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Pambazuka News 307: Ethiopia: Democracy still in jail

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

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

Pambazuka News is the authoritative pan African electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa providing cutting edge commentary and in-depth analysis on politics and current affairs, development, human rights, refugees, gender issues and culture in Africa.

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CONTENTS: 1. Highlights from this issue, 2. Features, 3. Announcements, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Advocacy & campaigns, 6. Pan-African Postcard, 7. Obituaries, 8. Books & arts, 9. Letters & Opinions, 10. Blogging Africa, 11. Podcasts & Videos, 12. African Union Monitor, 13. Women & gender, 14. Human rights, 15. Refugees & forced migration, 16. Social movements, 17. Elections & governance, 18. Corruption, 19. Development, 20. Health & HIV/AIDS, 21. Education, 22. Environment, 23. Land & land rights, 24. Media & freedom of expression, 25. News from the diaspora, 26. Conflict & emergencies, 27. Internet & technology, 28. Fundraising & useful resources, 29. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 30. Publications

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Highlights from this issue

Featured this week


FEATURE: Mammo Muchie writes on the imprisonment of the 2005 election winners, and of democracy itself, in Ethiopia
- Priscilla Nyokabi assesses the Kenyan freedom of information bill
- Ochieng Khairallah on the criminalisation of the poor in Kenya
- Everlyne Nairesiae of GROOTS reflects on the use of mobile phones for social justice
- Samson Eyassu responds to Mandisi Majavu's article on the Wretched of the Earth
BLOGGING AFRICA: Reviews West African blogs
AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: Ethiopian forum calls for unity; the challenges facing a United States of Africa

WOMEN AND GENDER: Egyptian women strike for better pay
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Satellite cameras monitor Darfur villages
HUMAN RIGHTS: Amnesty International releases 2007 report
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Violence against Chad’s unions escalates
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: 90,000 return to Mogadishu
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Algerian reshuffle divides politicians
CORRUPTION: African appointed to head TI
DEVELOPMENT: G8: Declare vulture fund profiteering
HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: Swazi campaign supports HIV+ truckers
EDUCATION: Concerns over Tanzania’s school dropout rate
ENVIRONMENT: Technology to save Malawi’s rainforests
LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Emirates’ royals threaten Tanzania’s indigenous people
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Plans for Africa media freedom debate
NEWS FROM THE DIASPORA: Europe looks to encourage Diaspora investment
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: IT a catalyst for African development
PLUS: e-Newsletters and Mailings Lists; Fundraising and Useful Resources; Courses, Seminars and Workshops, Jobs, and Books and Publications

*Pambazuka News now has a page, where you can view the various websites that we visit to keep our fingers on the pulse of Africa! Visit


Democracy still in jail

Mammo Muchie


Two years on, the winners of the 2005 Ethiopian elections remain in prison. Mammo Muchie challenges the international community to stop using double standards, and demands that it privileges and prioritises values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law over narrow national interests.

'All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.' - Albert Einstein

It is exactly two years since Ethiopia experienced one of the most open elections in its history. All of us who expected that finally our country would make it by seeing lawful, legitimate, citizen-anchored, citizen-choosing and citizen-voting change from one set of parties and persons to another, found ourselves in the unhappy situation where the usual mindset of those in power refused to concede to the citizenry.

Today, those who were elected are still in prison. Far from democracy fully blossoming in the veins, arteries and soul of this ancient nation, democracy itself is in prison. How else can we describe the difficulties of those who have done nothing but run for election in the drive to express their highest form of citizenship, other than to say we are bewildered. Continuing to imprison them is to continue to imprison democracy itself.

The space once open in Ethiopia in the pre-election phase undoubtedly created opportunities for some 25,000,000 Ethiopians to manifest a will to self-govern. One can understand that the fight, the debate, the commotion and excitement was unusually electrifying and vibrant. There is no doubt, also, that given the context of a free election, any reaction could spill into overreaction.

But nothing can justify the regime’s action to convert a vibrant political process, where the stakes were so high, into the overreaction and subsequent, if not wilful, killings by the security services into a legal wrangle against the popularly elected citizens, such as the engineer Hailu Shawl, Weizero Birtukan, Dr Berhanu, and all the others who are still unjustly in jail.

Changing the political process into a criminal legal process is hypocritical and unfair. The regime cannot prove that those in jail have any criminal intention. They never had. They never will. They had the noble intention of seeing their nation achieve what it has never achieved in its long history: to enter into an era of rule of law, where those in power submit to law, respect democratic freedoms, human rights and democratic political systems of governance.

Victims of double standards

A year ago in May 2006, there was a self-initiated momentum of world wide protest. Unity of the opposition, despite many attempts to disrupt it, was at the highest it had perhaps ever been. After May 2006, opposition groups started disagreeing, and the momentum slowed.

Now there is a need for the opposition to unite and agree in ensuring that those in jail are released long before the Ethiopian millennium. It will be a shame on all of us, above all on the Meles regime, to enter the next 1000 years with democrats in jail.

There are those who say that calling for the prisoners to be released is not the same thing as calling for the release of democracy - symbolically jailed along with their imprisonment. But there is no doubt it is the same thing. If there is anything that opposition forces unite on, it must be on the release of the prisoners, in order to release the incarcerated democracy of our country. It will be shameful for all of us not to recognise this dialectic, and call for the unconditional earliest possible release of those citizens, freely voted and chosen by Ethiopians who manifested a will to govern themselves through legitimate representatives.

It is also shameful for the drivers of world politics, who claim to stand for the values of freedom, human rights, the rule of law and democracy, to fete those who continue to jail a group of people whose record speaks a million for standing for the same values. Prof. Mesfin has stood for educating citizens, through ERCHO and other press outlets, for a very long time. There is absolutely no justification to put a man of his distinction in jail. For the world to remain silent and look the other way when such injustice is visited on an elderly man is indeed a failure of will, and a triumph of narrow interest.

Ever since the US policy thinkers have used the cold war paradigm to frame that country’s national security strategy by differentiating enemies and friends with the language of 'those who are not with us are against us', it has been possible for opportunist politicians to lure the US into serving its current strategic concerns.

On 20 September 2001, President Bush addressed the joint session of congress and the American people outlining the defining doctrine of the post-9/11 world: 'Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, you are with the terrorists' ( The problem with this formulation is that whoever claims to fight terrorism, whether that regime upholds democracy, human rights and rule of law or not, is open to be feted by the Bush administration. The doctrine, just as in the cold war days, opens up the opportunity for those who run into domestic trouble to entice the US government to back their misdeeds and look the other way.

The US government also opens itself to the legitimate charge that it is following a double standard. One of its standards is to uphold values of freedom and democracy; and the other standards are to pursue its interests. For the US government, especially the Bush administration, fusing the two and finding sustainable allies based on principles and values, have since become a huge problem. Ethiopia’s search for a democratic history has been influenced by the American administration's contradictory posture, inherent in the tension of the current post-9/11 doctrines. Our own election has suffered and our prisoners are still in jail for two main reasons: internal opposition division and not being able to unite around a minimum programme; and the international community' double standard.

A renewed call

Always in the middle of crisis lies opportunity. We call for the opposition to unite and redouble its efforts to get the prisoners released without delay.

