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Pambazuka News 223: What price human rights?

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In this edition


EDITORIAL: There’s lots of rhetoric but little cash for human rights, notes Vinodh Jaichand
COMMENT&ANALYSIS: Three inspiring stories from the DRC, Argentina and The Philippines on how SMS is being used to confront power
- Issa Shivji critiques the myths behind the arguments for privatisation
- Human rights standards need to be applied in the US response to Hurricane Katrina, says Khalil Tian Shahyd in response to Mukoma Wa Ngugi’s article two weeks ago
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem remembers two Nigerian activists who died during September
CONFLICT&EMERGENCIES: Warning over DRC tension; Sudan peace efforts slammed
HUMAN RIGHTS: Adoption of an international treaty against forced disappearances a step forward, says rights groups
REFUGEES&FORCED MIGRATION: UNHCR helps South Africa tackle huge asylum backlog
ELECTIONS&GOVERNANCE: Somaliland elections go unnoticed
WOMEN&GENDER: Groups dismayed by “shameful lack of political will” at UN summit
DEVELOPMENT: EU Urged to Halt Regional Agreements
HEALTH&HIV/AIDS: ARV’s and the big pharmaceutical party in Africa
EDUCATION: Free schooling starts with huge logistical problems
ENVIRONMENT: Kenyan MP wary of GM crop trials
MEDIA&FXI: Free expression groups to mark global right to know day
PLUS…News about the internet, advocacy campaigns, courses, jobs and books and art.


What price human rights?

Vinodh Jaichand


Compared to the verbal commitment of world leaders to human rights issues, the amount of money actually allocated to human rights within the United Nations system is pitiful. “If the role of the United Nations, through the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, cannot be sustained, then any other system is also doomed to failure, irrespective of what form the ‘new and improved’ UN is going to take,” writes Vinodh Jaichand.

The United Nations has often been criticised as being an ineffective body. The Secretary General, Kofi Annan, called for a debate on the possible reform of the United Nations in September 2003 due to the deep divisions among member states on the use of force in response to security threats. During this past week there have been major discussions on reforming the United Nations so that it might be better equipped to deal with the larger challenges, including the Millennium Development Goals. The UN is often portrayed as an independent institution with regard to peace and security when, in fact, it is an instrument of its collective membership [Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, The Role of the United Nations in International Peace and Security 841 at 842]. While it operates under the rules of diplomacy, the UN has been expected to be the defender of human rights in the world.

With a membership of 191 states under its Charter, the United Nations is the main international institution tasked with protecting and promoting human rights. Within the United Nations system the office assigned the main responsibility for human rights activities is the High Commissioner for Human Rights who is expected to engage with governments on human rights issues nationally and internationally with the aim of improving their respect and practice.

In a report undertaken by the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations [Management Review of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (JIU/REP/2003/6) prepared by Armando Duque Gonzalez ], it revealed that despite the strategic importance of human rights for the United Nations system, which has been highlighted in numerous documents, the resources allocated through regular budget appropriations have not reflected such strategic importance.

Indeed, the resources assigned decreased in percentage and absolute terms from 1996 to 2001 and increased in absolute terms in the 2002-2003 biennium. In the latter period the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights budget amounted to 1.75 per cent of the United Nations total budget. From 1996 at no stage did the amount received ever rise above 1.79 per cent of the United Nations total budget. At the same time the lack of regular resources has been compounded by an increase in the number of activities undertaken by the Office which require special representatives, special rapporteurs and independent experts. Therefore the Office is heavily dependent on voluntary contributions from states to fund core and mandated activities that should remain within the regular budget.

As a result, any disruption in the voluntary contributions received has impacted negatively on the core, the mandated activities and the extra-budgetary ones. The General Accounting Office of the United States Congress criticized the trend, preferred by the wealthier countries including the United States, towards voluntary contributions from Member States to fund human rights and other United Nations programmes. It said that the practice had left UN agencies lacking in stability for long term planning and has harmed the morale of staff [UN Changes Get Blocked by Rifts, a Congressional Report Finds by Jess Bravin, Wall Street Journal].

Does the Income Match the Ambition?

Under the Charter of the United Nations all Member States have an obligation, arising from the international treaty they ratified, to pay a portion of the budget for the functioning of the organisation. Each State’s contribution is calculated on the basis of its share of the world economy according to an assessment formula which is reviewed on a regular basis. Once a budget is finalized all Member States review and approve the budget in the General Assembly which, since 1988, has been approved by consensus [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website].

The five largest contributors to the UN regular budget are USA ($341,4m or 22% of the total), Japan ($263,5m or 19,5%of the total), Germany ($131,9m or 9,8% of the total), France ($87,3m or 6,5% of the total) and the United Kingdom ($74,7m or 5,5% of the total.

The United Nations regular budget for 2002-2003 amounted to $2.6 billion and for 2004-2005 an amount of $3 billion has been proposed as a preliminary regular budget. [Poor Nations First to Pay Up Dues for 2003 by Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, January 2, 2003]

The payment of the contributions, both regular and voluntary, to the UN has sometimes been treated by Member States as an undue burden for membership, or as a donation for which there must be some gratitude or leverage due, despite the transparency in the process under a treaty obligation. There are many reported instances of this type of reaction. A few examples, which are not intended to be exhaustive, will be raised at this point to illustrate this.

As a result of the last review of the budgetary allocations in December 2003 Japan had to pay 19.5 percent of the UN budget although it accounts for 13 per cent of the global economy, while the United States paid only 22 percent for 30 percent of the world gross domestic product. Japan was reported to have been angry and frustrated because it does not get enough “bang for its buck” compared to other contributors to the UN budget and expected a seat on the Security Council for its higher contribution [Squeezed Japan Threatens Cuts to UN Agencies by Thalif Deen, Inter Press, January 7, 2004].

The United States withdrew from UNESCO for nearly twenty years when the Reagan administration pulled out as a result of the then director-general alleged anti-US stance because he proposed a more balanced flow in the content of news between developed and developing countries. In early January 2004 Congress approved the payment of $71 million for the United States contribution to UNESCO. It is believed that UNESCO can be used effectively to promote more pro-western values in the educational systems of Arab countries [Foreign Aid Bill to Fund Controversial UN Agencies, OneWorld US, January 27,2004].

The lead writer of a UN report on freedom and governance is reported to have said that the United States threatened to cut off funds to the UNDP to the value of $100 million because it was unhappy with sections of the report which refer to the occupation of Iraq and the activities of Israel in the Occupied Territories [US Threatens UN Agency Funds Over Report-Writer by Jonathan Wright, Reuters, December 18, 2004].

The focus on UN funding sharpens when we consider what payments are owed to the organisation by major debtor countries. The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $10 billion each year or about $1.70 for each of the world's inhabitants. Many Member States have not paid their full contributions and have cut their contributions to the UN's voluntary funds. As of November 30, 2004, Members arrears to the regular budget topped $695 million, of which the United States alone owed $530 million, which amounts to 76 percent of the regular budget [Global Policy Forum]. The other Member States who owe money in the top five include Japan, Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina.

Are There Sufficient Resources?

To place these figures in some kind of context the regular budget of the United Nations in 2005 is the same as the largest single donation by the United States in 2004 to Israel for $3 billion in mostly military assistance [Foreign Aid Bill to Fund Controversial UN Agencies”, OneWorld US, 27 January 2004]. There have been numerous proposals for alternative ways to fund the work of the United Nations. Proposals include instituting a global tax on currency transactions, while others propose environmental taxes and taxes on the arms-trade. However, Member States responsible for the highest contributions are reluctant to reform the system, fearing they would lose political leverage [Global Policy Forum].

For the cost of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent attempts to rebuild that society, calculated at $150 billion and rising each day, the United Nations could have fully funded global anti-hunger efforts for 6 years or a world-wide AIDS programme for 15 years, or ensured that every child in the world was given basic immunization for 50 years [National Priorities Project]. Certainly, that amount of money could assist numerous countries, including the countries in South East Asia affected by the Tsunami where the UN has called for some $950 million in short term-aid for the purpose of rehabilitation [Officials gather in Jakarta for tsunami aid talks, International Herald Tribune, 6 January 2005] Indeed, based on the current operations of all the work of the United Nations from regular and voluntary contributions, the amount being spent on the invasion of Iraq would operate all the United Nations programmes for at least 14 years.

Aid Relief in Focus

How does one measure the cost, in actual dollar terms, of one life whether that person is the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in Iraq or a child born in a tree during the floods in Mozambique? The loss of one is impossible to quantify, yet the rescue of the other can be measured in the cost of fuel and operation for the helicopter and personnel involved in the mission. Human rights and humanitarian action are often intertwined because if the victims do not survive the right to life or the right to food, as components of individual human rights, is meaningless. Both lives are equally valuable, no doubt, and are invaluable in dollar terms. Perhaps my inquiry is misdirected because the more appropriate question in many of these cases would be: What is the cost of not intervening? Should the cost be measured only in terms of a reaction to things gone wrong or should they be gauged by proactive measures which can prove too costly later?

We often calculate the cost of remedial action in the aftermath of one or other humanitarian intervention. Hurricane Katrina reversed the trend of the United States as an aid receiving country from the perceived view of an aid dispensing one when it received offers of aid in cash and kind valued at one billion dollars from about 100 countries and international organisations. Amongst them was Sri Lanka with a donation of $25 000 and $1 million cash offers from Bangladesh. The recent South East Asia Tsunami disaster saw an outpouring of public assistance through record public donations which have forced many governments to revise their aid packages. The British government found itself playing catch-up with public sentiment. The public donated more than 100 million pounds. According to John Pilger, in the New Statesman of 6 January 2005, both Bush and Blair increased their “first driblets of “aid” only when it became clear that people all over the world were spontaneously giving millions and a public relations problem beckoned.

The three states which provided the highest aid for South East Asian Tsunami victims were Australia ($765 million), Germany ($ 665 million) and Japan with $500 million. The United States government came in fourth with $350 million with the American public reported to have raised over $200million. The complete rebuilding of the South East Asian countries is projected at around $200 billion. Journalist John Pilger observed that the United States and Britain were giving less to the Tsunami victims than the cost of a Stealth bomber, or a week’s occupation of Iraq. The bill for George Bush’s presidential inauguration party would rebuild much of the coastline of Sri Lanka [The Other, Man-Made Tsunami by John Pilger, New Statesman, 6 January, 2005 ].

It appears that the United States is sometimes of the view that it carries the major portion of the burden without the credit for doing so. In January 2000, Senator Helms in an address to the UN Security Council argued that: “The UN lives and breathes on the hard-earned money of American taxpayers,” and he resented the “lack of gratitude” shown to the United States [Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, The Role of the United Nations in International Peace and Security, 841 at 850] The objective facts however do not sustain that view based on Gross Domestic Production (GDP). The European Union provides over 36 percent to the United Nations budgets. Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom contribute nearly as much as the United States, $910 million against the $920 of the United States. The combined GDP of these countries is 21 per cent of the world total as opposed to 30 per cent of the United States. If the formula for burden sharing at the United Nations, which we observed earlier has been voted on by consensus and reviewed regularly, is skewed, then the affected countries ought to propose another which is more equitable.

