Pambazuka News 259: Women’s rights: A tale of two national assemblies
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Featured this week
FEATURED: Ahead of the July AU Summit to be held from 25 June -2 July in Banjul, The Gambia, we carry a series of articles on the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa. Faith Cheruiyot begins the series by comparing the experiences of The Gambia and Niger
COMMENT AND ANALYSIS:
- Roselynn Musa shows why the Protocol offers hope for all
- Khédija El Madani discusses women’s rights and Islam, in this article translated from the French version of Pambazuka News (www.pambazuka.org/fr)
- Niger voted down the Protocol in early June. Sibongile Ndashe urges a rethink
- It’s also June 16, the 30th anniversary of the Soweto uprising. Percy Ngonyama says SA youth still find themselves in a dire situation
LETTERS: A reader poem on disability
PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul Raheem discusses the state of South African universities
BLOGGING AFRICA: Sokari Ekine is back with her round-up of the African blogosphere
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: News on AU/CSO forum
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Latest links to news on Sudan and Somalia
HUMAN RIGHTS: East African police charged with failing to reform
WOMEN AND GENDER: Nigerian women meet on arms proliferation
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Côte d’Ivoire protection needs remain
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Calm returns after Guinea strike
DEVELOPMENT: Caution urged on Nigerian debt payments
CORRUPTION: NGOs endorse accountability charter
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: G8 slammed on health commitments
EDUCATION: Broken promises and the Day of the African Child
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: FIFA to use World Cup to fight racism?
ENVIRONMENT: Liberia timber dealer convicted
LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: Land reform influenced by IMF
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: DRC journalists attacked in election run-up
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Continent connects to the internet
BOOKS AND ARTS: Cape Town Book fair ready to go
PLUS: Internet and Technology; e-Newsletters and Mailings Lists; Fundraising and Useful Resources; Courses, Seminars and Workshops; Jobs.
* Read the recent special edition on trade and justice by clicking on http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/257 Comment by sending mail to [email protected] or online at www.pambazuka.org
Women’s rights: A tale of two National Assemblies in Africa
Ahead of the important July AU Summit to be held from 25 June -2 July in Banjul, The Gambia, contrasting experiences from two largely Islamic West African countries reveal the cutting edge importance of the AU Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa. In the Gambia, Parliamentarians blaze the trail for women’s rights and gender equality by reversing earlier reservations on the Protocol, while in Niger their counterparts vote against its ratification. Faith Cheruiyot in Nairobi interviewed leaders of women’s organisations in the two countries and wrote this article.
The recent decision of the Gambian National Assembly to lift four controversial reservations to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s rights on the Rights of women in Africa on the eve of the upcoming July Assembly of the AU Summit was a remarkable victory for Gambian women’s rights campaigners.
Two years after the Protocol was adopted by the AU Heads of States meeting in July, 2003, the National Assembly of the Gambia approved the Protocol for ratification on 11 March 2005. The Gambian National Assembly debated and approved its ratification with reservations on Articles 5,6,7 and 14.
Article 5 of the Protocol relates to the elimination of harmful practices. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widely practised and deeply entrenched in the Gambia. An estimated 50% to 90% of women in the Gambia have undergone this practice. Many citizens think that this practice is consistent with the Islamic faith and preserves tradition and certain beliefs like increasing the chances of marriageability for girls. Many are also oblivious of the health and reproductive risks involved in continuing with FGM. Consequently, there is no local law prohibiting the practice of FGM as it is not considered a criminal act.
Articles 6 & 7 are the provisions relating to Marriage Separation and Divorce. Due to the significant Islamic population in the Gambia, the majority of the marriages are performed under Islamic law. According to a recent survey, 66% of women respondents disclosed that they were married under 17 years. A further 27% married while under 15 years old.  Arranged, forced marriages and child betrothal are common practice in the Gambia.
Sharia law has been applied in divorce and inheritance matters. Women normally have received a lower proportion of assets distributed through marriage than the males. Most divorce cases never reach the courts but in these few cases women often only receive their removal expenses, maintenance allowances for three months and a token amount for the maintenance of the children if they are assigned to the women.
Polygamy is fully allowed under Sharia law and is very common. There is a tendency for women to lose out in modern polygamous relationships. In some cases proper cause and financial support is not given to the woman and her children especially if she is not the favourite of the husband. In other circumstances, men cannot afford to provide the support because of their meagre earnings. Invariably, there is a direct link between polygamy and financial difficulties in marriage. 
The Married Women’s Property Act gives married women the right to own property and an equal capacity to enter into contract, customs and traditions. While an important safeguard for women, most proceeds end up belonging to the husband even though the wife is always expected to contribute to the family’s farming or business.
The provision of Article 14 of the Protocol relates to reproductive rights of women. This is a critical issue for women. The high rate of maternal mortality (10/1000) live births is related to the lack of access to adequate health services including pre-natal care, safe contraception and safe abortion. Young women do not have access to family planning services and the level of unwanted teenage pregnancies are high. 
Abortion is a criminal offence, except to preserve the life of the mother. Binte Sidbe, the Executive Director of the Association for the Promotion of Girls and Women’s Advancement (APGWAC) speaks on this problem: “Recently baby dumping has become a very big problem in the Gambia. It is illegal here to commit an abortion even though the mother to be cannot take care of the child. We had hoped that with the ratification of the Protocol such activities would only be in the past.”
Following the “dirty” ratification on March 11th 2005, many civil society groups in the Gambia, including the Africa Centre for Human Rights and Democracy studies (ACDHRS), Child Protection Alliance (CPA), Institute for Human Rights & Development (IHRD), UNICEF, lecturers from the University of Gambia, GAMCOTRAP, Management Development Institute (MDI), and Association for the Promotion of Girls and Women’s Advancement (APGWAC), embarked on a long battle and dialogue with policy makers to remove the reservations placed.
Hannah Forster, ACHRS Executive Director reflected recently: “ We embarked on a long process that involved government officials. We set up a Gender Action team with many organisations to target the Justice and Women’s Affairs Department, the African Commission in Banjul. We wrote many articles in the newspapers, did many TV interviews, planned and implemented protest marches directed at the National Assembly. We split the heavy tasks among our organisations. We were few but worked very hard with the National Assembly Members (NAMS). Their support was very crucial to the passing of the Bill. One of the major activities we carried out was to distribute copies of the Protocol to each NAM, after an initial discovery that the NAMS were really ignorant of most of the laws and different Human Rights Instruments.”
Working with grassroots women was one other important strategy. Once they sensitised the women they used their collective voice to put pressure on their NAMs. “The NAMs need votes from these women therefore pay special attention to their constituency members, ” said Binta Sidibe.
The advocates faced many challenges including gross ignorance and resistance to change. The NAMs were hesitant to intellectually engage and build their capacity on issues that are of concern to females and youth.  They thought that any instrument stressing the rights of women was a western ideology being imposed on the Africans. Islamic scholar groups and rural men were against the Protocol who saw the full ratification of the Protocol as giving the women more rights that were equivalent to theirs. Hannah Forster further stated: “We did a thankless job, a very difficult and calculated task, but in the end, the results were very satisfying.”
The women’s organisations were convinced that reversing reservations was very important as Gambian laws have huge gaps with special regard to personal laws. The Constitution of the Gambia does have provisions, which includes the right to equality and non-discrimination. However, the Constitution specifically exempts from these provisions laws relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance. 
The reversal of the reservations and full ratification of the Protocol by the Gambia on April 25th 2006 was a big breakthrough on advocacy around the Maputo Protocol with the support of all organisations involved in the process.  Dr. Isatou Touray the Secretary General of GAMCOTRAP and others commended the National Assembly Members for ratifying the Protocol and expressed appreciation to the Government for taking the bold step to give the women’s bill full ratification.
With a major milestone having been reached in the full ratification of the Protocol by the Gambia, the question turns to how to turn laws into reality on the ground. As it is, there is a wide gap between the Gambia’s international obligations, its stated policies and reality. One of the main factors that impede the effective protection of human rights is the dominance of customary and religious laws and a range of traditional, cultural and religious beliefs that perpetuate discriminatory and harmful practices. 
To this end there is a need for increased education, both formal and informal, to all grassroots of the Gambia on the risks involved on FGM practices. The Government ought to demonstrate its full commitment and collaborate with NGO’s that are already working in these areas by providing both technical and financial support to them. The Gambia must take all measures to put an end to the practice of FGM, discourage its proponents and enforce punishments for its perpetrators.
The Protocol has now set that men and women shall be regarded as equal partners in marriage and there should be national laws that guarantee the minimum age to be 18 years. Public awareness on the possibilities for an educated, secure and empowered population must follow.
There is definitely a ray of hope towards reversing the trends and the statistics, however it has to take time. Attention must turn in the Gambia towards the measures and strategies that the government will put in place to domesticate all the provisions of the women’s Protocol. On domestication of the Protocol Binta Sidibe further said: “ The bulk of the work still rests on us the NGO’s. We need to continue the lobbying of our government to prioritise the domestication process. We are positive that once we intensify the pressure towards the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections in September and January respectively, we could make headway.”
While Gambian men and women can look forward to a time when the Protocol will be a lived reality, the women of Niger might never come close to realising the benefits of the Protocol. On June 3rd 2006, the male dominated Parliament of Niger voted down the ratification of the Protocol. The Government spokesman Mr Mohamed Ben Ahmed told the state newspaper The Sahel: “The rejection of the motion is a serious set back for Niger, but this is a proper application of domestic principles.” 
Many MPs expressed concerns of passing the Protocol on issues of reproductive rights, the freedom for women to choose how many children to have, the abortion debate and inheritance. Niger shares similar religious and cultural practices with the Gambia. It is a predominantly Muslim country where practices like FGM, forced early marriages and polygamy are common in many parts of the country. Many women aged 15-49 have undergone some form of FGM in Niger. This number varies significantly along ethnic, religious, regional and educational status lines. This practice in Niger is an extreme example of discrimination based on sex. It is often used as a way of controlling women’s sexuality and is closely associated with the girls’ marriageability. Mothers choose to protect them from being ostracized, beaten shunned or disgraced. 
The Niger is the first African country to refuse to ratify the Protocol in its entirety. Yet, women’s organisations are convinced they can turn this around. Madame Djataou Oussa, le presidente du conseil d’Administration of the Co-ordinators of Women’s NGO’s of Niger (CONGAFEN) said: “It’s a step behind for us and we are demoralised about this. However, we are planning the next step. Our aim is to work towards ensuring that this bill comes back to parliament for fresh debate in three months time.”
The struggle continues for the women of Niger. CONGAFEN and other organisations working at the forefront say that they shall now accelerate further sensitisation of the Parliamentarians. Perhaps the advocates in Niger ought to borrow a leaf or two from their Gambian counterparts.
* Faith Cheruiyot is a Kenyan woman lawyer currently attached to the Pan African programme of Oxfam GB.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
 Davies Iber, ISHR WAC “Factors inhibiting women’s rights in West Africa”
 Supra no.5
 Gambia report to the Committee of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
 The Point newspaper, “ For health of women, for Health of the world, no more violence.” 23rd Nov, 2005.
 Equality Now submission to the U.N Human Rights Committee, 75th Session, July 2002.
 Supra above.
 Supra note 2
 The Daily Nation Thursday 8th June, 2006.
 Niger FGM country profile: UNICEF Niger.
The promise of the protocol
Recent efforts to document the real situation of women in Africa have produced some alarming statistics, writes Roselynn Musa, who proceeds to outline the provisions of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa that offer some hope for women on the continent.
Equality is the cornerstone of every democratic society which aspires to social justice and human rights. In virtually all societies and spheres of activity women are subject to inequalities in law and in practice. In Africa, while the causes, consequences and manifestations may vary from sub-region to sub-region, country-to-country, and even province-to-province, discrimination against women is widespread. The situation is both caused and exacerbated by the existence of discrimination in the family, community and workplace and perpetuated by the survival of stereotypes, cultural and religious practices and beliefs detrimental to women.
Recent efforts to document the real situation of women in Africa have produced some alarming statistics on the economic and social gaps between men and women:
- Out of 1.9 million victims of conflict in Sub- Saharan Africa in the 1990s 63% were women and children
- In the Republic of Congo 40,000 women have experienced some form of sexual violence since 1998
- More than half of Africa’s 6 million refugees and 17 million internally displaced people are women
- Between 1990-2005 women occupied 14.2% of parliamentary seats in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 8.5% in Northern Africa
- Literacy rates in Sub- Saharan Africa for young males is 77% as against 68% for women
- The number of women in wage earning employment between 1990- 2003 is 35.8 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 21,5 in Northern Africa, yet women are said to constitute about 70% of the world’s population
- UNAID’s statistics show that in 2003 out of the 23 million adults with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, 57% were women
The United Nations (UN), since its formation in 1945 has been at the forefront of advocacy for equal rights and the enjoyment of rights and freedoms, hence the entrenchment of the principle of equality and non- discrimination in its international and universal human rights instruments. Equality of the rights of women is a basic principle of the United Nations.  The International Bill of Human Rights  strengthens and extends the emphasis on the equal rights of women. One of the most significant developments in the field of human rights was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 1948. Based on the equal right of every human being, the declaration proclaims the entitlement of everyone to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedom. 
Despite these Provisions women in Africa and elsewhere in the world continue to suffer blatant discrimination in the political, social, economic and cultural spheres. Consequently, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a landmark convention and in fact a global action towards redressing the existing inequalities, evolved with very systematic and far reaching consequences for women’s human rights globally. The convention sets out, in legally binding form, internationally accepted principles on the rights of women.
Why a separate Protocol for women?
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), also referred to as the Banjul Charter, was adopted in 1981 by the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union (AU). This document affirms both individual and collective rights and this distinguishes it from other international human rights treaties. It recognises African values and cultures and also emphasises both rights and duties. It provides for special protocols or agreements, if necessary, to supplement the provisions of the African Charter.  This serves as a legal basis for creating the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (The Protocol), which lays down a comprehensive set of rights to which all African women are entitled.
Why then was it necessary to have a separate instrument for African women? The ACHPR, just like other international human rights instruments before it, did not effectively redress the disadvantages and injustices experienced by African women by reason only of their being women, nor was it constructed to take into account women’s situations. Historically, human rights discourses started in the fields of political and civil rights - rights to life, freedom of association, etc. In this regard, the fundamental significance placed on human rights was directed towards the public rather than the private realm. Since men have largely dominated the public domain, this meant two things: that human rights came to be defined by men; and that these rights protected mostly men.
Substantive provisions of the Protocol
Article 2: Elimination of discrimination against women
In many African communities women are denied their basic legal rights, either implicitly or explicitly, including the right to participate fully in politics and the right to own property. Such instances of entrenched discrimination can easily be identified as discrimination. At the same time, not every differentiation will constitute discrimination.
In most African societies, men have used culture and tradition to justify discrimination against women. Male dominated ideologies in Africa have tended to use culture to justify oppressive gender relations. African governments could use the standards of the Protocol to remove all negative stereotyped cultures that discriminate against women and hinder their full advancement.
It is not enough to merely insert anti-discrimination clauses into the legislation. The Protocol also requires State parties to protect women’s rights effectively and provide women with opportunities for recourse and protection against discrimination. They should incorporate sanctions into legislation that deters discrimination against women. States party to the Protocol must take steps to eliminate discrimination in both public and private spheres. It is not enough to strive for equality for women vis-à-vis public authorities; states must also work to secure non-discrimination even within the family.
Article 3: Right to dignity
Every human being has an inherent right to be treated with dignity. This provision makes it incumbent for states to strive to remove the social, cultural and traditional patterns, which perpetuate gender role stereotypes, and to create an overall framework in society that promotes the realisation of full rights for African women. The prevalence of gender- role stereotypes is seen most particularly in the traditional concept of African women’s role in the domestic sphere.
The family as an agent of socialisation assigns different statuses, values and roles to boys and girls. In many countries in Africa discrimination against women starts before birth with parental and social attitudes that promote a preference for sons over daughters. Children of both sexes should be accorded equal opportunities to grow and develop to their full potential as equal partners for sustainable development and peace.
Many African women are denied an education because their role is considered primarily as one of caring for the family. This article therefore seeks to reform social and cultural traditions and practices and creates a common civil system that upholds the dignity of women as equal partners with men in society.
Article 4: The Rights to Life, Integrity and Security of the Person
Despite the efforts of women’s human rights activists, the spate of both public and private violence against women in Africa has not abated. Women are subject to violence and to threats of violence in their daily lives, physically and psychologically. Violence deprives women of their ability to achieve full equality. It threatens their freedom, safety and autonomy. Many cases of violence against women go unreported, particularly when they take place in the home, because of fear or shame. The psychological, emotional and economic conditions of women often alter their perception of reality such that they see themselves as completely helpless and unable to make choices. In some cases the abused women do not even see themselves as victims.
Although governments across Africa are now more concerned with the issue than in the past, few have taken legal, constitutional steps to stop the practice. The Protocol enjoins state parties to 'enact and enforce laws to prohibit all forms of violence against women including unwanted or forced sex, whether the violence takes place in private or public'. Unless this is done African women will not be able to enjoy fully the rights guaranteed in the Protocol.
This article charges state parties to take appropriate and effective measures to address issues of peace education, punishment for perpetrators of violence against women, rehabilitation of victims of such violence, trafficking in women, unauthorised medical and scientific experiments on women, opposition to death penalties on pregnant or nursing women, and to provide adequate budgetary and other resources for the implementation and monitoring of action aimed at preventing and eradicating violence against women.
Article 5: Elimination of Harmful Practices
Some cultures in Africa perpetuate traditional practices that are harmful to the health of women and constitute a direct violation of their fundamental human rights. Examples of such practices include Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), maltreatment of widows, male child preference, domestic violence, early/ forced marriage etc. In this connection, the Protocol has provisions that aim to improve the image and role of African women by improving public awareness through formal and informal education and outreach programmes.
Articles 6 and 7: Marriage, separation, divorce and annulment of marriage
Women are discriminated against in marriage and family law, sometimes as wives and sometimes as daughters. In all categories of marriage in Africa (statutory, customary and religious) the husband is assumed to be the head of the family and the provider (and hence able to make decisions and receive benefits for the family). Wife battering (called ‘chastisement’) is accepted as a norm in some cultures and there is no minimum age for marriage. Furthermore, wives have lesser rights in choice of marriage partner, divorce or child custody and have lesser right to inheritance.