Ethiopia has in front of it a millennium coming. It will be a shame to enter the millennium divided: the church is divided; the political parties are divided; communities are ethnically divided. There is alarming talk of a growing religious divide. Ethiopia may not avoid these divisive fissures, but it can not afford them. It is a challenge to all of us in Ethiopia and the region, from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, to make sure that we promote rule of law, democracy and human rights; and institutionalise democratic governance as a sure remedy to deal with the myriad conflicts and create a community of security and development, not only in Ethiopia but in the entire Horn of Africa region.

We call on the international community to stop using double standards, and demand that it privileges and prioritises values of democracy, human rights and rule of law over narrow national interests and narrow global projections, and to distinguish enemies from friends. We call on it to use every possible influence and the Ethiopian millennium to get the imprisoned democrats released and demand that they express outrage against the criminalisation of those who have been duly and freely elected as part of consistently upholding of the values they claim to hold dear.

If the unity of Ethiopians for democracy, human rights and rule of law, and the international community's respect of these same values over any narrow national and foreign policy concerns and interests, evade us, then Einstein is right: 'Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.'

The Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES) challenges us all to show the limitless capacity for human stupidity is not infinite. Act and unite to release the prisoners now!

* Mammo Muchie is a member of the Scandinavian chapter of the Network of Ethiopian Scholars.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Two years on, the winners of the 2005 Ethiopian elections remain in prison. Mammo Muchie challenges the international community to stop using double standards, and demands that it privileges and prioritises values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law over narrow national interests.


Guest bloggers

Sokari Ekine


The review of African blogs has been running in Pambazuka News for almost two years. I believe the reviews form an important part of Pambazuka News as they provide readers with a 'third voice' within the mediascape. From time to time, I would like to open up the weekly reviews to other African bloggers either on the continent or in the diaspora to contribute as guest reviewers. If you are interested in being a guest reviewer please contact me by email:

[email protected] with BLOG REVIEW in the subject line.

Sokari Ekine - online editor.

Submitting articles to Pambazuka News


We continue to receive excellent articles for publication in Pambazuka News. If you wish to submit articles for consideration, please make sure that you place the word 'SUBMISSION' in the subject line and send the article to [email protected]. This will help us make sure that your submissions don't get lost in the thousands of other mails that comes to that address.

The editors

Comment & analysis

Freedom of information in Kenya

Priscilla Nyokabi Kanyua


The right to information underpins and is the cornerstone of all other human rights. Priscilla Nyokabi assesses the newly proposed Freedom of Information Act of Kenya.

The Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Freedom of Information Network celebrates the dawn of an era in Kenya marked by the introduction of the Freedom of Information Bill, 2007 in parliament yesterday, 17 May 2007, by Hon. Gideon Moi on behalf of Hon. Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o.

The painstaking efforts of the Freedom of Information Network of drafting and publicising the Freedom of Information Bill have finally come to fruition through the tabling of the bill. This has been an ongoing campaign since the year 2000 spearheaded by ICJ-Kenya in consultation with various stakeholders, members of the Freedom of Information Network, and supported by many Kenyans countrywide. The 9th parliament has brought us to the peak of the Right to Know Campaign by embarking on the legislative process.

We are happy to note that even the government is keenly committed to this cause, as evidenced by the publication of the recent Draft Kenya Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2007. Indeed all stakeholders are reading from the same script, the government, the media, the civil society, MPs and all Kenyans of good will. We therefore envisage a smooth passage of the bill long before elections.

The published bill has very progressive provisions. It promises to usher in an era of openness, transparency and accountability in Kenya. Enactment of the FOI Act will confirm Kenya as a leading democracy in Africa, and among the top five countries to have an FOI Law. Only South Africa, Angola and Uganda have access to information regimes.

We are now at the finishing line towards having an FOI Act in Kenya. The clock is ticking and we urge all members of the 9th parliament both in opposition and in government to rise to the occasion and put the interests of this great nation forward by enacting the bill in its entirety.

Why an FOI law?

There are many reasons for having freedom of information legislation: to make government more accountable, increase public participation, promote the involvement of all in public life, including those currently marginalised, like women; to make private companies more accountable, monitor and expose corruption, lead to better decision making, protect privacy, expose human rights violations, and promote workers' rights; and to make the country more secure. Access to information is instrumental to parliament's oversight role.

Access to information makes the government more sensitive and responsive to the needs and demands of the ordinary people. A freedom of information law increases public participation, because the public can regularly engage with government officials and parliamentary representatives.

Freedom of information entails the rights of citizens of a country to access official information held or in the custody of their government. It invokes an obligation on the government to facilitate easy access to information under its docket, and, significantly, to publish important information pro-actively and regularly for the general public.

Good governance, an essential component of any thriving democratic state, is premised on a system of openness, trust and government accountability. This can only be achieved if the public is involved in the process of governance. If the general public knows the functions, policies and decisions made, they can question the government on the basis of the information obtained, and, most importantly, the reasons for the government’s actions. It is thus necessary that the government develops a clear policy on the freedom of information in a bid to ensuring that subsequent legislation – freedom of information laws - are implemented effectively and based on accepted international principles and best practices.

The right to information underpins all other human rights; it is the cornerstone of all other rights. The right is encapsulated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) under Article 19. It is similarly enshrined in the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Kenya is a party.

Though the Kenyan constitution does not expressly provide for the freedom of information, section 79 of the constitution makes provision for the freedom of expression which includes among other things: ‘freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of person)’.

The right to information is enshrined in the section 79 of the constitution, which provides for freedom of expression. The right is however derogated from through various pieces of legislation, chief among them is the Official Secrets Act. This position was sought to be corrected in the draft constitution, article 51 of which expressly provides for the right of access to information, and requires an enabling law be enacted within six months of the coming into force of the new constitution.

As can be reasonably inferred from the constitution, the right to receive ideas and information without interference affords the citizens of Kenya a right to access information, including government information. Similarly Kenya has ratified and adopted the UDHR and the ICCPR; and the government is under an obligation to promote and preserve the right to information. One end of achieving such means is by putting in place the necessary policies to promote the right and the enactment of a freedom of information law to guarantee the said right to the citizenry.

The implementation and operationalisation of both a policy and freedom of information law will be the essential building blocks towards creating an open, free and accountable culture in Kenya and the foundation of a successful democratic state.

International principles and best practices

For the proposed freedom of information policy 2007 to be effective in implementing a FOI regime, they must be premised on international principles and best practices, which have been developed over the years by countries that have adopted FOI laws, borne out of their experiences in respect to operationalising the enjoyment of the right to know. As we are getting into FOI jurisprudence after many other countries, let us learn from them and adopt best practices.

In borrowing international practice for the FOI regime, let us borrow from the most progressive jurisdictions in application of the FOI Law. Australia and United Kingdom are known to be conservative regimes. South Africa and India provide more progressive models. Let us at look at drawing lessons from closer home in South Africa.

There are the minimum standards that any proposed FOI law should adopt in order for a state to fulfil its obligations of promoting and preserving the right to information. These principles are set out below.

Maximum disclosure

This principle provides for a strong presumption in favour of disclosure of information. Simply put, it advocates for the disclosure of all government or public information. It covers the access of information in all public bodies and private bodies that carry out public functions or where their activities affect the public rights or civil liberties.