The facts cited do not support the view that the promotion and protection of human rights is as important for Member States because the practice of payments of contributions to the United Nations does not match the ambition or the rhetoric of protecting human rights. If the role of the United Nations, through the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, cannot be sustained then any other system is also doomed to failure, irrespective of what form the “new and improved” UN is going to take. No amount of diplomatic practice can rescue it either. No system for the protection of human rights can function without a minimum of resources. Compared with the resources for other concerns, the resources needed for enabling an international mechanism for the protection of human rights to function are less than minimal at 1.79 per cent of the total regular budget. Even then, the minimum is not made available for expenditure [Marc Bossuyt, International Human Rights Systems: Strengths and Weaknesses, 47 at 5]. That is a very high price to pay for human rights.

* Vinodh Jaichand is from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Compared to the verbal commitment of world leaders to human rights issues, the amount of money actually allocated to human rights within the United Nations system is pitiful. “If the role of the United Nations, through the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, cannot be sustained, then any other system is also doomed to failure, irrespective of what form the ‘new and improved’ UN is going to take,” writes Vinodh Jaichand.

Comment & analysis

Cell phones: Connections for change

Patrick Burnett


In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) SMS is being used to monitor child rights violations. In Argentina indigenous communities are using SMS to halt the bulldozers that destroy their forest livelihoods. And in the Philippines, angry activists have used SMS to hold government to account. The power of cellular technology is no longer up for debate; what remains to be discussed is how to maximize it for social good. Mobile Active Convergence, held recently in Canada, did just this.

The goal of the first ever conference on using cell phones and SMS in campaign, human rights, and political work was to “help speed the dissemination of innovative practices and technology by skill and knowledge-sharing among participants”.

What came out of the three-day event, held in Toronto, Canada between 22-25 September, went far beyond this expectation, as a diverse group of people from around the world banged their heads together, mixed their ideas and thrashed out a vision for just how far cellular technology can go in creating a better world. The end result was new ideas, the formation of a lasting network and the production of a body of knowledge available to many beyond the confines of the conference.

Organised by Green Media Toolshed ( and Aspiration (, 40-odd participants from North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia explored strategies and tactics for the use of cell phones as an organizing tool towards the end of helping civil society activists capitalize on the global wireless phone infrastructure for advocacy communications and organizing.

Key areas addressed by the conference included tactics, networking and funding. The conference produced guides on how to use SMS in organizing work, discussed organizing challenges in the South and addressed issues of language and access. (Read the full conference proceedings by visiting The conference produced a declaration on the use of mobile phones entitled “Without the people mobile tech means nothing”, which can be read at (

The stories told below were related to Pambazuka News by three participants at the conference, each of whom are using cellular technology in their work to confront power and create change.

* Bukeni, Ajedi-Ka-Child Soldier Project, DRC

“My name is Bukeni and I am from the eastern part of the DRC, South Kivu Province, Uvira. I am a director of a local NGO called Ajedi-Ka-Child Soldier Project and am also a filmmaker. I make films on child soldiers in the DRC and started working on this issue in 1998.

In my town many children were abducted by the RCD-Goma during the conflict in the DRC. There was a militia called the Mai-Mai which was recruiting children by force. At that stage I was a student in Bukavu in 1998. Parents began to send me letters asking me to advocate for information about their children.

I went to the chief commander to talk to him. It was hard to reach him but eventually I got an audience. The list of children that I got from parents contained 22 names and I showed him the list. After discussion he agreed to do what he could and we agreed to meet in a week. When I returned I had to give the bodyguards cigarettes to be able to get an audience with the commander, who provided a list of 11 children who had been found. They said they could not do anything else and warned me not to insist - they threatened they would shoot me. I asked what message I should take to the parents and they told me to tell them that I had found nothing. I sent a letter to the parents telling them what I had found out.

By that time it was Christmas holidays and some parents came to thank me when I returned home. After that I tried to contact some friends to see what could be done to advocate. But the problem was that in the villages there is still a great deal of insecurity. However, we knew relatives in these villages and so we went to them to find out from other parents who had the same problem. We met again after 10 days and in that time had collected the names of 110 names of children who had disappeared. We decided to set up an NGO. Our primary goal was to advocate for these children and to monitor abuses.

In 2 000, I established a transit centre to accommodate children being demobilised from camps. In the training camps I would find hundreds of children and would speak to the commanders to get 3,4,5, or 6 children back. Up to last year we have been able to demobilise 310 children. Primarily we are doing demobilisiation and reintegration by uniting the children with their parents. We also do advocacy to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers.

Advocating in the camps is not without risk. I have been arrested four times and beaten twice.

In 2003 I introduced the use of video as a tool of advocacy. Some parents have encouraged their children to join militia because they believe that it will help to protect them. I began to try to go into the camps to make footage and in 2003 made my first film. The quality was not good, but in 2004 I found a partner in Witness, who specialise in using videos as a tool of advocacy. The video I made had the goal of sensitising the local community to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers. Since June 2005 the video has been screened in villages and sometimes 1000 people come to watch it.

In the villages people often don’t have access to TV. They are sometimes just fascinated to see the images so we often screen it twice so that the message sinks in the second time. The video has been a huge success.

This year in May I also made a video focusing on girl soldiers. The real reason for their recruitment is sexual exploitation. I addressed it to the international community because we need international action because our courts are not effective. Last year the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said the DRC would be the first country investigated before the ICC. The video called on the ICC to take into consideration the recruitment and use of child soldiers because that is a war crime under the ICC. The video raised the necessity of prosecuting those responsible.

In our activities we also do reporting and monitoring activities on child rights. In 2000 we implemented village committees for child protection whose role is in reporting and monitoring on child rights violations. Each committee has five members and are established in each village and are known by the community. Usually when there is a situation they compile a report and send it by mail to our office, but this can take 4-5 days.

During May I got a small grant from a New York based organisation called Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. I submitted a small proposal that asked if they could provide us with cellphones so that the village could provide reports. We now have 15 committees in 22 villages. They report by cellphone and SMS about abductions and maiming, who is responsible and who the victims are.

For example in a village called Akwe, there was a girl who was shot by militia. Information was collected about who shot her and it was reported to our office. We alerted the local authorities and asked them for quick intervention to make sure that an arrest was made and an investigation done. This was all through SMS and cellphones. It was very fast. Unfortunately, the authorities could not arrest those responsible because in our area there is impunity. We collect about two reports a week, but also do verification.

I have a passion for working on this issue. I am working voluntarily. These children are our children. Let us do something to solve the problem – what we can do is advocate for a cessation of impunity and of violations of child rights and maybe then these children can build a better future for the whole nation.”

* Trixie, TXTPower, The Philippines

“We were initially a consumer advocacy group formed in 2001. This was the year that President Estrade was ousted and one of the tools that we used was SMS. It took SMS to mobilise people to go out on the streets and vent their frustration.

During that time if you were a mobile phone subscriber you received 100 free SMS messages. When companies saw how much people were texting, they looked at decreasing the amount and in August 2001 this is what they proposed. Activists felt that something had to be done.

We formed TXTPower and one of the ways in which we fought against this was through a text boycott. At that time 100 million messages were being sent a day. One text message equals one peso so that was a loss of $2m a day for the companies. Almost immediately the companies made a public announcement saying they would not remove the text allocation.

The next major thing we did was in 2003 when the country was in the middle of a financial crisis. An IMF suggestion was to tax text messages. We said that this was really not going to happen. If something is already free, how are you going to tax it?

This led on to August 2004 when we picketed congress and sent messages out saying ‘Texters Revolt! Say no to text tax!’ We got the cellphone number of the speaker of the parliament and told people to text messages to that number. We also had overseas workers join in the campaign. It became front page headlines in the newspapers in September and it forced the speaker to declare that he would not tax text messages. There are still proposals to tax messaging but we are monitoring it closely. We had some complaints from the speaker because he could not use his cellphone for some time!

Last year we extended our engagement to the May 2004 national elections where we supported progressive party list groups. Cheating and vote-buying were common place. We therefore focused our activities on monitoring and had a central area where we set up a computer to receive messages from people in the regions telling us if there were problems or vote buying. A quick reaction team would be composed of a lawyer, a human rights worker and representatives from different parties.

Our most notorious activity was a few months ago. In the elections there were allegations of cheating. There were wiretaps of the president speaking to an election official. The Department of Justice declared that anyone in possession of wiretap recordings could be arrested at any time. A few days later people made a ring tone out of the tapes and were playing it on their phones. We had the idea of loading the ring tone up onto our website. We had to consult on the legal implications, but eventually we went ahead with it. There was an overwhelming response – we had 300 000 hits on our website in two days. Others emailed us different versions of the ring tone. Sometime later the president apologised for talking to the official.

Anger motivates me. We are an angry bunch of people. The economy is bad – the government does not care about the people. The cellphone is a way for people to express how they feel. Our government hides a whole lot of truth from its people – we have a right to know the truth and advocate to get the government to act in the interests of the people. For this we have been called cyber-terrorists.

We are just a loose group of people. We have no money and no offices. It’s just a group of really angry activists.”

* Oscar, Greenpeace, Argentina

“One of the many campaigns is against forest destruction and we work very closely with indigenous people. In this area the indigenous communities are fighting for the right to their land and are facing trouble because land owners buy up land to cultivate Soya, which is 99% genetically modified. These communities have a long history of resistance to eviction and the destruction of the forests.

One of the problems we detect is that there are no landlines to stay in contact if landowners are trying to destroy homes and forest. We gave mobile phones to different leaders in the communities and are using them to get messages from people.

When we get warnings that the forest is being destroyed we go into action with motorbikes to stop the bulldozers. We blockade the bulldozers with chains and demobilise them. SMS is also used to network and for organising protests. It is a good tool for remaining in close contact with local communities because one of the problems is that the communities are remote and don’t know each other. We now have around 50 leaders with mobile phones and they represent around 10 000 people.

Sometimes the bulldozer operators transmit that we are in action and they call the police, who wait for us at the entrance to the forests. Sometimes we take videos to show the media what is happening. We also have a helicopter which we sometimes use for escape. The Plan B is that we are arrested and one person escapes with the footage in order to get it to the media. Sometimes the police are violent and don’t respect the laws.

The circumstances of these people is that they are very poor and have no access to water or energy. They live in small communities of 5-10 families inside the forest. The forest is very important to them because it is a source of water and food.

According to legislation, the indigenous people have the right to their land but the problem is that they don’t have papers to show that the property belongs to them. Actually the government is selling the land to big landowners who have 10 or 50 000 hectares of land. In some cases it is difficult to know how many hectares of land they own. Once it is sold the bulldozers build routes and then deforest the area and grow Soya. The soil is very fragile and after a few years it becomes a desert.

