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Pambazuka News 243: Uganda - From no party to multi-party

The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa

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CONTENTS: 1. Highlights from this issue, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Advocacy & campaigns, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Books & arts, 7. Letters & Opinions, 8. Blogging Africa, 9. African Union Monitor, 10. Women & gender, 11. Human rights, 12. Refugees & forced migration, 13. Elections & governance, 14. Corruption, 15. Development, 16. Health & HIV/AIDS, 17. Education, 18. Racism & xenophobia, 19. Environment, 20. Land & land rights, 21. Media & freedom of expression, 22. News from the diaspora, 23. Conflict & emergencies, 24. Internet & technology, 25. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 26. Fundraising & useful resources, 27. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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Highlights from this issue

Featured this week


EDITORIAL: It’s make or break time for Ugandans as they go to the polls February 23. Charles Onyango-Obbo surveys the landscape
- What impact has Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission had on healing the country? A new report examines the issues
- Richard Kamidza writes about how the poor are excluded from trade agreements like Economic Partnership Agreements
- Black History Month in the US must evolve to consider a broader Pan-African historical context, argues Netfa Freeman
- South African local government elections are due next week
LETTERS: Readers tackle Kenya’s campaign against corruption
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: The Ugandan elections are either the end or the beginning of the end for Yoweri Museveni, writes Tajudeen Abdul Raheem
BLOGGING AFRICA: Bloggers on the Ugandan elections, drought in East Africa and more
BOOKS AND ARTS: Nairobi’s first poetry slam takes off
CONFLICTS AND EMERGENCIES: Latest news on DRC, Sudan, Nigeria
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Remittances dwarf aid and investment in Kenya
WOMEN AND GENDER: New pressure needed to scrap gender-biased laws
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: All the news from Uganda
DEVELOPMENT: Questioning the links between economic growth and poverty reduction
CORRUPTION: Rights body honours 'Whistleblower' Githongo
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: A global campaign for the right to health
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Citizenship and xenophobia in Southern Africa
ENVIRONMENT: Citizens space for democratic deliberation on GMOs
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Ugandan elections website blocked
ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGNS: Stop forced evictions in Angola
PLUS…Internet and technology; e-newsletters; fundraising and useful resources; courses; jobs.

* Can trade in the era of globalisation be 'just'? Read our issue on the subject and send your feedback to [email protected]

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Come to an exclusive preview of this year’s most critically-acclaimed film, Tsotsi, in the Magdalen College Auditorium (Longwall St entrance) in Oxford at 8.00pm on Friday 10 March, a week before the film goes on general release across the UK on 17 March.

Set amidst the sprawling, crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg - where survival is the primary objective - this award-winning film traces six days in the life of a ruthless young gang leader, who ends up caring for a baby he accidentally kidnaps during a car-jacking. With the baby’s welfare at stake, he is compelled to confront his own brutal nature and face the consequences of his actions, if he ever wishes to find redemption in his life.

Nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and two BAFTA Awards, Tsotsi is an epic and uplifting drama about the ultimate triumph of love over rage.

Tsotsi is in cinemas nationwide from 17 March (certificate 15). For more information, go to

In addition to its Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe nominations, Tsotsi has already won numerous awards including: Audience Award, LA Art Film Festival; People’s Choice Award, Toronto International Film Festival; Audience Award, Edinburgh International Film Festival; Audience Award, Denver International Film Festival; Greek Parliament Award, Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Screening takes place on Friday 10th March at 8pm
At Magdalen College Auditorium (Longwall St entrance), Oxford
Entry £5 (£3 concessions)
Proceeds to Fahamu’s programme in South Africa

Email [email protected] with the names of the countries that by 12 February 2006 had ratified the African Union's Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. Closing date 6 March at 0900 hrs GMT. The first 10 correct entries picked out of a hat will each receive a free ticket.


From no party to multi-party: Can Yoweri Museveni be beaten?

Charles Onyango-Obbo


It’s make or break time for Ugandans as they go to the polls February 23 following a bitterly fought campaign between long-time president Yoweri Museveni and his rival Kizza Besigye. Onyango Obbo, a columnist with the East African Newspaper, argues that it’s the first time the opposition feel that Museveni can be beaten. These elections, they say, present the last opportunity to choose the democratic option.

Ugandans vote in presidential and parliamentary elections February 23, in make or break polls. It has been the most bitterly fought and personality-attack filled campaign since President Yoweri Museveni came to power in January 1986 at the head of a successful rebellion. It's the first time that the optimists in the opposition feel that Museveni is beatable.

Uganda and Museveni have come a long way. The first presidential election under the new constitution in 1996 was nothing more than a coronation for the president. That Museveni is thought to be vulnerable today is testimony as much to the corrupting impact a long unchallenged rule can have on what started out as an enlightened presidency, and the toll the passage of time takes on even the best champions.

The Museveni government imposed what it called a "no-party" system, but critics said was no different than an old-style African one-party rule. Under the "no-party" system, candidates for presidential and parliamentary office stood on their own "individual" merit, not on political party platform.

Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), on the other hand, could back candidates because, unlike the old political parties, its supporters were understood to be standing on the "individual merit" principle. They would also get campaign contributions from the NRM Secretariat, which was funded by the taxpayer.

This made sure that Museveni won handily. On the other hand, the pro-multiparty opposition were always doomed to be a tiny minority. To some, it was a little too Kafkesque. But the country embraced the no-party idea, and between 1986 and 1996 Museveni enjoyed a level of popularity unparalleled in recent Uganda history.

One of Museveni's successes came from understanding the country's desperate need for normalcy, and tapping into it. The results were dramatic. By the mid-1990s, inflation had been wrestled from the highs of 300 per cent just ten years earlier, to –1 per cent! These were the times of heady growth rates nearing 10 per cent. Museveni became the archetype of the "new breed" of African leader, and Uganda was touted as the continent's "economic success model".

Yet, for all that, in 2001 a doctor and former military officer, Kizza Besigye, gave Museveni a run for his money in the presidential elections. Besigye was the NRM's first chief political ideologue, the National Political Commissar, and then minister of State for Internal Affairs. He left in the early 1990s to take a military command at a barracks in the western part of the country, and little was heard of him. Besigye resurfaced to play a role in the first early crack in the then formidable and united NRM edifice.

In 1994 there were elections to the Constituent Assembly that the NRM swept. The fate of political parties became a big issue in the Assembly. Several NRM supporters, notably the military representatives, argued that the no-party system was a temporary arrangement, and the new constitution should either provide immediately for a return to multiparty politics or adopt a timetable for it. Besigye was an outspoken member of that group. However, Museveni cracked the whip and used the ruling party's majority to adopt the no-party (or Movement) system as the permanent form of politics, which could only be changed by a national referendum.

In order to deal with criticism by the small pro-multiparty delegates that the NRM was creating a one-party dictatorship, some sweeteners were thrown in. Among these was a two five-year term for president. Because at that point Museveni was about to serve out two unelected terms, it was provided that the counting of the two terms began from when the new constitution was enacted.

In any event, the beginning of the tensions between what came to be known as hardliners and moderates or progressives in the NRM, had been born. In addition, events soon demonstrated that the problem with competitive politics in Africa is not so much that it creates divisions, but that the dynamics of elections generally work the same way in most societies. This is because although the NRM banned political parties under the auspices that they create divisions, it proved unable to cure itself of the same maladies. Just as particular ethnic communities and religions come to dominate particular parties in underdeveloped countries with a multiparty system, so do they come to dominate the sole party under a one-party arrangement. Soon, the Museveni regime was being accused of being dominated by politicians from the western region where he came from.

Parts of the country that weren't substantially represented in the NRM felt alienated, none more so than the northern region. In the British colonial division of labour, the north was the reservoir for manual labour and the army. The southwest provided the professional classes and civil servants. Despite gaining some power, the elite from the region became just another addition to the middle class with other Ugandan communities. They set up shop and invested their new wealth in the south – helping only to exacerbate the regional differences.

Museveni's ascendance to power brought a profound crisis for the north. For the first time in Uganda's history, the region neither held military or political power. Without that, it lost all means of negotiating for the political spoils at the centre. It required a great dose of political sensitivity to recognise the crisis that had befallen the region.

That, and the fact that in many parts of the country "northern rule" had become so deeply resented, combined to make for a potentially explosive situation. The eruption came when after Museveni's victory, units of a right wing group called Uganda Freedom Movement that had been absorbed in the National Resistance Army massacred civilians in the north. Feeling threatened, members of the old defeated army, the Uganda National Liberation Army, fled to southern Sudan, regrouped as the Uganda Democratic Army and started a rebellion against the Museveni government.

That conflict was settled through a negotiated settlement in 1988. However, the fact of the rebellion meant that a wider national reconciliation with the north became difficult. It also reinforced most of the rest of the country's view that the northern leaders remained intransigent and unrepentant about the atrocities of "their" past rule.

To complicate matters, a social movement, which saw the 1988 peace agreement as capitulation by a corrupt northern elite, mushroomed. A Prophetess, Alice Lakwena, who preached to her believers that if they smeared themselves with shea oil, the bullets of the government soldiers wouldn't kill them, led it. After Lakwena's defeat, the present Lord's Resistance Army led by her cousin Joseph Kony emerged.

Perhaps without the rebellion in the north, the outcome of Museveni's rule would have been totally different, and today he might well have been enjoying a status near that of South Africa's Nelson Mandela. However, the insurgency and several other smaller ones in the south and west that were quickly snuffed out, meant that Museveni's consolidation of power proceeded with a lot of distraction, and the whiff of illegitimacy from a failure to fully pacify the country.

Today everything is worse off in what was an already economically depressed northern region than in the rest of Uganda. Poverty levels are almost twice as high; HIV infections are double the national average; life expectancy is nearly 10 years less than the rest of the country; and the school enrolment rate is the worst too.

There is a widely held view that such bleak conditions could have been prevented, with a different set of decisions in Kampala. In any event, the war in the north strengthened the hand of the hardliners in the NRM, and when the first adult suffrage elections under Museveni came, the fact that the conflict was still alive meant that politicians could only exploit it. The rebellion in the north was used by Museveni's opponents to argue that the "no party" was a failure. For the NRM, it was a reason why they needed to have a strong showing in the CA - to make a constitution that would ensure that the "backward forces of the past", as they called their rivals, didn't return to torment the country. And so the country went to the polls.

Museveni's NRM won a marvellous victory in the 1994 Constituent Assembly election. Sadly, from then on, the NRM grew addicted to playing the "northern card", because it was the magic formula for winning elections. However, that addiction progressively transformed it into a reactionary organisation, and widened the gulf between the progressives and the hardliners in the ruling party. The big clash between these two sides, however, never came until 2001.

Up to about eight years ago, Uganda was heavily dependant on aid. In return, the donors exercised a lot of influence over government action and policy. After many years of uncritically supporting Museveni, they started to speak, softly though, about the need to find a political settlement to the war in the north, reducing defence expenditure, and what they called "opening up the political space". However, defence expenditure had by now become a critical source of political slush funds for the NRM.

In response to this situation, and the need to find new sources of support, the privatisation programme was accelerated. The attempt to use the process to create a class of moneyed people who were grateful to the NRM, led to massive corruption in the exercise. The smell of corruption did a lot to damage President Museveni's standing. Then, with shrinking wiggle room for the government to cream off money from the budget without getting the donors' hackles, Kampala found a disastrous way out.

Uganda had sent its army into a security buffer inside the Democratic Republic of Congo to prevent attacks by Allied Democratic Front rebels. However, when the DRC's president Laurent Kabila became embattled when fresh rebellion broke out in his country again in 1998, Uganda took advantage of the resulting chaos and power vacuum to send its army deep into the vast central African nation. There it either occupied or controlled through an alliance of local militia, a large swathe of territory from the Uganda border up to Kinshasa and beyond.

The DRC expedition became an exercise in which some elements of the ruling NRM exploited the troubled country's vast resources to raise money for politics back home, particularly for the 2001 elections. There is a widely held view that the DRC occupation was the turning point for Museveni's presidency.

It was in this situation that Besigye announced in 2000 that he was to challenge Museveni. Unaccustomed to the kind of audacious internal challenge from a Movementist (as supporters of the NRM are known), Museveni overreacted to Besigye's ambitions. A special militia, the Kalangala Action Plan, was set up to unleash violence on Museveni's rivals' supporters. The election, that Museveni eventually won, was to be marred by extensive rigging.

Besigye challenged the result in the Supreme Court. By a unanimous decision, the five judges agreed that the elections had been stolen. However, by a razor thin margin of 3 against 2, they also held that the margin by which the election was rigged couldn't have affected the final outcome. In that sense, like US President George Bush in 2000, Museveni owes his 2001 victory partly to the courts. The president's prestige suffered further, and the star status he enjoyed at home and internationally eluded him in his next term. Besigye, claiming he was being persecuted, fled into exile in South Africa, where he lived until the end of October last year.

The idealism that had made Museveni so admired has been largely shrinking the last five years. And sharp internal divisions inside the NRM marked his last term. Because the reputation of the president and government had taken a big hit, there was no way they could create what critics claimed was a presidency for life, without making some political concessions and finding new sources of legitimacy. This they attempted to do by abandoning their long held opposition, and supporting the re-introduction of multiparty politics late last year. The calculation was that the country could live with Museveni being allowed to run again, if it got multiparty politics in return.

Besigye's return from exile suggests that that might have been a miscalculation . Huge and passionate crowds received Besigye. The new party, the Forum for Democratic Change, that had been formed through the merger of Besigye's 2001 election organisation, Reform Agenda, and other pro-democracy groups, quickly elected Besigye as their presidential candidate.

As he travelled around the country, he received a reception that no other politician had ever got. In some towns, they had to cancel his rallies as the crowds went out of control. Besigye seemed to tap into the pent up frustrations at 20 years of Museveni's rule. The government panicked, and barely two weeks after his return, Besigye was arrested and charged with a rape that allegedly took place eight years ago, and treason. At the same time as he faced those charges in the High Court, he was also charged with terrorism in the High Court.

The day Besigye was arrested, running battles broke out between his supporters and heavily armed police and soldiers in armoured vehicles. It was the first time since the last years of colonial rule in the 1950s that ordinary Ugandans, other than university students, had taken to the streets in a political protest.

Besigye spent a month in prison, with dramatic scenes whenever he came to court. Because of large crowd turnouts on the days he would be in court, streets would be closed off. And in a shocking display of force, on the day he and his co-accused were to be granted bail, a hitherto secret commando unit, the Black Mambas, surrounded the court. The prisoners and their sureties, fearing what might happen to them if they were taken away by the commandos, gave up their right to bail and decided to be taken back to the civilian prison.

