Vol. XXI, Issue 3 (Summer 2014): Nigeria’s Boko Haram; Ethiopian Coffee Cooperatives



Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor

Haines Brown

ISSN  1526-7822


Olayemi Akinwumi

Ayele Bekerie

Paulus Gerdes

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)

Gumbo Mishack

(South Africa)



Jennifer Nicoletti
Academic Technology, CCSU

For more information on AfricaUpdate
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
CCSU History Dept.
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
Tel: 860-832-2815


Table of Contents 


In this issue of AfricaUpdate we include an analysis on Boko Haram from the perspective of Nigerian analyst Kola Ibrahim whose analysis focuses on the fundamental issues giving rise to the terrorist phenomenon in Nigeria. He also suggests solutions for the problem. Mr. Ibrahim is pessimistic about the ability of western intervention to solve the problem of terrorism in Nigeria and argues that, in reality, western governments opportunistically make use of disastrous situations to extend their military power rather than solve the root problems of crises. AfricaUpdate does not necessarily endorse the views of the author.

Also included in this issue of AfricaUpdate is an illuminating analysis of coffee cooperatives in Ethiopia by Beyene Desta Kerse of the Technoserve Ethiopia Coffee Initiative.  Mr. Beyene Desta Kerse provides useful suggestions for the improvement of the production and marketing methodologies of coffee cooperatives in Ethiopia, the region that first domesticated the coffee plant, according to some scholars.

We extend our profound appreciation to the contributors to this issue of AfricaUpdate and will continue our focus on Boko Haram in the fall issue of AfricaUpdate.

Professor Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Boko Haram and the West’s Intervention’
 By Kola Ibrahim*

The kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok town, Borno State, Nigeria, weeks ago, has drawn widespread global opprobrium. Instinctively, Nigerians and people globally, have seen the latest barbaric onslaught on poor Nigerians by Boko Haram terrorists, as an assault on human dignity and safety.

The Nigerian Government’s Stunning Callousness
Ironically, the Nigerian government, led by Goodluck Jonathan did not see why it must be bothered about the kidnapping of the schoolgirls. Even at the peak of the outcry by the parents to the government, the Jonathan government did not issue a single statement, at least to console the parents. On the contrary, it exploited the issue for its political interests. For instance, while the government did not sanction senior security chiefs who misled the nation by claiming that most of the schoolgirls have been rescued, many protesters, especially in the north were illegally arrested.

While Nigeria’s military has been declared weak and repressive, the reality is that the atrocities and rottenness in the military reflects the neo-colonial character of Nigeria’s political class. For instance, while close to a trillion naira was budgeted for defense in 2013, the rank-and-file soldiers, especially those engaged in the anti-terror campaigns, are living in horrible conditions, improvising to feed. This has led to low morale, desertions and frustration. Money meant for welfare of foot soldiers and provision of needed logistics for the soldiers, has been looted. This has led to the military, in the absence of adequate logistics and infrastructures for intelligence and movement, having heavy casualties. It is therefore not accidental that there are indiscriminate killings carried out by soldiers in response to unstoppable attacks from terrorists.

Added to this is the neo-colonial nature of Nigeria’s armed forces, which is tailored towards defending the rich few in power and big business. For instance, while soldiers drafted to secure multinational oil installations and government buildings are well funded, those fighting terrorists in the north are in rags. According to a report, a quarter of the police force undertakes private security services to handful of big businesses and politicians. In 2012, one third of around 300 billion naira budgeted for internal security went to the Office of the National Security Adviser domiciled in the presidency but with just about a hundred staff; while the police force, with over 400, 000 men, got N200 billion naira. This meant a police station collected less than N2, 000 a month for logistics and operations. All this has meant an armed forces existing on the fringes, which has further isolated it from the communities and the society. Therefore, it is easier for the police to arrest harmless and helpless protesters than contend with armed criminals.

Imperialist Intervention: An Assured Failure
Consequent upon these official shenanigans, not a few people will be ready to accept any means possible to rescue the abducted kids and reunite them with their parents. However, in our quest for immediate release of the girls and end to terrorism, we must spare thought for the kinds of solutions on offer. The current messianic status being accorded the western imperialist governments of the United States (US), Britain, France, etc. as being expressed in major newspapers in the country and internationally, is misplaced and indeed dangerous. Of course, behind the latest imperialist intervention is Nigeria’s bankrupt, corrupt capitalist ruling class; through is rotten politics, which has failed Nigerians in all areas. While the western governments claim that only a few military and intelligence forces will be involved, the reality is that the country is in a protracted foreign military hostage takeover.

The US and other western government’s military involvement in the Boko Haram issue will not guarantee peace in northern Nigeria or elsewhere. In fact, it has the capacity to draw in stronger forces of the global terrorist network into Nigeria, as the country will be seen as another outpost of western imperialism against terrorism (a seed capitalist imperialism sowed in the first instance). Whether the Chibok schoolgirls are found or not, the US and western imperialist militaries will use the opportunity to seek a permanent base in the country, and play more roles in the internal security policies. With this will be deeper involvement of western imperialism in the politics and economics of the country. He, who controls the defense, dictates the pace of the politics and by extension controls the economy. A review of western media editorials and reports suggests that there is a conclusion being drawn that Nigeria is a failed state, and the government is incapable of addressing not just security situation but also the problems confronting the polity. This is a background to placing western capitalist governments as savior of Nigeria.

