The Phaserl


The British imperialists snapping up swathes of Africa to cash in on the world’s food shortage – and forcing out small farmers

by Fred Pearce,

It is an odd retirement hobby. Britain’s top soldier, the former commander of British Land Forces and the man who capped his military career by presiding over the funeral of the Queen Mother, has been planting crops in the African bush.

Not personally, you understand. But Sir Charles Redmond Watt has been mixing with Chinese billionaires, Saudi sheiks, Wall Street whizzkids and a motley array of British adventurers who agree with the financial guru George Soros that ‘farmland is one of the best investments of our time’. And for those wanting lots of land, nothing comes cheaper than a slice of Africa.

I have spent the past two years on the trail of these land grabbers, who have between them taken control of an area roughly ten times the size of Britain, most of it in Africa. And I discovered that Britain is the world’s biggest centre for private land grabbers. City financiers are the new imperialists, returning to colonies we walked away from half a century ago.

Upon leaving the Army, Sir Charles, who once commanded 125,000 military personnel, became chairman of a shell company, Las Vegas-registered Kryptic Entertainment, which later changed its name to Farm Lands of Guinea.

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