UNDERSTANDING THE USED CLOTHES BAN IN THE EAC

An Appeal to President Trump.

The East African Community (EAC) in a bid to improve the economic livelihood of the citizens and the region decided to phase out imports of used clothing while boosting the local cotton and textile industry. The countries in this region like many other African nations import used clothing and shoes from mostly Western countries. In effect, African countries serve as the dumping ground of no-longer-needed clothing from the West as well as electronics and other hazardous waste.

Why Ban Used Clothing?

This relationship (importation of used clothing from the West by African countries) saves the West from having to properly dispose of these items at a cost. It also harms the local cotton and textile industry. But is that the only reason why importation is bad. No, there is more:

  1. Imports = foreign exchange leaving a country’s shores and going to exporting country
  2. Exports = foreign exchange coming into exporting country from importing country
  3. When African states import used clothing from the West, they serve as a disposal ground for used clothing from the West
  4. The West receives money from African states when they dump their used clothing in Africa

It’s a win-win situation for Western exporting countries and lose-lose from the African importing countries. There needs to be a leveling of the playing field.

The Response From The U.S.

The response from the US government to the decision of the ECA is as follows:

USTR Announces AGOA Out-of-Cycle Review for Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda

Washington, DC – The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative today announced the initiation of an out-of-cycle review of the eligibility of Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda to receive benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The launch of the review is in response to a petition filed by the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), which asserts that a March 2016 decision by the East African Community, which includes Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, to phase in a ban on imports of used clothing and footwear is imposing significant economic hardship on the U.S. used clothing industry.

Through the out-of-cycle review, USTR and trade-related agencies will assess the allegations contained within the SMART petition and review whether Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda are adhering to AGOA’s eligibility requirements.

A public hearing will take place July 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. A Federal Register notice containing information related to this review is available at http://www.regulations.gov under docket number USTR-2017-0008.

This is known as soft power—meant to alter the behavior of African countries in favor of the U.S.’s economic interest which on other issues may be okay but in this case in particular is devoid of fairness, morality and reciprocity.

How does phasing in a ban on imports of used clothing and footwear, impose significant economic hardship on the U.S. used clothing industry? Have you considered the impact of this so-called industry on African industry? Have you considered how one-sided this relationship has been in favor of the U.S. all these decades—to the detriment of most sub-Saharan African nations?

In non-politically correct language, this is plain bullying. Paraphrased, what the U.S. government is saying, by giving this questionable petition a hearing and review is, “if you will not allow us to dump our old clothes in your countries, then we do not want to trade with you or offer you access to our markets”. This is incredibly childish of those who sent the petition. Africa is neither a colony of the West nor a dumping ground for used clothing. It is a group of independent states who are equal to any other and have the same rights to have the dreams and aspirations of their peoples actualized without fear. African governments should stand together and refuse the carrot and stick strategy—if they ever want to taste prosperity for their masses.

According to Mukhisa Kitui, the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), adherence to the ban will create domestic demand for textiles and increase the share of manufactured exports.

“My home country Kenya, for example, imports Boeing planes from the US at a very high cost, so the reciprocity on trade should not be at the level of used clothes.

Therefore, East Africa should stand with one voice and resist importation of used clothes into the region,” he said, during the second Manufacturing and Business Summit at the Kigali Serena Hotel recently.

The forgoing was taken from here.

The following are the comments of an ex-president of Africa’s largest economy:

Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing Afreximbank Annual General Meeting in Kigali, Obasanjo said, as long as the move was in the country’s best interest, Rwanda should not be cowed.

“The country should do what is in their best interest and be unafraid to stand by it. The continent should always ask itself what is in our best interest. We should not be afraid to cut some ties if it is in our best interest,” he said.

EAC member countries have moved to phase out importation of used clothes and shoes as part of an industrialisation policy to give rise to the growth of the local textile industry.

As part of the move, Rwanda last year increased taxes on used clothes from $0.2 to $2.5 per kilogramme, while taxes on used shoes will increase from $0.2 to $3 per kilogramme.