Soya is a big international business and one of the reasons for the recovery of the economy is the export of Soya. Indigenous people are being evicted and end up on the borders of the big cities to live in very poor areas.

We are winning the local fights. We have stopped the sale of forests in a legal way and stopped the bulldozers with strong local resistance. We are now in a deadlock – they are not going ahead but they are not surrendering. This is the situation now. But Soya expansion means money and a ‘good’ economy.”

* Patrick Burnett works for Fahamu.

* Please send comments to [email protected]
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) SMS is being used to monitor child rights violations. In Argentina indigenous communities are using SMS to halt the bulldozers that destroy their forest livelihoods. And in the Philippines, angry activists have used SMS to hold government to account. The power of cellular technology is no longer up for debate; what remains to be discussed is how to maximize it for social good. Mobile Active Convergence, held recently in Canada, did just this.

Privatisation or piratisation of our forests?

Issa G Shivji


“You have to be a genius to make a loss in a beer business,” writes Issa Shivji as he critiques the false logic behind privatization on the African continent. The first entities to face privatization were those that were most successful, he notes, with the subsequent argument for further privatization pushing the line that privatization led to a quick turnaround in the fortunes of ailing state enterprises.

The privatisation mania has gripped us like an unpreventable plague. The privatisation list is being expanded inexorably. Whether we admit it or not, and whatever the language we may use to rationalise it, the fact remains that privatisation is thrust down the throats of African governments by the BWIs (Bretton Woods Institutions) and the dominant Western powers. Even the so-called debt relief by the G8 is predicated on privatisation as one of the conditionalities. And the BWIs have a peculiar way of arguing.

The failures of privatisation are used to argue for more privatisation of more resources. The argument goes, “if you don’t privatise enough, you cannot reap its benefits”. And, of course, the success of privatisation per force calls for more privatisation. Either way, the argument is self-fulfilling.

The first rationale was that loss-making parastatals were a burden on the taxpayer. Privatisation would ensure that they were turned into efficient, tax paying enterprises. Yet, of course, the first parastatals to be privatised, like the breweries, were not loss making. You have to be a genius to make a loss in a beer business. Their “quick successes” in terms of turnover and tax revenues were used to justify other privatisations.

Obviously, no private investor would want to buy a loss making enterprise. So they have to be sold at dirt-cheap prices without liabilities and losses. Liabilities have to be taken over by the state, which means the very taxpayer who was supposed to be rescued from the loss making parastatal in the first place. Invariably, one of the first casualties of privatisation is workers, thousands of whom are made redundant. The new owners refuse to pay retrenchment benefits. The government has to do it, if at all. So the taxpayer assumes another liability while at the same time some of the tax payers fall out of the tax payers list as they join the queues of job-seekers.

No private profiteer would want to put in his capital unless he makes profit, and, not just profits, but high rates of profit. Africa today offers very high rates of return on capital, what with its rich resources and dependent governments. As Mwalimu (Julius Nyere) once said, Africa attracts only missionaries and mercenaries: missionaries to console its poor, and mercenaries to oversee its pillage.

But profit-making assumes certain minimum conditions. It is the state which has to take on the burden of creating the enabling environment for capital to make profits: build the infrastructure and supply water and electricity and telecommunications at cheap rates; control recalcitrant workers; maintain law and order and facilitate various service providers - from the entertainment industry to catering to security companies - to service the new “community of expatriates”. It is believed that Africa today has more expatriates than at the time of independence.

But then our water and electricity and telephone parastatals are not efficient. Their tariffs are high. Our markets are below standard; our meat is not hygienic and our tomatoes and onions and oranges do not meet the minimum size. So utilities too have to be denationalized, if not by outright sale, then via leasing and management contracts. Squatters have to be cleared to make way for supermarkets and expatriate villages to supply roasted meat from South Africa and cereals from Switzerland.

But it is not easy to turn around utilities into profit making ventures. Their plants and machinery are outdated. Their billing systems have lots of leakages. Since profits or commissions depend on revenue, more efficient water meters and electric meters have to be imported. Once again the state is called upon to provide enabling finance for rehabilitation. It is obliged to take loans from the World Bank and elsewhere to help the investor to import the necessary machinery. Of course, the loans have to be serviced and repaid from the taxpayer’s money – whether the existent or yet-to-be-born. While public debts mount private profits rocket, all in the name of development.

But corporate profit making has to look for new terrains constantly. From producing commodities to turning pubic goods into commodities, the corporate capital moves from manufacturing to public services, education and health and water and energy and from commoditizing land to privatising forests.

Privatisation and commercialisation of forest products is the new trend. A recent story in Tanzanian newspapers reported the deal to lease out the Longuza Teak Plantation to Kilombero Valley Teak Company (KVTC) and is only a tip of the iceberg. Forests have become important to corporate capital not only for timber resources but for bio-resources. By the same token, the implication of delivering forests to corporate capital go beyond the issues of deforestation, as corporate capital turns them into producers of raw material for their veritable workshops of genetic engineering.

Privatisation of forests and forest products has elicited a lot of resistance in Latin America and Asia and even some developed countries including Canada and the United States. The implication and effects of privatising forests are far reaching. These have been debated and discussed in other countries.

We need to learn from the experience of others and re-assess our own. Let the Longuza incidence open up a wide ranging debate on the issues of privatisation generally, but more particularly, the implications of privatising – in whatever form – one of the most important resource and heritage, our forests.

Let us not deliver our future livelihoods into the hands of corporate pirates.

©Issa Shivji. Shivji is Professor of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

* Please send comments to [email protected]
“You have to be a genius to make a loss in a beer business,” writes Issa Shivji as he critiques the false logic behind privatization on the African continent. The first entities to face privatization were those that were most successful, he notes, with the subsequent argument for further privatization pushing the line that privatization led to a quick turnaround in the fortunes of ailing state enterprises.

The "Third World" syndrome, Hurricane Katrina and human rights

Khalil Tian Shahyd


Two weeks ago in Pambazuka News 221, Mukoma Wa Ngugi expressed disappointment with the constant comparison of New Orleans to the Third World in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a compliment to that article Khalil Tian Shahyd argues that the application of human rights standards in relation to the debate over the terms ‘refugees’ and ‘internally displaced persons’ could help America deal with the crisis.

Listening to the many news reports and coverage of the disaster left by Hurricane Katrina, it is easy to get frustrated from the lack of depth of discussion. The absence of intelligent debate can be witnessed particularly around the latest hot bed issue, the use of the term, 'refugees'.

Many African-American leaders quickly responded to its use in denunciation. Charging that it devalued a people who are 'American' citizens and taxpayers to the national economy, these leaders demanded the survivors be referred to as 'victims' or simply 'survivors'. The cries from Black leadership grew so loud that President Bush himself had to clearly state in a recent interview his opinion that in fact we are citizens, not refugees.

While being trained academically in the field of International development, the word refugee is one we discussed and used very often, without negative connotation or stereotype. This personal background led me to ask the question as to whether all the fuss against the use of the term was actually motivated by a latent 'American exceptionalism' whereby 'refugee' was a label unfit for people of such high international social status as American citizens. Perhaps the term, although widely used around the world, was meant to be reserved for the 'unfortunate' global majority born in the Global South, sometimes called the Third or Developing World. If this were the case then the advocacy against use of the term can only be termed as some form of humanitarian snobbery.

However, what the discussion on the subject shows in a less evident way, is the overall lack of interaction and integration of international human rights standards, tools and methodology into the repertoire of American civil society, political leadership, media and intellectuals.

While it is hard to say which came first, what should be noted however, is the existence of a circular cause-effect relationship between the lack of involvement of US based civil society and advocates in international rights discussions, and the US refusal to sign even the most basic commitments to human rights such as the CEDAW treaty on women's rights and the Child Rights treaty among others. Our continued lack of involvement plays into the interest of US foreign policy nationalists who continue strong arm tactics at the UN to achieve the interest of a narrow fundamentalist nationalism over internationally agreed mandates. Our isolation from international discussion has left us unaware into the happenings and possibilities for change that exist at the international level.

Not once since the controversy arose have I heard anyone -whether in the media or on internet blogs - use the internationally recognized standard label and definition of 'Internally Displaced Persons'. In fact the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has an entire agency, the Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division (IAIDD), whose mission it is to:

"…coordinate an effective response to the needs of the internally displaced people worldwide." (

The IAIDD bases its work on the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights', Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. (

Although not legally binding, these principles are increasingly recognized as international standards by which all Internally Displaced People can measure and judge the effectiveness and extent of governmental response to their circumstances. This makes the principles a useful frame of analysis for advocates and defenders of the rights of the internally displaced from the Gulf Coast. As in all human rights legislation, which exists with little capacity for or assurance of implementation, the international pressure of shame is the best way to get governments who otherwise wouldn't, to implement their obligations.

A brief summary of some of the most relevant articles in the guidelines follows.

The first section covers principles 1-4 and gives a basic overview of the rights of IDPs to protection, and sets forth to identify the national government as obligated to positively enforce these rights. What this means simply is that realization of these rights requires government action, while inaction is tantamount to a denial of rights. Now perhaps it will become clear to advocates how these standards and language can be used. The section also explicitly warns against discrimination in the guarantee of these rights, and speaks to the special needs of women, children and the elderly for protection.

Section two, which covers principles 5-9 highlights, the obligation of the national government and international authorities to prevent circumstances that would require displacement. Principle 7 Article 2 states that authorities have an obligation to ensure adequate accommodation for those displaced, such that:

"…such displacements are effected in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, health and hygiene, and that members of the same family are not separated."

Further, if displacement occurs in an emergency as is the case in the Gulf Coast, the authorities are responsible to ensure all people full disclosure of information as to where they will be relocated and about the extent of compensation. We have all heard and read accounts of people forced to board busses with no prior knowledge of where they are going and not being allowed to leave after finding out.

Principle 9 outlines the special obligations states have to minority groups and indigenous people who hold 'special' dependency to their native land base. The uniqueness of New Orleans' Afro-Creole culture, nurtured by the streets and climate of the city, can meet the status of 'special' dependency.

Section 3 deals extensively with the obligations of authorities to protect those displaced from violence and harm. Although primarily written with the context of a war situation in mind, it is easily transferable to the context found in the Gulf, particularly New Orleans, where the lack of response and deficit of organized community institutions opened an opportunity for the breakdown of civility in some cases. Principle 16 in this section proclaims the right of IDPs to know the whereabouts of family and obligates authorities to gathering and relaying this information. It appears through news reports that this is one area of some success so far, within obvious limits.

Again, principle 17 declares the obligation of authorities to reunite separated families, which from what I can tell from news reports is happening fairly consistently.

Principle 18 regards the rights of IDPs to adequate standards of living, food, water, clothing and shelter, medicines and sanitation. All these completely broke down for about six days into the aftermath. Attached to this principle is the special emphasis on the involvement of women in the planning and distribution of these basic needs, which makes sense being that it is women who are overwhelmingly responsible for meeting these needs for families. The positive psychological effect of having control over redistribution could be important as well.

Further principles deal with rights to education, and possessions.

