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Pambazuka News 248: Zimbabwe: We all fall down

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. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. Blogging Africa, 8. African Union Monitor, 9. Women & gender, 10. Human rights, 11. Refugees & forced migration, 12. Elections & governance, 13. Corruption, 14. Development, 15. Health & HIV/AIDS, 16. Education, 17. Racism & xenophobia, 18. Environment, 19. Land & land rights, 20. Media & freedom of expression, 21. News from the diaspora, 22. Conflict & emergencies, 23. Internet & technology, 24. Fundraising & useful resources, 25. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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Highlights from this issue

Featured this week


FEATURED: Can Zimbabwe be put back together again?
- Remembering the father of the Kenyan trade union movement
- Women on their way to the top of African decision making
- HIV/AIDS: Making a case for strong public health systems
LETTERS: Thanks from afar and on the IMF
BLOGGING AFRICA: Blog columnist Sokari Ekine wraps up the blogosphere
- Children of Uganda, international touring dance and music troupe, reviewed
- Philanthropy in East Africa, by Connie Ngondi-Houghton, reviewed
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Explosion in Addis, calm in Mogadishu, new UN resolution on Darfur
HUMAN RIGHTS: Charles Taylor drama continues
WOMEN AND GENDER: South Africa rape trial dashes hopes for change
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: News from Benin, Burundi, Chad, DRC, Kenya
DEVELOPMENT: WTO negotiations go underground
CORRUPTION: New report on corruption in health
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Ugandan musician uses tunes to tackle HIV/AIDS
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Comparing Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid
ENVIRONMENT: Don’t sell suicide seeds, say activists
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Issues of land ownership, management and rights
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Concern in South Africa over coverage of Zuma trial
ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGNS: Act now to end torture and displacement in Northern Uganda
PLUS: Internet and Technology; Fundraising and Useful Resources; Courses, seminars and workshops; Jobs.

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


Zimbabwe 2006 - We All Fall Down

Mary Ndlovu


Every March for the last four years, Pambazuka News has carried articles describing the situation in Zimbabwe and looking at options for the future. In 2006, is there any hope for Zimbabwe? What do developments such as the split in the Movement for Democratic Change mean for the future of the country? Can Zimbabwe be put back together again?

Every year since 2000, Zimbabweans have wondered: “Will this be it, will this be the year when it all ends, when Humpty Dumpty finally totters off the wall?” And if it is, what will it mean for each one of us, and for the nation as a whole – healing, restoration and return to “normality”, or deepened chaos, insecurity and catastrophe? We listen to talk about elections in 2008 and 2010 and deep down nurture a hope that there will be no more ZANU PF elections. But even deeper down we fear that even if there aren’t, things will never come right again, not in our life-times, unless we are still very young.

Several years ago, as Zimbabwe left the gentler rapids and began its headlong rush towards the precipice, some people declared loudly that we had reached the bottom and could now only go up. How deluded they were. We then began to hear an unfamiliar word tossed around by commentators – “meltdown”. We couldn’t really imagine what this might be, having associated the term mainly with nuclear reactors. When they overheat they meltdown, self-destructing in a spectacular display, lethal to anyone in the vicinity. Is this what happens when an economy or an entire nation melts down? Is this the year in which we will find out?

Certainly we know that the multiple crises which embody Zimbabwe’s millennium experience are intensifying, making life barely livable for the majority of the population. The crises have engulfed the working world, the learning world, the consumer world, the world of the supermarket and even of sport. The economy limps along, agriculture crawling, tourism virtually defunct, manufacturing crippled, and mining, the one still flickering light of the economy, under recent assault from government policies. Electricity comes and goes at will, water likewise in many places; fuel supplies (black market only) are erratic and prices exploitative. Schools are places of confusion, teachers demoralized, pupils unable to afford textbooks if they manage to pay fees, and only finding bus fare for half the school days. Courts barely function, police cells are filthy putrid hell holes, prisons even worse. The Commissioner of Prisons admits the entire prison system has no drugs as they have been stolen before reaching the system; prisoners simply die for want of treatment. Hospitals have no doctors, no medicines; their mal-functioning mortuaries overflow and the stench from too many bodies wafts through into some of the wards. All government “services” are riddled with nepotism, incompetence and corruption.

Living conditions are abysmal, with several families crowded into most houses, even in low density areas, each taking a room and sharing cooking and bathing facilities. It is hardly surprising that skilled personnel flee the country, not only for greener pastures, but for the opportunity to function as genuine professionals.

Year-on-year inflation has just reached the official figure of 782%. Imagine the daily trauma suffered by the working father who realizes he cannot pay for medicine for his sick child, the student in his final year who cannot raise the 1000% increase in fees imposed mid-year, the pensioner forced to sell his possessions in order to eat. And what of the estimated 80% who do not work? A thriving informal sector in which hundreds of thousands of people managed to survive through trading, cottage industry, deal-making, and personal services, was wiped out in June and July by brutal police attacks. A large percentage of them also lost their homes in the assault on the urban poor. Although many have resurfaced, enormous numbers had their livelihoods destroyed and will not be able to recover. How do they live in the environment which defines Zimbabwe today? Many don’t, and die quietly of malnutrition, exposure, cholera, pneumonia and broken spirits.

Is this it? Is this meltdown? While this is the question occupying most Zimbabweans, the more interesting question to political analysts and observers is what various actors on the stage are doing about the situation. Is there any hope of a solution emerging from this complete disaster?

Most governments confronted with such a situation, whether of their own making or otherwise, would either resign or scramble frantically to find solutions, but the Zimbabwean government is doing nothing of the kind. While blaming everyone from white farmers to the British Prime Minister and crowing constantly about the “turn-around” of the economy, our current band of ministers are fully occupied by two major activities:

1. Amassing wealth. This is done simply by pursuing purely private interests while in government offices, or more obviously, using their government contacts and positions to secure for themselves contracts, housing and land to which they arrange access. Price controlled goods in short supply offer welcome opportunities to make black-market fortunes.

2. Staying in power. ZANU PF must stay in power for two reasons: one is clearly to continue appropriating the little remaining wealth of the country for their own personal use. The other is to avoid the inevitable unpleasant consequences of their past and present illegal activities, should another government take power.

But staying in power takes a lot of effort when economic collapse has made the people so clearly discontented and desperate. It requires energy and resources to be channeled not to solve the problems created, but to systems of control: police, army and youth militia need support; tens of thousands must be given benefits for infiltrating “opposition” organizations and informing on others. Patronage must be supplied to the multitude of individuals whose loyalty is purchased, including the uniformed forces. The electoral machinery must be manipulated to ensure victories for ZANU PF, no matter what the ballots say. Operations such as Murambatsvina to disorganize the urban masses divert resources from elsewhere.

A substantial portion of legislation over the past few years has been repressive in nature; the constitutional amendment number 17 effectively nationalised land and made possible the denial of passports; the only Bill which has passed Parliament this year is the Education Amendment Bill, a mean-spirited piece whose prime aim seems to be to control, and therefore no doubt destroy, private education. Newly announced is another Bill to legalise government interception of telephone, email and postal communications, a practice previously declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile are they doing anything about the economic meltdown? A lot of verbal energy is expended in insisting that the crisis either doesn’t exist, or exists only in the imaginations of “enemies”, or crowing about the “turn-around” which is taking place.

Gideon Gono, the only government official who ever in any way seems interested in solving the economic problems seems to be on a lonely road to nowhere. All his attempts to manipulate exchange rates, interest rates, prices, money supply, and the banking sector lead us round in circles like someone lost in the desert. Each time we return to where we started, with our resources further diminished. His attempts to re-engage the IMF by paying off the outstanding loan have back-fired, fuelling inflation further with the printing of trillions to buy forex on the black market. Of course it flopped as the IMF understood that with current policies the Zimbabwean economy is not going to revive, and no new loan could be negotiated. Currently, in spite of the announcement in November that price controls would be lifted and the dollar would be allowed to seek its own market-determined rate, we still have price controls and already by January the exchange rate was controlled. We have effectively returned to yet another failed policy.

The fact is, that as long as government is not able to restore productive activity and seriously tackle corruption, then the economy cannot be rescued. Inflation is not the number one enemy, it is merely a symptom, produced by both absence of production and corruption. Corruption cannot be tackled because it is the life-blood of the patronage system which keeps ZANU PF in power and production cannot be restored without major injections of foreign investment, impossible without a return to protected property rights sustained by the rule of law. Government is meanwhile hopelessly divided on whether to retreat from the brink.

It is not only the succession issue which has created open paralysing splits within ZANU PF: while Gono woos the IMF, Mugabe launches tirades against them. While Gono, backed by Msika, says no more farms must be invaded, Mutasa declares that all whites will be driven out. While Gono tries to accommodate the mining sector, the party floats legislation to effectively nationalize half the industry. Government appears to have check-mated itself. There is no longer a free square to move to.

The opposition has a golden opportunity to capitalize on ZANU PF’s paralysis and the people’s desperation and misery. But how? The normal election route has been closed by fraudulent manipulation. Calls for mass protests have in the past met with a poor response from the people. And the opposition itself is now paralysed by division.

Although MDC had enormous support through the early years of the decade, its failure to translate its mandate into success at the polls or to lead mass protests has made many people sceptical of its capacity to bring about “a new Zimbabwe”. Not surprisingly, the malaise led to a split in the party. Popular opinion describes the split as a policy dispute about participation in elections for the newly created senate; however, it reflected rather a dissatisfaction with the leadership style of the President, Morgan Tsvangirai, with the issue of the senate being merely the specific point at which the Gibson Sibanda group chose to take a stand.

What we have now is two versions of the MDC, which have held separate congresses. While one faction retained Tsvangirai, the other brought in a new personality, Arthur Mutambara, a well-known student leader of the 1980’s, to breathe new energy and perhaps new ideas into the struggle against ZANU PF. While Tsvangirai has clearly retained the loyalty of a larger percentage of the party members, both factions draw support from all parts of the country, belying the myth that this is a tribal split. It is sad, and inauspicious for the future, that those choosing to part ways with Tsvangirai’s leadership were viciously attacked as tribalists and sell-outs.

Intolerance of differences of opinion, resulting in insults and name calling, is a hallmark of ZANU PF politics, and it is alarming when opposition members in both factions begin doing the same. The position is not helped by the fact that both insist that they are the real MDC and are already battling over party assets. But the split itself does not necessarily mean that political opposition is hamstrung. If the two factions can get over the divorce and allow each other to go their separate ways with renewed vigour, it could even be a positive development if they desist from attacking and frustrating each other and get on with the real struggle.

It is unlikely that the two factions will reunite – probably the best that can be hoped for is that they agree to a loose alliance. In terms of policy, Tsvangirai has called once again for massive street demonstrations. Mutambara’s faction has not ruled out any activity which will bring down ZANU PF, and includes both elections and street protests within their possible tactics; however they are yet to show the public their true colours in terms of policy and capacity.

