This gangly & exhausted little guy is a 13-year-old boy named Nuru Haruna, a child gold miner in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is one of the African countries under the whip of World Bank & IMF neoliberal tyranny. Even the NY Times, a voice of US capitalism, calls them “the overlords of Africa” because they took up where colonialism left off. Both agencies are instruments of US foreign policy where the plundered countries become suppliers of raw materials & free trade zones & the Pentagon & CIA are used to crush democracy to better serve plunder.
According to the World Bank’s own statistics, massive poverty in African countries has increased over 75% under their economic & political tyranny. That means more than half of Africa’s population live below the World Bank’s outrageous poverty line of US $1.00 a day.
Mining is one of the primary natural resources foreign corporations go after which requires land grabs from farmers, wrenching the economy from agriculture to extractive industries, & forcing millions to migrate either to urban slums or to other countries for work. Some of the bigger mines are run by foreign mining outfits; hundreds are artisanal operations & the World Bank fosters these because the profits are so massive. Mining company agents buy the gold from small-time operators at dirt cheap prices & sell them on the gold exchange for the going rate which today stands at US $1,600 an ounce.
Child labor is widespread in the artisanal mines & this is no accident–no matter how many crocodile tears UN child welfare agencies pour out all over media accounts. Fundamental to World Bank & IMF austerity policies is destruction of labor power & unionization, & reducing adult workers to unemployed & desperate beggars. Child labor has advantages in that process by getting the work done at levels of super-exploitation & violence.
Part of World Bank & IMF policies are privatizing education, health care, housing so that ordinary working people cannot afford to send their kids to school. For heavens sake, they can’t afford to buy food. Family poverty & economics require children be sent out to work to afford food & housing. This is when UN & NGO officials, political officials, & even World Bank officials come on stage to feign distress at the massive numbers of children leaving school to work the mines.
Their narrative is heartbreaking & up to its eyeballs in hypocrisy & deceit: they’ve tried to discourage Burkina Faso kids from abandoning schools for the mines. They’ve tried to make school “a pleasant place with games & sports.” They’ve tried to “sensitize parents to curb the trend” of truancy. They think maybe they should hold national debates on the issue because parents & kids just don’t get the importance of education.
But along with the crocodile tears, they change the laws to facilitate artisanal mining, encourage foreign investors, & impose austerity on social services. What about a little investment in schools, health care, housing!? In one of the hand-wringing orgies, the minister of education claimed they delivered food to schools in a region known for poor harvests to prevent kids from working the mines & dissuade parents from sending them. But they only had cereal for part of the year. Are we supposed to believe this tripe!?
Since the World Bank & IMF are agencies of US neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism, it’s politically imperative that US working people understand what’s going on in our names in other countries. Because if we don’t get off our leaden asses to oppose this, chickens have a way of coming home to roost. The most stinking rancid racism is essential to this entire operation & unfortunately when chickens come home to roost, it is focused on the most vulnerable in US society: children in the Black, Latino, Native American, & immigrant communities.
Those who care about children have to stop uttering pieties about kids being the future & start opposing the assaults on education, health care, & housing in the US & start exposing the crimes of the US in Burkina Faso & elsewhere. Because children like Nuru aren’t just the future; they deserve a world suitable for them to live & love in.
(Photo of Nuru Haruna by Matjaz)