The Protocol provides that women and men should enjoy equal rights and be regarded as equal partners in marriage. Marriage will take place only with the full consent of both parties. Cases of forced and early marriage persist in Africa and the situation of the girl child remains a matter of concern. The Protocol also requires that marriages are registered in accordance with national laws in order to be legally recognised. In cases of separation, divorce or annulment, women and men should have the right to an equitable share of the joint property deriving from the marriage.
Article 8: Access to Justice and Equal Protection by the Law
Some forms of discrimination against women stem from the varying understandings and beliefs about what society or culture prescribes for women. Since most family issues never go to court for resolution, it is the often conservative and restrictive everyday beliefs of husbands, brothers, fathers, cousins, uncles and nephews, which govern women’s lives. In this regard the Protocol provides that women and men are equal before the law and shall have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. States parties are to ensure effective women’s access to judicial and legal services, including legal aid, sensitise everyone to the rights of women and reform existing discriminatory laws and practices in order to promote and protect the rights of women.
Article 9: Right to Participation in the Political and Decision-Making Processes
Women’s equal rights to participate in decision-making are beyond a question of democracy and good governance; it is also a necessary condition for the effective recognition of women’s interests, without which the objectives of sustainable equality and development will never be achieved. Caution is needed, however, as the participation of women in government does not necessarily translate into pro-woman policies. The value of this aspect of the Protocol is therefore predicated not only on taking part in government, but in doing so in a way that is consistent with the specific needs of women.
Decision-making involvement is imperative to the Protocol, which states that women must be able to participate in government and politics. While women are prominent in grassroots organisations, they are left out of the vitally important decision-making at policy level, and so their specific concerns and needs are ignored.
Article 10: Right to peace
Women are rarely included in decision-making on conflict prevention, resolution and management, or even in peace-building initiatives. Women’s voices go unheard during formal peace negotiations, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, the creation of new constitutions, elections, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and the establishment of judicial systems. This occurs even though the violence perpetuated against women is exacerbated during times of conflict, and they make up the majority of all victims. Women and children are the most vulnerable and at the receiving end of most of the worst excesses and abuses in situations of conflicts.
The Protocol defends the right of women to a peaceful existence and the participation of women in the promotion and maintenance of peace. State parties are to take appropriate measures to ensure the increased participation of women in the peace process through the promotion of a peace culture; protection of refugees, asylum seekers, returnees, and displaced persons; and reduced military expenditure in favour of spending on social development.
Article 11: Protection of women in armed conflict
Conflict is a critical part of transformation and change, restructuring the social relationship between peoples and also within their own groups. Generalised and unnecessary suffering result when latent conflicts escalate into confrontation. Several African countries have been, and some still are, embroiled in war, civil strife and conflict caused by a combination of factors including massive violations of human rights and ethnic violence. These situations usually impact heavily on women and children, resulting in violence, involuntary displacement and flight from their country of origin. Violations of the fundamental rights of women and girls are widespread during times of armed conflict. These include torture, rape and murder and should not be condoned.
Towards this direction state parties are to respect the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in conflict situations and protect women affected by conflicts making sure that perpetrators are brought to justice before a competent criminal jurisdiction. State parties shall also ensure that no child, especially girls under eighteen years take part in hostilities.
Article 12: Education and Training
African women face a sombre scene filled with economic and socio-political problems which hinder their efforts at meeting basic needs. The lack of education for a considerable number of African women prevents society as a whole from facing these problems with vigour and determination. If the situation of women in Africa is to change for the better the quality of education must not only be improved, but women and girls should have easy access to education, while overcoming every hurdle that hinders their active participation in the educational process.
To this regard the Protocol guarantees an education for women and girls with the intention of breaking down social and cultural barriers, which have discouraged and even excluded women and girls from the benefits of regular educational programmes as well as promoting equal opportunities for them in all aspects of life.
Article 13: Economic and social welfare rights
Poverty in Africa manifests itself in various forms and has its origin in a lack of income, the unequal distribution of wealth and income, economic recession, drought, heavy debt burdens and unfavourable conditionalities tied to borrowing from international financial institutions, armed conflict, civil strife, etc. More than a third of the people of Africa are unable to meet their most basic needs. The heavy burden of poverty falls disproportionately on women, especially female-headed households. The feminisation of poverty is an ugly reality. Although generally speaking women constitute more than half of the population, they have limited access to and ownership of land and housing yet they provide the greater percentage of food supply.
Women in Africa need to be empowered to participate in economic structures and policy formulation in the production process itself. Women’s empowerment will enhance their capacity to realistically alter the direction of change for their own well-being and that of society as a whole. In this regard, the Protocol recommends promotion of equality of access to employment and equal remuneration for women and men, and ensures transparency in the recruitment, promotion and dismissal of women. It also combats and punishes sexual harassment in the workplace.
Article 14: Health and reproductive rights
Women’s health and reproductive rights are central to the realisation of their potential. Their ability to exercise control over their fertility is a crucial step in enabling them to make the necessary choices in other areas. Women’s, and particularly adolescent girls’, sexuality and fertility pose a high health risk. They contribute significantly to girls’ inability to attain high levels of education and unsafe abortions lead to maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS.
The subordinate position of women and adolescent girls, with younger women being the least empowered, and their lack of access to information, education and communication, health facilities, training, an independent income, property and legal rights, make them particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection. They lack adequate knowledge about the disease and the measures that have been taken to prevent them from infection.
In this regard the Protocol provides women with the right to control their fertility, choose any method of contraception and to have family planning education, while state parties have, among other things, to protect the reproductive rights of women by authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape and incest and where continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or foetus.
If states are to ensure the equality of women and men in access to health care services as is expected of them they would have to remove any legal or social barriers which may operate to prevent or discourage women from making full use of available health care services. Concrete steps therefore need to be taken to ensure access to healthcare services for all women, including those whose access may be impeded through poverty, illiteracy or physical isolation.
Article 15: Right to food security
The struggle against poverty, the economic empowerment of women and the promotion of sustainable livelihoods for women is a moral, political and economic obligation and the responsibility of national governments and the international community. Women and other people living in poverty represent an under-utilisation of productive potential. Women’s deprived rights to development should be recognised. This requires policies that are gender sensitive, including gender-based anti-poverty policies. Besides income poverty, other areas of deprivation for women include social discrimination, exclusion, desertion, physical disability, vulnerability and deprivation. There is also poverty associated with wars, famine, displacement and refugees, unbalanced trade relations and structural adjustment programmes (SAPs).
Some of the measures recommended by the Protocol to combat this are to provide women with access to clean drinking water, sources of domestic fuel, land and the means of producing nutritious food and also adequate systems of supply and storage to ensure food security. One point that is clear however is that unless states parties guarantee women financial independence, they will not have true equality with men because they will not be able to head their own households, own their own homes, or start their own businesses.
Article 16: Right to adequate housing
Despite the active role of African women in the management and creation of urban and rural environments, they are discriminated against in their access to adequate housing and control of land and property. In some countries, legislation, tradition and harmful religious practices prevent women from inheriting and having control over property and so deprive them of their rights to adequate housing. Considering the challenges faced by women in both rural and urban areas, governments should consider that households and household members move from one end of the continuum to the other and it is necessary to provide infrastructure and services along the continuum without putting undue emphasis on one at the expense of the other.
Compared to men, women are more burdened with the rural-urban linkages. They have to move between the extreme ends of the continuum trying to make ends meet for their households. Supporting women’s efforts under the circumstances requires making their daily routine activities such as ensuring availability of water, energy and food easier, be it in the rural, or urban areas. This assurance makes it possible not only to engage in long term economic planning but also avails time for critical thinking and engagement in the socio- economic and political life of their communities. These measures are required if the states are to keep the promise of the Protocol to provide African women equal access to housing and to acceptable living conditions in a healthy environment.
Article 17: Right to a positive cultural context
African societies are products of historical evolution, enriched by diverse cultures. Individuals within those societies have their collective identities as members of families, communities, religious groups, etc. The delicate balance between the rights of the individual and society and the groups within society should be respected. Women, being among the most vulnerable and marginalised, need to be integrated in order to reconnect them with the community by making all the institutions of society more accessible to them. This article addresses discrimination against women in the private sphere, including discrimination in the area of family law.
In this regard, the Protocol provides that women will have the right to live in a positive cultural context and to participate at all levels in the determination of cultural policies. We should not be oblivious to the fact that this area of discrimination, based on long- standing cultural and religious practice is one of the most difficult areas to penetrate and one of the most resistant to change. Yet the drafters of Protocol realised that change in this area is essential in order for African women to attain full equality.
Article 18: Right to a healthy and sustainable environment
Poverty is a major cause and consequence of environmental degradation and is compounded by scarcity, depletion and the mismanagement of resources. Environmental degradation has had, and continues to have, an adverse impact on the population as a whole. Women experience this impact particularly in the traditional divisions of labour. This has resulted in an increase in their workload of domestic chores. Often, women have no choice other than to exploit natural resources in order to survive even when they know about the importance of protecting the environment and its sustainability.
As the majority of the world’s poor, women play decisive roles in managing and preserving biodiversity, water, land and other natural resources, yet their centrality is often ignored or exploited. This means that a chance for better management of those resources is lost, along with opportunities for greater diversity, productivity for human sustenance and economic development. Moreover, while environmental degradation has severe consequences for all humans, it particularly affects women and children.
Towards this end, states shall ensure greater involvement of women in planning, management and preservation of the environment and the sustainable use of natural resources at all levels.
Article 19 Right to sustainable development
Recently, African governments have slowly begun to see the political and socio-economic participation of women as a key factor and catalyst for the accelerated advancement of women and the society as a whole. In this respect, some African governments have established national machineries to be responsible for coordinating the gender perspective in overall national development activities. However, governments still have a lot to do to see that women fully enjoy their right to sustainable development.
For example, in many countries women still do not have the same property rights as men. Traditional property law often discriminates against women in that only male children are able to inherit the family land and husbands have automatic ownership over all of their wife’s property upon marriage. Similarly, legislation in a number of countries establishes that the administration of family property is to be undertaken by the male head of the family – thereby excluding women.
The Protocol enjoins governments to take tangible steps to ensure the participation of women at all levels of decision-making, implementation and evaluation of development policies and programmes, to promote their access to credit, training and skills development and also to ensure that the negative effects of globalisation are reduced to the minimum for women.
Articles 20: Widows’ rights
The need to address the plight of widows cannot be overemphasised. In many African cultures, widows have suffered from a regressive heritage that results in their being ostracised from their communities at worst or being discriminated against at best. It is not uncommon for a widow to be labelled 'a witch' who is responsible for the death of her husband. She is consequently dispossessed of all her family’s assets, denied property rights, and left to grapple alone with her liabilities.
The Protocol states that widows should not to be subjected to inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment, that they should automatically become the custodian of their children, unless this is contrary to the children's interests and welfare, and that they should have the right to marry the person of their choice. It also states that women and men shall have the right to inherit in equitable shares, their parent’s properties.
Article 21: Right to inheritance
In adjudicating on inheritance rights for women there is a wide gap in both law and practice. This is especially so where it allows for the application of customary law under which a marriage was enacted which varies from community to community. In most communities, a woman takes nothing with her upon dissolution of marriage. The fact remains that the legal system allowing application of customary law upon divorce puts women in very vulnerable situations because cultural norms are mostly discriminatory towards women. They therefore get a raw deal even when it comes to legal redress because the outcome will be based upon gender- biased cultural practices and the whims and caprices of gender- blind judges who are themselves products of a predominantly patriarchal culture.
The protocol senses the dire need for gender responsive policies to ensure equitable access to and ownership and control of (both movable and unmovable property) as a step towards achieving the goal of women’s empowerment. It will also be a critical step towards ensuring equitable distribution of resources, poverty alleviation and overall national development.
Article 22 Special protection for elderly women
While women can look forward to a longer life than men, they are expected to continue suffering from gender discrimination even in their old age. Widowhood is more prevalent among women because they live longer and usually marry men older than themselves. Women suffer from high rates of disability at older ages because of the lack of good health care, education and nutrition in earlier life.
The rights of elderly women are being violated without them getting any redress in many African countries. Older women are leaving their communities in fear of being killed, and, if not killed, rejected by their own families. It is not uncommon to find elderly women wandering in town and living as beggars with nobody to care for their sustenance.
It is relieving to know that the Protocol puts the plight of this category of women into perspective, recommending state protection for them and ensuring their right to freedom from violence including sexual abuse, discrimination based on age and the right to be treated with dignity.
Article 23: Special protection of women with disabilities
State parties are to take special measures to ensure the protection of women with disabilities and take specific measures to facilitate their access to employment, professional and vocational training as well as their participation in decision- making and also make sure they are free from violence and discrimination based on their disability.
Article 24: Protection of special women
These include women in detention, poor women and women heads of family. State parties are to ensure their protection from marginalisation and provide an environment suitable to their condition and their special physical, economic and social needs.
The African Court
The promises in the Protocol cannot be actualised merely by the enactment of gender- neutral laws alone. Measures have to be put in place to ensure that African women are able to enjoy the promise of the Protocol. In article 27 of the Protocol, The African Court is bestowed with the responsibility of interpretation of matters arising from the application or implementation of the Protocol. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is to take on the duties of adjudicating matters of the Protocol pending the establishment of the African Court.  The African Court was constituted in February 2006. However, it is sad to note that of the nine Judges appointed to the court only two are women.
Entry into force
The Protocol entered into force in November, 2006, thirty days after the deposit of the fifteenth Instrument of ratification. Nineteen states have presently ratified the protocol, though a few states did so with reservations. The interdependence and indivisibility of all rights is a long-accepted and consistently re-affirmed principle. In practice this means that respect for one proviso cannot be separated from the enjoyment of another proviso. That means for example that genuine economic and social development requires political and educational development to participate in this process. In as much as states can make reservations to some articles before ratification, universality is a desirable principle that should guide African states in ratifying the Protocol. The fact that states could ratify with reservations is a situation of accepting the better of two evils, while none of them is desirable, the lesser evil can be tolerated. While historical, cultural and religious differences must be borne in mind, it is the duty of every state, regardless of its political economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights. I use this opportunity to call on states that have ratified with reservations to emulate the good example set by the Gambia and lift their reservations.
The concept of equality means much more than treating all persons in the same way. Experience has shown that equal treatment of persons in unequal situations will operate to perpetuate, rather than eradicate injustice. True equality can only emerge from efforts directed towards addressing and correcting these situational imbalances. Overall, therefore, despite regional and individual efforts made by the international community and local and international NGOs to improve the status of African women, only modest progress has been made and the Protocol seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel for African women. The Protocol promises to be an extremely useful framework for advancing the rights of women in Africa. Only time will tell if it will actually fulfil these promises or not. However, we must bear in mind that in the final analysis it is the responsibility of all of us, not just the government and its institutions, to ensure an Africa where women enjoy their full human rights on the basis of equality with men.
* Musa works with African Women’s Development and Communications Network, FEMNET, Nairobi, Kenya
A Simplified Version of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), 2004, BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Lagos, Nigeria
Advancing Women’s Status: Gender, Society and Development, Women and Men Together, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
African Union and SOAWR, Breathing Life into the African Union Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa, (unpublished)
African Union, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
African Union, Protocol to the Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
Arusa Mahin Karim, 1998, Human Rights Protection in the African Regional System, Pretoria, South Africa
Asma Abdel Halim et al, Claiming Our Place, Institute of Women, Law and Development, Washington, USA
Barbara K (2002), Gender and Debt, AFRODAD, Harare, Zinbabwe
Edward O. et al, (2000) The Cost of Globalisation, Geneva, Switzerland
Margaret S. et al, African Women and Development (1995), Johannesburg, South Africa
Patricia A. Made et al, Beyond Beijing: Strategies Towards Women’s Equality, 1999, Harare Zimbabwe
The African Union Commission, (2004) The Road to Gender Equality in Africa: An Overview, Ethiopia
United Nations Convention on Discrimination Against Women, 2000, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Kampala, Uganda
United States Research for Social Development, 2005, Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World, Paris, France
United Nations Charter
 refers collectively to three instruments: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols
 Article 2
 Article 66, ACHPR
 Article 32, The Protocol
 Article 29, The Protocol
Women’s Rights in Islam
Khédija El Madani
It is not Islam that discriminates against women, argues Khédija El Madani, but rather the interpretation of Islamic scriptures by some scholars. “It is therefore time to return to true Islam, to follow the precepts of the Koran and to act according to the example of our Prophet, who has always respected women,” she says.
If there is one subject that provokes anger, it is that of women’s rights and Islam.
The majority of those from the West and other pro-Westerners present Islam as the enemy of women, and as the religion which denies them their most basic rights. Muslims on the other hand, both radical and moderate, tend to support the view that Islam has uniquely granted rights to women.
Who is wrong? And who is right?
In fact, adherents of both arguments are at the same time both right and wrong. Because, on the one hand, whilst it can be proven that from the time of its revelation, Islam constituted a real revolution in women’s rights by according a dimension of humanity to women that the habits and customs of pre-Islamic Arabia had denied them - this culture recognised the father’s right to determine the life and death of their daughters, and reduced the widow to an object of succession, to be inherited by the relatives of the dead husband. It is equally undeniable that over the course of time, the restrictive interpretation of the place of women in Islam by certain ulemas (Islamic scholars) - sometimes even against the scriptures - has undone women’s rights, one after another.
The theological background
The best proof of this state of affairs is the following thesis supported by a number of Muslim theologians: whereas according to the two monotheistic religions, Judaism and Christianity, it is Eve who is guilty of the Original Sin, and thus responsible for the expulsion of Adam from Paradise; not only does this feature not exist in the Muslim religion, but is also clearly contradicted by the Koran.
Thus the verses of the sura , ‘ The Elevated Places’, affirm clearly and precisely, not lending themselves to any ambiguity, that Adam and Eve were tempted at the same time by Satan, and that they both succumbed to temptation, and disobeyed divine injunctions.
- ‘The Devil suggested to both of them…’ (verse 20)
- ‘And he swore to them…’ (verse 21)
- ‘Thus he deceived them into falling…and their Lord called unto them: ‘did I not forbid this tree to both of you? And did I not tell you that the devil is truly a declared enemy of you both?’ (verse 22)
- ‘Both of you said…’ (verse 23) 
These examples illustrate perfectly how many Muslim exegetes have distanced themselves from the precepts of the Koran, and to such an extent that they have ended up supporting the opposite of what is stated in the holy book.
