Being thankful…even in times of challenges

Nature-Holiday-Uganda-Murchison-FallsI’ve been living in a sort of chaotic haze the last couple of weeks.  Becoming a grandparent of two by my two daughters in a space of four days had left me in sort of a suspended limbo operating on auto-pilot going from one emergency to the next. It sort of brought back memories of my nursing days in trauma care. The beautiful blessing that they are, has only unraveled as the haze clears.  Challenging and difficult as this new phase of my life is, I am very thankful.

Only a couple of hours ago, I learnt of the death of young Elizabeth Nyanzi in the prime of her years – almost similar in age to my eldest daughter. I cannot even begin to imagine the emotions the parents are going through right now.  I never knew the family personally, but I was very close friends with the cousin to the family.  I pray for them all…

It is ironic that the topic of death seems to intertwine with life at almost every turn.  My father was reported to have died on the 4th of July.  I say this because as with most information about my father, one cannot be too certain of what is fact and for peace of mind one learns to accept whatever is said.

His death had not come as a surprise.  It was inevitable when one takes in to account the complexities involved.  What was surprising was the animosity of his co-wife in holding all of us (by this I mean my siblings and extended paternal family members) to financial ransom initially at  £5,000 refusing to release our late father’s body for burial and threats of killing any who dared intervene with her plans. Ironically she had not been so vocal against us when a month prior to dad’s death she had accepted our financial assistance to get dad admitted for medical intervention.   She pulled this off whilst parading armed guards and some other female claiming to be working in the President’s office and a royal princess who now miraculously claims to be a relative of ours! One really wonders how each and every domestic issue nowadays in Uganda somehow ends up involving the President or some chief judge officials.

For someone (co-wife) who claimed to be so much concerned about dad’s health, keeping him at home even when his deteriorated physical appearance alone dictated otherwise, seemed her only plan.  It had only been on the off-chance of us requesting one of our nephews to go check on dad that we learnt of his condition. Intriguing that with older siblings and children on ground in Uganda, she hadn’t felt it necessary to inform anyone of dad’s condition.

The chosen family

The chosen family

After two weeks had passed upon dad dying, possibly when the co-wife and this “newfound grand-daughter princess, Bwanga Flavia Namirembe” plans of getting as much cash from the Ugandan President had come to fruition did they declare the funeral of our father.  Interestingly these two persons saw fit not only to use the death of my siblings that had once served in the NRMO army under the current President as leverage for a ‘cash pay-out’, but also to return the body to grounds that are kept and looked after by the very persons they had initially excluded from all funeral processions.  The fact of using my deceased brothers is my main bone of contention.

We (my siblings) have been handling and burying all of our loved ones including one of the brothers (Capt. David Kato – RIP) used in this leverage without so much as a penny from the President or State in past funerals. So burying our father didn’t require us knocking on the President’s door for financial support unless of course those involved had their own ulterior motives.

My mother who now resides in UK went through a lot of during her course of marriage to our father but fortunately she is not a bitter person by nature and is far well-brought up to lower herself to such.  These two women using mum’s dead sons as leverage for material gain without so much acknowledging her role pissed me off big time. To add insult to injury is their continued death threats to her remaining children in Uganda.

Uganda is a very interesting country where persons can fraudulently fabricate and photoshop themselves on to families that they have no blood kinship – and this appears to be sanctioned by persons from even high up in her judiciary and governance.  It is indeed the case that ghost employees don’t stop in government offices or rigging, but in many areas of Ugandan life.

I am thankful that after such a tumultuous month of July that saw us bidding our father his final farewell; my two daughters have given birth to sons who could almost pass for twins – whereby the re-birth that were my dad and the twin brother I never knew. In this new phase, I appreciate and embrace the new beginning.  In the ruins, there’s always gems.

I hope you are at peace dad – I wished you well in all.

Dying to cook something to eat

17th edition split load consumer unitYesterday I almost got electrocuted by a beside lamp I had just relocated from another room in to my freshly painted and furbished bedroom.  The crystal candles had passed the induction, now I wanted to have the warm ambiance of the bedside mushroom lamp to meditate as I whirled away the aches of the weekend DIY.  Fortunately the installed circuit breaker is quite efficient. The sparks and noise before the supply cut out was all that told me something wasn’t quite right. Thing is, even as I made to reset the circuit breaker and returned to remove the plug from the socket; a repeat of the cut out played out. Which again seemed odd.