This was a Uganda many thought had gone with Amin, and it did little to help Museveni. The only thing it achieved was turning Besigye from a party leader, to a symbol of democracy. It also gave him national recognition far more than anything he or his party would have done to get. However, after his release late December, the novelty that he had as a candidate running from a prison cell seems to have begun to wear off almost immediately.

According to opinion polls, the combined support for Uganda Peoples' Congress leader Mrs Miria Obote, the country's first female presidential candidate; the Democratic Party's Mr Sebaana Kizito; and the independent Mr Abed Bwanika, is less than 15 per cent. The Daily Monitor polls show that if they were to back the single candidacy of Besigye, his support would rise, but not enough for him to leap in the lead. Only the 'Weekly Observer' has, so far, done polls that showed Besigye leading with 47 per cent saying they would vote for him, against 35 per cent for Museveni.

However, so far both Museveni and his trusted generals have suggested that they will not hand over power if they lost. So whichever way this election turns out, it is difficult to see how Uganda's democracy can win. Indeed since 1980, every election has left the country more divided, and the victor and his government more discredited. It's therefore unlikely that the elections will result in the notable expansion of democratic space that happened in Kenya in 2002, for example, with the opposition National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) defeat of the Kenya African National Union, which had been in power for 38 years at that point.

Nevertheless, it could all still have turned out differently. Even after amending the constitution to allow himself to stand for another term, Museveni would have salvaged some of this old prestige from these elections. Because the other parties have only been able to operate legally for five months now, they face an uphill task running against an entrenched NRM, which is still enjoying access to state resources. Already, it's only the NRM that has fielded candidates for Parliament, who will be elected simultaneously on February 23, in all but one of the constituencies. While Besigye might get the bigger crowds, he doesn't have the political machine to turn those numbers into votes.

A free election, as most of the independent polls suggest, would at worst result in a run off if Museveni, who leads in most of them, wouldn't be able to get the more than 50 per cent that the law requires the winner to get. In a run-off, it's not certain that all the candidates would back Besigye. Or that if they did, they he would win because the polls indicate that Museveni would still do better.

Also Museveni would probably have won clean if he had fought a positive campaign and focussed on his achievements, which still resonate with many voters. However, the campaigns have degenerated into a carnival of crude personality attacks, with everything from the two leading candidates' sexual transgressions, to theirs and their wives and children's health and private shortcomings being aired.

However, a Museveni margin in a high-minded election would be thin. Because of the inexplicable mindset in the NRM that a slim win is not legitimate enough, the Museveni campaign has always had to resort to underhand methods to bolster the margin of victory. In so doing, as in the past, he is set to pluck moral defeat out of the jaws of political victory.

At a wider Eastern Africa level, the Uganda elections are being watched for something larger. By 2013, the three partner countries in the East African Community – Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda – plan to establish a political federation. By that time, Rwanda, and possibly Burundi, might have joined the EAC, although they would be part of the common market only, not the political federation. In this grouping, Uganda would be the only country without presidential term limits. There are many voices in Kenya and Tanzania that are already saying Uganda has set out on a path that makes it "incompatible". Uganda is also the only country in the EAC that has never had a democratic change of leaders at the polls.

The test for the country has always been whether it can break with its past, and establish civil democratic politics, or would revert to its violent ways to change its leaders. The February 23 elections are the last opportunity to strike a blow for the democratic option.

* Onyango-Obbo is Nation Media Group's managing editor for Convergence and New Products. Email: cobbo (at)

* Please send comments to [email protected]
It’s make or break time for Ugandans as they go to the polls February 23 following a bitterly fought campaign between long-time president Yoweri Museveni and his rival Kizza Besigye. Onyango Obbo, a columnist with the East African Newspaper, argues that it’s the first time the opposition feel that Museveni can be beaten. These elections, they say, present the last opportunity to choose the democratic option.

Comment & analysis

Searching for truth and reconciliation in Sierra Leone

Report by the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission Working Group


The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission Working Group has released an initial study of the performance and impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in that country. The objective of the study is to open up debate that will lead to an independent evaluation of the performance and impact of the TRC in Sierra Leone. Key issues that the report addresses includes the role of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the appointment and role of Commissioners, the issue of local ownership and participation and the role of International NGOs.

It is now over 15 months since the presentation on 5 October 2004 of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to the President of Sierra Leone at a well-attended ceremony in Freetown. The presentation should have ushered in the ‘follow-up phase’ to the work of the TRC. Yet at the time of writing, the work of implementing its recommendations is not even close to beginning. First, there was a long delay in making the report of the TRC available to Sierra Leoneans. Copies of the report only arrived in August 2005. In the previous month, the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) published a White Paper in response to the report that was widely regarded as weak and inadequate. All this prompted many Sierra Leoneans to fear that the TRC process had fatally lost momentum.

In recent months, there has been progress. Following private interventions by the Commissioners of the TRC and civil society campaigning, there was a parliamentary debate on the TRC report in November 2005 and a Bill has been laid before the legislature which contains many of the key recommendations in the report.

This bumpy start to the ‘follow-up phase’ is only the latest of many difficult moments for the TRC. It has been a deeply flawed and problematic process from its birth in 1999, when the peace agreement was signed. The TRC aimed to help heal divisions caused by 10 years of brutal civil war. Tens of thousands of people were killed, maimed or tortured during the conflict - most by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.

Although the story of the TRC process is not yet over, the Sierra Leone Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation (WG) has undertaken an initial assessment, based on over 30 interviews and meetings between April and August 2005 with Sierra Leonean and international stakeholders, of the performance and impact of the TRC – this with a view to identifying what lessons can be learnt for future transitional justice initiatives elsewhere and developing recommendations for action that will help ensure that the ‘follow-up phase’ in Sierra Leone is credible and effective.

We hope that this report will be seen as a constructive early contribution to what should be a much wider and deeper debate in Sierra Leone and internationally. The WG believes that an independent evaluation of the TRC should be jointly commissioned by all stakeholders to the process during 2006, with a commitment to publishing its conclusions and recommendations promptly and in full. This should include a systematic sampling of public views through focus group work. The importance of getting down to community level cannot be overstated. The sampling would also be an opportunity to discover public views about the Special Court, which ran concurrently with the TRC (We asked David Crane, the then Prosecutor of the Special Court, if it had undertaken any surveys recently of how Sierra Leoneans viewed the Court. He responded that the Court was “not in the popularity business”. However, earlier he had described the Court as “for and about the people of Sierra Leone”.)

It is particularly important that Sierra Leonean voices are heard at the international level, where criteria for assessing the successes and failures of the Sierra Leonean ‘experiment’ may be different from those locally and where different agendas may shape the conclusions reached. People have a right to know the truth about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

With regard to the ‘follow-up phase’, we are aware that the historical record elsewhere is not encouraging. Few TRCs have been characterized by effective follow-up. Even in the South African case, there is widespread disaffection on the part of victims’ support groups about the response of the Government to the recommendations of the TRC report, not least in the sphere of reparations. If there is not a credible and effective ‘follow-up phase’, many Sierra Leoneans will legitimately ask whether the TRC was ever more than an expensive ‘talking shop’.

Our study has identified a series of key issues in relation to which important lessons should be learnt regarding the TRC process in Sierra Leone.

Firstly, when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) agreed in 1999 to play the leading role in organising and overseeing the implementation of the TRC process, the decision was widely welcomed. Mary Robinson, then High Commissioner, had been a signatory in June 1999 of the ‘Human Rights Manifesto for Sierra Leone’, which endorsed the idea of a TRC. However, based on the interviews we conducted, Sierra Leonean and international stakeholders were generally very disappointed by the performance of the OHCHR. There was a remarkable consensus on this issue amongst interviewees who disagreed on many other issues. The OHCHR was widely seen as having fatally combined an unhealthy obsession with micro-management with an inadequate capacity to undertake a professional oversight role. It was allegedly weak at raising funds and then very slow to release them.

Secondly, the majority of Sierra Leonean and international stakeholders that we interviewed felt that the TRC process had fallen seriously short of what had been hoped for in terms of local ownership and participation. The sensitization exercise during the preparatory phase was widely viewed as deficient. For example, there was a tendency to assume that radio messages would be enough by themselves to alert Sierra Leoneans to the existence of the TRC when what was needed was to work with civil society organizations to ensure that each chiefdom and village was visited and re-visited. Only by these means could public confidence and understanding of the TRC process – and its relationship to the Special Court - have been achieved. While this failure partly reflected lack of funds, it also reflected a reluctance to develop a genuine partnership with local civil society organizations that could have assisted.

Strong views were also expressed about the failure to use traditional reconciliation mechanisms appropriately. Particular anger was directed by some at incidents where such mechanisms were allegedly ‘customized’ to fit the time available before the Commissioners and staff had to move on to their next appointment. In general, many felt that not enough time had been given to the reconciliation aspect of the TRC’s mandate. At other points, ‘western’ models of reconciliation were reportedly employed, such as handshakes or hugs, which had little relevance to the Sierra Leonean context.

Thirdly, a number of Sierra Leonean stakeholders that we interviewed expressed the view that the role of international NGOs in the TRC process was not always as positive as it could have been. Sierra Leoneans have become aware of the international networks that exist in the sphere of transitional justice in the course of the TRC process. The time may have arrived for these international networks to be rendered more transparent and for potential conflicts of interest such as those raised by our experience in Sierra Leone to be addressed. Nobody doubts the need for professional expertise in the sphere of transitional justice; however, experience shows there will be occasions when the perspectives and interests of governments, multilateral agencies and local civil society will diverge.

The Sierra Leoneans we interviewed between April and August 2005 were deeply frustrated by the long delay that had occurred in publishing the final version of the TRC report. So too were many international stakeholders, although some felt that it had been unavoidable because of the poor quality of the report – including the omission of some conclusions and recommendations that had previously been agreed – that was presented to the President in October 2004. Whatever the reasons, between October 2004, when it was presented to the President, and August 2005, when copies of the final report arrived in Freetown, there were reportedly only ten copies of the report in the entire country. Expectations had been raised, only then to be dashed. The former Chairperson of the TRC, Bishop Joseph Humper, claimed that the reason for the long delay was that the report was being re-edited and typographical errors eliminated.

Based on its findings, the Sierra Leone Working Group on Truth on Reconciliation makes the following recommendations to those involved in the designing and implementing of future transitional justice initiatives. They should establish stronger safeguards to prevent political interference in transitional justice processes. They should ensure that international commissioners working for TRCs spend enough time in-country to discharge their roles effectively. They should ensure that local ownership and participation are more strongly reflected in sensitization work, evidence giving/collection and reconciliation initiatives. Finally, they should establish the principle that all transitional justice processes should be subject to independent evaluation and that reports arising should be published promptly and in full. Amongst other recommendations, the Working Group calls on the Government of Sierra Leone to take steps to encourage the dissemination of the final version of the TRC report; undertake a reparations programme that is open, consultative and inclusive, working closely with civil society; support the immediate establishment of an interim follow-up committee comprising all Sierra Leonean stakeholders; and support the establishment of an independent evaluation of the TRC process.

* For a copy of the full report, please contact
- From outside Sierra Leone:
John Caulker, Chairperson of the Working Group via johncaulkerfoc (at)
- From within Sierra Leone:
Mr. John Koroma Jr. Tel 232 76 634465 email: johnkoroma2001 (at)

* Please send comments to [email protected]
The Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission Working Group has released an initial study of the performance and impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in that country. The objective of the study is to open up debate that will lead to an independent evaluation of the performance and impact of the TRC in Sierra Leone. Key issues that the report addresses includes the role of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, the appointment and role of Commissioners, the issue of local ownership and participation and the role of International NGOs.

Economic Poverty Agreements: How the poor are excluded from trade negotiations

Richard Kamidza


On paper, negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) allow for the involvement of a range of organisations that should to some extent ensure the voice of the poor are heard in the construction of the agreements. Richard Kamidza outlines how in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) the reality is far different. The process of negotiations has deliberately excluded the poorest in Africa though their structure, complexity and a general lack of political will to be inclusive. “Surely poor constituencies cannot dream for a positive EPA when the process totally excludes them,” writes Kamidza.

There are sixteen countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) configuration that are preparing negotiations on the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU). The negotiations are focusing on six clusters: agriculture, development issues, fisheries, market access, services and trade-related issues. All EPA-related work at regional level is being coordinated by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), to which all ESA member-states are signatories. Other regional secretariats attend as observers. To facilitate preparations in the process, several structures were established but only the National Development Trade Policy Forum (NDTPF) and the Regional Negotiating Forum (RNF) are analyzed for the purpose of this discussion.

Who represents the poor constituencies?

In line with the Cotonou agreement, the ESA-EPA road map allows non-state actors (including the private sector, non-governmental organisations, the media, community based organisations, religious organisations and trade unions) to participate in the on-going EPA negotiations both at the national and regional levels. Civic bodies, since their work involves interacting with both policy-makers and grassroots communities, are assumed to represent the poor constituencies. Thus, engaging civic bodies implies involving and consulting poor-constituencies in the EPA process, a development that enables them to appreciate the dynamics associated with the process. Impliedly, the structures facilitate the participation of the poor in the on-going EPA negotiations. But, are the poor constituencies’ voices already influencing the structures?

What is the extent of the poor constituencies?

The ESA configuration is the poorest in Africa with some countries having between 60-80% of the people living below the poverty datum line and up to 80% unemployment. Twelve member-states are classified as least developing countries (LDCs), which also suffer from serious supply-side bottlenecks that impose equally serious limitations for locally produced commodities to compete favouably with the EU market despite the provision of duty free access under the “everything else but arms” (EBA) initiatives. Anecdotal evidence shows that the existence of EBA initiatives has nothing positive to show in terms of benefits accruing to countries. Even countries categorized as non-LDCs such as Zimbabwe are not only facing similar production constraints, but also massive de-industrialization and de-agriculturalisation as a result of both neo-liberal policy frameworks and irrational nationalistic policy agendas. Indeed, the rates of socio-economic and political indicators prevailing in some ESA member-states are at variant with the zeal to “fast-track” the EPAs process.

