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Pambazuka News 255: The fight for rights: stories of sexual oppression

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

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Highlights from this issue

Featured this week


FEATURED: Accessing rights for persons with disabilities in Kenya is a major challenge, writes Monica Mbaru-Mwangi
- Irungu Houghton reviews the status of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
- How can HIV/Aids policy be successful in Uganda when the country makes homosexuality illegal? Asks Victor Mukasa
- Cary Alan Johnson and Fadzai Muparutsa look at the crackdown on gay rights in Nigeria
- Two responses to the acquittal of Jacob Zuma
LETTERS: On the Pan-African Parliament, peace in Darfur and Jacob Zuma
BLOGGING AFRICA: Sokari Ekine rounds up the African blogosphere
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul Raheem lands in Kampala – just in time for the inauguration of Yoweri Museveni
OBITUARY: Shailja Patel remembers how Ellen Kuzwayo warmed up a chilly day in York many years ago
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: Is the PAP running on empty?
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Mogadishu truce broken; Can Darfur peace survive?
HUMAN RIGHTS: Is the UN Human Rights Council just a new name?
WOMEN AND GENDER: Abuse of girls widespread in East Africa, says report
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Somalis and Ethiopians tell of harrowing journey to Yemen
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Third term bid defeated in Nigeria
DEVELOPMENT: Aid for trade; Monitoring MDGs; Who is the worst man in the world?
CORRUPTION: Increase in Africa cash drain
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Aids advocates urged to lobby governments
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: New report on racism on the internet
ENVIRONMENT: The facts, fear and hope of climate change
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Warning of more media raids in Kenya
PLUS: Advocacy and Campaigns; Internet and Technology; e-Newsletters; Courses; Jobs.


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Tanzania: "Zuma should resign from politics"
Tanzania: "Women's rights? Zuma's acquittal is a disgrace!"
Kenya: "Zuma won on technicality of evidence but lost on moral and human rights legitimacy as a leader."
Hong Kong: "Sad that a rape case in South Africa was thrown out and another woman's rights trampled."

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Women with disabilities and sexual violence in Kenya

Monica Mbaru-Mwangi


Accessing rights for persons with disabilities in Kenya is a major challenge, and is even more difficult for women with disabilities, as awareness on their human rights is low and slow, argues Monica Mbaru-Mwangi, a disability activist. This article links the personal story of a 10-year-old deaf girl, sexually abused by a neighbour, to concrete legislation and protocols that should, in theory, help her to attain justice.

Rose Mwikal is the mother of 10-year-old Mueni (not their real names), and has spent the past two years fighting for an elusive justice. On 4 April 2004, a well-known neighbour sexually abused Mueni while Rose was away attending to other family needs.

Since birth, Mueni has had a hearing impairment; a condition that has forced her out of school. Rose is a single parent who has tried in vain to have Mueni’s father take parental responsibility and assist in the burden of dealing with her daughter’s disability.

According to the Kenyan Children’s Act, parental responsibility towards a child is determined by the marital status of the child’s parents. Where the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth, or have subsequently married, the mother and the father have joint parental responsibility. Neither the mother nor the father have a superior right or claim against the other in the exercise of this responsibility [1].

However, in cases where the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth and have subsequently not re-married, the mother has full responsibility whereas the father bears no responsibility at all [2]. The father can acquire parental responsibility but this is optional and more importantly, it is optional to the father; there is nothing the mother nor the child can do to enforce the responsibility on him [3]. The provision in the Children’s Act on parental responsibility is discriminatory, as it makes a child born out of wedlock disadvantaged in comparison to a child born within marriage.

Being alone and with no school nearby that will accept Mueni because of her disability, Rose normally leaves her at home. On the day of the incident, when Rose came back at around 2pm, she found Mueni crying in bed and upon further investigation she noticed her soiled clothes. Upon enquiry, Mueni took her mother’s hand and led her to her neighbour’s house and in sign language indicated to the mother what the neighbour had done. Rose rushed to the nearest police station, but was not issued with the necessary police medical forms because there were none. She was further told, by the reporting officer, that ‘such a case cannot be properly supported in court as the girl is deaf and disabled…she cannot be able to give evidence in court’.

With the help of the local priest, Rose eventually managed to take her daughter to a hospital where she got treatment. Eventually the matter was taken to court. The matter has been listed on several occasions for hearing, but each time has been adjourned, as no sign language interpreter has been available to assist in taking Mueni’s evidence. Rose is unable to provide this service as she is a prosecution witness.

According to the Kenyan Constitution:

“… in criminal cases … every person shall be informed in a language that he understands and in detail, of the nature of offences … shall be permitted to have without payment the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial…” [4].

It is therefore a constitutional right to use the language that one understands. As Mueni is a prosecution witness, she has the right to have her case facilitated by the state.

Kenya, which also adheres to the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (Standard Rules) [5], passed the People With Disabilities Act (Disability Act or the Act) in 2003. This legislation gives rights, but does not set the necessary structure necessary for those rights to be realised. Similar challenges are faced in the drafting of the proposed human rights instrument on the rights of People with Disabilities (PWDs) at the international level, which is currently ongoing [6].

The Act mandates the Council for Persons with Disabilities [7] to create the structure and mechanisms for accessing the rights enshrined therein. The Council has been in operation for the past two years, but it is still in its formative stages. The Act does not address the specific rights of women with disabilities nor does it deal with gender based violence, which occurs at high rates against persons with disabilities.

Accessing rights for persons with disabilities in Kenya is a major challenge, and is even more difficult for women with disabilities, as awareness on their human rights is low and slow. Violations occur on a daily basis, as there is no government policy on women rights. Gender-based violence is very high and for women with disabilities, they suffer a double violation, as there are no structures in place to give them specific protection.

Women with disabilities have particular needs and they face many obstacles in their struggle for equality. Although both men and women with disabilities are subject to discrimination, women with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged by discrimination based on gender and their disability status [8]. Therefore the case of Mueni is a reflection of how the Kenyan criminal justice system and society at large view the rights of women with disabilities, and is a demonstration of the failure to address serious violations of sexual violence [9]. Like any citizen whose rights are enshrined in the Constitution, Mueni should be given not only protection of the law, but access to a sign-language interpreter, doctor, police officer and a judiciary who are aware of her specific needs in helping her attain justice.

There is wide acceptance that the human rights of people with disabilities must be protected and promoted through general, as well as specially designed laws, policies and programmes [10]. National governments can make this possible through their legislation. In Kenya, this will be possible through the guidance of international standards to inform national legislation.

Of significant importance is the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. On November 25, 2005, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the protocol) [11] entered into force, after being ratified by 15 African governments [12]. Two years earlier, in July of 2003, the African Union - the regional body that is charged with promoting unity and solidarity among its 53 member nations - adopted this landmark treaty to supplement the regional human rights charter, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter). The protocol provides broad protection for women’s human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights [13].

CEDAW does not contain any provisions that directly relate to discrimination or violence against women with disabilities. However, in its General Recommendation 18, the CEDAW committee recognises that women with disabilities experience particular forms of discrimination and asks state parties to provide information on them and take special measures to ensure disabled women’s access to legal protection [14]. The CEDAW Committee acknowledges that the status of women with disabilities makes them vulnerable to violence, especially sexual violence.

Similarly, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [15] does not give specific protection to children with disabilities, but does prohibit discrimination against children on the basis of disability and also recognises their special needs that require special, appropriate assistance and care [16]. These provisions should be at the benefit of Mueni and all other children with disabilities. The CRC, though gender neutral, requires states to:

“…protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation [17].”

Kenya has ratified CEDAW, and as we wait for the ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women, Mueni can only rely on national legislation to give her protection against her abuser. The Persons with Disabilities Act does give access to these rights, but the mechanisms and structures have not yet been put in place to ensure that these guarantees are enforced. The Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR), [18] has begun to take an active interest in disability issues. This is important since the institution helps in providing a bridge between international human rights law and domestic debates. With the Council for Persons with Disabilities in place, it is hoped that the enforcement of rights for persons with disabilities, and especially women’s rights, can be realised.

Monica Mbaru-Mwangi is the Chairperson, Kenya Union of the Blind, and National Treasurer, United Disabled Persons of Kenya.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


1. Art 24 (1) Children’s Act
2. Art 24 (3.a) Children’s Act
3. Art 24 (3.b) Children’s Act
4. Section 77 (2) (b) and (f) of the Constitution of Kenya (1992).
5. UNGA Res. 48/96, 20 December 1993. Available at (accessed 5 April 2005). The predecessor of the Standard Rules on Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons With Disabilities (Standard Rules); World Programme of. Action Concerning Disabled Persons, UNGA Res. 37/52, 3 December 1982, available at (accessed 5 April 2005).
6. UN Disability Rights Convention, which has held four sessions and information available at (accessed 5 April 2005).
7. Section 7 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003.
8. Report of the Director General, International Law Conference, Geneva, 1981. available at (accessed 6 April 2006)
9. There is no desegregated data on the incidences of sexual violence on women with disabilities in the Kenya report to CEDAW Committee submitted in 2000
10. Paragraph 118 United Nations ECOSOC, Report of the Special Rappoteur on Violence Against Women, E/CN.4/1995/42
11. Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, 2nd Ordinary Sess., Assembly of the Union, adopted July 11, 2003.
12. As of February 17, 2006, Benin, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Togo have ratified the Protocol.
13. Protocol is intended to supplement the African Charter, and therefore, will generally complement rather than conflict with the African Charter.
14. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation 18: Disabled Women (10th Sess., 1991) UN Doc HRI/GEN/1/Rev.5 (2001).
15. CRC adopted Nov. 20, 1989, G.A. Res. 44/25, Annex, U.N. GAOR, 44th Sess., Supp. No. 49, at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989) (entered into force Sept. 2, 1990).
16. Article 2 and 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
17. Art. 19(1) of CRC. Article 34 of CRC further requires states to “protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.”
18. Section 16, KNCHR Act, 2002. Established in 2002 as a statutory body Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 22 (Acts No. 1), Nairobi: Government Printers.
Accessing rights for persons with disabilities in Kenya is a major challenge, and is even more difficult for women with disabilities, as awareness on their human rights is low, argues Monica Mbaru-Mwangi, a disability activist. This article links the personal story of a 10-year-old deaf girl, sexually abused by a neighbour, to concrete legislation and protocols that should, in theory, help her to attain justice.

Comment & analysis

Reviewing the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

Irungu Houghton


The speed with which the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa was ratified broke all records for the ratification of continental human rights instruments in Africa. By 25th November 2005, the Protocol came into force having received the required 15 ratifications. Irungu Houghton reviews the origins of the Protocol, its ratification process and the path that lies ahead.

This paper outlines the background to the coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on the Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. It sets out the legal status of the Protocol and the instruments and mechanism for enforcing its provisions. It then frames future challenges for its ratification, domestication and implementation and ends by recommending four priority areas for the Committee to consider alongside the advisory role it has been assigned.

Background to the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

A quick examination of the reality for women and girls lives in 2006 establishes the strategic importance of the Protocol for changing negative power relations, gender inequality and the disempowerment and impoverishment of women in Africa.

Our Political and Economic Reality and Provisions of the Protocol:

- Over 60% of the two million victims of conflict in the 1990s were women and children. 50% of Africa’s six million refugees and 17 million internally displaced peoples are women.

The Protocol makes special provisions for female refugees and also calls for the promotion and maintenance of peace, as well as protection in times of armed conflict. This includes needs arising from shelter, supplies, healthcare and protection from violence.

- 70% of the estimated 1.3 billion poor people in the world are women and girls.

The Protocol specifically recognises the rights of vulnerable groups of women, including widows, elderly women, disabled women and ‘women in distress’, which includes poor women, women from marginalised population groups.

- Problems with safe abortion, pregnancy and childbirth cause the deaths of at least 250,000 women each year in Africa. Against the total population, this is the highest figure in the world.

The Protocol states that women’s sexual and reproductive health is to be both respected and promoted, which is predicated on women's right to control their fertility and by the obligation of states to provide adequate, affordable and accessible health services. It also demands that governments establish and strengthen existing pre-natal, delivery and post-natal services for all African women. The Protocol also calls for the authorisation of medical abortions in cases of sexual assault/rape, incest or unsafe pregnancies.

- 57% of the 23 million adults with HIV/AIDS in sub- Saharan Africa are women. Young women (between the ages of 15 and 24) are three times more likely to be infected.

The Protocol enforces the right to self-protection, and to be informed of one’s health status and that of one’s partner. It also provides for health services to cope with the effects of HIV/AIDS.

- Slight positive increase in the percentage of women parliamentarians in the single or lower house from 7.2% in 1990 to 14.2% and some African countries have enforced a quota for the number of women in parliament such as Rwanda.

The Protocol endorses affirmative action to promote the equal participation of women, including equal representation of women in elected office, and calls for the equal representation of women in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies. Articulating a right to peace, the Protocol recognises the right of women to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace.

The Protocol provides a critical framework to address other integral issues to realising African women’s rights. (Karoline Kemp’s article in a forthcoming book goes further to popularise this.)

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights came into force on 21 October 1986. It includes the right to self-determination and full sovereignty over natural resources, the right to peace and the right to a favourable environment for development. The Charter established the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is responsible for enforcing the rights enshrined in the charter.