Under this principle disclosure and access to information is the norm; the exception being non-disclosure. In addition this principle imposes an obligation on the state to pro-actively and regularly publish information in its possession without any prompting from the public. It establishes minimum standards under which public records are to stored and maintained by public bodies. It provides for offences for the obstruction of access of information or the wilful destruction of records.

Minimum exemptions

Closely linked to the principle of maximum disclosure, this principle advocates for limited exceptions of information that should not be disclosed. It provides that exceptions should be precise and narrowly drafted to protect a legitimate interest from harm, often referred to as the ‘harm’ and ‘public’ test. Exceptions should be based on the content rather than on a particular class such as ‘national security’. In short, no blanket exemptions are allowed. A refusal to disclose information must be justified by a public body and should meet a strict three-part test, including:

* information must relate to a legitimate interest/aim listed in the law
* disclosure must threaten to cause substantial harm to that aim
* the harm to that interest must be greater than the public interest in having the information disclosed.

It should be noted that even though the information in question meets the above mentioned three-part test, it might still be disclosed if it is shown that the public interest in disclosing that information is greater than the harm that may befall the protected interest. This is what is referred to as the public override test.

Simple, easy and inexpensive access

Any freedom of information law should provide for a mechanism for simple and cheap access to information. The process of deciding upon requests for information should be defined at three main stages: within the relevant public body; appeals to an independent administrative body; and an appeal method to the courts. Where applicable, the provision should ensure full access to certain disadvantaged groups such as the disabled. The cost of obtaining information should not be dear as to prevent the realisation of the objectives of the law.

Promotion of open government

This principle mainly advocates the promotion of the right to information by the government, and creating a culture of openness within government circles. This entails the provision of public education, dissemination of information relating to FOI to the general public, informing the public about the scope of the information that is covered by the law, information available and the manner in which the public may exercise their rights.

In addition, this principle places an obligation on the government to provide training to their officers on the freedom of information, the scope of the right, procedures for allowing access of information to the public, maintenance and preservation of public documents, information that should be pro-actively disclosed and the scope of whistleblower protection.

Disclosure takes precedence

This international principle simply provides that existing laws, which are in contrast with the principle of maximum disclosure, should be amended or repealed. That other laws relating to the maintenance, publication or dissemination of public information should be construed in a manner consistent with the FOI law. Where inapplicable, such information should be dealt with subject to the principles espoused by the freedom of information legislation.

Whistleblower protection

An effective freedom of information law should make provision for the protection of whistleblowers. Whistle blowers as the name suggest refers to government employees or third parties privy to government functions who disclose information of wrong doing by government officials, information which is the subject of exemption. This people perform the function of early warning and complement investigators roles. Such people should be properly protected from reprisals from government officials or penalisation, as a result of their actions, so long as they act reasonably and in good faith.


The FOI Bill 2007, when enacted into law, promises to usher Kenya into an era of openness, transparency and accountability. Access to information is the key pillar of democracy. It will facilitate public participation in public affairs, as noted by President Mwai Kibaki in 2005:

‘…more importantly, the free flow of news and information is one of the hall marks of a functioning democracy. An informed society is able to better participate in design and execution of public policies. It is also more resourceful and creative in addressing social challenges. Such a society is therefore, better placed to increase productivity and Government is, together with media and other stakeholders, drafting a Freedom of Information Act, to bring the legal framework in line with current realities. These and other initiatives are meant to enhance the ability of the people of Kenya to exchange ideas, question the Government, contribute to national development and be part of a truly democratic state.’

The above is a reflection of the promises we are asking all our leaders to keep in bringing Kenya in line with the current realities. Kenya should join the other 70 countries in the world that have enacted freedom of information laws.

* Priscilla Nyokabi is programme officer for the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists

* This is an edited version of a longer paper which is available at the Pambazuka News website (

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
The right to information underpins and is the cornerstone of all other human rights. Priscilla Nyokabi assesses the newly proposed Freedom of Information Act of Kenya.

Global woes: poverty or un-bridled capitalism

Ochieng M. Khairallah


Ochieng M. Khairallah argues that the trend in Kenya and elsewhere to criminalise the poor will lead to the systematic eradication of the poor, if the causes of poverty are not addressed.

Debates have been taking place about the probable causes of world problems. From diseases, violence, wars and corruption, the current world is mired in problems of varying dimensions and intensity. Ardent analyses of recent debates show that they are biased against poverty as the single most important cause of the world's problems. The criminalisation of poverty is increasingly becoming apparent, both in discourse and practice. We see world leaders on a daily basis give speeches, laced with all manner of condemnations against poverty, but with little or no action at all in terms of tangible actions for grappling with the issue.

Kenya is no exception to the debate. Recent experience confirms similar political focus on poverty, especially as a campaign issue in the wake of the forth-coming general elections. It is baffling to see leaders attribute the current spate of insecurity and associated ills in the country with poverty and the attendant widening of the divide line between the haves and the have-nots. While this might be true to an extent, it is not in my humble view the real problem behind current challenges facing the country. More worrying is the gullibility with which the general public has fallen prey to such hollow and simplistic arguments. In essence, it is a veiled way of saying that the poor are the problem. Instructively, attributing global problems to poverty without grappling with the causes of the same, is in my view, tantamount to condemning the poor. We might in the fullness of time witness systematic eradication of the poor in the name of poverty eradication.

The fact that poverty is a problem cannot be denied. But to condemn it without interrogating related problems and issues is, by all measures, escapist and self-defeatist. A comparative appraisal of poverty and unbridled capitalism the world over attest to the foregoing assertion. Hindsight reveals that the insatiable quest and rush for riches and raw money or the primitive pursuit of and accumulation of riches ordinarily associated with unbridled capitalism lies at the root of the myriad problems facing the world today. It must not be lost on us that capitalism per se is not so bad, if capital is geared to the development of the human person, i.e. to the creation and enhancement of human capital.

When capital is solely based on primitive accumulation, especially within an exclusive club at the exclusion of the majority, then it begins to attract prejudices and nuances of varying perspectives. In particular, it begets impunity. The feeling that everything is possible with money begins to assume centrality in public discourse. Money becomes an end in itself. This is particularly so in the so-called Third World countries, where education is anchored in money, and selfish and personal pursuit of happiness, to the detriment or total disregard of the collective good of society. This gives rise to intra-class competition, which entails cutting deals between business and politics. Different classes begin to emerge at various levels with attendant considerations as to what a person owns and comes from, and which party they support.

As a result, both intra-class and inter-class tensions begin to emerge depending on the prevailing prejudices, belief and nuances; usually with tragic consequences. This is where the curse of primitive capital lies. Instead of capital for human development, it becomes capital for human destruction. In the process, fear creeps in and usually it is fear of the unknown. People begin to seek refuge in primitive cocoons and related factors and prejudices emerge, usually tribal, ethnic, class, religion, culture and privileges. Conspiracies begin to emerge ranging from sabotage, elimination of the un-wanted, corruption, discrimination and marginalizsation. The list is endless. Consequently capital begins to oil the wheels of injustice.

Because people must protect themselves, private armies begin to emerge. Capital must therefore be used to procure weapons and related assortment; eventually people must be paid to do dirty work even if it means eliminating others. At times others must either be marginalised or frustrated because of the fear of their abilities or the so-called fear of the unknown. As a result poverty is created where it should not have been, and ironically, it is poverty created by capital. How many understand how capital is creating poverty in Africa? If you doubt this, then justify the concept of bribery especially the buying of votes during elections. Do we not we see democracy become dictatorship by capital? Whoever pays gets the vote, even if nothing other than making money through corruption and related vices is understood.