A significant number of countries are also classified as highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) meaning that the huge but growing external debt overhang is not only retarding economic growth and development of respective member-states, but has also become economically exhausting and unsustainable; politically destabilizing; and ethically unacceptable. The debt is denying member-states resources to improve the supply-side constraints, particularly human resources development at a time when poor socio-economic conditions and political instability in many states is causing massive brain drain to developed economies. Both EBA and HIPC initiatives assume the existence of a higher proportion of poor constituencies, which are also finding it difficult to cope with any emerging trade regime. Also, lack of political will by institutions and individuals coordinating the process to include poor constituencies has remained a challenge that seems to be allowed to continue - albeit some few months before the deadline for the conclusion of an EPA between the ESA configuration and EU.

ESA negotiating Structures and the State of Play

National Development Trade Policy Forum

Each ESA member-state has established the National Development Trade Policy Forum (NDTPF) whose main function is to develop national positions that will be subsequently tabled at the Regional Negotiating Forum (RNF). NDTPFs are all cluster-inclusive and/or multi-sectoral, and cut across all stakeholders in the country. They are supposed to ensure wider and deeper consultations or involvement of key stakeholders and citizens, including the poor constituencies in this process. Stakeholders at the national level are supposed to collectively come up with strategies, synergies and options leading to just and fair EPA outcomes for respective member-states. In this respect, stakeholders are supposed to participate in EPA-related national conferences, seminars and workshops organized to discuss proceedings, processes and findings of commissioned sustainable impact assessment (SIA) studies and cluster studies. Each NDTPF is expected to produce written progress reports for onward presentation to RNF meetings and submission to the COMESA secretariat for future references. Lastly, NDTPFs are expected to come up with both offensive and defensive cluster interests and positions which feed into regional preparation agendas.

However, the events to date indicate that NDTPFs lack wide and deep consultations or involvement of all stakeholders. It has been observed that participation in NDTPFs of some countries excludes those stakeholders who are perceived as critical of the prevailing governance and political systems and socio-economic conditions. This means that the limited democratic space constrains free participation of civic bodies in the process.

For instance in Zimbabwe, a sour relationship between civic bodies and government means that mostly regional civic bodies have been participating in this process. To date, no members of nationally-based civic bodies have been part of the government delegation attending RNF meetings. In other countries, the civic bodies are largely inactive and very weak, therefore unable to mount a serious engagement in NDTPFs activities. This means that wide and deep involvement of all stakeholders, particularly the poor constituencies, still remains one of the biggest challenges facing NDTPFs in their engagement in EPA negotiations. This also means the low mobilization of citizens and/or exclusion of the poor in this process. Further, this means weak networking and synergies of strategies among stakeholders. Ultimately, this leads to relatively weaker negotiable positions vis-à-vis the EC, and dangerous and unviable EPA outcomes that are incapable of assisting in transforming economies to the benefit of poor constituencies.

Due to deliberate exclusion of civic bodies from the process, the publicity of EPAs has remained largely unsatisfactory. Most EPA-related events and activities have gone without notice by the media at the level of both the NDTPFs and RNF. Chances are therefore that the citizenry, let alone poor constituencies, may fail to follow the process with the view to how to deal with the pitfalls of any agreement.

In addition, the COMESA secretariat seems to have failed to monitor and ensure that countries comply with their own rules and procedures of engagement in the EPA process. Indeed, failure to deposit reports make it impossible for interested stakeholders in the ESA configuration and beyond to review the process with the view to understand the dynamics at each NDTPF, and subsequently RNF negotiation process. Without publicity and close scrutiny, it becomes difficult to assess the level of NDTPFs’ accountability, transparency and the democratic process, let alone encompassing poor constituencies in the process.

Regional Negotiation Forum

The Regional Negotiating Forum (RNF) is a structure that brings together representatives from NDTPFs, four regional secretariats and a regional civic body; Brussels-based ambassadors, especially cluster lead spokespersons; and selected observers and consultants to deliberate progress and ultimately prepare EPA positions for the ESA configuration. Participation support at the RNF is given to two government negotiators, a representative of non-state actor in each ESA country, representative of the regional civic body, regional secretariat officials and invited observers, experts and consultants. All supported participants have speaking rights and status during the meeting.

However, given the complexity of the negotiations coupled with deficiencies in both technical and financial capacities to undertake EPA negotiations in most ESA member-states, the coordination becomes equally complex and technical, requiring an equally broad-based and sound technical depth. This unfortunately, has not been satisfactory, leading to instances where crucial documents ended-up being distributed during the onset of the meetings and deliberate omission of items from the programme that had earlier on been circulated. This has a negative impact on member-states contribution at the regional meetings. However, this is not entirely of COMESA’s making but also a function of too much congestion on the EPA calendar and limited technical advisory (It is only this year that the Chief Technical Advisor has been hired to assist in the process) coupled with other regional mandates requiring similar attention.

Some countries have been sending only two participants to the RNF meetings in spite the availability of resources which end-up being returned to the EU – the sponsor of the process. This raises the question, “whose problem is it?” as well as pointing to the state of governance systems that are guiding the process in respective member-states. This development further indicates weak status of NDTPFs in terms of consulting and involving widely and deeply all stakeholders. Other countries have failed to establish viable NDTPFs that are capable of generating offensive and defensive positions to be subsequently tabled at the RNF meetings. In this respect, a few countries have been bringing more delegates using their own resources to support the process, a development that is encouraging in terms of providing the necessary moral support to negotiators.

It is thus fair and just to allow more civic bodies, especially the social movements, to become part of governments’ delegations to RNF and other meetings. Only when this happens, will the crying voice still at the periphery of defining a long-term trade regime with the EU, become louder. This is more so given that the invitation extended to regional civic bodies in 2004 meant to bring the voice of poor constituencies into the process has been withdrawn. The purging means no invitations to future RNF meetings and no accessing of sustainable impact assessment (SIA) studies of member-states that are deposed at the regional secretariat. But, the major casualty of COMESA’s reaction remains the “crying voice” that is watching the unbalanced and heavily biased match from outside the pitch.

Given the above, it seems as though COMESA lacks the political will to assist in widening and deepening the level of involvement and consultations. It also suggests that the organization has assumed the role of monitoring intervention of critical voices in this process with the view to purge all those who happen to be critical of them.

From the table, many countries’ delegations consist mainly of government officials and to some extent private sector representatives. Only Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have widened the size of their delegation to RNF by including officials from relevant ministries and departments. From the table Kenya too has brought more participants to all the RNF meetings including a member of parliament.

The Secretariat as at the beginning of 2005 reported that it had not received any written reports on the activities of NDTPFs. This means that all past presentations by delegations on the progress and constraints were/are verbal, a development that often mislead the process aiming at achieving positive EPA outcomes. As expected, no criticism has arisen from country presentations, and as it stands, it is difficult to review the process in future.


The above discussion clearly shows limitations to including poor constituencies in the process of negotiating an EPA with the EU. There is generally lack of political will to centrally involve and consult civic bodies regarding the on-going process. There is no political will to ensure availability of resources for mobilizing poor constituencies.

At the beginning of 2005, only five studies out of 16 countries were deposited with the regional secretariat. While the studies have been produced, no rigorous engagement of the findings has taken place with the view to translating the pitfalls to poor constituencies. This position is further worsened by limited space for civic bodies to participate in the process. It therefore tends to reason that the participation of civic bodies are constrained by imperatives on the ground such as limited democratic space, poor state-civic relationships and outright exclusion by coordinating institutions in the capitals and beyond. The “poor’s voice” continues to cry out, pleading with the technocrats that “ESA is not for sale”. Surely poor constituencies cannot dream for a positive EPA when the process totally excludes them.

* Richard Kamidza is Senior Researcher at the African Centre for Constructive of Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

* Please send comments to [email protected]
On paper, negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) allow for the involvement of a range of organisations that should to some extent ensure the voice of the poor are heard in the construction of the agreements. Richard Kamidza outlines how in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) the reality is far different. The process of negotiations has deliberately excluded the poorest in Africa though their structure, complexity and a general lack of political will to be inclusive. “Surely poor constituencies cannot dream for a positive EPA when the process totally excludes them,” writes Kamidza.

From Negro History Week to Pan-African Historical Context

Netfa Freeman


Netfa Freeman, director of the Social Action and Leadership School for Activists in Washington, reflects on the annual Black History Month held in the US during February, criticizing how it has become commercialized and arguing for Black History Month to evolve so that it considers a broader Pan-African historical context. “…African people need to develop institutions for coordinating our political activities internationally; to generate faith and unconditional support for these activities; take control of information about our history and current geo-political events.”

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” - Carter G. Woodson

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” -Marcus Garvey

The need to once and for all embrace a reasonable and comprehensive interpretation of African history that inspires and uplifts Black people is evident when examining how Black History Month is celebrated in US culture. Like most other historic reflections, Black History Month is sanitized with stagnate and idealistic interpretations, aimed at removing the vital elements of historical struggle and revelation. Today it is customary during the month of February for media to make superficial sound bites about "African-American" pioneers in technology, sports, scholarship and anti-slavery activism.

While schools highlight leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas and several others, rarely is the celebration used to thoroughly reflect on the ethics, political vision, and philosophical insights of these leaders. Rarely does the celebration clarify the socio-political milieu in which they struggled and glean relevant lessons from historical context. Further, connections to Africa are generally severed at the Middle Passage, instead of recognizing the subsequent interconnections between the economic circumstances, cultural expressions, and political movements of African people. This is expected since it isn't difficult to see how knowledge of these connections conflict with a corporate capitalist culture that has effectively commercialized Black History Month as a means to advertise commodities. Nationwide Insurance airs a touching radio commercial that doesn't even offer history, but simply appeals to insure “personal Black history” by buying life insurance.

However, a proper examination of Black History Month must also take into account the laws of change and historical development to which everything is subject. In 1926, Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, an African historian, writer, and educator, established Negro History Week to honor the contributions of African people in North America. For "historical clarity" African is being used to refer to all people of African descent, whether they are born in North or South America, the Caribbean, Europe or any other part of the world. Born 1875 to former slaves in New Canton, Virginia the extent and scope to which the Harvard educated Dr. Woodson identified did not extend beyond North America. Woodson even chose the month of February for the observance of Negro History Week because the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and US President Abraham Lincoln fall in this month. Regardless, Dr. Woodson contributed profoundly to our understanding that a better knowledge of history is critical for African people, at least in North America, to achieve greater pride, self-determination and collective progress. As go the laws of change, Negro History Week itself transformed. About fifty years later, near the close of the Black Power era (early 1970s), the celebration was renamed Black History Week and even later expanded to Black History Month in 1976. These changes reflected a progression in how African people throughout the world had come to identify.

Dr. Woodson insisted that history was not the mere gathering of facts or a chronology of events, but that the object of historical study is to arrive at a reasonable interpretation of the social conditions of the period being studied. Applying this objective to the social conditions in which Dr. Woodson lived reveals coexistence with the 1914 Garvey movement in the formation of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Black Star Line. The UNIA's movement, led by the Honorable Marcus Garvey, broadened the ideological scope for African people beyond the confines of birth-country and into the extensions of the Diaspora.

Marcus Garvey offered a more inclusive philosophy of how African people could identify, reflect and engage. Before the UNIA, the Pan-African movement found an earlier expression in 1900 at the first Pan-African Conference convened in London by Sylvester Williams. Since that first conference there have been seven subsequent Pan-African Congresses, the seventh taking place in Uganda in 1994. Consistent with the teachings of Dr. Woodson, the inspiration that comes from biography and history must necessarily include the context that connects the "American negro" to a broader African people scattered and struggling in 135 countries worldwide.

Since the founding of Negro History Week a host of positive and negative personalities, events and historical developments have transpired, affording African history instructive and dynamic lessons for humanity. More has also been learned about philosophies and methods of history. Nevertheless, the most instructive lessons are largely neglected. Black History Month must do more than emphasize the inspiring achievements of great individuals. It must also help in refining a historical philosophy and method of study that helps us understand the prevailing conditions of our time. Historical study should explain such phenomena as how young Africans from the Congo to Haiti; from urban neighborhoods in the USA to other parts of the world are armed and reaping havoc on their own communities. It should be able to explain how a people from a continent that has spawned some of the greatest contributions to world civilization are persistently plagued by apathy, disease, poverty and political disempowerment in communities around the world. Neglecting the history that connects Black experiences and struggles beyond the confines of a particular country renders Black History Month deficient and leaves room for the notion of African inferiority.

Historical context presupposes more than outstanding achievements and personalities or else is it sterilized into something incapable of explaining present global challenges and illuminating future direction. For example, it is clearly significant that in March 1978 the US National Security Council issued secret memorandum 46 in response to directives from the president that "a comprehensive review be made of current developments in Black Africa from the point of view of their possible impacts on the black movement in the United States". This memo demonstrates the attitude and multiplicity of political and economic interests influencing US policy toward Africa and African people:

"…. adverse to U.S. strategic interests, the nationalist liberation movement in black Africa can act as a catalyst with far reaching effects on the American black community by stimulating its organizational consolidation and by inducing radical actions."

Surely it is a positive thing for any African community to achieve greater organizational consolidation and radical change from adversity. Instead the memo recommends:

“1. Specific steps should be taken with the help of appropriate government agencies to inhibit coordinated activity of the Black Movement in the United States.

2. Special clandestine operations should be launched by the CIA to generate mistrust and hostility in American and world opinion against joint activity of the two forces…

3. US embassies to Black African countries specially interested in southern Africa must be highly circumspect in view of the activity … opposing the objectives and methods of U.S. policy toward South Africa…

4. The FBI should mount surveillance operations against Black African representatives and collect sensitive information on those…include facts on their links with the leaders of the Black movement in the United States, thus making possible at least partial neutralization of the adverse effects of their activity.”

This history demonstrates that African people need to develop institutions for coordinating our political activities internationally; to generate faith and unconditional support for these activities; take control of information about our history and current geo-political events.

It’s common knowledge that the continent of Africa is the most naturally rich continent on earth. It is also painfully clear that African people everywhere are among the poorest and most oppressed. A proper reflection of Black history can combat this by educating people about the forces in conflict with African progress and providing lessons from past successes and failures. To combat inferiority complexes African people need to know that profound forms of organized resistance have been and are being waged against slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism.

It is inspiring to know that the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the US were taking place simultaneously with similar struggles for independence and self-determination in Africa and the Diaspora. Leaders like Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, Shirley Dubois, Sekou Ture and others were meeting, making plans and concretizing the Pan-African agenda. Knowledge of such things has proven to resolve notions of inferiority and to imbue African people with a greater sense of social obligation. The social movements in African history intersect across geographical boundaries and are energized by class struggle. The context in which we consider ourselves must be commensurate with the exigencies before us that exist within an increasingly globalized yet more polarized world. Just as Negro History Week has evolved into Black or African-American History Month, to continue having value it must evolve into a Pan-African Historical Context.