Though the African charter recognises the importance of women’s rights, it was widely acknowledged to be inadequate on the areas in which women need protection and gender equality. (The charter recognises the importance of women’s rights through four key articles namely: Article 2, the non-discrimination clause, which provides that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the charter will be enjoyed by all irrespective of their sex; Article 3, which states that every individual will be equal before the law and be entitled to the equal protection of the law, Article 18(3), which is specifically about the protection of the family and promises to ensure the elimination of discrimination against women and protect their rights and Article 60, which states that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights will draw inspiration from international human rights instruments such as CEDAW (See Rita Anyumba chapter on Instruments on women’s rights in forthcoming book “Breathing Life into the African Union Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa”)

The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa

The Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa is a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The Protocol was adopted on 11 July 2003 during the Second Ordinary Heads of States and Governments Summit held in Maputo, Mozambique. This was a long-awaited realisation, as it had taken eight years for the draft text of this critical new human rights instrument for African women to be adopted. Article 26 of the Protocol cites obligations of the state parties. They are expected to implement and monitor the actualisation of the rights provided in the Protocol and, in
particular, provide budgetary and other resources for the full and effective implementation of the rights recognised in the Protocol. They are also expected to report on progress in their periodic reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

With only The Comoros having ratified the Protocol one year after its adoption, there was a concern that its ratification and domestication would take the same time or even longer. (Similar instruments have taken a long time to be ratified and enter into force. The ACHPR was adopted in 1981, but only came into force in 1986 – five years later. The Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into force in 2004, six years after its adoption in 1998. And the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which was adopted in 1990, came into force nine years later.) Women’s and human rights organisations took stock of the slow progress of ratification in April 2004 and reached out with the African Union Commission to encourage governments to bring the Protocol into force swiftly and ensure its
subsequent domestication.

Legal Status of the Protocol in May 2006

“I write in response to your (SOAWR) letter in which you expressed concern that only 15 African countries had ratified the Protocol … Whilst I take note of your concern that although Botswana has not ratified the Protocol, our country is totally committed to ensuring that women’s rights are observed…” H.E. Festus G. Mogae, President of the Republic of Botswana, 20th December 2005

“I am ..pleased to note the excellent partnership between the AUC Directorate of Women, Gender and development and Solidarity on African Women’s Rights. This Coalition has achieved impressive results in terms of a speedy ratification process. It is indeed a successful partnership with lessons for all at the AUC.” Adv. Bience Gawanas, Commissioner for Social Affairs, close of conference remarks, September 2005

State of Ratifications

From June 2004, the pace of ratification has accelerated with amazing success. On the 25th November 2005, the Protocol came into force having received the required 15 ratifications. The speed of the ratification broke all records for the ratification of continental human rights instruments in Africa. This date was also significant as it also coincided with the start of the international 16 days of activism on ending violence against women.

Mechanisms for accessing Justice under the Protocol

Like the African Charter, the Protocol does not contain clauses, which permit member states to opt out of or derogate from applying its provisions. It is binding on all member-states that have ratified it. Under the African Charter, member states are obliged to undertake to submit to the Commission ‘a report on legislative or other measures taken…to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter’ every two years. Following the debate about a state’s report, the Commission prepares a set of final remarks which ordinarily includes information on the positive actions taken by a member state, core concerns and recommendations. They are then sent to the member state which is then required to provide, within two years, information on the measures taken in order to implement the said recommendations.

Although a small but growing number of states do make periodical reports and take it upon themselves to implement the recommendations they are given, the number of states that regularly present periodical reports is still few. This and the poor popularisation of the Protocol at national and regional levels will act to severely undermine its potential. Unless these trends are reversed, women and men will be prevented from claiming the rights accorded in the Protocol. It is critical that public information campaigns be undertaken periodically to increase public awareness and actions to close down the space for human rights violations and impunity.

As Mary Wandia has also noted at the national level, there is a lack of connection between the ministries of justice (closely linked with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights), the ministries of foreign affairs (closely linked with the AU) and the ministries of gender/women. The first two ministries do not usually communicate effectively the commitments undertaken at the regional level to the latter. This has led to gaps in implementation and monitoring.

There are also multiple legal systems in place at national level in many African countries. It is the coexistence of statutory, religious and traditional systems that has led to violations of women’s rights in areas of marriage, inheritance and divorce. At the national level, parliaments, judiciary, ministries of gender/foreign affairs/justice/finance and national human rights institutions should be encouraged to support litigation, implementation and reporting mechanisms for the Protocol. These institutions could be more effective by ensuring regular tripartite meetings with CSOs to facilitate reporting on the progress in implementing the Protocol to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights as well as making the newly established Court on Human Rights relevant and accessible for all African peoples.

From Ratification to Implementation: The next frontier

The different status of countries requires a dual track approach. For countries that are yet to ratify they must be encouraged to do so with a sense of urgency.

It is important also that states ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As of 14 December 2005, only 22 of the 53 AU member states have ratified this Protocol. When ratifying, states should enter provisions for the public to access justice under the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Currently, only Burkina Faso has made the declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol, granting individuals and non-governmental organizations direct access to the Court. To not do so, is to betray the vision of the African Union and the commitment of Governments to the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.

For countries that have ratified, it is important to recognise that it is here that the promise of the Protocol will be either fulfilled or betrayed. As Ugandan activist Sarah Mukasa has noted, there is often a “disconnection between the pronouncements made at regional level and the action taken nationally and locally…domestication and implementation is riddled with challenges that will have to be overcome if the Protocol is to benefit the women it seeks to protect”. She goes on to identify three major obstacles in most countries namely; weak public appreciation of the centrality of constitutionalism and the rule of law, inadequately resourced national gender machinery and lastly, the precedence of entering reservations on progressive clauses. It is critical therefore that states are encouraged to domesticate the Protocol and expedite its implementation.

The review of Beijing plus 10 revealed the dangers of starving progressive visions and commitments. The Protocol requires finances and other resources to be an important tool for the realization of the rights of women. It should be noted, that there are a number of actions that can be taken that have little or no-monetary implications. This includes the removal of all discriminatory laws. States could also identify easy ‘quick wins’ for initial budgetary allocations, which demonstrate real change in the administration of justice. States would go a long way in breathing life to the Protocol by considering its
articles while mainstreaming gender in all budgets and programmes.

Distinguishing a role for the African Union Women’s Committee

With several continental mechanisms working on women’s empowerment, rights and gender equality, it is important to distinguish the role and aspiration of the Committee. There are five priority areas that the committee should consider focusing their energies on. (This is a menu of options, mandate, resources and time does not allow for the Committee to take on all agendas, but three to four objectives with appropriate benchmarks would be sufficient.)

The committee could schedule high-profile missions to capitals to urge the ratification, domestication and implementation of the SDGEA and the AU protocol on the Rights of Women (PRW). Developing key linkages with pan African women’s networks and movements as well as associations of women judges, lawyers and the Pan African Parliament, could strengthen the committee’s voice.

While encouraging universal ratification, it would be important for the committee to monitor, influence and encourage clean reservations to the Protocol. South Africa and The Gambia ratified the Protocol with reservations. In the case of South Africa, one of the reservations is to restrict access to the African Court by forcing citizens to apply for permission to a Parliamentary Committee. In the case of The Gambia, the reservations were fairly far-reaching. Recently, it has been inspiring to learn that these
harmful reservations are on the verge of being formally lifted. It would be important for the Committee members to make a personal commitment to ensuring “clean” ratifications from all countries.

Thirdly, the Committee can undertake high-profile missions or actions in the form of writing open letters either in solidarity against specific violations against women or also to celebrate breakthroughs and victories. This could be done either by advising the Chairperson of the AUC to speak out or by releasing them in the name of the Committee members. This will also breathe life into the concept of non-indifference on gender equality and roll back cultures of impunity.

While Darfur continues to be a scar on the conscience on Africa, the committee must break new frontiers in war-torn areas such as Northern Uganda. (Northern Uganda, at 19 years is Africa’s longest war and has not had the same attention as Darfur, Sudan.) The full committee need not undertake the missions but a few members could be selected on the basis of their knowledge of the issue, its importance and regional expertise.

Lastly, the committee could look outwards to the processes of UN reform and the monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals with a view to using the Solemn Declaration and the Protocol on Women’s Rights as a lens for measuring progress and agreeing on benchmarks and targets. To not do so, would be to run the danger of repeating the experience of the UN Millennium Summit last year where the deadline for the gender parity MDG passed without protest or censure of the 180 leaders present.

The Committee could champion the process of implementation by directly advocating with all African Governments that gender mainstreaming be vested and adequately resourced at the highest level of Government. Without this, the Protocol could die an early death confined to legal statutes and far from the living experiences of women and men on this continent.

* Country Status on the ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
Country Status on the ratification of the Protocol on th
Not yet Signed

Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Sahrawi Arab Democratic
Republic, Sao Tome & Principe, Sudan, Tunisia

Signed, but not Ratified

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Rep. Of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Somalia,


Benin, Cape Verde, The Comoros, Djibouti, The Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania,
Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo

Sources for this briefing

- African Union Protocol to the African Charter on the Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of
Women in Africa, Addis

- African Union and SOAWR Breathing life into the African Union Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa, forthcoming July 2006

- SOAWR Not Yet a Force for Freedom, 2004

- PAMBAZUKA NEWS Issue 245 Islam and Women, 2006

- PAMBAZUKA NEWS Issue 231 Protocol comes into force, 2005

* This is the final version of a paper presented by invitation to the inauguration of the African Union Women’s Committee, April 28-29th 2006, Addis Ababa. Irungu Houghton is the Pan Africa Advisor for Oxfam based in Nairobi. He represents Oxfam in the Steering Committee for the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition, a pan African coalition of 20 development and women’s organisations working to popularise, ratify and implement the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. He acknowledges the analysis of colleagues within the SOAWR coalition that will be published in forthcoming book co-published with the African Union entitled Breathing life into the African Union Protocol on Women's Rights in Africa, July 2006.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
The speed with which the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa was ratified broke all records for the ratification of continental human rights instruments in Africa. By 25th November 2005, the Protocol came into force having received the required 15 ratifications. Irungu Houghton reviews the origins of the Protocol, its ratification process and the path that lies ahead.

Homosexuality and HIV/AIDS in Uganda

Victor Mukasa


Uganda, praised for its fight against HIV/AIDS, also makes homosexuality illegal. How, asks Victor Mukasa can any HIV/AIDS policy be successful if it excludes a sector of the population from its programmes.

HIV/AIDS is an epidemic and in order to control and eradicate it, all individuals no matter their sex, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, race, or any other status, must be included in all policies against the scourge. Uganda has been praised for her ‘excellent’ HIV/AIDS policy by the international community.

But the politics of pretence in Uganda is leading to the deaths of many Ugandans from HIV/AIDS. The main group that is suffering as a result of this pretence are homosexuals. The Ugandan government has previously asserted that homosexuals do not exist, yet it is clear that these people do exist. No wonder there are laws against homosexuality put in place. Even the few officials who openly admit that homosexuals exist in this country claim that they (homosexuals) do not deserve any kind of care when it comes to the AIDS scourge.

As a result, homosexuals in Uganda have been excluded from the National AIDS Policy. Simple logic is that once a particular group is not catered for in terms of HIV/AIDS then it cannot be claimed that the scourge is being effectively fought. If one chose to cater for only the male population, for example, that would be a waste of time and resources. Same with catering for, say, only southerners, and ignoring northerners, when there is the aspect of intermarriages. Likewise, once one caters for only heterosexuals, ignoring homosexuals, then one is wasting time. The uncatered (homosexuals) will still spread the disease to the catered (heterosexuals).

It is a fact that homosexuals exist in Uganda and that there are very harsh laws in place against their sexual activities. Among homosexuals are bisexuals. These will have sexual relationships with people of either sex. As if that is not enough, because of the harsh laws, homosexuals either engage in relationships with people of the opposite sex in order to disguise their criminalized nature or are forced into marriages with people of the opposite sex by family and/or friends.

The elimination of homosexuals from the Uganda AIDS Policy has therefore done more harm than good.

There is also the politics of intimidation. In conjunction with deliberately ignoring sexual minorities on matters of a deadly, worldwide health epidemic, the Ugandan government actively discourages agencies that may counsel and treat sexual minorities on HIV. In November of 2004, the government of Uganda warned UNAIDS not to assist sexual minorities in organizing a campaign that may reach out to members of its own group in an effort to stem HIV infections. The government defended its actions of exclusion by reminding UNAIDS that homosexuality is illegal.

Intimidating UNAIDS from assisting Ugandan sexual minorities had a domino effect on other NGOs: organizations who are otherwise willing to assist these minorities with HIV treatment and counseling do not dare to do so because they may lose their license as an NGO.

But why and how could an entire government comprised of individuals who claim to love their people come to this sort of decision? Even if they didn’t love their people, is it not the duty of the Ugandan government to protect Ugandans? Is not every Ugandan entitled to life?

In Uganda, public outreach and advertising campaigns address heterosexual HIV transmission only. This narrow-mindedness lethally deceives and disadvantages the entire sexual minority population. A qualified Ugandan physician who frequently treats patients for HIV complains that sexual minorities are an ignored key population: unprotected anal sex is – according to scientific research – the most risky behavior for spreading HIV. Yet, without government outreach, the key population of those who practice anal sex (often homosexual men, but heterosexuals too) is becoming infected unaware. Government advertising campaigns that depict HIV as a disease transmittable only through penal-vaginal contact put many couples – regardless of sexual orientation - unaware that HIV can be transmitted through anal sex.

It is important to note the size and importance of this anal sex “key population”: outside of intravenous drug users, anal sex (often associated with, but not exclusive to, male homosexual activity) is the most effective method of transmitting HIV. Yet, HIV/AIDS policies allow citizens to unknowingly contract HIV despite all of Uganda’s outreach efforts. This deletion, please note, is unlike any HIV/AIDS outreach program in America or Europe: other countries and regions protect their anal sex population specifically. The fact that the Ugandan government asserts that homosexuals do not exist within its territory and outlaws homosexual activity contributes to this deadly deletion in HIV/AIDS outreach.

