issue 319 - December 1999
The lion lies down
Julius Nyerere comes to the end of an anti-colonial life
The death from leukaemia of Julius Nyerere at the age of 77 deprives independent Africa of one of its most intelligent, perceptive and determinedly radical leaders. He was an inspiration not just to Africans but also to people all over the world who interpreted ‘world development’ as meaning a fairer global economic system.
Having led Tanganyika to its independence from Britain in 1961, Nyerere was a prime mover in creating the Organization of African Unity in 1963 and oversaw Zanzibar’s incorporation into the new Republic of Tanzania. His 1967 Arusha Declaration was a ringing statement of an alternative path to development based on socialism and self-reliance.
Nyerere’s Tanzania became a magnet for anti-colonial activists and thinkers from all over the world – especially for the resistance movements (and future leaders) of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. By the time he retired as President in 1985 his alternative economic strategy had hit the buffers of debt and structural adjustment. But he remained deeply revered by Tanzanians and took his activism to the international level, first as head of the South-South Commission aiming to strengthen Third World unity and latterly in seeking political settlements that would end the conflicts in Burundi and DR Congo.
Nyerere was interviewed in the very first issue of the NI’s forerunner, The Internationalist, in 1970. It was fitting therefore that he gave one of his last interviews to the New Internationalist special issue on The Radical Twentieth Century (NI 309), looking back thought-provokingly over an anti-colonial life.
In the course of that interview we asked Nyerere why his alternative strategy for development had foundered on the rocks. He would have been happy for his answer – combative, provocative, insightful – to have served as an epitaph:
‘I was in Washington last year. At the World Bank these people asked me to speak. Then they asked me the questions. The first question they asked was how did you fail? I responded that we took over a country with 85 per cent of its adult population illiterate. The British ruled us for 43 years. When they left, there were 2 trained engineers and 12 doctors. This is the country we inherited.
‘When I stepped down there was 91-per-cent literacy and nearly every child of school age was in school. We trained thousands of engineers and doctors and teachers.
‘In 1988 Tanzania’s per-capita income was $280. Now, in 1998, it is $140. So I asked the World Bank people what went wrong. Because for the last ten years Tanzania has been signing on the dotted line and doing everything the IMF and the World Bank wanted. Enrolment in school has plummeted to 63 per cent and conditions in health and other social services have deteriorated.
‘I asked them again: “What went wrong?” These people just sat there looking at me. Then they asked what could they do? I told them have some humility. Humility – they are so arrogant!’
VINCENT BRETAGNOLLE / STILL PICTURES
A giant iceberg that has drifted into the Drake Passage between Argentina and Antarctica is causing concerns for ships navigating the area. Called B10-A, the iceberg is about 40 kilometres wide and 80 kilometres long and is littering the seas with smaller pieces of ice which are hard to detect and dangerous for ships. ‘They can cut through a steel ship like you would cut butter with a knife,’ says Jeff Andrews from the US-based National Ice Centre. Scientists estimate that the B10-A iceberg stands at 300 feet above the water’s surface and 1,000 feet below the sea.
Down to Earth Vol 8 No 9
Deaths in custody that are blamed on police using excessive force may be due to the prisoner’s cocaine abuse, says Steven Karch, assistant medical examiner of the City and Council of San Francisco. He is convinced that many people who die in custody are suffering from ‘excited delirium’ (ED) which can be caused by the long-term use of stimulants such as cocaine. Unless treated quickly, usually by packing the sufferer in ice to reduce their body temperature, patients often die of cardiac arrest. Last year researchers found that 18 out of 21 people recorded as dying from ED were under arrest. Karch claims there is often little that police can do to prevent ED death: ‘These individuals are very sick and even with optimal medical care they don’t stand much chance.’ He says the recent rise in deaths in custody in Britain may be linked to increased nationwide cocaine use. But campaigners on the issue of deaths in custody are sceptical. ‘Over the years, “excited delirium” has been a kind of smokescreen for deaths of people held under restraint,’ says Deborah Coles of Inquest, a London-based group.
New Scientist Vol 163 No 2205
Spot the difference
The US and Saudi Arabia share the dubious accolade of having dramatically boosted their use of the death penalty. In 1999 the US state put to death more people than in any other year since 1954. By October, 78 death-row inmates had been executed and the number was expected to exceed 100 by the end of the year. Saudi Arabia beheaded 87 people by October 1999, compared with 29 in the previous year. The Saudi state executes murderers, drug smugglers and rapists in the name of sharia law. The US kills its citizens in the name of ‘American law and order’.
Amnesty International, October 1999.
JORGEN SCHYTTE / STILL PICTURES
India’s victory over the Pakistani forces in Kargil is a defeat for the environment. Explosives used in heavy shelling have contaminated the snow and rivers, says one observer: ‘It is going to be very difficult for the army personnel posted in this area to survive. It will be worse for people living in Drass because they depend on snow-fed rivers.’ Next summer the effects of the war will still be seen, says journalist Masood Hussain, because the last of the snow will melt and more explosives will flow downstream.
Down to Earth Vol 8 No 9
Indigenous people risk wipe-out
The isolated Jarawa people of India’s Andaman Islands are in grave danger. Contact with the outside world – and common diseases like measles – is endangering the existence of the tribe.
As many as 20 per cent of the population are reported to have measles. It is believed that the Jarawa may have been suffering from the disease for some time before the cases first came to the administration’s attention in late September. Many of the patients in the local Kadamtala health centre are already suffering from respiratory diseases which often come after a measles outbreak.
Of the four tribes of the Andamans (the Jarawa, the Sentinelese, the Great Andamanese and the Onge) only the Jarawa and the Sentinelese have survived the onslaught of settlement by outsiders so far. The Sentinelese live on their own island, North Sentinel, and are thought to number between 50 and 200. The Jarawa inhabit the west coasts of South and Middle Andamans, two large islands which have been the focus of Indian immigration to the area.