Already, western militaries, with US African Command in the lead, are playing decisive roles in the Gulf of Guinea, with the possibility of building military bases in the coast of Nigeria around Lagos. This is being done under the guise of combating oil bunkering and piracy. The Nigerian government, under Goodluck Jonathan, has already surrendered Nigeria’s coastal defense to the western imperialist forces. With the latest involvement in northern Nigeria, in the name of fighting terrorism, the cycle may be complete. Moreover, the US drone bases have been situated in Niger, which borders Nigeria, while France has presence in Mali and other francophone African countries. There have also been previous attempts to set up a drone base in Nigeria without success. Just few years ago, Nigerians rejected siting the US African Military Command (AFRICOM) base in Nigeria; but today, western militaries may have achieved more than they dreamt.

The #BringBackOurGirls Campaign
The current social media campaign, especially the #BringBackOurGirls twitter campaign, while playing vital role in drawing international attention to the terror campaign in Nigeria, without clear background to the underlining causes, may be feeding the imperialists’ interventions with confidence and authority. A one-line slogan hides a lot of information about the role of western governments in the germination and growth of terrorism itself. It, on the contrary, makes open-ended what kinds of solutions are needed to rout terrorism, thus leaving the initiative to the imperialist forces. A parallel can be drawn with the #Kony2012 campaign, which allowed imperialist forces to invade not just Uganda, but other countries like DR Congo, South Sudan, etc. under the guise of finding Joseph Kony of the LRA (the Uganda rebel group, which has unleashed murderous terror on children and women).

Women’s Groups Demand Release of Abducted School Girls
While Kony has not been found, the US and other European military forces are still domiciled in the continent. With this, the US AFRICOM has been able to secure semi-permanent bases in many East African countries. In other parts of the continent, especially North Africa, US and European forces, under the guise of fighting terrorism and stopping genocide have secured bases in such countries as Mali, Djibouti, Niger, CAR, etc. While terrorism, genocide and piracy have not stopped, western forces are more present in Africa than ever. Therefore, the current social media campaigns, which may lose steam without a clear mass mobilization campaign, need a class-conscious analysis to determine what solutions are needed and who should provide them. It is surprising that discredited capitalist politicians like David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair (who, alongside George Bush, was the architect of the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), Hillary Clinton, etc. are now using the campaign to rescue the girls as a whitewashing and image laundering tool. Worse atrocities are being perpetrated. For instance, over 300 lives were again wasted in Gamboru Ngala, in Borno State. This definitely cannot be covered by a #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Western Imperialism’s Records
While we must reject terrorism, and demand the immediate release of Chibok schoolgirls, and those teenage girls previously kidnapped by Boko Haram, we must understand that western military interventions cannot achieve short- and long-term peace. In fact, they can instigate worse security situations, not to mention turning the country into western military outposts. It should be pointed out that western military interventions, ‘humanitarian’ or otherwise, have only engendered worse crises. For instance, in Afghanistan and Iraq, chaos and anarchy wrought by US-led invasions of these countries have made living in these countries a nightmare. US military intervention in Somalia has not made the country better, but ungovernable for two decades.

Western imperialisms have been fingered in the arming of Islamist rebels, linked to terrorist organizations, in the Syrian conflict. In Egypt, state assassination of thousands of people and detentions of several more, have not stopped the Obama government from sending apache helicopters to the military regime. In Ukraine, the US- and other European governments- supported fascist government plunged the country into deeper crises. Western imperialism- supported Right Sector and other fascist groups killed scores in Odessa, in southern Ukraine. Today’s Al Qaeda terrorist group is a creation of US imperialism. It was the US that armed Osama bin Laden and his Mujahidin brothers in an attempt to defeat the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the later 1970s. Therefore, western imperialist interventions cannot solve the problem of terrorism in the short or long run. It is only a recipe for greater crisis.

This is in addition to gross human rights abuses this will engender. For instance, while one of the excuses of western imperialism in Afghanistan is the need for women liberation, the country, thirteen years after, has seen further degeneration of women’s conditions with abduction, rape, etc. being the order of the day. In Nigeria, half of over 1500 deaths in the first quarter of this year alone in the terrorist campaign were attributed to Nigerian military’s indiscriminate killing, with many of those killed by the military suspected to be innocent people or detainees awaiting trials, according to Amnesty International Report. Should we forget that the same Nigerian military razed a whole town sometime last year, killing hundreds of people (the Baga massacre). Indeed, western intervention can only worsen these situations. The drone killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan are clear examples.

The Shock Doctrine
The French government was rumored to have paid ransom, possibly through the Cameroonian government more than a year ago, to seek release of its citizens. While this was disclaimed by the French government, the question of how the captives were released while other foreign captives previously captured (including Italians and Britons) were killed by the terrorists is yet to be explained. Possibly the ransom, paid in hard currency, oiled the terrorists’ murderous campaigns. The current rush to ‘help’ Nigeria is suspect. While the global outcry played a role in forcing western imperialisms to show concern, the reality is that this is possibly another chapter in the shock doctrine. The Shock doctrine is a theory in which capitalist big brothers use calamities and adverse conditions, such as natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, coups, etc., to drive through imperialist projects and pro- big business neo-liberal policies, by exploiting the desperate conditions of people.

Nigeria’s Political Economy Seduces Military Interests
Africa’s political economy is vital for global capitalism. Africa is home to important minerals, not to mention its vast agricultural resources. Added to this is the estimated one-billion population, which is a huge potential market. A ten-percent middle class population out of one billion people is a huge market for global capitalism. It is not accidental that Africa has become destination for luxury goods – private jets, wines, etc., even when poverty is growing rapidly and digging deeper in the continent.

Nigeria, now the biggest economy in the continent, and the 26th in the world is an important factor in all this. Aside the huge oil and gas resources and other minerals available in the country, Nigeria is also a huge market for global products. The exponential rise in telecoms markets and the rise in private jet ownership (and other luxury goods) show the role of Nigeria in this market. This is even more so as global capitalism is undergoing historic decline, with the turbo-growth in China’s economy unraveling. Global capitalist interests in Africa is definitely not meant to develop Nigeria’s, nay Africa’s economy, but to further plunder them by enforcing neo-liberalist economic policies that will throw more people to the heap of poverty, while providing more wealth for global capitalism.

