Sudan – another forgotten war

A year ago fighting started in Sudan, which for many years has been a troubled nation. The immediate cause was the rivalry between two military factions, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), led by military commander, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo. There have been numerous ceasefires, all of which have failed. More than eight million people have been displaced, some multiple times, almost 16,000 people killed and 26,000 injured. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Humanitarian aid is desperately needed for 25 million people, more than half of the population. 

Medecins Sans Frontieres has described the situation where deaths from injury and malnutrition prevail, where violence and rapes are widespread and where refugee camps are experiencing constant deaths and starvation, and yet humanitarian aid is in lamentably short supply, as the world turns away. The inadequate quantity of aid is often disrupted as the government is making distribution extremely difficult and supplies are often reduced by looting. 

BBC Arabic reporter, Mohamed Osman, who has lived in Sudan all his life, made the difficult decision to flee to Egypt with his family. He describes many horrors on the way and much suffering but still, even in this devastated country, the generosity and kindness of strangers was apparent everywhere: “One moment of light in such darkness is the kindness of people here. Many residents of Wadi Halfa and the areas along the northern land route extending to the Sudanese-Egyptian border have opened their homes to people fleeing. Local people have been sharing food and water with the new arrivals without asking for money. Baderi Hassan, who owns a large house in Wadi Halfa, told me that he had been sheltering dozens of refugees.”

Climate change disasters can happen anywhere

“You all know about the danger. Gather your valuables. Immediately drive to safe places, to relatives or evacuation points where we will supply you with all essentials.” These are the words of regional governor Alexander Moor, as he urged residents of the Kazanky and Ishim districts to evacuate. Where is Ishim? Ishim is a town of 65,000 people in the Tyumen region in southwestern Siberia, bordering Kazakhstan.

In Russia’s Ural region in the south, south west Siberia and in the north of Kazakhstan people are dealing with “the worst flooding in living memory”. This has been caused by a large amount of snow melting very quickly, land waterlogged for quite some time and recent heavy rain. Spring flooding is a regular occurrence in this part of the world, but climate change has contributed. Snow falls have become heavier and a number of extreme climatic events have occurred.

Staggering numbers of people have been evacuated: by 16th April at least 12,000 people in Russia are recorded as having been evacuated and more than 97,000 in Kazakhstan, where over 8,000 farm animals have died. The oil and wheat industries are under threat. 

Among other alarming aspects of this crisis is the fear of deadly disease as the bodies of anthrax victims have been washed up from cemeteries. 

Could Brexit lead to a united Ireland?

The unionists may be losing control and protestant supremacy weakening. For the first time, in the 2019 general election, Northern Ireland did not send a majority of unionist MPs to the UK Parliament. In May 2022, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was pushed into second place by Sinn Féin, which became the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and has always argued for the reunification of Ireland. The Alliance Party, which occupies the centre ground, has also made considerable gains to become the third biggest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.Then in May last year Sinn Féin became the first nationalist party to gain the most local council seats in Northern Ireland. In the South Sinn Féin is also leading in the polls.

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane told Declassified UK’s Matt Kennard this month: “I think everybody would accept that since Brexit, the conversation around a unified Ireland has taken place at a pace which people have never seen before. The chaos, the recklessness, that emanates from Westminster shows time and time again that they do not care about the interests of people here.”

The possibility of reunification could be more likely now that Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government has been restored, and the business community is also increasingly favouring a united Ireland as there are clear economic benefits from membership of the European Union. 

There is a right to a referendum on reunification as part of the Good Friday Agreement, and provision for holding a poll was made in UK law. However, the decision lies with Westminster rather than in Ireland. Westminster will ‘allow’ a vote if it appears that the majority of voters are likely to favour no longer being part of the UK but to form part of a united Ireland. 

But in a poll carried out by Northern Ireland’s LucidTalk there is clearly still some uncertainty, although a majority of those aged 18-24 (57%) were definitely in favour of unity: “Polling has not demonstrated majority support for a United Ireland, but neither has it shown majority support for remaining in the United Kingdom. There is a considerable portion of the electorate who ‘don’t know’.” Could they be the people who eventually decide the future for Ireland?

Maize – the cost to human health and to the planet

A large proportion of the land for growing maize in the UK will soon be covered with clear plastic film. This is to encourage early growth by warming the soil. From 2021 the European Union allowed only biodegradable film. This broke down into carbon dioxide and water. Of course the UK is no longer bound by EU regulations, and most of the film here is oxo-degradable. This breaks down into microplastics which stay indefinitely in the soil. So we are banning plastic in a number of areas of life, straws for example, but allow this plastic pollution in the soil. Maize is largely grown to feed dairy cows. The soil can be ploughed, but it is £10 cheaper per acre to spray the fields with glyphosate, first introduced in 1974 by Monsanto, to kill the weeds.