* Netfa Freeman is director of the Social Action & Leadership School for Activists (SALSA), a program of the Washington DC based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). He can be emailed at netfa (at)

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Netfa Freeman, director of the Social Action and Leadership School for Activists in Washington, reflects on the annual Black History Month held in the US during February, criticizing how it has become commercialized and arguing for Black History Month to evolve so that it considers a broader Pan-African historical context. “…African people need to develop institutions for coordinating our political activities internationally; to generate faith and unconditional support for these activities; take control of information about our history and current geo-political events.”

South African local elections: Facing up to the pressure from below

Patrick Burnett


Last week, the South African defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota took final delivery of the SAS Amatola, a R1,5-billion, 36 000 ton, 121 metre long warship complete with biological and chemical defense mechanisms, automated damage control and armour protection. The state-of-the-art Amatola is the first of four corvettes to be fully completed and is currently docked at the military harbour in the picturesque naval town of Simon’s Town near Cape Town.

The mountain peaks above Simon’s Town provide the best view of the four warships moored in the harbour below and while this may seem like an odd place to begin a discussion about South Africa’s March 1 local government elections, the ships speak to a number of issues that are relevant to the vote for 9 000 councilors in 284 South African city, town and district councils.

Amidst much criticism that the money could have been better spent on services delivery, the purchase of the corvettes formed part of a multi-billion rand arms deal which also included a shopping list of 30 helicopters, 24 Hawk fighter trainers and 28 Gripen light fighter aircraft. It was with the corvettes that the controversy over the arms deal started, with contractor Richard Young alleging a conflict of interest involving the government's former acquisitions chief, "Chippy" Shaik. Schabir Shaik, brother of “Chippy”, was a shareholder in the Thomson Group and African Defence Systems, which were awarded the contract to provide combat technology for the four corvettes. Schabir Shaik was found guilty in 2005 on two charges of corruption and one of fraud, and sentenced to an effective 15 years' imprisonment. His appeal will be heard later this year. But it was Judge Hilary Squire’s assertion in that case that Shaik had enjoyed a “generally corrupt” relationship with former deputy president Jacob Zuma that rocked politics in South Africa to its foundations.

As a result of the outcome of the Shaik trial, Zuma was fired by president Thabo Mbeki and now faces court later in the year on corruption charges. The charges have been characterized by Zuma’s camp as an attempt to eliminate him from the race for the presidency in 2009 elections. Zuma also faces a March trial in connection with the alleged rape of a 31-year old Aids activist. The events have pitted factions in support of Zuma against those of Mbeki and further strained the relationship between the ANC and its alliance partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP).

So when you’re looking down on the four corvettes in Simon’s Town harbour its impossible to divorce them from South Africa’s wider political reality. There’s no doubt that the arms deal has been part of a defining period that will resonate far into the future. For this reason, local government elections, taking place in an atmosphere of heightened national political tension, seem far more significant this time around than when they were last held in 2000.

Simon’s Town and the resident corvettes are linked to the rest of South Africa in other ways. The town forms part of a string of coastal villages along the False Bay coast that since 2000 have seen a doubling and in some cases even a trebling of property prices. The coastal enclaves that hug the mountains have become the home of a mix of foreign property owners, old and new money, all attracted by the beauty of the False Bay coast and the massive returns offered by a lucrative property portfolio.

Yet alongside this boom are communities that the wealth windfall has bypassed completely. Just over the hill from Simon’s Town harbour is the shack settlement of Red Hill, where high unemployment rates, poor housing and lack of services are common problems. A few valleys and mountains from Red Hill is Ocean View, where the apartheid government dumped the original inhabitants of places like Simon’s Town under its forced removals policy and where unemployment, gangsterism and drugs are rife. And a few kilometers from Ocean View is Masiphumelele, where unemployment and lack of housing are common problems.

These communities, segregated by high walls, electric fences and an enormous privatized security industry from properties literally next door to them that sell for millions of rands, mirror the broader South African picture that shows a widening gap between rich and poor, a gap already large as a result of apartheid but compounded by market friendly economic policies which have favoured those who are able to access resources.

It’s in communities like Ocean View and Masiphumelele where a new flank has opened up in the South African political story. In May last year, Ocean View erupted in protest over housing shortages and poor services. Protests in Masiphumelele over education led to clashes with the police. These small, localized protests have sprung up in towns across South Africa, peaking across the country in a 2005 “winter of discontent” and simmering ever since. Although the causes of these protests have been diverse and sometimes rooted in local politics, a common characteristic has been that they have all included an element of protest against a lack of government delivery in the area of housing, electricity, water or sanitation.

As the local government elections near, the media has sometimes used these protests as evidence that the ANC is going to be punished at the polls through low voter turn out, even if victory is assured (Only 48% turned out in 2000). This may still turn out to be the case in some areas, but there are also indications that the equation might not be so simple. A recent ACNielsen survey, for example, shows that support for the ANC does not dissipate in correlation with support of protests. Factors such as loyalty to the ANC exists together with support of protest.

This suggests that the protests could oddly assist the ANC, something a recent Markinor poll published by the Sunday Times newspaper pointed out. Protests had raised awareness in some municipalities and would increase voter turn out. In this sense the protests could assist the ANC not only by getting voters to the polls, but by pressurizing councilors to get on with the job of delivering services. This line of argument, however, only holds for so long as the ANC can maintain some kind of control over the protests. Arguably, events of the last week, where Lekota, a senior ANC figure and defence minister, was chased out of the town of Khutsong and prevented from addressing a rally, is not an example that the ANC leadership in Pretoria would want to encourage.

But what these community actions have done is to raise the profile of issues of delivery at the local government level, even though the voices of those protesting seem to have been sidelined from the mainstream political debate, characterized by reports which show the protestors as violent even when the police fired on them first, or by a lack of voices articulating the concerns of communities beyond the initial sound bites in media coverage of protest action.

Why has there been an apparent short out at local government level? The reasons advanced are many. Massive apartheid era backlogs at local government level meant that the process of service delivery started out on the back foot. The ANC top guard, typified by President Thabo Mbeki’s remote style of leadership and centralization of power, has detached itself from the hurly burly of service delivery. Bruising battles within the ANC for control of the organisation have detracted attention from grassroots delivery. Local councilors, faced with massive backlogs and little capacity, have simply buckled under the pressure. Widespread corruption based on power and patronage has permeated the local government level. The Growth Economic and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy, the unilaterally adopted market-focused growth path adopted by the ANC in 1996, limited the amount of money that could be invested in social development projects, boosting the rich to be even richer, but leaving the poor behind.

Which ever or all of those reasons you choose it’s clear that the ANC has an ever-increasing workload if it is to meet its service delivery commitments. As long as this situation is allowed to continue, the pressure from below is likely to increase rather than decrease, no matter what the result of voting next week.

* Patrick Burnett is online news editor, Pambazuka News

* Please send comments to [email protected]

Advocacy & campaigns

Angola: Stop forced evictions!


Since July 2005, hundreds of families have been made homeless after being forcibly evicted from their homes in several neighbourhoods in Luanda, the capital. Their homes were demolished and other property was either destroyed or stolen by the police and municipal fiscal agents that carried out the forced evictions. Most of the forced evictions were carried out violently. Forced evictions - those which are not carried out in accordance with the law – are human rights violations clearly prohibited by international law. They almost invariably affect the poor and most vulnerable members of society; they increase social inequality and poverty and frequently give rise to social conflict. Yet, the Angolan government continues to forcibly evict people from their homes.

Global: Homeless World Cup


By highlighting the positive power of sport, The Homeless World Cup seeks to inspire and address homeless people and people in poverty around the world through in-person sporting events, a website, and mass media coverage. An annual street soccer (football) tournament unites teams of homeless people around the world; the goal is to raise awareness about their experiences, generate a sense of community strength, and foster a new social impact for a marginalised group. The 2006 competition (Sept. 21-30, Cape Town, South Africa) is expected to involve 45 teams with players from 35 countries, at least 50,000 spectators, and global media coverage.

Global: International Mother Language day


The world's nearly 6,000 languages will be celebrated on International Mother Language Day, an event aimed at promoting linguistic diversity and multilingual education. Ensuring that these languages can continue in use alongside the major international languages of communication is a genuine challenge to countries worldwide. Today, about half of the 6,000 or so languages spoken in the world are under threat. This year's theme will be devoted to the topic of languages and cyberspace, reports UNESCO.

Global: Small Arms Campaign - 100 Day Countdown


The Control Arms campaign is launching the '100 Day Countdown' on 16 March 2006. The 100 Day Countdown is a critical period to increase campaigning activities and heighten media attention in the run-up to the UN Review Conference (RevCon) on small arms. The 100 Day Countdown is a concerted final push of campaigning at the national level before the international culmination of campaigning activities in June/July 2006 at the RevCon in New York when the Million Faces Petition will be delivered. The events taking place around the world during the 100 Days will have some common objectives, and will ultimately highlight the global problem of gun violence. This year, the Global Week of Action Against Small Arms will take place within the 100 Day Countdown.

Pan-African Postcard

Uganda under Museveni: The end or the beginning of the end?


The people of Uganda go to the polls today (February 23). It is an election that is historical in more ways than one. It is the first multiparty elections since the National Resistance Army and Movement (NRA/M) captured power in 1986 and ushered in almost two decades of “No Party” government under President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. It is an election in which the voters are faced with much clearer choice of candidates. The voters are also spoilt for choice of candidates at various levels from the plainly mediocre to the comical to the serious, and many in between. It is probably the most controversial election campaign yet.

The election tourism industry has flourished and their allied clients in local and international NGOs, hotels, entertainment, taxis, car hires, food sellers and business centres must be wishing the campaigning had gone on longer. Even us columnists, especially my colleagues who mostly comment on Ugandan domestic issues, may find less passionate issues to rant on and on about.

Initial reports from different observers have been typical of what one has come to expect these days. It seems the statements are already written before they arrive, or the templates are in the laptops and all they need to do is just cut and paste - changing location, country and names of parties and candidates as and where necessary. A minority of the voter tourists have suggested that due to the lack of level balance between the government and the opposition the election may not be fully free and fair. The majority of reports so far, including that of the African Union (AU), released on Tuesday, 21 February, suggest that in spite of a few incidents including violence, they are confident that the campaigns have generally been 'ok' and look forward to a free and fair election.

The opposition and the ruling parties and their supporters react to these assessments differently depending on their political interests. But there is no denying the truth that the government did engage in underhand methods, some of them so crude and crass that they beggar disbelief. There was clear intimidation of the opposition and disruption of their campaigns. The main opposition candidate and former follower of Museveni, Kiiza Besigye, was facing trial for treason and in a new political low, trial for alleged rape, and was in and out of courts and detention centres, as well as campaigning across the country. Even some supporters of the ruling party have claimed intimidation, especially in opposition strong holds. But it is an unequal balance of terror because the ruling party and government always has greater power and leverage for intimidation than the opposition.

Debates and controversies will definitely continue after the elections but today the people of Uganda have the chance to award marks to all the candidates and parties and decide who governs Uganda for the next five years.

It is a right that has been won with blood and struggles. It is not a gift from any leader or party. It is not just those who went to the bush to fight dictatorship who made democratisation possible. The millions who stayed in the country, kept working in spite of all odds, kept hope alive and supported the struggles in non armed ways have also made their contributions - and many of them also paid with their lives. There was a tendency on the part of Museveni and his zealots to equate opposition to him as treason.

But democracy like rainfall knows no good or bad farmer - it will pour on all. This means that even those who were on the wrong side of the democratic struggles have the right to democratic freedoms and protection within the law. As people vote today, the controversies and passions not withstanding, they will still be inhabiting the same country with their political opponents, this time tomorrow and the day after regardless of the outcome of the vote.

It is important for every qualified citizen to exercise their democratic right to decide who governs them, although it is also democratic to refuse to vote if you feel that none of the candidates or parties represents your interest.

Of course the election, though the most decisive event is not the only proof of democracy. The process leading to it is also important in determining the legitimacy of the outcome. And voting in itself is not enough. As Joseph Stalin (no pretender for any democratic values) once observed, while he was not able to influence how people voted he could influence how the vote was counted. In many countries, not just Africa, even the way people vote can be influenced. However, the decisive influence often tends to be the counting. People must defend their mandate by ensuring that all their votes are properly counted and that the results tally with how they voted. In the polling booths today, as millions cast their votes, they must ask themselves: would I be able to live with myself this time tomorrow if this candidate wins? Is this person the best for the peace and prosperity of all Ugandans?

Whatever the outcome, Uganda can never be the same again as the era of deepening multiparty democracy beckons. For Museveni and his acolytes it is either the end (if they lose) or the beginning of the end (when they win).

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

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Whatever the outcome of the Ugandan elections, writes Tajudeen Abdul Raheem, Uganda can never be the same again. The era of deepening multiparty democracy beckons and for President Yoweri Museveni it is either the end (if they lose) or the beginning of the end (when they win).

Books & arts

Kenya: Hungry for live poetry - Nairobi’s first poetry slam


The question is so blunt and large, I don't know what to reply. But there's a mic in my face, a TV camera running, a journalist from Citizen TV waiting for my response. We're on the staircase leading up to Nairobi's Club Soundd. Above us, the final open mic poets are sharing their work in a space crammed with 300 people. The air crackles with the electricity of Nairobi's just-concluded first-ever poetry slam.

I say: "We just saw, upstairs, in the last 2 hours, what poetry can do. Poetry lets us see and feel what we numb ourselves against in everyday life. The full spectrum of being human – from ecstatic joy to burning rage to acute grief. Poetry allows us to break silence around what scares us most – whether it's HIV, or poverty, or political repression, or being left by our lover. Poetry moves us from paralysis into action. Poetry connects us to each other, invites us into each other's reality, makes us larger, more alive, in the world."

Club Soundd is one of Nairobi's newer bar/restaurant/nightclub venues, opened six months ago by Luai, charming entrepreneur of Lebanese heritage. His dream is to create a space that nurtures arts and culture, while it draws people in to kick back with a beer in front of the large-screen TVs. He generously hosts the monthly open mic readings of Kwani, Nairobi's explosive literary organization, and hangs the red walls with original work from local artists. On the TV screens tonight, Ivory Coast plays Nigeria in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations. Tough act for poets to compete with.

"Get Ready To Slam", said Kenya's Daily Nation 3 days ago. "Poetry Slam at Club Soundd" trumpeted another article. Journalists love the word "slam". It's short, punchy, visceral, action-packed. Yet of the 300 people who showed up at Club Soundd, perhaps only half-a-dozen had any idea what they were in for. The rest were there because of the buzz, word-of-mouth and media-generated, that something exciting was going to happen tonight.