Added to this is the contagious effect a Nigerian crisis will have for the rest of Africa, especially west and North Africa. For every seven Africans, there is a Nigerian. A political crisis in Nigeria will have social, political and economic repercussions in the rest of Africa, especially west and North Africa. For instance, serious political and social crises, leading to refugee movements to other African countries can upset the precarious situations in these countries. Currently, according to UNHCR, over 250, 000 have been internally displaced, while as much as 60, 000 (22, 000 of which are Nigerians, and the rest foreigners, mostly Nigeriens, who came to Nigeria in search of a  greener pasture) have fled into neighboring countries like Cameroun, Chad and Niger, as a result of the terror campaign in the northern Nigeria. What will happen if this population is doubled or tripled is a million dollar question. All of these, among other factors, have made Nigeria a focal point in western imperialisms’ policies on Africa.

According to a report in UK Guardian, (09 May, 2014) “although Boko Haram’s abduction of school girls has thrust the violence in Nigeria onto the world diplomatic state, the crisis has been high on Washington’s African agenda for several years. But even before that, the most populous country in Africa was a centerpiece of US security policy as the continent’s largest oil producer.” While the journal did not state how many years “the crisis has been high on Washington’s African agenda”, it however mentioned the fact that a war college in Pennsylvania, US had staged a war game “in which the Nigerian government is on the brink of collapse and the US intervenes to protect the oil supply”.

It is no accident that western imperialism played role in the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president, with the former US Assistant Secretary for Africa, Johnnie Carson expressing US interests in the 2011 elections: security of oil and gas investments in the Niger Delta. Carson even visited retired top military autocrats like Babangida to resolve the disagreements among capitalist politicians in the run up to the 2011 elections. Therefore, the current ‘sudden’ interests in Nigeria’s terrorism are an attempt to deepen interests in the country’s political economy. There are newspapers reports that the western forces will stay beyond 2015. According to local Punch newspaper, quoting a US security source, “the American and other foreign troops are expected to remain in the country till after the 2015 elections. The mission is to sort out the issue of terrorism in the country.” Also, the local Guardian newspaper, quoting another security source, stated that the tenure of the US forces will only be determined when they arrive.

By helping to find the schoolgirls, western imperialisms will become an important factor in the counter-terrorism policy of the government, and the overall defense system of Nigeria. On the contrary, if the girls are not found, it will justify protracted involvement in Nigeria’s internal security. Already, according to the UK Guardian, the British foreign policy experts and politicians are discussing using the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle, a 2005 principle agreed to at the UN, which has been used by imperialism for predatory interventions in Darfur, Libya, Yemen, Mali, etc. Also, some sections of US security and diplomatic corps are considering the Yemen option. This means having unfettered right to locate and destroy enemies (potential and real), using lethal weapons including drones, without approval or oversight from local government. It will also involve control of a country’s intelligence network, which will mean direct profiling of citizens. Why these may not be on immediate agenda, they are open options depending on how far western imperialisms are allowed by Nigerians. For instance, without strong opposition from the working people, western imperialism will be mired in deeper engagement with terrorists, not only in Nigeria but throughout the continent, using Nigeria as a launching pad

2015, the Horrible Prospect and the Oily Factor
As 2015 elections draw nearer and the crisis within the capitalist political class gets deeper, the presence of western military forces to ‘counter’ terrorism will be a veritable tool to play active role in the politics of who gets what. For instance, the question of ensuring political stability as a factor for fighting terrorism is a potent tool for western forces to determine the pace of Nigeria’s politics. The current Jonathan government is totally discredited based on its monumental failure, cluelessness and unprecedented corruption. The working and poor masses cannot wait a single day to send the government packing. However, the alternative of the opposition party, especially with its presidential candidate coming from the far northern part of the country will also pose another challenge for not just the ruling class in Nigeria, but also for imperialism.

In 2011, the West supported Jonathan to stabilize oil exploitation, but on the basis of the glaring failure of the administration, coupled with its failure to curtail terror campaigns, the western governments are finding it difficult to openly associate with the regime. On the other hand, the choice of the opposition, especially with a Muhammadu Buhari candidature, aside not necessarily being able to resolve the Boko Haram conundrum, can renew militant campaign in the Niger Delta. While the opposition capitalist politicians are relying on the failure of the Jonathan regime, especially its inability to curb terrorist campaigns, as a tool to seek power, the Jonathan regime is aiming to use the Niger Delta as a pawn to get western imperialism’s support. The working masses, without a clear-cut socialist or working class political alternative will be divided along this line. For the West, it is not a straightforward question.

Jonathan’s government, as a way of getting local support, financial and strategic, is using oil to woo local supporters and blackmail western imperialism for support. This has meant lucrative oil blocks being given to local middlemen, as against previous arrangements where western oil companies corner most of the juicy blocks. Of course, the local middlemen rely on international finance capital and big multinational oil companies, as partners and funders, as a result of the weakness of Nigeria’s capitalist class. However, the idea that western oil corporations will have to pay more money – albeit to local middlemen serving as front for political forces – in order to get greater access to Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is clearly unsavory. However, the alternative of the opposition is neither cheery. The fact that many of the opposition politicians and big business partners, who have been sidelined from playing a central role in the oil and gas sector, will want to redefine the existing arrangement, is a major disincentive for western governments. The power sector, where local capitalists are well favored as middlemen, with big multinational corporations playing supportive and technical roles in the privatization spree, follow the same pattern.

