Canadian military ‘aid’ no help to Africans

Unlike the US or France, Canada is not a leading military force in Africa. But Ottawa exerts influence through a variety of means including training initiatives.

Canadian Forces have trained hundreds of African soldiers at the Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre in Kingston Ontario and Lester B. Pearson Centre in Nova Scotia. Canadian forces have also directed or participated in a slew of officer training initiatives, running courses in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Mali among other places. In recent years Ottawa has funded and staffed various military training centres across the continent such as the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana, African Centre for Strategic Research and Studies in Nigeria and Ecole de Maintien de la Paix Alioune Blondin in Mali.

Canadian special forces also train a number of African militaries. Along with the US, Canadian troops trained counterterrorism units in Niger, Kenya and Mali and in 2014 Canadian Special Operations Forces Command spokesman Major Steve Hawken told Embassy that his force had recently trained 800 African military personnel.

Canada is increasingly involved in “counterterrorist” training exercises in the Sahel region, which covers parts of Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea. The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) has participated in Exercise Flintlock since 2011. Fifty members of CSOR and the Special Operations Aviation Squadron traveled to Senegal and Mauritania for Exercise Flintlock in 2014. The New York Times Magazine reported: “For the past three weeks, Green Berets, along with British, French and Canadian special operators, had been training 139 elite troops from Niger, Nigeria and Chad” as part of Flintlock 2014. Sponsored by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Flintlock takes place in a different Sahel region nation each year.

Canadian officials generally tell the media the aim of training other militaries is to help fight terror or the illicit drug trade but a closer look at military doctrine suggests broader strategic and geopolitical motivations. An important objective is to strengthen foreign militaries’ capacity to operate in tandem with Canadian and/or NATO forces. According to Canada’s Military Training Assistance Program, its “language training improves communication between NATO and other armed forces” and its “professional development and staff training enhances other countries compatibility with the CFs [Canadian Forces].” At a broader level MTAP states its training “serves to achieve influence in areas of strategic interest to Canada. … Canadian diplomatic and military representatives find it considerably easier to gain access and exert influence in countries with a core group of Canadian-trained professional military leaders.”

When Ottawa initiated post-independence training missions in Africa a memo to cabinet ministers described the political value of training foreign military officers. It stated: “Military leaders in many developing countries, if they do not actually form the government, frequently wield much more power and influence domestically than is the case in the majority of western domestic nations… [it] would seem in Canada’s general interest on broad foreign policy grounds to keep open the possibility of exercising a constructive influence on the men who often will form the political elite in developing countries, by continuing to provide training places for officers in our military institutions where they receive not only technical military training but are also exposed to Canadian values and attitudes.”

As part of Canada’s initial aid efforts in the early 1960s, Canadian troops trained armed forces in various African countries. In Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania, Canada endeavoured “to fill in the vacuum left by the withdrawal of British officers and training facilities,” notes Professor Robert Matthews. Military historian Sean Maloney further explains: “These teams consisted of regular army officers who, at the ‘operational level’, trained military personnel of these new Commonwealth countries to increase their professionalism. The strategic function, particularly of the 83-man team in Tanzania, was to maintain a Western presence to counter Soviet and Chinese bloc political and military influence.” By the end of the 1960s Canada had spent over $23 million (around $170 million today) training the military forces of seven African and Asian countries.

In 1966 Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah, a leading pan-Africanist who was dubbed “Man of the Millennium” in a 2000 poll by BBC listeners in Africa. After independence Ghana’s army remained British dominated. The colonial era British generals were still in place and the majority of Ghana’s officers continued to be trained in Britain. In response to a number of embarrassing incidents, Nkrumah released the British commanders in September 1961. It was at this point that Canada began training Ghana’s military.

Canadians organized and oversaw the Junior Staff Officers course and a number of Canadians took up top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”. Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, in 1965 Canadian high commissioner in Accra, C.E. McGaughey wrote the under secretary of external affairs: “Since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”

After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian high commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program at the Ghanaian Defence College. Writing to the Canadian under secretary of external affairs, McGaughey noted, “All the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.”