"What is Slam Poetry?" I was asked in interview after interview. "What is Spoken Word? How is it different from normal poetry?"

"Spoken word and slam poetry are NOT different from ‘regular’ poetry," I insisted. "They simply reclaim poetry as an oral tradition, communicated live, through the voice and the body. Africa is where spoken word, the oral tradition, began. A poetry slam is a game, a device, to get people interested in poetry. Human beings love competitions. Slam began in a bar in Chicago, in the US, and spread like wildfire, regenerating poetry as a vital, explosive, grassroots arts movement that everyone could be a part of. In a slam, poets perform their original work, without props, costumes or accompaniment, to a 3-minute time limit. Judges are selected from the audience, and they score the poets, Olympic-style, from 1-10, based on content and performance. The top-scoring poet at the end of the night is the winner."

When Kwani first invited me to feature at their open mic on my upcoming trip to Nairobi, I threw out the idea of hosting a poetry slam. They leapt on it eagerly, and before I knew it, we were planning Nairobi's First Ever Poetry Slam. I was initially wary about how it would go down – was it an appropriate form for the Nairobi scene? Would the competition intimidate rather than encourage, new voices?

"Your job," I told the poets who'd signed up to compete, "is to have the best time of your life. Don't get hung up on the scores, or the audience response. The moment you get on the stage, you've already won. Just by being there. By showing everyone in the room that they too, can share their creative voice with the world."

At the start of the night, we're worried that we only have three people signed up to slam. And we're concerned about the turnout; my performance at the Carnivore, four days ago, drew a disappointingly small audience. We're hoping the city centre location, low cover charge of Ksh. 50, and press coverage in the last few days, will bring people in tonight.

By 8pm, when we close the slam list, there are 13 poets on it. Several more arrive in the next few minutes, too late to add to the list, but we promise them a place in the open mic reading. People are pouring in; all the seats are taken. They are sitting on the floor, on the edge of the stage, on each other's laps, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the bar at the back. I have never seen this in Kenya before – a space filled with people of every ethnicity, generation, socioeconomic background, hungry for something new, something they can't get from TV, video, surfing the web, something that feeds their souls and imaginations.

If we needed confirmation that we're breaking new ground here, the media presence supplies it. There are two TV crews in the house – from KTN and Citizen TV. Journalists from the Daily Nation, the Kenya Times, BBC Africa. After the slam, when they interview me, almost all of them will tell me that they, too, write poems. A couple will show me their work. Share the secret longing to be heard. Tell me they thought about signing up for the slam, but weren't quite ready. Next time, however…

The slam begins. We hear love poems. Break-up poems. Political poems. A poem that explores the meaning of manhood. A rhythmic tribute to the heroes of Kenya's war of independence. A scathing indictment of poetry as useless – in the form of a poem! One poet comes out as HIV-positive, to a room of 300 strangers, in a poignant letter to his parents, infused with love and regret. Another does a hilarious improvised riff on the Ivory Coast – Nigeria football match, still running on the TV screen in the bar. I am especially happy that over 50% of the poets are women. I've been told by dozens of women in the US that they would love to perform their work, but are intimidated by their male-dominated local slams.

The audience is beside itself. They yell, cheer, clap, howl for their favourite poets, boo the judges when the scores are low. No football crowd, no rock concert crowd, could be more engaged, more enthusiastic.

One of my old friends, who stood in the back all night because the place was so jammed, sends me an SMS that night: "I was amazed and enlightened. I never knew poetry could be like that. To me, ‘poetry’ was what we studied in school."

The word I hear most often afterwards is: Inspired.

"I was so inspired."
"That was so inspiring."
"I want to be in the next slam."
"I want to bring everyone I know to the next slam."

The poet who read about being HIV-positive comes up to take my hand. We both have tears in our eyes, a silent tribute to the power of what happened tonight. Another man tells me he wanted to sign up for the slam, but was afraid:

"I am Ugandan. I was scared to speak in a room full of Kenyans. When I heard your poems about being Indian, I thought: Next time, I will do it."

Kwani sells out of copies of its latest issue. Luai, the Club Soundd owner, says to me: "I am so happy. This crowd is what Kwani has been working for, what they deserve."

It's only the beginning. What can poetry do, right now, in Kenya? Create community. Break open deathly silences. Give people a platform to share their deepest joys and fears. Open a space for dissent, debate, discussion, education, around everything from safe sex to constitutional reform. Make us larger, braver, more joyful, more contentious. Push us to engage with the world around us, capture it in language, work that language to its most beautiful and powerful distillation, pour it out like water for the thirsty. Inspire us to trust our own intelligence and passion, our hunger for art that is real and hard and truthful; messy and complex and bloody. Above all, art that is ours. Trust that our own voices are the thick grain, the juicy greens, we have been hungry for.

* Kenyan poet, Shailja Patel, is a US Lambda Poetry Slam champion, and has competed in two US national Poetry Slam Championships. She is currently developing a one-woman spoken-word theatre show, Migritude, which she looks forward to presenting in Kenya soon. Visit her at

Rwanda: God sleeps in Rwanda


The 1994 Rwandan Genocide left the country nearly 70 percent female, handing Rwanda’s women an extraordinary burden and an unprecedented opportunity. An inspiring story of loss and redemption 'God Sleeps in Rwanda' captures the spirit of five courageous women as they rebuild their lives, redefining women’s roles in Rwandan society and bringing hope to a wounded nation.

Africa: Sithengi reaches out to rest of Africa


Southern African International Film and Television Festival and Market (Sithengi) may have been started in 1996 by a group of Zimbabweans and South Africans, but the initiative is now fanning out to the rest of Africa. During the official opening of 10th Sithengi in November 2005, the board of directors was expanded, bringing in Nigeria and Francophone Africa. Making the announcement, outgoing chairman, Eddie Mbalo, said this was necessary to make Sithengi a truly African continental film organisation. Nigeria is represented by Afolabi Adesanya, the managing director of Nigerian Film Corporation while Mauritanian filmmaker, Abderrhamane Cissako, represents French-speaking Africa. Other members will be drawn from the South African film industry and organisations giving money to Sithengi.

Kenya: Theatre turns street urchins into responsible citizens


African Medical Research Foundation, AMREF, is creating 21st century ‘Black Pinocchios’ from the street urchins of Nairobi. Wanjiru Kinyanjui caught up with one of them and reports on his life. The boys are all stiffly lying on the hard concrete floor. One by one, they ‘wriggle’ out of their comatose positions, stand up, ease up, wave their passports to the audience and announce their names. The 20 young men have been transformed from disobedient wooden puppets into real boys as butterflies metamorphose from caterpillars.

Zimbabwe: Play tackles adultery


A well-received Zimbabwean play has challenged how a woman should react in situations of adultery. Despite a widely-held view in the country that wives should accept that their husbands will stray, expectations are beginning to change. Hot Water Bottle is a one-woman performance featuring Tinopona Katsande, a television soap opera star with a raunchy image. Twenty shows were held over two weeks at Harare's Theatre In The Park, and the content drew strong reactions from those who watched.

Letters & Opinions

Campaign against corruption in Kenya: A convenient smokescreen?

Sibanze Simuchoba


I agree with Onyongo Oloo. The fuss in Kenya is similar to the one in my country, Zambia. Both countries look to the West in the anti-corruption crusade. In Zambia, the fight against corruption is personified by prosecuting former President Chiluba. Curiously, President Mwanawasa expects us to believe that his anti corruption crusade is serious and not a sham! It is shameful that Githongo is fighting corruption in Kenya from Britain. If he is too scared to do it from Nairobi, let him find a base in an African country.

Editor comment: This is rather an unfair, and rather one could suggest even naive, position to take. Githongo has been heroic in challenging corruption. It is naive to believe this can be done without threat to one's own and one's family's safety. We should not equate Githongo's position with the use that the the western media and governments might make use of his revelations.

Campaign Against Corruption In Kenya: A Convenient Smoke Screen? (2)


I write to register my support against all acts that constitute a breach of trust of the peoples will. Corruption in Africa is one of the greatest vices needing a proper inward look.

In as much as it might be true that this attempt by the Kenyan government may just be a convenient smoke screen to thwart the focus of the populace, I have the strong conviction that all of us must lend support to such a bold step taken by the Kenyan Government.

Evidence of widespread corruption abounds throughout Africa. Little has been done to counter its growth and if any authority takes the responsibility to treat it in such an open manner as the Kenyan Government has done then our support is needed. The Kibaki government may just be guilty of the several malpractices which abound in Africa, but certainly we can count the number of leaders, be they good or bad, who have taken such decisions to avail the suspects to justice. It is too early to coin it a smoke screen. This may just be some new wine in old wine skin.

Adieu Dr Beko, the indefatigable fighter for human rights and social justice

Sonny Onyegbula


It was with sadness that I learnt of the death of Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti (See for background information). Beko has died at the time of our national life when we need him more than ever before. His contributions to democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights are unimaginable. We was both a leader and a follower. His passion for fairness, justice and due process were legendary. His love for the ordinary Nigeria was unimaginable. His loss is a national loss and a personal one for me.

Beko will be remembered for his struggles against military dictatorship in Nigeria. These struggles earned him stints in various prisons in Nigeria and constant harassment by bands of security operatives.

Rest in perfect peace Uncle Beko. You paid your dues to your country and all your sacrifices will be etched in our memory until the fullness of time.

Yes to women's leadership

Malkiory Matiya


I'm very pleased by the fact that Liberia has been the first African country to have a female president. Let other African nations try to learn from Liberia in their attempt to empower women to the best of their potential and capacity. I am Tanzanian, currently undertaking my studies in Finland. Special thanks to my President Jakaya Kikwete for nominating women in the top most and prominent ministries of finance, legal and constitution affairs, foreign and international cooperation.

Advocacy and heart


I enjoyed your articles immensely. I thank you for the information that you present because as a women who is disabled I personally have great reservations as to where the world is headed. As a citizen of a country that has many social services in place (though dwindling due to Free Trade Agreements) I feel that I have a very privileged position in relation to the conditions of women in other countries. Yet, I experience many problems relating to issues of inequality, lack of resources etc. I can't imagine what it must be like for women in what we term "Third World" countries.

I am presently a student at University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada and plan to use the information contained in your articles in both a presentation and an essay that I have due. The essay will include details on the IMF and how it affects the most vulnerable of our populations via the mechanism of globalization. If you have done any research in this area please point me to it. I would love to include your view.

Thank you for your advocacy and your heart.

Pambazuka News replies: Thanks for your comments, Deb. We've had a number of articles on the IMF which you can read by browsing through the back issues. In 2004, we had a special issue on the IMF which can be read at

Women's battle for rights and respect


'Moolade' by Ousmane Sembene is an excellent film concerning women's battle for rights and respect, particularly with regard to FGM in the African context. It might be useful for SIHA (see and other organisations.

Blogging Africa

Bloggers comment on the Ugandan elections


The Ugandan elections are in the news and a number of African bloggers provide commentary on the subject.

Ethan of My Heart’s in Accra - - reports on the ongoing pre-election violence and most worrying of all the deployment of 12,000 soldiers by Museveni to “prevent poll violence”.

“…opposition supporters see this as clear intimidation, a sign that Museveni will use the army to retain power even if he’s unsuccessful at the ballot box.”

There is also the situation in war torn Northern Uganda where the Lord’s Resistance Army have been fighting what Ethan describes as a “incomprehensible war” for the past 10 years. There has also been reports that the army has threatened voters in the region that they will pull out if people do not vote for Museveni. Despite all this it seems many Ugandans do not know there is an election on Thursday.

“According to their survey, only 53% of Ugandans polled knew the election was taking place on Thursday. This may reflect an attempt to dampen voter turnout by Museveni, or the complications of advertising an election in a poor nation… but it seems surprising that a pivotal election would be so poorly known about.”

Kenyan Pundit - - posts a speech by Prof. Joe Oloka-Onyango who provides some context behind the elections. Kenyan Pundit writes:

“The upcoming elections in Uganda will have implications on the future of democracy in the region as a whole…perhaps the ‘African Big Man’ syndrome is not about to vanish after all.”

Uganda-CAN - - focuses on Northern Uganda and the plight of child soldiers who even when they are rescued and returned to their homes continue to suffer – this time from friends and family.

“Uganda's former child soldiers, haunted by exposure to violence at a young age, often find little solace when reintegrated into their home communities. Abducted as youth into the throes of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), children are forced to commit acts of violence against the country's northern population until they escape or are captured by the Ugandan military. But when they return home, the nightmare continues, as they face stigmatization from their family and peers.”

Ethiopian blog, written by journalist Andrew Havens, Meskel Square - - has been reporting on the drought faced by Ethiopians in the southern Moyale zone of the country.

“Moyale is at the heart of a devastating drought that has left an estimated 737,000 Ethiopians struggling to survive without access to clean water. Beyond Ethiopia, the drought has spread out to affect more than 8.3 million people, including 1.2 million children aged under five, across the Horn of Africa.”

Meskel Square personalises his report by focusing on the driver of the only water truck, Tafesech Sahele, a 45-year-old mother-of two from Addis Ababa, who delivers water after filling up from the only three boreholes in the area.

Kenyan Blogger – Gukira - - discusses the recent Danish cartoons by placing them in an historical context of Euro/America race relations.

“To trace a history of cartoons in Euro-America is to trace a history of race relations…At the turn of the 20th C., Sambo art was in vogue. If one could not own a nigger, one could own a mug, a picture, a doll, an object that featured coal-black skin, bright red lips, and milk-white teeth.”

As the West defends freedom of speech, Gukira writes that people of colour have to ask “freedom for whom” and asks us to remember that lynchings were social occasions.

“Families assembled, complete with their cherubic children. Eager women rushed to take pieces of nigger clothing or skin or hair as souvenirs.”

Black Looks - - comments on a BBC programme called IChallenge which interviews an amazingly progressive Nigerian activist who has set up an organisation called INCREASE. “The organisation seeks to promote sexual health in the traditional Northern Sharia state of Niger.” INCREASE (International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights) is based in Niger State in the North of Nigeria and was started by Dorothy Aken’Ova, who writes:

“I believe in equal rights. I challenge the injustices, the discriminatory practices, all forms of inequalities that exist in Nigerian society, especially those that are fuelled by differences in gender and sexuality and especially sexual orientation.”