I put the whole lamp out of the way and waited for the morning when I could get a clear look at the plug and lamp.

Thing is, this business of electricity in my home has been treating me to quite a few strange happenings.  About 3 weeks back I kept getting electrocuted in the bathroom, especially whilst using the shower or touching the window pane to use anything on it or place anything on it. I worked out it was because the string to the fan extractor had broken a while back while the extractor was still on. I’d not thought anything of it and instead just switched it off from the mains outside the bathroom until I could get an electrician out to repair the broken string. Given we planned to do some DIY around the whole house, I’d hoped to do this when I got to doing the bathroom..  But this episodes of electric shocks made me call in an appointment sooner.

However, I figured out it was because of condensation building up in the extractor fan when it wasn’t switched on that was causing the electric shocks to occur – especially as the fan was on the same side as the window of the bathroom.  So that mystery was solved – no more electric shocks whilst showering.

Then the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen decided it’d had enough and needed to rest in peace! Getting a replacement has proved to be something of an obstacle challenge though and I was getting quite adept at cooking by candle light until a trip to Halfords got me a lantern.  The lantern is cranky though. It charges on speed-dial and after 5mins it requests to lie down and recharge. If anything, I’ve become very adept at cooking 5 minute meals on the gas hob.

Antique_and_Vintage_Table_Lamps

I return back to the lamp in my bedroom of which I hold quite fond memories as it was one of the items of my late aunt Margaret. My partner took the plug aside after he had patiently listened to my near-miss at burning the house down.  When he opened the plug, he pointed to where the fault was..

Somewhere somehow in the lamp’s history, someone had installed a copper wire on the fuse to act as a fuse. Please don’t ask me why as I’m as baffled as to why one would do this given the cost of fuses is not that much or expensive. I asked my partner why anybody would do something so dangerously risky especially as this lamp was previously owned by an elderly person?!  Surely this could have caused a fire if the place the lamp was in didn’t have a circuit breaker etc to pick up the fault.

The discovery of this copper wire being used as a bridge for a fuse in a plug led to conversations of fires in school dormitories in Uganda.  Stories of how students, due to hunger, would resort to makeshift heating devices such as using mattress spring rods, wires, bypassing fuses of the mains, to avail them cooking devices to heat or cook all sorts. The stories of using makeshift devices with hindsight are quite incredulous though at the time, these were normal occurrences among students who literally were dying to cook something to eat by any means feasible to them.

Sadly I suspect, it is most certainly such makeshift cooking devices using electricity in school dormitories that could explain the tragic and fatal fires that resulted in so many students losing their lives and not necessary a result of criminal arson as is always thought.

As I get more joy doing DIY around my home, I am becoming all the more aware and appreciative of the importance of having a circuit breaker in the home.  Knowing the pattern of your home’s wiring circuits and how your electrical service panel is organized can be a big help when a circuit breaker trips ..Perhaps if this critical area of planning for a building was given attention, a lot of students lives would have been saved

.electrical_circuit_mapping

The challenge in staying positive amid such negativity

“When somethings go wrong, take a moment to be thankful for the many more things that are still going right.”  Anne Gottlier

Well, when I first read Anne Gottlier on one of my positive affirmation mantras, I had difficulty scanning her.  It’s like I have a huge stone blocking me from seeing anything that is still going right.

Earlier this week on Monday, I read something in a Ugandan newspaper, New Vision that truly made my blood curl…literally. However any emotions that came after reading this article were driven by the lack of reaction, the indifference or should I say apathy; from persons on ground in Uganda, both general public or government officials and respective opposition political party members.  Interestingly, political opposition members are often quick on the mark to use all given opportunities to politicize most issues that arise, pending or past.

The article in question that left me dumbfounded was about the state of Uganda’s blood transfusion services.  An audit done in 2012 had found that most of the nation’s blood supply had been unfit for use. In brief it was contaminated/rotten with visible maggots photographed in some of the stored hospital batches.  In actual fact, there had been cited reports that large numbers of persons had died due to lack of blood.  What the authorities failed to say was that the state of storage or even collection services in the country were part of the problem. It wasn’t that there were short on blood donors, but that rather, the equipment for collection and storage was not fit for purpose.  Like most things and equipment within Uganda’s health infrastructure.