Another government-influenced deletion concerning HIV/AIDS that affects Ugandan sexual minorities is a lack of available HIV prevention information suitable only for these minorities. That is, because sexual practices of homosexuals differ from those of heterosexuals, and Ugandan HIV/AIDS organizations are equipped by mandate to concern only penal-vaginal transmission, these minorities cannot receive HIV prevention counseling that may save their lives. Gay men will not receive needed advice about using lubricants that do not destroy condoms. Lesbians will not receive counseling on dental dams. In fact, if a lesbian seeks counseling at an HIV/AIDS outreach organization in Uganda, she will receive advice concerning her boyfriend. Any person can agree that mitigating the effects of a deadly, worldwide epidemic involves treating every patient and potential patient with relevant information, regardless of the circumstances under which he/she caught the disease. The Ugandan government clearly discriminates when it agrees with the preceding statement in regards to many criminals, yet not sexual minorities.

In this era the issue of whether homosexuality is immoral, un-African or a crime, etc, should be dropped when it comes to the control of HIV/AIDS. The fact is, homosexuals exist in Uganda and are a key population in the spread of the scourge. They should be catered for in the National AIDS Policy, be included in all prevention advertisements and in every activity designed to combat the epidemic. The Ugandan Government should give up on its politics of pretence and intimidation and embark on the protection of its population from the deadly epidemic.

* Victor Mukasa is the chairperson of a human rights organisation called Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Uganda, praised for its fight against HIV/AIDS, also makes homosexuality illegal. How, asks Victor Mukasa can any HIV/AIDS policy be successful if it excludes a sector of the population from its programmes.

Family values, hate speech and the right to be gay in Nigeria

Cary Alan Johnson and Fadzai Muparutsa


Nigeria, which has ambitions for international and African leadership, is currently debating a Bill that if passed will lead to a crackdown on gay rights. Cary Alan Johnson and Fadzai Muparutsa says the governments is crushing a minority to make points with conservatives.

The National Assembly of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is debating a bill that makes same-sex marriage as well as any form of protest for gay rights punishable by five years in prison. Make no mistake - the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act is not about gay marriage, which is essentially a non-issue in Nigeria. The intent of the proposed law is to further vilify and stigmatize an increasingly vocal minority.

Official debate on the bill hasn’t even started and already public attacks on homosexuals are on the rise. In the Federal Capital Abuja last month, a male couple was beaten by a mob shouting anti-gay slurs. The Sunday Sun weekly newspaper recently reported the expulsion of 15 “homosexual suspects” from the Nigerian Defense Academy in Kaduna citing the anti-gay position of the government to justify its action.

Why would a country with a vigorous a civil society, a relatively free press, and a vocal political opposition find itself debating such an undemocratic piece of legislation? Why do most Nigeria experts feel that the proposed bill would pass with little or no opposition with parliamentarians disregarding the long struggle Nigeria has waged for rule of law in their country - first against a brutal colonialism and then in the face of a series of repressive military dictatorships? Where are the voices of reason which, despite personal discomfort with homosexuality, will name this Act for what it is - a bigoted piece of hate speech posing as Nigerian family values?

With Nigeria facing major political, social and economic challenges, this attack on the country’s highly homosexual minority seems calibrated to curry favor with religious conservatives - Christian and Moslem - who agree on very little, but find common ground with the government in the condemnation of gay men and lesbians.

Same sex attracted people have always been part of Nigerian culture, but now many politicians and religious leaders want to characterize homosexuality as “unAfrican” and “immoral”. A “sodomy” conviction can already get you up to 14 years in prison in most of Nigeria and in the states of the north operating under Sharia law the penalty is death. The proposed Prohibition Act would make gay meetings, the registration of gay organizations, and any “public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private (sic)” punishable by five years in prison. The bill would make media debate of sexual rights, any gathering of gay men and lesbians -political or social - and any private intimate relationship between two people of the same sex a crime. Extortion, already a common feature of the lives of most Nigerian gay men and lesbians, would know no bounds.

Passage of the proposed legislation would constitute a major violation of international and regional human rights standards and challenge the protections of freedom of speech, assembly and association in Nigeria’s own constitution. Even the US State Department has expressed concern that the proposed law would be inconsistent with Nigeria’s international obligations.

The proposed curtailing of free speech is particularly frightening in light of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Nigeria, where 5.4% of adults are HIV positive. HIV outreach workers must be free to provide HIV education and other services to men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women and to engage in frank, respectful discussions about human sexuality with all their clients. Anything less will jeopardize Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment efforts.

The debate over same-sex marriage is likely to rage for years, but the right to participate in that debate - or the debate over other controversial topics - should be sacrosanct. Nigeria has proclaimed itself ready to lead Africa, and the world, in the 21st century, by lobbying for a permanent seat on a proposed reconfiguration of the UN Security Council. The attack on basic human freedoms embodied in the Prohibition Act is a throwback, exposing the reactionary leanings of a government willing to crush an unpopular minority to make points with conservatives.

Nigerian media has reported that gay rights activists “stormed” the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Abuja in December of last year demanding their rights. In fact, openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Africans did participate in that conference, asking their governments, international donors and AIDS service organizations to pay greater attention to the HIV vulnerability of men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women. In response to this request, the Nigerian government is proposing legislation that threatens their very existence. In a country making claims to moral and political leadership on a continent struggling for economic justice, isn’t it already crystal clear that no part of the African family is expendable?

* Cary Alan Johnson is Senior Specialist for Africa with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Fadzai Muparutsa is Board Member,
Coalition of African Lesbians

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Nigeria, which has ambitions for international and African leadership, is currently debating a Bill that if passed will lead to a crackdown on gay rights. Cary Alan Johnson and Fadzai Muparutsa says the governments is crushing a minority to make points with conservatives.

The Zuma trial, gender and the judiciary continued...(1)


In the aftermath of the acquittal of former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma on charges of rape, it seems that everyone has had an opinion on the judgment – and an opinion on everyone else’s opinion. Last week, Pambazuka News carried a series of articles on the trial and this week reactions have continued to be sent in. Here, Liepollo Lebohang Pheko gives her opinion.

The past few weeks have been characterised by heated debate and unfettered anticipation about the verdict of the Zuma rape trial. The matter has polarised the nation not only across gender lines but also across class, ethnic and political lines. Having been in downtown Johannesburg when the verdict was announced, I imagined that the anticipated carnage that would have occurred had the verdict been different might have been physically inescapable. As it was the vuvuzelas, cheers and hooters indicated that to some citizens’ estimations, justice has been served.

In addition to the woefully pedestrian prosecution, “Kwezi’s” case was hampered by several social and political complexities. I hold the theoretical view that race, culture, gender, class, and ethnicity are not “external variables” but rather inherent features in an ongoing process of constructing how we understand and participate in the larger social, cultural, and political discourse. This was best encapsulated by two divergent views expressed in the wake of the trial –one by a lawyer colleague and the other by a teller at my local Pick’n Pay. The former stated that he would certainly be attending the ANC congress next year in order to keep Zuma out of the presidency, adding that he attributes blame for this debacle to Mbeki’s aloof and unapproachable leadership style. The young sister at the till jubilantly told me that she would again vote ANC if Zuma were President adding that she as a Zulu woman is tired of Xhosas. Upon my rejoinder that tribalism is not healthy for any nation she heartily responded - “They started it”.

The clear ethnic divide that this case has opened is like a fine dye in which clothes have been soaked. It will take several washes to examine the extent to which the colour has been set and several more to remove it should it be found not to our liking. This case exacerbates and evokes every moment of tension and hatred experienced during the scourge of “black on black violence” and the blood shed in KZN before the elections of 1994. It is moments such as this that should remind us that the matchstick lit in Rwanda in 1994 could be ignited in any country whether through Western interference or the interests of Multi National Companies. Rwanda, the Darfur region and Angola for example are chilling reminders that no-one may be left to recall “who started it”.

The notion of justice is fragile and often fluid. This case illustrates that the legal process has run its course and that political interests are willing to subvert this process for other ends. Whether this is a slap for President Mbeki, an attempt to divert attention from the upcoming corruption trial, or an endeavour to install a working class president to supposedly ensure “workers right’ even though Jacob Zuma has never stood by workers during his cabinet tenure, the loser here is the credibility of any woman who walks into any police station or courtroom to lay a charge of rape.

The law, police , lawyers and judges in this or any matter are not amorphous beings without bias but people with opinions on various types of sexual behaviour and orientation (witness Judge der Merwe’s chastisement of Zuma), perceptions on correct physical and emotional responses to rape, understanding of culture, on religion, on politics and even dress-code. In all this we could not forget that no matter how close Zuma may have been to Kwezi’s parents, Kwezi herself is not of notable ‘political royalty’ , is not a BEE magnate and has no access to the sort of political and media spin doctoring at Zuma’s disposal.

As the TV media dismissively described the hasty exit of gender activists from the courtroom, many in tears, the ultimate victims of the process were left decimated - the rape of authentic moral regeneration, the rape of any woman’s right to make self determined choices about her social and private life, the rape of male accountability, and the rape of trust. The breach includes trust in positive cultural practises, trust in elders, trust in men who believe consent is implied by accepting a dinner date, trust in other women who cried “burn the bitch”, trust in the legal system and trust even in our own ability to relate to each other as one dignified nation rather than one fragmented by skewed understanding of gender, ethnicity, class and political orientation. When our essence has been torched and all that remains are the carcasses of the nation we could have been and the people we should have been, who indeed will be left to recall what greatness and humanity truly are.

* Liepollo Lebohang Pheko is a Senior Policy Analyst at GENTA

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
In the aftermath of the acquittal of former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma on charges of rape, it seems that everyone has had an opinion on the judgment – and an opinion on everyone else’s opinion. Last week, Pambazuka News carried a series of articles on the trial and this week reactions have continued to be sent in. Here, Liepollo Lebohang Pheko gives her opinion.

The Zuma trial, gender and the judiciary continued…(2)

Kristin Palitza


In the aftermath of the acquittal of former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma on charges of rape, it seems that everyone has had an opinion on the judgment – and an opinion on everyone else’s opinion. Last week, Pambazuka News carried a series of articles on the trial and this week reactions have continued to be sent in. Here, Kristin Palitza voices her views.

South Africa’s former deputy president Jacob Zuma has been found not guilty. This was judge Willem van der Merwe’s verdict based on the evidence presented to him. But the truth, and nothing but the truth, will only be known by two people – the complainant and the accused.

What will remain – as a legacy to all South Africans – are the implications of the trial with regards to women’s rights and violence against women.

The judge concluded that consensual sex took place between Zuma and the 31-year-old HIV-positive AIDS activist dubbed Kwezi. He gathered this by firstly deciding that she was not a lesbian, as she claimed herself, but bisexual with lesbian tendencies. In other words, it was possible that she would willingly engage in sex with a man.

What was also used against Kwezi was her statement that although HIV-positive persons should practice safe sex it was ultimately the decision of each individual to do so. According to van der Merwe, this assertion showed that Kwezi might have used her discretion when having sexual intercourse with Zuma, and he therefore turned down the argument that HIV-positive Kwezi would not have agreed to unprotected sex. But isn’t there an alternative interpretation? Kwezi’s statement could very well be read as a personal commitment to safe sex, while refusing to deny the right of other HIV-positive persons to make their own decisions.

Without forensic evidence available to him, van der Merwe based his verdict on who – complainant or accused – seemed to be the more credible person. He found that in this ‘unique case with unique features’ as he liked to call it, it was ‘relevant’ to take the complainant’s sexual history into account. And after he publicly paraded Kwezi’s sexual history in great detail, he decided that it was Jacob Zuma’s version of the incident that was the most reliable.

As all South Africans believe by now, Kwezi is a serial rape accuser. Although it is true that her past does not particularly work in her favour, we cannot conclude with certainty that she lied in this case. Apart from that, who is to say that all the men she allegedly accused of rape in the past tell the truth when not even half of the ‘cases’ have actually come to court and some are purely based on hearsay?

For unknown reasons, the judge did not apply the common legal rule that bad character evidence does not presume bad acts. Instead, he ruled that Kwezi’s history of what he decided were false rape accusations eroded her credibility in her case against Zuma. He concluded that Kwezi’s credibility was ‘wanting’ because ‘at a young age, she already made allegations of rape when no rape took place’.

Van der Merwe also chose to ignore the fact that many of the alleged rapes took place when Kwezi was under age, and thus any sexual act performed on her as a minor would according to South African law equal molestation and/or statutory rape. He further disregarded the fact that, because the majority of the rape allegations never came to trial, his inquiries about events that took place more than a decade ago became ‘he said, she said’ reports without providing factual evidence.

His argumentation then raised the question of why Kwezi would have chosen to go through the trauma of the trial. And here, again, van der Merwe opted to agree with the statement of male testifiers (who do not have psychological qualifications) that Kwezi was ‘a sick person who needs help’. The judge decided it was likely that – based on her sexual history – Kwezi perceived any sexual behaviour as threatening, and further concluded that Kwezi was pretending to be a meek, submissive person, while she was, in fact ‘a strong person who knows what she wants’. It was therefore unlikely that Kwezi would have not screamed when raped, especially if the accused surprised her when she was already asleep.

What van der Merwe fails to consider or understand is how easily charismatic and influential men can abuse their power, especially when dealing with easily manipulated women with a traumatic past. Yet, the judge concluded that only a ‘foolish, over-confident rapist’ would return to the crime scene to talk to his victim and thereby pre-supposed Zuma’s psychological profile and abilities.