With time, this trend traverses all sectors with worrying trappings as the rush and stampedes for raw capital dictate the direction of progress. Scientists begin to venture into sophistications of tragic consequences - say advanced weaponry or warfare - do they stop to think for whom the weapons are made and the wars fought? Doctors begin not to research the means of advancing humanity, but rather how to create diseases so as to make money from such diseases. How much money are we making from sale of condoms and retro-virals? Moreover why do we fail to give our people clean water but are quick to build dispensaries to sell drugs to those suffering and dying from water-borne diseases. What kind of research are our public health officers engaged in? Do we need to re-educate the educated sons and daughter of Africa?

Quest for capital or raw money becomes the rule rather than the exception. Lawyers begin to conspire with judges in creating bids for justice as well as to advise clients on how to evade the law. Education begins to be determined by ones ability to pay, as opposed to merit, even if it means paying others to sit examinations for you. As a result we produce professors and graduates who are no more than salesmen of western products, including raw capital. Do you see the danger of such kind of education? Or must we wait to see professionals who are not knowledgeable in their fields? Imagine having doctors who cannot decipher malaria from headache, or stomach ache from heart-burn! Engineers and quantity surveyors who are concerned about how much money they can make from a given contract as opposed to quality of structures being erected. The list is endless. This is what others will soon refer to as the educated fools of Africa.

An effective education must aim at production, not consumerism or brokerage. Education must be anchored on the common good of all, lest the circle continues and eventually we produce a cabbage or an animal farm as a society. These are the reasons why I hold that the woes be-devilling the world currently, and Kenya in particular, are deeply rooted in poor or improper education and primitive quest, pursuit and accumulation of capital, and not poverty. No one would be poor if capital were geared to human development. This is what is referred to as the socialisation of capital. Social imperatives come before capital and not the other way round. Provide clean and drinkable water to all, as opposed to placing it at the behest of private commerce.

The trend continues. First it was privatisation of land, apparently not for maximisation of production but increasingly as collateral for destructive capital. Remember vast land is hoarded land and is not under productive utilisation. Now it is water. What will be next? Imagine a situation where air is poisoned by vagaries of capital, and therefore human beings are forced to buy so-called treated air. I suppose a special commercial devise would have been invented to clean poisoned air and package the same for sale and oxygen for individual consumption and survival. Must we condemn future generations in this manner? Need I say more about un-bridled capitalism?

* Ochieng M. Khairallah is a lawyer and human rights activist.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Ochieng M. Khairallah argues that the trend in Kenya and elsewhere to criminalise the poor will lead to the systematic eradication of the poor, if the causes of poverty are not addressed.

Mobile activism and community development

Everlyne Nairesiae


Everlyne Nairesiae of GROOTS Kenya reviews the recent three-day workshop of pan-African mobile phone activists, held in Nairobi. She explains how GROOTS has applied mobile phone technology in their work on property rights for rural Kenyan women.

Mobile activists across Africa converged in Nairobi Kenya for a three-day workshop facilitated by Fahamu in conjunction with the Tactical Technology Collective (known as 'Tactical Tech'). The aim of the workshops was to critically examine existing opportunities to enhance the wide use of mobile phone as media of advocacy, networking and collaboration among activists in Africa.

The workshop was a build up to the 'techie' preparation for a two-day workshop geared towards developing a toolkit especially tailored to suit the African context. The launch of the toolkit, which is anticipated to be ready by October 2007, aims to strengthen and facilitate the use of mobile phones as a tool for advocacy in responding to social development needs in Africa. The workshop culminated in the formation of a steering committee mandated by members to champion the development of the Pan-African Mobile Network (PAMONET).

My participation in the workshop was exiting, since it was characterised by the rich experiences of presenters from Africa and around the word on the application of mobile phones in advocacy work. The use of mobile phone technology stands out as a unique and emerging convenient mode of communication for community development across Africa. African countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Kenya among others have recently started using this technology to resolve community needs, and advocate for human rights, among other cross-cutting issues. This is done mainly through use of short messages (SMS), and/or making direct calls via cell phone. During the workshop, activists reported concrete achievements registered with the use of mobile phone across countries in Africa and that their contribution in addressing social and development issues cannot be under estimated.

GROOTS Kenya regional electronic exchange mentorship strategy to address women and orphans property inheritance rights

GROOTS - is a grassroots organisation operating together in sisterhood is a movement of community based organisations and groups of women in Kenya. GROOTS Kenya is a member of GROOTS International and Huairou Commission. Their work is centred around the lives and needs of grassroots women. It is therefore largely non-thematic as it responds to community needs and priorities. The organisation accomplishes its goals through four main programmes: Community Responses to HIV/Aids, Women and Property Program, Women's Leadership and Governance, and Community Resources and Livelihoods.

GROOTS Kenya has mainly used the mobile phone in advocating and addressing women and orphans rights to own and inherit property in four regions in Kenya which include: Kakamega in western province, Kendubay in Nyanza province, and Limuru and Gatundu in Central province of Kenya. In these communities, GROOTS Kenya facilitated the formation of community watchdog groups, which are led by women to safeguard against the grabbing of property from women and orphans, many of who are infected and affected with HIV/Aids.

The watchdog groups work with relevant NGOs, government institutions, opinion/traditional leaders, FBOs as well as the provincial administrators through the office of the chief and assistant chiefs. It is important to mention that chiefs and assistant chiefs are the lowest government administration unit at the community level and are very crucial in determining and safeguarding the rights of marginalized people in any community in Kenya. Unfortunately most of them have limited knowledge, information and capacity to handle and or support property disinheritance cases of women or orphans brought to their attention.

In the four regions only one assistant chief Mr Peter Mutheru; who is sub-chief in Kiamoria sub-location in Gatundu, had ample knowledge and skills. This necessitated a lot of interaction among the chiefs from the four regions to benefit from his significant understanding of the procedures of courts of law in order to support cases of women and orphans right to property inheritance which were being presented to them by the watchdog groups.

The use of mobile phone became a special tool in facilitating electronic mentoring among the chiefs across the region mainly through communicating via messages and making direct call to each other while seeking guidance and or information on succession law and procedures. In addition, this was complemented by the use of community radio listening strategies which created awareness on the right to property of women and orphans. On the other hand, grassroots women and members of watchdog groups also use mobile phone to report cases of property grabbing to the chiefs, and thereby enhance the communication and follow up of cases as well as provide support to victims of the vice.

Increase in knowledge among the chiefs led to the transformation of both their attitude towards women and orphans property rights and influenced their mode of working which in turn facilitated efficiency at administrative and community levels. The use of regional electronic exchange mentoring strategy by GROOTS Kenya, using the mobile phones have led to the following achievements:

* enhanced knowledge and skills in addressing women and orphans property rights among the chiefs across the four regions through mentoring and networking
* increase in resolved cases of women and orphans who had lost property to relatives
* strengthened the relationship between the provincial administrators and grassroots women in the community through partnership
* enhanced follow up and support of pending cases in the office of the chief and law courts
* facilitated a significant reduction in costs for instance on travelling, accommodation and other logistics since the regions were distance away from each other.