In addition to INCREASE, Ms Aken’Ova started a group for young gays, lesbians and transgenders in Abuja called IConnect which provides users with a supportive environment and opportunities to network with each other.

African Union Monitor

Zimbabwe: Mugabe delivers broadside to neighbours


President Robert Mugabe has called on neighbouring countries not to interfere in Zimbabwe's internal affairs, while signalling that constitutional reform was on the cards, possibly to smooth the way for a chosen successor. Speaking in a televised interview to commemorate his 82nd birthday over the weekend, Mugabe said: "We have tolerated some of them because they are our friends. We hope in future they will keep away." He was responding to a question on what he thought of diplomatic interventions by South Africa and Nigeria in Zimbabwe's political crisis. Mugabe sneered at his colleagues in the African Union, suggesting their interest in resolving Zimbabwe's problems was more to do with pressure from western governments deemed hostile to his ruling ZANU-PF.

Women & gender

Africa: Girls formerly associated with fighting forces and their children


In this paper Mckay, Robinson and colleagues successfully outline the considerable challenges facing girl mothers leaving fighting forces who seek to reintegrate into their communities in southern and western Africa. Often stigmatised and rejected by their communities, these girls struggle to find ways to earn a living to support themselves and their children in the face of economic and sexual exploitation. The paper derives from a conference held on girl mothers. It is based on participatory research and papers presented there, and on the ensuing workshop discussions.

Africa: Mainstreaming gender in sports projects


This paper looks at how to mainstream gender equality in sports projects and programmes. It highlights the barriers that women may face in participating in sports, such as a general lack of safe and appropriate sport facilities and lack of skills and resources. Women may be particularly exposed to physical and/or verbal sexual harassment. There is a lack of female role models including women coaches or leaders, and women are under-represented in decision-making bodies of sporting institutions.

Global: Culture, gender and growth


This policy brief explores the reform needed of social institutions and cultural practices to enhance qender equality. The paper argues that gender equality is good for growth, economic development and poverty reduction. The paper recommends that donor interventions should be designed to tackle potential male resistance from the outset and that donors should assist in changing social attitudes vis-a-vis women.

Global: New pressure needed to scrap gender-biased laws


The UN is studying the feasibility of appointing a special rapporteur - a human rights expert - who will focus specifically on national laws that discriminate against women in their home countries. "The goal of eliminating all sex discriminatory laws has so far not been achieved," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan confesses in a new report.

South Africa: Youth, fathers and masculinity


This paper argues that when fatherhood is privileged as a central aspect of masculinity everybody benefits. It discusses new emerging concepts of masculinity which have developed in response to the critique of hegemonic models, and which emphasise tolerance, domestic responsibility and sensitivity. This "new man" model of masculinity has led to a growing acceptance of the importance of families for men, and of men for families. Fathers who are positively engaged in the lives of their children are less likely to be depressed, to commit suicide, or to beat their wives. They are more likely to be involved in community work, to be supportive of their partners, and to be involved in school activities.

Uganda: Launch of the Women's Manifesto


On Friday 3rd February 2006, Uganda Women's Network (UWONET) spearheaded the launch of the Women's Manifesto 2006 at Hotel Africana, Kampala. The document seeks to give women a common platform for addressing crucial concerns of women in Uganda through helping more of them to take up leadership positions in politics, especially Parliament. UWONET's main mission is to promote networking and attain collective vision and action among different actors working towards development and the transformation of the unequal gender relations in society.

Uganda: UNIFEM opens office


UNIFEM's presence in the East and Horn of Africa region has been strengthened with the addition of a new office in Uganda. It was officially opened in February 2006, during a meeting of national partners from government institutions, civil society, academia, the UN system and donor partners. The one-day meeting was organised to seek partners' views on the most effective ways for UNIFEM to carry out its mandate in the Ugandan context, and how best to support the government and civil society partners in meeting commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment.

Zimbabwe: WOZA free at last


After spending over 72 hours in custody, 63 Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) women, part of 242 arrested in Harare on Valentine's Day, who had braved deplorable conditions, intimidation, refusal of food and water, appeared before Magistrate Takavadiyi at 3:30pm, Friday 17 February 2006. They were granted free bail but will appear for a further remand hearing on 3rd March. One woman described their treatment by saying "we were treated worse than dogs - you do not make a dog sleep on human waste"! For full coverage of the events, including an interview with Jenni Williams, visit Kubatana.

Human rights

Burkina Faso: The informal economy - from information to mutual protection


How to manage a hairdressing salon or a welding shop? What are the basic rights of a worker in the informal economy? Armed only with their teaching materials, the educators trained by the Programme for the Reinforcement of Trade Union Action in the Informal Economy (PRASEI) have reached a total of over 70,000 workers in Burkina Faso. The fact that in Ouagadougou, Bobo Dioulasso, Koudougou and Tenkodogo, the workers within the informal economy can now take part in May Day celebrations or convene collective action is the result of successful trade union awareness-raising. All this is the fruit of an intensive grassroots campaign carried out in 14 provinces of the country and led by the 554 resource persons trained by PRASEI.

Egypt: Citing irregularities, rights activists appeal for Nour retrial


Human rights activists are appealing to judicial authorities for a retrial of former opposition MP Ayman Nour due to “irregularities” in the initial investigation and trial. “A retrial should be carried out as quickly as possible,” said Bahieddine Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, “in order to address the serious legal breaches made in his first trial”. Nour, a leading opposition figure and head of the nascent Al-Ghad Party, was tried along with six others and convicted in December of having forged signatures on party documents. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Ethiopia: EC commissioner meets jailed opposition activists


Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi will allow international observers to attend the trial of detained opposition leaders set to begin in Addis Ababa on Thursday (February 23), a senior European Commission official said. Louis Michel, commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, told reporters on Friday (February 17) after meeting Meles during a two-day visit to Ethiopia, that the decision to allow him access to jailed members of the opposition and journalists was a "significant step in the direction of constructive political dialogue".

Global: Marginalisation of LGBT rights within the United Nations framework


The Association of Women in Development interviews Stephen Barris from the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) - an organisation that was recently denied consultative status at the UN. Barris says the following: "We are well aware that a UN decision in favour of the human rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people is not going to radically change the life of millions of persons in the world. Change needs to happen locally. The ECOSOC decision is important because the UN should be a common house for all - and its Commission on Human Rights should be the biggest institution defending the rights of all in this world. The first speech ever given in the United Nations was given in ILGA's name in 1992 when we still had observer status at the UN. Since we lost it in 1994, ILGA has never ceased to be present at the UN."

Lesotho: Concern for judiciary

Press statement


Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) is deeply alarmed by credible allegations of systematic arbitrary deprivation of liberty taking place in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. According to the Lesotho Council of NGOs (Lecongo) the situation directly results both from unlawful actions by law enforcement officials and systematic interference in the affairs of the judiciary.

Liberia: Truth Commission inaugurated


Liberia's president inaugurated a truth commission Monday (February 19) to investigate crimes and human rights abuses committed in the war-battered country over the last quarter century. The seven-member Truth and Reconciliation Commission has a mandate to investigate crimes committed from 1979 until 2003, when years of civil war came to an end. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took over last month from a postwar transitional government, said Liberians must be courageous enough "to face up to the past and revile as an affront to all civilized people the despicable acts our people endured during the past 14 years of our civil conflict."

Rwanda: Suicides take toll on genocide tribunals


The ongoing legal effort to assign blame and punishment for atrocities committed during the 1994 Rwanda genocide is being hamstrung by a rash of suicides among the suspects. Sixty-nine suspects killed themselves and 44 others attempted suicide during the last nine months of last year. While family members mourn the suicides, others say the accused should testify about all they know about the genocide and be made to suffer for any crimes they might have committed, according to the Washington Post.

South Africa: Murder of young lesbian sparks homophobia concerns


As gays and lesbians become more visible in South African townships, they are increasingly becoming targets of homophobia, according to rights activists. The organisations were reacting to reports at the weekend of the murder of a young lesbian in a township in Cape Town. "I have recorded 50 rape cases, dating back 10 years, involving black lesbians in townships," said Zanele Muholi, a community relations officer with the NGO, Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW). Muholi, a lesbian, who was also abused growing up in a township, co-founded FEW in 2002, to provide a support network for black gay women.

South Africa: Report on the Justice System


South Africa faces key challenges in meeting international standards of justice as well as those laid out in its own constitution, according to a new report. The report, launched today (February 17) by the Open Society Foundation-South Africa and AfriMAP, a project initiated by the Open Society network of foundations in Africa, provides a comprehensive audit of justice sector performance in post-apartheid South Africa. It also calls on the government to take steps to ensure that South Africa's justice system operates fairly and transparently and follows the rule of law.

Southern Africa: The challenge of albinism


Professor John Makumbe was almost killed at birth by a shocked mid-wife in a mission hospital in rural eastern Zimbabwe. "Looking at how white I was, she assumed that my mother had been misbehaving with one of the white missionaries at the school where she taught," said an amused Makumbe, 57, who for the past 20 years has been a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. It was only after his mother explained to the mid-wife that the child had inherited a genetic disorder that the mid-wife relented. Makumbe went on to form the Zimbabwe Albino Association (ZIMAS) in 1996. Tens of thousand southern Africans living with albinism have faced discrimination and abuse all their lives. They are often regarded as "unnatural" and even "cursed".

Sudan: Urgent Intervention required in Shearia, Southern Darfur

Sudan Organisation Against Torture statement


The situation in Shearia worsened in November 2005 as a result of the town becoming the new front for confrontations between government forces and the rebel opposition in Darfur despite the Ceasefire Agreement and ongoing negotiations in Abuja to secure peace for the region. The government strategy of shifting the war to the town began in early September following an SLA attack in Shearia town during which the rebel forces looted approximately 1,000 camels and reportedly killed 18 civilians.

Refugees & forced migration

Africa: Homeless but not stateless, living in limbo


Forced by war or humanitarian disasters to flee their homes but keeping within the borders of their own countries, 12 million so-called "internally displaced persons" (IDPs) face a legal and human tragedy in Africa. Calling it "one of the biggest under-addressed challenges facing Africa", Dennis McNamara, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator and director of the Inter-Agency Internal Displacement Division, says urgent attention must be paid to the uprooted civilian population in countries like Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Burundi.

Algeria: Floods show need for Western Sahara solution - Polisario


Floods that uprooted 50,000 refugees are a reminder that the world urgently needs to solve Africa's longest-running territorial dispute, the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement has said. Heavy rains over the past few days washed away the homes of about 50,000 of the 158,000 refugees who have lived in desert camps near the Algerian town of Tindouf for 30 years since fleeing the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Central African Republic: Donor conference begins in Cameroon


A donor conference for the Central African Republic (CAR) began on Monday in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, organised by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)."New dramas emerge regularly," OCHA said. "Following banditry in the country's north since late December, thousands are still homeless, while 45,000 refugees have fled to Chad, 15,000 of whom have left their homes since June 2000." UN agencies and NGOs struggle to get funding to support the internally displaced. OCHA said although most major donor governments have confirmed their attendance at the Yaounde meeting, organisers were not optimistic that pledges or commitments would be made at the event.

East Africa: IGAD States home to 11 million refugees


Members of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have expressed concern over the high number of refugees in the region. A conference heard that the seven member states host 11 million refugees, internally displaced persons, returnees and other war victims, which is equal to eight per cent of the region's total population. Of these, more than 50 per cent are in Kenya. The figure, it was noted, represents 66 per cent of Africa's internally displaced population and 30 per cent of the world's displaced people.

Kenya: Registering refugees - A good move by the NARC government

The Refugee Consortium of Kenya statement


The ongoing registration of refugees in Nairobi's Eastleigh area by the Government of Kenya is a milestone in the quest for increased protection of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. This also marks a departure in state practice from what scholars have described as what the 'eye refuses to see', in reference to refugees who choose to live in urban centres as opposed to settlements and camps in remote areas. The Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) supports this move and urges the Government to uphold the promise not to victimize those who present themselves for registration. Even without the necessary legal framework on refugees, RCK has constantly called upon the Government to respect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and especially in regard to the rights to movement, to identification and to earn livelihoods. In our view the benefit of screening and registering asylum seekers far outweighs ignoring the situation all together.

Kenya: Remittances dwarf aid and investment


Kenyans in the diaspora are contributing an equivalent of 3.8 per cent of national income through remittances. In the year 2004, for instance, Kenyans living and working abroad remitted about Ksh35 billion ($464 million), which overshadows the net foreign direct investment (FDI) of Ksh3.6 billion ($50.4 million), which accounted for 0.41 per cent of the country's gross domestic product. "Migration is an important issue in Kenya, with the country both a significant destination and a source of migrants," said Francis Mwega of the Department of Economics at the University of Nairobi during the launch of the World Bank's 2006 Global Economic Prospects report in Nairobi.

Somalia: Thousands displaced as Mogadishu clashes continue


Thousands of people have fled the northern and northeastern suburbs of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, since clashes between militia groups started over the weekend, a top city official said. An estimated 1,500 families had been displaced by the continuing clashes, Mogadishu Mayor, Ibrahim Omar Shaaweye, told IRIN early this week. Some 25 people had been killed and 150 wounded, he added.

Elections & governance

DRC: New constitution adopted


Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday (February 18) adopted a new constitution aimed at bringing an end to decades of dictatorship, war and chaos in the vast country, and paving the way for elections by mid-2006. Thousands of people, including regional presidents, gathered in the gardens of the presidential palace in the capital Kinshasa, cheering and waving paper replicas of the country's new flag as President Joseph Kabila signed into law the new constitution.

Nigeria: Presidential term debated


Nigeria is beginning public hearings on possible constitution change, including an amendment to allow President Obasanjo to run for a third term. The meetings have been organised by the Nigerian Constitutional Committee and will take place in six cities. Many opposition politicians have condemned the hearings, saying they are simply a political charade. There is intense speculation that the president will try to change the constitution to run for office again.

Uganda: Army trucks ram into Besigye crowd


Seven armoured trucks drove into an opposition crowd in Mukono, injuring several people, two of them critically. The brand new trucks- Humvees- fitted with communication gadgets and machine guns, were heading to Kampala. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who was waving to the crowd through his open-roof car, shouted at the soldiers as they forcibly pushed through. As the trucks moved ahead, after injuring several people, the angry crowd, which was heading for Besigye's afternoon rally, shouted at the soldiers. Sensing animosity, the soldiers, strapped with bullet chains, aimed their guns at the crowd sending the people in disarray.