Why did he not find it necessary to have Zuma’s psyche studied to professionally establish what he is or isn’t capable of, rather than making his own assumptions, especially since Zuma is well known to all South Africans as an enigmatic, confident and self-assured public figure?

Van der Merwe clearly did not understand or did not want to understand that it is hard to predict how a woman will react when being violated. He argued that the following points indicated consensual sex: Kwezi didn’t scream, said no twice to the massage but not to the penetration, did not call the police or lock her door, and did not leave Zuma’s house immediately after the incident. Yet, there is simply no way of drawing unanimous conclusions about how people react in certain situation. And why did van der Merwe think it was appropriate to generalise women’s behaviour in this instance, after insisting on the ‘uniqueness’ of the case when deciding upon the relevance of Kwezi’s sexual history?

It is true that one possible interpretation of Kwezi’s actions could be that she was comfortable with their sexual interaction. But it is equally probable that she did not leap into action after the intercourse because she was heavily traumatised, confused, intimidated and extremely frightened of the prospect of taking on one of the most powerful men in the country – not to mention a man whom Kwezi openly supported and idolised.

Curious was also how effortlessly the judge brushed aside the analysis of Kwezi by well-respected State-appointed Dr. Merle Friedman while deciding that the findings of Dr. Louise Olivier, paid by Zuma’s defence team, were the more trustworthy ones. Even if Olivier’s statement that only 10% of women freeze when raped is correct – who is to decide that Kwezi does not belong to this minority?

It is true that Kwezi undermined her own credibility by refusing to be examined by Olivier, but then again, who could blame her? Especially since it is public knowledge that Zuma paid an estimated R1.2 million to R1.8 million for his defence, including Olivier’s fee. Why did the judiciary not make an effort to provide an independent psychologist to analyse the psyche of the complainant?

We must also note that while van der Merwe did not consider Kwezi’s mother a reliable witness because of her emotional bias towards her daughter, he had no qualms taking statements made by Zuma’s daughter Duduzile as the truth. It did not occur to him that Duduzile might be equally biased – towards her dad.

Another important reason for the verdict was that the judge did not accept Kwezi’s claim of having a father-daughter-relationship with Zuma – because a) they had been out of touch for more than ten years before they resumed contact, and b) Duduzile denied that Kwezi was a good family friend. Here, Kwezi’s statement stands directly against Duduzile’s, and the judge decided to believe the latter. Why? Again, because Kwezi was, in his view, not credible because of her sexual history.

Van der Merwe even went further when he concluded that – now that he established that there was no paternal relationship – Kwezi’s cell phone messages to Zuma signed off with ‘love, hugs and kisses’ must have been meant as sexual invitations. The judge described Kwezi as ‘inappropriately dressed’ (again, largely based on a comment by Duduzile) and observed that Kwezi did not object to Zuma coming to her room despite previous sexually charged conversations. In other words, it came down, once again, to the old justification of the woman having acted proactively and in a way to invite and encourage a sexual encounter.

It is a major setback to women’s rights that a woman’s sexual history, clothing and ‘inviting behaviour’ has once again been used to her disadvantage, while the man’s sexual history has not even been discussed.

* Kristin Palitza is the editor of Agenda, a journal on women’s rights and gender.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
In the aftermath of the acquittal of former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma on charges of rape, it seems that everyone has had an opinion on the judgment – and an opinion on everyone else’s opinion. Last week, Pambazuka News carried a series of articles on the trial and this week reactions have continued to be sent in. Here, Kristin Palitza voices her views.

Advocacy & campaigns

Global: ECCR asks shareholders to hold Shell responsible


The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), supported by the World Council of Churches, has initiated a resolution for Royal Dutch Shell shareholders to consider at their Annual General Meeting in The Hague and London on 16 May 2006. The resolution calls for ‘a major improvement in Shell’s performance in terms of community and stakeholder consultation, risk analysis, and social and environmental impact analysis’.

Pan-African Postcard

No change in Kampala

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


Tajudeen Abdul Raheem returns home to Kampala just as Yoweri Museveni is inaugurated for his third term. It’s a case of ‘no change’ that history will judge severely.

I was ' home' in Kampala last weekend. And what a time to be back, with all the reverie and revulsion in some quarters about the 'inauguration' or 'coronation' of President Museveni for his 'sad term' or his 'first term' under the new multi-party democratic framework.

Contrary to innocent speculations that I had come specifically for the big day itself, I was in Uganda for two meetings. My first meeting - on inauguration day - was one hour away in Jinja and organised by HURIPEC and the Political Science Department of Makerere University. The theme of the workshop, whether by design or mere coincidence was 'Debating Form and Substance in Africa's New Governance Models'. It was a meeting of the usual and the not so usual suspects on the activist-scholar circuits of this continent.

On the 'usual side' were the conveners themselves, my good friend the shoe professor (he had sworn that if Museveni did not win the Presidential elections he would [eat] his shoes), Joe Oloka Onyango, Yasin Olum, Susie Nansozi and others. From across Africa there was Adebayo Olukoshi, head of CODESRIA. Jibo Ibrahim, newly appointed Director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Cherryl Hendricks, from the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg; Muthoni Wanyeki, Director of FEMNET in Nairobi and several others were also present. The veteran Mzee Dan Nabudere was there lending his wisdom and insight. On the 'unusual' side were a bright group of up and coming scholar-activists from Makerere. I had agreed to participate at the last minute, selfishly hoping to catch up with old friends and comrades. But the workshop did surprise me most pleasantly in terms of originality. For as long as Africans continue to think profoundly about our condition and possess the courage to offer solutions and act on them Africa will never surrender.

Needless to say that events in Kampala cast their shadows over the discourse. The presence of a dozen African heads of state and/or heads of government in one city, plus numerous other representatives of reportedly more than thirty states, cannot go unnoticed even by the most cynical group of activists and scholars. Kololo Hill (venue of the inauguration), between Museveni and his guests, on 12 May had all the forms of emerging models of governance. I had joked to the organisers that it was not possible to model governance without governors and there were governors of governors in town.

By the time I left my scholar-activist colleagues in Jinja and got to Kla, the swearing in was over but the 'swears' in some quarters and ululations in others. The long march back to their various villages and poor slums by the numerous supporters of the sworn-in candidate was in full force.

The publicists have been spinning the 'coronation' as an epoch-making new dawn. Although the initial enthusiastic announcement of 30 heads of state being expected turned out to be grossly inflated the turn out was no less impressive. But their claim before the event that 30 heads of state were coming is what made the turn out of 12 look like a failure. The other presidents of the East African community were there. The growing influence of Rwanda and a new realism in the relationship between Uganda and Rwanda was evidenced by President Kagame's presence and the special mention and excitement it received in the media. As regional powers go, Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's philosopher king, was there. The grand old man of anti Western belligerency loathed by the West but always a winner with many Africans, Uncle Bob, was there. The DRC compensated for the absence of Kabila Jr, (obviously held back by his own scheming for a 'first ' term in elections due soon) by sending two surplus vice presidents. There was also the president of Djibouti and the president of Somalia. Toss in the president of Burundi and other dignitaries and you cannot begrudge the National Resistance Movement their few hours in the sun. To crown it all Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who could not make it for the coronation, came in for the after party.

I could not help recalling that there was a time when Museveni’s visionary leadership was the beacon of hope for many Africans and the envy of many of his colleagues. Every one wanted to be his friend then. But now he needs to be everybody's friend, hence the long list of would be visitors. A regime that depended so much on internal support is now running on an artificial supply of energy from other African leaders. A president that used to be envied by his fellow presidents for being western-friendly has now returned back to the fold as anti-western, albeit in a very selective way. A man who used to be feted is now desperate to fete others. On the other hand those same leaders who used to deride him as a 'western stooge' are now best pals with him. What is form and what is substance?

The day after the inauguration I went for my second meeting. It was a preparatory meeting for CSO’s involved in the UN Conference on Least Developing Countries, of which Uganda (in spite of decades of HIPC, AGOA, donor-support, etc), along with 33 other African countries, are members. By coincidence the coordinator was a comrade from Nepal very active in the popular struggles for democracy in Nepal. Understandably many participants wanted to know more and get better information beyond what we have seen on our televisions recently. The irony was not lost on many of us that while the Nepalese were trying to remove the monarchy and enthrone democracy, in many African countries the challenge is in preventing democracies from becoming monarchies or elective dictatorships. People used to come and consult Museveni on new ideas, now the likes of Obasanjo are visiting him to find ways of conspiring against the wishes of their own peoples. History will judge and do so most severely. How times have changed even as the supporters of Museveni cry 'No Change'!

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

* Please send comments to [email protected]
Tajudeen Abdul Raheem returns home to Kampala just as Yoweri Museveni is inaugurated for his third term. It’s a case of ‘no change’ that history will judge severely.


Bigger Than Fear: Remembering Ellen Kuzwayo

Shailja Patel


Ellen Kuzwayo, South African activist, writer, feminist, icon, died 3 weeks ago. Obituaries and tributes to her ran in every major media outlet on the African continent, not to mention the New York Times, Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper. So what can I possibly add to the chorus?

I met Mama Kuzwayo when I was a student in the UK, at the University of York. As Minority Rights Officer on the Student Union, I received a call one day from Agnes Sam, South African author of the short story collection, “Jesus Is Indian”. Living in York at the time, she told me that The Women’s Press was arranging a book tour for Ellen Kuzwayo, to promote her autobiography, “Call Me Woman”. Would we be interested in having her appear on campus?

I’d never heard of Ellen Kuzwayo. Or “Call Me Woman”. The irony of my Kenyan education was that my access to African writers and writing was confined to text books in our literature curriculum. Outside that, we read Danielle Steele, Harold Robbins, the European and American writers we found in our school libraries.

So I had no idea that she was the first black writer to win the CNA Prize, South Africa’s highest literary honor. I knew nothing of her illustrious history as a teacher, social worker, anti-apartheid activist, until I read “Call Me Woman.” Then I was riveted. Not because it was great writing. On the contrary, her style was pedestrian, a chronological recounting of facts and events. It was clear that she did not write from a love of language or literary craft.

And yet, each page of “Call Me Woman” rings with a uniquely powerful and utterly compelling voice. The voice of Ellen Kuzwayo brought the reality of a whole generation of black South African women to the world. Women dispossessed of their land, their freedom, their very bodies; women who survived displacement, disenfranchisement, violence at the hands of both the apartheid state and husbands and fathers. In a narrative all the more striking for its lack of embellishment, “Call Me Woman” painted a portrait of courage, resilience and intelligence that would not be extinguished, all harnessed to the struggle for dignity and self-determination.

Mama Kuzwayo wrote her autobiography to tell the story of lives that were unseen, unknown. During the 1980s, a time of terrible repression and violence under the Botha regime, in conditions of daily struggle and uncertainty, she took on a task that would have daunted far more experienced writers. Simply because it had to be done. Her life story still holds up as an outstanding historical document of South Africa’s history in the 20th century, told from the viewpoint of black South African women.

By the time of Mama Kuzwayo’s arrival at York, I had read “Call Me Woman”, and I was in awe of her. I wondered why someone of her stature would come all the way to the North of England, to speak to an overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and politically provincial student population. At the time, there was still debate in British media and society over the wisdom of sanctions against South Africa. Only one other African had ever spoken at York: Kenneth Kaunda in the 1970s. It was a lesson to me in global hierarchies of power: that a 76 year old South African woman, already a legend in her own country, should need to generate the support of white British students, younger than her grandchildren.

When she arrived, I was mortified that we had to make her walk across the campus, for over 20 minutes, in the icy, windy dark, to get to the auditorium where she was to speak. Clearly tired from travelling, she made no complaint – she radiated patience and humour. It made me deeply uncomfortable that the associate from The Women’s Press who accompanied her, a young woman only a couple of years older than me, addressed her bluntly by first name, as “Ellen”.

When she spoke, to a half-empty auditorium, she was a mountain. She spoke without notes, of the episodes that had shaped her as an activist and a woman, she laid out the economic and political extremities facing her people.

In the Q and A that followed, I listened to her dissect both ignorance and racism with unwavering dignity and rapier analysis. To the clichéd: “Don’t sanctions just hurt poor black South Africans?” she responded:

“If we said we want sanctions to stop, we would be saying we want to be slaves forever. Who wants to be a slave forever?”

A British male student began, in the guise of a question, to lecture her about overpopulation in Africa. She answered him with a pithy and devastating exposition of the dismemberment of African families and communities under apartheid.

After the talk, and book signing, I took her to her room for the night – another icy, windy walk across the dark campus. She stumbled several times, and I realized again how old she was, how exhausted. Her room was a stark college bedroom, tiny, cold, unwelcoming. I made her a cup of tea, rubbed her feet, tried to make her comfortable. We talked of Desmond Tutu’s recent visit to Kenya, where he declared that detention without trial anywhere on the continent was a violation of human rights. The speech had drawn a hailstorm of abuse from the despotic Moi regime. There was so much I wanted to ask her, but I was both shy, and reluctant to tire her further. When I said goodnight, she took both my hands: “Thank you my dear, for spoiling me a little.”

The next morning, the feminist newspaper on campus, which I had helped found, interviewed her over breakfast. Three of us from the editorial collective reveled in the richness of her relaxed conversation. She introduced us to Ubuntu – now a standard catchword, but then a concept little known outside South Africa. How it was explained, contained, in the Zulu proverb: A person is a person because of other people. She had the most eloquent hands I have ever seen. They etched her words on the air, punctuated her phrases. Fifteen years later, they still speak from the yellowed newsprint photographs we took of her.