This is a country which has a national hospital Mulago, that is a certifiable place for death. This is not because the staff are incapable of carrying out their profession (although some persons might argue this point too!) but rather it is down to the complete lack of maintenance of existing mostly, colonial equipment and lack of government’s health ministry’s  serious investment in this only national hospital. Medicines and some equipment are siphoned and diverted in to privately run businesses – a regular occurrence which is well known and appears to be condoned by all.  I guess this is why nobody in government or otherwise, was moved to comment or even come out publicly to allay the Ugandan public over what should have been a grave discovery from the auditors.

Life goes on, other issues get fed to the news reel and this becomes just another incident that is part and parcel of life in Uganda’s chaotic and seriously fragmented infrastructure.  Where Uganda is concerned, it is really challenging to look for things that are still going right when sitting on the knowledge that if you happen to be in the country and suffer an accident that requires you to get emergency treatment, you are well and truly screwed and nobody gives a damn.

But one thing that seems to bring all out to feel the need to associate to fame is when an athlete goes on to win a gold medal. That is something worth convening over to even call upon for all to donate generously towards.  Do not get me wrong, I am happy for this athlete and do not in any way begrudge him his time on the podium. I am just disappointed that such national sense of pride cannot be directed towards building and maintaining her health infrastructure to serve her populace.  Instead, those that can afford will seek to use national coffers to get medical treatment abroad when needed and this becomes routine.

Burying our heads in the sand with regards to Namungoona Fuel tanker

Saturday 29th June 2013 brought what is possibly the worst fuel tanker to occur on Ugandan soil.

In the relative quiet of the night, residents of Namungoona, a Kampala suburb, familiar with the croaks of frogs in Lubigi marshland and occasional raving from engines of vehicles firing on the Northern Bypass, were audience to a tragic occurence. On Saturday night, it was a macabre unraveling of tragedy.
Fueltanker01

Several fatalities consisting of boda-boda riders. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

To me this occurrence and the ensuing reactions from all corners (accident, response or lack/limited of emergency services or first aiders etc…) did not come as a surprise. What was perhaps the redeeming fact, was the number of fatalities.  This was an ‘accident’ among so many to unravel, waiting to happen.  It  is only by God’s grace and alertness that the numbers were not much higher.

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass yesterday. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Police officers check burnt motorcycles at the scene of the accident on the Northern Bypass. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

Cars and vehicles burn in Ecatepec, Mexico

Scene of aftermath shortly after tanker exploded

At around 22.00hrs (GMT) an online status from one of my acquaintance raised the developing tragedy. Yet all the main media channels in Uganda were either preoccupied with foreign news on Obama’s Africa visit, issues in Syria, or entertainment coverage of the BET awards etc. In fact my online social network acquaintance recorded as the president being abroad in Tanzania without any indication of him flying in to check out the developing tragedy.

Prez M7 at scene of accident

President Museveni at the scene of accident at Namungoona on Monday 1st July. PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE

PHOTO BY FAISWAL KASIRYE The President soon put to rights this PR setback.  Shortly not long after the tragic events, not only did he visit the accident scene, but went to the national hospital offering 5million UGX to relatives of the deceased to cover funeral costs… It was tweeted that the fuel tanker collided head on with a Toyota Ipsum before overturning and falling causing people to rush to the scene for free fuel.  Most of these young boda-boda transporters had turned up to make good the flow of “free” fuel from the stricken tanker are believed to be the fatalities because the fuel tanker burst  into flames burning them all. On count, over 30 boda-bodas were burnt during the inferno. Residents say they were carrying people who had stopped to collect the fuel tweeted Sms media Uganda Sunday morning.

aftermath of the explosion

aftermath of the explosion

The fact that the online community is what availed most of us far afield to learn about this tragic event is perhaps an indication of perceived priority of the government media organs on ground. Same goes to factor for the limited if not reserved response by the emergency services in the country…if at all they exist. The ensuing reaction of the public to this tragedy on a background of President Museveni’s 5million pledge to relatives of the deceased is perhaps what has prompted me to make sense of this.  There is way too many questions on my part to be caught up in the emotional reactions to the tragedy that unraveled. First of all, I recall from past experience road safety and regulations in Uganda. This is simply a joke.  Whereas some eye witness accounts have gone to state that the explosion occurred after the tanker went off the road, the way most road users in Uganda behave when driving is perhaps an indicator of such pending tragedies. Fact being that lack of lighting on roads at night, combined by the reckless attitude of most road users, especially those in large vehicles like lorries/trailers is a recipe for disasters such as these.  I know. I almost got run off the road by a huge trailer on Bombo Road at night, the driver who even when we took recording of his driving and registration details, didn’t seem perturbed. People drive recklessly to get to their destination completely oblivious to other road users – if at all, not even give a damn. Most often its persons who consider themselves more important human beings to others, that sets precedence. The response of Uganda’s emergency services to scenes of accidents is questionable…the methodology of ferrying victims to the only national hospital is almost a certifiable death sign-off.  Assuming they make it and survive the limited resources met out at the national hospital.  In this incident especially, persons with burns are most likely to die from secondary infections they will acquire at the hospital. Traffic police in Uganda seem to have differing priorities to their allocated job.  They have bursts of action dependent on time of day or seasonal demands… most often  more concerned with collecting kintu kidogo than enforcing traffic regulations.