Many feel that now the time is ripe, and this time street protests may be successful. Since Tsvangirai has apparently abandoned national elections in spite of participating in some local government contests, he has staked his leadership on bringing people onto the streets. If he fails this time, he may not get another chance.

Some sections of civil society are also waking up to the desperation of the people and looking at ways to make a greater impact on government. The National Constitutional Assembly, Women of Zimbabwe Arise and the national students organisation are the only organizations that have so far succeeded in putting meaningful numbers in the streets to protest. But there are other stirrings. A new Christian Alliance has been formed from churches radicalized by the experience of tending to those affected by Murambatsvina; several meetings have taken place grouping various civic organizations and churches to find a collective way forward. If these combine with the efforts of both factions of the MDC, then perhaps a hitherto doubtful populace will come onto the streets in support.

And if they do? What is the mechanism whereby mass street protests lead to a collapse of the ZANU PF government? One of the reasons people have so far been reluctant is that they can’t envisage how mass protests will achieve their goals. Tsvangirai and others seem to believe that if masses of people get into the streets on a continuing basis, government will have no alternative but to capitulate and agree to a constitutional conference. A new constitution will be devised, followed by free and fair elections which will replace ZANU PF.

They are vague about the answers to important questions such as: What will make ZANU PF resign? Is power to be seized peacefully, and if so how and by whom? Who will be administering the country while the new constitution is written and elections organized? What legitimacy will any government have which is installed under such conditions? Is there a role for the international community?

All of this makes the assumption that ZANU PF will indeed give up. That is hugely unlikely. The government has given notice that it will crush any protests, and we have no reason not to believe them. Already we see signs everywhere of further repression – fake arms caches, road blocks searching for weapons everywhere, draft legislation to search our communications. ZANU PF will certainly fight.

To date there has indeed been harassment, arrests, torture and killings of opposition members. But to date there has not been any court conviction which has led to a lengthy term of imprisonment. Armed with new legislation with even stiffer penalties and new categories of illegal activity, if ZANU PF feels itself seriously threatened it will surely not hesitate to use every means to defend itself. As long as the police are prepared to arrest, the courts are prepared to refuse bail and to sentence, and police and army are prepared to use violence to suppress street demonstrations. Crushing of protests will be relatively easy for the government.

ZANU PF will only give up and run away in one circumstance: the law enforcement agents and soldiers on which they depend refuse orders to crush the protests. The economy can meltdown or blow up, but ZANU PF will only be defeated when meltdown strikes their own instruments of repression. Is this going to happen? We can’t yet know. The upper echelons of the services have been brought on board the ZANU PF train with the normal perks of patronage, especially farms, but there are signs of serious discontent in the lower ranks of the army and police, especially over their low salaries. How long will it take for the constables, the privates, the sergeants to decide that their interests are better served by listening to the people rather their bosses? No one knows, but when they do, that is when ZANU PF’s moment of truth will have arrived.

But supposing ZANU PF does give up the fight. That does not automatically mean the battle is won. The chaos of a collapse of government in the midst of economic meltdown and shortages of goods does not necessarily lead to the restoration of democratic practice. A disintegration of the law enforcement agencies would certainly lead to looting and lawlessness; who would restore order and how?

The army could easily fracture into rival factions or into gangs under political and military ZANU PF warlords who look after their own interests and live off the people. There is no magic wand to wave to ensure that pumpkins turn into coaches. We are in a very dangerous situation, and anyone calling for mass protests has the obligation to have a clear strategy for translating them into valid solutions. Certainly a concerted effort of all democratic forces is required, whether they be political parties, civic organizations or churches, but it will not be the easy walk to freedom that some would have us believe.

Once again we wait – wait to see what economic meltdown looks like and how many can survive it, wait to find out whether enough Zimbabweans are prepared to take to the streets to make their discontent known, wait for the inevitable intensified repression. And then wait to see what happens after that - a political meltdown to match the economic? A surrender by the government and turning over to some interim body to conduct new elections under a new constitution, or a fragmentation and disintegration into civil conflict?

The cracking of an egg does not always hatch a chick. Humpty Dumpty could not be put together again; perhaps Zimbabwe will not be so easy to put together again either. The tension of expectation is building as the people’s misery becomes unsustainable. Will this be the year, and if it is, will it hold hope for the future, or will we simply all fall down together?

* Mary Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean human rights activist.

* Please send comments to [email protected]

* Previous editorials from Mary Ndlovu in Pambazuka News:

- Zimbabwe’s March: The struggle continues
- Zimbabwe in March 2004: Four years from the beginning of the plunge
- Zimbabwe’s March: Pambazuka News 105, 2003
- March, Zimbabwe’s month of destiny: Pambazuka News 55, 2002
Every March for the last four years, Pambazuka News has carried articles describing the situation in Zimbabwe and looking at options for the future. In 2006, is there any hope for Zimbabwe? What do developments such as the split in the Movement for Democratic Change mean for the future of the country? Can Zimbabwe be put back together again?

Comment & analysis

Unquiet: A tribute to the founder of Kenya’s trade union movement

Steve Ouma Akoth and Makau Mutua


Makhan Singh is considered the father of the trade union movement in Kenya. In 1935, he formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya, and in 1949, the East African Trade Union Congress. In this article, a foreword to ‘Unquiet: The Life and Times of Makhan Singh’ by Zarina Patel, Steve Ouma and Makau Mutua remember Singh and what his life means for present-day political life in Kenya.

Makhan Singh is among a select pantheon of Indian settlers who not only made Africa home but also became leading anti-colonial freedom fighters. But what distinguished Singh from many legendary leaders – including even the great Mahatma Gandhi – was the conscious multiracialism of his politics. He refused to accept a trade union movement segregated by race and poisoned by the colonial apartheid that classified black Africans and Asians in a humiliating hierarchy. He demonstrated for the first time in colonized Kenya that Asians and black Africans were bound in the same fate and that their liberation was inextricably linked. In this powerful example, he properly argued that both colonialism and imperialism were the enemies of the people. That is why Singh’s enduring legacy to Kenya must continue to be the basis for construction of a society free of exploitation and racial animus.

Singh’s political work in the trade union movement was a response to the repressive colonial state generally, and the labor law regime in particulars. Under the colonial state – and its post-colonial successor – Kenya was imprisoned in labor laws that were designed to cheapen and exploit so-calledthe labour from the natives labor. This was the trend worldwide in the relationship between labor and capital. No wonder workers have been at the forefront of the human rights struggle over the centuries. This epic biography of Singh demonstrates how the struggle for the rights of workers was planted in Kenya. In it, Zarina Patel, an indefatigable Kenyan freedom fighter herself, has comprehensively analyzed how Singh created the building blocks and pillars of the trade union movement in Kenya.At the

The life of Makhan Singh is an object lesson on how class formation developed in Kenya. It is a powerful example of worker s solidarity based on both racial and class-consciousness. Even though Asians were economically stratified, the colonial state still considered them a single class. ButR realizing that the trade union by 1937 was still an exclusive Asian affair, Singh went set out to involve African workers in the labor movement. The African workers had organized isolated strikes in the past but Singh managed to convince them that a united non-racial approach was essential if the workers were to succeed in their demands. The cClass-consciousness was crucial in galvanizing and consolidating the struggle by labor against capital. In fact, Singh made trade unions very so formidable that the colonial administration devised ways to undermine and curtail their influence and powerregulating . For example, Ordinance No. 35 of 1939 required that all crafts organizations apply for registration that could be denied unless their dealings were considered “legitimate” by the state. Cancellation of registration under the ordinance was not subject to judicial review or appeal in a court of law.

Singh led workers to assert their right to strike, a key achievement in the struggle for labor and human rightsthe . By organizing and mobilizing workers to strike, Singh not only ensured the implementation of a cardinal right but also legitimized the right of workers to withdraw their labor as a of bargaining tooling. This effort contributed to ensuring full and universal respect for trade union rights in their broadest sense. This struggle and legacy reaffirmed that strike action s areis the most important and fundamental tool that the workers have against capital. Even so, the rigid control of trade unions that was maintained by the colonial colonial government persists to this dayuntil the end. Industrial confrontation arose not merely from traditional trade union activities, but also from the movement’s political role in the struggle for freedom from colonial domination, particularly after individual political leaders had been arrested and detained. This notwithstanding, the movement was able to grow both in numerical strength and power. That is how workers became the lone African voice in the colonial wilderness, challenging white supremacy, demanding independence, and defending the interests of the workers.

The legacy of Makhan Singh points to the centrality of trade unions as one of the major epicenters of democracy. Singh sought thatwanted workers to get organized on theirboth practical and strategic issues. The practical issues varied from housing, wages, working conditions, health, and and safety, among others. HoweverStrategically, he was conscious of the fact that political andcolonialism and crude capitalism were the key foundations for the privation of workers. imperialism That is why in 1950, Singh proposed a resolution urging complete independence and sovereignty of the East African territories as the only viable solution to suffering of the people. a legacy In tThis biography challenges, the trade unions in Kenya today. It should receive the challenge the awakening that forreminds workers that they must control and be central to the trade union movement if it is to succeed.organizing Indeed one of the major challenges toproblems in the trade Union union movement today is the chasm between the leadership of the trade union movement and the workers. Most unions are lead by individuals and oligarchicy groups whom which do not share the interests or the vision of the workers. This augurs very poorly for the future of democracy in Kenya. constitutions Kenyan workers must overthrow bumbling, corrupt, and compromised leaders if the legacy of Singh is to be kept alive.

Finally, we would like to congratulate Zarina Patel for her illuminating work on this towering Kenyan patriot. We know that writing a good book is a daunting task. But we believe that Patel has risen to this enormous challenge and written an account for the ages. This wonderful account also reminds us why it is critically important for Asians and Africans to tell their own stories. This is a book that every Kenyan – and particularly those still in school – must read.

* Steve Ouma is Deputy Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission; Makau Mutua is Chair of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

* This article is the foreword to ‘Unquiet: The Life and Times of Makhan Singh’, by Zarina Patel, Nairobi: Awaaz, 2006. For further details, contact Awaaz Magazine, P O Box 32843 00600, Nairobi, Tel: 0722 344900, 0733 741085, Alternative email: (at)

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Makhan Singh is considered the father of the trade union movement in Kenya. In 1935, he formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya, and in 1949, the East African Trade Union Congress. In this article, a foreword to ‘Unquiet: The Life and Times of Makhan Singh’ by Zarina Patel, Steve Ouma and Makau Mutua remember Singh and what his life means for present-day political life in Kenya.