After that breakfast, she left to return to London. She hugged me warmly, gave me her address in South Africa, made me promise to send her a copy of the interview when it was published. I did. I never met her again. But over the years, she remained an icon and hero for me. A reminder of what it means to claim your power, in the face of every force that denies your humanity, and then to offer your whole self in service to that humanity. I remembered her when I came across a quote from St. Francis of Assissi: “There is no use in walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” And even later, when I encountered the words of Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

As I browsed the web for her obituaries, I came across an interview with her by British writer, Nicci Gerard. It was published in the New Internationalist, in 1985, five years before I met Mama Kuzwayo in York. Of everything I read about her, this was what stayed with me:

“She says: ‘I am who I am and my life is my own.’ She knows that ‘before you feel hopeful for your country you must feel hope for yourself; if there is no hope for you, you can’t look ahead.’ She says that she lives with fear but that she is bigger than that fear - ‘you must go ahead and damn the consequences.’”

(See full article at:

I have often regretted not having the courage to ask her, when I had the opportunity, to say more about her time in detention and how she survived it. How she endured a violent marriage with spirit unbroken. I wanted to mine every nugget I could from the wealth of her political experience, her years of activism, writing, organizing.

These words seem like the answer. As does her book – which I return to again and again, and continue to find fresh value in. As does the memory of a woman larger than exhaustion, larger than the ignorance of those around her, larger than fear.

* More on Ellen Kuzwayo:

* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, writer and theater artist. Visit her at

* Please send comments to [email protected]

Letters & Opinions

The Zuma case

Thandanani Mafuleka


The Zuma rape trial was going to raise many questions and bring divisions. I'm actually responding to the four women respondents who expressed their strong opinions in Pambazuka News 254 and starting with the featured interview with Delphine Serumaga.

Is it coincidence that they are all women? I'm not surprised by their diatribe, needless to say that I'm a man, but that does not really fashion my views on this one. There are parts of what they say I agree with and some (most in fact) that I don't and think that they are emotional, misdirected and confuse issues deliberately for the cause of fighting women's rights at the expense of reality and common sense. We all know that our society is "patriarchal", but we're trying hard to change that.

The Judge takes huge flak, unjustly as he was only doing his job, but there is recognition that he was "fair" and his judgment "correct". The alleged "gap in his understanding" is imaginary…the judge was aware of each and every piece of evidence led before him! People must realise that cases are won because there is strong and unassailable evidence, but rape is always difficult as it is the word of only two people against each other. I don't agree with the statement that the judgment was a "setback for women's rights" in general.

I agree that "Khwezi's" dignity suffered and will be difficult to reclaim, but nevertheless the legal system has done its best to "protect" her under the circumstances. Her name or picture may still not be published without consent, she is kept under extended witness protection even after the trial, and she is starting a new life away from SA at the state's expense.

It would be sad if indeed the judgment means that women who are abused are intimidated to approach police and courts, but the flip side also is that in such cases people may not abuse the system by claiming non-existent rapes, or fulfill other agendas via bogus rape charges.

Interesting that a Sunday paper published views from the public about the Zuma judgment and his aspirations for presidency. More important is that the majority (49%) "agreed with verdict, 40% didn't" and again a majority 51% "accepted Zuma's apology for his behaviour", only "42% didn't". These perceptions are likely to change over time. It is two years before the issue of the presidency really comes up for any serious contention. Besides, the ANC is capable of dealing with this issue within their structures, without any individual influence.

Patterns of social inequalities unchanged in South Africa

Cheryl Sanchez


I have returned to the UK from a 3 week private visit to Cape Town. These are my observations. The patterns of social inequalities remain unchanged!

The Africans who live in the townships of Langa, Gulguletu and Khayalitsha are reminders that social justice has not been achieved.

I find it equally distasteful to see the ANC government paying land owners for land which they got for next top nothing. These landowners should be paying reparations.

Africans must demand reparations for the following reasons.

1) It would send a clear message to the colonialist/imperialist that they understand how capitalism works and, how wealth was accumlulated by the UK and others.

2) It would also show that Africans understand social-economic justice.

3) It would show that Africans take their humanity seriously.

4) It would also soothe the psychological/ emotional pain many Africans have been enduring for the last 300 years.

5) It would also make Franz Fanon and Thomas Sankara happy men. Let us make these young ancestors proud.

Thank you for reading my letter.

On the Darfur peace deal


While I am in agreement with most of Julie Flint's comments, it is necessary to highlight a grave inaccuracy in his article, namely, that Darfur has no geo-strategic importance and no oil, a misconception popularly repeated in many media articles.

She says: "Their region (Darfur) is of little or no strategic importance: it has no water and it has no oil...Their only asset was the support of the international community..."

I contend that Darfur is of strategic interest, both to the Khartoum government and the international community, because it does have potentiallly "abundant" unexploited oil reserves.

In support of this, please see "Oil discovery adds new twist to Darfur tragedy" at - an article which Pambazuka News also carried on 22 May last year. And "Briton named as buyer of Darfur oil rights" at,14658,1503470,00.html

It is also crucial not to underplay the importance of oil in Sudan generally and in the region as a whole. Sudan and neighbouring Chad (which has been greatly impacted by the violence in Darfur), are so-called "marginal producers" in the world oil industry, but have the potential to produce substantially more oil. In view of concerns over oil supplies from the Arab world, their strategic importance to the oil-guzzling industrialised nations, as well as to China and Russia, should not be underestimated.

This goes a long way in explaining the Hollywood-supported calls for US intervention in Darfur (where the violence and humanitarian crisis are indubitably horrific), while the ongoing violence and terror in other regions of Africa such as northern Uganda and the north-eatern DRC go largely unremarked in the USA.

Another useful article is "How oil drives the genocide in Darfur " available online at

Since Pambazuka News has been scanning African blogs as an indicator of sentiments on key issues, it may also be instructive to scan US ones on the Darfur issue - many indicate clearly that the writers advocate intervention in Darfur to 'get to the oil before the Chinese or the Muslims do'.

Ayesha Kajee

Appeal for unconditional release of antipoverty activists in Ethiopia

Julie Middleton


On 28 May, the people of Ethiopia will celebrate National Day, marking the anniversary of Ethiopia’s independence from the injustice and lawlessness that characterised the previous military dictatorship. While saluting the people and the Government of Ethiopia for the gains they have made over the last 15 years, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation has an initiated an appeal reminding the Ethiopian government of the commitments it made to foster democracy, freedom, development and human rights. The draft letter urges the government to re-open civic space for the civil society movement in Ethiopia, and to release civil society activists currently on trial for treason. We invite both organisations and individuals to sign-on to the appeal by Tuesday, 23 May 2006. For more information, or to sign-on, please email [email protected]

Debating the Pan African Parliament

Lusaka, Zambia

Phosile Tracy Nya-Makwakwa


It was good to read the article on the visit of Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem to the Pan African Parliament (PAP). It is good that I have finally found space to air my views on the PAP. Firstly, I concur with the sentiments that there is a need to publicize the existence of the PAP as the majority in our various countries are not even aware that there is the existence of such an institution in Africa. Publicizing the PAP will certainly enhance the desires of oneness and strengthening the mindsets of all of us towards a unified Africa. This will build us more than ever and the potential of this PAP towards unifying Africa is certainly understated.

Secondly, I would like to comment on the process of representation on the PAP. Why can’t it be mandatory that we have elected leaders to represent us from each country? The election process should happen at the same time from each country. The criteria for being elected should be that each candidate should have served a full term in their own countries. The elections should be given full attention with a mandate required from all districts in every country. If I feel that I have the power to elect a representative from my country to represent me at Continental level, I will be sure to have an interest in what that MP is going to say or contribute in the PAP.

Therefore I would like to call upon all Africans to support my call for all Nations to conduct elections for their Pan African Parliament candidates. These elections need not be expensive as we could use our existing infrastructure at district level and get civil society and civic bodies to organise and mobilize for the administration of such an election. It is by carrying out such activities that the local people will feel the importance of the PAP.

Thirdly, should the above-mentioned proposal be accepted by all, it will give room for the members to have full allegiance to the PAP and not consider it as just another activity through which to get an extra allowance.

This is how we as a continent will be able to build our continental leadership. This is a call for our leaders to start investing seriously in the PAP.

Blogging Africa

Voices from the African Blogosphere

Sokari Ekine


Nigerian blogger Chippla ( explains that there is more to the constitutional amendments in Nigeria than extending Obasanjo’s tenure from two to three years.

“By infusing an extension of the presidential term of office into the constitutional amendment, the administration of Mr. Obasanjo hijacked a very good exercise. Given that the so-called third term agenda (which appears to be practically dead) has come to overshadow the entire constitutional amendment debate, one is left wondering if the other amendments will go forward, should they receive the necessary backing of the national and provincial legislative assemblies.”

Chippla goes on to explain some of the main amendments such as direct allocation of funds to local governments, changes in citizenship for non-Nigerian men married to Nigerian women, recognition of other languages in government other than English and human rights although these do not include rights of homosexuals.

Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali (]Ayaan hirsi ali) is apparently on her way to the US to work for a conservative think tank called the American Enterprise Institute. She will be resigning her position as MP following a disclosure that she lied when applying for asylum from Somalia.

“Ms Hirsi Ali's quitting of Dutch politics and the Netherlands follows on from a television documentary, shown last week, which reported that she lied in the early 1990s about how she fled her native country, Somalia, in order to gain asylum in the Netherlands. Since the broadcast, there have been calls from various quarters for her to lose her Dutch passport.”

According to the blog report, Ms Ali herself has been at the forefront of legislating for stricter immigration laws particularly against those that lie to enter the Netherlands, which makes the supposed revelation an embarrassing one. She claims that it is open knowledge that she came via Kenya to the Netherlands and not directly from Somalia. This is quite common as many Somalis and Sudanese refugees first left for Kenyan refugee camps before coming to Europe.

Cyblug ( takes issue with the language used by foreign media reports on the recent gas fire explosion that took place in Lagos in which 200 people were killed. For example. describing Lagos as a “dilapidated port city”.

“I would be the first to admit yes it is a ‘Dump’ but where is the need for adding this dilapidated bullshit in the mix, there are newer parts of Lagos that are not dilapidated and run down so why mention this at all? Baltimore City, (Maryland in the US) is a dilapidated port city but I never hear it being described as this in news reports.”

He also objects to people being called scavengers: “…someone drilling holes in oil pipelines to sell at a higher price by the border is not a scavenger. Call him vandal, a thief, an opportunist or as we say in Naija an oil bunkerer.”

Egyptian Chronicle ( continues with reports on last Thursday’s “Bloody Thursday” when protestors were arrested in Cairo. She publishes a number of photos showing police brutality against the protestors.

“I was shocked at first because if you look carefully you will find that the officers and soldiers are spurning the young man who is wearing what can be considered the colours of the Egyptian flag…The first impression, the first thought that came to mind was ‘what those bastards were doing with our flag?’, then I noticed it was a human being , and after that I saw the pictures of the chase between the young man and the police ended in this scene, it turned out that the young man was wearing red t-shirt and black trousers, the white colour was the colour of this inside shirt.”

AfroBlog ( responds to a BBC World “Have Your Say” programme question on whether Africa should look to Latin America, with reference to the socialist President of Venezuela and the newly elected Evo Morales of Bolivia.

“For Africa it would be ideal to learn from the experiences of Latin America but realistically newly independent nations in Africa have scarcely learned from the experiences of some of the first independent states in Africa, so how can we expect the continent as a whole to learn from the experiences of another continent and apply them? I think one of the major differences is the level of civic engagement in the political arena in Latin America and particularly when it comes to mass mobilization. These are the people who are electing presidents like Morales and Chavez.”

One Arab World (">One Arab World) comments on a new Egyptian law that gives security forces the power to arrest and detain people without charge. The government is defending the action by highlighting the need to prevent acts of terror.

“The Emergency Laws, an Egyptian version of the Patriot Act on steroids, are what some claim to be what stands between us and the terrorists and what others claim to be the main source of breading terrorists. Very little in the actual law is very shocking in this day and age of global terrorism (albeit it was implemented before it was internationally acceptable to impede basic rights in the pursuit of security). It is the implementation that is hair raising. The Emergency Laws are what everyone in the Egyptian Security Apparatus, from the Interior Minister on down, hides behind and justifies their actions with…The ‘far right’ everywhere have a strategic tendency to push draconian measures the population would normally shun during times of panic that typically ensue acts of terrorism. After Sinai this was inevitable.”

* Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks,

* Please send comments to [email protected]

African Union Monitor

Africa: Forum urges African media to play crucial role in APRM


A media forum in Kigali urged African journalists to play a crucial role on the ongoing African peer review Mechanism (APRM). Representatives of African civil societies and country officials from the APRM asked journalists to play their role in advocating the APRM at large, to raise awareness on the activities of APRM in the continent. The Forum, the first of its kind, took place on the sidelines of the Sixth African Governance Forum (AGF), in which participants are reviewing the progress so far made as well as identifying setbacks in the implementation of the APRM.

Africa: Pan African Parliament going broke


The Pan African Parliament (PAP) might not meet again because it is running out of money, said a committee chairman. "I'm not sure if the sixth session scheduled for October will go ahead," said Wycliffe Oparanya, chairman of the PAP's committee on money and financial affairs.

Sudan: African Union calls for swift sending of UN team to Darfur


The African Union (AU) called Monday on the United Nations to urgently dispatch a team to Darfur to work out contingency plans for transition of peacekeeping operations to a UN force. The ceasefire between government and rebels forces in Sudan's Darfur province is currently being monitored by the AU's African Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

Women & gender

Africa: World MPs told to put women and children first


Presenters at the 114th Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference, which ended in Nairobi, Kenya, on Friday, used the meeting as a platform to advocate on behalf of Africa's women and children. Putting children at the centre of the HIV/AIDS agenda was one of the main issues for delegates at the interparliamentary assembly during the six-day conference. The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to devastate many countries in sub-Sahara Africa, where at least 85 percent of the world's children with HIV/AIDS live.