In the 2017/18 Budget, the Government eased taxes on inputs to the Made-in-Rwanda campaign, which is expected to facilitate the growth of the local textile industry

Responses from EAC

In the face of threats, Rwanda continues to stand firm by the decision of the EAC with respect to the proposed ban but Kenya has retreated. The reason for this stance by Kenya is probably because of the volume of trade between the U.S. and Kenya. It remains to be seen how other members of the EAC will act in the face of U.S. threats.

Africa needs more Kagame’s who will say what they mean and mean what they say—sticking to their word—no matter the threat.

President Donald J. Trump

In the remarks of President Donald J. Trump in his inaugural address, to the America public and to “the people of the world”, he stated unequivocally that, “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first“.

Mr. President, the response of the US government to the decision of the EAC in exercising the right to put their own interests first by phasing in a ban on the importation of used clothing is distasteful. It does not show that your administration seeks the good will of the EAC and the greater AU. The second hands goods from your country has hurting local industry across generations. It is a key barrier to the cotton planting in the area. It takes away much needed foreign exchange and in exchange provides citizens in this area with sub-standard clothing and shoes. There should be a way to push for America’s interests without harming that of other nations as some of your predecessors did.

I for one am happy that you won the election because I believe it means good things for our globe. But this step is a wrong step because it shows that you’d like to continue the perpetuation of the impoverishing of the world’s poorer populations. Please do not let this continue.

Do not allow the debris from the deep state to influence your policies towards Africa. Already there are news headlines such as, “Was Agoa always a poisoned chalice from the US?”. This is not how you want your administration to be remembered in academia and by the people of the world—specifically Africa. Harming African economies and initiatives will not promote growth thus making Agoa an oxymoron. Allow righteousness and justice to prevail. On the 13th of July when the review is being done, influence it for good. God bless America and the nations of Africa and the World.

.

Advertisements

The Forgotten Angel Of Rwanda—Captain Mbaye Diagne

During the Rwandan Genocide, the UN, USA, Belgium and other powers had forces on the ground but refused to lift a finger to help. They stood by and watched while hundreds of thousands were butchered. Their presence was simply to make sure expats were safe. The US refused to act because first intervention costs money and also months prior its armed forces had ben disgraced at Mogadishu and they did not want to repeat that mess.

One UN Peacekeeper, unarmed Captain Mbaye Diagne, a Senegalese Army officer,  taking huge risks, disobeyed the U.N.’s standing orders not to intervene. During the massacre, with one ethnic group butchering the other, this unsung hero delivered [saved] up to 1,000 people single-handedly from certain death. The figure could be higher. Twenty years later, the same UN which asked its peacekeepers to stand-down, now has created an award to honour “The forgotten angel of Rwanda” for his selfless service that ultimately led to his own untimely death. The medal created is “Resolution 2154 (2014) Recognizes Exceptional Courage in Face of Extreme Danger”. It is interesting to note that this hero was forgotten till 20 years after the genocidal acts.

The following are the words of the United Nations:

Unanimously adopting resolution 2154 (2014), the Council created the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage”, to be awarded to military, police and civilian United Nations or associated personnel.  It noted with deep appreciation how Captain Diagne, unarmed and in the face of extreme danger, had saved hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, Rwandans from death during the 1994 genocide.  Also by the text, the Council recognized with the deepest regret how, after his death, Captain Diagne’s family had never received any expressions of appreciation from United Nations Headquarters for the sacrifices made by their distinguished family member.

Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda) described Captain Diagne as a hero who had refused to be a bystander in the face of evil.  He had acted as a peacekeeper, a solider and a human to save lives while armed only with courage and a sense of responsibility.  He had conducted several missions through dozens of checkpoints to save up to 1,000 people during the genocide, and the medal was not only a recognition of his courage, but also a reminder of what a solider, a peacekeeper, should be — a women or man dedicated to preserving peace, saving lives and protecting the vulnerable.  He expressed hope that the medal would encourage better promotion of the protection of civilians in the future and serve as a reminder of the historic acts of ordinary Rwandans, as well as other “blue helmets” who often paid the ultimate price to protect lives.  He also voiced hope that the medal would result in soul-searching at the United Nations and help to ensure that the community of nations collectively preserved humanity, guided by moral rules and principles, rather than relying on the brave actions of individuals.

Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (Jordan), addressing himself to Captain Diagne’s family, noted that for 20 years they had grieved the loss of a man who had once served the United Nations.  It was shameful that no official from Headquarters had ever called the family following his death, he said, adding that he believed he spoke for everyone present in emphasizing how “profoundly sorry” he was for the manner in which the family had been treated.

Captain Diagne was the finest example of what the human family could produce, and the Security Council not only honoured his memory, but in creating a medal in his name, would for the first time in United Nations history publicly recognize those who performed amazing feats in the face of extreme danger.

For more on this story see:

BBC Article—A Good Man in Rwanda

United Nations Document

PBS Frontline—Memories of Captain Mbaye Diagne


International Scourge of Conscience: The case of Rwanda

RWANDESE CHILDREN (SOURCE: CREATIVE COMMONS / FLICKR / SAM PURTILL)

RWANDESE CHILDREN (SOURCE: CREATIVE COMMONS / FLICKR / SAM PURTILL)

Ramblings of a young dissatisfied African

A very ugly scar on humanity’s collective conscience and a pointer to the hardness of our hearts as members of the 21st century human family is the message I glean from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. When I consider the events leading to this event and the events that transpired after it, I cannot help but feel shame as a citizen of the globe. I am utterly disgusted at the apathy we exhibit when horrible things transpire in the globe in some far away land distant from our geographical location. Even more appalling is the International Relations paradigm that we as a Globe via the International Civil Service organizations have chosen to dictate our international security policy. Decisions are made largely based on national interests—meaning that if the costs of engaging in a conflict does not outweigh its benefits to our national interests, then we will not reach out a helping hand to a person or a nation in need. This is what the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the recent intervention in Libya that saw the murder of the Libyan dictator seems to suggest. This notwithstanding, I make a choice to remain an optimist in the human material and its potential for unselfish good.

Actors

When one considers what transpired in Rwanda one cannot help but be ashamed at all the actors involved whose action or inaction made the genocide possible namely—the Hutu’s who initiated the bloodbath, the Tutsi’s who retaliated, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), UN Secretary General, Head of UN Peacekeeping operations Kofi Annan, and finally the American and British administrations at the time.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire was the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the Genocide. The genocide was between two tribal peoples at odds with each other. The President was a Hutu. The current President Paul Kagame was at that time the rebel commander of the Tutsi peoples. The UNAMIR was in Rwanda to help bring peace between the government and the rebels. It is important to note that many of the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s were simply law abiding citizens and did not belong to the President’s guard who allegedly committed the atrocities or the Rebels who fight back. As the old proverb says, when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. It seems from many of the accounts gathered that many of the causalities in this senseless war fell in the category of the grass.

The beginning of the stain of conscience

Before the conflict, the UNAMIR force commander received a tip-off from a man who explained that the Hutu’s had planned an impending attack on the Tutsis. For this reason, there had been deliberate Arms cashes stashed or hidden in strategic locations within Rwanda ready to be distributed for the purpose of cleansing the land of the Tutsis. The informant on condition of being protected by the UN went ahead to show the UNAMIR where the weapons were being stashed in preparation for the genocide. One of the sites was the ruling political party’s headquarters. Roméo Dallaire the UNAMIR force commander sent out a fact finding mission to see if the information supplied by the informant was true. The team returned with an affirmative answer confirming the assertions of the informant.