Section 5, the final section, deals explicitly with the rights to return, and the conditions upon return to their homes. It sets forth the obligations of authorities to create the conditions that will be necessary for this return, which has been proposed in some instances. Principle 28 Article 2 states clearly that:

"Special efforts should be made to ensure the full participation of internally displaced persons in the planning and management of their return or resettlement and reintegration."

This statement I feel marks the major battle to be fought in the coming months and years as the business elites, real estate developers and local chambers of commerce will move to solidify their advantage within the redevelopment process. This section also calls on the authorities to commit to full compensation for those returning or those choosing to resettle in another area.

I hope this outline of the International Human Rights Standards on IDPs might deepen the stagnant debate and ranting over the right legal definition for the people of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. It could in fact be that the reluctance of the administration to use the term is precisely for fear of being bound or called into account based on these very standards. How and if they are to be used in the debates to come will need to be decided by civil society and supporters in the Gulf region. What I hope will be gained from this is that people will realize the possibility and existence of rights beyond the narrow base upon which American constitutional rights are based.

I hope I have been able to contribute to making advocates aware of tools they may not otherwise have thought to consider.

* Khalil Tian Shahyd is from New Orleans, a community activist and graduate student of Sustainable International Development with a focus on Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Community Development in the Lower Mississippi Basin Region. He is currently in New Delhi with the UNDP working on state-level Human Development Reports. He plans to return to New Orleans and organize an HDR on the Lower Mississippi Basin region. He can be reached at: [email protected]

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Two weeks ago in Pambazuka News 221, Mukoma Wa Ngugi expressed disappointment with the constant comparison of New Orleans to the Third World in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a compliment to that article Khalil Tian Shahyd argues that the application of human rights standards in relation to the debate over the terms ‘refugees’ and ‘internally displaced persons’ could help America deal with the crisis.

Advocacy & campaigns

24 hours of global feminist action


On October 17, organize World March of Women actions where you live! Last December the World March of Women adopted a Women's Global Charter for Humanity which describes the world that we as women want to build, based on five key values: freedom, equality, solidarity, justice and peace. (You will find the Charter at: Since March 8 of this year, the Charter has traveled around the world, and women have organized actions to raise awareness of its content, challenge decision-makers in their countries, organize debates and support their daily campaigns. During this World Relay, a solidarity patchwork quilt was constructed with a cloth square from each country. You can see this quilt and monitor the Relay 's progress by logging on to a new 2005 section of the World March of Women web site:

Action for Haiti


September 30 is International Day of Solidarity with Haiti. The September 30th Foundation calls on people to mark the day by:
1. Make September 30, 2005 an international day of solidarity with the Haitian people.
2. Organize activities in the major cities of the world on Friday, September 30, 2005, denouncing the dictatorship and the repression in Haiti.
3. Denounce and condemn the dictatorship and the US/UN repression in Haiti.
4. Put in place an International Coalition to work for the return of democracy in Haiti, and for the return of the President elected by the people.
5. Establish a fund, administered by the September 30th Foundation, to support the victims of the repression in Haiti.

Africa: International Day for Older Persons


This year, the International Day of Older Persons (October 1st) comes at a time when a lot has been achieved for and by older people in Africa. Older people have asked to be recognised as effective agents of change and contributors to the aims and aspiration of Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, if the poorest of the poor, including older people, are not targeted for assistance in the quest to halve poverty by 2015, the MDGs may not be achieved.

Global: Mass lobby for trade justice


National campaigns and coalitions in Senegal, Australia, the UK, India, Germany, Ireland, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other countries are mobilising to lobby their ministers and parliamentarians ahead of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong this December. Plans include a European lobby in Brussels, and mobilisations at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina and at the WTO General Council meeting in Geneva.

Pan-African Postcard

Remembering a spirit of struggle

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


September was a bad month for Nigeria. First Chima Ubani, 42, director of the country's premier human rights NGO, the Civil Liberties Organisation, died in a car crash. Then, veteran activist Dr Yusuf Bala Usman died on September 24. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem remembers the lives of two extraordinary activists and calls for their spirit of struggle to be remembered.

The past week has not been a good one for the endangered species of committed progressive people in Nigeria. In the middle of the week there was the tragic death, by yet another road accident, of Comrade Chima Ubani,42, director of the country's premier human rights NGO, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), a foremost defender of the poor, and a shining star for consistency and total commitment to the struggle for the liberation of the ordinary people in the face of the successive autocratic military regimes of the 80s and 90s in Nigeria and the creeping elective dictatorship of Obasanjo since 1999.

Ubani died in an accident between Maiduguri and Kano in the north-east part of the country, where he had been part of the key leaders of civil society and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) mobilizing support for a successful series of national strikes across the country against yet another increase in the price of petroleum products. His body was returned to Lagos on Saturday.

That same day (Saturday 24 September, 2005) yet another tragedy struck at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, with the death of a senior comrade, veteran struggle activist, radical historian and organic intellectual in the tradition of Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral: Dr Yusuf Bala Usman.

Many people outside of Nigeria may not have known him personally but more would have become aware of him by reputation and remember and mourn the sad loss. It was an inconsolable weekend. For my generation of student activists Bala Usman was the icon of our times whose radical scholarship and political activism caused us to ask very uncomfortable questions about the kind of knowledge we were being taught and the society we were living in.
The 70s and 80s were full of epic battles and the cold war was at its peak. In Africa, the liberation of Southern Africa, including the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau on the West coast, Zimbabwe and South Africa from settler regime and apartheid were prominent on the agenda.

The struggle against neo-colonialism was also intense and anti imperialist struggles were being waged across the underdeveloped world from Africa through Asia to the Middle East and Latin America. These were days before donor-driven formalized struggles that have today turned many revolutionaries into ‘resolutionaries’. They were periods when imperialism was called its proper name and not disguised under euphemisms like globalisation, friends or partners!

Bala and his peers of equally committed scholar-activists from across the continent who were teaching in various universities in Nigeria in those oil boom days opened our eyes and ears to the world around us and inspired us to believe that we can change it for the better.

There were many radical scholars, some of them exiles and refugees from the Idi Amin and Obote 2 regimes in Uganda, including Prof Yolamu Barongo, the indomitable Okot a P'itek and Ocello Oculi. There were others like Yusf Bangura, AB Zack Williams and others. There were radical scholars from the Diaspora too like Dr Patrick Wilmot who was later deported from Nigeria by the Babangida regime. People Like Ali Mazrui were regular guest lecturers on Nigeria's campuses, trailing one controversy or the other. By no means were all the radical lecturers only Africans or people from the Diaspora.

The high point of this was the Centenary of Marx conference held at Ahmadu Bello University in 1983. Some of the sectarian political and intellectual battles that were to decimate the left forces can be traced to this period. Bala was very prominent in these debates and enjoyed for many years the status of first among equals. He was born into the royal house of Katsina in northern Nigeria and did not have to do anything to survive. He could just have demanded and be given anything he wanted by way of personal pleasures and riches by virtue of being a royal and growing up at a time when the Emirs held sway.

Bala could have combined his royal spoon with his academic erudition and choosen to be part of any government or ruling clique across the country and feed fat on the sweat and blood of the people of Nigeria. But Bala chose to side with the masses. He became a traitor to his class. He committed class suicide and remained a revolutionary throughout his life. He could have checked out of the country like many of us (some voluntarily, some of us stranded, and others through coercion or for tactical /strategic reasons) but he did not. He believed that he was best able to contribute directly from the home front.

Whatever political or intellectual disagreements anyone may have developed with Usman in a life steeped in struggles on many fronts, even his worst critics will pay him the tribute of saying he remained true to his convictions.

Nigeria is indeed made more impoverished both intellectually and politically now that the loud and very clear and thunderous voice of Bala will no longer be there to speak unpleasant truths to power in a potentially great country damned by successive little-minded leaders impervious to any knowledge that could go beyond their noses.

It is perhaps befitting to a life of struggle that Bala's last public duty that many will remember for its high drama was at a conference last month called by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on corruption. Bala was one of the participants. President Obasanjo was the chief guest and he addressed the audience with his usual monologue and holier-than-thou pomposity.

At intervention time Bala was on the floor and he, as was characteristic of his fearless and fierce intellect took on Baba Iyabo (Father of Iyabo, as Obasanjo is also known in Nigeria) and tore into the empty shrines of his timid anti-corruption crusade and leader-centric governance. As we all know, Obasanjo is such a big 'democrat' that he cannot understand or continence anyone disagreeing with him.

He ordered his security goons to seize the microphone from Bala. Somehow the security heavies could not find the over 6 feet tall Bala who was standing with a microphone in a hall full of all the high and mighty in Nigeria. The conclusion of many was that even the security guys were sympathetic to Bala's lampooning of President-Know-All.

That was Bala Usman: Bold, full of guts and fearless before those who think of themselves as our lords and masters. Of course the hypocrisy of conspicuous grief after death of a public figure is already suffocating the country. The President was one of the first to send condolences on the two departed comrades declaring one “a brilliant young activist” and the other “a statesman”. It is customary to pray for the departed: May the spirit of Bala and Chima remain restless and continue to haunt us to continue the struggle for which they lived and died actively serving.

* Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is General-Secretary of the Pan African Movement, Kampala (Uganda) and Co-Director of Justice Africa. ([email protected] or [email protected])

* Please send comments to [email protected]
September was a bad month for Nigeria. First Chima Ubani, 42, director of the country's premier human rights NGO, the Civil Liberties Organisation, died in a car crash. Then, veteran activist Dr Yusuf Bala Usman died on September 24. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem remembers the lives of two extraordinary activists and calls for their spirit of struggle to be remembered.

Books & arts

Africa: Genocide in Central Africa (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda) with a focus on the International Criminal Court in the DRC


Please find below details of a new publication:
Title: Genocide in the African Great Lakes States. Challenges for the International Criminal Court in the Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Author: Kalere, Jean Migabo
Source: International Criminal Law Review, Volume 5, Number 3, September 2005, pp. 463-484(22)
Publisher: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers

South Africa: 9th Poetry Africa: International Poetry Festival

Durban: 10 - 15 October 2005


The 9th Poetry Africa International Poetry Festival hosted by the University of Kwa- Zulu Natal's Centre for Creative Arts takes place in Durban from 10 - 15 October 2005. Thirty poets from fifteen different countries will descend on Durban for a groundbreaking experience of words and rhythms. The participants represent a diversity of poetic styles ranging from the lyrical genius of Lemn Sissay (UK) to the 2005 Daimler-Chrysler Award-winner for South African Poetry, Gabeba Baderoon. Fellow Daimler-Chrysler Award nominee and editor of Timbila, Vonani Bila is included in the South African line-up of poets, together with Sunday Independent Arts Editor, Robert Greigand former editor of New Coin, Joan Meterlekamp.

Towards a New Map of Africa

Edited by Ben Wisner, Camilla Toulmin and Rutendo Chitiga


This ground-breaking book with a foreword by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN human rights commissioner, uniquely distils the complex issues surrounding Africa as it enters the 21st century. A substantial introductory essay by the editors measures the distance Africa has travelled and the lessons it has learned since Africa in Crisis, the classic Earthscan book, was published in 1985.

