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Pambazuka News 259: Women’s rights: A tale of two national assemblies

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Highlights from this issue

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
- 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 (
- 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
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
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Women’s rights: A tale of two National Assemblies in Africa

Faith Cheruiyot


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. [1] 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. [2]

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. [3]

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. [4] 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. [5]

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. [6] 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. [7]

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.” [8]

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. [9]

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


[1] Davies Iber, ISHR WAC “Factors inhibiting women’s rights in West Africa”
[2] Supra no.5
[3] Gambia report to the Committee of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
[4] The Point newspaper, “ For health of women, for Health of the world, no more violence.” 23rd Nov, 2005.
[5] Equality Now submission to the U.N Human Rights Committee, 75th Session, July 2002.
[6] Supra above.
[7] Supra note 2
[8] The Daily Nation Thursday 8th June, 2006.
[9] Niger FGM country profile: UNICEF Niger.
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.

Comment & analysis

The promise of the protocol

Roselynn Musa


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. [1] The International Bill of Human Rights [2] 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. [3]

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. [4] 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. [5] 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.[6] 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


[1]United Nations Charter
[2] 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
[3] Article 2
[4] Article 66, ACHPR
[5] Article 32, The Protocol
[6] Article 29, 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.

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 [1], ‘ 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) [2]

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 [3] 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

[1] Sura, transliterated from Arabic refers to the books or chapters of the Koran – translator’s note.
[2] The original French translation was by Muhammed Hamidullah with the collaboration of Mr. Leturmy – new edition, 1989, Amana Corporation.
[3] In Islam, this is roughly understood as ‘the place of torment for sinners’ – translator’s note.
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.

Niger: Democratic principles and the rejection of the Protocol

Sibongile Ndashe


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
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.

The 30th anniversary of June 16th

Percy Ngonyama


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
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".

Advocacy & campaigns

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."

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.

Pan-African Postcard

Discussing the state of African universities

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


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

Books & arts

Africa: Looting Africa

Patrick Bond


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

Letters & Opinions

Malawi: Implementation of the African Protocol

Christobel Mvula


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

Future Plans

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
Secretary General
Kenya Disabled Development Society
P.O. Box 40500
Nairobi 00100 GPO

Email: [email protected] OR [email protected]

Copyright ©2006 Peter Bodo Ong'aro

Blogging Africa

The World Cup and other blogging debates

Sokari Ekine


As World Cup fever hits the blogosphere, African Shirts - ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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,

* Please send comments to [email protected]

African Union Monitor

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."

Women & gender

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

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.

Human rights

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.

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.”

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.

Refugees & forced migration

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.

Elections & governance

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 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.

Health & HIV/AIDS

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

Press release

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.

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.
Related Link:
* South African Human Rights Commission report on the Right to Basic Education

Racism & xenophobia

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 "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.

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.

Land & land rights

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.

Media & freedom of expression

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.

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 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.

News from the diaspora

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.

Conflict & emergencies

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.

Internet & technology

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

2006-06-14 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.

eNewsletters & mailing lists

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.

Fundraising & useful resources

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.

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.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

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.

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.

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.

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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