Shame on the United Nations

The UN has admitted its failure in the Rwandan Genocide. Till today Mr. Kofi Annan is a man many deeply respect for many reasons. In many respects he has been and continues to be a role model—one that many young Africans look up to and will continue to do so for a long time to come. Additionally many have great respect for the UN and all the international civil servants that fill its ranks. The UN played an important role in decolonizing the world and for that and many of its other positive achievements I am grateful. But this paragraph chronicles a segment of Kofi Annan’s career that he himself has admitted not being proud of. According to the testimony of Force Commander Roméo Dallaire (available on YouTube and elsewhere), after he learned of the planned ethnic cleansing and the weapons stashes that were to be utilized in carrying it out, he sent a cable to his then superior in charge of UN Peacekeeping operations Mr. Kofi Annan explaining the impending genocide and informing Mr. Annan that the UNAMIR was about to launch a preemptive operation to confiscate the weapons. This would deprive the specific Hutus in question from having any weapons for their planned attack. Even if the planned attack transpired, the number of casualties would have been greatly minimized with little or no weapons at the disposal of the Hutus. Hours later, Mr. Annan responded with an instruction for the UNAMIR to stand down and not get involved. The consequence is that a conservative estimate of about a million souls perished in the ensuing genocide. What a sad day for Africa and the World! The interesting thing is oddly enough, neither Mr. Annan nor the Secretary General at the time; Boutros Boutros Ghali conveyed Dallaire’s cable to the UN Security Council. Even after the UN Security Council learnt of the problem, they also did nothing to stop it. A decade after the incident Mr. Annan conceded that he could have and should have  done something!

Shame on the international community

After this preventable genocide had begun, the international community was drawn into the situation because it was in the mass media domain and some developed nations had their nationals working in international agencies in Rwanda. While members of the UN General Assembly favored UN intervention, the United States of America and Britain said a BIG FAT NO! Why? Only GOD knows what the true reason was but one can speculate that the Rwandan folks who were subject to the atrocities had no resources to be used as a bargaining chip for intervention. How do we place the value of a million lives below so-called national interests? Did the globe not learn enough from the scourge of the Great Wars at the turn of the century? How can we be so un-empathetic standing by whiles loads of our fellow humans die? Where is our collective conscience? Do we still have one? A careful study of the recent intervention in Libya under the guise of R2P (actually mis-applied R2P in my opinion) shows that the world or at least its current leadership has learnt nothing from its greedy and immoral-istic ways. We seemed to have learnt nothing from our past. Life is no longer held sacred hence the use of inhumane phrases like collateral damage with regards to human death tolls on battle fields. Some claim that the Monica Lewinsky debacle was the great blemish on Clinton’s administration but Rwanda was an even greater blemish. Ironically after the immense bloodshed, President Clinton flew into Rwanda to offer his condolences. Could there be any greater hypocrisy?

The day the massacre started, a thousand European Special Forces flew in to evacuate European civilians. One would have thought these folks would have stayed to help the locals but NOPE, they just came in for their citizens…the indigenes could fend for themselves. The Washington post reported that foreign expats watched while their Rwandan colleagues who worked with them in the same relief agencies were executed. How do we justify such intervention? 3 days after the start of the conflict, the US Ambassador and about 250 Americans were also evacuated leaving the silly Africans to their fate.

Here is a probable justification for the UN and International community not getting involved. For those of you that might remember, the US marines had just suffered an embarrassing defeat in Mogadishu months prior to this incident with the Blackhawk down incident. Thus they were not willing to sacrifice their soldiers once more to stop this genocide. While such a justification may have some merit, it is senseless, impregnate with pride and devoid of empathy. Rwanda is not Mogadishu and the entire genocide could have ended before it even started if the UN had mandated the troops to confiscate the weapons before the militia and army was armed.

Shame on the African Perpetrators

Africa is my home and I love her with all her challenges. She gave birth to me and has nurtured me to date and for that I am grateful. I am also grateful for all the brothers and sisters I have across the continent and in the Diaspora. That notwithstanding, I have a challenge with how im-prudent we sometimes tend to be as reflected in the many senseless conflicts around the continent which thankfully have been declining in the last couple of decade. We are one people and it is high time to grow up as a people and forge a future based on mutual trust, respect, love, morality and responsibility toward each other and toward our Creator.

We as a people have a choice. The choice is to remain in the gloomy past of hurts, disappointments and bitterness or to move into a bright and prosperous future founded on forgiveness, reconciliation and a united ethos. Whatever decision we take, we will be held accountable by generations unborn. As for my Rwandan brothers, here is a wise saying worthy of thought. “A merely fallen enemy may rise again, but the reconciled one is truly vanquished” by Friedrich von Schiller (German Poet, Dramatist, Philosopher and Historian. 1759-1805).