When today’s internal documents are made available they will likely show that Canadian military training initiatives continue to influence the continent’s politics in ways that run counter to most Africans’ interests.

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Got a billion? They will listen

We’ve all heard many times that “money talks” in politics but it was unclear how loudly. Now we know –one billionaire is heard over 50,000 ordinary Canadians.

While about 50,000 people and 175 organizations supported Up for Debate’s call for an election debate focused on women’s issues, it won’t happen because Stephen Harper refused to participate and NDP leader Tom Mulcair is unwilling to appear if the prime minister is not there to bash.

But the same politicians have agreed to a September 28 debate on foreign policy sponsored by an organization named after and financed by one of Canada’s richest and most right-wing capitalists.

Through his Aurea Foundation, Peter Munk, the founder of Barrick Gold, established Munk Debates in 2008. Peter’s son Anthony Munk, a close friends of Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright, is part of the four-person committee overseeing the debate series.

Set up to promote Peter Munk’s vision of the world, the Aurea Foundation has doled out millions of dollars to right-wing think tanks such as the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Canadian Constitution Foundation as well as the Fraser Institute’s Global Centre for Mining Studies.

Peter Munk espouses far-right political views. In 1997 he publicly praised dictator Augusto Pinochet for “transforming Chile from a wealth-destroying socialist state to a capital-friendly model that is being copied around the world” while two years later the Canadian Jewish News reported on a donation Munk made to an Israeli University and speech in which he “suggested that Israel’s survival is dependent on maintaining its technological superiority over the Arabs.” In 2006 he attacked leftist Bolivian president Evo Morales and the next year wrote a letter to the Financial Times comparing Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to Hitler. In a March 2011 Globe and Mail interview Munk dismissed criticism of Barrick’s security force in Papua New Guinea by claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in that country.

Operating some of the most controversial mining projects in the world, Munk cultivated influence with politicians. He appointed former U.S. President George H. Bush and Tennessee Senator Howard Baker to Barrick Gold’s board, while former Canadian PM Brian Mulroney currently chairs its international advisory board. (When asked why he appointed Mulroney to Barrick’s board, Munk told Peter C. Newman: “He has great contacts. He knows every dictator in the world on a first name basis.”) A month after stepping down as Canada’s foreign minister in February John Baird also joined Barrick’s international advisory board.

While the Munk Debates presents itself as a forum of ideas, Peter Munk has a direct personal stake in Canadian foreign policy. Operating mines on six continents, Barrick Gold has benefited from Canadian aid money and diplomatic support. The company has aggressively opposed moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. In 2008 it opposed the recommendations of a business/civil society mining roundtable launched by the previous Liberal government, and two years later the company successfully lobbied against Liberal MP John McKay’s private members bill C 300 (An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries).

While Canadian foreign policy should be debated during an election it is not more important than issues that effect women.

And while Canada’s status as a global mining superpower ought to be part of a foreign policy debate, don’t expect any discussion of regulating mining activities abroad or the appropriate level of government “aid” to profitable “private” companies on September 28. Nor should we expect discussion about matters likely to embarrass the military or major corporations, such as what role Canada has played in Libya’s descent into chaos or Canada’s refusal to support international agreements to restrict carbon emissions. After all, a billionaire might be offended.

Ordinary Canadians have been put in their place — 50,000 of us can be dismissed. How many will it take before the politicians are forced to listen to us and ignore the billionaires?

 

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Corporate profits the point of Harper’s Africa policy

Despite rhetoric about providing aid to the poorest, the Harper Conservatives have worked assiduously to ensure that Canadian corporations profit from Africa’s vast mineral resources, rather than the continent’s people.

Even widespread criticism of their operations has failed to dampen the Conservatives’ support for Canada’s many mining interests in Africa. Canadian mining companies have been accused of bribing officials, evading taxes, dispossessing farmers, displacing communities, employing forced labour, devastating ecosystems and spurring human rights violations.

But more important than the specific instances of abuse, which I detail in my forthcoming book Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation, the mining industry contributes little to sustainable economic development. Instead it vacuums up resources to benefit wealthy people, very few of whom live in Africa.