Although the above achievements were realised, the following challenges including high poverty levels which hinders communities and chiefs to purchase airtime; illiteracy mainly among grassroots women hence unable to read messages; a limited number of cell phones in the communities thus rely on those who have cell phones to access information; and a lack of formality in communication which makes it difficult to hold any party accountable.

Most groups tried to have parallel meetings in their own different regions and converse in a form of tele-conferencing through mobiles. Unfortunately the telephone sets used by many communities have no features such as speaker phones which would have enabled more than one person to listen to a call and then pass the information on to the rest of the community.

GROOTS Kenya’s experience coupled up with experiences from other countries in Africa shared during the mobile activism workshop in Nairobi Kenya highlighted a number of factors. It is evident that the use of cell phones facilitate achievement of tremendous results which are cost effective and efficient.

Thanks to Fahamu and Tactical Tech for providing us an opportunity to share and learn from other partners experiences on the use of cell phones in addressing social and development needs. For more information please contact GROOTS Kenya on the address given below.

* Everlyne Nairesiae is Program Coordinator of GROOTS Kenya P.O.Box, 10320-GPO, Nairobi, Kenya. E.mail:[email protected]

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
Everlyne Nairesiae of GROOTS Kenya reviews the recent three-day workshop of pan-African mobile phone activists, held in Nairobi. She explains how GROOTS has applied mobile phone technology in their work on property rights for rural Kenyan women.

Advocacy & campaigns

Global: Computer Aid International Cuba Cycle Challenge


Cycle 350km across one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the world, whilst helping Computer Aid International deliver vital IT education to communities in need.

Pan-African Postcard

The passing of Nkrumah's widow

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


The widow of Kwame Nkrumah, Madam Fatiha, passed away last week in Cairo, her home town, where she had been living for most of the years since Nkrumah’s over throw in February 1966.

As to be expected all kinds of tributes have been pouring out from all kinds of corners including people and institutions who have never really cared what became of her and her three children (Gamal, Sekou and Samia) since Nkrumah died. Many of these conspicuous mourners did not even realize that Madam Fatiha was still alive all these years.

The worst of these hypocrites is always government. Those in power have the power, if the will was there to have honoured Madam Fatima, recognized her and provided for her and her family. But shamelessly successive Ghanaian governments, at best pursued a policy of benign neglect or even outright hostility or opportunistic association and gestures towards the family. This is not because Madam Fatiha has lived outside of Ghana because the same treatment was experienced by the oldest of the children,, Dr Francis Nkrumah (the first son of Nkrumah , from his Ghanaian first wife) or Sekou (Fatiha’s second son) who both live in Accra. This shameful conduct included governments and regimes that claim to be political heirs of Nkrumah.

The government of Ghana immediately announced that it will provide a state funeral befitting a former first lady of Ghana (indeed the very first!) but of what benefit is this post humus honour when she was neglected while she was alive? It is part of that African hypocrisy that suddenly transforms a dead person into the friend of everyone around with no body willing to say anything negative about the departed. Some of this is actually due to guilt. We tend to over compensate by making all kinds of commitments and all manner of gestures immediately after the death of someone close or public figures. However the guilt soon subsides and life continues very much as before with the loved ones left behind to pick up the pieces, as they must. Tears of some of the politically correct mourners go dry as soon as the TV cameras are turned off.

The way we treat the family of our national and Pan Africanist heroes cannot inspire commitment and confidence that devotion to Africa meant anything. As with all committed, genuinely committed (not the convenient foot lose opportunists that are so common these days), their families suffer: absent fathers and husbands. The children grow up feeling victimized by ‘struggle’ and after the hero have gone or is no longer in power the family might as well have been dead.

Nkrumah, even his worst critics, will agree, was completely devoted to the cause of liberating Africa. It was not for him building of personal mansions or having secret accounts all over the world. The struggle was everything. Madam Fatiha was much younger than the Osagyefo when he married her in a matrimonial union that typified Nkrumah’s refusal to accept the Saharan divide of Africa. The three children they had together were all toddlers when Nkrumah was overthrown, and they were only young teenagers when Nkrumah passed away in 1972. Fatiha herself was barely in her mid 30s. No husband, no father and no state provisions the family had to survive on good will sometimes of kind strangers who never met Nkrumah but treasured his contribution to our liberation. They could not leave in Ghana but thanks to President Gamal Abdul Nasser (after whom Fatiha’s first son, Gamal Gorkeh, was named) the family had been given a befitting home by the banks of the Nile. That house progressively became damaged due to lack of maintenance support since the family could not afford to maintain such a modest stately building.

The Ghana for which Nkrumah laboured and the Africa he toiled for simply ignored his family.

It is an insult to now be shedding crocodile tears at the passing of his widow. It is an insult to the family to be offering state funeral to a person that was largely ignored in her life by the same state that is now leading the mourning. The same Ghanaian state showed similar hypocrisy when Nkrumah passed way in exile in Conakry and demanded and later brought Nkrumah’s body to Ghana for State reburial! The embalmed body was for many years left to deteriorate in his village of Nkroful before shame and political expediency and influence of Nkrumahists in his administration forced Rawlings to accept a Mausoleum for Nkrumah in central Accra. Even then most of the money came from Gaddafi!

The spirit of Nkrumah continues to wonder and I hope it continues to haunt all the opportunists, ideological parasites and political saprophytes who continue to use Nkrumah’s name in vain. It should shame us into honouring our heroes and heroines both in life and in death especially the widow and children they leave behind. Ask yourself how many more widows like Madam Fatiha are abandoned to penury across Africa? This bitter experience is even making many of our corrupt leaders to believe that whatever the volume of our assets they are looting now is a kind of insurance for their family against an uncertain future.

In this fiftieth year of Ghana’s independence and the inspiration for the independence of the rest of Africa we should assuage Nkrumah’s wondering spirit by doing right by his family, not by state burial to his widow but by Ghana’s government first repaying back all the entitlements die to them by way of gratuity to their father, refurbishing and handing over their family home in Accra and setting up a proper trustee body to look after, maintain and supervise the Nkrumah Musoleum in Accra. Then the rest of us can honour Nkrumah the best way we can. But Ghana has to lead in atoning for these wrongs.

* Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is the deputy director of the UN Millennium Campaign in Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He writes this article in his personal capacity as a concerned pan-Africanist.

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
The widow of Kwame Nkrumah, Madam Fatiha, passed away last week in Cairo, her home town, where she had been living for most of the years since Nkrumah’s over throw in February 1966. As to be expected all kinds of tributes have been pouring out from all kinds of corners including people and institutions who have never really cared what became of her and her three children (Gamal, Sekou and Samia) since Nkrumah died. Many of these conspicuous mourners did not even realize that Madam Fatiha was still alive all these years.


Fathia Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah's widow died in Cairo


After a prolonged illness, Fathia Nkrumah, widow of Kwame Nkrumah, died in hospital in Cairo, Egypt

Books & arts

UK: Orange prize for literature


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wins the Orange Prize for Fiction with her novel on Biafra, Half a Yellow Sun.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wins the Orange Prize for Fiction with her novel on Biafra, Half Yellow of a Sun.

Letters & Opinions

The Wretched of the Earth: Critical psychology in the colonial context

Samson Eyassu


I have read Mandisi Majavu's essay with interest I found it different and less engaging than the articles he wrote before. What I missed from his article this time being - his own voice. In this essay he has drowned it in a cacophony of quotes from secondary sources.