Uganda: Hunting for political support in neglected north


On the campaign trail, Uganda's presidential candidates have ventured where they rarely go, deep into war-ravaged northern Uganda, where the votes of hundreds of thousands of displaced people could make or break their bid for the highest office in the land. As many as 10.4 million voters will go to the polls on 23 February to elect a president and legislators in the first multiparty elections in Uganda in 25 years.
Related Links:
* Uganda: Human Rights Watch letter to Election Observers
* Uganda: Poll violence worries observers

Uganda: Movement will hand over power only if it loses 'fairly'


President Yoweri Museveni has said he is ready to hand over power if he loses the February 23 presidential poll. "I will give out the keys officially when elections are well conducted and I lose. I will even support the winner," Museveni said while appearing on a Radio talk show recently. Museveni was allaying fears raised that he may not gracefully quit if he loses.

Uganda: Official campaigns end two days before polls


Campaigning in Uganda’s first multiparty elections in 25 years ended on a tense note on Tuesday, after weeks of political activity marked by several violent clashes between security personnel and supporters of opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye. Thursday’s elections will be monitored by a host of foreign observers. Officials at the electoral commission have indicated that some results may be available on Saturday.


Africa: The cost of corruption


Corruption costs African countries an estimated 25% of its combined national income, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said - some $148bn a year. The outgoing leader of the African Union called the problem "a preventable loss" and said that industries such as oil, gas and minerals were worst hit. The popular 'paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty' is a daily experience in many African countries rich in oil, gas and minerals, the president said. "The majority of citizens in these countries still lack basic health and educational facilities."

Egypt: Corruption top topic at People's Assembly


The proliferation of corruption and abuse of power dominated the intense debates at the People's Assembly this week. The fireworks began on Sunday, when the assembly met to discuss a preliminary report about the sinking of the Egyptian ferry Al-Salam 98 in the Red Sea two weeks ago. The report, prepared by the assembly's transport committee, called it the most tragic disaster to hit Egypt in its modern history. Committee chairman Hamdi El-Tahan said "carelessness, indifference and corruption [were] the main culprits."

Kenya: Rights body honours 'Whistleblower' Githongo


The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has honoured John Githongo "for his courageous whistle blowing on the Anglo Leasing scandal." "By exposing corruption and cover-up networks within government, Githongo has made an outstanding contribution to the fight against corruption," the organisation said in its citation. It praised the country's former ethics and governance PS, as the "high priest of good governance" for his "boldness, creativity and audacity."

Kenya: Vice President now faces citizens' arrest


Kenya's Vice President now faces the threat of a 'citizens arrest' unless he resigns over corruption allegations. The country's civil society has threatened to move to the High Court to seek a warrant of arrest against Awori, the Head of Civil Service, the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. The group issued the threat at a press conference convened under the umbrella body, Name and Shame Campaign Network.

Nigeria: Home of former Nigerian governor seized in South Africa


The South African authorities have seized a luxury house belonging to a former Nigerian state governor accused of corruption in his own country. Officials confiscated the property - said to be worth more than $1.7m - on the waterfront in Cape Town. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was impeached and removed from his post in the Nigerian oil-producing state of Bayelsa in the Niger Delta last year.

Zambia: Chiluba back in the dock


Zambian former president Frederick Chiluba Thursday went back into the dock on charges of stealing 507,000 dollars (426,000 euros) in state funds in a trial again hit by legal technicalities. Chiluba, who is charged with two other private businessmen, sat in a tiny magistrate's court in the capital while two state witnesses gave evidence in the protracted trial.


Africa: "Marshall Plan" for Great Lakes


The UN secretary general representative in the Great Lakes region, Ibrahima Fall, called on the international community to create `a second Marshall Plan` to salvage countries of the region. Speaking at the opening of the 3rd inter-ministerial regional committee meeting of the Great Lakes region, Fall said his appeal was based on the need to "help countries of the region rediscover the path to stability and development". The four-day meeting, convening at the Central African National Assembly, should offer delegates from the region`s 11 member countries the opportunity to endorse several documents, including 31 projects and 9 protocols to the regional convention on security, stability and development, for adoption by the second summit of the heads of State, slated in June/July 2006.

Africa: EU uses safety standards to lock out Africa exports


The use of technical barriers by Western countries has become the biggest obstacle for developing countries trying to expand their trade. As a result of agreements negotiated at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), traditional trade protection measures such as tariffs and quotas are falling away. But they are being replaced by domestic regulations that permit countries to bar products from entering their markets if the products do not meet certain standards.

Africa: Questioning the links between economic growth and poverty reduction


Global economic growth is an extremely inefficient way of achieving poverty reduction and is becoming even less effective. Between 1990 and 2001, for every $100 worth of growth in the world’s per person income, just $0.60 found its target and contributed to reducing poverty below the $1-a-day line. This paper argues that we need to move decisively away from the inefficiency of relying on global growth for poverty reduction, towards a system in which policies are designed explicitly and directly to achieve our social and environmental objectives, treating growth as a by-product. Its central thesis is that it will be impossible to achieve the objectives of poverty reduction and environmental sustainability if global growth remains the principal economic strategy. The scale of growth this model demands would generate unsupportable environmental costs; and the costs would fall disproportionately, and counter-productively, on the poorest.

Global: Future of NGO participation at UN after World Summit


Jens Martens, Executive Director of Global Policy Forum Europe, regrets that the UN reform process neglects improvements in participation of NGOs. In 2005, governments largely excluded NGOs both from preparatory negotiations and from the Summit. What does this mean for the future participation of NGOs in the UN? Martens makes a number of practical recommendations, including extending NGO accreditation beyond ECOSOC to the General Assembly.

Kenya: Poverty rises despite economic growth


Poverty is on a sharp increase despite the high economic growth recorded last year, says a report. Prepared by Kenya's Ministry of Planning and National Development, the report says runaway poverty rates can only be reduced if the country achieves growth levels of more than seven per cent, same as those of Asian countries. "The economic growth recorded in recent times is not sufficient for reducing poverty and sustaining development," it says. The country's unstable economy has seen poverty increase by from 48 per cent in the early 1980s to 56 per cent last year.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Reporting Hiv/Aids


Southern Africa is home to nearly two-thirds of those living with HIV/AIDS globally. Despite significant obstacles, a huge response has been mounted by a host of government, private and civil society organisations. There is a general expectation that the media plays an important role in responding to the epidemic. But what exactly is that role? How successfully is it played in individual developing countries? And how could it be improved? A new report from Panos deals with these questions.

Global: A global campaign for the right to health


The People's Health Movement, a global network of civil society groups, researchers, activists and teachers involved in health, proposes the launch of a global campaign on the Right to Health. PHM would like to invite civil society organizations, interested individuals and groups to participate in discussing the possibility of hosting such a campaign in South Africa. It would also contribute to building civil society for the Third People's Health Assembly, planned for 2010 at an African venue (to be determined). This edition of Critical Health Perspectives sketches the background to the campaign and some of the thinking behind it.

Global: Bush proposes cuts to overseas family planning groups


While the White House has long denied funding to overseas groups that help women obtain abortions, U.S. President George W. Bush's new budget proposal looks to reduce funding to international family planning groups the administration previously had lauded as effective in preventing abortions. The proposed 18% cut is drawing the ire of nonprofit groups and Democrats on Capitol Hill. "It's ironic that an administration outwardly committed to reducing the incidence of abortion would take away valuable tools for preventing unwanted pregnancies," one Democratic congresswoman said, reports the New York

Senegal: On the lookout for bird flu in world’s third biggest reserve


As soon as Moussa Diouf saw the bird lying sick on the ground, the young man from a village on the edges of Senegal’s giant Djoudj bird reserve, dropped it in a plastic bag and dashed off post-haste to the main rangers’ office. Diouf was worried the bird might be carrying “the new sickness”. But the head ranger smiled on opening the bag. “It’s a common sparrow which is moulting and has become vulnerable because it can’t fly very far,” said Major Ibrahima Diop, who heads a squad of 43 rangers working in the Djoudj reserve, a national showcase of 16,000 hectares of low-lying mangrove swamp.

Sudan: 59 dead as cholera spreads to Juba


An outbreak of cholera in the southern Sudanese city of Juba has claimed the lives of 59 people since the first case was reported there two weeks ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday. The ICRC said in a statement that it was airlifting 30 tonnes of emergency medical supplies from Kenya to Juba to treat those infected. More than a thousand cases of cholera have been reported in Juba, southern Sudan's capital, since 6 February, the agency said.

Zambia: Government must focus on ARVs


HIV/AIDS advocates and health officials in Zambia say efforts to treat HIV-positive people in the country over the past year should have focused more on the quality of treatment rather than the number of people receiving treatment, South Africa's Independent Online reports. Zambia in 2005 aimed to have 100,000 HIV-positive people receiving antiretroviral drugs by the end of the year, but the country was able to reach only about half its target in that time.


Africa: Strong science academies can aid development


African nations would benefit from stronger, more influential science academies, whose expertise could be brought to bear on the continent's pressing issues. Africa's existing academies may be small and limited in expertise, but this editorial in Nature says one of the main reasons they are not more influential is that they lack the skills needed to communicate effectively with policymakers or the media. It cites a ten-year project undertaken by the US National Academy of Sciences to strengthen science academies in Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.

Botswana: Botswana hailed as a model for Africa


This article, from the e-zine "At Issue", examines Botswana's progress in the education sector from 1965 (independence from Britain) to 2005. It argues that due to revenue from diamonds, Botswana has been able to invest heavily in its education system, thus making it a model for other African countries. The article states that Botswana is two percent short of achieving universal access to primary school as envisaged by the Millennium Development Goals. This compares favourably with most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which have very low primary completion rates, many less than 50 percent.

Cote D'Ivoire: Exams at last for 90,000 students left in limbo in rebel territory


After waiting more than three years to sit key exams because of Cote d'Ivoire's unrelenting civil war, more than 90,000 school students left in limbo in rebel-held territory could be able to take the tests as soon as this month (February). In a statement issued after a weekly cabinet meeting, the West African country's interim government announced a new plan to restore schooling in the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire, which has been split in two since a failed coup in September 2002.

Global: Ensuring access to Education for All


This paper examines how excluded children are planned for in education. It provides guidelines and concepts for rendering National Education Plans / Education for All (EFA) more inclusive, with the objective of ensuring access and quality education for all learners. The guidelines are intended to provide information and awareness and to be a policy tool for revising and formulating EFA plans.

Global: Worlds of Education


The Jan/Feb 2006 issue of Worlds of Education, Education International’s bi-monthly magazine, is now available. Issue 17 includes articles an on fighting HIV/AIDS and related discrimination in the classroom, a report on the pursuit of the Education For All agenda at the G8 Summit and a report from the International Convention on cultural diversity.

Racism & xenophobia

Southern Africa: Citizenship and xenophobia


This study of xenophobia and how it both exploits and excludes is an incisive commentary on a globalizing world and its consequences for ordinary people's lives. Using the examples of Sub-Saharan Africa's two most economically successful nations, it meticulously documents the fate of immigrants and the new politics of insiders and outsiders. As globalization becomes a palpable reality in the bodies of people in transit, citizenship, sociality and belonging are subjected to stresses to which few societies have devised a civil response beyond yet more controls. The latter in turn are subverted and nullified, so that, as in Botswana and South Africa, a world is developing where conflict and flux underlie a superficial global progress.


Africa: El Nino may affect food supply


Climate change that strengthens the El Nino weather patterns could endanger food supplies for more than 20 million people in Africa, a new study warns. El Nino is a warming of the water in the tropical Pacific Ocean that is associated with changes in air pressure and the movement of high-level winds that can affect weather worldwide. In the past, El Ninos have occurred every four to seven years, but many climate experts worry that continuing global warming will lead to stronger and more frequent events. A new analysis of 40 years of African crop and livestock records shows a close association between El Ninos and variations in production of corn, sorghum, millet and groundnuts such as peanuts.

Africa: International 'summit' to determine fate of last great rainforest


Global financial institutions, governments, environmental experts, human rights campaigners and local people will today (February 15) discuss ways to protect the rainforests of the Congo (DRC) in a major conference taking place in Kinshasa. 30 international non-governmental organisations, including the Rainforest Foundation, the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF), Greenpeace and CARE-International will call on the government of Congo to:
- rigorously respect a moratorium on the issuing of new logging concessions that was approved by Congo's President, Joseph Kabila, in 2005;
- carefully map the country's vast area of forest to show where people are already living and depending on the forest for their survival;
- urgently undertake research into the ways that the forest can be managed in an environmentally sensitive way that brings real development to Congo's many poor people.

Africa: Role of gender research in influencing power sector policy


Access to energy in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) is not only constrained by physical shortages but by unequal power relations between women and men. Policy makers have often failed to recognise gender inequalities with the result that supposedly gender-neutral energy policies discriminate against women (Clancy and Feenstra, 2004). This article summarises a regional AFREPREN/ENERGIA/DFiD study that reviewed energy policy documents and energy policymaking processes in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to assess the gender dimension. The study focused on the overall energy sector and then narrowed down to the power sub-sector. It examined how gender research could best influence power sector policy making in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Mali: Citizens space for democratic deliberation on GMOs


As indicated by its name, this Citizens' Jury is a space to share knowledge, dialogue and inform decisions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in relation to the future of farming in Mali. This event involved farmers - men and women - from all districts of the Sikasso region in Mali. The Citizens' Jury on GMOs took place in Sikasso between 25 and 29 January 2006. Follow the link to access the outcome document, which presents the recommendations of the 45 men and women farmers from all districts of the region of Sikasso who met to cross-examine specialist witnesses and deliberate on the issue of GMOs and farming futures in Mali.

South Africa: Elephant cull plan postponed


The South African government has postponed a controversial proposal to resume culling elephants from Kruger National Park where overcrowding is causing problems, a leading conservation scientist said. The proposal last year from the national parks authority to end a 10-year ban had outraged many conservationists who said it was unnecessary. "They listened to our arguments and have agreed to postpone the cull, but we don't know for how long," said Rudi van Aarde. "We want at least three years for more research." Van Aarde, on a brief lecture tour of Britain, is professor of conservation ecology at the University of Pretoria and a member of a panel of scientists set up to advise the government on the proposed cull.

South Africa: Regulatory system on GM crops takes industry at its word


The Department of Agriculture is failing to adequately implement the existing flawed regulatory system for genetically modified (GM) crops in South Africa. This emerged from Biowatch South Africa’s recent examination of a sample of GM permits and permit applications. The sample (of 134 permits and 108 permit applications and review documents) is part of a larger batch to which the Department of Agriculture has given Biowatch South Africa access. This follows the Pretoria High Court’s order in February 2005 that Biowatch South Africa be granted access to information about how decisions are made in the granting of GM crop permits.