The mining industry has found a set of loyal lobbyists in the Harper government. Indifferent to the deleterious impacts of the sector, International Trade Minister Ed Fast has included numerous mining executives in his delegations to the continent, and former foreign minister John Baird focused his visits to Africa on countries where Canadian resource companies sought business. For his part, International Development Minister Christian Paradis praised the sector’s development benefits in a bid to (misleadingly) convince African officials that “Canada owes much of its economic growth to extractive industries.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has personally promoted Canadian mining companies, for instance, when Benin’s president visited Ottawa in 2013. During a trip to Senegal in 2012 the PM met with representatives from several mining firms and publicly lauded the sector.

On a visit to Tanzania in 2007, Harper met with more than 10 Canadian resource firms, calling this an opportunity to discuss “the general business climate [and] what the government of Canada can do to assist in building our investments here.” In the months after Harper’s visit, the Canadian High Commission lobbied Tanzania’s Parliament to reject the recommendation of the country’s Mineral Sector Review Committee that the government keep more of the profits resulting from higher mineral prices.

Since 2012 Ottawa has pumped huge sums of public money into mining initiatives in Africa. The public money helped establish branch offices of a professional society, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, in Senegal and Burkina Faso as well as a Senegalese school for geomatics (combining geography and information technology to map natural resources).

Last year, Canada pledged $18.5 million of tax money to provide training in the extractives industry in Mozambique, and earlier this year Ottawa announced a $12-million grant for a project called Strengthening Education for Mining in Ethiopia “to develop more industry driven geology and mining engineering undergraduate programs.” In 2014 the government budgeted up to $25 million per year for the Extractives Cooperation for Enhanced Economic Development (EXCEED) initiative, which it described as “a new funding mechanism to expand Canada’s involvement in areas of high development impact in the extractive sector in Africa.”

In addition to promoting the sector in general, the Conservatives are now channelling foreign “aid” through mining companies, ploughing millions of dollars into corporate social responsibility projects. One example of this “aid” was a $4.5-million grant to Lundin for Africa, a charity financed by mining behemoth Lundin Group of Companies, for its operations in Ghana, Mali and Senegal. Ottawa also put up $5.6 million for a project between NGO Plan Canada and IAMGOLD near the company’s mine in Burkina Faso.

As the Conservatives pumped tens of millions of “aid” dollars into supporting an industry notorious for abuses in countries with weak legal structures, they also blocked domestic attempts at regulation while ensuring Canadian mining companies held the upper hand in foreign jurisdictions.

The Conservatives defeated Bill C-300, which would have withheld diplomatic and financial support from companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. They also opposed legislation modeled on the U.S. Alien Torts Claims Act that would have allowed lawsuits against Canadian companies responsible for major human rights violations or ecological destruction abroad.

After two decades of privatization and loosened restrictions on foreign investment, mining companies operating on the continent fear a reversal of these policies. And so, in what may be their most significant support to Canadian mining corporations in Africa, the Conservatives negotiated Foreign Investment Protection Agreements with a number of African countries. FIPAs give corporations the right to sue governments — in private, investor-friendly tribunals — for interfering with profits, such as expropriating a concession, changing investment rules or requiring that value-added production take place in the country rather than abroad.

In essence, these agreements aim to counter “resource nationalism.” “Canada appears keen to negotiate FIPAs with some of the most economically and politically vulnerable but resource rich African countries before they develop a taste for resource sovereignty,” notes academic and author Paula Butler in Canadian Dimension.

Canadian policy in Africa has become largely synonymous with the interests of Canadian mining companies. The Harper Conservatives have sought to ensure that the continent’s mining policy serves the interests of foreign corporations, the majority of Africans be damned.

This article first appeared in Ricochet

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Jewish voters turning to Harper

Where are Conservatives most likely to be elected in Canada? Historically, rural and suburban White, Protestant ridings and the wealthiest parts of English-speaking cities have been where the Tories enjoyed the most success.

Certainly the Conservatives have never been the party of those marginalized for economic, social or religious reasons.

Yet, at the start of the month Stephen Harper launched his re-election campaign from the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre in Mount Royal, one of two ridings in the country with a Jewish plurality (about 36% of the population).

