Malawi villagers move for new school, gift from pop star
Karzai's Brother Tied To Corrupt Afghan Land Deals
If, as some critics say, land no longer matters, then why do people go to such lengths to get some? On the contrary: Good intentions can play out badly. Landowners can become an army of one once tread upon too often. And words get contradicted by deeds when family is involved. We trim, blend, and append three 2010 articles from the BBC of Feb 12 -- the first two -- on Malawi and Russia and from NPR, Feb 1, on Afghanistan by Tom Bowman.
by BBC and by Tom Bowman
Malawi villagers move for new Madonna school
Some 200 villagers in Malawi have ended their protests and agreed to leave their land to make way for a school being built by pop star Madonna.
The villagers have finally accepted compensation of $105,000 (£67,000) after their protests had delayed the start of the building work.
A local chief reportedly told the villagers to "accept reality" after the government ordered them to move.
Madonna has adopted two children from Malawi, where she has an orphanage.
Work is now expected to start soon on the Raising Malawi Girls Academy outside the capital, Lilongwe, and to be finished in two years' time.
As well as the compensation, the villagers have also been given new land elsewhere.
JJS: While compensation is good, and compensating community beats paying an individual landowner, still, the deal was not between equals. How can one hang on to what is rightfully theirs?
Russia farmer convicted of planting landmines in field
A Russian farmer has been convicted of planting landmines around his field to ward off trespassers.
Alexander Skopintsev, from the eastern region of Primorye near China's border, laid the three devices on his land after building them in his garage.
The 73-year-old had apparently been concerned about the frequent theft of potatoes from his farm.
He was arrested after an intruder set off one of the tripwire-style mines in August and was injured in the blast.
Skopintsev was convicted for the unlawful construction and storage of weapons and received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence.
JJS: The farmer above tried to do what government ought to do -- defend rights. The government below did what nobody ever ought to do -- raid the commons.
Karzai's Brother Tied To Corrupt Afghan Land Deals
In Afghanistan, the theft of public and private land is a growing form of corruption. President Hamid Karzai has vowed to tackle the vexing issue. But one obstacle to the president's vision is his own brother, who is part of the problem.
The spoils of corruption can be seen several times a week at Kabul's tiny airport: bags of money heading out of the country. Once a high-ranking official took $52 million to Dubai in one trip.
The money leaving Afghanistan is increasingly coming from land grabs. Government officials misuse the law to take control of public and even private land for development -- and developers and corrupt officials split the profits.
The Taliban is using the land-grab issue as a recruiting tool.
The land grabs started not long after Karzai came to power six years ago, according to Ahmad Nader Nadery of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Some Kabul residents were evicted from their property. And Nadery says the land was made available for a fraction of the cost to the president's political allies.
Complaints to the Human Rights Commission about land grabs have doubled in the past two years. Last year, there were more than 500 complaints from across the country.
U.S. and Afghan officials say that the man at the center of the land grabs in one province is the president's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who chairs the provincial council in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan.
He has also been accused of using his influence to help opium traffickers.
A State Department adviser in Kandahar, Todd Greentree, says that portions of land were transferred by signature to Ahmed Wali Karzai, or elements under his control.
In one case, the provincial council seized land in Kandahar belonging to the Afghan defense ministry; it was developed into a gated residential community.
In another case, the provincial council took over water rights on dry land in Kandahar from a local tribe.
One lawmaker, Sardar Mohammad Rahman Oghli, says that President Karzai's re-election last fall was a victory for drug smugglers and land grabbers.
Rahman Oghli says land grabs also are becoming a problem in Faryab, the remote northern province he represents.
He doubts the Afghan government will do much about it, and he criticizes the Americans, too.
"If they had been honest in the fight against corruption, they wouldn't have helped a corrupt and incompetent government like Karzai's get elected," he says.
JJS: The land speculator, that’s the side that the US almost always chooses, both abroad and at home. That’s what the recent multi-trillion dollar bailout was all about. The only solution is for a critical mass of humanity to understand that the value of land is part of the commons and then adopt a public policy which recognizes the fact. By that, we'd recover and share “rents” while losing taxes on earnings and subsidies under special interests. It’s the policy called “geonomics”.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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