Women are Africa's political hope

Emira Woods and Lisa VeneKlasen


Recently, newly elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became only the fourth African head of state and the eighth woman to address the United States Congress. Sirleaf asked members of Congress to think about what the returns on their investment would be when young men could trade their guns for jobs, when people could feed themselves again and when young women could become scientists and doctors. Emira Woods and Lisa VeneKlasen assess the contribution of women to politics in Africa.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf addressed a joint session of the US Congress recently. This historic honor, bestowed sparingly on international dignitaries, is a fitting tribute for Africa's first democratically elected female president. But Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is not an anomaly. The African political landscape is being reshaped by women, generating hope for the future of the continent and raising the bar for democracy worldwide.

Few in the US congress would have guessed that the country that leads the world in political gender balance is Rwanda, where women make up half of the members of parliament, a development that started in the mid-1990s. South Africa and Mozambique, also high on the list, are both countries with women composing more than 30 percent of their parliaments. This stands in stark contrast to the United States, where women make up only 15 percent of Congress.

African countries also have higher percentages of women in cabinet-level positions. In South Africa, 13 out of 28 are women, and in Rwanda there are nine women to 22 men. In the United States, there are only three women in President George W. Bush's 20-person cabinet.

One big factor in the rise of women's political power in Africa is affirmative action. Governments have set concrete targets for women's participation in political bodies. The newly formed Pan African Parliament has also implemented affirmative-action measures to ensure a minimum of 30 percent representation by women, all of whom have been elected to office in their countries.

But African women's rising power is measured not just in numbers. In Liberia, the same women who bore the brunt of the country's more than two decades of war are the ones leading the struggle for peace and carving out a new economic and political path.

It was the Liberian women who crossed class, ethnic and political lines to organize and sustain marches for peace and change over the past two years. Market sellers, students, farmers, professionals - women from all walks of life - marched daily in drenching rain and searing sun, often with their children on their backs, to demand the exit of their former leader, war criminal Charles Taylor, indicted by a special court in Sierra Leone, and to insist on an end to civil strife. Their efforts ushered in a period of peace that has now lasted more than 2 and a half years and opened the door to democracy.

After the election last November, when supporters of presidential candidate George Weah disputed the results and marched in the streets - again raising the specter of instability - it was women and leading religious leaders who engaged them in a dialogue and insisted on reconciliation and peace.

Of course, the real test for Africa's emerging female leaders is yet to come. Will they be able to translate leadership positions into a fresh agenda for peace, sustainable development and democracy in the region?

In the case of Liberia, the challenges are daunting. A fresh agenda would mean mending the social fabric torn apart by 25 years of crisis and chaos in which 250,000 people were killed. A Harvard-educated economist, Johnson-Sirleaf, who was sworn into office in January, should manage well a truth-and-reconciliation process that brings healing to a wounded society and holds key people responsible. A fresh agenda would also transform an economy that has relied on illicit activity for 14 years - trade in diamonds used to finance wars; stolen timber; "raped rubber"; and the flow of illegal arms - into an economy that brings productive activity for the now 85 percent unemployed.

The critical role of women in that society must be recognized by giving them equal inheritance and land rights to allow them to fully and wisely use resources for their families and communities.

The US Congress and the Bush administration should help give Liberia a chance at a fresh start by agreeing to cancel the country's external debts, accumulated under past dictatorships. Those debts, the equivalent of about 680 percent of the country's gross domestic product, undermine the capacity of the new government to tackle the problems of rising HIV/AIDS infection rates and a lack of functioning schools, electricity and other infrastructure. Thirty percent of that debt is owed to the United States, which should not only forgive its share but also encourage other nations to forgive theirs.

The US government should also use its leverage to ensure that US corporations operating in the country act responsibly, paying proper fees, taxes and wages, respecting labor rights and protecting the environment. For example, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is now taking advantage of deals made with a former caretaker Liberian government as well as the desperation of many poor Liberians to profit from operations that employ child labor, destroy the environment and violate other international standards.

There is much at stake for Liberia and the rest of Africa. But it's also a time to celebrate and support the region's newly emerging female leaders with a fresh agenda.

* Emira Woods, originally from Liberia, is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, based in Washington, D.C. Lisa VeneKlasen is director of Just Associates (JASS)

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Recently, newly elected Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became only the fourth African head of state and the eighth woman to address the United States Congress. Sirleaf asked members of Congress to think about what the returns on their investment would be when young men could trade their guns for jobs, when people could feed themselves again and when young women could become scientists and doctors. Emira Woods and Lisa VeneKlasen assess the contribution of women to politics in Africa.

HIV/AIDS: A health or development issue?

Jennifer Chiriga


In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was a “distant” disease represented by statistical data. Now, it is the “undisputed equalizer”, infiltrating all aspects of life. Jennifer Chiriga looks at the reasons for its spread, provides some pointers on fighting it and argues for the urgent need to defend and justify the public sector and public ownership of resources when it comes to health care.

In the mid 80s when I was a student at the university, HIV/AIDS was nothing more than statistical data, which had nothing to do with me. Then I heard that one of our lecturers was HIV positive. The disease and the people afflicted with it ceased to be a distant phenomenon and it stared me right in the face when the lecturer came into the lecture theatre looking weak, thin, and shockingly unfamiliar. Over the years since then, I have watched friends and family infected and affected by this disease. It is about human beings - not only facts and figures, and it is an undisputed equalizer. Rich or poor, illiterate or educated, the impact is the same.

The aggressiveness with which AIDS has insinuated itself into our lives leaves one no choice but to reflect on the colossal cost and burden of HIV/AIDS on the individual, the family and governments. HIV/AIDS is no longer just an issue for health authorities as it affects all aspects of life and has a devastating impact on all population groups and sectors of the national economy. What is even more worrisome is the regional dynamic where HIV/AIDS does not just affect individual countries in the region but whole regions.

I personally agree with the view that the problem of HIV/AIDS in the region is not just a health issue but has fundamentally become a development issue, mainly because the disease exacerbates existing problems such as poverty, food insecurity, shortage of skilled manpower and strained and dysfunctional social and economic institutions. The fact that most economies in the region are weak and largely dependent on donor funding further aggravates the situation.

A number of policy challenges present themselves, especially in the current scenario of political and economic disintegration. The frighteningly high levels of inflation and unemployment, erratic or stagnant economic performance and declining currency values all symbolize the economic crisis which is affecting people’s capacity to look after themselves and their health. For examples 80% of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and are unable to cope. Poverty is therefore worsening an already bad situation.

Within the health sector, increases in health fees as part of the effort to recover costs and improve efficiency in service delivery, has pushed the cost of health services beyond the reach of most vulnerable households, and health insurance costs continue to escalate inexorably. The informal sector and the notion of home-based care have absorbed the shocks of the epidemic. This has allowed the government and the private sector to sit back and pretend that the situation is under control. In essence, governments have abdicated (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) their responsibility to be in the forefront of service delivery. The private sector needs to work in tandem with government to create a vision beyond the profit margin, and to start getting involved in community service in a meaningful way.

At the broad policy level, it would appear the early post-independence experience of African countries has unfortunately been ignored. In most African countries there were state-led models of development and it is clearly established that there were major strides in this time – educational development and reduction of illiteracy through public-led education drives, huge improvement in health indicators, child mortality etc, and housing and transport was provided by the state. After governments in the region adopted cost recovery under IMF and World Bank austerity programmes, this led to increasing social inequalities (e.g. private hospitals and private schools becoming accessible to only the few who can afford them). Given the pre-dominance of AIDS, the health sector is one of the main areas through which there is an urgent need to defend and justify the public sector and public ownership of resources.

There are a number of important interventions (but by no means exhaustive) that policy makers need to reflect on:

1. There is need for a number of interventions to establish the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS crisis as well as investigating why despite many attempts to contain the scourge, the disease has gathered momentum in SADC to a level of being one of the biggest challenges to policy making and intervention. Why is there a higher rate of infection in Botswana than in Nigeria or Angola? What have Ugandans done to gain prominence as having achieved a measure of success in containing the virus?

2. Assessment of drug utilisation, availability, and cost are critical factors for policy formulation. So is assessment of impact of AIDS on food security and agricultural production. We must know the impact on the youth – the most productive sector, as well as the impact on women and children who bear the burden of home-based care.

3. The private sector has the capacity to make inroads through a number of interventions, e.g. provision of medicines, support of home-based care, instituting feeding schemes for the vulnerable e.g. young children at risk of malnutrition. Banks and private industry are making super-profits at the moment but are not ploughing any of those profits back into the communities that need propping up. There are many companies that one can think of – that would be the basis for a meaningful intervention.

4. In all this there is also a role for civic society. The Church, religious groups and other social movements can and should lead a campaign for behavioral change, and open dialogue at family and community level about the disease.

5. People providing home-based care, are doing so largely without proper training or equipment and so are at risk of infection or re-infection. People providing home-based care must be provided with knowledge and the necessary protective measures. Poverty reduction is also a pre-requisite for home-based care initiatives because we do know that a good diet is vital for boosting the immune system.

6. Is there anything being done to deal with the trauma and psychological impact on people, particularly children, of watching their parents dying slowly? People providing care also need care. Children are assuming adult roles and nothing is being done about the psychological effect.

7. What is the role of indigenous knowledge systems in traditional medicine? A lot of Africa’s people believe in traditional methods of treating illnesses. Governments should therefore support joint initiatives by traditional practitioners and scientists in an attempt to merge the traditional and conventional systems. This is already happening in some countries in the region, e.g. Zimbabwe, where there is collaborative research and development of medicines.

8. It is critical to empower young people with knowledge and awareness of HIV prevention. An informed youth will be able to negotiate a safe sex life to ensure good health.

9. Culturally relevant prevention information can be disseminated through the media, faith-based organizations, community groups, schools, and the workplace. To be effective, information must be packaged in an accessible manner, for example, showing sensitivity to rural folk’s taboo approach to sex, and finding the acceptable means to put the message across.

Over 40 million people were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2001, and more than 20 million have died since the virus was discovered in the 1980s. If these statistics do not make policy actors sit up and do something, HIV/AIDS will continue to decimate the world’s productive population.

* Jennifer Chiriga is Unit Coordinator at the Globalisation and Alternatives Unit at the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Cape Town

* Please send comments to [email protected]
In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was a “distant” disease represented by statistical data. Now, it is the “undisputed equalizer”, infiltrating all aspects of life. Jennifer Chiriga looks at the reasons for its spread, provides some pointers on fighting it and argues for the urgent need to defend and justify the public sector and public ownership of resources when it comes to health care.

Advocacy & campaigns

Uganda: Act now to end torture and displacement in Northern Uganda


Take action to end torture of internally displaced persons in Northern Uganda. Send an email or fax to the Ugandan government, your U.S. Congressional or European Union representative, or urge the United Nations Security Council, through Secretary General Kofi Annan, to immediately be seized of the issue of civilian protection in Northern Uganda.