If Conservative candidate Robert Libman wins Pierre Trudeau’s old seat it would represent a significant feat. The Liberals have held the riding for 75 years and the Conservatives don’t currently hold a single seat in greater Montréal. In fact, they aren’t seriously contesting any other constituency near Mount Royal.

So, what’s going on?

In the 2011 federal election an Ipsos exit poll found that 52 per cent of Canadian Jews voted Conservative versus 39 per cent of the overall population. On October 19 the Tories’ share of the Jewish vote is expected to increase while the Conservatives’ overall total drops.

The remarkable growth in Jewish support for the Conservatives over the past decade is a strong sign that anti-Semitism barely registers in the lives of most Canadian Jews. In general, they are a widely accepted, relatively successful part of Canada’s multicultural fabric — so much so that a majority now votes for the primary political party of the Canadian ruling class.

Outside Harper’s speech at the Ben Weider Jewish Community Centre a crowd of 100 protested. A self-described  “Zionist” holding an “Israel is NOT a partisan issue” sign, Bryan Wolofsky, told me that when he canvassed during the last election in Hampstead and Cote Saint-Luc, the largely Jewish municipalities in the Mount Royal riding, Israel was people’s primary concern.

While some may disagree, there is nothing inherently troubling about a group of Canadians voting in response to a government’s policy towards another country. In fact, it can represent a righteous, selfless act.

In the mid-2000s I worked with members of Montréal’s Haitian community to defeat Liberal MPs complicit in the violent overthrow of the Caribbean nation’s elected government. For many in the Haitian-Canadian community this country’s foreign policy was a key issue in the election. They hoped to defend their homeland against outside intervention.

But the Jewish community’s support for Israel is the exact opposite. The recipient of billions of dollars of support from the world’s most powerful country, Israel is a nuclear-armed state that has repeatedly slaughtered a largely defenseless population it dispossessed. Rather than selfless internationalism, Canadian Jewish support for Israel is an assertion of ethnic/religious supremacy.

The Jewish community’s shift towards the Conservatives opens a window into the ideological underpinnings of the century-old Zionist movement. Generally presented as a response to late 1800s European anti-Semitism, the Theodore Herzl led Zionist movement was in fact spurred by the nationalist and imperialist ideologies then sweeping Europe. After two centuries of active Protestant Zionism and two millennia in which Jewish restoration was viewed as a spiritual event to be brought about through divine intervention, Zionism took root among some Jews as the European “scramble” carved up Africa and then the Middle East. (Europeans controlled about 10 percent of Africa in 1870 but by 1914 only Ethiopia was independent of European control. Liberia was effectively a US colony). At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903 Herzl and two thirds of delegates voted to pursue British Secretary of State for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain’s proposal to allocate 13,000 square km in East Africa as “Jewish territory …  on conditions which will enable members to observe their national customs.”

History strongly suggests that Zionism was both a reaction to anti-Semitism and an attempt by European Jews to benefit from and participate in colonialism.

If Zionism were simply a response to anti-Semitism why hasn’t the decline of anti-Semitism lessened its popularity in the Canadian Jewish community? Instead, the leadership of that community has become more and more obsessed with Israel. In 2011 the leading donors in the community scrapped the hundred-year-old Canadian Jewish Congress and replaced it with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. As the name change suggests, this move represented a shift away from local Jewish concerns and towards ever greater lobbying in favour of Israeli policy.

The political trajectory of Mount Royal provides an interesting insight into the shift towards focusing on Israel. Repeatedly re-elected in a riding that was then 50% Jewish, Pierre Trudeau distanced Ottawa from Israeli conduct more than any other prime minister before or since. Still, Trudeau was incredibly popular with the Jewish community. He appointed the first Jew to the federal cabinet, Herb Gray, and brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which strengthened religious freedoms.

If Conservative candidate Robert Libman wins in Mount Royal on October 19 it would mark a decisive end to the notion that the Canadian Jewish community is a liberal force in politics. It would also suggest that the political priority of a large number of Canadian Jews is to support a highly militarized state that continues to deny its indigenous population the most basic political rights.