scene of namungona post accident

Recovered boda-bodas of fatalities from the explosion

From the emotional reaction to the death toll, one could be excused for blaming poverty as the cause of the young persons who rushed to siphon fuel from the tanker. Truth be said, these persons were hoping to get free fuel that they hadn’t paid for from an unfortunate occurrence to the tanker driver. It is debatable they were willing to listen to the tanker driver warning them to stop… Yet society is excusing these victims’ actions on poverty, yet again reinforcing the conciliatory acceptance of corrupt practice that has become so endemic that most don’t even recognize it anymore when practiced. Issues then become politicized because persons have failed to take personal responsibility and ownership of their collective actions, often opting to apportion blame or scapegoating, and/or exploiting;  whichever suits their perception or political affiliation.  Resulting in shelving/staving off the implementation of any beneficial suggestions that could redress the causes or issues. Bottom line is – the current governance in place is to blame for failure to: empower citizens to make the appropriate choices in fighting the moral decline in society; failure to sensitize citizens  to have faith in the judicial and legislative system which for the greater part functions on selective mode for the elite citizens,  whilst exploiting the ignorance that surrounds most practice that has come to be acceptable. God really loves Uganda and it’s only when He is distracted or blinks that such tragic incidents occur.

Why solidarity is a challenge among some in the African communities

building in progressThe idea to pop in to our nearest DIY shop only took on out of being asked to wait for another hour to get the car’s headlights aligned in order to have it pass its annual MOT.  Otherwise, given the fact that I felt like death warmed over and the weather outside further compounding the pitiful situation, my bed would have been the better alternative straight after the necessary car service.

Topps Tiles is not a DIY shop I’ve frequented before although I have heard of it and seen their TV adverts.  Normally we head down to Homebase if we need to work on anything around the home.  But this time round given the vicinity to this particular one to the place our car was being serviced, and the awful weather, we found ourselves dropping in. It was purely out of curiosity on my part – but also to get out of the rain and cold I must admit.

I have to say, this “window shopping” episode turned out to be quite an eye-opener. I am not saying I’m leaving Homebase – that would be silly given that they do have more of a range on offer in their stores.  But when it comes to specialisation in the tiles or wood flooring, I am won over by Topps Tiles.  We were very impressed by the range of services they had but more so, their sales staff who went out of their way to give us full attention, guidance and advise, even throwing in a free DIY DVD that trains you how to lay tiles etc!  It is a pity the costs of exporting most of what we want to use abroad in another building project outweighs our budget, but if this wasn’t the case, I would most definitely buy and export.  Still we were very impressed by all we learnt and saw.

The sales person giving me a set of business cards for people who could come and lay the tiles down for us after purchase brought me to recall a fellow Ugandan in the diaspora who is in this line of work.  I was about to start searching through my contacts when something my husband said stopped me. You see, being a very private individual, my husband is very cautious about who he allows in to our home – especially if they happen to be from Uganda. Experience has made him evolve to guard his private dealings.  Some of this caution I have come to appreciate stems from the lack of confidentiality or inability to isolate in a professional manner what is work, from social affairs of discourse.

Perhaps it is a cultural thing from having lived abroad for so long by both us in that it is disconcerting to head to a shop to purchase something and for the owner or sales person of the shop to lay claim to knowing you so well that he/she will happily share this knowledge (sometimes imagined or assumed) with whomever pops along or cares to listen. Or to expect you to know so and so in the Ugandan community, the current politics of this and that etc…basically the assumed social elements that appear to be so natural but which unfortunately come across as intrusive if not inquisitive.