There is no unanimity as to the toxicity of glyphosate. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ruled in 2015 that glyphosate is carcinogenic. The IARC had reviewed about 1000 studies before coming to this conclusion.The potential impact on human and environmental health is very concerning. It is also of considerable concern that 55 plant species have become glyphosate-resistant.

Glyphosate can migrate from its target area and is becoming ubiquitous. Exposure to glyphosate can occur through drinking water, food, occupations and in homes near agricultural areas. It is probably the most popular weedkiller in the world and is contained in more than 750 products in the United States. The annual global application was estimated to reach 740 000–920 000 tonnes by 2025.

In 2016 in California, a cancer patient, Dewayne Johnson, filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, which was to set a precedent. The verdict in Johnson’s case would affect tens of thousands of other people who had also filed cases against Monsanto. After three days of deliberation, the jury made a unanimous decision that Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson and others of the cancer risks posed by its glyphosate-based products. He was awarded $298 million (later cut back to $20.5 million on appeal).

And still our maize and other crops and various species of flora are sprayed with glyphosate. After all, there are profits to be made. 

World Press Freedom Day

Just before we published this edition of the Sunday Socialist, UNESCO was hosting the 31st World Press Freedom Day Conference in Santiago. The conference this year was dedicated to journalism and freedom of speech in relation to the global environmental crisis. There was an emphasis on “The importance of reliable and accurate information, especially that which denounces and investigates the environmental crisis and its effects.” There is the risk of violence which many journalists face when they promote environmental protection and sustainable development. Vulnerable communities which are affected by climate change need protection, as do journalists who report on the dangers. It is vital to address the disinformation and misinformation which is spread about the climate crisis and which lead to people failing to understand the critical situation that the planet faces. 

There will also be an emphasis in Santiago on the 1994 Santiago Declaration. This highlighted the importance of respecting “media pluralism and cultural, linguistic, and gender diversity as a fundamental factor of our democratic societies and which should be reflected in all media”.

The conference will also remember all those journalists who have been killed in their work, in their efforts to bring important stories to a wide readership and expose wrongdoing and injustices. 

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that 28 journalists have been killed in India in the ten years since Narendra Modi became prime minister. Half of these, which included media directors, investigative reporters and correspondents, were working on stories connected to the environment, chiefly land seizures and illegal mining for industrial purposes. These included stories about the illegal excavation of sand, “often linked to the activity of criminal groups, mafias that maintain strong links with local authorities and enjoy almost total impunity for the crimes of violence they commit against journalists to protect their financial interests.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) pointed out on 19th April that since 7th October at least 97 journalists and media workers have been killed, some of the 34,000 victims of the Israeli genocide,“the deadliest period for journalists since CPJ began gathering data in 1992”.

In the UK, pandering of course to the US, we have been doing our best to destroy one of the most important truth tellers of his generation, Julian Assange, a gentle, sincere family man who has now spent five years suffering intolerable conditions in His Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, Britain’s ‘Guantanamo Bay’. 

Looking back in time – The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass 

In 2007 Roy Hattersley called the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass, which took place 92 years ago on 24th April 1932, as “the most successful direct action in British History”. It was organised by the Communist Party’s Manchester branch of the British Workers Sports Federation, and members decided they would make a public mass trespass on Kinder Scout, the highest part of the Peak District, and meet up with a smaller group of ramblers from Sheffield. More than 400 people took part and many considered it “a working class struggle for the right to roam versus the rights of the wealthy to have exclusive use of moorlands for grouse shooting”. There were many young and politically aware factory workers in the area who considered the Kinder trespass as a symbol of the struggle between the working classes and the landed, feudal gentry. It is alleged that the trespassers were far fitter than the local police officers who were unable to restrain them. Local people heard them singing the Red Flag and the Internationale. There was a scuffle with the Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers and six participants were charged with unlawful assembly and breach of the peace and tried; five were sent to prison for between two and six months. Public opinion overall favoured the trespassers and there was considerable sympathy for them.

The trespass proved a great success and was a step towards the creation of national parks. It was well planned, managed positive publicity and attracted public sympathy. It was also focused and had a clear objective. But it was arguably not a single issue campaign and was very much part of wider class struggle. Some of those involved fought with the International Brigade in Spain and were killed there, and others continued to be active trade unionists in the north. Almost 12 years ago David Toft wrote in Red Pepper: “The 1932 mass trespass onto Kinder Scout is an event that has immense significance in the history of working class struggle. For those taking part, it was consciously and explicitly part of a wider, revolutionary struggle to overthrow the capitalist system.”

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