DRC: Unions to increase Congolese women's participation in politics


Josée Lokongo Bosiko is a union leader, Vice-President of the National Union of Congolese Workers. This makes her one of the few women prominent in the politics and economy in the DRC. She is determined to boost women’s participation and representation in coming Congolese elections.

East Africa: Abuse of girls widespread


Nine out of 10 girls in eastern Africa have suffered physical or psychological abuse, including rape at the hands of relatives, a pan-African advocacy group said in a report. "In eastern Africa nine out of ten girls are abused on a regular basis by the people they trust most," Assefa Bequele, head of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), a child-advocacy group, said in a report released in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Wednesday, to coincide with two-day conference on violence against girls in Africa.

Global: Briefing note on Women’s Rights and the ‘Coherence Panel’ in the UN reform process


This briefing note discusses how the UN reform process is important to women because women need the organisational structures, high level leadership and necessary resources to enable governments and the UN system to increase significantly their efforts to fulfil their promises on women’s human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Tanzania: Study links payment of bride price to abuse of women


The practice of paying bride price is one of the factors contributing to women in Tanzania suffering sexual abuse, battery and denial of their right to own property, a study conducted by the Tanzania Media Women Association says. The association's report is based on a survey it conducted between January and March in 10 of Tanzania mainland's 21 regions. The survey showed that young men who could not afford bride price ended up living with women and having children without formal marriages.

Uganda: Abstinence clashes with reality when women are powerless


Tens of thousands of Ugandan schoolchildren have enrolled in 'True Love Waits' clubs that promote sexual abstinence as the way to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Each student member has pledged "commitment to God, myself, my family, my country, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually pure until the day I give myself only to my marriage partner in a convenient marriage relationship." However, "as a feminist, I strongly think the abstinence programme doesn't take into consideration the reality in the country, which is that women's sexuality is controlled by men," said Salome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, coordinator of the Uganda Women's Network (UWONET).

Zimbabwe: Beyond inequalities


This report presents a gender analysis of the status of women and girls in Zimbabwe in the wider economic, social and political context. Divided into three parts, the first part looks at the situation of women since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995, looking at economic policies, women's participation in politics and decision-making, laws and legal reform, education and technology, the socio-cultural context, health and media; the second part examines the gendered impact of Zimbabwean policies and programmes from 1998-2004; and the final section provides recommendations.

Zimbabwe: Police threaten woman activist with death


Police in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo have threatened prominent woman rights activist, Jenni Williams, with death if she dares organise any more anti-government demonstrations by her Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) group, Zim Online has learnt. Bulawayo lawyer Kossam Ncube, whose law firm Job Sibanda and Associates acts for Williams and WOZA, told Zim Online that they had reported the matter to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights which is expected to take up the issue with police authorities.

Human rights

East Africa: LGBTI organizing - the true test for human rights defenders


Sexuality and sexual matters remain taboo subjects within most of the region. The gradual but slow realization that same-sex relationships are based upon fundamental human rights and freedom is slowly though reluctantly "seeping" across the region. Notwithstanding the silence surrounding human rights of LGBTI groups, their very existence has facilitated public discourse on the indivisibility of human rights and poses the challenge to human rights activists selectively working around some human rights issues.

Ethiopia: Repression against the Ethiopia Teachers’ Association worsens


Education International is deeply concerned at the actions taken by the Ethiopian authorities to dismantle the Ethiopia Teachers’ Association (ETA), which has been representing the legitimate interests of the teaching profession in that country since 1949. While Ethiopia has never been a haven for independent trade union activities, it can be said that in recent months EI’s Ethiopian affiliate has become the target of escalating repression which is clearly aimed at bringing about the total destruction of the union.

Global: Dignity counts - a guide to using budget analysis to advance human rights


As work on economic, social and cultural rights (ESC) grows by leaps and bounds around the world, a large number of organizations and individuals have expressed interest in learning more about how budget analysis can contribute to their work. The guide "Dignity Counts" aims to provide guidance to civil society organizations on how to use budget analysis as a tool to help assess a government's compliance with its ESC rights obligations.

Global: The UN Human Rights Council: Just a New Name?

Andrew Galea Debono

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


There was much optimism when, on 15th March 2006, the General Assembly of the Untied Nations finally adopted the draft resolution that created the new Human Rights Council to replace the old and ineffective Human Rights Commission. Of course, few believed that this new Council would be even close to perfect - but even the harshest critics realised the potential of the Council to be a marked improvement over its predecessor, which, among other serious shortcomings, had shamefully failed to act during the genocides in Rwanda, Burundi and the former Yugoslavia.

Global: The World Bank and respect for human rights


The questions of "human rights" has never been a priority concern for the World Bank. Among the conditionalities fixed by the Bank, one right supercedes all others: the individual right to private property, which in practice works to the advantage of big property holders, whether they be wealthy individuals or national and transnational corporations. In the conditionalities supported by the World Bank, there is no reference to the collective rights of peoples and individuals.

Uganda: Rebel leader must be arrested says the ICC


The International Criminal Court has said it expects Uganda to meet its obligation to arrest the leader of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army rebels. Joseph Kony is wanted for war crimes by the court, but on Wednesday Uganda's president offered him a peace deal. Yoweri Museveni said Mr Kony had until the end of July to end the war and said his safety would be guaranteed. But the ICC says Uganda's government referred the case to the court and must honour its commitment.

Refugees & forced migration

Africa: No way to fence off the sea


An unusually heavy influx of undocumented immigrants, who arrived on the coasts of Spain's Canary Islands over the weekend, has highlighted the ineffectiveness of wire fences and other police measures designed to keep people from sub-Saharan Africa from seeking a better life in Europe. Between Friday and Monday (8 to 12 May), the Civil Guard and local police intercepted and detained more than 500 people who arrived in Spain in canoes and "pateras" (precarious, low-floating wooden boats designed for shallow waters). Most were coming from Mauritania and Morocco.

Burundi: Rains displace thousands and destroy crops


Floods have killed nine people, displaced thousands others and destroyed a cemetery in Burundi's northwestern province of Bubanza, following a week of heavy rainfall that caused two rivers to burst their banks. The government and the United Nations Mission in the country, known as ONUB, have started to provide to help the affected families and to divert the floodwaters back to the riverbeds.

Mali: Anger over Sarkozy visit


A group of Malians deported from France is due to hold a march to protest at the visit of hardline French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy this week. The planned march follows a statement from Malian MPs, calling on Mr Sarkozy to call off his "undesirable" visit. Mr Sarkozy wants to reduce illegal immigration and has been behind the deportation of many Malians.

Somali: Somalis and Ethiopians smuggled into Yemen


More than 300 Somalis and Ethiopians were smuggled into Yemen last weekend with tales of a harrowing trip during which the smugglers beat three passengers to death and threw their corpses overboard, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said. Of the 335 who reportedly arrived in Yemen, only 35 came to the agency’s reception centre in May’faa in southern Yemen, but survivors of the dangerous Gulf of Aden trip often travel to other destinations, UNHCR spokesman told journalists at the UN complex in Geneva.

Sudan: Rebel groups continue recruiting refugees in camps in Chad


Rebel groups are reportedly continuing to recruit men and boys in camps in Chad that shelter 200,000 Sudanese who have fled the fighting in the Darfur region of their own country, and the Chadian Government must take all necessary steps to stop such activities, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). "People who have fled the horrors of Darfur have already suffered enough," UNHCR spokesman told a news briefing in Geneva. "It is totally unacceptable that refugee camps become recruiting grounds and that children under the age of 18 are being victimized."

Uganda: Implementation of the ‘Self Reliance Strategy’ compromises refugee rights


Long-term humanitarian ‘care and maintenance’ programmes have a reputation for ignoring human and social needs. A new strategy designed for Sudanese refugees in Uganda was meant to address these failings by applying a more ‘developmental’ approach. However, political security, refugee participation and respect for human rights have been lacking.

Elections & governance

Africa: IPU lacks power to enforce ideas


As Kenya hosted the 114th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) last week, the question of whether the congress would help persuade parliamentarians to focus on economic and social issues, remained debatable. To the African Members of Parliament, the hope was that the gathering of over 1,500 delegates from 143 countries would address pressing issues such as political conflicts and the proliferation of small arms, poverty and HIV/Aids with the objective of galvanising international support for various countries. But most speakers at plenary sessions concentrated on giving country profiles rather than offer mechanisms on how parliamentarians can address issues closer to the heart of the voters.

Africa: Legislators debate whether democracy fits the bill


A meeting of parliamentarians may seem an odd place to hear the virtues of regular elections questioned. But discussion on this, and a variety of other issues, has taken place with IPS over the past few days at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. According to Ugandan Member of Parliament (MP) David Gumisiriza, periodic elections do not necessarily lead to sustainable development in Africa.

Comoros: Islamist elected as leader


Islamist Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi won Sunday's election on the Comoros Islands, provisional results show (May 14). Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi was seen as the favourite and he won 58% of the vote, the electoral board said. Supporters of the cleric, known as "Ayatollah" after his studies in Iran, were celebrating in the streets as early as Monday, confident of victory.

Nigeria: Democracy 'triumphs'


Nigeria's vice-president has said that the Senate decision to throw out a bill which would have let the president seek re-election will strengthen democracy. "The decision is one of the best things to happen to Nigeria," said Atiku Abubakar, who wants to contest next year's elections himself. The question of allowing President Olusegun Obasanjo a third term has divided Nigeria and the ruling party.

Rwanda: Congo no longer supports rebels


Rwandan President Paul Kagame has declared Kigali no longer sees the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as supporters of the Hutu militias responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Kagame's announcement marks a positive development ahead of the first democratic elections in the DRC since independence in 1960. Tensions in the eastern provinces of the DRC threaten to destabilize the election with local leaders loyal to Rwanda unwilling to give up power should they lose the election.

Somali: Give democracy a chance


The transitional Somali government has achieved very little since its formation over 15 months ago. Recent fighting in Mogadishu notwithstanding, senior officials of the Somali transitional federal government maintain that they are making progress in stamping out lawlessness, despite lack of international support. Doubts also persist over the functionality of the transitional parliament. In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican in Nairobi during the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) congress, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the speaker of the Somali transitional parliament argued that the government - currently holed up in Baidoa - could move to Mogadishu within two months if it got support from the international community.

South Africa: General strike hits miners, transport


An anti-poverty strike by South Africa's main labour federation appeared to have limited impact on Thursday, with some major mining and transport companies reporting few workers showing up for shifts. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called the one-day stay-away to highlight what it says are the government's poor record on creating new jobs and slashing poverty for the country's black majority.
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Cosatu blames bosses for Cape Town rampage,2172,127710,00.html

South Africa: Zuma to resume ANC duties 'without delay'


The African National Congress said on Monday (May 15) that its deputy president, Jacob Zuma, would be resuming his duties "without delay" after he stepped down from active duty while his rape trial was under way. Zuma was acquitted of rape in the Johannesburg High Court on May 8. The party also poured cold water on suggestions that any member of the ANC encouraged the complainant in the rape case to lay a charge against Zuma, reports the Mail and Guardian.

Uganda: EU poll report to determine UK aid


Britain is waiting for a European Union report on Uganda's February presidential and parliamentary elections, before deciding on whether to release 15 billion pounds ($9.375 billion) withheld last year. The money was part of $73 million that donors cut or diverted from aid to the government citing concerns over the high public administration costs and the talk of a level political playing field.


Africa: Fishy deal sends trawlers south


Europe has struck a deal with Morocco, a partnership agreement that gives European fishermen the right to take 60,000 tonnes of fish a year from Moroccan waters, reports the United Kingdom's The Times Online. "This deal is part of a new rape of African resources by Europe and it is the more shocking because it is being done as politicians throw billions of dollars of aid at the continent," the article says.

Africa: Increase in Africa cash exodus


Money flowing into UK bank accounts from developing countries has surged in the past few years, dwarfing Britain's official aid budget, figures show, reports The Independent newspaper. The scale of the exodus of capital from countries with major social problems will raise fears of massive corruption and money laundering that will hurt the welfare of the world's most vulnerable people.

Nigeria: Nigeria probes presidential bribe scandal


Nigeria's anti-fraud squad launched a probe on Monday into allegations lawmakers have been bribed to change the constitution to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to extend his hold on power. The investigation came days before a vote on the bill to amend the constitution in the Senate.

South Africa: Thint bid on Zuma charges dismissed


The Durban High Court has dismissed a bid by arms company Thint for further particulars on the corruption charges it is to face alongside former deputy president Jacob Zuma. "I can confirm that the application has been refused," prosecuting advocate Anton Steynberg said on Monday. However, Thint attorney Ajay Sooklal said the court's decision merely amounts to a "postponement of the matter".


Africa: Assessing the impact of the PRGF on social services


The Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PGRF) consists of a series of targets designed to encourage transformation in the economies and policies of the participating countries, with a view of promoting macroeconomic stability, economic growth and poverty reduction with a six year framework. This research paper assess the impact of the PGRF on social services in Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania.

Africa: IMF and World Bank policies have destroyed the continent


This opinion piece makes an analogy between a speech by former US president Reagan and a recent statement by an IMF staffer on the IMF's policies in Africa. In the article entitled, "Building on the foundations of growth," the Managing Director of the IMF, claimed that Africa’s economy was on the road to recovery.