Books & arts

Children of Uganda

Shailja Patel


Hailed as "First Rate" and "Inspiring!" by the New York Times, Children of Uganda is an internationally touring dance and music troupe, composed of 22 young Ugandans aged 6 to 20. All the members of the company have lost one or both parents to AIDS. They live in homes and boarding schools supported by the Texas-based Uganda Children's Charity Foundation (UCCF). Children of Uganda was originally founded to teach orphaned children the songs, dances and stories that were in danger of being lost, as AIDS continues to shred the social and cultural fabric of Ugandan communities.

On opening the program for the Children of Uganda performance at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, I was confronted by these stark facts:

- There are 2.4 million orphans living in Uganda today.

- They make up 10% of Uganda's total population, 20% of Uganda's population under 14.

- 1.1 million of them have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

- AIDS kills over 200 people a day in Uganda.

Yerba Buena's marketing materials say: "But what if the response to this heartbreak was dance and drumming, light and joy? Can art heal wounds this deep? Sometimes it's riskier to respond with joy than sorrow; the Children of Uganda invite you to take that courageous leap."

Does this make you feel a little queasy? Should anyone be required to respond to tragedy on this scale with "dance and drumming, light and joy?"

"People may think they're going to feel bad, but what they see is the antithesis of that," says Alexis Hefley, Texan American founder of UCCF. "It's an amazing production about hope and ethnic dance. It's happy and inspiring." Hefley was a banker until 10 years ago, when she visited Uganda in search of "meaning and community". She is a staunch advocate of the abstinence programs promoted by the Bush administration and Uganda's first lady, Janet Museveni. "Abstaining until you're married, then staying faithful to one partner is the most effective way to prevent HIV transmission."

The program states that Children of Uganda serve as "goodwill ambassadors for the 2.4 million orphans living in Uganda today" and "increase awareness of the HIV/AIDS crisis in their homeland."

Perhaps I'm cynical, but haven't Bono, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt already cornered that market? Will greater "awareness" and "goodwill" give Africa ownership and control of its own resources, from oil to diamonds to soil to water? Create just, equitable terms of trade? Supply cheap antiretroviral drugs and accessible healthcare?

The financial goal of the tour is to raise $1.5 million for UCCF's orphan support programs, in donations and gifts from individuals and institutions. The foundation does not receive money from tickets sales of the tour, nor do any of the performers get paid. Financial statements and performance ratings for UCCF can be found on the site of independent charity evaluator:

To meet this goal, the young performers are on a 5-month, coast-to-coast tour of the US, during which they will play 31 cities in 20 states.

"If someone is tired, they don't have to dance," says Hefley. "We make sure to build in 2 days off for each 5 days of performance." The exception to this is a New York run of 7 shows in 6 days, but according to Hefley, "There are rest days going into that run, and afterwards."

A teacher travels with the troupe to monitor the education of the primary level children. The students are also given academic assignments by their teachers in Uganda. But the tour itself "is educational," according to Hefley. She cites trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios as examples of activities arranged for the children in their time off stage. And what are they like on stage?

The show is breathtaking. The New York Times is right to call it "first rate". Striking set and costumes, lighting design that enhances without dominating. The program offers the audience a spectrum of music and dance, drawing from all regions of Uganda, as well as material from Kenya, Rwanda, and the Congo. It showcases an impressive range of East African instruments, vocal styles, and complex, compelling movement.

The performers combine technical excellence with controlled exuberance to infuse the intricacy and grace of the dances with youthful power. Director Peter Kasule creates a show that allows individual personalities to emerge, from the showmanship of crowd-pleasing 6-year-old soloist, Miriam Namala to the dignity, superb athleticism, and reflective depth of the older dancers. Kasule's own charisma and stage presence are central to the show. At 24, he is a veteran performer of several Children of Uganda tours, and is currently on leave from his studies in music technology in Santa Fe. As narrator and master of ceremonies, he commands the auditorium, and the audience. He charms, beguiles and teases them into a sequence of arm movements, clapping out a harmonic rhythm, chanting in Luganda.

There are moments of delightful, subversive departure from the "traditional." As when we are told, gravely, that women were never allowed to touch African drums, as a drum touched by a woman would "lose its sound." In the very next piece, the boys abdicate the stage, the girls come on, and take over - on the drums.

So is Children of Uganda an uplifting and joyful experience? Without question.

Is it a good thing for American audiences to see these gifted and energetic performers, and to be educated about the context in which they make art? Absolutely.

Will the $1.5 million that the tour aims to raise, improve the lives of a small number of Ugandan children orphaned by AIDS? Yes.

Is it a valuable experience for young performers in any field to tour internationally, to perform on world class stages to packed houses, with state of the art production technology to showcase their talent? Of course.

Then why does Children of Uganda leave me with more questions than answers?

Consider, if you will, a parallel scenario for the US. Hurricane Katrina left 1.5 million Americans displaced, homeless, destitute. Devastated the rich cultures and communities of the African-American South. Thousands of children were orphaned. Suppose some benevolent well-meaning Nigerian banker, in search of meaning and life-purpose, decided to organize a global performing tour of orphans from Louisiana. The Children of New Orleans would tour the US, coast to coast, doing traditional dances of Creole and black Southern heritage. The tour would raise money for their own clothing, shelter, education, and the support of their "brothers and sisters" in orphanages.

Would America be able to confront itself in the shape of the Children of New Orleans? To accept that the tragedy of a natural disaster, combined with a criminal abandonment of black citizens by their own government, could become a "happy inspiring production about hope and ethnic dance?" Would the middle-class, theater-going audiences of America sit through "dance and drumming, light and joy", and emerge uplifted rather than unbearably disturbed? Or would they tremble with the exposure to their own indifference and complicity?

Dance does not destroy death or erase grief. Drums do not dissolve genocidal tragedies created from criminal indifference, corporate greed, centuries of exploitation. That the children of Uganda can still find a language of joy in their bodies, articulate it with grace and power, share it with such incredible generosity, should be a source of deepest shame and discomfort to audiences of the developed world. It should not leave them feeling good.

* Visit for more information. Shailja Patel is a Kenyan Indian poet and spoken word artist. Visit

* Send comments to [email protected]

Philanthropy in East Africa


Firoze Manji


Connie Ngondi-Houghton
Allavida £10 (outside East Africa)
ISBN 1904167101

There is a dearth of literature on philanthropy in Africa, and this pioneering work on East Africa by Connie Ngondi-Houghton should be warmly welcomed. Ngondi-Houghton starts by looking at what is meant by the term philanthropy, arguing that it has to be understood in the context of the region and its history. She believes that there is an indigenous tradition of giving, ‘an economy of affection’, which has survived the turmoil of colonization, post-colonial compromises, and the devastating results of imposed neoliberal economic policies.

The book then deals at some length with formal philanthropy in the region as it is today. She considers some of the new initiatives such as the Africa Philanthropy Initiative, the East Africa Grantmakers Association, Allavida, the Centre for the Promotion of Philanthropy and Social Responsibility (Ufadhili) and Resource Alliance, many of them driven by non-indigenous institutions. The last two chapters focus on the challenges ahead for philanthropy in East Africa, chiefly the need to link institutionalized forms of philanthropy with the long-standing traditional forms. The final chapter provides a set of recommendations on future research that is needed.

The author’s central argument is that conventional (or Western) definitions of philanthropy have ignored the rich ‘traditional African spirit of community, reciprocity and mutual aid based on the philosophy of ubuntuism’. This spirit is, she argues, ‘the spring of philanthropy among the majority in East Africa’. Many of us working in the region recognize these many forms of generosity that inspire and refresh one’s belief in humanity. I had hoped that the book would at last provide me with documentary evidence to silence the sceptics and those who hold a narrow definition of philanthropy. Unfortunately, there is little data about the scale and impact of such practices. This is a shame as I think that its absence seriously weakens her thesis.

Ngondi-Houghton argues that philanthropy should be seen as something embracing a spectrum of social and individual activities. The opening chapter begins by asserting that philanthropy is a term encompassing activities ‘motivated by the love for humanity and human advancement, and targeted towards the ends of human survival, dignity and fulfilment of all people’. It begins, she says, with the act of giving. She goes on to draw a distinction between charity and philanthropy that I found particularly helpful. Charity, she says, ‘can ameliorate’, but philanthropy ‘seeks to root out causes of poverty, suffering and inequality … it inspires and promotes individual growth as it nourishes human welfare.’

This distinction, however, is lost sight of in the remainder of the book. Indeed, what she mainly writes about is charitable giving. As the book develops, she falls increasingly shy of defining what she means by philanthropy, offering instead examples of the activities it embraces, from microfinance to scout camps, from trade union solidarity to NGOs making money from providing services where the state has retrenched in response to externally driven economic policies.

‘Philanthropy should be what the people of East Africa say it is for them,’ she asserts. While this may be different to how the West would define philanthropy, neither the Western nor the African definition is superior. ‘When viewed this way,’ she says, ‘the issue of spectrum of models, and whether a model at one end of the spectrum better deserves the name philanthropy than one at the other end, ceases to be significant.’ But the issue is not, surely, an argument about the absolute or universal definition of the term philanthropy, but rather about whether the term is used consistently and in such a way that its meaning can be communicated with certainty to the reader.

That said, I found the book stimulated me to reflect on many issues about giving and philanthropy in the region. It could have been much longer, giving the author more space to develop and explain some of her ideas. As it stands, it is full of thought-provoking observations that give you only a taster of insights that, frustratingly, are not developed further. I would also have like to have seen much more information than was provided about philanthropy in Uganda and Tanzania – the book focuses overly on Kenya. Nevertheless, it represents a major milestone for the region, a sentinel starting point for the development of a much-needed literature on the subject.

* Firoze Manji is Executive Director of Fahamu and editor of Pambazuka News. He can be contacted at firoze (at)

This article first appeared in Alliance Volume 11 Number 1 March 2006
To order: Within East Africa, contact Allavida, Email [email protected]
Tel +254 020 310 526

Rest of the world, visit

Africa: Art of the contemporary African Diaspora

April 6-June 4


"Looking Both Ways refers to the artists’ practice of looking at the psychic terrain between Africa and the West, a terrain of shifting physical contexts, emotional geographies, and aesthetic ambitions and expressions," said Laurie Ann Farrell, curator of Looking Both Ways, Museum of African Art, Long Island City, New York. "It attempts to provide insight into the Diaspora from an international perspective, revealing it through the art and stories of the artists themselves."

Global: Fourteenth annual African Diaspora film festival

Nov 24-Dec 10 2006


The African Diaspora Film Festival (ADFF) features the work of emerging and established filmmakers of color. Most important, ADFF distinguishes itself through its presentation of outstanding works that shine a different or comprehensive light on African Diaspora life and culture - no matter what the filmmaker’s race or nationality. Submission deadline for ADFF 2006: August 31, 2006 for feature length fiction films; June 30, 2006 for shorts and documentaries.

