|U.S. CORPORATION DESTROYS KENYA COMMUNITY
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, March 4-10, 2007
,Dorothy Owiti comes from Siaya Province, the region of Kenya on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria where the father of presidential hopeful Barach Obama was born. At the World Social Forum, which recently ended in Kenya, she described how the lives of her people have been destroyed by Dominion Farms, an affiliate of Dominion Group/color>, the Oklahoma-based global corporation. In the United States Dominion builds for-profit prisons and federal buildings.
/x-tad-bigger>/fontfamily>Dominion Farms moved into Siaya province in 2003 through an arrangement with the local and state authorities. After several years of negotiations, Dominion CEO Calvin Burgess leased public land from the government on a pledge to develop a high-tech fish and rice farming operation that he promised would bring jobs, reduce hunger and make Siaya and neighboring Bondo provinces the "breadbasket" of Kenya.
Until Dominion came along, the people of this part of Kenya made their living drawing water from the local Yala River. They raised goats and cows and farmed small plots of land. Widows and children harvested papyrus and sisal from the nearby swamp from which they crafted rough mats and baskets. A major habitat for endangered fish and birds, the Yala Swamp is recognized by environmentalists as one of the richest and most delicate ecosystems in East Africa. The half-million or so local residents weren't rich but they were self-sufficient. Now they are forced to live on the generosity of churches or on the corporation's handouts.
Or they migrate to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and survive how they can. As a result, Nairobi is now popularly known as Nai-robberi.
"Development should not bring harm to the local community," said Owiti at the World Social Forum. But that is just what has happened. In the last four years Dominion Farms has built a dam on the Yala River, drained much of the swamp, subjected the fields to aerial spraying and drowned not only public land but, residents claim, private property without legal authority.
Dominion offered residents compensation to leave their homes (generally 45,000 Kenyan shillings, approximately $64). Many, like Salome, a local grandmother, refused, but their land was submerged anyway. "I grew cabbages, I made mats, I planted maize and millet. Now all my fields are flooded," said Salome.
For those that remain, the company's dam blocks access to the river, the one available source of fresh water. "Now they want us to use standing water," explained Paul Obeira, another Yala Swamp resident. But with the standing water comes infection. Malaria and typhoid rates are rising. Now aerial spraying is killing livestock. "I have lost 110 goats and our women are suffering from health problems because of the spraying," added Obeira. Dominion Farms has applied for a permit to spray the pesticide DDT, which has been banned in this part of the world because of its negative health consequences.
In Siaya, the managers at Dominion Farms erected a massive thirty-foot cross over their compound. According to Kimani and several Yala Swamp residents, the company threatens residents that opposition to the project constitutes opposition to God's will. Some say they've been threatened with crucifixion.
"It's a classical colonial strategy to use the cross to hoodwink the people," says Cecil Agutu, organizer of a residents' support group, Friends of Yala Swamp/color>. "At least [under colonial rule] we could see the British. Right now we have one American who flies in and out on a private plane. We can't even see him and yet he controls our resources."
“Recolonization by Globalization” is what people in Africa, Asia and Latin America call this destruction of their communities and their way of life.
When we shop at Wal-Mart’s because we think their low prices save us money, we are aiding and abetting this “Recolonization by Globalization.”
THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, March 4-10, 2007
With each passing day it is clear that George Bush has no intention of ending this war. His stubborn, willful ignoring of advice, facts and the will of the majority of the people makes it seem that this war is a function of his personality. Such a view, however, obscures a much more disturbing truth. There are powerful forces that want war and benefit from it. These forces believe in a world where the U.S. enforces its desires upon the globe through military might. They view a world full of shadowy enemies, best dealt with through fear and intimidation. This view motivates every action Bush takes and positions the United States as a nation in a perpetual state of war.
This view has also framed the public discussion of the Iraq war and has reduced it to little more than technical arguments of troop strength and deployments. Plans for staying, withdrawing, or moving troops to Afghanistan become major questions. The urgency of ending the horror of this war drives us to demand that measures be taken to stop it.
But peace is more than the absence of open warfare. Peace is much more than a momentary absence of the use of force. Peace, like war, is the product of polices and actions, of will and of choices.
The United States has not been a force for peace since the end of WWII. We have used force, sometimes openly, sometimes covertly, to bend the world. We, alone among nations, have used nuclear weapons. We have refused to renounce their first use and now claim the right of preemptive strike. This commitment to force predates Bush and will continue after him unless we are able to use this moment as an opportunity to begin to discuss the establishing of peace.
As a first small step in this process, we should demand that Congress establish a Department of Peace, charged with the responsibility of creating relationships among people and nations based on respect, dialogue and a commitment to justice.
This Department should be funded by taxes placed on all corporations that profit from war. While Halliburton’s outlandish profits leap readily to mind, the windfall profits of oil companies and other direct suppliers of war materials are the result of money made through war. These profits, wrought from destruction, should be turned to productive use. War should never be a good way to improve the bottom line.
The Department should also tax every U.S. citizen who does not have a member of their immediate family serving in the armed forces. There is something obscene about the way this war is being paid for. We have devastated a nation, destroyed its infrastructure, been responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqi children, women and men, and created over 1.2 million refugees. Yet most Americans have no tangible connection to any of this.
This absence of tangible connection is one of the main reasons why much of the public disgust over the war stems as much from the fact that we are losing, as from the realization that we should never have been there in the first place.
Creating peace requires a new way of thinking about ourselves and our world. Many Americans have decades of experience in creating peaceful, productive relationships. On the streets of major cities, community organizers, schools and churches have turned gang violence into efforts at community rebuilding. Across the country victims of violence have moved from revenge to reconciliation, placing forgiveness at the heart of relationships. Peace is not an empty ideal; it is just not a government priority. Now is the time to make it a priority of the American people.