Therefore, the 2015 elections is an important factor for western imperialism as far as Nigeria’s political economy is concerned. The latest involvement of western forces (and of course the mad rush to intervene in the abduction saga) fits into the calculation properly. Therefore, the idea of using   a military coup – if all other methods prove abortive – to resolve issues, as 2015 elections draw closer, is a live question. Of course, because of the general weakness and failure of Nigeria’s armed forces, coupled with the rotten history of military rule, there will be overwhelming opposition to military rule. However, the question of further degeneration of political, social, economic and security situations, may create a desperate situation that military rule, while may not be attractive, may be accommodated by a section of not just the political class but even of the working class – in the absence of a clear-cut working class alternative and platform. The fatalistic manner in which western intervention was accommodated gives a glimpse of this. However, as a result of the divisive (north-south) tendency within the military itself, resulting in high level of mistrust within its top hierarchy, military rule can further disintegrate the country. For the working class and the poor people, the specter of a military coup or disintegration is a terrible omen, as either of these can only accentuate to stratospheric degree, the misery and suffering faced by the working and poor people. The society will only be thrown back.

This therefore raises the question of what alternatives are left for the working people to counter terrorism. Of course, there are no quick-fix solutions to the problem of terrorism in Nigeria, but we must know that attempts to use western imperialist intervention as a solution can only generate worse crises, politically, socially and economically. Ending terrorism in Nigeria, nay in the world, requires the working and poor people globally organizing independent mass movements to defeat terrorism.

Rise of Boko Haram
This is because, terrorism itself is a product of poverty, injustice, inequality and oppression, which is what capitalism offers to the majority. For instance, the seed of the current wave of ultra-right Islamist groups like Boko Haram, was sown in the early 2000s, when the US and its western allies launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and carried out massive crackdown on Muslims, and democratic rights of people globally. This rather than curb terrorism only drove more people, especially young people to the hands of radical rightwing and religious tendencies. In Nigeria, the bankruptcy and treachery of the neo-colonial political forces could only worsen the case here. For instance, in an attempt by various sections of the rent-seeking political class to hold stake in the national cake in the new civilian political dispensation, the northern ruling elites came up with the idea of Shari’a as the main jurisprudential authority in the north. This was not meant to ‘cleanse’ the society of ‘evil’ as they claimed, but to force themselves into reckoning, having lost political power to their southern colleagues. This action, coupled with the global rise in religious fundamentalism, could only breed a new generation of religious fanatics.

While the northern ruling elites tried to bamboozle their populace with Shari’a, the wealth accruing to the region was creamed off by the elites, while they participated in the plundering of the national wealth at the center. This created a rapidly growing layer of disenchanted youths, many of whom were jobless, or could hardly make ends meet with their backbreaking but poorly remunerated jobs. In the absence of a national working class platform, the anger against the system was diverted to divisive tendencies, one of which is religious fundamentalism. Thus, Boko Haram (actually named by its members as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, i.e. People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), which was born around 2002, just like many other right-wing populist religious tendencies, fed on this situation, by campaigning against ostentatious lifestyles and condemning the rich. They were calling for stricter religious practices, ostensibly through enforcement, to cleanse the society. To them, the political elites had become renegades; therefore, stronger religious practices were needed.

On the other hand, the leaders of these religious sects, looking for influences and wealth, became pawns in the chessboards of politicians. Politicians, having seen the popular base of these religious sects, tried to curtail and exploit them for political ends. Thus, there were attempts to co-opt and assimilate them. For instance, in Borno, religious sects were used for elections, while their leaders were co-opted into the government. During the Ali Modu Sherrif administration in northern state of Borno (2003-211), a patron of Boko Haram, who was later murdered by the military during crackdown in 2009, was made a Commissioner for Religious Affairs. In Kano State, under the Ibrahim Shekarau administration, religious sects were incorporated into the local group of para-military law enforcement agency for Shari’a. In fact, many northern state governments were reported to be paying popular religious groups subventions.

After elections, many of the religious groups started losing government and politicians’ patronage. By 2009, Boko Haram, which was a creation of the politicians, developed more radical followers, who were posing direct danger to the state, with their open anti-state and hate campaigns against non-supporters and sometimes violent activities that usually led to skirmishes with the state. One of such skirmishes, where the group was disallowed from undertaking some activities, led to the burning of churches, government buildings and killing of about 20 persons by the Muhammad Yussuf- led Boko Haram. In response, the military, acting under directive from the then president, Umaru Yar’Adua, himself a northerner, undertook what could be termed genocide – killing as much as 700 people in Borno State. Foreign media, such as Al Jazeera, screened the footage of a horrible scenario in which scores of people, who were neither investigated nor prosecuted were lined up in the streets and shot dead by soldiers. The leader of the group himself, Muhammed Yussuf, was summarily executed by the police.

This actually was the turning point in the rise of the sect. As against a group that was campaigning for stricter religious practices, to a group that was campaigning for an Islamic state, Boko Haram developed into a dreaded and blood-sucking group. As against a group comprising young men who felt socially neglected, the sect developed into a clearly retaliatory and revengeful octopus. It was thus easier for the group to find soul mates across borders, who were also seeking blood. As against the triumphalism of the Yar’Adua government when the group was repressed in 2009, well over 4, 000 lives have been wasted by the terror campaign of the group, and its splinter group, Ansaru, since then.