Africa: Influence anxiety - China's role in Africa


In the Mao era, China dealt with Africa as part of a show of solidarity with countries that shared some of China's experience of Western oppression. However, these links were fostered in an ideologically charged time, when China sought to display affinity with other socialist countries and to demonstrate an almost nihilistic aversion to the institutions and norms of international relations. Although it joined the UN in 1971, any real alteration of China's foreign policy did not come until the Deng-initiated reforms post-1979.

Africa: OECD proclaims improved growth prospects


The prospects for Africa's economies have improved over the past year, according to the OECD. The Paris-based think tank says that Africa as a whole is set to grow by 5.8% this year and 5.5% in 2007. But there is a big difference between countries who were oil exporters and those who have to import oil. In 2005 oil exporting African countries grew by 5.5%, compared to just 4.4% for those who were oil importers. Conflicts and natural disasters in countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Nigeria also continue to dampen overall economic growth.

Global: Aid for trade


This paper starts from the premise that trade may be necessary for sustained industrial development, but it is not sufficient. In the right circumstances, trade liberalisation creates opportunities for development, but other factors determine the extent to which those opportunities are realised. It argues that, to benefit from liberalisation developing countries will need to make public investments in infrastructure and institutions as well as private investment in productive capacity - a point realised by the aid for trade agenda.

Global: Global monitoring report on the MDGs


This report comments on global progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), focusing on aid, trade and financial dimensions of the process. It notes that, despite commitments to raising aid effectiveness from the G8 and the Paris Declaration, the world is still far from achieving the MDGs - particularly Africa and South Asia. In light of these findings it urges much greater effort to implement the vision of global action and mutual accountability for results.

Global: The worst man in the world?


Paul Wolfowitz, the former US deputy defence secretary and main architect of the Iraq war, has run the World Bank for a year. His regime is highly secretive, but insiders have talked exclusively to Robert Calderisi, who files this report available from the New Statesman website.

Tanzania: World Bank gives grant for poverty reduction programme


The World Bank has approved a massive $200 million grant to the Tanzanian government towards its poverty reduction programme. The Fourth Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC-4) is aimed at helping the government provide incentives to implement key economic, social and institutional reforms to strengthen the overall performance of the economy and contribute to poverty alleviation. A key outcome of the reform programme, which is also supported by 13 other donors, over the period 2006-2010, is to sustain high rates of economic growth in the range of 6-8 per cent annually. If achieved, the World Bank says that this will "translate into a significant reduction of poverty incidence in the country."

Zimbabwe: Inflation reaches 1000%


Zimbabwe's annual inflation stormed to a record 1,042.9 percent in April, surging into four figures for the first time, official figures showed on Friday (12 May). The world's highest inflation rate is the product of an economic meltdown also marked by shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food and rising unemployment. The data had been due for release on Wednesday, but that was abruptly cancelled and CSO officials would not say what had caused the delay. The CSO said on a monthly basis, the consumer price index leapt by 21.1 percent from 19.8 percent in March as prices increased on an almost daily basis, according to Reuters.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Abuja AIDS Summit - promises, promises?


African leaders meeting last week at a special summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, threw down a challenge to their governments by setting bold new targets to be achieved by 2010. At the end of the gathering to review progress in implementing the 2001 Abuja Declaration on AIDS, TB and Malaria, a major resolution was passed, declaring that at least 80 percent of those in need, especially women and children, should have access to HIV/AIDS treatment, including antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, care and support.

Africa: Aids advocates urged to lobby governments


This week, representatives of member-states of the United Nations in New York, began negotiations on the draft declaration by governments to be considered at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Review Meeting on HIV/AIDS at the end of this month. African peoples are at risk of losing and/or not achieving recognition of critical goals that have been already agreed to both in the Special Summit of the African Union on AIDS, TB and Malaria that held last week in Abuja, Nigeria.

Kenya: Dysentery outbreak kills 13 children in the North East


An outbreak of dysentery in northeastern Kenya's Mandera District has claimed the lives of 13 children over the past two weeks, health officials said on Tuesday, blaming the epidemic on contamination of water sources during the current rainy season, which follows a severe drought in the remote, arid area.

Kenya: Stretched ICU facility limits critical heart surgeries


Joel Wanyingi, 55, constantly suffered from severe headaches and dizziness, and was often plagued with a feeling of tiredness even in bed. He recuperates at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Nairobi, after heart surgery last month. Inadequate ICU facilities has forced some Kenyans to seek treatment abroad. Although cardiac surgery is also performed in two private city hospitals -Nairobi and Mater - most patients opt for KNH where the costs are heavily subsidised. KNH's director, says there are over 200 heart patients on the hospital's waiting list. But the number of operations that can be performed are tied to the availability of space at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), he says.

Kenya: Thousands still nursing ambitions to leave the country


In a span of four years, 3,390 of Kenya's 30,000 registered nurses migrated to Europe and the United States. During this period between 2000 and 2004, about 1,200 nurses were leaving Kenya for greener pastures every year, the National Nurses Association of Kenya (NMAK) says. Nurses have long been overworked and underpaid and found themselves ripe for easy pickings with the attractive pay offered by clinics in countries that have so willingly absorbed them.

South Africa: HIV positive inmates to get ARVs


HIV-positive inmates at Westville Prison in Durban, South Africa, will receive identification documents required to access antiretroviral drugs after holding a hunger strike earlier this year to advocate for access to the treatment, Tebogo Motseki, correctional services chief deputy commissioner, said on Wednesday. More than 240 HIV-positive inmates held a three-day hunger strike at the prison in March in an effort to obtain antiretroviral therapy.

South Africa: Minister reports back


Health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang used her quarterly briefing to chastise the media for lending coverage to Jacob Zuma’s shower comments, for reporting “only on HIV/AIDS” and for discounting her claims on nutrition. She was updating the media on progress being made by Government’s social cluster in Pretoria. The minister also revealed that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) health ministers were in the process of establishing an AIDS fund “to do certain things”.

Tanzania: Information gap challenges Zanzibar's anti malaria campaign


Although Zanzibar's Kataa Malaria initiative has reduced the malaria caseload on the island, misinformation about the safety of insecticide-treated bed nets - a cornerstone of the programme - has left many people exposed to the disease, which kills one million people around the world each year. In December 2005, Tanzania became one of 15 beneficiaries of a US $1.2-billion initiative to fight malaria in sub-Sahara Africa, where 90 percent of all global malaria deaths occur. United States President George W Bush's Malaria Initiative (PMI) is funded through the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As a beneficiary, Zanzibar received 240,000 long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets for local distribution to pregnant women and children up to age five years, the groups most vulnerable to the disease.

Uganda: Compulsory health insurance starts


All workers in Uganda will have to pay at least four percent of their salaries towards a mandatory Social Health Insurance starting next financial year, according to a scheme recently approved by Cabinet. If endorsed by parliament, the SHI scheme will compel employers to match each employee's deduction with an equal percentage. The ministry of health says about $30 million (about Shs54.9b) will be collected from employees and employers every year, a move which the outgoing health minister says will help improve service delivery.


Liberia: Gaddafi to build school for affected youths


President Muammar Gaddafi of Libya has pledged to build a school for war-affected youths in Liberia. The Libyan leader made the pledge in Tripoli, Libya, during an official visit by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He made the pledge after a young Liberian boy who lost his arm in the Liberian war explained his ordeal.

Namibia: Education – the road ahead


Classrooms, student bursaries and the provision of more vocational training institutions have been identified as the major challenges to be resolved in order to improve the country's education system. Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba spoke to New Era on various issues regarding the country's education system, until recently under heavy criticism from various quarters.

Sierra Leone: Sudan to offer scholarships


The government of Sudan is to provide scholarships for Sierra Leoneans to study in Sudan in various fields of study. The scholarships will cover traveling to and fro, lodging, feeding, allowance, tuition and other expense for students pursuing courses in engineering, computer, medicine and Islamic Studies.

South Africa: From “publish or perish” to “publish and vanish”


"Publish or perish" is the warning given many academics at the start of their careers. But it's publication of a very particular kind that scholarly researchers crave. They hunger for their discoveries to achieve immortality in something seldom found on the shelves of your neighbourhood bookstore: specialised academic journals, speckled with footnotes and dense with terminology.

Uganda: Need to improve the lives of children to consolidate progress


Uganda has been seen as a model for development, but must now make a commitment to uphold the rights of the more than 3 million children who remain vulnerable to poverty, disease and insecurity, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said as President Yoweri Museveni’s new government took over. Speaking on the occasion of Mr. Museveni’s inauguration to his third term as elected President on Friday, a UNICEF representative in Uganda praised the policies and legislation that had resulted in an increase in primary school enrolment from 3 million in 1997 to 7.3 million in 2005.

Zambia: Pupils riot over teacher’s strike


Police in Kitwe yesterday (May 15) arrested seven pupils from Mindolo High School and Mama Monty Basic School after they ran amok and destroyed school property. The pupils also temporarily blocked the Chingola road using rocks and threatened to stone motorists, who were forced to turn back on either side of the road. The pupils were protesting over the current strike by teachers in Kitwe.

Racism & xenophobia

Global: Stocktaking on efforts to combat racism on the Internet


A study by the Simon Wiesenthal Center entitled "Digital Terrorism & Hate 2005" reported a 25% annual increase in websites promoting racial hatred and violence, which indicates that the problem of racism and xenophobia is growing over the Internet. These disturbing developments have naturally informed the global fight against racism. A significant number of international instruments acknowledge and attempt to address the problem without limiting freedom of expression.

Global: UN indigenous peoples session


The Fifth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will take place from 15 to 26 May 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. The theme of the fifth session of the Permanent Forum is The Millennium Development Goals and indigenous peoples: Re-defining the Millennium Development Goals.


Africa: Glaciers expected to disappear


Mountain glaciers in equatorial Africa are on their way to disappearing within two decades, a team of British researchers reports. Located in the Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the glaciers will be gone within 20 years if current warming continues, the researchers report in this week's online edition of Geophysical Research Letters. The researchers blamed an increase in air temperatures in recent decades for contributing to the decline of the ice fields.

Global: How can tour operators contribute to sustainable development?


Many tourism businesses realise that the principles of sustainable development can make good business, as well as moral, sense. Increasing numbers of tour operators are accepting that they have a responsibility to society and the environment, globally and locally, as well as to their shareholders.

Global: New UN study puts dollar value on nature's worth


A new United Nations-backed study attempts to affix a dollar value on some nature areas, but critics view the "Eco-nomics" figures with skepticism. The study says that assigning values to nature -- such as $3,500 for a tropical forest in Cameroon and $10,000 for a Caribbean coral reef -- promotes the environment because it counteracts the thinking that ecological systems have no value.

Global: The benefits of working together - small and medium forest enterprises


Small and medium enterprises account for a huge proportion of the businesses and jobs in the world’s forests. These enterprises can be easy for poor people to set up, but without support, the challenges of being small threaten their survival. The best way forward is usually finding a common cause and working together as an association.

Global: The climate of poverty: facts, fear and hope


Climate change is now threatening development goals for billions of the world’s poorest people – with a clear danger that recent gains in reducing poverty will be thrown into reverse in coming decades. A staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century. That is the sombre message of 'The climate of poverty: facts, fears and hope', a new report from Christian Aid, which calls on the UK government to lead rich countries in taking urgent action to curb global warming.

Kenya: China boosts rural electrification


China has pledged to give a Sh3.1 billion cash boost to Kenya to fund rural electrification. Sh1.4 billion will facilitate the construction of two pilot power transmission lines in Western Kenya. Another Sh1.7 billion will be spent by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to precure electricity equipment. This is the first local electricity project to be financed by the Chinese government.

Tanzania: Floods displace more than 19,000


Floods in northern Tanzania have displaced more than 19,000 people, submerged close to 1,000 homes and destroyed crops, a local government official said on Monday (15 May). The floods in Moshi, near Mount Kilimanjaro, mostly affected residents who had previously been hit by drought, which had threatened up to 11 million people with starvation. "I think we have more than 19,000 displaced. Up to now there are 998 houses that are under water," James ole Millya, Moshi Rural district commissioner, told Reuters by telephone.

Tanzania: Set to produce electricity from Indian Ocean


It sounds funny indeed. After half a year of crippling power cuts in Tanzania, nobody had thought about potential electricity generation options other than natural gas, coal, solar, thermal, and probably wind farms. Now, investors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have come with a seemingly curious idea: They want to risk USD168million of seed capital for investing in a power generation facility using Tanzania's Indian Ocean's territorial waters.

Land & land rights

Ethiopia: Evaluating land policies in the highlands


People living in the rural highlands of Ethiopia suffer from land degradation, low agricultural productivity and poverty. Finding solutions to these connected problems requires policymakers to understand the potential impacts of different interventions.

Global: From seed to plate - valuing local food systems


Most of the world's food is grown and processed by small-scale farmers, pastoralists and fisher-folk. Many people depend on these activities for incomes, including food producers, processors, retailers and consumers. However, development policies often ignore, neglect or actively undermine local food systems.

Rwanda: Orphans denied land rights


The genocide in 1994, combined with the impacts of HIV/AIDS, has created thousands of orphans in Rwanda. These orphans – many the heads of households – urgently need land use rights. A weakened system of guardianship and increasing pressures on land often prevent this.

Zimbabwe: Squatters rounded up in Harare


Police in the Zimbabwean capital Harare have rounded up more than 10 000 squatters and street children and plan to send them to rural areas, reports said on Monday (May 15). Under a fresh clean-up operation codenamed Round-Up, the police netted 10 224 people, many of them vagrants, touts and what the authorities call "disorderly elements", said the state-controlled Herald newspaper. "We are going to relocate some of the vagrants and street children to their homes," said police spokesperson Munyaradzi Musariri.