Islam, women and the family
This contradiction between Islam, as set out in the scriptures, and their frequently reductionist exegesis, is most vividly translated to the family sphere, and the status of women therein.
Thus it has come about that instead of being revered globally within the framework of the precepts and principles established by the Koran and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, the substance of women’s rights in the domestic sphere is considered from a restrictive point of view. Women’s rights have also in some senses been ‘delocalised’: isolated from the harmonious context of Islam’s divine rules and injunctions, and handled independently. One result of this has been the complete distortion and deprivation of the rights that God has accorded to women.
Thus, little by little, in the name of Islam, women have been denied the enlightenment of knowledge, imprisoned within the walls of the home, subjected to the orders of their husbands, and bound to comply with all their whims; or else face renouncement. It is as if women only have duties towards men - whilst conversely, men only have rights. And yet the Koran clearly states that a woman has rights as well as duties (sura: ‘The Cow’, verse 228). Elsewhere, the Koran urges men to treat their wives well:
- ‘Treat them with kindness’ (sura: ‘The Women’, verse 19).
- ‘Keep them in an appropriate manner, or separate from them appropriately’ (sura: ‘Divorce’, verse 2).
It forbids men from bearing prejudice towards women:
- ‘Do not seek to harm them…’ (sura: ‘Divorce’, verse 6).
- ‘Do not abuse them’ (sura: ‘The Cow’, verse 231).
At the same time, the Koran elevates marriage to the status of a solemn bond: ‘The women have received from you a solid pact’ (sura: ‘The Byzantines’, verse 31). Of the same order, the Koran presents the husband and wife as each being clothing for the other: ‘The women are clothing for you and you are clothing for them’ (sura: ‘The Cow’, verse 187). Finally, the Koran places marriage under the seal of ‘affection and divine mercy’ (sura: ‘The Byzantines’, verse 21).
Men, women and equality in Islam
From another point of view, God has placed men and women on a footing of absolute equality, promising Paradise to them both in parallel, as recompense for their good deeds. Men and women are equally threatened with the hell of Gehenna  as a punishment for bad actions, as several verses of the Koran indicate:
- ‘Whoever behaves well, whether of the male or female sex, will enter into Paradise.’ (sura: ‘The Forgiver’, verse 40)
- ‘He who accomplishes good deeds, whether he is of the male or female sex…’ (sura: ‘The Women’, verse 124)
- ‘He punishes the hypocritical men and women, and men and women of bad faith.’ (sura: ‘The Victory’, verse 6)
The way in which God treats his creation therefore has nothing to do with biological sex; rather, is uniquely contingent on the actions of men and women, with respect for their social roles.
Moreover, let us not forget that the Koran has bestowed upon women economic rights equal to men by recognising their freedom and ability to manage their property without interference from their fathers, brothers or husbands. In keeping with men, women have been granted political rights by virtue of their being permitted to make allegiances with the Prophet.
In another respect, it is fitting to remember that God created man and woman form the same, unique soul: ‘O my people, fear God who has created you from the same soul’ (sura: ‘The Women’, verse 1). Consequentially, when man debases woman and bears prejudice against her, he is by extension debasing himself, and bearing prejudice against himself. This is why claims that Islam makes of woman an inferior being in relation to man amount to blasphemy: women and men were created equally by God in order to venerate Him. The best amongst His creatures are those who demonstrate piety, irrespective of their sex: ‘The best amongst you are the most pious.’ (sura: ‘The Cleaving’, verse 13)
To conclude, I would strongly affirm that the reasons Muslim women are deprived of some of their fundamental rights are in no way attributable to Islam. On the contrary, they are related to its inaccurate interpretation by certain Islamic scholars. In reality, the quasi-majority of the sexist traditions that are claimed to stem from the Muslim religion bear no relation to it; and, sometimes, even run absolutely contrary to Islam.
It is therefore time to return to true Islam, to follow the precepts of the Koran and to act according to the example of our Prophet, who has always respected women.
* This article was translated from the original French version by Stephanie Kitchen. Please send comments to [email protected] or comment on line at www.pambazuka.org
 Sura, transliterated from Arabic refers to the books or chapters of the Koran – translator’s note.
 The original French translation was by Muhammed Hamidullah with the collaboration of Mr. Leturmy – new edition, 1989, Amana Corporation.
 In Islam, this is roughly understood as ‘the place of torment for sinners’ – translator’s note.
Niger: Democratic principles and the rejection of the Protocol
In early June, Niger’s parliament voted against the African Union’s Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa by 42 votes to 31. Sibongile Ndashe urges the country to rethink it position.
African Union (AU) member states continue to deposit instruments of ratification of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and these are developments that we continue to note with renewed belief in the AU’s commitment to upholding gender equality. This is why Niger’s stance should not pass without comment.
It is a serious set back for Niger, that the country could have saved and should still save herself from. It is a set back for the women who fought and lobbied to see the Protocol come to fruition. It is a greater set back for women in Niger in particular. In a meeting that was held in Pretoria, in May, that was aimed at accelerating the speed of ratification and domestication of the Protocol, there were women present from Niger. The fact that on 18 January 2005, the Niger executive arm of government had approved the ratification of the Protocol and that the only outstanding issue was the adoption of the motion by the legislature was seen as an exciting development.
It is still not clear what went wrong. Niger is not a country that is fundamentally opposed to women’s human rights. Niger signaled its intentions to take women’s human rights seriously when it acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on 08 October 1999. On 30 September 2004 Niger acceded to the CEDAW optional protocol. CEDAW has been referred to as the international bill of rights for women and the Protocol’s unique selling point is that it is seen as a regional bill of rights that aims to ameliorate hardships specifically focusing on the context upon which African women’s human rights violations are located.
Niger was party to the adoption of the AU solemn declaration on Gender Equality in July 2004. The solemn declaration has no legal force. It is a commitment by members of the AU to implement gender-specific measures related to: Economic, social and legal measures on HIV/AIDS; Gender mainstreaming of peace processes; and Systematic prohibition of the abuse of girl children as wives and sex slaves. It relates to systematic prohibition of trafficking in women and girls; Promotion of the gender parity principle; Guarantee of women’s land, property and inheritance rights; Education of girls and increasing the literacy of women, especially in rural areas; and Enforcement of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
It also sets out in great detail the measures that will be adopted in order to give effect to the commitments. States undertook to sign and ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa by the end of 2004 and to support the launching of public campaigns aimed at ensuring its entry into force by 2005.
There is more that has to be said about the Protocol that makes the Niger outcome even more baffling. CEDAW and the African Protocol on women’s rights are not mutually exclusive, if anything they serve to complement each other. The Protocol is not a radical document. There are conflicting opinions on whether the Protocol can even begin to call itself a feminist document. It seeks to negotiate space for women, asking that reasonable accommodation be made for women. It does not seek to dismantle patriarchal institutions, if anything it works around these institutions. Evidence of this compromise can be found on the provisions dealing with polygamy and inheritance rights. It is a compromise document and this is why it is really not clear what Niger law-makers could have found objectionable.
The proper application of democratic principles needs to be understood in its proper context. While it remains undisputed that Niger is a sovereign state and that the decisions made by its legislature have to be given full effect taking into account the powers given to the legislature in the Constitution, the understanding of the strict notions of sovereignty are increasingly showing signs of shifting. State parties, by engaging with the international community, at the very least are asking to be tested against standards that they have agreed to in international forums. Citizens of those countries also have a legitimate expectation that the instruments that its government binds itself to will see fruition at a country level.
The mere fact that the lawmakers voted against the Protocol should not be heralded as the proper application of democracy. It is not just what one votes against. If anything, the Protocol would serve to support democracy. Overemphasis on sovereignty and democratic principles on issues that pose no threat to a country’s sovereignty or democratic principles seems like an easy way out of a difficult situation.
It is hoped that Niger will be open to experiences of how other states have engaged with the Protocol. The Gambia serves as a good example in this regard. Initially the Gambia had ratified the Protocol with reservations but after careful consideration of the reasons behind the reservations by both the Gambian civil society formations and the state the reservations were lifted.
Niger owes it to herself and its citizens to reconsider why it did not pass the Protocol. If after engagement with the document it is still convinced that what is envisioned is not a society that Niger aspires towards then at the very least they could ratify with reservations. But it is unacceptable that the proper application of democratic principles and the rejection of the Protocol could be found next to each other.
* Sibongile Ndashe is an attorney with the Women’s Legal Centre, Cape Town, SA
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
The 30th anniversary of June 16th
June 16 marks the 30th anniversary of the Soweto uprising against apartheid rule. Percy Ngonyama writes that South Africa’s youth have faced an onslaught from market-friendly economic policies. Rather than a day of celebration, the anniversary should be used as a platform to re-launch and intensify young people's struggles for a genuine "Better life for all".
In the days leading up to the 30th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto uprising, young people have been urged by the government and the SA Youth Commission to take part in planned nationwide commemorations. The 2006 "apathetic" youth have been heavily criticised for their disregard of important national events.
While it is typical to assume that the Soweto uprising was triggered solely by the use of Afrikaans - widely seen by most black people as the language of the oppressors - as a medium of instruction, the youth of '76 took to the streets also to protest against inhumane living conditions in the townships and the racist policies of apartheid's 'bantu education', which subjected poor young black people to an inferior education system characterised by an inadequate supply of educational resources in black schools.
Thirty years on, and twelve years since the advent of the much talked about April 27 1994 'miracle', for many young people very little has changed, and as a result, there will be nothing to celebrate on June 16 2006.
The appalling socio-economic conditions in the townships have worsened. Youth unemployment has reached crisis level. For many young people who are HIV positive and poor, which is usually the case, there is no hope.
Because of government's strict fiscal discipline, and President Thabo Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's dissident views on HIV/Aids, life saving anti retroviral drugs are only available to a fraction of infected persons at public medical institutions. We are yet to see a genuine 'roll-out' programme being implemented. And the disease continues its reign of terror, amongst the youth, unabated. Every day, more young people die from HIV/Aids compared to those who died on June 16, 1976.
The majority of black schools are still without basic necessities, such as electricity and water, let alone computer and science labs. Most public schools have had to drastically increase their admission fees to cope in the era of budget cuts. The shortage of resources at most public schools is so endemic that even the education minister has lost trust in her own system. Both her daughter and son have been enrolled at prestigious private schools.
While the brutal apartheid government was responsible for the plight of young people in 1976, the current government's ill-advised neo-liberal, market friendly, capitalist economic policies are to blame for the plight of the children of the 1976 youth.
Despite these serious predicaments facing our young people, the government has prioritised multi-billion dollar mega projects, such as the elitist Gautrain, the corrupt arms deal, the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the ecologically destructive Coega development project.
Faced with a serious unemployment catastrophe, the government has introduced the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP). This much-touted programme hopes to create 1 million jobs between 2004 and 2009. Thirty percent of these employment opportunities will be allocated to young people. However, the EPWP is marked by very serious shortcomings. The jobs are very temporary and pay next to slave wages. Furthermore, with only R25 billion allocated to the programme, the government needs to think again if it hopes to effectively address unemployment.
And given SA's huge apartheid induced services backlog, government would be well advised to embark on a massive recruitment drive of young people to build hospitals, clinics, schools, houses, roads, crèches, centres for abused and battered women, and other such urgently required infrastructure. Such a move could create a lot of decent employment opportunities for the youth.
Placing the crucial task of service delivery, as stipulated in the EPWP, in the hands of the private sector, will, as the past twelve years have brutally demonstrated, prove futile. Another initiative, The Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa), which, like the EPWP, also forms part of government's Accelerated And Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (asgiSA), in true capitalist style, puts the blame for the high rate of youth unemployment on the victims, the "unskilled" youth.
The reality, however, is that a large number of unemployed youth have post grade 12 qualifications. Some are even in possession of tertiary qualifications. Over a hundred thousand graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Clearly, the "skills" being "prioritised" by Jipsa are not people centred, but skills required by capital to increase profits and to achieve the ambitious 6% annual growth rate by 2014.
So called 'youth empowerment' programmes have not benefited the majority of young people, but a few who are aligned correctly politically. The appointment of ANC aligned young people to senior positions in government and the private sector has not improved the lives of the majority of young people. But, one can be certain that the newly 'empowered' young people have become filthy rich, thus joining the ranks of the black petty bourgeoisie who appear regularly on covers of fashion and financial publications, and are described as 'shinning examples' of 'success' that should be followed by all young people.
Eight million of the economically active population are unemployed - meaning they have no form of income. Seventy percent of these are young people. Given this sad situation, one need not be shocked by increasing incidents of criminal activities involving young people.
The government hopes to deal with the symptoms and not the causes. During his 2006 state of the nation address Thabo Mbeki announced a plan to increase resource allocation within the justice system to ensure, in his words, that "crime does not pay."
What are the causes of rampant poverty? This is a question government bureaucrats always prefer to avoid, for the answer lies in market-friendly policies that promote cuts in social expenditure and cuts in corporate tax. The post apartheid government has reduced corporate tax by 16%. One percent amounts to R2 billion. These funds are desperately needed to improve the lives of the country's young people and to create decent and sustainable employment opportunities.
Young people do not part-take in national events, not because of "apathy" as widely purported by politicians and mainstream youth formations, but because of disillusionment and very justified anger at SA's new rulers, who have abandoned the progressive principles of the 1956 Freedom Charter and slogans declaring "Socialism is the future, Build it now", and have become deaf to people's desperate pleas.
The only voice they ever listen to now is that of financially well-endowed capitalists and financial markets calling on them to implement more 'trade liberalisation'. As a result, they are endlessly running amok like headless chickens, formulating, courtesy of handsomely remunerated experts, one failed neo-liberal policy after another, at the expense of the poor masses.
HIV/Aids, unemployment, poverty and other problems affecting young people need to be put on top of government's agenda. For this to be realised, young people need to follow the recent example of the French youth who have united and successfully prevented the implementation of pro-business labour laws giving 'carte blanche' to bosses, after two years, to fire young people under the age of 26 without providing reasons. Our experience, past and present, also tells us that mass protest, and mass based campaigns, is the only 'language' governments and the capitalists understand.
Evidently, mainstream youth formations, such as the government bankrolled Youth Commission which continues to sing poetic praises for the state's ineffective and exclusive youth empowerment programmes, and the ANC Youth League – which has prioritised the 'Zuma for president' campaign and beauty contests, such as the annual Miss South Africa beauty pageant, over pressing youth issues, and counts amongst its 'comrades' the likes of the late Brett Kebble - are not the answer.
The '76 young generation did not lay down their lives for the current criminal neo-liberal 'paradise'. It is therefore a sign of indifference to the plight of many young people to commemorate the 30th anniversary of June 16 with yet another 'kwaito bash' at the Durban ABSA Stadium.
The anniversary should be used as a platform to re-launch and intensify young people's struggles for a genuine "Better life for all". A step in this direction is the 'Right to Work Campaign' [R2W] - a campaign that seeks to make unemployment 'public enemy number one' - which is being launched in Cape Town from June 13-16, at a conference to be addressed by various prominent national and international social-movement activists and trade unionists.
* Percy Ngonyama is a social-movement activist based in Durban ([email protected])
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
Global: Call for global actions against IFIs
"For more than sixty years, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank together with their partner regional development banks and export credit agencies, have used international finance capital to exercise control and restructure the societies of the South to serve the interests of global private corporations and the economic and geo-political agenda of the few powerful nations that control these institutions."
CALL FOR GLOBAL ACTIONS AGAINST INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
SEPTEMBER 14-20, 2006
For more than sixty years, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank together with their partner regional development banks and export credit agencies, have used international finance capital to exercise control and restructure the societies of the South to serve the interests of global private corporations and the economic and geo-political agenda of the few powerful nations that control these institutions.
The resulting effects on people’s lives, on communities, on the environment, and on the economic as well as political structures in the South have been profound and over the years have generated numerous resistance struggles against these institutions.
Despite well-documented evidence and countless testimonies to the destruction, displacement and dispossession their policies and operations have caused, these institutions persist in legitimizing their role. In recent years they have declared themselves to be champions of “poverty reduction” and “good governance.”
This year, 2006, we pledge to intensify our struggles against these institutions and raise the level of international coordination and concerted action. In particular, we commit to organizing different forms of mobilization and direct action in many countries across the globe during the week of the IMF and WB Annual Meetings, September 14-20, 2006. This will include various activities and actions in the vicinity of their meetings in Singapore.
WE CALL on all people’s organizations, social movements, labor movements, women’s movements, farmers groups, first peoples, religious and cultural groups, community organizations, NGOs, political forces, and all concerned citizens around the world to join us in mounting vigorous actions that will focus the world’s attention on the destruction and human rights violations caused by the IMF and World Bank, the regional development banks, export credit agencies, and the neoliberal global system they enforce.
Our actions will identify issues and articulate demands that reflect the particular impacts of these institutions on each of our countries but will also be united on the following global demands:
1. Immediate and 100% cancellation of multilateral debts as part of the total cancellation of debts claimed from the South, without externally imposed conditionalities.
The inhuman and destructive consequences of debt domination which the international financial institutions play a major part in perpetuating are evidence against the outrageously deceitful claim of these institutions that they are working for “poverty reduction” and “financing for development.”
Debt relief initiatives of international financial institutions have to date covered only a very small part of the debt claimed from the South. Worse, these initiatives come with conditions that undermine the sovereignty of people to determine their own path of development, have proven harmful to livelihoods and the environment, and keep South economies tied to the interests of global private profit.
Cancellation of only a small part of the debt may release some funds that can be used for basic services but does not free the South from debt bondage. Debt cancellation must be 100%.
And for immediate action, we highlight the especially urgent cases – most of Africa, Haiti, Nepal, Tsunami-hit countries and others recently devastated by natural calamities, countries ravaged by war, societies overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS, and others experiencing severe social, financial and economic crisis.
We reject the international financial institutions’ “debt sustainability” framework. There is no level of debt that is “sustainable” in a global economic system that is founded on domination and exploitation of the peoples, economies and resources of the South. This framework is a means by which these institutions justify maintaining the “indebtedness” of Southern countries.
The insistence on their “debt sustainability framework” is also a refusal to address the more fundamental question of the illegitimacy of the debt claimed from the South. Peoples of the South should not be made to pay for illegitimate debts -- debts they have not benefited from, debts that financed projects that have caused displacement of communities and damage to the environment, debts wasted on corruption or failed projects, debts contracted through undemocratic and fraudulent means, debts with grossly unfair terms and harmful conditions, odious debts incurred by dictatorships, debt contracted in the context of exploitative international economic relations, debts for which peoples of the South have paid many times over.