Letters & Opinions

Keeping in touch

Mary Kimani


Pambazuka News is the only way I can think of keeping well informed about African issues from this distance. Without such resources one tends to lose touch.

Reforming the IMF

Patricia McFadden


I found the piece by Hetty Kovach on the IMF "interesting" in that it seemed to be trying to say the same thing that has been said many times (and we all need to hear about the IMF's economic and political machinations as often as possible) in a new way...and maybe there was some variation somewhere. (See

However, I also was left feeling rather exasperated by the absence of a more definitive political analysis of why the IMF has consistently sabotaged the societies of the Majority South - especially African societies ( Kovach used a lot of examples from Africa, especially Southern Africa).

Now that we know the how so well, how about the why. I don't think as many people know this part of the story, nor are there enough writers willing to say it.

World Social Forum: Dates announced

Oduor Ong'wen


This is to inform all that the dates for World Social Forum 2007 are January 20-25,2007. The venues are Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Uhuru Park and Central Park. Negotiations are at an advanced stage to have the Youth Camp at University of Nairobi. Registration process begins in a few weeks.

In solidarity!

Blogging Africa

The week in the blogosphere

Sokari Ekine


Nigeria has just completed it’s latest census which does not include religion or ethnicity. Naijablog ( wonders exactly how many languages are spoken in Nigeria as depending on your source, the numbers differ. The number ranges from 250 to 500.

“The World Bank and the UN like to suggest 250 in the documents I've seen, but I heard once that there are something like 200 languages in Niger State alone. According to the Index of Nigerian Languages (Crozier & Blench 1992) there are 500 languages. I've scoured the internet and found very little of substance. There are 478 languages listed here (helpfully categorised into language group) from Abanyom to Zumbun.”

He adds that because the census does not include ethnicity, we will never know how many “living sustaining” ethnic groups there are and which ones if any are endangered.

Thea keeps painting the planet ( asks if Sudan is an “African” or an “Arab” state:

“Sudan is both in the Arab League and in the African Union…however it is more Arab than Ethiopia, and more African than Libya…Sudan is on the border line…I don't think I could call it an Arab State, and I however find it hard to call it an African country.”

Not quite sure how Sudan is more Arab than Ethiopia or more African than Libya. Without defining either – which would be a highly complex and extended task – I think this statement is meaningless and does nothing to enhance our understanding of what is either Arab or Africa. Sudan is an African country as is Libya. It falls within the boundary of the continental mass known as Africa consisting of people who are African. Sudan’s membership of the Arab League is based on the Northern Sudanese elite who speak “Arabic” as their first language. The people of Sudan are diverse in terms of their religion, language, identity and ethnicity.

Continuing with Sudan and the Arab League issue - Rantings of a Sandmonkey ( comments on why the summit was held in Khartoum given the atrocities committed in the Darfur region. He also comments on the discussions and Arab League reactions to Hamas and Israel.

“First they all agreed that in order to oppose the western zionist hegemony they will pledge aid to the Hamas Palestinian government with an amount that is 1/3 what that government needs in order to oppose the western Zionist hegemony. What about the other 2/3 you league of Arab nationality heroes? Ehh, don’t ask us. It’s not like we are Arab countries with tons of money or anything.”

With regards to Israel, the Arab League rejected Israel’s decision to unilaterally draw its own borders. He writes that the Arab League rejection is meaningless since they will not or cannot do anything about it so he concludes that the idea of “pan-arabism” is dead.

And while you are at it, shut the Arab League down as well. It’s a waste of time and money, and it does nothing. It’s time to kill it.”

The Moor Next Door ( discusses the history of religions in Algeria from paganism, to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

“The original North Africans in ancient times, who were almost entirely Berbers, worshiped a pantheon of gods, which over time became influenced by Greek, Phoenician/Carthaginian, Egyptian, Latin and other traditions. All other religions in Algeria came entirely from elsewhere, the main imports being Judaism (which came after the Jews had been expelled from Judea and were dispersed into various areas of the Roman Empire following the Jewish-Roman Wars), Christianity (that came by way of Roman missionaries and settlers), and of course Islam (which came by way of the Arab invasion and the missionaries that followed.”

Jangbalajugbu Homeland Stories ( discusses the role of information technology in the future of Africa.

“Getting technology into the continent means giving Africans a taste of affordable and fast internet access, affordable computer systems (more than the $100 laptop), more telecommunications infrastructures and a fair share of appropriate news coverage by the world media…These will bring a remarkable growth in development. While an affordable internet would increase African content on the internet, availability of computers will facilitate the development of the young African, marginalized right now because of his inability to afford a PC, telecommunication infrastructures will attract more investors to the continent.”

Black Looks ( posts a roundup of blogs by African women over the past week. Topics range from the trial of Jacob Zuma and the daily pro-Zuma demonstrations by women against the complainant; how American women can learn from African women; and poems on homesickness in the Diaspora.

* Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks,

* Please send comments to [email protected]

African Union Monitor

Africa: Military force on track


The African Union will have a 20,000-strong rapid response force in the next four years, an international meeting has been told. Regional blocs have already started assembling personnel for the unified force, said Major-General Ishaya Hassan, chief of general staff of the African Union brigade. "The brigade will then respond to African issues in an African way, since we know our complications better than any other outside brigades," he said.

Women & gender

Global: Displaced women and girls at risk


This paper aims to clarify risks leading to displacement, risk factors during displacement and risks that inhibit safe and sustainable return. The authors look at protection solutions in the context of displacement and in situations of return. Tools are presented for assessing risks and for identifying good field practices that reduce the risks displaced and returnee women and girls confront.

Global: Women's empowerment through sustainable micro-finance


This paper challenges assumptions about the automatic benefits of micro-finance for women. It argues that financial indicators of access - such as women's programme membership and size of loans - cannot be used as indicators of women's empowerment. High repayment levels by women do not necessarily indicate that women have used the loans themselves. Men may take the loans from women, or women may choose to invest the loans in men's activities.

Kenya: Schoolgirls raped on march


At least 15 schoolgirls in Kenya were raped during a night-time protest march in the central district of Nyeri. Hundreds of pupils had stormed out of school in the middle of the night to go to the district commissioner's office to demand better conditions. The BBC's Wanyama wa Chebusiri in Nyeri says three of those attacked are critically ill in hospital. The victims say as they were marching a gang of local villagers attacked them, raping at least 15 girls in turn.

Kenya: Women unveil manifesto on renewed push for leadership


Women leaders in Kenya have vowed to seek top positions in all spheres. They unveiled the Kenya Women's Manifesto to guide them towards their goal. "We are prepared to take the risk of challenging the status quo and ready to face the complex challenges that accompany our aspiration to ascend to key positions of leadership, decision-making and development in a patriarchal society," said a statement issued to during a ceremony to launch the manifesto.

Namibia: Calls for the legalisation of prostitution


When former Namibian health minister Libertina Amathila made an emotional plea five years ago for prostitution to be legalised, her cabinet colleagues, parliament and the churches shot her views down, saying they were unacceptable. Richard Kamwi, Amathila's successor, said the government would not revisit the matter, but the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has insisted a rethink is necessary in a country with an adult HIV prevalence rate of over 21 percent.

South Africa: Rape trial dashes hope for change


The rape case against South Africa's former vice president Jacob Zuma is moving into its final days. Before the judge speaks, however, advocates of rape survivors say they are already discouraged by what they describe as the ordeal of the 31-year-old HIV-positive woman who is the complainant. "If I was raped, particularly by an acquaintance, I would not report it after this trial," said Liesl Gerntholtz, a lawyer specializing in rape and HIV/AIDS issues and executive director of the Johannesburg-based Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre.
Related Link
* Demonstration in support of the Zuma complainant,40,5,964

Tanzania: Maternal deaths on the rise


More should be done to curb maternal deaths, which have continued to rise in Tanzania in the past decade despite efforts to reverse the trend, activists and officials have said. "It is a saddening reality, but still maternal deaths can be avoided," Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Tanzania's former president, told a rally held to commemorate women and girls who died due to childbirth and pregnancy complications. Citing Ministry of Health statistics, Mwinyi said maternal deaths increased from 529 out of every 100,000 birth in 1996 to 578 out of every 100,000 in 2005. "Such a level is very high and not acceptable," he said.

Zimbabwe: ZCTU hopes to bring in sanitary pads every month


Undeterred by the hefty duty imposed on a consignment of sanitary pads donated to Zimbabwean women hit by rocketing prices, the country's labour federation plans to import them regularly. "We are going to bring the sanitary pads in every month, otherwise it is a pointless exercise," explained Wellington Chibebe, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). After an appeal on a South African radio station at the beginning of the year, the ZCTU collected 12 million pads in South Africa last month.

Human rights

Egypt: Government to lift 25-year-old emergency laws


Egypt plans to lift 25-year-old emergency laws granting security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention that critics have long claimed are used against opponents of the regime. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced the move in a speech to parliament, saying the laws would be replaced by new anti-terror legislation in Egypt, which has witnessed a string of deadly attacks in recent years. Nazif said he had ordered the formation of a committee of experts to draft the new law, without saying when he expected it to come into force.

Global: Steadfast in Protest


This report presents the situation of 1,172 human rights defenders oppressed, as well as obstacles to freedom of association in nearly 90 countries This publication is an opportunity to alert the international public opinion on the situation of these men and women who, in spite of the tremendous risks they face, persist in denouncing the human rights violations they have witnessed.

Liberia: Taylor gets one way ticket to Monrovia following Nigerian escape


Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, who disappeared from his residence in southeastern Nigeria one day ago, was on Wednesday detained in a state bordering Cameroon and could be expelled soon to his homeland. A top government official who asked not to be named said Taylor, wanted for war crimes by a UN-backed special court in Sierra Leone, was arrested in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, bordering Cameroon, Niger and Lake Chad.
Related Link
* Taylor, stubborn since his childhood

Nigeria: 'International fugitive' Charles Taylor must not be allowed to escape trial


Reacting to reports that former Liberian president Charles Taylor has "escaped" from his home in Calabar, Nigeria, Amnesty International said "any country in which he is found has a responsibility to arrest and surrender Charles Taylor immediately to the Special Court in Sierra Leone." The organization said that the warrant for Charles Taylor's arrest issued by the Special Court, an international court, remains in effect, and that if he has left Nigeria he should now be considered an "international fugitive".

Rwanda: Tanzania asked to prosecute genocide suspects after ICTR mandate


Tanzania is likely to take over the responsibility of prosecuting Rwandan genocide suspects whose trials under the current International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will not be completed by the year 2008. "The Tribunal's leadership has asked the Tanzanian government to complete prosecuting genocide suspects after its mandate," said Dr. Mary Nagu, Tanzanian minister of Justice in a telephone interview with Hirondelle News. The United Nations Security Council had directed the Tribunal to complete trials in the coming two years and appeal cases by 2010.