The fate of the other two tribes of the Andamans does not augur well for the future of the Jarawa. In 1877 a measles epidemic broke out amongst the 5,000 Great Andamanese who had been settled by the British colonial administration – 15 per cent of the population died from the disease. Officials at the time estimated that at least half of the Andamanese on one island, and all of the Andamanese on another island, died later as a result of its effects.
Only 28 Great Andamanese survive today. And a similar fate has befallen the Onge: now numbering only 101, they are reduced to working as bonded labourers on a plantation in return for food.
In 1957 the Indian Government set up a reserve for the Jarawa but since the 1970s it has reduced its size, appropriating land for logging, roads and settlement by Indians from the mainland and forcing the Jarawa into a smaller area.
Survival, an organization working for indigenous rights, is calling upon the Indian Government to give medical aid to the Jarawa, move all settlers out of the Jarawa’s territory and close the road through their land to avoid further contagion.
The natural way out of one-child policy
In a country where family planning is state policy and birth control is pursued vigorously, couples in Bazhou, a village in Hunan Province of South China, are the subject of envy.
While some couples, desperate for a second child, pay fines and others bribe doctors to issue papers ‘allowing’ a second birth, many Bazhou women sidestep the policy quite legally and naturally – they give birth to twins.
This so-called ‘Village of Twins’ lies more than 300 kilometres west of the provincial capital, Changsha. Medical data show that on average one pregnancy of twins occurs for every 67.6 gestations in China. In comparison, the incidence of twins at Bazhou more than doubles the average.
Twins can be a source of much fun and joy to those who have them, know them and teach them, villagers say. ‘At school, for example, twins are always confusing their teachers,’ says village head Shu Xiaoping.
But despite this veritable double dose of happiness, a twin can be a strain on the family budget. That does not come from fines – there is no penalty for giving birth to twins. But having to buy two sets of everything can mean becoming ‘twice as poor’ overnight in a village where the per-capita income is only 1,300 yuan ($158), against the provincial average of 2,065 yuan ($250).
Fortunately the vast majority of the Bazhou twins are healthy children. ‘Only one twin sister didn’t reach her first birthday,’ says Shu Xiaoping.
Bazhou’s multiple-birth phenomenon goes back three generations. One theory is that it is the result of two large, frequently twin-bearing families that live in close physical proximity and have intermarried. Out of the village’s 18 pairs of twins, 10 bear the surname Shu while five are Xiao. Others believe Bazhou’s secret lies in its pure, unspoilt environment – the crystal waters of the Wushu River which flow through the village, assisting the farming of fine melons and yams. All agree, however, that the factors are highly localized. A neighbouring village, Zhuangshang, for example, has not witnessed the birth of twins for some 20 years.
Zhang Yifei, Tian Bizheng/Gemini News Service
MARK EDWARDS / STILL PICTURES
AIDS: older men infect teenage girls
Young African women and girls are up to six times more likely to be infected with HIV than males of the same age, according to findings presented at the World aids Conference. In Central and East Africa the spread of aids is driven by older men infecting younger girls, who then pass the virus on to their children. An international study found that in Kisumu, Kenya and Ndola, Zambia around 30 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men were infected. In Cotonou, Benin and Yaoundé, Cameroon, just eight per cent of men and four per cent of women were HIV-positive.
But in Kisumu and Ndola there was a striking variation in rates of HIV by age and sex. Amongst 15-19-year-olds up to 23 per cent of women were infected compared with only 4 per cent of men. The biggest risk factor for teenage girls was having sex with men aged over 35 years – 40 per cent of whom carry HIV. Francis Ndowa of UN aids in Geneva says this illustrates the need to target safer-sex education at young girls and older men in these countries.
New Scientist Vol 163 No 2205
CHRIS STOWERS / PANOS
José Ramos Horta’s recent statement that if the outcome of the East Timorese referendum were not upheld hackers would wreak havoc in the Indonesian Government’s computers as well as those of banks and airlines, once again raised concern about what is being called ‘hactivism’ – direct action through computer hacking. The US’s FBI and Department of Defense reportedly receive 100 hacking attacks a day and have been forced to set up cyber-defence initiatives. Michael Vatis, assistant director of the FBI, says cyber crimes have doubled in each of the past two years with more than 800 cases pending. As part of direct activism against the economic system in London on 18 June 1999, an international group of hackers launched 10,000 cyber attacks on the City. Hardly any were reported to the police, says a spokesperson for Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service, because companies are reluctant to publicize flaws in their security. Meanwhile, Horta is unapologetic for his threat: ‘I’ve been categorically assured that not one life will be lost. I find it a far more moral way of fighting than using the NATO tactic of bombing a country back to the Stone Age.’
New Scientist Vol 163 No 2204
Saved by a caterpillar
People trapped in rubble and wrecked buildings after a bomb blast or an earthquake may have an unlikely hero – a robotic caterpillar. The robot is designed to crawl through gas, sewage and water pipes with lights, a videocamera and a microphone looking for signs of life. Eddie Grant, an electrical engineer at North Carolina State University says he thought of the idea after the bombing of Oklahoma City in April 1995. ‘The rescuers would have given anything to have a robot that could go in and find people. I realized that pipes are a natural channel into the rubble.’ Grant challenged six of his engineering students to build a prototype. ‘They took a crazy idea of mine and turned it into a robust and interesting device,’ he says.
New Scientist Vol 164 No 2206
‘All the heads of the airlines have to be in the air on 1 January 2000.’
Chinese official Zhao Bo describes the Government’s rule to ensure planes
will not fall from the sky due to Year 2000 computer problems.