government has told them that they will be given housing, social services and support infrastructure under the villagization program.

However, activists like Human Rights Watch and the Oakland Institute say that the relocation process has been plagued by violence and broken promises.

Saudi Star caterpillars, tractors, bulldozers, trucks and other heavy equipment parked near a 10,000 hectare plot of Indigenous land.

Saudi Star caterpillars, tractors, bulldozers, trucks and other heavy equipment parked near a 10,000 hectare plot of Indigenous land.

Instead of getting housing, villagers are forced to build their own tukols – traditional huts – and risk beatings if they speak out, says Human Rights Watch, which conducted interviews of 100 residents during the first round of villagization that occurred in 2010.

The majority of resettlements did not have a school, health clinic or even water wells, says the Oakland Institute. Lack of agricultural assistance such as seeds, fertilizers, tools and trainings, have further exacerbated the risk of hunger and starvation among families.

The traditional pastoralist communities also say that they are having a hard time adapting to sedentary farming practices in the new settlements. “We want you to be clear the government brought us here…to die…right here,” an Anuak elder in Abobo district told Human Rights Watch. “They brought us no food, they gave away our land to foreigners so we can’t even move back. On all sides the land is given away, so we will die here in one place.”