South Africa: Walking the long trail to reconciliation


For the last 10 years Anna Ngabayena has been haunted by her past. The memories of the violence she encountered as a foot soldier in the African National Congress (ANC) struggle against apartheid have plagued both her dreams and waking life. In recent weeks things had begun to change, said Ngabayena, now 42 years old. She had just taken part in a unique rehabilitation programme run by the National Peace Accord Trust (NPAT), which uses the natural environment as a means of coming to terms with a turbulent past.

Zimbabwe: Majongwe arrested for ‘driving’ Dutch trade unionists


Raymond Majongwe, the Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union (PTUZ) was arrested last week Friday on allegations of ‘driving’ a group of Dutch trade unionists and teachers visiting the country. The police say Majongwe and his four visitors failed to stop at a roadblock near the Mabvuku roundabout in the capital. Security on the day was tight as the main opposition was beginning its three-day congress at the City Sports Centre.
Related Link
* New rights body should be independent, say activists

Refugees & forced migration

Guinea Bissau: Guinea Bissau army distress Casamance refugees


Refugees from Casamance living in Guinea-Bissau villages along the border with Senegal have suffered a great loss after soldiers of the Guinea-Bissau completely burnt their dwellings, reliable sources told PANA. The Guinea-Bissau soldiers had suspected the refugees to be conniving with rebels of the Movement of Casamance Democratic Forces (MFDC), loyal to Salif Sadio against whom the Bissau soldiers have been fighting during the past two weeks, according to the sources, some of which were contacted in Sao-Domingos.

Namibia: Osire refugees denied asylum


At least 269 asylum seekers currently residing at Osire Camp have been denied refugee status by the Namibian government. The majority are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia and Uganda. According to the Chairman of the Association for the Defence of Refugee Rights (ADR) at Osire MacGoddins Lushimba, refugees received responses from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration indicating that their requests for refugee status had been rejected.

Somalia: Refugees flee to Kenya


More than 900 refugees have fled to Kenya following the recent militia attacks in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. Security personnel deployed at the Kenya-Somalia border continued patrolling the area in a bid to control the influx.
North Eastern Province CID boss, Henry Ondiek, said 1,000 refugees had surrendered themselves at the Dadaab United Nations refugee camp in Garissa District.

Somaliland: Prosperous refugees return to invest in their country


Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared (but internationally unrecognised) state of Somaliland is bursting at the seams these days with former refugees who have come back to their country, but have nowhere to live but squalid settlements, often set up without permission on state or private land. At the same time, the city is booming thanks to other returnees who are bringing home their skills learned in exile, and quite often their money as well.

Sudan: Fuel alternatives and protection strategies for displaced women and girls


The environment that surrounds refugee or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, particularly in situations of ongoing conflict, is notoriously dangerous. Yet everyday, in hundreds of camps around the world, millions of women and girls venture out into this danger in order to collect enough firewood to cook for their families. The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children have initiated a project to investigate methods for reducing the vulnerability of displaced women and girls to gender-based violence during firewood collection.

Uganda: Congolese flock into Hoima


More Congolese are still crossing into the western Uganda border districts following the fighting in DR Congo. Congolese have since last year fled to Kisoro, Kanungu, Kasese, Bundibugyo and Hoima districts. The latest spill over has been in Hoima through Lake Albert, which is shared between Uganda and DR Congo.

Uganda: Government urged to end war in the north


A new report by the Refugee Law Project has urged the Ugandan government to demonstrate a strong commitment to ending the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda. The report has urged the rebels of the Lords Resistance Army, the perpetrators of the war "to stop their cowardly acts of attacking and killing innocent civilians and demonstrate a sincere commitment to a peace process." The insurgency by the rebels has left several people dead and abducted while 1.6 million are internally displaced.

Elections & governance

Benin: New leader to be sworn in


Benin is preparing to swear in a new leader, this after a former head of the West African Development Bank won the second round of presidential elections held earlier this month in the West African country. Results issued by the National Autonomous Electoral Commission showed that Boni Yayi garnered an overwhelming majority of votes: 74.51 percent. His challenger, attorney Adrien Houngbedji, received only 25.49 percent. This was reportedly the first time a presidential candidate had won by such a large margin.

Burundi: Former ruling party pulls out of government


Three Burundian ministers representing the Front pour la democratie au Burundi (FRODEBU) in President Pierre Nkurunziza's government reported to work on Monday despite a directive by their party to pull out of government. Health Minister Barnabe Mbonimpa, Agriculture Minister Elie Buzoya and Environment Minister Odette Kayitesi have reportedly refused to comply with FRODEBU's directive to boycott their duties.

Chad: Opposition refuses to field presidential candidate


For the first time since multiparty politics came to Chad the main opposition has declined to put forth a contender in a presidential election, this time around unanimous in calling for citizens to shun the process. Incumbent President Idriss Deby risks becoming the only serious candidate. As the deadline for candidates passed at midnight on Friday only the Agriculture Minister and three representatives of political parties more or less aligned with the ruling party had submitted their names – along with President Idriss Deby - for the 3 May poll.

DRC: Civic education crucial ahead of poll, official says


Civic education ahead of elections scheduled for June is of "utmost importance" to sensitise the public for the democratic process, the head of the Democratic Republic of Congo's Independent Electoral Commission, Abbé Apollinaire Malu-Malu, has said. Speaking on Tuesday in Brussels at a hearing organised at the European Parliament, Malu-Malu said the commission, known by its French acronym CEI, had proposed a US $40-million budget to international donors for the sensitisation of the public.

DRC: Fatal transactions


Three years of transitional government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has led to anything but stability and economic prosperity. The corrupt, ruling political class is, more than anything else, engaged in enriching itself. Based on investigations of the situation in the Congolese province of Katanga, the report Fatal Transactions demonstrates how members of the government, with the help of international donors such as the World Bank, have profited from the natural wealth of the Congo in recent years, at the expense of the Congolese people.

Kenya: Ministers to sign up new terms of office


Cabinet ministers in Kenya will soon sign annual performance contracts as part of civil service reforms. They will be assessed on responses to questions in Parliament, involvement in House business, adherence to budget allocations and general efficiency in service delivery. A draft of the contract, which has been prepared by the Office of the President's Cabinet office, says each minister's performance will be reviewed at the end of every financial year - on June 30.

Sierra Leone and Liberia: The prospects for development, peace and prosperity


Sierra Leone and Liberia have many things in common: They are English-speaking neighbors, home to the descendents of freed slaves (Freetown, Monrovia), have had two identical menaces in the forms of Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh, have recently ended acrimonious civil wars, and have postwar presidents who were once employees of the United Nations. Notwithstanding these striking similarities, the dissimilarities of their presidents is revealed in their inaugural speeches, according to this article from World Press Review.

South Africa: Taking to the streets


The police and municipal government's crackdown on the Abahlali BaseMjondolo (shack dweller's) Movement march on February 27th was yet again a clear indication of the crisis of democracy in South Africa, reports this article on Indymedia South Africa. “The call "No land, No house, No vote" was a stark reminder of how the right to vote must be accompanied by a right to representatives who will support the legitimate demands of poor in the current political arena. This is not the case for Abahlali BaseMjondolo or many of the poor in South Africa.”

Western Sahara: Frustration mounts


Three decades on, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is still a non-country in most senses. The guerrilla war against Morocco may have ended in ceasefire in 1991, but the diplomatic effort to settle its status is stalled. Morocco has made little progress towards the referendum demanded by the United Nations and now the frustration is palpable.


Africa: New report on corruption in health


The Global corruption report 2006 documents corruption on a vast scale in both rich and poor countries, and its enormous cost to public health, reports the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation. "Each year hundreds of billions of dollars are siphoned from the world's US$ 3.1 trillion annual health spending into private pockets, according to the report published on 1 February. The Global corruption report, now in its sixth edition, draws attention each year to corruption in a particular industry or sector as well as providing a broader overview of corruption across the world."

Africa: Recovering Africa's stolen money


Anti-corruption treaties are the key to getting back monies stolen from African countries, such as an estimated $10 billion embezzled by former presidents Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Sanni Abacha in Nigeria, according to a high-level West Africa Regional workshop organised by Transparency International (TI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

Global: Corruption exposed at the World Bank


The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has hailed a 10-page investigative report focusing on corruption at the World Bank. The article focuses on extensive internal problems at the bank including how “kickbacks, payoffs, bribery, embezzlement, and collusive bidding plague bank-funded projects around the world.” The report estimates that more than 20 percent of the loans distributed by the World Bank, or $4 billion annually, are associated with corrupt practices.

Kenya: Government faces 2.7 billion suit over secret project


A Dutch firm has filed a Sh2.7 billion claim against the Kenyan government over a contentious defence contract. At issue is a Sh3.2 billion military command facility in Nairobi, constructed and equipped over two years by Nedermar Technology BV of Netherlands. The facility was among 18 projects that were questioned by the Controller and Auditor-General. Former Ethics and Governance Permanent Secretary John Githongo ordered payments for some of them stopped.

Uganda: Misuse of funds revealed as global fund inquiry quizzes ministers


A commission of inquiry has grilled Uganda's health ministers over a corruption scandal that NGOs say prevented donor money from reaching the severely sick. The commission investigating the suspension of funding worth hundreds of millions of dollars by the Global Fund for AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis has quizzed 130 Ugandan government officials and members of civil society over allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism.


Africa: Body to monitor development promises


A date has been set for the launch of a body that will seek to make sure development promises to Africa are kept, Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said on Monday. The independent body, to be known as African Monitor, would act as a catalyst to bring a strong African voice to the development debate "and to raise key questions from an African perspective".

Africa: What can Africa do for itself?


Africa's profile has never been higher, says this article from The Heritage Foundation. During the past 12 months, the leaders of the G-8 agreed at Gleneagles to double aid to $50 billion by 2010, of which 50 percent would go to Africa. But more aid and debt relief is incumbent on improvements in African governance. How should Africa respond, and what is the best way for the continent to promote its own development?

Africa: World Bank approves $37 billion debt write-off


World Bank member nations on Tuesday approved a long-awaited $37 billion debt relief package for 17 impoverished countries that included ways to compensate the development lender for the write-off. The approval brings to an end months of tough negotiations among the World Bank's biggest donors over how to fund future loans by the bank's low-interest lending arm, the International Development Association.

Africa: World Bank trade programs must tackle poverty


The World Bank's trade programs may have helped open markets over the last two decades but they have not done enough to tackle poverty and boost growth in developing countries' exports, a study has found. An assessment by the institution's Independent Evaluation Group of $38 billion worth of trade programs between 1987-2004 said the bank did not pay enough attention to complimentary measures needed to cushion poor countries and help them adapt to the effects of trade liberalization.

