2. TURNING AFRICA INTO THE WORLD'S GARBAGE CAN
Africa, already suffering from poverty, drought, famine, locusts,
"contra" wars, and the AIDS epidemic, now appears destined to become
the world's toxic waste dump. International sludge dealers have tried to dump
U.S. and European waste onto at least 15 African countries, a trend exposed over
the last couple of years by European environmentalists but not widely publicized
in the U.S.
The need to find a dumping ground is increasingly imperative.
Although the U.S. produces an estimated 87 percent of the world's toxic waste,
West Germany exports the most. Switzerland lacks recycling or storage facilities.
France, a big waste recycler, had to stop taking in its neighbors waste in 1988
because its recycling facilities were filled to capacity with domestic waste.
1988, Europe's favorite solution to toxic-waste was to incinerate it in the North
Sea until the sea died and 63 countries agreed to stop waste incineration in the
North Sea as of 1994.
Africa, unfortunately, became a prime target. Geographically,
most sub-Saharan countries have vast, sparsely populated territories that are
not really controlled by any authority. There is no serious control of Africa's
coastal waters. Populations are still largely illiterate and susceptible to persuasion.
African countries lack the experts and facilities to determine the contents of
shipments. Finally, the targeted countries are poor, in debt, and in need of the
funds Western countries are willing to pay to dump their waste.
to find dump sites range from crude to sophisticated. A simple approach was taken
by Italian dumpster Gianfranco Raffaelli, who found someone in the Nigerian port
of Koko happy to rent out his backyard for $100 a month. The yard quickly filled
up with 8,000 barrels containing some 4,000 tons of deadly substances, including
PCBs, collected from various Italian, Dutch, American, Norwegian, and British
companies. When it was discovered, Nigeria made dumping toxic waste punishable
by life imprisonment.
A more sophisticated approach was promoted by Arnold
Andreas Kunzler who was once Idi Amin Dada's treasurer. Kunzler worked out tentative
deals with Angola to build vast chemical-waste incineration plants for the Swiss
chemical giant Ciba-Geigy. The contracts would bring Angola $2 billion that could
be used to build schools and hospitals and to revive the economy. The deal apparently
fell through when the two parties could not agree on the terms.
Gibraltar firm called SESCO got the government of Benin to sign a contract to
take up to five million tons of toxic waste per year at an all-time low price
of $2.50 per ton. Benin has a foreign debt of some $700 million and no other way
to pay it.
The scandalous efforts to dump on Africa led to the 1989 Basel
Convention which recognized the "right of every country to refuse to accept
toxic waste." The Organization for African Unity, concerned with having individual
countries decide the issue, persuaded the African countries not to sign. But while
the African reaction seemed to be a firm "no" to toxic-waste dumping,
observers wonder whether it is not merely part of a bargaining process meant to
raise the price of becoming the world's garbage can.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER:
SOURCE: IN THESE TIMES, 2040 N. Milwaukee Avenue Chicago,
TITLE: "WESTERN DEVELOPMENTAL OVERDOSE MAKES
AFRICA CHEMICALLY DEPENDENT"
AUTHOR: DIANA JOHNSTON
COMMENTS: Investigative author Diana Johnston recently took
a position as press representative for the European Greens in the European
Parliament in Brussels and was not available to respond to the "censored"
questionnaire. However, Sheryl Larson, managing editor of In These Times
(ITT), said there were no media reactions to the ITT story. This surprised
Johnson since she said ITT considered it one of the more important issues
they've published. A review of newspaper and periodical indices for
the first half of 1990 produced no references to articles about toxic
wastes and Africa.