My guess is that this is why most Africans shy away from utilizing their kinsmen. This, or the old adage: familiarity breeds contempt.  It is easier to pay someone to come do a job you’ve contracted them to and not worry about them using the opportunity to fill up on information for their social networks as to who is who and what they do or have to anyone willing to give audience.

Lack of professionalism in relation to undertaking work of any kind remains any to some persons and sadly this is not just in contractual work of this nature alone, but in other areas such as in nursing and beyond. It is partly why most persons in the African communities would not share the causes of their illness or any social issues.  This is costing Africans solidarity in being able to pool together resources, skills and finances that would bring about sustained positive empowerment and development.

I would dearly love to utilise the skills of my fellow kinsmen but how can I obtain guarantee that their only stake in working the job given is to ensure it is restricted to just that without coming across as being a snob or a pompous individual?

HIV+ Synonymous with Africans in UK as opposed to any other ethnic group

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots, a senior health minister in Northern Ireland about a ban on blood donations from gay people also being applied to people who have sex “with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes”.

It does not come as a surprise to me to note the comments made by Edwin Poots,

Mr Poots is voicing what so many persons within the healthcare industry practice without concealed discretion – only that they do not get to reach the global media exposure.

The other aspect to such voiced prejudice is that it shows the weaknesses in the system that exists with blood screening facilities which would insinuate such facilities if they exist, purely on ethnicity screening or sexual preferences! A point picked up by Mr Conall McDevitt, South Belfast SDLP assembly member, when he further concludes:

Currently all blood donations are subject to rigorous screening for a number of diseases – including HIV – and no blood is used unless it is approved, regardless of the donor. The fact is that we are in constant need of extra blood stocks in the North and this reinforces the need for the government to do all in its power to encourage as many as possible to donate rather than seek to alienate healthy donors based on prejudice. The minister’s comments perpetuate a tired mythology of cultural promiscuity in the gay community which troubles me as an advocate of a more accepting, shared society

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/18/northern-ireland-gay-blood-donation I would go further to add to defend Africans too.

The repercussions of such prejudicial/ignorant acts and words is quite harmful to Africans who being labelled as “diseased” simply because there happens to be persons who aside from escaping political persecution from their countries are also fleeing socio-economic hardships. Financial hardships make it difficult for such persons to receive medical care in their homelands. Some of you might have heard of medical tourists? Well, some of these Africans are medical migrants. It does not necessary mean that all of AFrica is diseased – simply that those able to afford to travel abroad to seek help, are the ones predominantly seen in healthcare centres abroad. Most Africans are very healthy and busy just like many other migrant workers working at building economies in these adoptive countries and their homelands and do not need added prejudicial baggage such as voiced or practiced.

Part of what prompted me to write this was a memory of what transpired to a friend of mine last year… He attended his GP surgery presenting with a rash on his penis. The GP having deduced from the initial questioning and possible physical presentation/appearance that he was black, referred him directly to an STD (sexually transmitted diseases) clinic attached to West Middlesex Hospital. Now this took place irrespective to the answered questions that my friend had been in a long-term relationship where neither himself nor his partner had engaged in sexual activities with any other persons, be it in the UK or Africa in the time-scale of their relationship or previous. My friend had in fact had an HIV test just at the start of that particular relationship which for both of them had returned negative results. Still – to be on the safe side and to adhere to his GP’s request, he attended the STD, bracing himself for further intrusive questions enough to make him doubt his current relationship in addition to his sanity. Repeated samples were sent away to be analysed for all possible STDs after once again ruling out HIV. It seemed possible (to them) the laboratory equipment was not functioning properly, as they couldn’t quite believe that this black African man with a rash on his penis didn’t have some form of sexually transmitted disease from his assumed rampant sexual behaviour or of his partner (whom they never once contacted to counsel even at the prompting of my friend). Still, they opted to treat him blindly with medication favoured for STDs irrespective of the results returning no abnormality on all occasions. His rash meanwhile was getting worse and infected…To summise, his rash eventually cleared … was found to have been down to irritants used in laundry as opposed to perceived promiscuity of his ethnic background. You might ask why he never made a complaint of such treatment – I suspect as most persons these days reason – they have become despondent with how their complaints are treated or regarded.

Now imagine if my friend had been rash to jump the bandwagon of suspicion fuelled from the medical practitioners who made him question/doubt that if he hadn’t brought the STD to the relationship, then his partner had a case to answer!