Though the financial debts claimed from the South are of staggering amounts, totaling more than US$2.3 trillion dollars, the North in fact owes the peoples of the South a far, far greater debt. It is the historical, economic, social, and ecological debt accumulated over centuries of plunder and exploitation by North with the collaboration of Southern elites.
The IMF and the World Bank should bear the costs of writing off debts owed to them by using the World Bank’s loan loss provisions (valued at US$3 billion as of June 30, 2005) and retained earnings (valued at US$27 billion as of June 30, 2005) and IMF gold stocks. With the market price of gold surpassing US$600 an ounce, the IMF’s 103.4 million ounces of gold are worth more than US$60 billion, rather than the US$9 billion recorded on the IMF’s books.
2. Open, transparent and participatory External Audit of the lending operations and related policies of the International Financial Institutions, beginning with the World Bank and IMF
Debt campaigns, movements, people’s organizations, and NGOs are now involved in preparing for and conducting country-level independent Citizens’ Audits of Debts claimed from South countries as well as calling on South governments to conduct transparent, open and participatory Government Audits (e.g. Parliamentary) of these debts. These audits are aimed at examining the origins and causes of the debt problem, taking stock of effects and impacts, bringing to light the dubious and illegitimate character of the debts, identifying responsibility and accountability, and establishing and strengthening the basis for urgent changes in national policies on the debt and related issues.
We challenge the international financial institutions to subject themselves to similar independent audits of the loans they have released, their lending policies, processes and operations, and the terms and conditionalities that have accompanied these loans, and take stock of the effects and impacts. Such audits should look into the culpability and accountability of these international financial institutions, and asses what restitution and reparations must be made.
The international financial institutions have recently been stepping up efforts to portray themselves as champions of good governance, including the announcement of renewed efforts and strategies to fight corruption. We challenge these institutions to begin with themselves and examine how they have been involved in creating and exacerbating the problem of corruption. External, independent audits of their loans, lending operations and conditionalities should include this question. Further, corruption must be seen as a systemic problem that also involves the private sector, especially transnational corporations.
3. Stop the imposition of conditions and the promotion of neoliberal policies and projects.
Through the conditions attached to their loans and programs, the IMF and World Bank have succeeded in restructuring the global economy. The widespread use of “structural adjustment programs” from the early 1980s in countries with significant debt, poverty, and financial problems has forced most of the South countries’ economic policies to ape those of the industrialized countries, regardless of how inappropriate those policies may have been for the countries’ development needs. Because of the imposition of neo-liberal policies on countries desperate for access to credit, peoples across the South now confront economies oriented to export production rather than providing for local markets, devastated manufacturing sectors, a large percentage of economic actors in foreign hands, valuable public assets privatized, health and other social sectors crippled by decades of de-funding, environmental resources devastated by over-exploitation, small farms and businesses wiped out by denial of credit and subsidies, and massive unemployment.
Our struggle against debt domination is waged in large part to win freedom from the conditions that indebted governments are blackmailed into accepting. For the September 2006 actions we demand:
a. In this 50th anniversary year of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the IFIs end the promotion of privatization of public services and the use of public resources to support private profits.
The IMF and especially the World Bank have been the main drivers in the global push for the privatization of basic services. They are joined by other financial institutions like regional development banks and export credit agencies.
The international financial institutions promote privatization of public services through policy conditions and policy advice, financing of projects that pave the way for privatization, providing technical assistance in the preparation of feasibility studies as well as the process of implementation, and even direct support for private companies taking over public utilities. The International Finance Corporation plays a major role in providing risk guarantees as well as equity assistance for these private companies, and facilitating government bail-outs of privatized utilities in distress.
The continued emphasis on privatizing basic services such as water provision – or, when no company is interested in purchasing the utility, arranging leases and service contracts – and the “commercialization” of even life-saving agencies such as those managing food reserves reflects a fixation on markets as the only organizing principle for economies even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Failure after failure of water privatizations in the South has not deterred the IFIs from their mission to wrest assets from public ownership.
Our message to the IFC and its multilateral partners is clear: no more public resources for support of private profit.
b. Stop IFI funding and involvement in environmentally destructive projects beginning with big dams, oil, gas and mining and implement the major recommendations of the Extractive Industries Review.
The international financial institutions are also presenting themselves as leading in the fight against climate change and environmental destruction. However, no amount of clever rhetoric about stronger commitments and new strategies can hide the fact that many projects designed, driven and supported by international financial institutions violate the already watered-down standards and safeguards avowed by these same institutions and cause massive environmental as well as social problems.
The World Bank is itself a major ecological debtor, having funded major projects such as hydro-electric dams, mines, pipelines and petroleum exploration and development projects which have displaced populations and wrought major environmental damage. The World Bank has refused to implement major recommendations of its own Extractive Industries Review including 1) the principle that communities faced with resource extraction projects must give free, prior and informed consent, 2) and the phase out of investment in hydrocarbon extraction projects.
The World Bank’s attempt to claim leadership on the issue of climate change with the application of its development of carbon credit trading is another tragic example of market fundamentalism. Entrusting the precarious future of the world’s climate to the World Bank’s clever market solutions distracts the major actors from focusing on the over-consumption that threaten to doom the planet and all who live on it. Meanwhile, the World Bank Group, which claims leadership in developing alternative energy, devotes much greater resources to developing conventional energy sources. Indeed, the World Bank is the world’s leading financer of projects producing greenhouse gases.
c. Immediately stop imposing conditions that exacerbate health crises like the AIDS pandemic and make restitution for past practices such as requiring user fees for public education and health care services.
IFI policies have aggravated health crises like the AIDS pandemic in a number of ways. Austerity measures have constrained health budgets, prevented the hiring of critically needed teachers and health care workers due to limits on spending for public sector employees, and kept people out of clinics and children away from schools by insisting on user fees. The macroeconomic policies the International Financial Institutions have imposed over the last 25 years – including fiscal austerity, high interest rates, unilateral trade liberalization and privatization of essential services - have led to lower growth rates and fewer improvements in social indicators than had occurred over the two decades between 1960 and 1980.
The IFIs owe an enormous social debt to countries whose public services have been damaged by their policies. Their creditors are the women of South countries, who have had to step in to provide the health care, the food, the teaching, the water, and the other basic goods and services put out of reach by IFI policies. The World Bank and the IMF should pay for free primary education and primary health care as a form of reparations or restitution for the damage their policies have caused.
As we take to the streets and plazas on September 14 to 20, in Singapore and around the world, we stand united in our call for an end to the destruction visited upon the South by the IMF, the World Bank, the other multilateral banks, and the countries that control them.
We call upon activists to tell us about their planned activities so that we may publicize them, and about the outcomes of their actions.
COMMITTEE FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE THIRD WORLD DEBT (CADTM)
WORLD FORUM OF FISH HARVESTRES AND FIHWORKERS, WFF
SOUTHERN PEOPLES ECOLOGICAL DEBT CREDITORS ALLIANCE (SPEDCA)
AFRICA - Regionals
AFRICA JUBILEE SOUTH
SOUTHERN AFRICA PEOPLES SOLIDARITY NETWORK (SAPSN)
AMERICAS – Regionals
JUBILEO SUR AMERICAS
ASIA/PACIFIC – Regionals
JUBILEE SOUTH – ASIA/PACIFIC MOVEMENT ON DEBT AND DEVELOPMENT (JS-APMDD)
ASIA-PACIFIC FORUM ON WOMEN, LAW AND DEVELOPMENT (APWLD)
ASIA – Regionals
FOCUS ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH – INDIA, THAILAND AND PHILIPPINES
ASIAN REGIONAL EXCHANGE FOR NEW ALTERNATIVES (ARENA)
INTERNATIONAL GENDER AND TRADE NETWORK – ASIA
MIGRANT FORUM IN ASIA (MFA)
ASIAN MIGRANT CENTRE (AMC)
SOUTH ASIA – Sub-Regionals
SOUTH ASIA ALLIANCE FOR POVERTY ERADICATION (SAAPE)
LIGA JUBILEU 2000 ANGOLA – LIJUA
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
CENTER FOR CIVIC INITIATIVES
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT LIBRARY (CDL)
BANGLADESH SRAMAJIBI KENDRA (BSK)
UNNAYAN ONNESHAN-THE INNOVATORS (CENTRE FOR RESEARCH AND ACTION ON DEVELOPMENT)
DEPARTMENT OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF DHAKA, BANGLADESH
HAMKURA RIVER ACTION COMMITTEE
AN ORGANIZATION FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (AOSED)
SAVE CHARA RIVER CAMPAIGN
BANGLADESH RIVERS NETWORK
CENTRE NATIONAL DE COOPÉRATION AU DÉVELOPPEMENT (CNCD-11.11.11.)
BELGIUM - Individual
DIRK VAN DER MAELEN, GROUPLEADER, FLEMISH SOCIALIST OF THE BELGIAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
BRAZIL NETWORK ON INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS BRAZIL
CENTRE FOR PROMOTION OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ALTERNATIVES
PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT IN KAMPUCHEA (PADEK)
HALIFAX INITIATIVE COALITION
OBSERVATORIO LATINOAMERICANO DE CONFLICTOS AMBIENTALES - OLCA
FODEX (Forum sur la Dette Extérieure et le Développement du Congo).
CENTRO MEMORIAL DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. LA HABANA, CUBA
ACCIÓN ECOLÓGICA – ECUADOR
FRANCE - Individual
Alexis Fossi A/D France
PLATAFORMA DE POLÍTICAS DE DESARROLLO ALTERNATIVAS (PAPDA)
CONVERGENCIA DE MOVIMIENTOS DE LOS PUEBLOS DE LAS AMÉRICAS (COMPA)
HONG KONG CONFEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS (HKCTU)
DOCUMENTATION FOR ACTION GROUPS IN ASIA (DAGA)
HONG KONG CHRISTIAN INDUSTRIAL COMMITTEE
INDIA SOCIAL ACTION FORUM (INSAF)
CENTRE FOR ORGANISATION, RESEARCH & EDUCATION (CORE)
RIVER BASIN FRIENDS
NATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF OFFICERS ASSOCIATIONS (NCOA)
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
NIMAR MALWA KISAN MAZDOOR SANGTHAN
PEOPLE'S DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION INDIA
CITIZEN'S CONCERN FOR DAMS AND DEVELOPMENT, MANIPUR (NE INDIA)
BHARAT GYAN VIGYAN SAMITI (BGVS)
URBAN RESEARCH CENTRE
TAMILNADU AGRICULTURAL LABOURERS MOVEMENT (TALM)
HUMAN RIGHTS- TAMILNADU INITIATIVE
INDIA - Individuals
INTERNATIONAL NGO FORUM ON INDONESIAN DEVELOPMENT (INFID)
KOALISI ANTI UTANG (ANTI DEBT COALITION)
WORKING GROUP ON POWER SECTOR RESTRUCTURING (WGPSR)
JATAM - MINING ADVOCACY NETWORK
INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE INDONESIA
PERHIMPUNAN INDONESIA UNTUK BURUH MIGRAN BERDAULAT
INDONESIAN ASSOCIATION FOR SOVEREIGN MIGRANT WORKERS
LEMBAGA BANTUAN HUKUM (LBH) SEMARANG
INDONESIAN LEGAL AID FOUNDATION BRANCH OF SURABAYA
DEBT AND DEVELOPMENT COALITION
IVORY COAST - Individuals
SOLANGE KONÉ, MMF-CI
JUBILEE KYUSHU ON WORLD DEBT AND POVERTY
SOLIDARITY AFRICA NETWORK
KENYA DEBT RELIEF NETWORK (KENDREN)
COALITION DES ALTERNATIVES AFRICAINES DETTE ET DÉVELOPPEMENT (CAD-MALI)
ECONOMIC JUSTICE COALITION MOZAMBIQUE
RURAL RECONSTRUCTION NEPAL (RRN)
WATER AND ENERGY USERS' FEDERATION
COLLECTIVE INITIATIVE FOR RESEARCH AND ACTION
ALL NEPAL WOMEN ASSOCIATION (ANWA)
TRANSNATIONAL INSTITUTE (TNI)
CENTRO DE ESTUDIOS INTERNACIONALES
RESEAU NATIONAL DETTE ET DEVELOPPEMENT (RNDD)
ONG ECO DÉVELOPPEMENT PARTICIPATIF (ONG-EDP)
INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL NETWORKING, INFORMATION AND STUDIES (IGNIS)
PAKISTAN FISHERFOLK FORUM (PFF)
PAKISTAN INSTITUTE OF LABOUR EDUCATION & RESEARCH (PILER)
PAKISTAN KISSAN RABITA COMMITTEE ( PAKISTAN PEASANTS COORDINATION COMMITTEE)
URBAN RESOURCE CENTRE
PEOPLE'S RIGHTS MOVEMENT (PRM)
VINCO DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
FREEDOM FROM DEBT COALITION
INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
FOUNDATION FOR MEDIA ALTERNATIVES
FAITH, ECONOMY AND SOCIETY PROGRAMME, LATIN AMERICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (CLAI)
FORUM FOR AFRICA ALTERNATIVES
JUBILEE SOUTH AFRICA
ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT CENTRE (AIDC)
SOUTHERN AFRICAN CENTRE FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE
CENTRE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY ECONOMIC JUSTICE PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU-NATAL, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
MOVEMENT FOR NATIONAL LAND AND AGRICULTURAL REFORM (MONLAR)
PSI-THAI AFFILIATES COUNCIL (PTAC)
AFRICAN WOMEN'S ECONOMIC POLICY NETWORK (AWEPON)
WORLD DEVELOPMENT MOVEMENT (WDM)
CHRISTIAN AID (UK AND IRELAND)
JUBILEE USA NETWORK
50 YEARS IS ENOUGH NETWORK
TRANSNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR GRASSROOTS RESEARCH AND ACTION (TIGRA)
THE OAKLAND INSTITUTE
CONGREGATION JUSTICE COMMITTEE, SISTERS OF THE HOLY CROSS
MOBILIZATION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE
Nigeria: Protest removals in Nigeria
The Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), part of Habitat International Coalition (HIC), in cooperation with its member, the Development Initiatives Network (DIN), and with Women Environmental Programme, in Nigeria, have received disturbing news about mass evictions in the city of Abuja. Your urgent action is required in Nigeria.
Discussing the state of African universities
African teams in the World Cup have not been performing too badly, but their valiant efforts are not reflected on the scoreboards of the various groups so far. Therefore many of us have been watching the games with a mixture of affirmation that ‘African football has arrived and improved consistently to world class professional standards' and doubts that maybe we are not quite there yet or still lacking in the killer focus.
But we take comfort in the universal fact that ‘the boys are playing well’ although we are not quite resigned to the English consolation psychology of ‘it’s not the wining that counts but participating’ which makes them turn ‘glorious losers’ into celebrities. Africans want victories and are hoping that one of our teams will just move beyond the ‘nearly’ club. So we keep vigil in all kinds of public and private places, glued to the box watching every match. If all fail we have the automatic transfer of loyalties to Brazil or any other team (almost all he major ones) with Black players in them!
Like other people across the world, for the next month work can only be partial unless you are in a football related industry. FIFA is our employer for now! When people are not watching the matches they are discussing those that have happened and making all kinds of spirited predictions about those still to take place. Even those who do not like football are forced to participate in the frenzy because those of us who do will never stop talking about it. Media is saturated with stories about ‘the beautiful game’.
Hence it was with a great sense of sacrifice, personal and political loyalty, that I found myself abandoning Togo's match against South Korea Tuesday evening to go and listen to Professor Okello Oculi, speak at the Unfungomano Hall at Nairobi University. It was part of the Public Debate Series of the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) for 2006.
Two reasons forced my hand. One, Okello was one of the radical Pan Africanist scholars who had influenced my intellectual and political outlook as an undergraduate student. He was one of those refugee scholars from Idi Amin's Uganda who were lost to Uganda but gained to many generations of African students in other countries.
Unlike the SAP refugees of the '80s and '90s and the current 'kyeyo' academics in the face of globalisation whose destination are mostly in Europe and North America, many of the Ugandans headed for other African countries and rebuilt their lives, some of them becoming adopted citizens of those countries. They were brains lost temporarily or permanently to Uganda but they were not lost to Africa.
Two other Ugandans had a direct impact on me. Firstly, Prof Yolamu Barongo, who was both a mentor and intellectual father to me. Without him I could have joined the army instead of graduate studies. Another one was the literary icon, Okot p'itek, who did not teach me directly but was an intellectual and political influence through writings and an electrifying presence at seminars, workshops and conferences across Nigeria while he was teaching at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
Okello never returned to Uganda and he is more Nigerian than many of us whose only claim is that we were born there. Our lives later became interchanged when I became permanently resident in Uganda as General-Secretary of the Pan African Movement. So whenever we meet we have to talk shop, with him sharing with me what is going on in the rough and tumble of Nigerian politics and I feeding him on my take on the up and downs, the zigzags and sometimes motions without movement in Uganda's politics!
So I could not refuse to go and listen to Okello. The other reason was the topic of discussion: ‘Interrogating the Conditions of The African Universities’. It is a topic that should interest anyone concerned about not just the survival of Africa and Africans but in us controlling our destiny. If we cannot own the thinking process of our society we cannot control or exercise autonomy over those societies. And our universities are very central to this. They are much neglected, abused, maligned and marginalized but we cannot use other universities as the engine of our development.
So many sins have been committed against our universities but they have also been perpetrating many sins against themselves. The mad rush for private universities mushrooming across the continent in the name of privatisation and liberalisation in education may produce more people with degrees but cannot produce more educated citizens. Even within the public sector universities, a two-tier system is in place offering apartheid discrimination based on financial resources. Okello called this FTDs (Financially Transmitted Degrees). He also looked at some of the internal weaknesses in the university systems including the process of recruitment, philosophical values underpinning the establishment of the universities during colonial and post colonial societies, the pressures of SAP, the ideological hegemony of elitism and reactionary values. He used his vast experience in East and West Africa and in Britain and North America to identify what the central problems for our universities are. And this is basically ideological: what is the purpose of a university? He identified lack of creativity and creative thinking and creative interaction between our technicians of knowledge and the society. We study as if our societies do not exist and our societies and governments, businesses, make policies as if we do not have local thinkers and qualified professionals. In plain language: our universities are not organically linked to our societies. There were places of excellence in the past like Dar Es Salaam and Ahmadu Bello university, and even the conservative bent older universities like Makerere, Ibadan and Legon. South African Universities have always been more integrated into the power structure, thinking and shaping the future of their societies.