Not to be left out is the fact that the period of the rise of this sect and its stronger hate doctrines coincided with the growing pauperization and suffering in the midst of unprecedented wealth. By 2009, Nigeria had earned nothing less than $300 billion from oil, yet joblessness, poverty and illiteracy were the order of the day, especially in the north. For instance, in 2012, about eighty percent of young people in Borno State, the cradle and base of Boko Haram, had no jobs, while poverty, put at over eighty percent in the same state, was the highest in the country. The sight of exotic mansions and cars of a rich minority, by young people, who come from poor families that lived at the fringes, could only generate social crisis. As against the 1970s and early 1980s when there were functional industries in the north, the emergence of civil rule since 1999 has meant greater deindustrialization, with over 800 factories reported to have closed down, in the country. The old glory of the north – textile industry, has been decimated. Infrastructures like railway, that linked many northern and southern states, and provided jobs for thousands of families, have been run aground. Global finance capital-instigated neo-liberal policies of privatization, trade liberalization, deregulation, commercialization, which have ensured transfer of wealth from the poor to the super-rich locally and internationally, have destroyed the living standards of the majority. It is thus no accident that northern cities like Maiduguri, Kano, Kaduna, etc. that were once known for  a flourishing nightlife and a tolerant culture, are fast becoming socially isolating grounds for recruitment of the poor.

What is the way forward?
Consequently, Nigerian working people must understand that the capitalist classes, whose policies provided the breeding ground for terrorism to thrive, cannot genuinely end terrorism. At best, they can only replace one terror with another. In ending terrorism, capitalists have created more problems than solution. Therefore, the genuine solution can only come from the working people themselves. As immediate measure:

  1. The NLC and TUC must call a 48-hour general strike with mass protests across the country, to mobilize popular mass movement against terrorism, and the flippant manner the Jonathan government is handling it. Such a mass movement must also reject imperialist intervention but mobilize for working class and community based defense committees. The strikes and mass movements should be linked with all the other basic socio-economic demands of the people. By mobilizing mass movements across the country, Boko Haram will be isolated, and the Goodluck Jonathan government will need to justify its continued existence.

 It is important to note that where mass of working and oppressed people are united in their collective struggle against anti-people policies, divisive tendencies of terrorism and fascism are easily subsumed. This is because, as stated earlier, divisive tendencies like terrorism are products of suffering wrought by globalized capitalism. Therefore, only mass movements of working and oppressed people can detach and erode the base of these divisive groups. Throughout the January 2012 protests and strikes against the hike in fuel price in Nigeria, no single bomb was thrown, neither was there any terror attack. However, a day after labor leaders botched the protests; a terror attack, killing scores of people, was carried out in the city of Kano. Indeed, the defeat of sit-tight regimes in the Arab world was not accomplished by bombs but by mass movements of workers, youth and the oppressed. Indeed, where mass movements develop, terror forces are isolated.

Therefore, the lukewarm attitude of the Nigeria’s labor movement leadership, and its treacherous support for greater military interventions, are disservice to the struggle to end terror. At the 2013 May Day event, labor leaders at national and state levels collaborated with governments to militarize venues of workers’ rallies. It is not accidental then that May Day witnessed one of the worst terror bomb attack in which more than 70 people were killed at a popular car park in Abuja. Despite this open affront, the labor leaders did not deem it fit to declare a national protest and warning strike. This kind of leadership is surely neck-deep in relationship with the bankrupt, corrupt, neo-colonial capitalist class. Only mass pressure of rank-and-file workers, youths, activists and the Left can force labor leadership to take pro-working people’s action.

  1. Democratic community and workplace defense committees should be set up across the country, especially in the north, as a counterweight to brutality of the terrorists and the Nigerian military. These defense committees should organize defense of communities, including intelligence gathering, searches, armed resistance, etc. The excuse that people will be killed does not suffice, as people are already being killed senselessly and without opportunity of self-defense. In fact, Chibok community people, including women organized a search and rescue team in the wake of the military’s pusillanimity. According to a Dr. Manaseh, whose sister was among the abducted, “after the incident, over 204 people including volunteers from Chibok mobilized a day after the attack and stormed Sambisa forest with many contributing N15, 000 each for fuel to be used in their motorcycles for the rescue…” (Vanguard, 11 May 2014). Who says working and poor people cannot organize?

Will such self-defense committees not be abused? This is why there is need to put such committees under democratic control of communities, with every household involved in the formation and control of such committees. These committees will be different from the so-called Civilian JTF currently existing in Borno State, which has become an appendage of the deadly military forces, aside not being under democratic control of communities. It is nevertheless important to emphasize that the spontaneous rise of the Civilian JTF (a form of community defense committee), though not on democratic basis, shows the potential for independent organization by working and community people, if there is a national lead. The leadership of the labor movement, youth movement and the Left, in such initiative can make such committee serve as revolutionary platform.

  1. Working and oppressed people must organize to bring down this bankrupt Jonathan capitalist regime and the rotten, neo-colonial capitalist system it superintends over. This system is the root cause of terrorism. How do you convince a 20 year old that ‘book’ is not ‘haram’ when all he ever saw in the past 14 years of civil rule is poverty, hunger, joblessness, oppression, injustice and obscene display of wealth by a rich few? The last 14 years of civil rule has seen unprecedented wealth accumulation in the country, which can take Nigerians to Space several times, yet it is a miracle for Nigerians to have safe transit from Lagos to Kano. A government that can commit a trillion naira to defense, but can hardly spend less than a quarter of this on education and healthcare is a government of social terror.

We must end capitalism before it ends us all. Workers should take over their unions and rebuild them on democratic, anti-capitalist and revolutionary basis! Build democratic revolutionary committees linked up from grassroots to the national level to replace this corrupt regime. Working people need a government that will put mainstay of the economy under democratic public ownership. With this, the enormous resources of the country, rather than being cornered by the rich few and multinational corporations, will be committed to developing infrastructures, creating decent and secure jobs, educating the youth, providing adequate healthcare, and industrializing the country. This is the only way divisive and deadly forces of religious fundamentalism, ethnic chauvinism and social annihilation can be ended.