Global: Critical WTO negotiations go underground


As the trade negotiations following the WTO conference in Hong Kong intensify, rich countries discuss many of the remaining issues in small and exclusive conferences. Focus on the Global South warns that these arrangements further undermine poor countries' ability to benefit from the Doha trade round. The publication also looks at the progress made to liberalize agricultural, non-agricultural and service markets.
Related Link:
* NGO coalition calls for Paris Club debt negotiations to be moved to Africa

Global: The new imperialism


"Accumulation by dispossession is about plundering, robbing other people of their rights. When we start to look at what has happened to the global economy for the past thirty years, a lot of that has been going on all over the place," says David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism, in this article. "In some instances, it is taking away peoples rights to dispose of their own resources, so you will find that there is resistance to that..." Read the full interview with David Harvey on his book The New Imperialsm by clicking on the URL provided.

South Africa: Blacks drive South African boom


South Africa's black middle class is driving a post-apartheid consumer boom in the country, a report has said. The group is responsible for almost a quarter of the 600bn rand ($96m) spent yearly by consumers, the University of Cape Town's Black Diamond study said. Government measures to bring the sector into the mainstream economy have helped its growth, the report added. The black middle class, making up two million of the 45 million population, is expected to grow by 50% a year.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Brain drain hits poor countries hard


Kenya is just one of many developing countries worried about the growing loss of healthcare workers, who mainly migrate to industrialised nations, according to a Kenyan doctor, in an interview with the IPS. Most of Africa faces the same problem, which has led to an estimated shortage of around 820,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers throughout the continent.

Africa: Malaria at a crossroads


Among the more than one million people malaria kills annually are hundreds of thousands of children. Most are under age five, their immature immune systems failing to control the aggressive disease. The majority of these children are from the developing world. Almost 90 percent are from sub-Saharan Africa. Killing children is not all malaria does. Economically, malaria drains the wealth of nations and households. Recently W.H.O. reported that malaria costs Africa alone $12 billion a year.

Kenya: Labs ready to handle bird disease


Modern equipment has been installed in major laboratories countrywide to help detect possible cases of the deadly avian flu in Kenya. "Equipment in Nyeri, Kabete, Mariakani, Eldoret and Kericho laboratories have been improved to help in diagnosing the virus," said Nyanza deputy veterinary officer David Wekesa. He advised the public to be alert and report any suspected cases of avian flu to the nearest veterinary offices.

South Africa: TB crisis plan targets four districts


Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang admitted that South Africa is doing “very, very badly” at curing tuberculosis at the launch of a TB crisis plan on World TB Day (24 March). Only about half the country’s TB patients are cured, while almost 7% of patients who are not cured go on to develop multi-drug resistant TB, which is hard and expensive to cure.

Tanzania: Cholera breaks out in Zanzibar


Three people have died and nine others admitted to hospital following a cholera outbreak on Tanzania's semiautonomous Island of Zanzibar, government officials said on Friday. The deaths occurred in Pemba Island, a sister island of the mainland of Unguja Island that forms Zanzibar. By Friday nine patients had been admitted to the cholera special centre, two in critical condition, Zanzibar's minister of health and social welfare, Sultan Mohamed Mugheiry, told a news conference in Stone Town, the Zanzibar capital.

Uganda: Hospital staff mistreat HIV positive mothers and babies


Uganda is highly credited for fighting HIV/Aids, however, a new report now says that infected pregnant mothers face the highest form of stigmatisation, discrimination and abuse. The rights report launched last Thursday by the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative documented several testimonies from Mama Club at Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Mama Club is a psychosocial support group formed by The Aids Support Organisation (Taso) to bring the HIV positive mothers together to fight stigmatisation and to complement the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) treatment offered to them.

Uganda: Musician uses tunes to teach HIV/AIDS


Samite is a Ugandan singer and instrumentalist who uses his music to reach former child soldiers in the country and encourage them to be tested for HIV. National Public Radio reports that Samite is using his music to reach child soldiers and refugees - many of whom are HIV-positive - by gaining their trust and encouraging them to talk with him.


Global: Database for curricula around the world


The International Bureau of Education, one of UNESCO’s specialized centres, has just launched a new redesigned and updated version of its “Country Dossiers” database. This tool makes it easier for users to access a wide range of educational data and resources that focus on curriculum in over 160 countries.

Global: Girls' education - a worldwide snapshot


103 million children of primary school age are not in school; 58 million are girls. Two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. In a typical developing country, giving girls 1 additional year of schooling would save as many as 60,000 children's lives.

Global: Information use and decentralized education


This brief paper looks at the challenges of the traditional education management information system (EMIS) in meeting the need of providing information on the academic and financial performance of schools relative to other schools: expenses, resource use, education outcomes. This information is of particular importance to parents and community members, and/or local governments as a result of their increased governance and management authority of schools due to decentralised education systems.

Kenya: Parents seek overhaul of exam system


Kenyan students sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education. Parents want secondary school students allowed to resit only subjects in which they fail instead of repeating a whole year. They say it is unfair of the Kenyan National Examination Council (Knec) to brand the students failures even when they had failed in one or two subjects in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). The secretary-general of the Kenya National Association of Parents said the current system of making students repeat Form Four was time wasting and demoralising to the candidates.

Liberia: Education in the conflict to post-conflict transition


This document considers the categories and questions for consideration when planning education within post-conflict Liberia. The authors argue that little work has been done to determine how to successfully create or recreate education systems in situations of transition from conflict to post-conflict. The authors consider how education needs to be developed from square one in Liberia. The destruction of infrastructure, including school buildings, teacher training colleges, latrines and roads poses a significant hurdle for the future of education in the country.

Niger: Implementation capacity for education sector development plans


This publication analyses the institutional capacity to implement a 10-year education programme in Niger. It is an abridged version of a fuller evaluation report entitled “Analysis of institutional capacity to implement the 10-year Education Development Programme (PDDE) in the new context of international cooperation” in Niger.

Zimbabwe: University purges students


University authorities at the National University of Science and Technology have suspended 28 students. The students at the National University of Science and Technology, have been in perpetual protest at the college since the semester started, at the massive fee increments by government which students have termed "Operation Murambashasha", and have demonstrated at least 4 times this semester.

Racism & xenophobia

Global: Being a black woman in the world


The following text is the prepared speech of Winnie Madikezela Mandela for her March 4 address to V103's Expo for Today's Black Woman held in Chicago, Illinois. "I feel greatly honored to have been invited to this august gathering. In his address to the 1900 Pan African Conference a prolific African American writer, scholar, and philosopher W.E.B. Du Bois declared the problem of the twentieth century 'as the problem of the colour line'. Indeed the 20th century has sharpened and deepened distinctions between the colonizers, the powerful, the wealthy, the developed and privileged on the one hand, and the colonized, powerless, poor, diseased, and the landless and disadvantaged on the other.”

South Africa: Why Israeli Apartheid and South African Apartheid are so similar


Israel is rapidly constructing a parallel network of West Bank roads for Palestinians, who are barred from using the many existing (and superior) routes reserved for Jews only. B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, describes this system as bearing clear similarities to Apartheid's exclusionary and isolating alternate road system that existed in racist South Africa.


Global: Climate data hints at irreversible rise in seas


Within the next 100 years, the growing human influence on Earth's climate could lead to a long and irreversible rise in sea levels by eroding the planet's vast polar ice sheets, according to new observations and analysis by several teams of scientists. One team, using computer models of climate and ice, found that by about 2100, average temperatures could be four degrees higher than today and that over the coming centuries, the oceans could rise 13 to 20 feet - conditions last seen 129,000 years ago, between the last two ice ages.

Global: Don't sell ‘suicide seeds’, activists warn


One hundred peasant and indigenous rights activists greeted delegates at the United Nations biodiversity conference in Brazil last week with chants of ‘Terminate the Terminator’. The activists were demanding tough laws against the field testing and sale of so-called ‘Terminator’ technology, which refers to plants that have had their genes altered so that they render sterile seeds at harvest. Because of this trait, some activists call Terminator products ‘suicide seeds’.

Global: Saving wildlife also saves humans


Saving pandas, gorillas or tigers, often portrayed by critics of conservation as a trivial pursuit compared to the many other problems facing humanity, not only stops endangered species from going extinct but also helps reduce poverty and improves the lives of local communities in many parts of the world, says a new report by the World Wildlife Fund.

Liberia: Union concern over concessions


The Forestry, Logging and Allied Workers' Union of Liberia (FLAWUL) has expressed its deep distaste with members of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) over what they called "a mortgaging of the future of the country." FLAWUL, in a release issued recently said: "The NTLA's passage of the bill of a Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Liberian government and Mittal Steel was intended to benefit few officials at the detriment of the Liberian people."

Uganda: Uganda loses forest cover


Uganda has lost 26% of its forest cover in the last two decades, according to a report released last month by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). In the Global Forest Resources Assessment Report, FAO said the forest cover had reduced from 4,924 million hectares in 1990 to 3,627 million in 2005. Uganda's forest cover is estimated at 24% of the land cover and is likely to decline with increasing population that relies on agriculture for survival.

Land & land rights

Africa: Issues of land ownership, management and rights


Issues of land ownership, management and rights have significant poverty implications for rural communities in Africa generally, but are of key concern to pastoralists and huntergatherers. Although ultimate state control over land remains widespread in Africa, as either ownership (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mozambique) or trusteeship (Tanzania, Namibia), the new generation of land laws allows and promotes various forms of land transfers and tends to strengthen the land rights of foreign investors.

Angola: The right to land and a livelihood


Restoring viable livelihoods is the single major challenge facing rural communities in post-war Angola. The communities in the municipalities of Conda, Ambuim, and Sumbe (CAS) in Kuanza Sul province are meeting this challenge. Given that land is the primary asset for rural households, access to land becomes, therefore, a fundamental imperative. The current land tenure systems offer both opportunities and constraints to the improvement of women’s and men’s rights to land. This research, which has been commissioned to review the dynamics of land tenure in the CAS area, its opportunities and risks, reveals a denial of land access rights to communal farmers, whose livelihoods are centred on land.

Media & freedom of expression

Egypt: National campaign for ending imprisonment for publication offenses commences


A collective demand by editors-in-chief of Egyptian newspapers, media professors, and representatives of human rights organizations, to initiate a national campaign to end the possibility of imprisonment for publication offenses is finally being realized. University professors, members of the Higher Education Teaching Association, representatives from civil society, unions and political parties will participate in the campaign which is calling for the adoption of the draft law provided by the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate (EJS), annulling imprisonment sentences in opinion and publication cases.

South Africa: Concern at Zuma coverage


The Public Protector, the Gender Commission and the South African Human Rights Commission have expressed concern over the conduct of Jacob Zuma supporters and media coverage of his rape trial, according to a report on the Mail & Guardian's website. The three bodies - all set up under Chapter Nine of the Constitution and referring to themselves as the C9s - said they met on Friday to discuss events around the trial.