The discussions, especially the robust interventions by the students (a modest turn out given that Togo was playing) were both nostalgic and sad for me. Inspiring because I felt that the tradition of debate is not dead, though sadly not fashionable anymore. I was also sad that though many of them are angry and believe they deserve better, they are no longer reading or having access to books that could make them turn their anger into a positive force for creativity and social transformation. They also reveal a very crude way in which the university has become integrated into the vulgarity that is dominating our societies.
I kept wondering if all present in a church become possessed by the holy spirit, who will shout hallelujah when and if we get to the promised land? When universities merely reflect the vulgar side of society instead of providing original refection on the society they cease to be a universe of ideas and are doomed to become irrelevant. Hence the current attitude in many countries: If you say you are a graduate, people retort: ‘And so what?’
* 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] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org
Africa: Looting Africa
Despite the rhetoric, the people of Sub-Saharan Africa are becoming poorer. From Tony Blair's Africa Commission, the G7 finance ministers' debt relief, the Live 8 concerts, the Make Poverty History campaign and the G8 Gleneagles promises, to the United Nations 2005 summit and the Hong Kong WTO meeting, Africa's gains have been mainly limited to public relations. The central problems remain exploitative debt and financial relationships with the North, phantom aid, unfair trade, distorted investment and the continent's brain/skills drain.
Egypt: The art of flight
The Art Of Flight is a guerrilla documentary that was shot illegally in Egypt on camcorders and a laptop. The film serves as a back story to the 2006 massacre of Sudanese refugees in Cairo. The filmmaker was nearly arrested three times during the course of shooting. This feature-length film tells the story of three people – a refugee from southern Sudan, a human rights activist from northern Sudan and an American journalist in self-imposed exile – all living in Cairo.
South Africa: Cape Town book fair ready to go
The Cape Town Book Fair (CTBF) opens its doors from June 17-20 for a series of workshops and discussions on topics relevant to writers, publishers and book-related industries. Taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the event consists of book launches, readings and poetry sessions. Awards up for grabs include the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction, the Sunday Times Fiction Award and the Noma Award. Under the theme "Celebrate Africa" panel debates about the importance of publishing books in indigenous languages, poetry readings and various seminars will take place.
Programme activities include:
- Author discussion panel on "Making Poverty History in South Africa" with Alan Hirsch (Author: "Season of Hope: Economic reform under Mandela and Mbeki"), Sampie Terreblanche (Author: "A history of Inequality in SA") and Adam Habib (Editor: "Voices of Protest: Social Movements in SA").
- "Portraits of African Writers" with George Hallett and Gavin Jantjies. - Zakes Mda, author of the "Whale Caller", talks about life of writing, and his work.
- Poetry reading by Mphutlane wa Bofelo, poet and social activist.
- "Accumulating and disseminating knowledge in African Studies: The case of the Nordic Africa Institute" with Helena Olsson, (Marketing Manager), Birgitte Jansen, (Librarian) and Dr Henning Melber, (Research Director).
- Contemporary Nigerian Literature 20 years after Africa won its first Nobel prize for Literature - discussion between Harry Garuba, Toyin Akinosho and Muktar Bakare.
- Women's voices - Doreen Baingana on women writing in Africa.
For more information, visit http://www.capetownbookfair.com
Malawi: Implementation of the African Protocol
Malawi is one of the countries that ratfied to the African's Women's Protocol in June, 2005. Since then Malawi has created awareness to a number of groups/institutions.
The Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services as a National Gender Machinery in Malawi has conducted a number of workshops aimed at creating wareness on the provisions of the Protocol. The following have been sensitized so far
1. Media Houses: almost all media houses
2. NGOs working on gender/women issues
3. Policy Makers particularly Principal Secreatries and Chief Exceutive of Statutory Bodies
4. Parliamentary Caucus on Social Affairs
5. Parliamentary Women Caucus
1.Translation of the Protocol in three local languages to ensure that all stakeholders use the same version without losing sense of the provisions
2. Sensitisation of communities at large
All these have been possible through funding from Joint Oxfam Malawi.
My caring community
Peter Bodo Ong'aro
My caring community
You have always catered for me
You have nursed me
Clothed, fed and sheltered me.
You have given generously
To cater for my needs
And the general community
Within my means you have lived.
People run away from me
But you have always stood by me
Hard times have cropped up though
You find it difficult to hold on.
You find it hard to stand by me
Because the generosity is dwindling
People no longer give generously
For you to cater for my special needs.
The hard times have made you turn away
You even threaten to close down
Institutions of my rehabilitation and education
Because nothing is forthcoming.
You forget that the institutions were built
For my sake
Changing them for other programmes
Will prove that you actually do not care for me.
While I was fruitful you stood by me
Now that I am no longer providing
You are shying away from me
My caring community why have you forsaken me.
Why should I carry the cross
For the sins I have not committed
You have always benefited
At my expense
My caring community why have you forsaken me.
Peter Bodo Ong'aro
Kenya Disabled Development Society
P.O. Box 40500
Nairobi 00100 GPO
Email: [email protected] OR [email protected]
Copyright ©2006 Peter Bodo Ong'aro
The World Cup and other blogging debates
As World Cup fever hits the blogosphere, African Shirts - (http://africanshirts.blogspot.com/2006/06/im-moving-to-trinidad.html) follows the Trinidad & Tobago vs Sweden world cup match and decides he is moving to T&T.
“Trinidad and Tobago might be the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup, but to compensate for being a small country, they brought the biggest party machine ever. After their 0-0 draw against Sweden, one could be forgiven for thinking that they had won the World Cup. The Caribbean rum company Angustora has organised a few free events centred around Trinidad games. And after the Sweden match, fans of all hues and colours converged on downtown Dortmund, and threw possibly the biggest party since Borussia Dortmund won the Champions League.”
Also blogging on the World Cup, Soul on Ice (http://obifromsouthlondon.blogspot.com/2006/06/ex-colonised-state-of-mind.html) takes us back to 1980s Thatcherite Britain and the infamous Norman Tebbit “cricket test”. Who are you supporting in this world cup? England? Trinidad and Tobago, Angola or Portugal? Ghana or Italy? Argentina or Ivory Coast?
“A friend told me of the sour feeling in Cameroon when France won in '98. In the 2002 World Cup Senegal carried on like they had won the damn thing when they beat France. And most of the French team are African in origin (Patrick Viera comes to mind). Actually I was jumping up and down when they won that one. My recent post on Senegal kinda explores their relationship with France. What is the psychology behind all this? Interestingly more and more second generation Africans and Caribbean’s are returning to play for their countries of origin.”
MentalAcrobatics (http://www.mentalacrobatics.com/think/archives/2006/06/violence_in_kenyan_schools.php) comments on a horrific case of rape in a Kenyan School. A group of male students sodomised another male student who is now in hospital, traumatised and in pain from the ordeal. The sexual assault is made worse when we learn that this was not the first time as the young man had previously reported an incident to the dormitory master. MentalAcrobatics writes that it is hard to believe the school authorities were unaware of what was taking place. He goes on to criticise the failure of Kenyan educational authorities to have a system in place to help deal with the continued violence in schools.
“Again and again, we see extreme violence from high school students directed at other high school students. This latest rape at Upper Hill School is just the latest example of this violence. There are measures that will be taken against the administration at Upper Hill but those actions will come too late to help one young student. We need, as a nation, to put in place a system that will help us understand and come up with solutions to this rising violence in our schools. This violence is growing into an epidemic. If it has not allready reached there.”
Blogswana (http://blogswana.wordpress.com/2006/06/12/update-on-internet-access) reports that internet penetration in Africa is now 5%, up from 2.5% last year.
“Richard Kassissieh, in Kassblog, writes that at the Maru-a-Pula school 81% of Form 1 students have a computer at home. 15% have broadband Internet access, 55% dial-up, and 30% no Internet access. Maru-a-Pula is a well-funded school located in Gabarone. Students in rurally located schools would have significantly less access, but one can envision that the trend in computer and internet access will continue and spread throughout the country over the next decade.”
Acoustic Motorbike (http://ggernst.blogeasy.com/ggernst.blogeasy.com/article.view.run?articleID=318022) comments on sexism in Zimbabwe using her own personal experience. She is verbally accosted by various men as she goes about her daily business. She asks what it will take?
“And, of course, it’s not just about sex. It’s about men’s attitudes towards women. Maybe the message that a woman is not for beating already resonates with many men. But gender based violence is about much more than beatings. It’s about much more than rape or sexual assault. Surely it also includes the safety with which women move around in their own homes, their own streets, shops and neighbourhoods. Women are not for beating. They are also not for raping, heckling, objectifying or harassing. What messages do men grow up with then about what women are for? What do men think men are for? What do women think women or men are there for? Society has changed dramatically in the past 100 years. It is no longer acceptable to judge or stereotype someone on the basis of their race. Somehow gender differences feel like a harder thing to crack. But maybe in 1906 so did racism.”
Black Looks (http://www.blacklooks.org/2006/06/on_being_a_lesbian_activist_in_africa.html) writes a piece on “Being a Lesbian Activist in Africa”.
“The LGBT community in Africa live perilous lives and activists because they are challenging the status quo, are in even more danger. They may have to move from house to house in order to avoid being outed by neighbours and reported to the police. If they are able to find work in the formal economy they have to hide their sexuality and bear the psychological pain of living a lie. Alternatively they may have to work in the informal sector, moving from job to job to avoid being discovered. Quite often LGBT activists go into hiding for short periods to avoid being discovered.”
* Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks, www.blacklooks.org
* Please send comments to [email protected]
Africa: AU ministers agree on draft democracy charter
Ministers from across Africa have approved a draft charter on democracy that lays down guidelines on elections and good governance. A two-day meeting concluded with unanimous agreement on the draft document in Congo's capital on Saturday. The draft is to be put to an African Union heads of state meeting in Gambia on July 1 and 2.
The Gambia: Invitation to the AU pre-summit women's forum
"I have the honour to invite you to the African Union Women’s Forum which is being organized by the Women Gender and Development Directorate of the African Union, in partnership with African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and ISIS Women International Cross Cultural Exchange, from 22 to 23 June 2006 in Banjul, Gambia."
INVITATION TO THE AU PRE-SUMMIT WOMEN’S FORUM
22-23 JUNE 2006, BANJUL, GAMBIA.
I have the honour to invite you to the African Union Women’s Forum which is being organized by the Women Gender and Development Directorate of the African Union, in partnership with African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and ISIS Women International Cross Cultural Exchange, from 22 to 23 June 2006 in Banjul, Gambia.
You will recall that in their Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, African Heads of State and Government, in operative paragraphs 2 and 3, committed themselves to ensure the full participation and representation of women in peace processes including the prevention, resolution, and management of conflict and in post-conflict reconstruction in Africa. They also committed themselves to take action to prohibit the recruitment of child soldiers and the abuse of girl children.
The Women’s Forum, which is organised within the ambit of the Summit, has the theme “Promoting Gender-Responsive Governance in Countries Emerging from Conflict”. The Forum will therefore focus on issues of gender and governance in countries emerging from armed conflict and propose strategies to reduce the impact of conflict on women, including gender-based violence and lay the foundations for gender-sensitive and women-inclusive governance.
Participants at the Women’s Forum are drawn from civil society organizations, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AU Organs, the African Development Bank (ADB), UN Agencies, the Media and other development partners.
Kindly confirm your participation as soon as possible to the address below:
Women, Gender and Development Directorate
Ms. Yetunde Teriba
Women, Gender and Development Directorate
African Union Commission
P.O. Box 3243 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel (251-11) 551 77 00 ext 220 Direct (251-11) 5521 10 92
Fax (251-11) 551 78 44
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]
Africa: Discussing women migrants
One out of two migrant is a woman. Increasingly present and increasingly visible, women who live and work away from their countries of origin send billions of dollars to their relatives - often more frequently than men. Read this interview with Ms.Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on the website http://www.un-instraw.org
Cameroon: Seven convicted of sodomy
Seven of the nine men in Cameroon whose "crime" was attending a gay-friendly nightclub last year have been found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to a 10-month jail term, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission learned Tuesday. Since the men have already been detained in prison for more than one year, they are expected to be released shortly for time served.
Lesotho: Intensified efforts to help rape survivors
The Lesotho government is to improve medical care provided to sexual violence survivors after rape cases reported in the first three months of this year climbed to almost the total number for 2005.
Nigeria: Women meet on proliferation of arms
Women groups under the aegis of Women in Peace-building program (WIPNET) of the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP) have called on the Federal Government to enact a law making un-approved arms importation into Nigeria a criminal offence; and to enact a bill to monitor accountability in arms transaction in government security agencies.
Somalia: IRIN interview with Abdulahai Dahir, coordinator of Somali Reunification Women’s Union
Abdulahai Dahir, coordinator of Somali Reunification Women’s Union (SRWU), works with displaced people in Bosasso. He tries to dissuade would-be migrants from risking the sea crossing by showing them graphic photographs of those who died attempting it. His organisation also helps distribute food to about 3,000 Ethiopians who are stranded and homeless in the port.
Uganda: Soldier Verdict Spotlights Rape in Ugandan Camps
Like most of the female residents of Awere Internally Displaced Persons camp in northern Uganda, the girls rose at dawn that morning in 2002. They set out on foot, with their mother, to harvest crops several kilometers away. The two sisters, both teens, had called the camp home for most their lives. Along with about a million and a half of their neighbors, they were moved from their village to the camp by the Ugandan government in the mid-1990s to protect them from a murderous rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army.
DRC: Arbitrary arrest and detention
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the African Association for the Protection of Human Rights (Association africaine de défense des droits de l'homme - ASADHO), members of the SOS torture network, of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Mukadi Bonyi, lawyer at the Supreme Court of Justice and member of the Council of the Union for the reconstruction of Congo (Conseil de l'Union pour la reconstruction du Congo - UREC), a political party.
Case COD 130606
Arbitrary arrest and detention
The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Brief description of the situation:
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the African Association for the Protection of Human Rights (Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme - ASADHO), members of the SOS torture network, of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Mukadi Bonyi, lawyer at the Supreme Court of Justice and member of the Council of the Union for the reconstruction of Congo (Conseil de l’Union pour la reconstruction du Congo - UREC), a political party.
According to the information received, on 12 June 2006 at 1.30 p.m. Mr. Mukadi went to the office of the special services of the national police located in the building Kin-Mazière in the Gombe district, following an invitation of these services. After being interogated, Mr. Mukadi was arrested and detained at the dungeons of the special services.
Mr. Mukadi Bonyi is alleged to be accused of having received 10.000 $ US in order to, according to the special services, buy weapons destined to mercenaries.
The International Secretariat of OMCT expresses its grave concern over the conditions of the arrest and detention of Mr. Mukadi Bonyi. Besides his detention has lasted for more than the 48 hours in which time a detainee should be brought before the public prosecutor.
The OMCT urges the Congolese authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of
Mr. Mukadi Bonyi.
Please write to the Congolese authorities and ask them to:
1. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mukadi Bonyi;
2. Guarantee that Mr. Mukadi Bonyi has access to his family, his lawyers and, if necessary, to a doctor;
3. Order his immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges, or, if such charges exist, bring him before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee his procedural rights at all times;
4. Guarantee a thorough and impartial investigation into these events;
5. Guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.
- Le Président de la République, S.E. Joseph Kabila, Présidence de la République, Kinshasa-Ngaliema, République Démocratique du Congo, E-mail: [email protected]
- Le Vice-Président de la République en Charge de la Commission Politique, Défense et Sécurité, M. Azarias Ruberwa Manywa, Cabinet du Vice-Président de la République, avenue roi Baudouin ex-3Z, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo, Email : [email protected]
- Le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et de la Coopération Internationale, M. Ramazani Baya, Cabinet du Ministre, bâtiment du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo
- Le Ministre de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, M. Kisimba Ngoy, Ministère de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, BP 3137, Kinshasa Gombé, République Démocratique du Congo, E-mail: [email protected]
- Le Ministre de l’Intérieur, Ministère de l’Intérieur, Fax: +243 88 02 042, E-mail: [email protected]
- La Ministre des Droits Humains, Mme Marie-Madeleine Kalala, Cabinet du Ministre, Boulevard du 30 juin, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo, Fax: 00 243 12 20 664, Email: [email protected] ou [email protected]
- Observatoire National des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH), Cabinet du Président, avenue Sendwe, Kinshasa/Kalamu, République Démocratique du Congo, Tél: +243 98313740 / + 243 98271199 / + 243 98407633
- M. Théo Kiakwima, Directeur adjoint de l’Agence Nationale des Renseignements, Tel : + 243 995 8610
- Ambassadeur, Antoine Mindua Kesia-Mbe, Mission permanente de la République démocratique du Congo, Avenue de Budé 18, 1202 Genève, Suisse, e-mail : [email protected], Fax : +4122 740.16.82
- Ambassade de la République Démocratique du Congo à Bruxelles, Avenue Foestraets, 6, 1180 Bruxelles. Tel : + 32 2 375 47 96, Fax : + 32 2 372 23 48
Prière d’écrire aux représentations diplomatiques de la République Démocratique du Congo dans vos pays respectifs.
Geneva, 13 June 2006
Kindly inform OMCT of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.
DRC: Climate of fear threatens elections
When U.N. Security Council members visit the Democratic Republic of Congo on June 11 and 12, they should insist that the transitional government protect the rights of journalists and human rights defenders, who have increasingly come under attack ahead of the coming elections, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released on Friday 9 June.
East Africa: Police charged with failing to reform
Over the last two days, high level police, civil society and government delegates have met in Arusha, Tanzania, to look at the state of policing in East Africa, and map out a plan for reform in the region. Ms Maja Daruwala, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which facilitated the conference with the East Africa Law Society, said that, “The roundtable has shown the huge amount of interest that the question of police reform in East Africa generates. For decades, the communities of East Africa have been subject to unreformed, undemocratic and unaccountable policing. For the people in those communities, that has meant violence, corruption and brutality.”