With the economy of the country under democratic ownership, control and management of the working people, communities, professionals, etc., we can plan how the resources and wealth of the country will be best utilized, on an environmental sustainable basis, to secure decent and fulfilled lives for all Nigerians and incoming generations. This will also require the working people in Africa, and globally to rise to defeat globalized capitalism, and enthrone a democratic, revolutionary working peoples’ governments. For instance, with revolutionary working people’s governments in West Africa alone, enormous resources – human, material, natural, etc. – can be harnessed to develop the region, as a prelude to forming a Socialist Federation (or Confederation) of Africa. That terrorism is fast spreading in Africa, and the world, underscores the fact that only an internationalized united working class struggles to end capitalism can permanently defeat terrorism. This is why the working people in Nigeria must build mass movements across borders to defeat both terrorism and globalized capitalism that is at the root of terrorism. The current wave of solidarity protests across continents shows that it is possible to build a trans-continental movement against capitalism.  Even if the Boko Haram sect is defeated, without a working class alternative, other divisive forces will tear society apart based on the present rotten arrangement.

*Kola Ibrahim - A freelance writer, socialist, author and activist. He can be contacted at kmarx4life@gmail.com and +234 8059399178. An earlier version of this article was first published by The African Examiner, www.africanexaminer.com/boko-haram-and-the-wests-intervention on May, 12, 2014.



Studies on the Impact of Coffee Farmers’ Cooperatives in Abaya, Ethiopia’
Beyene Desta Kerse*
Technoserve Ethiopia Coffee Initiative
Jimma, Ethiopia

Acronyms and Abbreviations:

·         AWCPO Abaye Woreda Cooperative Promotion Office

·         ECEA Ethiopia Coffee Export Association

·         AWAARDO Abaya Woreda Agriculture and Rural development Office

·         PA Peasant Association

·         OCFCU Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union

·         OCB Oromia Cooperative Bank

·         KHG Kelaltu-Hase-Gola

·         FCA Federal Cooperative Agency

·         Woreda District

Background and Statement of the Problem
Cooperation is the very basis of human civilization. The universal lesson of social history is that an individual cannot live by himself and for himself alone. Interdependence and mutual help between human beings is essential to human progress. Since the beginning of human society individuals have found it advantageous to work together and help one another: first by foraging, then by hunting, later in agriculture and finally in manufacturing (Kolkarni, 1962:1). The spirit of association is the basis of social life.

Over a period of around 150 years, cooperatives have spread to 100 countries, encompassing various sectors and activities including agriculture, fishing, housing, banking, insurance, water, electricity and health care. Cooperatives, as self-advancement organizations, help members meet their social and economic needs through the establishment and operation of autonomous, member owned businesses. These cooperative organizations generate income and employment by pooling limited resources and reducing individual risk while simultaneously promoting social integration and cohesion in communities (Hajela, 1986:15).

Over 40 years ago, during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie, the cooperative movement began in Ethiopia. Cooperatives spread throughout the era of the Derg who infused it with a socialist philosophy that crippled cooperatives and the spirit of cooperation through lack of accountability and transparency, according to some analysts. In addition, misunderstanding by members of the social role of cooperatives, lack of trained man power, shortage of capital and government interference contributed to failure. (FCA, 2008). Having considered these facts, the current government of Ethiopia has shown a consistent commitment to agricultural cooperative development since it came into power in 1991.

In Ethiopia, today, one can observe that agricultural cooperatives draw strength from the combined economic potential of their members and their readiness to voluntarily commit their resources to a common cause. They often help their patron members get better prices for their products through improved product quality, careful grading, packaging and sales promotion. Beyond improved prices, collective action helps lower the cost of farm supplies and the needed services.

Agricultural cooperatives also have helped non-member farmers by improving the prices for their products through direct competition with local traders. As a result, agricultural cooperatives have lifted the standard of living for members and non-members across Ethiopia. (FCA, 2006).

Among agricultural cooperatives in Ethiopia, coffee farmers’ cooperatives have played a significant role in the socio-economic development of the country in general and coffee growing areas in particular.

Despite their economic and social importance, lack of education and training, lack of working capital, poor management, low member commitment, heavy past-due loans, shortage and misappropriated money inhibit the impact of cooperatives in the district studied.

This study has assessed the impact of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in socio-economic development in Ethiopia, Oromia region, Borena zone, Abaya with a particular focus on the Negelle-Gorbitu, Homa and Kelaltu-Hase-Gola (KHG) coffee farmers’ cooperatives. The goal was to critically investigate the impediments facing these cooperatives and seek solutions that will improve their socio-economic contribution to the area.

Objectives of the study
Generally, this study has assessed the impact of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in socio-economic development in the study area.

The specific objectives were to:

1) Assess the economic effect of coffee farmer’s cooperatives in the local area in general and cooperative members in particular.

2) Examine the extent to which cooperatives are creating job opportunities.

3) Identify the types of social services provided by coffee farmer’s cooperatives.

4) Examine the organizational functional structure and the production and marketing activities pursued by the cooperatives.

5) Identify problems related to the activities of coffee farmers’ cooperatives.

6) Arrive at some concluding remarks and provide a suggestion to minimize the problems related to the activities of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in the study area.


Significance of the study
Though this study was conducted within a short period of time, it is hoped that it will provide some local and first-hand information concerning the problems and prospects of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in the study district. In this article an attempt was made to recount the concept of development within the existing social context of the country with particular emphasis on the impact of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in social and economic development. In addition the study may serve as a source of information and a stepping stone to other researchers who intend to conduct a detailed study of a similar topic.