Zimbabwe: Skinning the Skunk

Mai Palmberg and Ranka Primorac (Eds)


Skinning the Skunk refers to a saying in Shona, kuvhiya kadembo. The Zimbabwean writer Stanley Nyamfukudza uses it here to illustrate how important problems, like the legacy of violence, are avoided in Zimbabwean public discussion. Terence Ranger writes on the new policy of rewriting the history of Zimbabwe, in the name of "patriotic history", through which the Zanu-PF government tries to assert hegemony and achieve "a total change of the mindset". To talk about Zimbabwe today also means to talk of the large diaspora. Beacon Mbiba presents a study on what is colloquially called "Harare North", that is London (and the rest of the UK).

Letters & Opinions


Aso Balan


To all at Pambazuka - most definitely well deserved for winning the non-profit category of the sixth annual Highway Africa awards.

Walking the Talk -Global Call to Action against Poverty

Zukiswa Wanner


Bantubonke Biko once said, "it is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” In the noughties/zeroes/post-nineties  I believe the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) is that idea. It is what the Anti-Apartheid Movement was to the eighties. While no-one is calling on anyone to die (since enough people are dying because of poverty anyway), the Call is certainly an idea that should bring all global citizens, across the economic barriers, to action. While there is no doubt that GCAP is a brilliant idea, there definitely have been some questions on whether GCAP as a campaign should continue.
Like all great revolutions in recent memory, GCAP is an idea that was articulated by the middle class. Using the very minimalist Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), GCAP activists have pushed so that the upper classes, as personified by the global political and economic leaders, can make the end of poverty a reality. However, GCAP is in danger of becoming just another cool thing for the middle class symbolized by the very cool-looking white band unless and until we get the lower classes and the people affected on a day to day basis by poverty involved. The poor people, do, after all, constitute the majority of the world’s population.
It is true that coalitions in countries such as Bangladesh and Kenya have managed to take the MDGs to the people but much more needs to be done globally. Again to give comparison to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, being an anti-apartheid activist at that time meant death, jail time, or constant watch by the Special Branch and therefore a sacrifice of one’s self or freedom if one was in South Africa. To those that were elsewhere it meant being in constant danger of receiving a parcel bomb and boycotting the very tasteful South African wine (and other South African goods)  in order to bring the South African economy to heel. It was the combined actions in South Africa and abroad together that managed to bring about the end of apartheid. Somehow I do not see the same sacrifices being made by GCAP activists and yet I feel that, if GCAP is to be successful and to continue, we need to do the same. It is true that many of us have participated in marches globally but when one marches and places their feet in a  foot spa at the end of the march, they cannot really relate to a woman who has to walk ten miles back and forth to fetch water daily and feed her family. 
Granted we live in a different world than the one that existed two decades ago yet it seems that much more was done then and more needs to be done now. We need to sensitise ourselves to poverty through working with the poor and thereafter we can better appreciate this very noble cause that we claim to be working for. For instance my comrades in the north can volunteer an hour at the soup kitchens or be a mentor to some child in a children’s home while we in the south can take time to volunteer with the ground organisations in the tents of Manila, the favelas of Sao Paolo, or the mkhukhus of South Africa. That way, when we tell Bretton Woods institutes to cancel the debt, when we tell them that 1.2 billion people are living on less than a dollar a day, we will be saying it with conviction because we would have walked the talk. An additional bonus is that we will no longer be talking for the poor people. They will be able to talk for themselves when they have been politicized to their poverty. As it is, while we sleep in five-star hotels and ask for an increase in aid on their behalf – they have absolutely no idea what the MDGs are and probably could not care because nobody has cared to communicate with them and show them their importance to the cause.
It is up to us, we who are living in these times to become that great generation that is revolutionary enough to ensure that the Global Call to Action against Poverty becomes, “an idea that will live." Together, across the economic barriers, we can!

Where's the French edition?

Claudy Vouhé


Hello, I work on gender, Pambazuka News is great for me as a speaker of English, but we are very short of information in French on gender. We have created a Francophone network ( to try and remedy this. Could you say something about it in your newsletter/site?

Pambazuka News replies: Thanks for your email. Readers of Pambazuka News - especially French readers - will be pleased to know that we have plans for a French edition of the newsletter in the near future. Watch Pambazuka News for details in the coming weeks.

Women & gender

Global: Women's take on UN Summit


After months of pressuring governments on women's rights, advocates from around the world have achieved some gains on gender equality in the World Summit outcome document, despite the lack of meaningful action on the total package under debate. However, women's groups have been dismayed by a shameful lack of political will on the part of governments to tackle poverty, foster peace, and ensure human rights. The grand bargain envisioned for the World Summit has failed. This bargain called for a serious commitment to trade reform, debt relief and financial resources for development in exchange for a Human Rights Council, Peace-building Commission, and UN management reform. Instead, countries deferred these issues to the General Assembly, where the same political divisions prevail.

Mauritania: Mauritania union doubles number of female members


The General Confederation of Worker's in Mauritania (CGTM) has increased its female membership from 15 to 30% through a massive recruitment of women in the informal sector. 'The aim [of recruiting informal workers] is not only to ensure an improvement in the working conditions of these women but also in their living conditions, which will benefit their families too,' says Abdallahi Ould Mohamed, CGTM General Secretary. 'The women flooded to our union because they were carried by the hope of an improvement - however small - in their extremely difficult conditions.

Sudan: Women define the development agenda for the new Sudan


A new publication shows how Sudanese women, in their diversity and spirit of unity, are defining the critical development agenda for the country in the coming decade. "Towards Achieving the MDGs in Sudan: Centrality of Women's Leadership and Gender Equality" endeavors to provide a permanent record of some of the historic actions by Sudanese women on the agenda for peace and development, within the spirit of global partnership.

Swaziland: Poverty-stricken AIDS widows pin hopes on new constitution


A new association of widows in Swaziland hopes to raise greater awareness of the plight of women who have lost their husbands to AIDS. "We grow in numbers daily - the epidemic is creating a nation of widows," said Lindiwe Vilakati, a member of Litsemba Lebafelokati (SiSwati for "Hope of the Widows") Association. "In a sense, we are the worst sufferers of AIDS," said the chairwoman, Nonhlanhla Nene. "The main activity of our association thus far has been the burial of our members." Sandwiched between its giant neighbours, South Africa and Mozambique, the small kingdom of Swaziland has the world's worst HIV/AIDS rate, with close to 40 percent of adults infected. Widows who do not succumb to AIDS contracted from their husbands often live out their lives in dire poverty.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe gets wife-battering official off hook


Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had wife- battering charges against his spokesman George Charamba thrown out to avoid damaging his office's reputation, it has emerged. Government officials said Mugabe's office covered up charges that Charamba had allegedly assaulted his wife, Rudo, during a row over a missing gun on February 24 last year. The incident allegedly took place at the couple's Mandara home in Harare. Charamba is said to have a black belt in karate. The officials said the case was dropped against the will of police commissioner Augustine Chihuri after Mugabe intervened.

Human rights

Global: Countries should push for treaty's worldwide adoption and ratification


The adoption of an international treaty against forced disappearances at the United Nations is a great step forward in the fight against this crime, said Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. The four human rights organizations called on all U.N. member states to ensure that the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is quickly adopted by consensus in the U.N. General Assembly. All countries should ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

Global: Poverty and human rights


The first millenium development goal - to halve global poverty by 2015 - has become an unlikely prospect. If poverty is to be significantly reduced, its terms of definition, measurement, explanation and resolution need to be re-examined and reformulated. The new human rights instruments need to play a vital role in this process. They can have a huge impact on the measurement of poverty, deprivation, exclusion, and development.

Uganda: Make torture the crime it is


The 2004 Uganda Human Rights Commission report is out and its major recommendation is that torture should be criminalised. According to the report, torture in the country is very serious and is not even declining significantly. While calling upon the state to ensure that all acts of torture falls under criminal law, the report also urges that they should be punished by appropriate penalties. Operatives of security agencies are viewed as major offenders in this regard.

Uganda: Rights watchdog accuses army of abuses


Ugandan army soldiers fighting a 19-year insurgency by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the north of the country torture civilians as a method of enforcing discipline and extracting information from suspected criminals during interrogations, the Ugandan government human rights watchdog has said. "In 2004, the commission received 108 complaints alleging torture by soldiers of the UPDF [Uganda People's Defence Forces, the national army]," the Uganda Human Rights Commission said in its annual report for 2004, released on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe: International Peace Day demonstration


On International Peace Day, Wednesday September 21, the feisty protest group, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), staged a peaceful demonstration in Harare, demanding "Peace not Poverty". Until the riot police intervened with batons it was an entirely peaceful, orderly and good-natured protest. A short distance from Town House the protesters were intercepted by baton-wielding riot police who lashed out at them without mercy. Most of them managed to escape arrest on this occasion, though not to avoid bruises and cuts from the police batons. It is believed however than three of their number were detained by the police. Human rights lawyers are seeking to establish the whereabouts of the three and the nature of any charges brought against them, but at the time of filing this report the lawyers had not been able to make contact with them.

Refugees & forced migration

Africa: Scaling the Fences


Some 100 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa made it Tuesday over the high fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the southern coast of the Mediterranean sea, while another 400 were kept out by the Civil Guard. The storming of the border occurred just a few hours before the media in Spain aired a video filmed by the children's rights organisation PRODEIN, which shows Civil Guard agents in riot gear violently repelling a similar concerted attempt by migrants on September 20.

Angola: Fourth phase of repatriation from Congo Brazzaville postponed


The fourth and last phase of repatriation of Angolan refugees in Congo Brazzaville, that was to start on the 26th of September, has been postponed, due to technical reasons, a source with the Social Welfare Ministry (MINARS), announced. A MINARS press note delivered to Angop says that 112 Angolan citizens coming from that African country were expected today at Cabinda's Massaby border station. The organised repatriation of about 3.000 Angolan refugees living in Congo Brazzaville started in the middle of this year, in an operation that has already repatriated 286 national citizens, most of whom born in northern Cabinda province.

Rwanda: Evictees cry foul


Thousands of people evicted from Gishwati forest and relocated to Gaseke district in Gisenyi province are seriously in need of a hospital and health centres to improve on the looming health crisis. "The government gave us houses and plots for farming, but we are facing a great problem concerning lack of a hospitals," a resident claimed. The residents say contagious air and waterborne diseases are now common due to lack of appropriate health services. Residents also lack schools for their children, since those available are not enough for hundreds of children in the communal settlement.