Tanzania: Media sued over estate deal story


Tanzanian media owner and prominent businessman Reginald Mengi and several of the journalists working in his media outlets have been slapped with a 100 billion shilling (approx. US$8.6 million) libel suit allegedly for defaming the executive chairperson of the Quality Group Limited, Yusuf Manji. The historic libel suit comes a few days after the 24th issue of the new English daily newspaper "This Day", owned by Mengi, exposed a property deal involving the Quality Group Company limited.

The Gambia: Gambian security forces seal off newspaper, arrest staff


Plainclothes Gambian security agents Tuesday sealed the offices of the twice-weekly newspaper The Independent and arrested staffers found on the premises, local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Most of the staff members were released after brief questioning, but Editor Musa Saidykhan and General Manager Madi Ceesay remained in custody at the end of the day.

News from the diaspora

Africa: Diaspora healthcare conference aims to find a solution to the ‘Brain Drain’ problem


The World Health Organisation (WHO) designated 2006 as The Year for Health and the United Nations has designated this year as The Year of Migration. For the African continent, the combination of the two factors can have devastating consequences. WHO reports that 2.9 per cent of the world’s 175 million population live outside their country of birth. As health professionals on the African continent migrate to western countries out of economic necessity, the loss of medical expertise is increasingly leaving a depleted health sector incapable of meeting public healthcare needs.

Africa: Football as a religious arena


War between Villages, one of four documentaries in 'The African Dream' series, is about sport in Africa and shows the annual football competition between villages in Senegal. As so much hangs on the sport, including the honour of the villages themselves, villagers turn for assistance to spiritual methods of support, not wanting to rely only on their own prowess and ability. Football on One Leg Reportage shows how the people of Sierra Leone in general are trying to rebuild their lives after the recent devastating civil war there and this film shows how a special group of youngsters are turning to football.

Africa: Peru Negro, linking the worlds of the African Diaspora


The world feels a little smaller when you watch Peru Negro. The group hails from Lima, but there's something Cuban in their drumbeats, something African in the way they whip the air with their hips and shoulders, even a bit of the American South in a body-slapping musical routine as near to the hambone as you'll see north of the Carolinas. What feels so familiar in Peru Negro's program, performed Thursday night at the University of Maryland's Clarice Smith Center, is part of the mystery of the African diaspora, linking islands and continents and cultures in ways that resonate to this day.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian jew out to make history as Israelis vote


Mr Avraham Neguise could make history by becoming the first Ethiopian Jew to be elected to the Knesset as Israelis go to the vote. Mr Neguise, who has spent most of his life fighting for the rights of Ethiopian Jews, is the leader of a party known as Atid Echad. It is fielding 10 candidates, five of them Ethiopian Jews. The others include Rabi Yechezkel Stezer, who lives in the US. This is the first time in the history of Israel for Ethiopian Jews to run for national political office. The 100,000 strong Ethiopian community face problems of discrimination in education and jobs and racism in Israel.

Conflict & emergencies

Africa: Arms embargoes


UN arms embargoes are systematically violated and must be urgently strengthened if they are to stop weapons fueling human rights abuses, according to a report presented to the UN Security Council last week. According to the Control Arms Campaign every one of the 13 UN arms embargoes imposed in the last decade has been repeatedly violated. And despite hundreds of embargo breakers being named in UN reports, only a handful have been successfully prosecuted. This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and excerpts from the new report released by the Control Arms Campaign, a joint campaign of Amnesty International, the International Action Network on Small Arms, and Oxfam International.

Africa: The quest for peace in Africa


This Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) brief assesses directions for novel and nuanced peace initiatives. It points out that in order for any peace initiative to progress, the various actors at the national, regional and international levels need to demonstrate the political will and capacity to transform the continent from conflicts and social instability to peace and prosperity.

East Africa: How guns have made Africa poor and left many hungry


A recent agreement by the seven countries of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to establish a regional emergency fund involving the private sector to fight famine in the Horn of Africa is historic. The decision is significant in that it represents the first time the countries are involving the private sector on a regional scale to fight famine. It also signifies a turning point for Igad: a realisation that Africa cannot attain food security without tackling the root causes of famine - political turmoil, civil strife and war that have made a continent that was an exporter of food 50 years ago unable to feed itself.
* Related Link
2.5 million people affected by drought

Ethiopia: Addis explosion kills one


A blast on a minibus killed one person and injured three in Addis Ababa on Monday, the first fatality in a string of mysterious explosions in the Ethiopian capital. A second blast occurred outside the gate of an abattoir in the city but no one was hurt, police said.

Nigeria: Niger Delta fights back against violence and corruption


"Nothing has changed," says Patterson Ogon, founding director of the Ijaw Council for Human Rights in the Niger Delta. "Since 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa was hung, [Shell's] public relations and glossy reports seem to indicate that they're doing so much in the Niger Delta. But we are still waiting to see any practical change." Over a decade has passed since the Nigerian government killed Ken Saro-Wiwa. The Niger Delta is once again making international headlines. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is a well-armed, well-organized group of youth who aim to localize control of the Niger Delta's oil wealth.

Somalia: Calm as ceasefire takes hold in Mogadishu


According to an IRIN report, the Somali capital of Mogadishu was calm on Monday as a ceasefire that came into effect after four days of heavy militia fighting continued to hold, but hundreds of families who fled their homes were yet to return, local sources said. Most of the displaced families had been living in the city's northern outskirts where the fighting was concentrated. "For the second day, the guns are silent in Mogadishu. How long that will last is a different matter," a local resident who requested anonymity said on Monday.

Sudan: Arab league should back UN protection force in Darfur


At the Arab League summit in Khartoum, Arab leaders should endorse plans to transform promptly the African Union's mission in Darfur into a United Nations protection force, a coalition of international and Arab human rights organizations have said. In addition, Arab officials should encourage their Sudanese counterparts to accept the transition to a UN force. Arab League leaders will meet in the Sudanese capital for a two-day summit. On the agenda will be the AU proposal to turn the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) into a UN operation.

Sudan: New UN resolution on Darfur represents a small step in the right direction


Africa Action has welcomed the unanimous passage of a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution requesting more rapid planning for a proposed UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur, Sudan. However, while the resolution recognized the need for greater urgency in the planning process, the Security Council has not yet committed to authorizing such a mission, and must now do so in the coming weeks. As conditions in Darfur continue to deteriorate, Africa Action emphasized the urgent need for a robust international force to be deployed to Darfur to complement and reinforce the African Union (AU) mission on the ground.

Sudan: Women and children biggest losers in the war


Depending on where you stand, you can be elated by Sudan's recent developments, or depressed by its flaws. With an annual economic growth of 7.2 per cent, it is currently one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. But the good tidings are only visible in its capital city, Khartoum. Beyond is a different twist of neglect, want and deprivation. By December last year, over 2.7 million people were still in need of external food aid in Darfur and vast parts of Southern Sudan. "The major sufferers in all these are women and children," says Neil Turner, Programme director with the Save the Children UK's Southern Sudan project.

Internet & technology

Africa: A computer for Africa, will it work?


The new Solo computer is being developed in partnership with a group of software designers based in Great Britain. It is designed to get around the many challenges of operating in Africa. It is very tiny, just like a single card from the motherboard of a regular PC and comes with all the same ports and connectors as a PC.

Angola: Israelis bring high-tech food to Angola


An Israeli company is using the latest water-saving technology to grow fruit and vegetables in Angola, which imports much of its food after 27 years of civil war. A computer programme calculates the exact amounts of water needed, depending on temperature and humidity.

Global: Wikipedia study 'fatally flawed'


A study on the accuracy of the free online resource Wikipedia by the prestigious journal Nature has been described as "fatally flawed". The report, published in December last year, compared the accuracy of online offerings from Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia. Nature found that both were about as accurate as each other on science.

Mozambique: African colleges merge onto Internet fast lane


Alfonso Pene, an information technology student at Eduardo Mondlane University, spends a lot of time on the Internet researching computer programming languages. But the university's slow connection speed makes doing his homework an exercise in frustration. That is about to change as a result of an effort by six major US foundations - including the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation - to boost Internet bandwidth at African universities.

Somalia: FSAU Launches Digital Library


The Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSAU), implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and funded by the European Commission and USAID, launches it’s vast Digital Library (DILI) online. While previously accessible only from the FSAU Resource Center in the Nairobi office, DILI is now accessible anywhere in the world via the FSAU web site.

South Africa: Bar Camp Cape Town


BarCampCapeTown is an idea is to bring the South African tech/geek/creative community together under one roof in the informal "un-conference" environment. Think of it as Open-Source conferencing, this is your conference, you present, you discuss, you attend, you spread the word.

Fundraising & useful resources

Call for Submissions: Think Again


Think Again! is the title of a new initiative that seeks to instill greater understanding and appreciation for Africa. This educational text-book, think-piece, and motivational force will supplement educational programs and curricula across high-schools and universities across the United States, cutting across boundaries and misconceptions of Africa.

Congo: Creative development


AZUR Development's mission is to provide leadership in the socio-cultural and economic development of the Congo and of Africa in general. AZUR Development is participating in the socio-cultural development of the Congo and of Africa in general. As an apolitical non-profit organization, it is a space for sustainable development created for the love of work: a space for growth and creativity for those who work there. Visit their website for more information.

Global: 5th Media Law Advocates Training Programme


This intensive 3 week training programme in human rights and media law with a focus on litigation and advocacy skills is run by PCMLP in collaboration with the Open Society Justice Initiative and other organisations.

Postgraduate funding opportunities, Leeds, UK


The School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds, brings to the attention of qualified graduates funding opportunities for postgraduate study in the fields of politics, international relations, development studies and European studies.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Africa: Bridging the North-South Divide in Scholarly Communication on Africa


As part of a joint, collaborative effort that includes research, a joint research masters degree programme, publications and dissemination, CODESRIA and the ASC have launched a series of conferences on research, documentation, publishing and dissemination in the context of the ITCs revolution.

Global: Upeace scholarships available


During the 2006-2007 academic year, the University for Peace will be providing Master's programmes in the following areas:
- Environmental Security and Peace (scholarships available)
- Gender and Peace Building
- International Law and Human Rights
- International Law and the Settlement of Disputes
- International Peace Studies
- Media, Conflict and Peace Studies (New)
- Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
- Peace Education (scholarships available)
Admission requirements, online application and detailed information about each programme are available through the link provided.

Uganda: Media and Journalism Immersion


This program is a unique gathering of journalists, photographers, marketing and public relations students who will gather in Uganda to address the misconceptions about Africa in the media. The Immersion will facilitate discussion; promote the exchange of ideas and solutions; and interact with key decision makers in Uganda about the challenges and creative solutions facing Uganda.

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