Research Methodology
In this study both primary and secondary sources of data have been used. The primary data was collected using structured interview questionnaires from sampled cooperative members, board of director and government employees. In some cases personal observation was also added. The secondary data was collected from secondary books and publications, and annual reports of governmental and non-governmental organizations. To achieve the intended objectives of the study, qualitative/descriptive and quantitative/statistical methods of data analysis were employed. For example, statistical analysis occurred after the collected data were tallied and grouped in tabular forms according to their importance.

Data analysis and findings of the study
The major findings of the study are discussed theme by theme in the following sections. As indicated in the objectives, the major thrust of the study was to assess the impact of coffee farmers’ cooperatives in socio-economic development in the study area. The study has addressed this question by investigating the demographic characteristics, the organizational structure, the production and marketing activities and the economic and social roles of Negelle-Gorbitu, Homa and Kelaltu-Hase-Gola (KHG) Coffee Farmers’ Cooperatives.

Economic role of coffee farmers’ cooperatives

The cooperative institution is generally considered as one of the best-suited institutional arrangements for rural credit programmes. The coffee farmer’s cooperatives in the study area were among these institutions which are engaged in supplying credit service to its members. The income of the farmers in the study area was very much dependent on coffee either through direct sale or profit share/dividend.


Impact of Coffee Farmers Cooperatives in the Socio - Economic Development of the Study Area

Apart from the direct economic role, coffee farmers’ cooperatives have also contributed a lot in creating job opportunity, developing human resources, improving education and health services and constructing and improving rural road in the study area that has a great impact on the life style of their members. The cooperative movement is an instrument to correct the imbalances of social development. It can contribute to the reduction of disparities in income and wealth and prevent the aggravation of these disparities.

 The organizational functional structure and production and Marketing activities pursued by the cooperatives.
The internal organizational structures of the three cooperatives are similar. Individual members form the organizational base. As all members cannot run and control the daily affairs of the society, the members delegate powers and responsibilities to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors cannot oversee the day to day activities and as such the cooperatives have employed staff to fill the gap. Therefore, members, the Board of Directors and employees constitute the main organs of the coffee farmers’ cooperatives in the study area (AWCPO, 2006).

The intention behind this structure is that the performance of the affiliated primary cooperatives improves when a central organization provides marketing services and assumes additional responsibilities that do not lie within the scope of a primary cooperative.


Coffee production
In the country, there are four main coffee production systems: forest coffee, garden coffee, traditional small coffee farms and large scale modern plantations (ECEA, 1998:28).

Among these systems of production, garden coffee and traditional small coffee farming systems are practiced in the Abaya in general and the study area in particular. This is commonly known as the best highland coffee grown in Ethiopian. It is an Arabica coffee with a real spicy flavor (AWAARDO annual report, 2004).

Marketing of coffee at the farm level takes place in a locally established market near clustered villages, pulping industry and at some major roadsides. The cooperatives in the study area have unique marketing structure and functions. They have well established and in some cases multiple coffee- purchasing centers at each PA. After processing, cooperatives transport their coffee to Addis Ababa. Here the Ethiopian Coffee and Tea Authority, now  the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) inspect and conducts cup tasting to ensure a minimum standard before it is sent to OCFCU. The Union undertakes the final processing, packaging and exporting activities. According to the data obtained from the OCFCU annual report, 2006, the union exports the product (coffee) of 74 coffee Farmers Cooperatives to Germany (28.7% of the total volume), Japan (21.25%), Italy (4.2%), Holland (2.1%), and Poland (1.53%). The UK imported only 0.6% (OCFCU report, 2006).

Major problems related to the activities of coffee farmers’ coops
According to the interview made with the Board of Directors and the sample respondents, there were many reasons for the above fluctuation and inefficient marketing activities of cooperatives. These were lack of working capital, inefficient transportation system, inefficient management, unfair market competition and pollution of rivers in the study area.

Coffee Farmers Cooperatives have a great share in the overall developments of a country and particularly in the area where they are located. To begin with, the desired information in the district was obtained from the selected cooperatives and sample respondents. Although the coffee farmers’ cooperatives have a great impact on a large number of people around them, because of financial and time factors, only 113 farmers were taken to represent the cooperative members.

The members of cooperatives are largely of an older age. Most of them are married and are followers of the protestant religion. From the total respondents, about 83.2% are non-migrants, whereas, 16.8% come from nearby woredas. The largest ethnic groups of the sampled respondents are Oromo and Gedeo, which accounts for 93.9% of the total ethnic groups. The majority of the members of coffee farmers’ cooperatives are at educational level below primary school, which accounts for about 92.9% of the total respondents. The household size of the members is also high. Accordingly, 71.7% of the respondents have more than four children and/or relatives.

 Coffee farmer’s cooperatives evolved as a consequence of people attempting to solve complex problems. Their organizational structure is based on internal and external functions. The internal structure is composed of members (General Assembly), Board of Directors and cooperative staff. Each group has its own powers and responsibilities in the respective cooperatives. In addition to these governing structures, the control committee, credit committee and production committee are also included in the internal structure of the cooperatives. The external structure of coffee farmers’ cooperatives shows the relation that coffee farmers cooperatives have with other cooperatives either in the district or other areas of the Oromia region. Accordingly, the cooperatives in the study area became members of the OCFCU, OCB and Burka-Hora multipurpose cooperatives. Up until now, only OCFCU has a strong structural functional relation with the three coffee farmers’ cooperatives. The Union provides credit services, training opportunity and other related services for the study area cooperatives.