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Top 10 things you didn’t know about Canada in Africa

10. Canada is a mining superpower in Africa. With mines in 35 countries, Canadian companies operate hundreds of mineral projects across the continent.

9. Canada trained the army command that overthrew Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah and Canada’s high commissioner privately celebrated the coup.

8. A Canadian led the expedition to conquer the Katanga region of the Congo on behalf of Belgian King Leopold II.

7. In exchange for land near present-day Harare a Canadian missionary organized health services for Cecil Rhodes’ army that conquered Zimbabwe.

6. Canadian military officials were complicit in the killing of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

5. An Ottawa-based consulting firm has overseen the privatization of tens of billions of dollars in public African infrastructure.

4. Much of Atlantic Canada’s early wealth was generated from feeding Caribbean slave plantations.

3. A Canadian intelligence officer/diplomat led the Nairobi police force that arrested Kenya’s future president and violently suppressed the Mau Mau independence movement in the 1950s.

2. Canadians rose to become governors of colonial-era Ghana, Kenya and Northern Nigeria.

And the No. 1 thing that you didn’t know about Canada in Africa is: Tens of thousands of Africans have protested Canadian corporate behaviour across the continent where 45% of people live on less than a dollar a day.

Yves Engler’s new book Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation is the first critical overview of Canadian policy towards the continent. It documents Canadian involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, “scramble for Africa”, missionary movement and European colonialism as well as Ottawa’s opposition to anticolonial struggles and promotion of neoliberal economic prescriptions, which have benefited Canadian mining companies that have bought up much of the continent’s mineral resources, but are often bitterly resisted by local communities.

For more information contact yvesengler [at] hotmail.com

 

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Suggestions for real organizing during elections

By Dru Oja Jay and Yves Engler
Election season can be the worst time to be a radical. Which is to say, it’s tough to be someone who believes that fundamental systemic change is needed when the parties that have our democratic imagination in a sleeper hold are sucking the air out of the living rooms of the nation pitching their tweaks to the status quo.
There’s not much to do for those who believe in dealing with environmental destruction, colonial pillage, alienation and inequality: the fundamental features of capitalism. If you see radicals out and about during election season, they’re either eating ballots or sporting a cynical grin as they wrangle volunteers at a temporary NDP campaign office for some fast cash. If they’re not decrying the pitifully limited range of debate, they’re probably just crying.
We can either join the flock of Shepherd Mulcair or assume the role of black sheep, baying from the edge of the field, but too weak to face down any wolves alone. Does it have to be this way? Is there something better? We believe so.
Elections can be a unique opportunity to bring up issues and assert some “radical” influence. Here’s an example.
During the 2006 election, a small group of Haiti solidarity activists mounted a campaign to defeat then-Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew. Pettigrew had played a role in overthrowing Haiti’s elected government, and covering up the human rights violations and killings that followed.
We didn’t back a candidate; our only goal was to unseat Pettigrew. We fashioned some posters featuring Pettigrew’s image with the words “WANTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY IN HAITI”. It wasn’t subtle, but it had the virtue of being true, and the Minister had declined several opportunities to change course. We mustered a crew of a dozen or so activists and saturated the riding, handing out over 12,000 flyers at metro stops and on the street. We put up 2,000 posters in the riding and organized a few actions. Our message was hard to avoid.
We even got a little overzealous, and postered over some of Pettigrew’s election signs — a federal offense. In one instance, Pettigrew’s campaign manager saw two of us and called the police. But even that hurt the Foreign Minister. We sent out a press release concerning our arrest, and were rewarded with our first coverage in two years of campaigning in the crime-obsessed tabloid paper, Journal de Montreal. A photo of our poster appeared on page five.
So thoroughly had we saturated the riding with our propaganda, that in the last week of the campaign, we got cocky and tried to go after Denis Coderre (who also helped the coup d’etat) in a riding further to the north.
When the votes were counted, Pettigrew went from holding one of the highest offices in the land to having extra time on his hands as a private citizen. His successor as the MP of Papineau? Viviane Barbot, a woman of Haitian descent running for the Bloc Quebecois. (She understandably distanced herself from our campaign early on, but the symbolism nonetheless spoke loudly.)
Montreal dailies La Presse and Le Devoir credited our campaign with playing a spoiler role for Pettigrew. Elections Canada paid us the compliment of sending a retired cop to investigate if we had broken any rules. (The all-volunteer campaign was well under the spending limit.)
It was exhilarating, even if the victory was ultimately overshadowed by a Conservative minority government. It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that there have been few campaigns since that have followed anything like the “Pettigrew model”.
Today, much of the “anyone but Harper” campaigning that’s happening suffers from lowest-common denominator political messaging designed to tell people what the messengers believe people want to hear. We believe that more bold messaging and an aggressive tactical approach can both change the terms of the debate and achieve electoral outcomes. In fact, we think it’s more likely to succeed in defeating sitting Conservative MPs in close ridings.
A few Haitians and solidarity activists pulled it off with minimal resources, but it’s important to note the factors that led to success in the Pettigrew case. The riding, Papineau, is small, low income, and has a significant immigrant population, including many people of Haitian descent. It also has a number of metro stops and a vibrant commercial district, which means lots of foot traffic: high visibility for posters and easy flyering.
We had a small group of highly-motivated people who agreed on the basics: that Canada orchestrated a brutal coup d’etat, and Pettigrew must go. None of us had a problem with members of the group risking tickets or arrest. Because of these factors, we were able to make our message nearly unavoidable to residents of Papineau.
How many people got educated about the coup d’etat, and became convinced? It’s hard to know. We can imagine that the saturation provoked a few dinner table conversations. It probably shaped a lot more: it’s harder to declare your support for someone when their face is on wanted posters pasted on every street corner. Our campaign coincided with a wave of revelations about Liberal scandals, which probably demoralized constituencies that would normally turn out. We helped make the decision to stay home a little easier.
But we don’t want to undersell the accomplishment either. A Haitian woman running for the Bloc Quebecois beat a well-financed star candidate and high-ranking cabinet minister in what was historically a Liberal stronghold (it’s now Justin Trudeau’s riding). We think that’s enough to be able say that this kind of electoral intervention is underutilized. But for mostly obvious reasons, groups like LeadNow, Council of Canadians and Unifor are unlikely to undertake this kind of campaigning. So it’s up to small, independent groups of motivated and organized people who want to set the agenda.
See original story at  The Media Co-op