East African police charged with failing to reform
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and the East Africa Law Society hold roundtable conference into police reform in East Africa
Media release from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Tuesday 13 June 2006
Over the last two days, high level police, civil society and government delegates have met in Arusha, Tanzania, to look at the state of policing in East Africa, and map out a plan for reform in the region. Ms Maja Daruwala, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which facilitated the conference with the East Africa Law Society, said that, “The roundtable has shown the huge amount of interest that the question of police reform in East Africa generates. For decades, the communities of East Africa have been subject to unreformed, undemocratic and unaccountable policing. For the people in those communities, that has meant violence, corruption and brutality.”
The Roundtable brought together delegates from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, as well as experts from Ghana, Australia and India. “CHRI has been working in East Africa for three years,” said Ms Daruwala, “We have just published a set of reports on policing and policing budgets in the region.
The release of the reports, as well as the groundswell of support for reform growing in the region, meant that it was the perfect time for key actors in the region to meet and flesh out the challenges to police reform in the region, and set out a way forward for reform.”
The Roundtable looked at policing trends and challenges across the East African region, and within the national borders of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The delegates found that “reform of the police is required to provide a police service that fulfils its mandate of protecting the safety and security of all. The state has a responsibility to provide an efficient, accountable and democratic system of policing which enhances the enjoyment of rights and development.”
The delegates also explored the challenges to good policing in East Africa. These challenges include police brutality and excessive use of force, outdated legal regimes, corruption, illegitimate political interference, militarisation of civilian policing bodies, partiality, impunity, internal police culture and hierarchies, lack of transparency, lack of adequate training and resources, police recruitment processes, poor service and working conditions, lack of adherence to the rule of law and lack of reform in the broader criminal justice sector. The delegates proposed a number of points of action. They called on police, civil society and national human rights institutions to create networks and to make use of advocacy opportunities such as the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, due to take place in Kampala, Uganda, late next year. The delegates also called on governments, civil society and national human rights institutions to work towards the demilitarisation of police in East Africa, the amendment of police laws to reflect democratic principles of policing and the strengthening of police accountability mechanisms such as civilian oversight bodies.
Ms Daruwala said, “This roundtable has shown the opportunities that exist for the police reform process to take place in East Africa. It has also shown that civil society, members of government, police officers and national human rights institutions are ready to make that reform happen. Police reform in East Africa is too important to neglect and too important to delay.” For more information, contact Daniel Woods at CHRI ([email protected]) or access the CHRI website at www.humanrightsinitiative.org The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international NGO working for the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.
Egypt: APC condemns imprisonment of pro-democracy bloggers
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has condemned the unjust detention of free speech bloggers and journalists in Egypt. Alaa Seif Al-Islam, a seasoned blogger and APC colleague, is one of four Egyptian online diarists being held in detention for criticising the current regime.
Gambia: Govt pays lip service to torture convention
The parliament of The Gambia ratified the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, claiming that the country had never applied these practices and that it had not been ratified earlier "by omission." On the same day (June 6), however, Reporters sans Frontières released photos of a Gambian journalist who had been severely tortured by national security forces only last month.
Ghana: Campaign launched against violence in mining
A campaign to stop violence in mining has been launched by the National Coalition of Mining (NCOM), a grouping of communities affected by mining and civil society organisations. Reading from a prepared sheet on behalf of NCOM, Gifty Dzah, from ABANTU for Development, said the objective of the campaign was to stop violence by mining companies and state agencies against communities and citizens.
Global: At least 115 unionists murdered in 2005
115 trade unionists were murdered for defending workers' rights in 2005, while 1 600 were assaulted and 9 000 were arrested, an international survey said. Rubber bullets and teargas were a feature of police responses to protests by workers in South Africa. New laws in Nigeria placed heavy restrictions on the right to strike and totally banned trade unions for certain types of worker.
Africa: Testimony on refugee/IDP protection
Although refugees and IDPs have separate legal regimes, operationally it is important they be dealt with in a more holistic way. As the UK Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn put it after visiting Darfur: "Is it really sensible that we have different systems for dealing with people fleeing their homes dependent on whether they happen to have crossed an international border? I have my doubts."
Burundi: Thousands more asylum seekers repatriated
Between April 2005 and March 2006, some 19,000 Rwandan asylum seekers had arrived in Burundi's northern provinces. They were reportedly fleeing persecution under Rwanda's traditional ‘gacaca’ justice system, which the government introduced to expedite trials for thousands of suspects held in connection with the 1994 genocide. Since 12 April, the Burundian government has repatriated 5,206 Rwandans from its northern provinces of Ngozi and Kirundo.
Côte d’Ivoire: Protection needs of IDPs remain acute
After almost four years of seemingly intractable political crisis that has kept Côte d’Ivoire split in half and some 700,000 IDPs in government-controlled areas, there may at last be room for a small glimmer of optimism about the prospects of peace. Yet formidable challenges remain ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 31 October 2006 under a road map established by the International Working Group on Côte d’Ivoire.
Global: 2005 global refugee trends
In 2005, 8.4 million people were counted as refugees, which is a drop from 9.5 million in 2004. However, the number of displaced people due to internal country conflicts increased from 5.4 million in 13 countries in 2004 to 6.6 million in 16 countries in 2005. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres cited Darfur, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as countries with high displacement rates that must work to remedy the situation. UNHCR officials continue to attribute the decline in asylum seekers to the imposition of tighter asylum restrictions in industrialized countries
Nigeria: Ex-Zim farmers harvest first crops in Nigeria
Zimbabwe commercial farmers who accepted an offer to resettle in Shonga, about 100km north of Ilorin, the capital of the central state of Kwara, began farming in June last year. They all fled Zimbabwe after the government of President Robert Mugabe embarked on its controversial land redistribution programme in February 2000, seizing prime farmland owned from 4 000 white farmers and handing it over to the landless black majority.
Zambia: Ethiopian and Somali refugees arrive in Zambia
More refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia have arrived in Zambia through Nakonde border in Northern province. Out of the 52 refugees, three are women and the rest are men aged between 20 and 30 years. Residents of Chinka are said to be unhappy with the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for not responding in good time to take the refugees to designated places. The residents feel the continued influx of refugees through Chinka is a threat to household food security in the area.
Zambia: The history of Zambia and refugees
As the world commemorates World Refugee Day on 20th June, it’s worth noting that the history of Zambia and refugees is a history of the overwhelming hospitality of the Zambian people. Zambia has been a citadel of peace for many. The first occurred in 1943 during the second world war when Northern Rhodesia hosted Polish Refugees. The second was in the 1960s after independence when Zambia opened its newly recognised borders to Angolan refugees fleeing from conflict.
Chad: President finally offers political dialogue
Chadian President Idriss Déby has instructed his government to open a dialogue with the political opposition in a government decree released to journalists. Before the May presidential elections, President Déby had opposed any democratic reforms, causing the opposition to boycott the poll.
DRC: Demonstration held over polls as UN team visits Kinshasa
Thousands of Congolese on Monday took to the streets of the capital, Kinshasa, to demand negotiations that would see the main opposition party included in the country's electoral process. The demonstration came a day after a United Nations Security Council delegation arrived for a visit. Most of the demonstrators were supporters of the Union pour la democratie et le progres social (UDPS), which is led by veteran politician Etienne Tshisekedi and is boycotting the 30 July elections.
Guinea: Calm returns but strikes continue
Calm returned to the Guinean capital, Conakry, on Wednesday after two days of street violence that pitted students and unemployed youths against security forces, but a nationwide strike continued. Eyewitnesses reported seeing up to 13 corpses of people killed in rioting and clashes between soldiers and student protesters.
Madagascar: An uneasy runup to December elections
Tension is rising in Madagascar ahead of elections scheduled for December, after talks between the government and opposition fizzled out. In a bid to ease the political situation, President Marc Ravalomanana held talks with various parties last month, but the overture was boycotted by the main opposition coalition.
Nigeria: Democracy at the crossroads
Nigeria's presidential, legislative and gubernatorial elections scheduled for 2007 have the potential to be a huge milestone in the history and development of democracy in the country, as they will be the first time one administration reaches its constitutionally mandated term limit and must hand over to a successor, begins a document from the Centre for Democracy and Development. "But just as observers concur that the 2003 polls were in many places marred by fraud and violence, the 2007 polls also contain huge potential to go badly off-track; to become not a milestone in democratic consolidation, but instead one marked by malpractice, injustice, criminality, violence, human rights abuses and increased instability."
Nigeria: Nigeria's ruling party in split
Nigerian riot police in the capital Abuja have sealed the offices of a splinter group of the ruling PDP party, following a split on Friday 9 June. The division occurred as prominent party members opposed efforts to amend the constitution to allow the president a third term in office.
Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai presents "roadmap to democracy" and ultimatum
Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, appears to have stepped back from launching a long-threatened anti-government protest against deteriorating living conditions. Addressing a press conference in the capital, Harare, Tsvangirai on Friday 9 June instead presented a "roadmap to legitimacy" - an ultimatum to the government.
Global: NGOs endorse accountability charter
The heads of 11 of the world’s leading human rights, environmental and social development international organisations have publicly endorsed the first global accountability charter for the non-profit sector. International NGOs play an increasingly influential role. Global public opinion surveys show higher trust in NGOs than in government and business.
* See http://news.amnesty.org/index/ENGPOL306062006 for the full charter.
Liberia: Senior officials sacked following corruption probe
In the first high-profile sackings since President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came to power and vowed to crack down on corruption, three senior government officials and five other mid-level employees have been fired. They were let go for what Sirleaf called “acts of impropriety.” She ordered government prosecutors to begin legal proceedings against them.
Nigeria: Nigeria asks G8 for good governance Bible
Nigeria called on G8 countries and international financial institutions on Saturday to work to create a unified code of good governance principles applicable to both developing and developed countries. G8 finance ministers meeting in St Petersburg on Saturday acknowledged in their joint communique the importance of responsible management of public finances for achieving stability and growth.
Zimbabwe: Tycoon Bredenkamp flees
A major financial supporter to the Mugabe regime, John Bredenkamp is reported to have fled Zimbabwe Tuesday morning after his companies were raided by the state. According to the state mouthpiece – The Herald Newspaper - the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI) raided Bredenkamp's companies to investigate cases linked to economic crimes. The tycoon was allegedly being probed on allegations of flouting exchange control regulations, tax evasion and contravening the Citizenship Act.
Africa: Debt relief target for world's poorest is massive underestimate
New research from nef (the new economics foundation), published on the day that the Paris club - the informal group of the world's creditor countries - meet to celebrate 50 years of rescheduling the debts of the world's poorest, shows that if the world's richest countries honoured their aid commitments for just five years, all unsustainable debt of the poorest could be written off to such a degree that the basic health and education needs of the world's poorest people could be met.
Africa: Migration as part of development policy
Migration policy issues have to be coherently examined as a part of development policy. The importance of the interoperability of migration and development policy is also emphasized in several political comments of the European Union (Hague Programme, Strategy for Africa). Functional development policy and development cooperation have a strong impact on problems causing migration.
Global: G8 notes new debt traps
Finance ministers from the Group of Eight nations on Saturday warned fast-growing economies against tempting poor countries into new debt traps and told them to coordinate with other lenders. China and Brazil have been singled out in the past as prime examples of countries that are handing out loans to some of the world's poorest countries, even as rich countries are cancelling debt they were owed.
Global: The World Bank, IMF and Growth
Nowadays a lot of economic jargon is flying around in the news media about internal management, external challenges and external conditions being imposed on poor and developing countries. Blame for economic underdevelopment is generally heaped upon poor governance, corruption and a host of other similar factors. The World Bank, IMF and other donor agencies seem to be the whipping boys for almost all the ills of developing country economies- alleged, perceived, or real.
Liberia: Liberia "not ready" for lift of timber, diamond sanctions
Two new reports looking into the exploitation of Liberia's strategic natural resources conclude that the government still is not in control of the resources. Ex-combatants grouped by former rebel leaders are still exploiting Liberian diamonds, timber and rubber, controlling entire regions.
Nigeria: Caution urged on debt repayment
A group, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANE-EJ), has called on the National Assembly to reject a proposal sent by President Olusegun Obasanjo to settle London Club debt at the expense of key development challenges in Nigeria. The group said it condemned a letter dated May 24, 2006 which President Obasanjo sent to Senate President, Ken Nnamani, asking that the recent $12.12 billion as debt to the Paris Club of creditors should be followed up with $2.15 billion to the London Club.
Tanzania: Trade with China increases
Bilateral trade between China and Tanzania has increased by almost 70%, climaxing at US$47million last year. According to the secretary of bilateral trade at the Chinese Embassy in Dar es Salaam, imports by China from Tanzania went up by 150.1% valued at $17million while exports from China to Tanzania increased by 40.6% to $3 million. The increase is attributed to the special preferential tariff (SPT) agreement-involving 190 tariff items-to the most undeveloped countries in Africa.
Africa: Radical approach to AIDS prevention
Reduce malaria, worms and bilharzia, make border posts more efficient – and HIV rates will drop, argues a US expert. Malnutrition, malaria and bilharzia – coupled with weak governments – are some of the key factors driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, according to US academic Professor Eileen Stillwaggon. Taking a swipe at those who try to blame sexual behaviour for the rampant HIV epidemic in southern Africa, she says that they are caught up in “exotic notions” about Africans.
Burundi: Free health care cripples hospitals
A new policy of free medical care for Burundian mothers and children was intended to improve their lives; instead it has crippled the nation's health system. Public hospitals in Burundi have recorded double, sometimes triple, the number of patients since a presidential directive for free paediatric and maternal health services was implemented on May 1.
Global: Oxfam criticises G8 on health
Oxfam last Friday released a report criticizing the Group of Eight industrialized nations for not providing enough aid to international development programs -including programs to fight HIV/AIDS - and for pulling money from aid budgets to cancel debt owed by developing countries, the AP/Yahoo! News reports. The report, released Friday ahead of this year's G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, says three global initiatives - the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Education Fast Track Initiative and the new UN Central Emergencies Response Fund - are "shockingly underfunded."
Kenya: State agency says dispensaries have vital drugs
Essential drugs are now available in public health institutions, even those in remote areas, a government agency has said. The Kenya Medical Supplies Agency chairman said it had stocked Kenya's 2,800 dispensaries and other health institutions with enough drugs and medical equipment. He said the agency was taking the drugs directly to the health institutions after doing away with an earlier system "since it is causing artificial shortages of drugs and it is time-consuming".
Namibia: Govt launches crash polio campaign after outbreak
Namibia is to launch a national polio vaccination campaign after the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed an outbreak of the highly contagious virus. So far seven deaths and 39 cases of the wild polio have been reported, Kalumbi Shangula, permanent secretary in the ministry of health, said on Thursday.
Tanzania: Zanzibar tightens import controls over bird flu threat
Authorities on Tanzania's semiautonomous island of Zanzibar have intensified efforts to control the importation of chicken in a bid to check the threat of bird flu on the island. The deadly H5N1 strain of avian flu has already been reported in several African countries. The poultry industry in Asia and a number of European countries has been ravaged by the disease, which has also claimed dozens of human lives.
Zimbabwe: Harare runs out of TB drugs
Public clinics and hospitals in Harare, are running out of desperately needed drugs to treat tuberculosis as a worsening hard-currency shortage hits state health facilities, it was reported on June 8. Overcrowding and poor hygiene have seen increasing cases of TB surfacing in Harare. The high incidence of HIV/Aids has also led to the spread of the highly infectious disease.
Africa: Are PRSPs changing education policy making?
Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), now operational in sixty least-developed countries, open access to debt relief and are the basis for concessional lending by international financial institutions. Most PRSPs stress education and refer to Education for All (EFA) objectives. However, the strategy and the financing required to achieve them are unspecified.
Africa: Broken promises and the 30th Anniversary of the Day of the African Child
Global Campaign for Education (GCE)
In Africa today over 40 million children are living with the consequences of broken promises - the promise of being able to go to school. Two thirds of all children in Africa will not complete five years of education. The world's leaders have made this promise time and time again. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Education for All Goals, the Millennium Development Goals and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child all endorse children's right to complete a basic education of good quality.
Global Campaign for Education Press Release
16th June 2006
Broken Promises: on the 30th Anniversary of the Day of the African Child
"Promises to children should never be broken" (Nelson Mandela, 10th March 2006)
In Africa today over 40 million children are living with the
consequences of broken promises - the promise of being able to go to
school. Two thirds of all children in Africa will not complete five
years of education.
The world's leaders have made this promise time and time again. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Education for All Goals,
the Millennium Development Goals and the African Charter on the Rights
and Welfare of the Child all endorse children's right to complete a
basic education of good quality.
Time is running out for the world to keep their promises…
If all children are to complete primary education by 2015, they have
to be enrolled in school by 2009 at the latest. That is why we must
see action today. All governments must live up to the 'global
compact' – that countries with good strategies would be fully financed
by donor cash - to meet this goal immediately. Last weekend, the
finance ministers of rich countries once again re-iterated the
importance of Education For All. But they left the table without
making any firm commitments of new money to realize this dream.
Donor governments must increase aid and cancel debt to African
countries so that they can expand their education systems. As a
first step must fill the EFA Fast Track Initiative's finance gap of
$415 million to help 20 countries with 16 million children out of
school deliver their education plans. And next month GCE demands the
G8 to keep their promises and announce that they will provide full
funding so that 100 million children around the world will not be left
waiting at the school gates – an amount of approximately $10 billion
Governments in Africa must also play their part by increasing public
spending on education in order to give every child the opportunity to
go to school for free and to ensure they receive a quality education,
with a well-trained, motivated teacher. On average Sub-Saharan
Africa countries spend less money on education than on health or on
The Struggle for Education Continues…
In South Africa the Day of the African Child 16th June, marks the 30
year anniversary of the Soweto uprisings. Thousands of children took
to the streets in demand of equal education. Today those children and
the brutal repression that followed will be remembered along with
It is not acceptable that in 2006 children in South Africa and across
the continent find that their quality education is dependent on their
class and their ability to pay. Children are often excluded or
victimized from school because their parents are not able to pay for
school fees and other costs, such as transport, learning materials and
To remind South Africa that we have yet to reach our demands, GCE is
putting the writing on the wall. In Soweto a large mural will be
unveiled that depicts children campaigning for education 30 years ago
and today – with the words: 30 years later: the struggle for education
Broken promises of education have a high price to pay. There is
overwhelming evidence that education – particularly for girls – can
break the cycle of poverty and reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Lacking education, children often have no choice other than a life of
a child worker, child soldier, or street child.