With regard to production, only garden coffee and traditional small scale coffee farming systems are practiced in the study area. The type of coffee grown in the area is the Yirgacheffe variety. The total land covered by coffee and the total production increased between 2006 -2010. However, there was a difference in the rate of increase in coffee production among the study area and among the cooperatives. The main reasons for the difference emanated from the difference in coffee management system, land availability, market and credit accessibility, and education and training opportunities provided in the area. In addition to these mentioned reasons, the intervention of fair trade organization motivated its members to produce more quality coffee by expanding their farm size. Most members cultivate 0.25 to 1.50 hectares of coffee trees in a garden production system. Garden coffee is a coffee grown under shade in the vicinity of farmers’ homes, is inter-planted with false banana and other nitrogen fixing crops. On the other hand, coffee farmers use different coffee management techniques and tools. Among coffee management techniques shading, weeding and manuring are better practiced than pruning and row planting. Spraying chemicals and using inorganic fertilizers are not allowed for cooperative members as the use of these inputs reduces the price of coffee at the international market. The major implements that are used by the majority of the cooperative members accounts 96.2% for a slasher, 94.2% for a hoe & 91.3% for an axe, while, sickle, spade and pruning scissors are relatively less utilized.

Coffee marketing by coffee farmers’ cooperatives takes place both at the local and national level. At local level, cherries are collected from cooperative members through coffee purchasing centers that are established at each PA covered by the cooperatives. Through this channel, the volume of coffee delivered to the cooperatives has increased over the last five years, but still remains less than the capacity of cooperatives. The main reasons for these limitations are lack of working capital, inefficient management, inefficient transportation system, inefficient use of industry, pollution of rivers and unfair market competition in the study area. These problems contributed to the low supply of coffee at the national market.

Apart from these activities and characteristics, the socio-economic impact/role of coffee farmers’ cooperatives was also assessed. In this regard, the three cooperatives in the study area, Negelle-Gorbitu, Homa & KHG Coffee Farmers Cooperatives have contributed a good deal to the development of the study area in particular and the woreda in general. They provide access to credit and a paid patronage dividend (profit share) based on participation of each of their members. In addition, they improved the social status of the study area by generating job opportunities and constructing and repairing a dry weather road.

However, the success of these developments, particularly in providing credit services, is not without its problems. One of the major problems threatening the program’s sustainability is an outstanding loan whose repayment is out of reach of the cooperative. Its repayment rate is very low when compared to the amount of loan supplied to the farmers. In relation to this, the availability of supervision, loan size, number of dependents and educational level of the beneficiaries determine which of the members is eligible for a cooperative loan.

Based on the findings of the study the following recommendations are forwarded.

1) Coffee farmer’s cooperatives should employ competent managers to meet the challenge of stiff competition in the local marketplace. Improvements have been made in two co -ops (Negelle-Gorbitu and Homa) that have begun to employ a manager on a contractual basis since 2008. The rest of the cooperatives need to make similar improvements.

2) Election of cooperative leaders should emphasize business experience and educational background as part of the qualifications for those who contest for positions of leadership in the committee or board.

3) Regular training courses should be given to improve managerial capacity and to enable them to perform effectively and efficiently.

4) Money lending organizations (OCFCU, OCB, Governmental Banks and Burka-Hora multipurpose Cooperative Unions) should give due attention and immediate response to the loan application of coffee farmers’ cooperatives.

5) The production methods that have been practiced by coffee farmers are traditional. Significant number of farmers could not stump and prune their coffee. As a result of this, coffee trees are not in a position to bear and give their maximum yield. Therefore, AWAARDO should consider this issue as a major problem of coffee farmers and design a strategy to tackle the problem as, for example, through providing education and training related to coffee tree management practices. In addition, Coffee farmers cooperatives and the OCFCU should supply the necessary farming tools (for instance, pruning scissors) and improved varieties of coffee from research centers,  to the farmers,  with reasonable prices on a credit basis. To achieve this properly, the OCFCU should link to an agronomy department and emphasize the production side of the supply chain. If there is no production there is no marketing.

6) To connect all the areas and to supply the coffee products in time, construction of all-weather roads by cooperatives, governmental and non-governmental bureaus is advisable.

7) Due to the disposal of pollutants from coffee industries, rivers and streams are polluted. The users of the water bodies are regularly suffering from infectious disease. Because of this coffee farmers’ cooperatives are sometimes forced to stop their activities. So to solve this problem the wet mill industry owners (merchants) must not dump industry waste in local water bodies or, if it is discharged, it has to be pre-treated. They must prepare a proper dumping site. AWAARDO should give due attention to the implementation of this rule.

8) The market activities pursued by cooperatives and investors should equally go side by side with the existing rule of coffee marketing at the local level. AWAARDO should give due attention to the implementation of this rule and thereby create a conducive market environment in the study area.

9) Inspite of better services rendered and the potential of the organizations, the number of members that have access to the credit services of the cooperatives are insignificant compared to those who needed credit to improve their well-being. Therefore, they should increase and widen their loan size and services so that many people could gain access to such provisions. In this regard, Government and NGOs should support Coffee farmers’ cooperatives.

10) Cooperatives should adopt new methodologies for loan review, disbursement and the collection process that differ could provide access to further loans for reliable customers with a history of excellent loan repayment.

11) The membership size of the three coffee farmers’ cooperatives is consistently growing over time. On the other hand, the ability of the cooperatives to provide the necessary services is not improving with this increase in the number of members. As a result the participation of members in their cooperatives is low. Therefore, the coffee farmers’ cooperatives should diversify and expand their business and involve significant number of farmers in all activities. Otherwise, there is a need to establish new coffee farmers’ cooperatives in the study area. To solve these problems, AWCPO should give special emphasis before deciding on the establishment of new cooperatives.


*Contact info:  Beyenedesta2005@yahoo.com

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