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Canadian crimes against humanity in Africa

Should Africans pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity?

The Africa Progress Report 2015 suggests they may have a solid moral, if not necessarily legal, case.

Led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Africa Progress Panel highlights Canada and Australia as two countries that “have withdrawn entirely from constructive international engagement on climate.” The mainstream group concludes that Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have shown “far higher level of ambition” to lessen CO2 emissions than Canada.

The report, which was released last week, adds to a significant body of evidence showing that anthropogenic global warming poses a particularly profound threat to Africans. Although hardest hit by climate change, the terrible irony is that Africa, among all continents, is least responsible for the problem.

If nothing is done to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, average temperatures may rise 7°C in southern Africa and 8°C in the north by century’s end. Reaching nearly twice the global average, this would destabilize human life on large swaths of the continent.

Still, a skeptic might argue, how does this amount to charging Stephen Harper with crimes against humanity? Doesn’t that require some form of mass murder or genocide?

Back in 2012 the Climate Vulnerability Monitor concluded that climate disturbances were responsible for 400,000 deaths per year, mostly in Africa. Nigerian ecologist Nnimmo Bassey has dubbed growing carbon emissions a “death sentence for Africa” while Naomi Klein reports that “African delegates at UN climate summits have begun using words like ‘genocide’ to describe the collective failure to lower emissions.”

Various ecological, economic and social factors explain the continent’s vulnerability. Most Africans are directly dependent on resource sectors – fisheries, forestry and agriculture – that are particularly vulnerable to climate conditions. Between half and two thirds of the continent are subsistence farmers who largely rely on natural rainfall, rather than irrigation, to water their crops. Additionally, large swaths of the continent are arid and a third of Africa’s productive area is already classified as dry land. As such, subsistence farmers’ crop yields and incomes are easily damaged by reduced or intermittent rainfall. According to Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment Binilith Mahenge, “global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 per cent of the African continent’s population at risk of undernourishment.”