Now is the time to keep our promises to education.
Notes to Editors:
Alex Kent – 011 447 4111 or 076 428 5390
The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) has been campaigning to make
the right to education a reality since 1999, across the world, and
South Africa. The campaign is a coalition of teachers unions, child
rights activities, NGOs and academics, and is now active in more than
110 countries. GCE's recent Global Action Week mobilized millions of
campaigners who collected evidence for the need for more teachers, and
made demands to politicians when they returned to school.
Kenya: The challenges for education policy review
The appointment by the then Minister for Education, Prof. George Saitoti, of a task force to review the laws governing education, training and research in the country, though belatedly, was a sign that education standards in this country will soon whirl forward. Kenyans look upon the commission with high expectations.
Rwanda: Thousands of genocide survivors now out of schools
Thousands of genocide survivors, whose school fees should be paid by a solidarity fund, no longer attend school and live in difficult conditions, said six members of the Rwandan Parliament in a report published last week by the New Times.
South Africa: Curbing the blackboard exodus
The teacher shortage in SA will reach crisis point by 2008 unless drastic steps are taken to increase the number entering the profession. By 2008, SA will be short of 15,090 educators, according to a study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). That is with the current learner-to-educator ratios of 40:1 for primary and 35:1 for secondary schools.
* South African Human Rights Commission report on the Right to Basic Education
Global: Fifa to use World Cup to fight racism
Soccer has struggled for years to rid itself of racism. For this World Cup the governing body of the world's sport is making harmony a central theme. "Football, like most sports, is combative - you play to win. But it shouldn't have anything to do with racism or violence," said Federico Addiechi, head of a Fifa division which deals with corporate social responsibility.
South Africa: Deputy Major plans legal action for racism
Stilbaai deputy mayor Lorna Scott, victim of a string of racist attacks, says she is planning to take "legal action" over the harassment. Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town with members of the African National Congress' Western Cape executive, she said this could include a defamation action against provincial Democratic Alliance leader Theuns Botha for what she said where "attacks on my character".
South Africa: Post-colonial blacks
"There is a tendency by those who write books and essays for leading journals to downplay the seriousness of today's racial oppression in South Africa," writes Mandisa Majuva in an article posted on www.zmag.org "This is achieved through silence around issues of race (or by portraying whites as being the new victims of racism meted out by blacks in the new South Africa) or by choosing to explain reality in terms of economics only."
UK: Muslims protest over terror raid
Muslims have protested outside Scotland Yard against the tactics used by police in an anti-terror raid in east London. Islamic Human Rights Commission chairman Massoud Shajareh told BBC News: "The papers were talking about [how] they became very Islamic in the last few years, as if that is automatically connected to terrorist activity."
Africa: Africa heads of state commit to fertilizer reforms
Heads of state and governments from more than 40 African nations have agreed to lift all cross-border taxes and tariffs on fertilizer, designating mineral and organic fertilizer as a "strategic commodity." They also agreed to establish an African fertilizer financing mechanism within the African Development Bank to significantly increase the availability and access to fertilizer on the continent.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AFRICAN HEADS OF STATE COMMIT TO FAR-REACHING REFORMS TO REDUCE STEEP PRICE OF FERTILIZER AND START A GREEN REVOLUTION IN AFRICA
Leaders Agree to Lift All Taxes and Tariffs on Fertilizers
At First Summit Seeking to Restore Barren Soils of Africa
For more information contact:
Jeff Haskins in Abuja at +234 (0) 80 5851 9748
Ellen Wilson or Preeti Singh at + 1 301-652-1558 ext.101
Or email Jeff Haskins at [email protected]
Editor’s Note: For additional press releases and other material on the Summit, visit: http://www.africafertilizersummit.org/Online_Press_Room/index.html
B-roll is available to support this story.
ABUJA, NIGERIA (13 June 2006)—Heads of state and governments from more than 40 African nations agreed today to lift all cross-border taxes and tariffs on fertilizer, designating mineral and organic fertilizer as a “strategic commodity.” They also agreed to establish an African fertilizer financing mechanism within the African Development Bank to significantly increase the availability and access to fertilizer on the continent.
To catalyze start-up of the fund, President Olusegun Obasanjo committed an initial $US10 million from the Nigerian government with additional funding expected from African and international sources. The announcements were made today at the Africa Fertilizer Summit, the largest and most comprehensive effort to tackle Africa’s soil fertility crisis.
“We all agree that increasing the health of our mined soils with both organic and mineral fertilizers is a key component to achieving Africa’s Green Revolution,” said President Obasanjo. “This august gathering, therefore, heralds a crucial milestone in our quest to rapidly reverse our low agricultural productivity and accelerate food security for our people.”
“The Africa Fertilizer Summit deserves the fullest support of leaders of Africa,” said Adamu Bello, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Addressing the afternoon gathering of Heads of State, Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation said, “We believe in the tremendous potential of an African Green Revolution. But to make it a reality will require the collaboration of national governments, the private sector, and the donor community. The need is great, and the time is right. We stand ready to offer our best help.”
Commenting on the deliberations, Alpha Konare, President of the African Union Commission said, “It’s Africa’s time. The Africa Union strongly commits itself to these concrete action plans to end Africa’s fertility crisis.”
“This historic Summit will launch the African Green Revolution by providing the much-needed inputs for farmers to not only improve crop production but also to improve livelihoods,” said Amit Roy, President and CEO of the IFDC, an International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development.
Former President Denis Sassou-Nguessou of the Republic of Congo and chairman of the African Union said, “Africa’s leaders are ready and we will solve this crisis.”
Major reforms agreed to by the African Union Member States include:
Increasing the level of use of fertilizer from the current average of 8 kilograms per hectare to an average of at least 50 kilograms per hectare by 2015.
Taking measures to reduce the cost of fertilizer procurement at the national and regional levels, including eliminating all taxes on fertilizers and ensuring duty and tax-free movement across regions.
Improving farmers’ access to fertilizers by developing and scaling up networks of small retail businesses known as “agrodealers” in rural areas.
Taking concrete measures to specially address the fertilizer needs of women farmers and to develop and strengthen the capacity of youth, farmers’ associations, civil society organizations, and the private sector.
Improving farmers’ access to fertilizer, by granting, with the support of Africa’s Development Partners, targeted subsidies in favor of the fertilizer sector, with special attention to poor farmers.
Accelerating investment in infrastructure, particularly transport, fiscal incentives, strengthening farmers’ organizations, and other measures to improve the profitability of farming.
Establishing national financing facilities to accelerate access to credit at the local and national level for agrodealers, with specific attention to women.
Requesting the establishment of regional procurement and distribution facilities in collaboration with the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa, Regional Economic Communities, and the Regional Development Banks.
Promoting national and regional fertilizer production, and intra-regional fertilizer trade to capture a bigger market and take advantage of economies of scale through measures such as tax incentives and infrastructure development.
Improving farmer access to quality seeds, irrigation facilities, extension services, market information, and soil nutrient testing and mapping to encourage effective and efficient use of fertilizer and to protect the environment.
Establishing an Africa Fertilizer Development Financing Mechanism, through the African Development Bank, to meet the financing requirements of the various actions agreed to by the Summit. Additionally, the African Union Member States agreed to pledge resources for its immediate operation.
Last, requesting that the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) set up a mechanism to monitor and evaluate the implementation of this resolution in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank.
“The AU should give a progress report to the African Heads of State at every six-monthly African Union Summit, starting in January 2007,” the Declaration said.
Background on Soils and Africa
Fertilizer use in Africa is the lowest in the world mainly because its cost can be as much as four times higher than in Western countries. A ton of fertilizer that costs $150 in the United States can cost as much as $600 in landlocked African countries. Lack of roads and taxes contribute to the high price of fertilizer.
Barren soils are a key cause of hunger in Africa. Fertilizer use is a vital component for restoring Africa’s farmland and increasing farm yields. Farmers south of the Sahara apply less than 2% of all fertilizer used worldwide. The result has been a steady decline in farm yields over the past 30 years and devastating hunger and malnutrition across the continent.
New data shows that at least three-quarters of African farmland south of the Sahara is plagued by severe land degradation. Nutrients loss costs Africans some $4 billion in income every year. Barren soils in Africa have also led to massive erosion and the clearing of wildlife areas for farming. Africa has many natural resources required to manufacture fertilizer, including rock phosphates and natural gas, yet it currently lacks significant production capacity.
About the Summit
The Africa Fertilizer Summit is convened by the African Union through its New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), hosted by the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and chaired by His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union’s Implementation Committee.
Sponsors of the Summit include: The Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Rockefeller Foundation, the African Development Bank (AfDB), Agriterra, the Arab Fertilizer Association (AFA), Fidelity Bank (Nigeria), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Notore Chemical Co. (Nigeria), Sasakawa Global 2000, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The World Bank. It is being implemented by IFDC, an International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development, a nonprofit, public international organization, in collaboration with NEPAD.
Ghana: Harvesting submerged timber
A Canadian company conceived on the principles of corporate responsibility plans to harvest underwater forests. Clark Sustainable Resource Developments is a new venture that plans to secure and operate licences to harvest underwater forests, beginning on Lake Volta, the world's largest reservoir, in Ghana.
Global: Facts about deserts and desertification
Desertification is found to some degree on 30 per cent of irrigated lands, 47 per cent of rain-fed agricultural lands, and 73 per cent of rangelands. Annually, an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 million hectares of irrigated land, 3.5 to 4 million hectares of rain-fed agricultural land, and about 35 million hectares of rangeland lose all or part of their productivity due to land degradation.
Liberia: Timber dealer convicted
The Dutch timber merchant Guus van Kouwenhoven has been sentenced to eight years in prison for breaking a United Nations arms embargo on Liberia. A Dutch court found that Kouwenhoven had sold weapons to the former Liberian president Charles Taylor in return for timber rights. But he was acquitted of war crimes charges based on allegations that private militias formed by his two timber companies had carried out atrocities.
Malawi: Uncertain future for Malawi's forests
Findings of a recent forest assessment in Malawi show "increasing deforestation rates and unsustainable exploitation of non-timber forestry products" in the country's protected areas. The report indicates that Malawi's valuable national parks soon could be degraded entirely.
Africa: Land rights for African development
Land and land resources in Africa are increasingly governed by modern tenure systems and less by customary systems. Unfortunately, changing land use and land ownership patterns have not always been accompanied by appropriate reforms in policies, laws, and institutions. Africa must ensure that the current wave of land reform initiatives help to establish needed changes in land rights as well as legal and institutional frameworks.
East Africa: Why ignoring minorities is dangerous!
Despite claims that the world has entered a new era of human rights and democratic representation, minorities continue to be an endangered lot whenever dominant neighbouring peoples have expanded their territories or settlers from far away have acquired new lands by force
Ethiopia: Ethnic conflict claims 100 lives in the south
At least 100 people have died and thousands of others have been displaced during clashes over disputed land in southern Ethiopia during the past two weeks, humanitarian sources said. "The conflict started after the Guji, whose woreda [district] has recently been expanded by the government, started to claim land that previously belonged to Borena."
Rwanda: Driven out of the Forest to 'Save' Gorillas
The Batwa once inhabited the forests of the Virunga Mountains, but by the 1970s, after legislation outlawed hunting and gathering and introduced national parks, the Batwa communities were driven off their ancestral lands. Today, there are about 130 Batwa families living in this area. Most have become beggars or landless labourers working for their Hutu and Tutsi neighbours for less than $1 a day.
Southern Africa: Land reform influenced by IMF, prof claims
Land reforms in Southern Africa are heavily influenced by the IMF and World Bank rhetoric, University of Malawi researcher and lecturer Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa has said. "Our research on land shows that land reforms have no serious analysis of the prospects of the poor," Prof Chirwa said. "We have done so many researches in this area but we don't see proper prospects of the poor."
Zambia: A look at land dispute in Zambia
A tiny southern Zambian village has become the focal point of a conflict which pits the poor against a corporation backed by a government determined to roll out economic liberalisation across the country. Over 100 families and 17,000 cattle in the village of Kabanje face eviction from their homes and cattle sheds because Zambia Sugar Plc, a private firm, is claiming ownership of the land.
Africa: Freedom of expression network issues statement
On June 12 to 13, 2006, the Coordinating Group of the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organizations (NAFEO) met in Lagos to deliberate on:
- media freedom and freedom of expression in Africa
- ways of strengthening organizations working for media freedom and freedom of expression;
strategies and programmes for defending and promoting press freedom and freedom of expression in Africa; and
- plans for strengthening the NAFEO, and developing action plans for interventions to promote the network objectives in the next one year.
Network of African Freedom of Expression Organizations (NAFEO)
Statement of Freedom of Expression in Africa
Lagos, Nigeria, June 13, 2006
On June 12 to 13, 2006, the Coordinating Group of the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organizations (NAFEO) met in Lagos to deliberate on:
media freedom and freedom of expression in Africa
ways of strengthening organizations working for media freedom and freedom of expression;
strategies and programmes for defending and promoting press freedom and freedom of expression in Africa; and
plans for strengthening the NAFEO, and developing action plans for interventions to promote the network objectives in the next one year
At the meeting in Lagos, the Coordinating Group of NAFEO observed that the conditions of press freedom and freedom of expression are deteriorating rapidly or systematically in all regions of Africa. There is a marked increase in the arrests, detention, repression and general harassment of journalists, media and other communications workers.
The meeting also observed that many governments have either introduced new legislation, or have intensified the application, of laws that criminalize journalistic work and free expression.
The NAFEO would like to state that the increasing deterioration of free expression goes on in most countries in Africa today. However, the following countries constitute the hot spots of extreme violations of press freedom and freedom of expression:
In two weeks, that is on July 1 and 2, the African Union Summit will be held in Banjul, capital of one of the most violent violators of these freedoms on the continent. We take this opportunity to call on African leaders to take urgent steps to:
End the attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression;
Free all journalists and other citizens arrested, detained or imprisoned for exercising their rights to free expression;
End all pending criminal prosecution of all journalists and other citizens charged for exercising their right to free expression by any medium;
Repeal all laws that criminalize free speech, including anti-terrorism legislation;
End censorship of any medium of communication, including the Internet; and
Respect their citizens’ rights to publish, broadcast, and use the Internet without hindrance.
Democracy will be empty in Africa if the citizens of our continent cannot enjoy one of the basic human rights and fundamental pillars of democracy – freedom of expression.
Having met in Lagos, we are appealing especially to President Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria, to use his influence within the African Union, to remind his colleague heads of state, particularly those of the above-named countries, to end the repression of press freedom and freedom of expression.
Our Network is launching a campaign to end the repression of these rights in our countries.
NAFEO therefore takes this opportunity to appeal to the mass media, human rights organizations and other civil society groups all over Africa, to join in this campaign to protect and promote media freedom and freedom of expression in Africa.
Following a meeting held in Accra, Ghana, from October 28 to 30, 2005, media freedom and freedom of expression organisations in Africa came together to form the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations for the purpose of strengthening coordination and collaboration among themselves in the promotion and defence of media freedom and freedom of expression across all the regions of Africa, including the North, Southern, East, the Horn, Central, and West Africa, as well as in all the Islands.
Current Member Organizations of NAFEO
Journaliste en Danger (JED), Kinshasa
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Accra
Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA), Windhoek
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Lagos
AFMF: Africa Free Media Foundation (formerly NDIMA Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa), Nairobi
AMDISS: Association for Media Development in Southern Sudan, Juba
CNLT: National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, Tunis
EFJA: Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association , Addis Ababa
FAMEDEV: Inter-Africa Network for Women, Media, Gender Equity & Development, Dakar
FXI: Freedom of Expression Institute, Johannesburg
NGE: Nigerian Guild of Editors, Abuja
OMAC: Organisation des Medias d’Afrique Centrale, Bujunbura
OTM: Observatoire Togolais des Medias, Lome
PIWA: Panos Institute West Africa, Dakar
SCFE: Somali Coalition for Free Expression, Mogadishu
TAEF: All Africa Editors Forum, Johannesburg
URATEL: Union des Radios & Televisions libres du Togo, Lome
WAJA/OJAO: West Africa Journalist Association/ Union des journalistes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, Bamako
CREDO: Centre for Research Education & Development of FOX & Association Rights, London
Working Group for Press Freedom and Free Expression in North Africa, Casablanca
DRC: Journalists attacked in elections run-up
As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares to hold its first elections in more than 40 years on 30 July 2006, Journaliste en danger (JED), Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are warning that a spate of attacks against journalists and human rights activists in recent weeks could foster a climate of self-censorship in the media and deprive voters of important information.
South Africa: SABC was concerned about being sued over Mbeki film
Concerns about possible legal action resulted in the SABC's decision not to air a documentary about President Thabo Mbeki, according to Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, writes Wendy Jasson da Costa in The Star, as posted on www.journalism.co.za In a written response to questions by DA MP Dene Smuts, the minister denied that the SABC board or any of its members had stopped the "production" of the documentary.
Swaziland: Court denies ban request on media coverage
Acting Chief Justice Jacobus Annandale said the right of the public to information could not be undermined at the behest of an individual. He was referring to the alleged serial killer, David Simelane, who applied for a ban on media coverage of the case. Annandale said the right to freedom of the media and the public's right to receive information were enshrined in the country's constitution
The Gambia: "Independent" reporter Lamin Fatty released on bail
A court in the Gambia freed a reporter on bail this week, more than two months after he was detained by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), local sources told the Committee to Protect Journalists. Lamin Fatty of the Banjul-based The Independent will go on trial June 22 on charges of publishing "false news," they said.
Uganda: Journalists on trial for "promoting sectarianism"
The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled that two journalists are to go on trial in Uganda, charged with "promoting sectarianism" in an article criticizing government persecution of opposition leader Kizza Besigye. Editor James Tumusiime and reporter Semujju Ibrahim Nganda of the independent Weekly Observer face up to five years in jail if convicted.
Africa: From brain drain to brain circulation
In the 1960s and 1970s, the flow of scientists, engineers and medical personnel from developing to industrialised nations was thought to have almost entirely negative consequences for the source countries. Recently, there has been growing emphasis on reverse flows of knowledge, skills and money the migrants send home. What was once termed brain drain is now seen as brain circulation.
Kenya: It's a case of two African diasporas
It has become increasingly clear that there are indeed two African Diasporas: the Historical and the New, and the differences between the two have implications far beyond academics. The composition of the two Diasporas is not homogeneous and their ability and inclination to engage in continental Africa are not the same.