I expected the title to give a panoramic view of the essay and to be followed by an introductory paragraph which leads us into the hinterland of the essay. The title is not doing its job. I do not see it demarcating the purview of the topic he means to treat. Though, it is not clear where psychology stops and other sciences begin. Especially, its critical version. This has made the essay unwieldy.

Then comes the two blocks of paragraphs entirely made of quotes. I do not know. I fear academy is cramping his style. There is a whole lot of talk on quoting, on acknowledging the originator of the idea…the sentence. Maybe that is the culprit.

His rebuttal that decolonisation should not be violent, as Fanon takes it to be, is cogent. This is the best part of the essay. Still, I see something lacking - real world examples. Why not motivate it by bringing the experience of South Africa, India and also Zimbabwe among others? Why not introduce his own voice, when there is a big room for that? We miss Mandisi there.

He went past overruling violence as a solution and tried to prove that being subjected to colonialism does not result in inferiority complex and self hatred. Then, what is the effect of colonialism on the subject people? I am not questioning whether it is a disease that can be treated by violence or not. Violence can utmost be surface therapeutic. But, what comes to explain away the evil effects of colonialism though we may not find them a common name- is typical gooblydygook. The worst part of the essay.

Here is also another point I would like to comment on in this essay: 'To write in African language, or quote only African writers, does not necessarily translate into originality.' What is at stake here is not ‘originality’, it is ‘allegiance’. Proponents of national culture do not hold that one's capacity to produce something ‘original’ will betray you the moment you strayed into a foreign culture. But mourn the loss of your brainpower spent on producing an original work that enriches foreign culture rather than yours. Why not pull Ngugi’s Decolonizing the Mind into the picture? I think it is relevant and would have helped him to ground and flesh out his argument.

Mandisi's absence is conspicuous in the conclusion than in any other part of the essay. We never get a chance to hear him even in the conclusion. Besides, why present a premise in a conclusion? Another minor contention: why a yawn-inducing borrowed from economics jargon - growth-oriented attitude about one’s ideas. This is an obvious fact that can be put in a simple language. Everybody outgrows his ideas. It is a one way street. It begins at romanticism and goes to the direction of realism. We are all in that continuum. Let me finish by giving free rein to my quibbling. Somewhere in the essay he has written the ‘arrogance of colonial power’. It is so harsh a reality to be called by a light word such as ‘arrogance’. Arrogance is the attribute some ascribe to President Thabo Mbeki. I think ‘intransigence’ may be better, though not a perfect fit.

Blogging Africa

Review of West African blogs

Sokari Ekine


Koranteng's Toli publishes his letter to the UK Daily Telegraph complaining about plagiarism from excellent blog post 'Bags and Stamps'. Bags and Stamps is not about the plastic shopping mall type of bag but the ubiquitous 'plaid' plastic bags that can be seen from London to Joburg and from New York to Manila. Telegraph writer, Liz Hunt obviously came across his post and chose to blatantly steal Koranteng’s words and those of another blogger and blog comments. He provides a comparison table between his post and the Telegraph piece – incidentally she didn’t even bother to match the correct spelling and missed the nuances left by various comments.

'Do note that the author completely misses Georgia's nuance by transposing Trinidad to Guyana. The point is that the naming is done by the natives - looking down onto the teeming masses of refugee or downtrodden immigrant Others. Thus Nigerians named the bags Ghana must go, Germans named it Tuekenoffer, and so forth. Thus this is not a simple copying and pasting, there was reordering and some conscious editing done in the article and perhaps the immigrants coalesced into one indistinguishable mass. This is of a piece with the general disdain for said immigrants that the rest of the author's commentary indicates. We can also skip over how Boston becomes America in the coining of "Chinatown tote". The rest of the article I'll suggest is equally enlightening.'

Dibussi’s Den on 'Europe’s Shame' as African immigrants are left in the sea for three days and nights holding on to a tuna fishing net. The captain of the tug towing the net refused to allow them on board his ship. One of the comments left on the post expresses the disinterest of African leaders in the constant outward flow of the continent’s skills, knowledge and workforce.

'I saw this dramatic rescue on TV and melted at the desperation of fellow Africans.This is so sad. I continue to be amazed at the nonchalance of our African rulers. They have no shame and seem not to be bound by any impulse of collective responsibility to do something about the continuous haemorrhaging of the continent’s very best. Soon, Africa is going to skip a whole generation as the gap widens with the young all fleeing the sinking ship.'

Rosemary Ekosso describes the last weeks of former World Bank head, Paul Wolfowitz as being like an animal holding on to grass to 'avoid being washed away by water'.

'We all saw how Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, (now, thankfully, former) head of the World Bank, held grass for weeks after it was brought to public notice that he was embroiled in a sordid scandal involving a female companion. Well, Mr. Wolfowitz was swept away by the flood of public opinion. And now the US government is offering to replace him with someone who is, as evidenced by the article below, even worse, especially for the Third World.'

Any relief at Wolfowitz departure is offset by the possibility of an even worse replacement, Robert Zoellick of WTO fame. Jubilee Research describes him as 'the tireless champion of free trade, but Robert Zoellick the promoter of American interests by any means and at any cost – especially to developing countries'.

Chippla's Weblog posts an interesting piece on the recent Kenya Airways crash in Cameroons. A reader of his blog, Bert, speculates that the Captain was under pressure from his superiors to get the plane back to Nairobi as soon as possible. Whether the newly qualified 1st officer disagreed with the Captains decision to fly may never been known but even if he did, what chance did he have of questioning the authority of the Captain and the higher echelons of KA? A similar situation happened in 1977.

'Bert also made mention of the worst aviation disaster in history—the 1977 Tenerife disaster between two Boeing 747s belonging to KLM and Pan Am—and how the unchallenged faulty decision of the KLM flight captain resulted in the death of almost 600 people. Voice transcript of this incident (as made available on Wikipedia) shows how foggy weather and the misinterpretation of communication with the control tower led the seasoned KLM flight captain to initiate take off despite questions from his flight engineer.'

Chippla’s point is that we live in a 'world where authority is recognised' but how do we challenge that authority in cases like these crashes? Should we have any influence as passengers/consumers on the Captains or any authorities decisions?

David Ajao’s Blog is excited by the entry into the African blogosphere of Black South African blogger - Israel Mlambo. The fact that such an entry is worthy of it’s own post and celebration says it all.

'it is with pleasure that I introduce to you, a black South African blogger, Israel Mlambo. He blogs at * You should read another of his blog post 'The SA blogosphere is ‘entirely’ white' to understand why I emphasised the word “black”.' – More on Israel in the Southern African review.

Wordsbody celebrates this year’s Orange Prize to be announced on the 6th June. Here she goes back to 2004 when Andrea Levy won the prize for a novel 'Small Island' and Nigeria's Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had been shortlisted for her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus. This year Adichie is once again a nominee for her latest novel Half of a Yellow Sun. Excellent write up and I look forward to this year's edition.