CO2 induced food shortages are not in some far off dystopian future. A study by Britain’s Met Office concluded that global warming sparked a major famine in Somalia in 2011 during which 50,000 Somalis died.

While water shortages represent a threat to many, an excess of this same element poses a hazard elsewhere. A quarter of Africa’s population lives within 100km of the continent’s 38,000 km coastline. Without significant investments to mitigate risks to major metropolises, such as Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Lagos, the threat of flooding looms.

Carbon can also trigger the taking up of arms. Climate change has spurred violent cattle raids in north-western Kenya and triggered the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali while the mid-2000s violence in Sudan’s Darfur region was dubbed the world’s “first climate change war.” A University of California, Berkeley, study found a statistical link between the hotter temperatures generated by climate change and the risk of armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The Colorado researchers forecast a 54 per cent rise in civil conflict on the continent due to climate change by 2030, causing 393,000 more combat deaths.

Increasing the strain on governance structures, climate change has already exacerbated inequities and ethnic divisions in parts of the continent. Climate change may well propel large areas of Africa into a downward cycle, further undermining the capacity of communities and governments to cope.

But most African governments can contribute little to curtail runaway global warming because their countries’ carbon footprints are negligible compared to the biggest capitalist economies. Per capita emissions in most African countries amount to barely 1% of Canada’s rate. In Uganda, Congo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Rwanda and Mozambique, per capita emissions comprise less than 1/150th of Canada’s average. In Tanzania, Madagascar, Comoros, The Gambia, Liberia and Zambia per capita emissions are less than 1/80th Canada’s average.

Forward looking comparisons are equally stark. If plans to double tar sands production proceed, by 2030 Alberta’s project will emit as much carbon as most sub-Saharan African countries combined.

Canadian officialdom has done little to regulate tar sands emissions and has, in fact, subsidized its expansion. The Conservative government has campaigned aggressively against any international effort to reduce carbon emissions from fuel sources, which might impact sales of Alberta bitumen. Canadian diplomats worked with feverish determination to undermine the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, a modest bid that would force suppliers to privilege lower-emission fuels. To the south, the Canadian government also lobbied aggressively against any US legislation that might curtail tar sands expansion and in favour of the Keystone XL pipeline to take oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Despite the rising toll of climate change in Africa, the Canadian government pushed to grow the global “carbon bomb” in international forums. At every turn, Harper’s Conservatives have blocked progress on setting minimally serious targets for reducing CO2 emissions, repeatedly receiving the Colossal Fossil given out by hundreds of environmental groups to the country that did the most to undermine international climate negotiations meetings. At this week’s G7 meeting, Canadian officials reportedly sought to undermine German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bid for a statement committing countries to a low carbon economy by 2050.
Under Conservative government leadership, Canada became the first country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement committing leading industrial economies to reducing GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2012. (Instead of attaining its 6% reduction target, Canada’s emissions increased 18 per cent.)

In addition to undermining international climate negotiations and the efforts of other nations to reduce GHGs, the Harper government made a mockery of its own commitments. As part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Ottawa pledged to reduce carbon emissions 17 per cent by 2020 (from the levels in 2005). Five years later, however, Environment Canada admitted this target would not be reached. In fact, Environment Canada suggested emissions would rise 20% by 2020.

In a sign of Ottawa’s near total indifference to the impact of global warming in Africa, the Conservatives pulled out of an international accord to study the consequences of desertification, a process ravaging parts of the African continent. In 2013, Canada withdrew from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

Adopted in 1994, this international convention collects and shares scientific information about drought and ways to curb its spread. By becoming the sole nation outside the convention, Canada saved itself a paltry $300,000 a year. While the savings barely registered in the federal government’s $260 billion budget, the message was clear.

Clearly Harper’s Conservative government has wilfully ignored the interests of Africans and pursued an environmental, economic and political course that has already killed hundreds of thousands.

In a just world a Fulani pastoralist in Burkina Faso would have a forum to pursue Stephen Harper for crimes against humanity.

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