Africa: Examining the economic impact of peacekeeping
There is a need for greater consciousness within UN peacekeeping operations of the potential economic impact of deployment and missions need to be adapted to the war-torn economies where UN peacekeeping missions are deployed, says a new report.
CAR: Silent crisis in northwest lingers
What started as a seemingly insignificant skirmish between the army and antigovernment forces in Ouham Prefecture of northwestern Central African Republic (CAR) has spurred a humanitarian crisis in which almost 100,000 people have been displaced.
Chad: As army pursues rebels, militias fill vacuum
The stench of rotting corpses becomes unbearable. Locals say 75 of their men are buried in shallow graves in this glade on the village's outskirts, killed they say by men on horses, and by their own neighbours. The bodies were hastily buried in mid-May, days after a rag-tag group of men armed with guns, spears, and machetes overran the village in a dawn attack.
Somalia: Regional body imposes sanctions against "warlords"
East African states have agreed to isolate leaders of armed factions in Somalia by imposing a regional travel ban on them and freezing their assets in a bid to help the nation's fledgling transitional federal government restore stability. Kenya took the lead last week, imposing sanctions against Somalia's so-called "warlords" after they and their militia were driven out of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, by forces loyal to the city's Islamic courts.
Somalia: Somali division over peacekeepers
Somalia's interim parliament is meeting in Baidoa to discuss whether to ask the African Union to send foreign peacekeeping troops into Mogadishu. But the head of the Islamist militia controlling Mogadishu, Sharif Shaikh Ahmed, has rejected any deployment.
Sudan: Rebel splinter faction commit to Darfur peace deal
Factions from two Sudanese rebel groups that had refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement signed a declaration of commitment to the pact on Thursday, effectively pledging to abide by its terms. The main wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), led by Minni Minnawi, and the Sudanese government signed the African Union- brokered agreement on 5 May, but breakaway factions of the rebellion refused to sign it, prompting the international community to set a deadline of 31 May.
Uganda: Prospects for peace talks with the LRA uncertain
Efforts by authorities in southern Sudan to mediate in the conflict between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) appeared to be stalling at the weekend after Kampala refused to meet the insurgency's leadership because it had been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.
West Africa: Children in danger - Stop the violence
Africa’s prospects for attaining peace risk being undermined unless action is taken to reel in the horrific violence inflicted on the continent’s children, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF. Friday 16th June is the Day of the African Child. It marks the 1976 shooting of school children protesting apartheid in the South African township of Soweto. Three decades on, that anniversary is being used to draw attention to the continued violence suffered by children in Africa.
Africa: Continent connects to internet
East African countries are leading Africa in the growth of Internet penetration. Tanzania has had a 150% increase in users in the past year while Kenya has increased by 200%, with the number of users having reached 1.5 million. African Internet penetration overall is 4%, up from 2.6% in 2005.
Africa: Microsoft selling hobbled software to poor countries
www.tectonic.co.za reports that: "Surprisingly, no-one seems to have told Microsoft that it is not good marketing strategy to treat your customers as if they are stupid. Which is exactly what the company is doing with the release in Africa of the stripped-down operating system it calls Windows XP Starter Edition."
Global: South Africa pupils interact via laptop linkup
Almost 30 years have passed since the Soweto uprising on 16 June 1976, that defining day in South Africa's history when thousands of black students rebelled against apartheid. To commemorate the anniversary, pupils at Phefeni Secondary School in Soweto, South Africa and Hesketh Fletcher CofE High School in Wigan, UK shared the school day via a LIVE laptop link-up.
Rwanda: To house Eastern Africa cable project
Rwanda has been selected to house the headquarters of the multi-million dollar Eastern Africa Submarine Cable Project (EASSy). The project, which has of recent been dogged by controversy over its ownership, has a membership of 23 countries in the region. The EASSy cable system is a 9900km project expected to run from Durban, South Africa to Djibouti and is supported by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and telecommunications operators.
Uganda: Bwindi telecentre brings MDGs fulfillment in focus
Located at the Congo-Uganda border 500 kilometres south west of Kampala, the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) Bwindi Impenetrable National Park telecentre - a combination of conservation and technology, is making a whole lot of a difference to the endangered mountain gorillas, eco-tourists, tourist stakeholders and locals who live in and around the park. The telecentre has been nominated as one of the 14 finalists in the "environment" category in the world's best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects that competed in the Stockholm Challenge 2006.
Africa: Chimurenga online
CHIMURENGA is an advertising-free and self-funded quarterly of arts.cultures.politics from Africa for Africa. Visit the website to find out more and to subscribe.
Africa: Call for comments
The United Nations Non-Governmental Liason Service is calling for comments on the Secretary-General’s Report on International Migration and Development. Visit the website for more information.
Africa: Call for Nominations of African Women of Distinction
This is a call for nominations for inclusion in the book and video documentary, "African Women of Distinction" (working title) to exhibit in Africa and the US in December, 2006. The African Women of Distinction project profiles the stories and work of twenty women in Africa who embody the essence of leadership, determination, and innovation in addressing social, economic and political issues at local, national, and international levels. This is the first of several editions of this project.
Call for Nominations of African Women of Distinction June 5, 2006
This is a call for nominations for inclusion in the book and video documentary, "African Women of Distinction" (working title) to exhibit in Africa and the U.S. in December, 2006. The African Women of Distinction project profiles the stories and work of twenty women in Africa who embody the essence of leadership, determination, and innovation in addressing social, economic and political issues at local, national, and international levels. This is the first of several editions of this project.
Profiled women for the 2006 "African Women of Distinction" project will come from across Africa and represent diverse social, economic and political backgrounds and come from all walks of life-- mothers, government and business leaders, community activists, scientists, and grandmothers. African Women of Distinction will provide a reality-based and all-encompassing depiction of women in Africa, including their role as nurturers, as agents of peace, and as "social rebels".
Integrated within the African Women of Distinction project is an African Women of Distinction Leadership program that unites and builds solidarity between the women, and facilitates mentorship with other women in Africa. To reaffirm our commitment to young women and their importance to the future of Africa, five young women between the ages of 18 and 30 will be honoured based on their potential for extraordinary leadership and service in Africa.
1. Should be a positive role model and demonstrate leadership in their chosen field.
2. Should be someone whose achievements have made an impact at local, national or international levels.
3. Individuals who have been the first in initiating an activity that made living conditions better for others.
4. Embody excellence and leadership in her field of endeavor.
5. Someone who has shown courage in public life and public service or is/has been involved in a great cause for the uplifting of humanity. Note: Fields of art, faith, education, technology, media, politics, health, music, will all be considered.
Nominations should meet some of the above criteria and include:
1. Background information on the nominee addressing the selection criteria
2. Details of specific achievements (supporting materials may be attached)
3. Name, mailing address, e-mail and phone number (if available) of nominee
4. Name, mailing address, e-mail and phone number (if available) of nominator
There are no limitations to the nominated women's social, economic or political status, age, education, and/or literacy skills. Nominations are accepted in Portuguese, English, French, and Arabic. Selections will be made by an international panel in August 2006.
A completed nomination form (see attachment) must be submitted by July 31, 2006 to: Email: [email protected] Fax: +001 831 306 5951 Mail: NOMINATION: AWOD c/o Amanda Koster and Neema Mgana 3842 Interlake Ave. N Seattle, WA 98103 USA
All selected women will be notified by September 1, 2006. For further information, please email: [email protected]
Global: Civil society anti-corruption toolkit
The Corruption Fighters' Tool Kit is a compendium of practical civil society anti-corruption experiences described in concrete and accessible language. It presents innovative anti-corruption tools developed and implemented by TI National Chapters and other civil society organizations from around the world.
Global: Funders network on trade and globalisation
The mission of the Funders Network on Trade and Globalization is to support foundations and other members of the funding community in their efforts to promote global relations, policies and institutions that foster environmentally sustainable, human-centered and just economic development in the US and around the world.
Global: The International Journalists' Network
The International Journalists' Network (IJNet) is the world’s premier resource for the media assistance community. It is an online service for journalists, media managers, media assistance professionals, journalism trainers and educators, or anyone else with an interest in news media around the world.
Africa: Course on International Financial Institutions (IFI) Macroeconomic Issues
AFRODAD has designed a “Macroeconomic Training course” for civil society organizations in the economic and social justice movement and is inviting applications from interested persons to participate in this week-long exercise. The course will be covered under four different modules whose outline will be sent to candidates expressing interest.
Course on International Financial Institutions (IFI) Macroeconomic Issues
Invitation for applications for participation
Date of Course: 10 – 14 July, 2006
Deadline for applications: 23 June 2006
Venue to be advised
The need for a strong civil society voice in economic and social justice issues can never be over-emphasized. Yet one of the major constraints to CSO effectiveness in this area has been the lack of capacity to articulate the issues. The first PRSP processes were some of the early evidence for the clear need to build and strengthen CSO capacity to influence these processes. Since then, civil society organizations from across the continent have called upon AFRODAD to take further its research findings and recommendations to build and strengthen CSO capacity to understand the IFI macroeconomic issues to ensure that future PRSP processes are more effective.
In this respect AFRODAD has designed a “Macroeconomic Training course” for civil society organizations in the economic and social justice movement and is inviting applications from interested persons to participate in this week-long exercise. The course will be covered under four different modules whose outline will be sent to candidates expressing interest.
If you are interested kindly send your CV, a brief background of your current work and a motivation statement (? Pages) on how you can benefit from such a course. The contact persons are Moreblessings Chidaushe [email protected] and Vitalis Meja [email protected] The deadline for all applications is 23 June, 2006.
The course will be held from 10-14 July, 2006 and you will be advised of the venue in the near future. Participants will be expected to pay for their travel to and from the course venue. AFRODAD will provide accommodation and meals.
South Africa: Public participation and the APRM - Consultation or co-optation?
The Centre for Public Participation (CPP) would like to invite you to a public dialogue to discuss issues around: Regional Governance and public participation. In the context of South Africa's peer review process in terms of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), and the preparation of the final report due to be presented in July 2006, the public dialogue will attempt to critically discuss the nature of civil society participation in the review process.
Invitation to Centre for Public Participation (CPP) Public Dialogue – Public participation and the APRM : Consultation or co-optation?
Thurs 22nd June 2006 10h30 - 13h00
Denis Hurley Hall, Diakonia Centre, 20 Diakonia St (formerly St Andrews St) Durban
The Centre for Public Participation (CPP) would like to invite you to a public dialogue to discuss issues around:
Regional Governance and public participation:
In the context of South Africa’s peer review process in terms of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), and the preparation of the final report due to be presented in July 2006, the public dialogue will attempt to critically discuss the nature of civil society participation in the review process. This will assess what impact civil society input made in the review process and the effectiveness of the spaces created for participation. The African governance rhetoric by Africa’s political leaders is dominated by terms such as greater political participation, pluralism, transparency, accountability and freedoms for the citizenry to participate and entrench democratic governance processes. The public dialogue will seek to explore the extent and validity of such claims, within the context of South Africa’s country review.
Mr Thami Ngwenya – Research Associate – CPP – ‘Is the APRM an effective tool for promoting and protecting democratic governance in SA?’
Mr Ralph Mathekga– IDASA – ‘Civil society participation in the APRM:
Prof Patrick Bond – Director Centre for Civil Society (UKZN) – ‘APRM- legitimizing NePAD and the neo-liberal project’
We hope that you would join us in debating this topic with speakers closely associated with the current debate on its development. Please note that there is ample free parking on Diakonia Avenue (previously St Andrews St), or should you wish, you can make use of the Diakonia Centre’s secure parking garage. (Entrance on St George’s Street at a cost of R6.)
Managing Editor: Critical Dialogue
Please call Gugu Mdlalose, CPP’s communication officer, on 031 261 9001, or email her at [email protected] to confirm your attendance as seats are limited
South Africa: Workshop on the World Social Forum
A workshop on the World Social Forum ahead of the Nairobi hosting of the WSF in January 2007 will debate how this annual gathering of progressives best generates collective, global-scale, national and local social change.
Announcement: CCS/Focus Workshop on the WSF - Durban, 22-23 July
Join us for:
WHAT: A Workshop on the World Social Forum
WHY: scholars and activists are ready to debate how this annual gathering of progressives best generates collective, global-scale, national and local social change
WHEN: the weekend of 22-23 July 2006
WHERE: Durban, South Africa, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Faculty Club (Howard College Campus, King George Ave, Glenwood)
* the International Sociological Association quadrennial congress (23-28 July in Durban), and
* the Nairobi hosting of the WSF in January 2007.
* five years of community mobilisation in Durban, one of the Third World's most fractious cities, as well as popular uprisings across the world;
* five years of WSF gatherings in Porto Alegre, Mumbai, Bamako, Caracas and Karachi;
* dozens of intellectual reviews, books and academic articles about the WSF; and
* an overdose of neoliberalism, racism, sexism, eco-destruction and imperialism.
The Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and dozens of local social and environmental activists will welcome our cohosts Walden Bello, Nicola Bullard and Meena Menon of Focus on the Global South plus movement intellectuals Immanuel Wallerstein (Yale), Ebrima Sall (Codesria), Fred Hendricks (Rhodes Univ), Geoffrey Players (Univ of Liege), Graem Chesters (coeditor of the book *we are everywhere*), Giuseppe Caruso (SOAS), Mohau Pheko (Integrity Consultants) and many others. Durban's own movement intellectuals will join us and relate global processes to local conditions; they will also arrange site tours in subsequent days for visitors with specific socio-economic interests, solidarity and networks to share.
On the evening of July 22, we will celebrate the fifth birthday of the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and the tenth birthday of the African Sociological Review, a flagship journal of the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria).
African intellectual and activist inputs into our Workshop on the WSF are especially important, given that critical voices from this continent are too often silenced by elites and other progressives. By virtue of suffering the most heinous of social systems - slavery, colonialism, apartheid, neocolonialism, neoliberalism - Africans have a passion for fighting global injustice from which this Workshop will draw sustenance and strategy.
Although space is limited, we invite notices of interest from international, African and local participants. Registration costs, to be announced, depend upon the success of fund-raising, but will be moderate. Overnight accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the Faculty Club is available on 22 July. An estimated 120 people will be gathering, and the Workshop will close with sufficient time to attend the opening of the ISA. Transport will be available.
The Centre for Civil Society - http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs - includes staff and students who have promoted the World Social Forum, but not without critical intellectual concern. We are working with one of the world's leading think-tanks of social change - Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok, Manila and Bangalore - and Codesria to celebrate African contributions to sociology and social change, and to ask and answer tough questions about the WSF.
CCS LIAISON COMMITTEE TO THE WORKSHOP ON THE WSF: Amanda Alexander, Baruti Amisi, Patrick Bond, Dennis Brutus, Ashwin Desai, Ntokozo Mthembu, Molefi Ndlovu, Raj Patel, Helen Poonen, Trevor Ngwane, Virginia Setshedi, Ahmed Veriava
For more information and to register your intention to attend, please contact Patrick Bond ([email protected]) or Ntokozo Mthembu ([email protected]).
(Also, join CCS and the International Sociological Association's Research Committee 47 on Friday, 28 July, 3:45-7pm for a double-session 'Grassroots Sociologists' forum plus the Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture.)
BACKGROUND TO THE WORKSHOP:
Since the first World Social Forum gathering, held in opposition to the Davos World Economic Forum in early 2001, the WSF has taken on a life of its own: often with multiple and contested identities and purposes; taking on the meaning that is given to it by the participant or observer; experienced and interpreted uniquely by each person who is part of the process. In 2002, continental social forum were set up in Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia in addition to many national, thematic or local social forums.
The WSF has special characteristics: it is a symbol, it is a space, it is a project, it is owned by anyone who wishes to join, it is organic and experimental, it is a work in progress. But for all the achievements - both symbolic and actual - of the WSF, there are also criticisms: it is opaque, it is not effective, it is chaotic. The decision making structure is unclear.
Fundamentally, there are wide divergences in how the Forum is perceived: if itีs a space, what sort of space is it? Who has power and who is represented? Does anyone 'own' the space? Can it be better used? Are African voices and interests adequately represented? Do we need a unifying project? What are the differences between the different Forums, and are there 'recipes' for making a 'good' forum? Do we need better processes? What do we get in return for all the work we put in? Do the Forums succeed on being a place for cross-sectorial projects (between NGO, unions, etc.)? How can the WSF be more grounded? What role do the Forum's sectoral subcomponents - in healthcare, education, environment, economics, indigenous movements, labour, women, youth, anti-racists, faith-based movements and many others -play? Can a programme for global social change emerge from the WSF?
The Workshop on the WSF will bring together activists and academics: not to make decisions or proposals but rather to gather, share and debate research, writing, projects and reflections on the WSF and the context in which it exists, and to create a dialogue where this richness can be shared and reflected upon. We will be asking: What has the WSF achieved? Where is the WSF going? How is it shaping, and being shaped by, the new forms of activism and social movements? Can the WSF provide a space for transforming social relations? What research needs to be done? Who is the research useful for? How can we share and democratise information.
In Durban over the 22-23 July weekend, we will pose these questions, and in October in Bangkok we will take them up again at the offices of Focus on the Global South. A Latin American venue is being sought, along with European and North American settings, for future Workshops on the WSF in 2007 and onwards.
Join us! Another Workshop is possible!
The Gambia: Civil society engagement in the Gambia
The Civil Society engagement in the Gambia will deliberate on issues affecting Africa's development. The forum will focus on three thematic workshops namely; African integration, Governance, Poverty and Development. These thematic groups will feature issues on Economic Integration, Trade, WTO Processes, EPAs, Debt and Aid, Local Government Reforms and Decentralisation, Political Participation and Development, Youth and Unemployment, Youth and Migration, Youth and HIV/AIDS, Armed Conflict, MDGs and APRM. GCAP Coalition in the Gambia in collaboration with African Youth Coalition against Hunger and delegates from Senegal will be organizing the African youth campaign against EPAs. This is expected to attract a lot of interest and discussions. A communiqué will be submitted to AU Head of States as Civil Society contribution to Banjul Summit. The forum will facilitate interaction among civil society networks and organisations in their quest for a better Africa. The workshops will start on the 19th June, 2006, before the official opening of the AU Summit in the Banjul, The Gambia. Contact Baturu Mboge on [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.
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