South Africa: UNHCR helps South Africa tackle huge asylum backlog


The UN refugee agency has been conducting training sessions for state officials hired as part of the South African government's drive to improve its capacity to tackle the huge backlog of asylum seekers. Although the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), which determines who is a refugee using criteria agreed by UNHCR, has been processing more asylum cases in recent months, this increase has been outstripped by the number of new applications, which totalled 32,558 in 2004. By the start of this year, the number of pending cases had climbed to some 115,000. The record number of pending asylum applications - far in excess of what the DHA staff could handle - prompted the government to launch a strategy that included dramatically improving its ability to tackle the backlog. UNHCR is providing training, advice and materials to support this effort to raise the capacity both of staff and their equipment.

Uganda: More internally displaced people identified in the North


Fighting in northern Uganda has displaced just over 41,000 people in one district alone in the past year, according to an IOM-Danish survey just finished. Attacks by the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) on refugee settlements and villages in Adjumani district which adjoins the more conflict affected region in Northern Uganda, have become more frequent over the past 18 months and has led to a permanent insecure living environment. However, the exact number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Adjumani district has been unclear as has a true picture of the humanitarian situation there.

Elections & governance

Burundi: Electoral process ends with local poll


Burundi's electoral process for 2005 ended on Friday with elections for local heads of villages. The country's electoral calendar began in February with a referendum on the post-transition constitution during which an overwhelming majority voted for the draft document. The head of the National Electoral Commission, Paul Ngarambe, said voters went to polling stations countrywide on Friday to elect 14,560 local leaders out of 44,724 candidates who were all contesting as independent candidates. The voting marked the first village-level elections in the country's history.

Egypt: First multiparty elections


Egypt's first multiparty elections early this month did not yield any surprises as incumbent President Hosni Mubarak retained his position. Despite being declared far from free and fair, the poll was still described as a step forward for a country where opposition candidates have never been given room to operate. “There are violations but in comparison to before, it's much better than we expected,” said Gasser Abdel Razeq, of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights and a vocal government critic. At different polling stations, Mubarak supporters were seen standing over voters as they cast their ballots, while at one polling station, the only person in charge was a party representative sporting a Mubarak button.

Ethiopia: Main opposition coalition merges to form party


The four parties that make up Ethiopia's largest opposition alliance, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) have merged to form one party, an official of the coalition said last Thursday. The All Ethiopia Unity Party, the Union of Ethiopia Democracy Party, Rainbow Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Democratic League announced their unification on Saturday. It elected Hailu Shawel to continue as chairperson of the new party and Birtukan Mideksa to serve as vice-chair.

Somaliland: Worthy try in Somaliland


One of Africa's unrecognised countries, Somaliland, held parliamentary elections at the end of September - it's third since it seceded from Somalia and declared independence in 1991. The major setback for the otherwise peaceful state has been lack of international recognition, which has been reserved for fear it might trigger instability in the region. “Please give us credit for being disciplined, self-administering people. It is unfair to keep us away from the world until the warlords in Somalia agree on something. Bringing back Somaliland to former Somalia is like attempting to bring back the former Soviet Union,” said Awil Ali Duale, the finance minister.

Tanzania: Zanzibar electoral body says voter lists are faulty


At least 700 people have registered more than once to vote in Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, the head of the local electoral body said on Tuesday. "More names are likely to be discovered," Masauni Yussuf, the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission, said in the statement. "We are still going on with the verification exercise.". On 30 October, Tanzanians are to elect a new national president, parliament and ward councillors. Voters in Zanzibar and the neighbouring island Pemba will also choose a local president and parliament.

Zimbabwe: MDC to contest senate elections


The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will take part in the Senate polls due to be held before the end of the year, The Standard can reveal. Professor Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary-general told The Standard that there were differences between circumstances leading to the Senate elections and the 31 March Parliamentary elections. "There are fundamental differences between the March Parliamentary elections and the position we are in right now. It is very clear that the national council lifted the suspension on election participation and that position has not changed. The operative resolution of the council is that we are in the elections," Ncube said.


Liberia: Corruption watchdog group challenges Bryant


A local consortium of pro-democracy and human rights organizations, under the aegis of Coalition Against Corruption (CAC), has challenged the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, Charles G. Bryant, to face Liberia’s corruption pandemic squarely by inaugurating domestic mechanisms. In a letter to Chairman Bryant, CAC said: “We want to encourage you to go beyond this courageous act, by ensuring that the needed domestic anti-corruption mechanisms are put into place: a National Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office, a Law on Access to Public Information and a Special Anti-corruption Law, making corrupt practices in the public and private sectors felonious.”

Malawi: US cash injection to fight corruption


The US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Malawi government have announced the launch of a US $20.92 million programme aimed at fighting corruption and spurring long-term economic growth and development in the southern African country. MCC vice-president Charles Sethness and Malawi's finance minister, Goodall Gondwe, announced the signing of a Threshold Country Plan (TCP) in Washington on 23 September, according to a US government press release. The MCC, a US government corporation launched last year to work with some of the poorest countries in the world, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments that promote economic growth and eliminate extreme poverty.

Mozambique: Rights groups dismayed by dismissal of corruption fighter


The surprise axing of the head of Mozambique's Anti-Corruption Unit, Isabel Rupia, has been sharply criticised by human rights groups as undermining the government's anti-graft message. "We need to know the reason why Isabel Rupia was removed - it is people's right to know. When they don't know, then it leads to speculation," said Carimo Abdul of the anti-corruption NGO, Etica Mozambique. Government officials were unavailable for comment. Rupia's agency was wound up last week and replaced by a new Central Office for Combating Corruption (GCCC). But while that move was expected - the unit was a stopgap measure - her removal was not. Rupia's assistant, Rafael Sebastião, has been made chief of the GCCC.

Nigeria: Fraud cases rise in banks


Frauds and forgeries in banks between April and June 2005, rose sharply by 48 per cent or 107 cases to 329 cases compared to 222 cases recorded in the preceding quarter. Vice Chairman/Chief Executive of Intercontinental Bank Plc Dr Erastus Akingbola citing reports from the Financial Institutions Training Centre (FITC) said the amount involved went up by 25.6 per cent, from N1.15 billion to N1.47 billion.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwean oil firm staff stole for black market


Seventeen employees of Zimbabwe's state-run oil procurement company have been suspended following investigations into the theft of tens of thousands of litres of fuel, the Sunday Mail has reported. The state-run newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, said 38 000 litres of petrol and diesel had disappeared on one day recently and that millions of litres could have been stolen since the beginning of the year. The oil depot has had to cancel night shifts in an attempt to prevent theft. The stolen fuel had supplied the black market, where it sold for prices way above those set by the government, the newspaper said. It had also been smuggled into neighbouring countries


Global/Africa: EU Urged to Halt Regional Agreements


As European Union trade chief Peter Mandelson prepares to kick off a new phase of trade negotiations in the Caribbean this week, trade groups are asking the bloc to shelve regional agreements in order to avoid a "development disaster". The Britain-based Traidcraft and the Kenya-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) EcoNews Africa say the bloc's current proposals would require developing countries to open up their markets rapidly to European corporations, threatening jobs, industries, government revenues and public services in some of the poorest countries in the world. Both organisations are members of a 'Stop EPA' campaign launched in October last year.

Global: Food relief ‘not cost-effective’


Sending aid in the form of food is generally a very inefficient way of providing international assistance, a study has found. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found it costs on average 30% more than providing money to buy food. This can be done either locally or in an appropriate third country. The USA and EU produce more food than their citizens need. In Africa, meanwhile, children are starving. Using the surpluses to feed the hungry seems simple good sense. But this study reveals direct food transfers as slow, cumbersome and expensive - an inefficient way of getting the right food to the right place at the right time.

Global: Human Development Report 2005: International cooperation at a crossroads – aid, trade and security in an unequal world


Will the MDG targets be met if current development trends continue? Not according to the 2005 Human Development Report (HDR), which cites inequality as the issue of prime concern in the fight against poverty. The report argues that economic development alone will fail to produce sustained poverty reduction. The focus needs to be redirected towards improving equality - narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, men and women and eliminating regional disparities.

Global: Is aid working for the poor?


While development aid is often vital for combating poverty, is it really being invested in local communities to change the circumstances of the poor? OneWorld concludes this month's "IN-DEPTH" series from its new treeless magazine, Perspectives, which
offers more background and context on the issue, viewpoints from non-profit organizations, and ways for individuals to get involved.

Global: Partnerships for poverty reduction - rethinking conditionality


This paper seeks to show how donors from the UK can support policy leadership in developing countries without imposing their own views. The contention is that, when donors and developing country governments agree on the purpose of the aid, both parties will have a shared understanding of how aid will help reduce poverty, and how they can be held publicly accountable for delivering on their commitments.

Global: Reducing poverty by tackling social welfare


This paper produced by DFID argues that social exclusion deprives people of choices and opportunities to escape from poverty and denies them a voice to claim their rights. This policy paper describes how DFID intends to build upon the work it has undertaken tackling social exclusion in Latin America and Asia, and ways it can enhance the work it has recently begun in Africa. The paper looks at the challenges posed by social exclusion, and the ways governments, civil society and donors can help to tackle them.

Global: The big letdown - UN summit shortchanges the poor


The events that took place at the UN during the weeks leading up to the UN World Summit in New York were a disgrace - an ugly diplomatic spectacle. The majority of Member States saw their carefully drafted 'Outcome Document' blow up before their eyes, and the entire process of delicate inter-governmental negotiations was held hostage to a small minority pulling in opposite directions. After juggling around with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are literally a life or death matter for hundreds of millions of people living in extreme poverty, we have now landed up with an insipid declaration that is long on generalities and short on actions.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Have pharmaceutical companies come to party in Africa?


Bowing to huge international pressure, major pharmaceutical companies have made significant efforts to make their patented antiretroviral drugs available in Africa while ensuring that they – not generic manufacturers – maintain market control in the continent. Globally, the ARV market accounts for less than 3% of pharmaceutical sales worldwide and Africa’s portion of this has been negligible. However, with the World Health Organisation’s campaign to get three million people on ARV treatment by the end of this year (the 3-by-5 campaign), there has been a scramble to ensure improved supplies. The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has also made cash available for some of the continent’s poorest nations to buy ARV drugs.

DRC: Anti-polio drive overcomes logistics hitch


A polio vaccination campaign in remote areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which was initially to start on 24 September, finally got underway on Tuesday after the project overcame logistical problems. The administrator of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) vaccination project, Dr John Agbor, said the three-day campaign was aimed at some 10 million aged under five years in six provinces in the northern and southern parts of the country.

Global: Missing the target: Why efforts to meet health and development goals fail the poorest


Who are the very poor and is health policy in developing countries leaving them behind? What strategies are there for reaching the very poor within the health sector and what are the challenges? Can strategies outside the health sector work better? "Meeting the health-related needs of the very poor", a new dossier from the HRC/Eldis Health Systems Resource Guide addresses these key questions by bringing together the perspectives of health policy, social protection, and poverty reduction.

Global: Research and development: Reproductive health needs of developing countries


This paper examines the role of public and private sectors in the development of contraception and other pharmaceutical products. It also explores the obstacles to availability of these products in developing countries, as well as further research needs. The paper finds that, despite growing private sector involvement, the public sector is the main supplier of contraception in developing countries. Funding from bilateral agencies and foundations to public sector Research and Development (R&D) programmes has resulted in expansion of contraceptive choice for developing countries. With the exception of China, Brazil and India, there has been little R&D of products for reproductive health (RH) in developing countries.