Black Looks listens to a speech by Nigeria’s former finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – part of the TED Africa hooray taking place this week in Arusha, Tanzania. A gathering of technologists, entertainers and designers (TED!) from across Africa and beyond with the hope of creating a 'A Different Africa'. No AIDS, poverty, shackdwellers, conflict, human rights violations or limits on press freedom, here. The focus is on business and 'doing it for ourselves'. BL comments

'One thing I do agree with is “We have to do it for ourselves”. The Abahlali baseMjondolo shack dwellers have shown us and proved that a social movement can engage in real participatory democracy and stand up to oppression, elitism, BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) for the few, racism and economic apartheid. People get very excited when talking about this “other Africa” - the one of growth in telecoms and of course huge profits, most of which are made from the poor subsidising the rich (cheaper tariffs and better deals for contract versus “pay as you go”). Privatisation policies which include privatisation of basic needs such as water, and electricity and again the poor subsidising the rich who pay less for their electricity than the poor and commercial enterprises being subsidised by consumers. And the big wow - Nigeria now has a shopping mall where businesses are turning over 4 times more than projected. Hows that for progress? Especially when it runs on its own private set of generators and God knows where it gets its water from? And even more exciting is the new “mining code” legislation which would be a great leap forward except it has somehow now reached the oil industry. But with all these great leaps forward where is the money going - not into social programmes, not in constructing an electric power system and running water.'
Continuing with regional reviews - this week West African blogs.

Podcasts & Videos

Radical community radio in Soweto

Molefi Ndlovu


Molefi Ndlovu from the Center for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa speaks to Sokari Ekine from Pambazuka News about the radical community radio project RASA FM in Soweto. The radio station ran without a license in Soweto for six months in 2005 and was hugely popular with the local community. RASA became a victim of its own success when the power of its appeal proved too big a threat to the corporate media and it was shut down. In this podcast organiser Molefi tells RASA's amazing story and explores the nature of community media and what is possible with the medium. See Rasa Radio discussion at UKZN for more information.
Music in this podcast is brought to you by Busi Ncube from Zimbabwe and kindly provided by Thulani Promotions.
Molefi Ndlovu from the Center for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa speaks to Pambazuka News about the radical community radio project RASA FM in Soweto.

African Union Monitor

25 May Ethiopia public forum calls for a union of peoples


Afroflag Youth Vision, a network of youth organisations, and Oxfam GB recently held discussions at the Axum hotel in Addis Ababa on the African Union’s proposal to establish continental government. 150 participants from mainly local NGOs, universities, international organisations, and embassies, and national and international media attended the event.

Three presentations clarified the implications of the AU proposal. Desire Assogbavi, Oxfam GB, pan-Africa senior policy analyst provided a brief analysis 'AU Study on the Continental Government towards the United States of Africa'.

Dr Tim Murithi, senior researcher, Direct Conflict Prevention Programme, Institute of Security Studies (ISS), presented a paper 'From Pan Africanism to the Union of Africa'. Derese Getachew, lecturer in sociology and social anthropology, Addis Ababa university, presented a paper 'African Citizenhood and Challenge to realize the United States of Africa'.

Participants expressed concerns about the timing, feasibility and lack of citizens’ involvement in the process of establishing a union government. For most of the participants, this was the first time they had heard of the proposal. They felt that integration and/or unity of the continent should start from the bottom - the people, not from the top - with heads of states. A true African citizen must identify with and be able to move freely within the continent. African Union member states must also establish common standards of democracy and human rights, before establishing a union government.

Further, conflicts within and across national borders continue to plague the continent. The current AU must demonstrate a greater capacity to resolve ongoing conflicts on the continent. Though participants did not reject the idea of establishing a union government, they were concerned that the timeframes for achieving the proposal were too ambitious. However, a first step towards achieving unity would be to rationalise existing Regional Economic Communities.

More importantly, there needs to be more media involvement and coverage, especially in local languages, to promote greater awareness and involvement of the public in the process of establishing union government.

An African Union government: Towards a United States of Africa


The seminar, co-hosted by the Institute for Security Studies and the Southern African Trust, brought together about 30 participants from civil society, research and academic institutions, government and diplomatic missions.

Cheryl Hendricks opened the seminar by underlining the significance of Africa Day, which commemorates the formation of the Organisation of the African Union and which celebrates Africa’s achievements. She observed that in many respects, this year we will be reliving the grand debate of the early 1960s with pan-Africanists calling for political and economic integration, and moderates calling for a more gradualist approach that gave birth to the OAU.

She outlined the stated rationale for a continental government pointing out that any union must be of African people, and not merely states. Integration is said to hold the key to resolving Africa’s problems.

However there are obviously many challenges that pose doubt on the readiness of Africa to embark on this institutional arrangement. Hence the current debate with arguments on the one side noting that we should first concentrate on strengthening current AU structures, and those on the other, noting that we should increase the pace of integration as in our current modus operandi, conditions will never be ripe.

This debate is, however, largely taking place amongst African heads of state, yet, it is African citizens who need to be deliberating, for it is they who stand to gain or lose the most. It is a debate ostensibly carried out for the purpose of facilitating the integration of Africa’s people.

George Mukundi gave an historical overview of the pan-African debate, underscoring the motivation for shared historical and cultural values, collective self-reliance, self-sufficiency and political freedom. He observed that Africa has continued to remain poor and divided.

The establishment of the African Union in 2002 was meant to accelerate the continent’s integration process and to strengthen its shared values and common purpose. But the challenges to continental integration have remained, especially with AU member states still holding onto the issue of sovereignty. The contradiction is that it is these leaders who are leading the debate on the formation of a ‘United States of Africa’. He noted the challenges to continental unity including; mistrust, economic inequalities, racism and questions of ethnicity. He also pointed out that political leaders are at the moment pursuing the question of integration without involving the general public.

As a way forward he pointed out the need for AU to take tough and courageous decisions and determination to enforce them, to consult and involve all Africans, to strengthen and rationalise the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building blocks to achieve a Union government, address the recurrent financial constraint on the union and adopt measured steps that take into account complementarity of political and economic structures.

Prince Mashele made a presentation 'African Union government: Between dreams and reality'. He observed that the debate on a ‘United States of Africa’ picked up momentum from the 7th African Union Summit in Banjul Gambia in July 2006.

At this summit, a study report on the ‘United States of Africa’ was presented outlining concrete steps to be taken. Mashele critiqued the proposed road map arguing that there was no way the pan-African parliament (PAP) would start legislating by 2009. He also questioned the possible contradictions between the powers bestowed on the PAP to legislate and the assembly as the highest decision making body, adding that without political will, nothing would work.

He pointed out the divergence in suggestions over the structure of the union with some suggesting a federal government while others proposing the strengthening of the current structures of the African Union. In conclusion, Mashele observed that in the face of the myriad of problems facing the continent, the current debates on continental integration will neither lead to a ‘United States of Africa’ nor continental government. He termed it misplaced optimism and mere sensation.

Ozias Tungwarara picked up from Prince Mashele’s conclusion, arguing that as a Zimbabwean, he was attracted to the optimism of continental integration. He observed that the idea of a United States of Africa was good, although there was still work to be done, especially in making it resonate with the general public.

He observed that while the proposal for a continental government would have profound implications on the majority of African people, the African Union has not involved them. Civil society too, he observed, have not been effective in mobilsing people to participate in the debates. The debate has remained elitist rather than people centred. Civil society’s participation has largely been constrained, partly by the lack of cross-border networking to pressurise governments on issues of continental interest. The question, he posed is what should civil society do in the current scenario? Do they take the ‘United States of Africa’ debate back to the people for discussion before the Accra Summit or remain in reactionary mode?

