Jun 5, 2017
This article is from a recent issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
Twenty million people face famine in Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, and to a lesser degree in Tanzania, according to the U.N.
The media blame the drought, which has gone on for three years. There may have been drought, but there are other causes for this human tragedy. Famine is happening even as these countries export coffee, cotton, and livestock. Ethiopia grows enough grain to be self-sufficient. But nonetheless, five million people there can’t meet their food needs.
During the 1900s, in many colonized countries, imperialism imposed single-crop farming, intended for export to the rich countries, at the expense of growing food crops.
Decolonization did not end these unequal economic relations. And since the economic crisis of 2008, land grabs of farmland to grow commodity crops for speculation have been given new life. Land has become an international investment, just like gold.
Sudan suffered a major deforestation to make space for plantations to grow bio-fuels. Somalia and Ethiopia were especially hit by such land grabs. This led to famine that killed 260,000 people in 2011. But these mass deaths did not slake the investors’ appetite for farmland.
The amounts speculators invested to buy farmland doubled in 2015. The Ethiopian government rented out over two million acres of good land to financiers. Three giant textile companies got over seven million acres to grow cotton for export.
People are dispossessed from their lands and forced away by the local police. The forest they need, for firewood, fruits, and medicinal herbs, disappears. The rivers are diverted. Their way of life is destroyed. They have nothing else but to work as farm laborers, exploited for the benefit of those who ruined them, or to move into shantytowns, or to flee across the border.
The armed conflicts ripping apart the region add more chaos to the chronic malnutrition. South Sudan is being burned and bloodied by the bands the U.S. supported and armed when the country seceded. Masses of refugees trek toward neighboring Uganda or Ethiopia with all their problems.
Imperialist domination is the main calamity causing the famines and the millions of deaths.