South Africa: Treating severe malnutrition: implementing clinical guidelines in South African hospitals


According to the World Health Organisation malnutrition is associated with about 60 percent of deaths in children under five years old in the developing world. The WHO has developed guidelines to improve the quality of hospital care for malnourished children in order to reduce deaths. The guidelines suggest ten steps for routine management of severe malnourishment. These will require most hospitals to make substantial changes.

South Africa: Vavi and Manto square off


Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi fired a broadside at Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and President Thabo Mbeki at the weekend, accusing them of failing to provide leadership in the fight against HIV. The minister's spokesperson has in turn accused Vavi of being irresponsible and ignorant. Follow the link to read the full speech given by Vavi to the Treatment Action Campaign Congress.

West Africa: Cholera death toll in West Africa tops 800


At least 800 people have been killed in a cholera epidemic which has struck nearly 50,000 in West Africa, many since mid-year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday. Outbreaks of the water-borne disease were triggered by a particularly heavy rainy season, compounded by increased population movements, according to Claire-Lise Chaignat, WHO's global cholera coordinator.

Zimbabwe: Doctor pay hikes worth three loaves


Zimbabwean doctors, who routinely strike for more pay, are bitter that President Robert Mugabe's government has awarded them paltry monthly salary increases equivalent to the price of three loaves of low-quality bread. The Hospitals Doctors Association (HDA) said it was now consulting its membership with a view to staging more industrial action.


Africa: US$200 million pledged for African universities


Six major US foundations have pledged US$200 million to strengthen higher education institutions in seven African countries. The money will be spent over the next five years in Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. Part of the initiative is an effort to dramatically increase access to the Internet in universities there. The commitment signals the re-launch of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, set up in 2000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ford, MacArthur, and Rockefeller Foundations.

Burundi: Free schooling starts with huge logistical problems


Teachers and administrators of Burundi's primary schools faced logistical problems on Monday as hundreds of thousands of primary school students lined up to enroll for the first time for the 2005-2006 school year which the president promised would now be free. "We will not be able to cope with the increases," Donat Hatungimana, a primary school teacher in the capital, Bujumbura, said. The ministry projects that some 2,400 extra teachers and 2,400 new class rooms will be needed.

Global: Improving Impacts of Research Partnerships


Based on analyses of case studies, this report explores research partnerships between institutions in high-income countries and those in middle- or low-income countries. The claim is that the impacts of these relationships extend beyond scientific advancement to include "attitudinal changes", capacity strengthening, and impacts on society or on decision-makers. Participation is considered key in successful partnerships, which "should be based on mutual interest, trust, understanding, sharing of experiences, and a two-way learning process."

Global: Learning in Partnerships


The paper describes a trend toward including "unheard voices" and diverse groups in international development. Learning "is increasingly recognised as an active and ongoing process....This contrasts with traditional notions of teaching that emphasise the 'transfer' of technology or knowledge." Furthermore, partnerships no longer revolve around discrete project funding; social and economic life is organised through "global flows of information, financial resources, and power in a 'network society'."

Zambia: Zambian science academy launched


The Zambia Academy of Science, launched on September 16, will promote excellence in research and strengthen the country's capacity for science-led development, says its president. "The academy will also provide advice on specific scientific problems presented to it by the government and its agencies as well as the private sector," added Mwananyanda Lewanika in an interview with SciDev.Net.


Africa: Carbon trading - a new source of African finance


By all accounts, the Bisasar Road Landfill in Durban is an unsavoury place. Plunked in the middle of an Indian suburb more than 20 years ago, the site spreads the odour of rotting garbage over the surrounding community and emits thousands of tonnes of harmful methane gas into the atmosphere each year. Strange as it may seem, though, the stench may turn out to be the smell of money - if a controversial carbon financing deal signed last year between the city and the World Bank gets off the ground. At the inaugural Carbon Expo held in Cologne last June, Durban's Landfill Gas to Energy project became the first in Africa to be financed through an emerging global market in carbon credits.

Africa: Hotter Sahara could mean more rain for Sahel


Rising temperatures in the Sahara desert could reduce drought in the Sahel region immediately south of it, say researchers. The findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters this month (10 September), add to a growing body of research on how climate change might affect the continent. Reindert Haarsma and colleagues of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute used a computer model to predict the effects of rising temperatures on rainfall over Africa. They say their study is the first to consider the roles of both land and sea surface temperatures. The model suggests that if emissions of greenhouse gases are not reduced, higher temperatures over the Sahara would cause 1-2 millimetres of extra daily rainfall in the Sahel by 2080 during the months from July to September.

Cameroon : Action needed on deadly lakes


More work is needed urgently to prevent potentially fatal releases of gas from two lakes in Cameroon, scientists say. Lakes Nyos and Monoun contain high concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide. In the 1980s, thousands died when the gas was suddenly released. Pipes have been installed to remove CO2 from the bottom of the lakes, but new research shows they are not enough. Scientists warn more pipes must be put in place to avert the danger of further catastrophic releases of gas. "With one pipe in each lake, we are currently removing more gas than comes in each year," said George Kling, from the University of Michigan, US.

Kenya: MP wary of GM crop trials


An MP has asked the Government to suspend trials on Genetically Modified (GM) crops, pending development of strong biosafety policies and legal framework. Mr David Nakitare (Saboti) also said further field trials on genetically engineered crops should be stopped until the technology was proved safe to the environment. He said many people in Africa would be affected if the technology was found dangerous to man and the environment. "At least 85 per cent of people in the continent practice small-scale agriculture. This is why it is important to tread cautiously on GMO crops," he said.

Namibia: Eco-groups say uranium mine brings new hazards


Namibia has commissioned a second uranium mine despite strong opposition from human rights and environmental groups who fear it could pose an ecological hazard. The Langer Heinrich Mine, 80 km east of the coastal town of Swakopmund in the protected Namib Naukluft Park, was officially opened last Thursday. The mine is wholly owned by Australian exploration and development company Paladin Resources, which got a government go-ahead last month after being awarded a 25-year mining licence by the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Land & land rights

Kenya: Understanding the impact of changing land ownership in Kenya


Advocates of changes to land ownership in African countries often promote increased privatisation of land rights, giving ownership to individuals. This contrasts with traditional tenure systems which keep key land rights, including the right to sell, in the community.

Namibia: Land tax could hamper property market


The Namibian Economic Policy and Research Unit (Nepru) has warned that the newly-introduced tax on farmland could have an unforeseen and long-lasting impact on the property market. Nepru says in its quarterly economic review that the land tax has two primary aims: raising funds for land redistribution and discouraging foreign ownership and multiple ownership of farms. A closer look at the concept showed that the implementation of the tax could place farmers in a tight corner, prompting them to do away with less profitable farming operations.

South Africa: Connecting economies - agrarian reform and rural poverty in South Africa


The economy of post-apartheid South Africa continues to grow. Yet between 45 and 55 percent of the population remain in poverty. This inequality is most obvious in rural areas, where over 70 percent of poor people live. Policymakers are increasingly recognising the importance of rural land reform to poverty reduction.

Zimbabwe: New wave of farm evictions sweeps Eastern Zimbabwe


A new wave of land seizures has hit Zimbabwe as the government enters the final stage of a campaign to evict the last remaining white commercial farmers from their properties after nationalising the country's land. The latest wave has hit eastern Zimbabwe, especially Chipinge district, where farmers are now being forced out. Gangs of Zanu PF militia backed by police overran at least two farms this week, beating and threatening farmers and managers before chasing them off the land.

Media & freedom of expression

Africa: Africa water journalists network


The Africa Water Journalists Network seeks to promote dialogue, information exchange and coverage about water issues among African journalists. Its website provides news and information, and a database of more than 1,000 journalists who have joined the network. A blog allows journalists to share comments and opinions on various water-related issues.

Gambia: Journalist wins JCFE press freedom award


A fearless newspaper editor in Gambia has been selected as the winner of the 2005 CJFE International Press Freedom Awards. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has announced that it will honour Alagi Yorro Jallow of Gambia and Mykola Veresen of Ukraine at its awards dinner in Toronto on 1 November 2005, in recognition of the journalists' courage in defending press freedom. Jallow, the managing editor of the daily "Independent", was chosen for his courageous efforts to defend press freedom in Gambia, despite numerous obstacles

Global: Free expression groups to mark global right to know day


On 28 September 2005, free expression advocates in dozens of countries around the world will mark the third annual International Right to Know Day to call attention to the importance of access to information in democratic societies. Founded by the Freedom of Information Advocates (FOIA) Network, an umbrella group of 90 civil society organisations, International Right to Know Day aims to raise awareness about the need for governments to respect the right of citizens to access information held by public bodies. Access to information, or freedom of information, is seen by many as the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ensuring people-centred development. Thanks largely to the efforts of civil society organisations, more than 60 countries have enacted access to information laws, more than half of them in the last decade.

Sierra Leone: Traditional chiefs threaten and humiliate radio journalist


Reacting to the intimidation and humiliation of a radio journalist by tribal elders in Kakua, the capital of the southern district of Bo, RSF has urged the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to uphold the rule of law and remind traditional chiefs that the country is meant to be reconstructing along democratic lines. "Kakua's traditional chiefs are not supposed to have police or judicial powers," the organisation said. "Radio Kiss 104 FM's ordeal shows that political party influence over tribal structures poses a danger to democracy. UNAMSIL's mandate includes protection of human rights so it should ensure that the rule of law is respected throughout the country and that journalists do not have to submit to local clans."

Tunisia: Freedom of expression experts question credibility of UN World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia


"Tunisia is not a suitable place to hold a United Nations World Summit" according to the latest report of the Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) released two months before the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), scheduled to take place in Tunis, 16-18 November 2005. The 18-page report is an update of TMG's first report "Tunisia: Freedom of Expression Under Siege" published in February of this year in preparation for the World Summit. The report highlights serious deterioration in conditions related to freedom of expression in Tunisia, particularly with respect to attacks on independent organisations, harassment of journalists and dissidents, and the independence of the judiciary. It also calls attention to the imprisonment of the human rights lawyer, Mohamed Abbou.

Uganda: Sedition law must be abolished


The law of sedition should be obsolete in democratic societies, warns ARTICLE 19, who supports the petition submitted last week to Uganda's Constitutional Court by journalist Andrew Mwenda which challenges the constitutionality of the country's sedition law. The law of sedition is the crime of speaking words against the state, its basic premise being that it is wrong to criticize public figures or institutions. Mwenda, Political Editor at the Daily Monitor, is currently on trial for using words with an intention of bringing "into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the person of the President, the government as by law established or the Constitution" during his live talk show "Tonight With Andrew Mwenda" on 93.3 KFM on August 10.