Tanzania: Reliance on sole power source catastrophic


The current power crisis hitting Tanzania can be resolved with the introduction of large-scale farming of plants known as Jetropha for producing bio-diesel to run thermal power stations. Professor Aggrey Nzali of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Systems of the new College of Engineering and Technology at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), explains the usage of plants in power generation.

Uganda: Solar or oil - what is in store for Uganda's dicey energy supply?


It is a whirlwind of desperation for Uganda's energy sector. Pro-longed drought has caused a fall in the level of Lake Victoria; hydro-electricity generation is down by more than 50 percent of installed capacity and power outages has become a daily song. Now some are talking about solar energy. Could it be the last toss of the dice in the current energy crisis? Joseph Olanyo takes a critical look.

Zambia: $1.2 billion to be spent on power upgrades


Zambia has revised upwards planned spending on new power stations and upgrades to meet increasing electricity demand at its vast copper mines, a senior industry official said. State power utility Zesco required $1.2 billion - up from an initial target of $720 million budget last year - and was in talks with Iran's Farab International and China's Sinohydro on construction of the 750 megawatt Kafue Gorge Lower project and the 120 MW Itezhi-Tezhi power project, the official said, reports Reuters.

Land & land rights

Botswana: Privatising common land


Many developing countries have privatised grazing land to encourage the development of a commercial livestock sector. Botswana’s beef export industry is often seen as a successful model to be emulated. However, this success is controversial; policies have favoured a small, commercial elite group whilst neglecting pastoralist populations and traditional rangeland practices. Work by the International Institute of Environment and Development’s ‘Securing the Commons’ programme examines current policies towards pastoralist landownership in Botswana. The Botswana model of rangeland policy has generally been viewed positively, largely because of the success of the livestock export sector. When examined more closely, however, this model has several problems.

South Africa: From landless to landowners - the benefits of land reform


In the late 1990s - still the early days of South Africa's democracy - Joseph Makhadi couldn't afford to continue his studies at a local technical college. He dropped out and lived, unemployed, in a humble dwelling along with 10 members of his extended family. But in 2002, Makhadi and his family were among 700 households given title to a vast piece of rolling bush in South Africa's Limpopo Province, a result of the government's ambitious land reform programme. Now, the 29-year-old manages the poultry farm owned and operated by the beneficiaries, known locally as the Manavhela community. This week, Makhadi toured the buildings that hold some 6,000 chickens and marvelled at how his future had opened up.

Media & freedom of expression

Kenya: Business tycoon moves to court in bid to gag newspaper


Business tycoon Jimmy Wanjigi has moved to court seeking to gag The Standard newspapers from writing stories about him over the unfolding Anglo Leasing scandal. Wanjigi moved to court under a certificate of urgency claiming that The Standard wrote defamatory words concerning him in a story published earlier in the week. The story indicated that Wanjigi had been ordered to surrender his gun and passport as investigations into the Sh7 billion scandal gained tempo.

Niger: Journalist freed after 18 days preventive detention in libel case


The Committee to Protect Journalists has welcomed the release of newspaper director Ibrahim Manzo, who spent 18 days in preventive detention awaiting the outcome of a defamation case. A court in Niamey, capital of Niger, handed Manzo a suspended one-month prison sentence on Monday and ordered his release, local journalists told CPJ.

Uganda: Elections website blocked


The NRM has written to a US-based Internet firm to block access to the website. NRM spokesperson Ofwono Opondo last week said the website was publishing malicious and false information against the party and its presidential candidate. It has also asked local ISPs to block the site. The New Vision received complaints that the site was inaccessible within Uganda. When opening the site, a message pops up saying, “The page cannot be displayed.” The site hosted in the US features information on presidential candidates, security agencies, operatives and their lifestyles. A liner on the site reads, “Radio Katwe: outrageous, amusing, conspiracy theories, not to be taken seriously.”

Zimbabwe: Freelance journalist beaten


Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned a brutal attack against freelance journalist Gift Phiri, former reporter for the weekly "Zimbabwe Independent", who was beaten up by men accusing him of working for media hostile to the government, according to a RSF release as reported on the website. The attack came three weeks after threats were issued against those who contribute to foreign media by the minister in charge of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO). "Forced into unemployment, threatened with prison and now beaten up: the fate Robert Mugabe reserves for independent journalists is more and more vicious," said Reporters Without Borders.

News from the diaspora

Haiti: Counting some of the votes


In this article, the Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, Brian Concannon, describes how the Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) engaged in a comprehensive program to suppress supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's ally Rene Preval, comprised mainly of Haiti's urban and rural poor. From voter registration through election day, the IGH - with the help of the US, France and Canada - tried to steal the elections: they prevented prominent politicians from participating by jailing them illegally; discouraged poor voters from registering and voting by putting too few registration centers and voting offices in poor neighborhoods; and finally manipulated the votes by discarding Preval votes or declaring them "null."

Haiti: Return to CARICOM approved


Haiti can return as a member of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) after its elections, says Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. Mr. Patterson made the announcement during a press conference in Trinidad following his final chairing of the CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations, during which Haiti's readmission was discussed. The conference was telecast to journalists assembled at the Office of the Prime Minister's press centre in St. Andrew. With the presence of CARICOM monitors, and other such organisations on the ground, including 9,000 United Nations troops, he said he was satisfied the elections were free and fair.

Conflict & emergencies

Chad: Darfur crisis spilling across border


The crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which has been trickling into Chad for the better part of three years, is now bleeding freely across the border, says a report from Human Rights Watch. A counterinsurgency carried out by the Sudanese government and its militias against rebel groups in Darfur, characterized by war crimes and “ethnic cleansing,” has forcibly displaced almost two million civilians in Darfur and another 220,000 people who have fled across the border into Chad. The same ethnic “Janjaweed” militias that have committed systematic abuses in Darfur have staged cross-border raids into Chad, attacking Darfurian refugees and Chadian villagers alike, seizing their livestock and killing those who resist.

Cote D'Ivoire: The cost of peace


Why has the UN managed to carry out successful elections in Liberia but failed in neighboring Ivory Coast? A diplomat based in Abidjan explains that unlike Liberia - whose state structures had collapsed when the peacekeeping forces stepped in - the rebels and the government in Ivory Coast, who "make money" from the civil war, show little desire to resolve the conflict. The head of the UN mission in Liberia also points out that the UN presence in Ivory Coast is relatively small compared to Liberia and the disarmament program, much weaker.

DRC: End illegal exploitation of natural resources


The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo must act promptly on the recommendations of a Congolese parliamentary investigation that uncovered illegal natural resource exploitation and profiteering from armed conflict, said a leading group of international human rights, environmental and aid organizations this week. In June 2005 the Lutundula Commission, a special National Assembly commission led by parliamentarian Christophe Lutundula, submitted a report on its investigations into mining and other business contracts that rebels and government authorities signed between 1996 and 2003, when Congo was wracked by war. The report found that dozens of contracts are either illegal or of limited value for the development of the country and it recommends their termination or renegotiation.

Eastern Africa: Drought traps African farmers in vicious circle


Millions are victims of the latest drought to hit Africa, reports Reuters Alertnet. As in Niger and southern Africa in 2005, the United Nations is pleading for hundreds of millions of dollars to fight the threat of a major humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Africa. But while some believe higher powers are behind the deadly droughts, agricultural experts and environmentalists say man himself is largely to blame because of years of neglect and mismanagement of land and other resources.

Nigeria: Deadly cartoon protests in north spark reprisals in south


Several people were reported killed in southern Nigeria on Tuesday in revenge attacks following deadly riots last weekend in the north in which Muslims targeted Christians over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in European newspapers. On Tuesday, bands of youths armed with clubs, machetes and petrol cans rampaged through the streets of Onitsha in Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south, attacking Muslims and their properties, killing several people, according to several residents.

Nigeria: ERA condemns Delta raid


Environmental advocacy group, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has said last week's bombing of Ijaw communities in Delta State was a crude manifestation of the country's military penchant for excessive use of force as response to agitations in the Niger Delta. The group in an online statement accused the Federal Government of using its military might to suppress certain Niger Delta communities it perceived as being in the vanguard of the campaign for environmental justice.

Somalia: US in new policy as pirates threaten Indian Ocean


Relatives of 10 alleged Somali pirates have said that the suspects were innocent fishermen. The men in question were captured by US naval soldiers who came to rescue MV Safinat Al-Basarat, an Indian boat, which together with its 16 crew members, was allegedly being highjacked by the Somalis. "Our sons and brothers were not hooded men committing sinful acts. They were on a fishing trip in Somalia's territorial waters," claimed a man interviewed by a local FM Radio station.

Somalia: Warlords start peace talks


Local leaders, including traditional elders and the city mayor, met on Tuesday to discuss ceasefire plans. More than 20 people died in the recent clashes, which were the most violent seen in the capital in several years. Violence broke out when some militia leaders formed an alliance to fight supporters of unofficial Islamic Sharia courts that have emerged in Mogadishu.

Uganda: '25,000 die monthly in the North'


Tens of thousands of people die every month in war torn northern Uganda as a result of disease, poor living conditions and war, according to a new report by NGOs working in the region. The report released by Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda (CSOPNU), said at least 131 people mostly children die everyday as a result of the violence and poor conditions in hundreds of IDP camps. "There are 918 excess deaths each week. Each month, almost 25,000 people in Uganda die from easily preventable diseases," CSOPNU said. This would translate into 47, 736 deaths in a year. CSOPNU is a coalition of about 40 member organisations advocating lasting peace in the region.

Internet & technology

Africa: A Foss toolkit for policy-makers and practitioners


Over the last few years free/open source software (FOSS) has emerged as an alternative to proprietary software and touted as a solution to Africa's digital divide. The report, "Free/open source software (FOSS) policy in Africa: A toolkit for policy-makers and practitioners" is targeted at governments that are investigating whether and how they can integrate FOSS into their strategies for social and economic development.

Africa: Pan-African regulator could reduce ICT costs


A Pan-African ICT regulatory agency that could deal specifically with ICT issues that have a continental bearing, such as satellite communications, could help reduce the costs of communications to African governments, businesses and individuals. This was the view of Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) when he opened SATCOM 2006 as keynote speaker in Johannesburg on February 21.

Kenya: Free software movement heads for Nairobi


Free software developers and advocates from across the African continent will be heading for Nairobi in Kenya this week as they gather for the second Fossfa African Conference on the Digital Commons. The Idlelo2 conference will run from Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 February. Key issues that will be hammered out during the conference include free and open source software in government, health services, education and entrepreneurship.

eNewsletters & mailing lists

Global: Discussion forum on health communication


The Communication Initiative is operating a new discussion forum on health communication for the Health Communication Partnership, called 'Why invest in health communication? The forum will focus on the following questions: Do you have an opinion on investment in health communication? Is it enough? Are there discernable trends? How do we measure them? What would you like to see and why? Who should we be lobbying and how?

Global: News You Might Have Missed


A weekly newsletter which draws on more than 100 sources in 37 countries to present articles which the publishers believe have been underreported or overlooked.

Zimbabwe: Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ)


Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has announced the launch of its new website. In Zimbabwe where freedom of expression is seriously restricted through repressive legislation and other means and where an unofficial ban exists on lesbian and gay people speaking for themselves using the government-controlled media, the GALZ Information and Communications Department plays an important role in countering state-instigated propaganda.

Fundraising & useful resources

Africa: Database of African Theses and Dissertations


The Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD) is a programme to improve management and access to African scholarly work. Theses and dissertations represent a significant proportion of Africa’s research activity. However, access to this research output is not easy, even within the institutions where they are submitted.

Global: Alcan Prize for Sustainability 2006


Any not-for-profit, civil society or non-governmental organisation based anywhere in the world can enter to win this annual US$1 million prize for their contributions to addressing and progressing economic, environmental and/or social sustainability.

Global: Ford Fellowship opportunities for Minorities and Other Marginalised Communities


This programme seeks to build a new generation of social justice leaders worldwide. Ford Foundation International Fellows come from groups and communities that have traditionally lacked access to higher education and are selected on the strength of their academic achievement, leadership skills and social commitment. These include groups such as women, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other marginalised classes, the physically disadvantaged and those with other kinds of socio-economic deprivation.

Global: The Tides Foundation


Since 1976, Tides Foundation has worked with donors committed to positive social change, putting resources and people together to strengthen community-based nonprofit organizations and the progressive movement through innovative grantmaking.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Central African Republic: CODESRIA Sub-Regional Methodological Workshops for Social Research in Africa


The 2006 session of the CODESRIA sub-regional methodological workshops will explore the conditions for the employment and validation of qualitative perspectives in African contexts. To this end, the workshops will be open to all the social research disciplines. These disciplines are uniformly confronted with broadly similar difficulties of understanding social reality and the challenges posed by techniques of data collection and analysis, which, on account of their ''qualitative'' nature, are suspected by some to be seriously lacking in scientific rigour.

East Africa: Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) 2006


Akina Mama wa Afrika will be holding the Eastern Africa sub regional African Women's Leadership Institute (AWLI) from April 24th 5th May 2006, in Uganda. The AWLI aims to strengthen the personal and organisational capacities of young African women to influence policy and decision-making through training and networking. It serves as a networking, training and information dissemination forum for young women aged between 25-40 working on gender issues.

Ethiopia: Conference on violence against girls in Africa


The African Child Policy Forum will hold its 2006 International Policy Conference on the African Child: Violence Against Girls in Africa on May 11 and 12 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Speakers from the African Union, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and members from Pan-African policy makers will join women's-rights and child-rights organisations, as well as child survivors of violence, in this major two-day conference.

Global: Master of arts in gender and peacebuilding


The Upeace Master of Arts in Gender and Peace Building is a ten-month programme that has been designed to support women and men who participate in social, economic and political processes of change and who are interested in key issues of gender and peace building. In addition, the degree responds to the demands and challenges faced by students continuing their education and by mid-career professionals working in governmental, multi-lateral or bi-lateral institutions, non-governmental organizations and private enterprises.

Global: Transforming civil conflicts


"Transforming Civil Conflicts", an online course developed by The Network University in cooperation with Bradford University, is offered from March 6 – 31, 2006. This award-winning four-week course familiarises participants with contemporary theories of conflict and conflict resolution, provides them with a range of relevant information on conflict on the Internet, and practical issues and debates from within the field. There is a limited amount of partial scholarships available for participants from the 'global south'. For more information, please visit our website:, the course demosite:, or send an email to Bart Overbeek: [email protected]

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