Africa needs to formulate her own trade strategy

A headline in the free newspapers of UK’s Metro grabbed my eyes today. It took up space at the bottom of a much bigger headline that was highlighting the plight of a daughter who had stolen an amount of cash from her dying mother and just further down to this story, a date in history marking the announcement of Prince Charles’ birth in November 1948. My initial interest on this page had actually been caught by a news article of a woman who was in a critical condition from a bull attack. Sadly the victim’s husband had died at the scene…I guess this bull attack brought back two childhood memories on one; where fetching water out of the school grounds entailed one passing through such gauntlets. The latter was of my school excursion to East Anglia in 1979 when I and a group of school friends decided to cut across the field to make up time forgetting to heed the advice of our teacher not to do such. I could never work out if this bull charged at me because of territorial issues or simply that it disliked town school kids such as us.

However, it was the headline at the very bottom of such events happenings that brought me back to an on-going reality of a different scale…African cotton traders ‘are locked in poverty’. The article claimed that cotton farmers in west Africa are being ‘locked into poverty’ as a result of actions by America and the European Union, according to fair-trade campaigners. “Frankly, we are starting to doubt whether rich countries really want to reduce poverty in developing countries,” notes a joint statement against agricultural subsidies by cotton producers’ federations in Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. Despite declarations of intent to reduce poverty in poor countries, domestic policies in rich nations have often had the opposite effect.

“There is no point in giving with one hand and taking with the other,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the World Food Summit in June 2002, commenting on the impact of agricultural subsidies. “You put yourself in the shoes of a small developing country which cannot export its agriculture products because of restrictions and tariffs, a small developing country that cannot compete on the world market even if it could export, because the richer farmers in the richer countries are heavily subsidized.”

Now most that know me will agree and know an economist or commerce person, I am definitely not. The thing is though…since the early 1990’s, reports from Oxfam (as a teenager, I volunteered and worked for Oxfam outlets and often read their articles…) and other non-governmental organisation have been arguing that production and export subsidies in the US have devastated not only small communities in Africa, but entire regions. These communities rely upon this trade to keep children in school, or to buy food and pay for health. While the major factors behind the declining price are varied and complex, the most significant is the increase in government subsidies paid to cotton farmers in the US and now EU countries. If the price of trade is affected then the repercussions would be felt all the way across the board and make a mockery of the UN call for addressing global poverty.

“It is hypocritical to preach the advantages of free trade and free markets and then erect obstacles in precisely those markets in which developing countries have a comparative advantage.”– Nicholas Stern, chief economist, World Bank

Northern subsidies place poor African farmers at a big disadvantage, noted the Oxfam report: “By driving down prices for these farmers, US taxpayers — along with their European counterparts in other product groups — bear a direct responsibility for poverty in Africa.” It charges that US subsidies directly led to losses amounting to more than $300 mn in potential revenue in sub-Saharan Africa during the 2001/02 season. US subsidies have a major influence on the world market because a large proportion of US production — more than 50 per cent — is exported, making the country the largest exporter by a wide margin.

But the debate over agricultural subsidies is often clouded by legal language and technical jargon. US officials insist their country is in compliance because its subsidies (those that fall under WTO rules) do not distort international trade. US officials also accuse developing countries of lumping all US subsidies in a single basket, even though WTO rules lay out different schedules for different types of supports. But leaders and activists in developing countries insist the US is not playing fair.

“Several Central and West African nations are victims of injustice by the US and EU. These countries subsidize their agricultural producers, ignoring the rules of the WTO.” — President Blaise Compaoré, Burkina Faso

One of the main criticisms against agricultural subsidies is that they work directly against efforts by donor nations, including the US, to combat poverty in developing countries. An estimated 96 per cent of the world’s farmers live in developing countries, with some 2.5 billion people depending on agriculture for a livelihood. Many seek an opportunity to trade their way out of poverty through a fair trading system. But over the years, unfavourable trade terms have been a major factor in the erosion of the market share of poor nations. According to the WTO, the share of developing countries in world agricultural exports continues to reflect this drop.

However, there is still no common position on the African continent on how best to seek redress for the current crisis even with the African Union in place. A number of proposals are emerging. Farmers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal recently called on their governments and on the West African Economic and Monetary Union to file “petitions” with the WTO in support of Brazil’s legal action against US subsidies. To date, no African nation has yet filed a legal suit against agricultural subsidies at the WTO. Many are cash-strapped, dependent on aid and debt relief from the very countries they would be challenging. Many are also wary of the potential for retaliatory action.