News from the diaspora

CODESRIA multinational working groups: Call for proposals


The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) invites proposals from researchers for possible inclusion in its new multinational working group (MWG) on the theme of Africa and its Diasporas. The changing composition and geography of Africa's Diasporas, and the shifting re-composition of all aspects of the linkages between these diasporas and the continent, is one of the thematic areas at the core of the current intellectual agenda of the Council. The MWG is the flagship research vehicle employed by CODESRIA for the promotion of multi-country and multidisciplinary reflections on critical questions of concern to the African social research community.

Conflict & emergencies

Chad: Government says Sudanese insurgents killed 36 herders in east


A group of unidentified armed men in military uniform crossed into Chad from Sudan early on Monday, killing 36 herders and stealing livestock, the Chadian government said. In a statement on Tuesday, the government said the attack took place in the village of Madayouna in the Ouaddai region of eastern Chad. "The riposte by the armed forces stationed in the region was rapid," the statement said. Seven of the assailants were killed and eight detained, one of whom later died in detention, it added. Two Chadian soldiers were killed and five injured.

Congo: Deal with the FDLR Threat Now


The world must address once and for all the grave security threats posed by the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, says the International Crisis Group. In letters to regional and international leaders Crisis Group President Gareth Evans urged them to agree on a dual track approach to the FDLR, offering members - apart from those clearly guilty of the most serious crimes - real incentives for repatriation to Rwanda while simultaneously threatening military action against those that refuse.

Darfur: Abduction and Rape in Nyala


On 16 September 2005, armed militias in military uniform, allegedly the Janjaweed, attacked and raped one girl and a woman, 2 km West of Kalma Internally Displaced (IDP) Camp in Nyala. During the attack, the women were flogged before being raped, says the The Sudan Organisation Against Torture (SOAT). SOAT has strongly condemned the continual attacks and sexual violence against women and girls in Darfur. "In light of evidence that attacks on civilians have subsided in the areas where African Union (AU) observers have been deployed, SOAT is particularly concerned that women and girls continue to venture outside IDP camps to undertake their regular tasks including fetching firewood and water without protection by AU observers stationed inside these camps."

DRC: Amnesty sounds warning over tensions


Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has expressed concern over mounting political and ethnic tensions in the North-Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - warning that this might spark renewed conflict in the country. In a report issued Wednesday, the group says additional fighting could undermine the DRC's uncertain peace process, and lead to human rights abuses in a region that has already become a byword for violations.

Ivory Coast: New peace effort under way but Gbagbo refuses role for West Africa


As African leaders gear up for two successive summits to salvage peace efforts in Cote d'Ivoire, the country’s president Laurent Gbagbo has ruled out any mediation role for his fellow West African leaders. The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has invited heads of state from across the region to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Friday for “talks on the situation in Ivory Coast.”

Liberia: Youths crave for peaceful co-existence


Following two separate violent demonstrations, youths of the county have resolved to pursue peaceful co-existence by committing themselves to ensuring that the county remains peaceful. According to a release, the Bong County Youths made the promise at the end of a six- month Community Training Program in Gbarnga. The training program was implemented by the Development Education Network of Liberia, DEN-L, and funded by United States Aid for International Development (USAID) and the Liberia Transition Initiative, (LTI).

Sierra Leone: Disentangling the determinants of successful demobilization and reintegration


Since the end of the Cold War, international efforts to end civil conflict in Africa, Latin America and Asia have included efforts on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants. Successful DDR programs have been seen as an important component of peace-building to reestablish legitimate governance and to prevent the recurrence of future conflict. In this working paper, CGD Non-Resident Fellow Jeremy Weinstein, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, analyzes for the first time what determines the success of post-conflict demobilization and reintegration.

Sudan: Culture of impunity in Darfur


A senior United Nations official has given a damning assessment of the Sudanese government's efforts to bring peace to Darfur. Special UN advisor on preventing genocide Juan Mendez said Khartoum had done little to disarm militias or end the "culture of impunity" there. He said Sudan's authorities remained in denial about the extent of the problem. Mr Mendez was speaking after his second trip to Darfur, where the conflict has displaced more than two million people.

Uganda: Government, UN destroy 3,000 small arms


An effort to rid Uganda of some 50,000 small arms began on Monday with the burning of about 3,000 weapons at a ceremony in the capital, Kampala. Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said: "Weapons destruction is intended to ensure that weapons seized, collected or deemed excess to national security requirements do not find their way back into illegal circulation or recycled into neighbouring conflict areas," Rugunda told the audience of mainly government officials and diplomats. The UN Development Programme funded the arms destruction.

Internet & technology

Africa: African governments half-heartedly liberalise telecom industries


African governments are half-heartedly liberalising their telecom industries and will stymie investment and innovation in the world's fastest-growing markets unless they change their ways, industry experts said. Africa's cell phone industry is booming, with subscriber numbers expected to hit 100 million by the end of the year from 40 million in 2002, and is arguably the continent's biggest business success story since gold was discovered in the 19th century. But with less than one in 10 people owning a phone and much fewer surfing the web, the poorest continent still lags behind the rest of the world and experts say fully-fledged competition is crucial to bridge the gap.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia to introduce Development Gateway system


The Government of Ethiopia is to deploy the Development Gateway Foundation's Aid Management Platform (AMP), a Web-based information-sharing tool that aims to help to improve the co-ordination and harmonisation of international development aid to ensure greater results for people in developing countries. AMP is an e-government solution designed to address the administrative challenges faced by developing country governments and their donors in tracking and reporting on international aid flows and programmes. By enabling access to standardized information about aid activities within a country, it is intended to facilitate the improved planning, allocation, disbursement and general management of aid resources.

Networking activities in Digital Arts for Africa and future developments


A one day workshop on networking opportunities in digital creative practices in Africa was held on 4 September 2005 at Arts Electronica 2005 (Linz, Austria). Discussions focused on pilot projects to support and develop creative practices in Africa through the use of information and communication technologies. Furthermore, an Africa Infopack, was also launched in the Electrolobby on 5 September 2005. This Infopack is a tool to find people to join the network of DigiArts Africa and to contribute, participate and gain from the network of key network agents.

South Africa: African software gains global popularity


A decade ago, Ubuntu was a word that shook apartheid South Africa. Today, it is a word that may be keeping Bill Gates awake at night. Ubuntu is an African word that is one of the founding principles of the new South Africa, and it also is the name of a new computer operating system developed by South African Mark Shuttleworth and his company Canonical. The word "Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language," writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in "No Future Without Forgiveness." It means "you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have." Ubuntu Linux calls itself the "Linux for human beings.

Uganda: Africa Source II

January 8th to January 15th, 2005, Kalangala, Uganda


Africa Source II will seek to foster the growth of FOSS expertise amongst technical support professionals working in Africa and facilitate knowledge sharing and exchange around successful implementation of FOSS. The aim of the event is to facilitate learning and exchange between these communities, in particular around the practical deployment of Free and Open Source Technologies. The intention is to move beyond conceptual discussions of the benefits of FOSS and technology in general, and to test out these ideas and focus on practical skill sharing between technology implementers in the region. The workshop will focus on learning by doing, rather than by listening.

eNewsletters & mailing lists

EADI launches


EADI, the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes has launched a portal on insecurity and development called This web portal is closely linked to the 11th EADI General Conference in Bonn, Germany from 21-24 September 2005, which took stock of the state of the art regarding issues related to insecurity and development.

Global HRE Forum


From Thursday, 29 September until Wednesday, 26 October there will be an on-line Global Forum involving the Global HRE listserv and six regional listservs. The topic will be the position of human rights education (HRE) vis-à-vis other "educations", such as education for democratic citizenship, peace education and global education.

Fundraising & useful resources

12th Eastern Africa Regional Fundraising Workshop


The Resource Alliance and the Kenya Association of Fundraising Professionals are proud to announce that the 12th Eastern Africa Regional Fundraising Workshop will be held in Mombasa, Kenya, 6th - 9th December 2005. The Workshop offers an unparalleled opportunity to examine the latest techniques and strategies in resource mobilisation and to explore alternative trends and challenges in sustainability and capacity building.

Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders


The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) is a unique collaboration among eleven of the world's leading non-governmental human rights organizations to give protection to human rights defenders worldwide. The Martin Ennals Foundation now calls for nominations for the 2006 Award. For more details, see, where you can also submit nominations online.

Shuttleworth Foundation - Unlocking creative potential


South African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth, established the Shuttleworth Foundation in October 2000 with the belief that education is the key to unlocking the creative and intellectual potential of South African youth, allowing them to live the dream that ‘anything is possible’. The foundation’s main goal is to improve the quality of education in South Africa by investing in projects which offer unique and innovative solutions to educational challenges in an African society with a focus on science, technology, entrepreneurship and maths.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Mango Training


Mango is extending training to several new countries for the first time, including: Pakistan, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Sierra Leone. Each course is designed to meet the needs of different groups of NGO staff - some for financial staff, some for managers. More detailed course outlines for each of our core courses are available on request.

Oak Human Rights Fellow: The environment and human rights


The Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights in the US was established in 1998 by a generous grant from the Oak Foundation. Each year, it hosts an Oak Human Rights Fellow to teach and conduct research while at residence in the College and organizes lectures and other events centered around the fellow's area of expertise. The purpose of the fellowship is to offer an opportunity for prominent practitioners in international human rights to take a sabbatical leave from their work and spend a period of up to a semester as a scholar-in-residence at the College.

Online Training Resource Centre for Development Professionals


This resource includes a huge range of free training and self-study materials on a range of topics, both field-related and managerial. All materials are categorised, and updates are added two - three times a month. Topics include: General Communication Skills (Basics of Organisational Communication; Cross-Cultural Communication); Written Communication Skills (Clarity - The Fog Index; Clarity - Making your Point; Organisation - Formatting and Layout; Style - E-mail and Netiquette); Oral Communication; Project Proposal and Report Writing; and Data Gathering, Analysis and Evaluation Skills.

Global call to action against poverty

Africa: UN Millennium + 5 Summit: Neither a Review nor an Expression of Political Commitment

African civil society statement


"As the UN Heads of State and Government gather in New York for the UN Millennium +5 Summit key issues of concern to civil society organizations working in Africa continue to emerge. The Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) in Africa is deeply concerned that the draft outcome document is a betrayal of the world’s poor, particularly those in Africa. The declaration neither reviews progress nor addresses the challenges faced by governments in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It does not make any clear commitment to accelerating flow of resources neither does it demonstrate the political commitment that is required to do this."

Liberia report back on white band day 2


The Liberia Democratic Institute in collaboration with other community-based grassroots groups on Saturday, September 10, 2005, on World White Band Day II joined the global community in the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) to pressurize the world richest countries to make their promises authentic and eradicate poverty. The march climaxed the series of activities that started on Tuesday, September 8, 2005. The White Band Day observation, the first of its kind in Liberia was launched not only to call the world riches nations attention to the acute poverty and hardship experienced by poor countries around the world but also to set the stage for positive mass citizen’s movement informed by calls for effective good governance practices in Liberia.


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