Year 2000 No. 127, August 4, 2000

Condemn the Genocidal Sanctions against Iraq!

Support the Actions against British Government Policy!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Condemn the Genocidal Sanctions against Iraq!
Support the Actions against British Government Policy!

Britain and US Unaccountable for Bombings

South London Protest over Voucher Scheme

The Drought in Ethiopia

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Condemn the Genocidal Sanctions against Iraq!

Support the Actions against British Government Policy!

Sunday, August 6, marks the 10th anniversary of the imposition of the genocidal sanctions against Iraq.

The sanctions have taken a devastating and horrific toll against the Iraqi people, especially young children, of whom it is estimated that over half a million have died as a result of the privations directly attributable to the sanctions. Two of the previous UN Humanitarian Co-ordinators for Iraq have resigned over the issue, which they have described as amounting to genocide, as well as other senior UN officials. The British government, however, has been and remains one of the most ardent champions of the sanctions, and is also engaged, with its partner US imperialism, in the continual bombardment of the north and south of Iraq as its warplanes patrol the illegal "no-fly zones".

A number of events are being organised in London from Saturday, August 5, to Monday, August 7, to condemn the British government and demand that the sanctions be ended immediately.

There will be a vigil against sanctions on Iraq opposite Downing Street in Whitehall from 1-3 pm on Sunday. At 12 noon on Monday, a call has been given to assemble in Trafalgar Square for a mass act of non-violent civil disobedience in Whitehall. The demonstration has many sponsors, including the former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Denis Halliday; the playwright Harold Pinter; the Institute for Independence Studies, many CND branches, and many other individuals and organisations.

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Britain and US Unaccountable for Bombings

The UN is to stop producing its annual report of all bombings by Britain and the US.

The former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, has charged the UN Security Advisor in Baghdad of discontinuing the report.

The first such report covered December 28, 1998, to May 31, 1999. It noted that "on 61 out of 155 days – 40% of the days had witnessed air strikes in either the north or the south". The report noted that 73 civilians had been killed and 257 injured. "Statistics show that if each day's air strike is treated as an incident, 41% of the total number of incidents had resulted in civilian casualties," and that 65 houses had been demolished.

The Iraqi authorities say that since December 17, 1998, the number of combat air sorties conducted by Britain and the US from Turkish territory totals 4,566 to date. The number of sorties taking off from the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Turkish territory together totals 22,925.

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South London Protest over Voucher Scheme

The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers held a protest in Tooting Broadway on Saturday, July 29, against the humiliating voucher scheme for asylum seekers. The demonstration was also supported by the MSF West London Medical Branch.

About 20 demonstrators held up placards which said "Defend Asylum Seekers!", "Stop Racist Scapegoating!". They denounced the New Labour government as one of the "harshest in Europe on asylum seekers". Treatment of asylum seekers, the demonstrators pointed out in the leaflet handed out to people passing by Sainsbury's, gives them vouchers worth only £36.54 per week and forces them to queue only at specific aisles set aside by supermarkets. This is reminiscent, the leaflet pointed out, to the treatment of Jews in the 1930s.

A statement released by the Committee, referring to the racist stance of the British government, says: "If those fleeing terror, war, torture or poverty ever get here they face a life without work, without income support, with forced dispersal and an abysmal success rate in achieving refugee status or the right to remain." It goes on to point out that Oxfam has refused to sign up to the voucher scheme, a scheme which, the Committee stresses, is in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The demonstrators also highlighted Wandsworth Council's poor record on its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

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The Drought in Ethiopia

Over the years the name Ethiopia has become synonymous with famine and drought – but Ethiopia as a country offers so much more. The following article from the Ethiopian Embassy in London explains the situation.

The severe drought and food shortage currently being experienced in Ethiopia has been caused by the failure of the Belg and Kirmet rains. Climatic change and crop failure are also to blame. However, it is important to stress that the drought is presently affecting the southern part of Ethiopia (which includes 8 million people – 11% of the population) as well as one or two areas in the north. It does not affect the whole country and has no correlation to the war that was being waged on the northern tip of the border.

Over the years the name Ethiopia has become synonymous with "famine and drought", but Ethiopia is an extremely large country covering many miles of diverse terrain and has much more to offer than the distressing images of starving children and skeletal frames often portrayed by the western media. Small wonder visitors are often astonished at the lushness of the Ethiopian countryside. Having been fed heavy doses of famine stories by the western media they expect Ethiopia to be little more than a dustbowl, so are fascinated by the thickness and density of the lush, green vegetation that appear during their trips throughout the country.

The present food shortage bears no relation to the famine of 1984. The overthrow of the Derg regime in 1991 brought about a democracy for Ethiopia, which, with improvements in agriculture and infrastructure coupled with favourable climatic conditions, meant Ethiopia was able to export food to neighbouring countries in both 1996 and 1997.

The current drought in southern Ethiopia did not happen suddenly, the situation was monitored over a long period of time and appeals for aid from the donor community were made months in advance. For example, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) appealed for aid from the international community regarding the ongoing rain failures several years before the disaster occurred. The government of Ethiopia also appealed for a total of 898,936 tonnes of food and pledged 100,000 metric tonnes (MT). Consequently, had the international community responded a lot sooner, a disaster of this proportion would never have occurred.

Overall the chief aim is food security for all and since 1991 the government of Ethiopia has been working steadily towards this goal. Several measures have been taken in order to avert a repeat of the situation in 1984. For example: the building of roads to facilitate the movement of supplies throughout the country, the funding of various institutions and programmes for the improvement of crop yields and survivability and the establishment of the DPPC. The DPPC, through its Emergency Food Security Reserve, provides relief food in emergencies on a loan basis. However, when the drought occurred its reserves were depleted by loans of grain provided to western donor countries and aid agencies, to date only a percentage of the borrowed stock has been returned – in fact 216,000 of the original 305,000 tons.

Ethiopians all over the world are doing their best to turn the situation around. For example, fundraising initiatives put on by the Ethiopian communities themselves have been sprouting all over the globe and most have been extremely successful. The Swedish embassy in Stockholm raised 25,000 Swedish kroners, members of the Ethiopian community in Rome and its environs raised a sum of over ten million lira, Ethiopians in Washington DC contributed USD 400,000. Other contributors were Djibouti with a pledge of USD15, 338. Beijing also donated a sum of 46,000 birr. The AACC (Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce) recently organised a fundraising telethon, the results of which are being awaited (it has raised 296,000 birr so far).

So far, there has been rainfall in the drought areas in the months from May to July 2000 as predicted by the Drought Monitoring Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa (DMC). In addition, as regards relief distribution, 99, 912 MT of food was transported to drought-affected areas in the country, 84,683 MT was transported by the DPPC; the remainder was delivered by NGOs.

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