Zimbabwe: To farm, or not to farm?


Recent moves by the Zimbabwean government to allow white farmers whose land was confiscated to resume farming, have drawn a variety of responses. "They killed people; they threw them out of their farms, they destroyed the economy. Now they want us to rescue them," Gerry Whitehead, whose land was seized in 2002, told IPS. However, Doug Taylor-Freeme -- president of the predominantly white Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) -- said there appeared to be "a conducive environment to progress with this matter."

Media & freedom of expression

Kenya: Warning of more media raids


The Kenyan security minister has warned he may order new raids against the media just days after a deadly attack on a radio station. The minister warned that the government would not hesitate to use force against any news group that demeans the state. "No body will be allowed to harm the government and if they do that we will teach them a lesson," he said. Last Friday, eight hooded gunmen raided Christian radio station Hope FM, killing a guard and injuring two more.

Mozambique: Chissano son faces Cardoso probe


Reporters Without Borders welcomed as an "important signal" the decision to put Nyimpine Chissano, older son of ex Mozambican president, Joachim Chissano, under investigation in connection with the inquiry into the November 2000 murder of Carlos Cardoso, according to a statement, reports The step will allow the justice system to probe the possible implication of the former head of state's son in the murder of the country's best known investigative journalist, editor of the daily Metical, who was investigating a massive financial scandal at the time of his death.

Nigeria: Calls for third presidential term increase pressure on news media


Reacting to a heavy-handed secret police raid on a TV station on 14 May, Reporters Without Borders has urged the Nigerian authorities to show more restraint towards the press and said it feared there could be more attacks on journalists critical of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term.

Somalia: Journalists struggle to work effectively amid fighting in Mogadishu


Reporters Without Borders and its Somali partner organization, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), paid tribute to journalists trying to work in strife-torn Mogadishu, where an alliance of warlords is battling an Islamist militia, and offered advice on how to do their jobs effectively. "The effect of the fighting on the media's capacity to report confidently and independently is worrying," said press freedom organisations Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ).

Tanzania: Old laws stifle growth of free press


Tanzania is still suffering from the hangover of state control of the media, which was practised from 1965 until 1992. According to a report by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) entitled, So This is Democracy? The State of Media Freedom and Freedom of Expression in Southern Africa for 2005, under the multiparty system there has been a dramatic increase in the number of privately-owned newspapers competing with government media. However, the report says that the weak economic base of media owners has also led to alliances between the state, private media owners and business tycoons at the expense of press freedom.

News from the diaspora

Africa: 'Africa for the Africans'


In this essay Dr Paul Moorcraft argues that Bob Geldof and Tony Blair should leave Africa well alone. "Western governments can help by encouraging the African diaspora to return. Western banks should also play a role in repatriating more of the billions that corrupt dictators have stolen from their people."

Conflict & emergencies

Côte d’Ivoire: Peace as an option


For the first time in nearly four years, Ivorian political actors seem tempted by peace, says the International Crisis Group. "International intervention, the exhaustion of a population overwhelmed by its leaders’ bad faith, and a good start by Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny have primed the country for presidential elections, meant to be held before 31 October 2006. However, progress is far from irreversible," says the ICG.

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia and Eritrea given more time to meet UN demands


The Security Council on Monday (15 May) gave Ethiopia and Eritrea until the end of May to meet its demands that they accept the border drawn for them by outside experts and end all restrictions on UN peacekeepers. Should they fail to meet the UN demands, a resolution adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council pledged to quickly scale back the UN force preserving a shaky peace between the two former foes.

Liberia: UN sanctions should be lifted - ECOWAS


United Nations sanctions on exports of timber and diamonds from Liberia should be lifted if the West African country's economy is to recover from years of war, one of the region's top diplomats said on Monday (15 May). The trade prohibitions were imposed on Liberia during the final years of its civil war, a diamond-fuelled conflict which killed a quarter of a million people, devastated its once vibrant economy and left its infrastructure in ruins.

Somali: Islamist raid breaks truce


At least five people have been killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, when Islamist gunmen attacked a warlord, breaking a three-day truce. A compound belonging to warlord Mohamed Omar Habeb Dheere north of Mogadishu was overrun by the Islamist gunmen. The attack coincided with a rally intended to call for peace, following the death of at least 140 people. Hundreds of demonstrators chanted anti-US slogans, accusing the US of backing the alliance of warlords.

Sudan: Can Darfur's peace survive?


No-one was expecting Darfur's peace agreement to bring about an immediate transformation on the ground. But the short time since the deal in Abuja has shown the size of the challenge ahead. The Sudan Liberation Army, the region's biggest rebel movement is split in two. One faction lead by the wiry Minni Minnawi has signed the deal while the other faction under Abdul Wahid Mohammed al-Nur demands further concessions from the Sudanese government. In Gereida and Kalma - two of Darfur's biggest camps - the impact of the deal on the rebels and their supporters could be immediately seen.

Sudan: Fleeing war to face starvation


James Manuen Deng is holding his sobbing two-year-old son Garang, who is wrapped in bandages and blankets. The sick child - named after the late southern rebel leader John Garang - nearly died before being admitted to the therapeutic feeding centre in Nyamlell in Aweil North, a county in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Deng is a member of the Dinka ethnic community in the southern Sudanese state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, which comprises the counties of Aweil North, East, South and West. Deng fled his village during the war-induced famine that ravaged the region in 1988 and claimed approximately 70,000 lives. He returned home in March, on the run again, this time fleeing the escalating violence in the neighbouring state of South Darfur.

Sudan: UN prepares to deploy peace keepers in Darfur


A United Nations Security Council resolution has paved the way for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan's western Darfur region and threatened sanctions against any parties standing in the way of peace. In a resolution adopted on Tuesday, the Council called on the African Union (AU) to agree with the UN and other regional and international bodies on a strategy to strengthen its 7000-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur before a UN mission is deployed.

Uganda: Museveni gives rebels ultimatum


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has given the leaders of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) a two-month ultimatum "to peacefully end terrorism" or face a combined force of Ugandan and southern Sudanese troops. Although the Ugandan government has offered amnesty to LRA members who surrender, Museveni has repeatedly rejected the possibility of pardoning any high-ranking officers. However, according to a government statement, "[I]f he [Joseph Kony, LRA leader] got serious about a peaceful settlement, the government would guarantee him safety."

Internet & technology

Global: Beyond tools - technology as a feminist agenda


The question is what is the feminist agenda within the ICTs and gender debate. The issues of women's sexuality, representation and exploitation are obvious. The connection that needs to be made is to shift the understanding of ICTs from a ghettoized area relevant only to those who are privileged enough to have technological access, to the larger framework of women's human rights, which includes violence against women.

Global: Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations


The purpose of the Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations (JIITO) is to encourage authors to develop and publish quality papers that address in a balanced manner all three entities signified in its title: information, information technology (IT), and the organizational context.

Global: The politics and ideology of copyright


A new document from the Copy South Research Group argues that: "We are told that we live in the ‘digital revolution’ era and that we can communicate across the globe as we never could before. In fact, restrictive copyright laws still act as a serious barrier to sharing and learning from each other. This is particularly true in countries of the South where three quarters of the population live." Download the full document by visiting their website.

Kenya: Ultimatum on cable project


Kenya has demanded an implementation date of the Sh15 billion Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy). The Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication said "if the date is not issued next week," Kenya would instead endorse a similar but parallel project, which would connect Mombasa to Djibouti at a cost of US$60 million.

South Africa: Exposing untapped OSS talent in Soweto


The Meraka Institute's Open Source Centre (OSC) will launch a Soweto office on Friday 12 May, which aims to expose open source talent in the sprawling township just south of Johannesburg. The initial focus of the project will be on creating a wireless mesh network in Soweto to get the township on the Internet.

South Africa: South Africans plug in to broadband


South African ICT market analysts, BMI-TechKnowledge (BMT-T), believes that over 12 million South Africans will be connected to the Internet by 2009. BMI-T's latest research report, The South African Internet Services Market report for 2006, predicts that spending on dial-up will decrease up to 2009, as users migrate to broadband. Dial-up will maintain a high share of connections, but spending on broadband will account for a larger proportion of the market's total value.

Uganda: Model IT fund to wire up rural dwellers


Four years after it was established the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) is yet to realise the dream of helping Ugandan villagers join the global village. Sustained by a one per cent levy off gross annual revenue of communications and service providers, the RCDF was established to ensure rural communications development through growth of infrastructure networks in the country. This was done after the government realised that there were likely to be imbalances in communication services between the rural and urban areas.

West Africa: ICT Media Production Contest


This award recognises print articles or a radio production on the theme 'ICT, Democratic Governance and Development in West and Central Africa.' Print and broadcast media journalists from the region may apply for consideration for one of the four prizes of F CFA 500,000 to 1,000,000.

Fundraising & useful resources

Africa: Call for Papers: Contemporary African women's writing of resistance


The editors of a second anthology in the series Women Writing Resistance seek writing by African women regarding resistance to particular challenges or oppressions faced by women in Africa today. Of especial interest are personal narratives, testimony, interviews, short stories, poetry, short plays, folktales, and lyrics. Visual art considered. Topics may include HIV/AIDS; FGM; sharia law; poverty and lack of access to education, health care, credit, political power; armed conflict, rape as a weapon of war and displacement; challenges of emigration and exile, legal or illegal; polygamy, abuse and lack of power in heterosexual relationships; resistant sexualities; intergenerational conflict and resistance; tradition vs. modernity; more. Contact: Tayo Jolaosho at [email protected]

Global: 1325 Award


This award honours an individual or a civil society organisation in a conflict country or region that has developed groundbreaking and effective initiatives to promote the rights of women and to increase their participation at decision-making levels in peace processes. Winners will receive a sum of EUR 15,000 and a work of art made for the occasion, as well as a tour through the Netherlands to present their work to a variety of diverse audiences.

Global: Conflict websites


The Institute of Development Studies is publishing a pocket-sized guide to help people find some of the best websites on a wide range of development issues. They are requesting help to select 5 favourite websites about the issue of conflict. Send no more than 150 words indicating what you use the website for and why you recommend it. If your entry is chosen, it will be credited to you and you will receive 5 free copies of the book to share with your colleagues and friends.

Global: Development Award for new talent


The Global Development Awards and Medals Competition was launched in 2000 and seeks to unearth new talent and support innovative ideas. In the past we have supported research on a range of issues including pro-poor market reform, governance and development, HIV/AIDS and the delivery of health systems; reforms, interest groups and civil society; conflict, human security and migration; and the role of institutions for development in the context of globalization.

Global: Fund for Aids call for proposals


The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was set up in January 2002 as a financial instrument, complementary to existing programs addressing these three diseases. The purpose of the Global Fund is to raise and invest large amounts of additional finance to support the rapid scale up of measures to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Global: Junior Challenge Award 2006


This award rewards best practices related to the use of new technologies in education and training of young people. The competition is open to schools and universities, public and private institutions, non-profit and youth associations, large and small companies, research centres, and individuals of any age.

Global: The Indigenous World 2006


The new edition of IWGIA's Yearbook The Indigenous World has now been published in English and Spanish featuring country reports and a section on international processes relating to indigenous peoples.

Global: Transparency International Integrity Awards

Deadline: June 2, 2006


Transparency International (TI) has opened the call for nominations for its annual Integrity Awards. The deadline for nominations is 2 June 2006. "This is the most prestigious global anti-corruption prize," said Sion Assidon, the Chair of the TI Integrity Awards Committee, a member of the TI Board of Directors and a founder of TI-Morocco. He added, "Each year we honour organisations and individuals who have demonstrated exceptional courage, and have shown outstanding leadership."

Global: World of Children Awards


This award recognises ordinary people worldwide whose lives are dedicated to doing extraordinary work on behalf of children in three categories: World of Children Health Award; World of Children Humanitarian Award; and the Founder's Award. The first two award winners will receive US$50,000 Awards; the winner of the Founder's Award will receive US$15,000.

Southern Africa: Scholarships available


Each year, the University of Edinburgh provides two academic scholarships for students from Southern African countries to pursue Masters or doctoral studies in any subject. The University covers the overseas rates fees and University accommodation, but additional living expenses are not presently met.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

South Africa: Invitation to a public conversation on gender based violence


Solidarity for African Women's Rights (SOAWR), OXFAM and the Women's Legal Centre invite you to attend a public conversation on ‘The politicization of gender-based violence in Africa: Has the personal become too political?’ Speakers include Dr Desiree Lewis, Senior Lecturer, Women and Gender Studies, University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa; Hannah Foster, Executive Director, African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS, Banjul, The Gambia; and Faith Kasiva, Coalition on Violence against women, (COVAW), Nairobi, Kenya. The event will take place on 24 May, 2006 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at Burgess Park Hotel, in Pretoria.

South Africa: Overcoming unemployment – strategies for giving effect to the right to work


The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) is organising and hosting a conference from 12 – 15 June 2006 with the theme “South Africa’s Unemployment Crisis: Overcoming Unemployment – Strategies for giving effect to the Right to Work.” Participants will include activists from Right to Work Campaign Forums from 6 provinces, a host of older and newer social movements, international guests and individuals committed to eradicating unemployment. They will deliberate on mass unemployment – a key feature of neoliberal capitalist globalisation – and the strategies for combating unemployment in South Africa and internationally.

Tanzania: Sustainable Livelihood Approaches to Poverty


MS-Training Centre for Development Cooperation is calling for applicants to a course on Sustainable Livelihood Approaches to Poverty to be offered from 5th to 23rd June 2006. For further information on this course please contact the Course Administrator at [email protected] and visit our website

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