He also pointed out that the debates on continental integration seem driven by neoliberal economics. He urged for the Accra summit to be withheld until ‘people’s’ voices have been heard and that civil societies should come up with new options relating to people’s engagement and coordinate efforts between civil societies focusing on development and those on politics.

The discussant, John Tesha, observed it is apparent that the continental landscape has been changing, as evidenced in the occurrence of regular elections and presidents leaving offices peacefully. He pointed out that the discourse on continental integration embodied the message of African solutions to African problems. He agreed with the need for an inclusive process, although he observed that the civil societies do have a platform at the African Union (ECOSOC). He urged the civil society to make use of available mechanisms and avoid being reactive. He conceded that that 2015 may be too close for political integration, and called for gradual and realistic time frames. He also called for advocates of ‘structured and inclusive’ processes to make concrete propositions about how that should be done. One critical question, he felt, needs to pursued is the financial implication of an African Union government.

During the plenary a number of issues were raised. These included the possible immigration challenges that could arise from political integration, a concern with abstract debates that are never implemented, the question of what makes the integration debate necessary at this moment, and the argument that presenters were offering an ‘all or nothing solution’.

It was suggested that some countries, which are more eager, would probably proceed with the political integration and others join them along the way. Other questions related to differences between North Africans and the rest of the continent, the effect of Alpha Konare’s possible resignation from the AU leadership, whether the continental integration process has borrowed from other models, such as the Asian model, and the argument that civil society could too be considered elitist.

In response, Prince Mashele observed that the current continental integration discourses are motivated by political not economic integration, pointing out the challenges of infrastructure. He observed that the question of timeframes should not be a concern given that the EU has been driven by the desire for concrete measures and not timeframes.

Mashele also pointed out the disconnection between the North and the rest of Africa, as amplified in the NEPAD process and peacekeeping missions on the continent. He underscored the need for a functional or sectoral integration e.g. regionally and across certain sectors such as infrastructure.

George Mukundi contested the notion that political integration would create migration problems, citing examples in West and East Africa, which currently allow free movement. He observed that Kadhafi’s pronouncements provided impetus for the debate on the United States of Africa, and it appears other leaders have bought into it. He observed that there was no problem with countries borrowing models which work elsewhere, provided these models are domesticated and made relevant to their new contexts.

Ozias Tungwarara argued that the debate should not be attributed to an individual, but rather be seen in the pan-African paradigm where Africa seeks to address its development challenges. He observed that from the research he has done, it is apparent that there has been little consultation on the proposed African Union government. The ECOSOC platform, he further observed, has been in interim mode all along. He urged for civil societies to create independent spaces for participation in the African Union. He emphasised the need for critical contributions from all the constituencies.

John Tesha answered the question of ‘why now’ with a rhetorical one ‘why not now?’ He observed that there is no need to question when some countries decide to lead, arguing that it is quite normal everywhere in the world. On the question of civil society participation, he said, he saw no obstacles, and observed that it all depended on initiative.

Cheryl Hendricks recapped the debate touching on the main running themes. She said the question on timing should be rephrased to 'why only now' since the raison d’etre of the OAU and AU were supposed precisely to lead along this path. She concluded by underscoring the need for the debate to be taken beyond the ‘blue chip’ NGOs to the masses.

Call for the return of information for the database on CSO activities at the African Union Summit


The Institute for Democratic Governance is the secretariat of the Ghana CSO coalition – AU Summit July 2007.

To facilitate coordination, collaboration and networking among CSOs that wish to organise or participate in pre-summit activities in Accra, Ghana, the secretariat is creating a database on CSO/NGO pre-summit activities in the months of June and early July 2007.

The database will be accessible to all the registered CSOs and will enable visiting CSO actors to also interact with the secretariat. Registered CSOs will also be updated periodically on pre-summit activities and events in Ghana.

If you with to participate in this exercise, please download the form at and return it to au at

Nigeria: Group cautions on Africa Union government formation


Various civil society groups in Nigeria have raised the need to look critically at available infrastructure in the African continent before a consensus is reached on the formation of an African Union Government or a United States of Africa.
This was raised at a recent one-day round table organized by ActionAid, Nigeria in Abuja.

Nigerian CSOs propose performance assessment before an AU government


Civil society groups in Nigeria raised the need to look critically at the performance of existing institutions, before a consensus is reached on the formation of an African Union government or a United States of Africa, during a one-day roundtable organised by ActionAid in Abuja, Nigeria on May 25, 2007.

The roundtable attracted 32 representatives from civil society organisations, media, ministries of foreign affairs, the labour movement, academia, ECOWAS, private sector and other stakeholders. The meeting noted that a United States of Africa is a desirable vision, but raised some challenges including common political and cultural values, identity, citizenship integration and state power.

Speakers at the roundtable also raised concern over what was described as 'lack of democratic credentials and credibility of the African leaders, inadequate infrastructure, violation of human rights of citizens across the continent, restricted movement of Africans within the continent, context of sovereignty, political instability, travels within the continent and language barriers, immigration, setting up policy standards and adhering to them'.

Participants at the roundtable observed further that African governments need to popularise the proposal for the continental government amongst their people through sensitisation meetings, the media, academic discourse, and research into past experiences and achievements, such as OAU and AU.

In a communiqué produced by the roundtable, participants recommended the need to analyse the achievement of the African Union, and use the lessons learnt to discuss the formation of a United States of Africa.

The assessment of AU performance should be based on the implementation of existing decisions and performance of relevant institutions. This should involve all relevant institutions, governments, CSOs, media, businesses in the process leading to the formation of the United States of Africa.

Civil society must ensure that there is no disconnect between leaders and the peoples of Africa toward implementation of the proposed United States of Africa.

As a next step, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be hosting another public forum to discuss the proposal, and civil society has requested to work in conjunction with the ministry to organise these discussions.

For further information contact:
Túndé Àrèmú
Tel: +234 (9) 290 7867/8
tunde.aremu at

Women & gender

Africa: African Media Project receives grant


The International Women’s Media Foundation will launch a new project to enhance coverage of agriculture, rural development and women in African media with a $2.5 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The goals of the project are to increase and enhance reporting on agriculture and rural development, incorporate women’s roles in the coverage of agriculture and rural economics into reporting on those topics, and create more gender equality in newsrooms.

Egypt: Women strike for better pay


For over a month now, workers have been staging a sit-in at a textile factory in rural Egypt, according to a report form Al Jazeera. The majority of them are female. They're sleeping on the factory floors, leaving behind families and children, in their demands for better pay. Why? Because the average wages for these women is a lowly 30 dollars a month, not enough to feed and clothe their families. And since 1999, they haven't even been paid the bonuses and grants to which they're entitled.

Global: G-8 faces lesson on school girls in battle zones


When the world's wealthiest nations meet at the G-8 summit in Germany this week, aid workers plan to remind them that education pledges they made to children--the majority of them girls--are not being met in the world's worst conflict zones.

Sudan: Female journalists covering Sudan with passionate purpose


In daily newspapers across the world, stories are filed from foreign correspondents on assignment in war-torn Darfur in Western Sudan while London or New York analysts propose solutions to a conflict they'll never see. But on the ground, from Khartoum to Kordufan to the center of Darfur in El Fasher, local female journalists are telling the story to their own people.

West Africa: University of Ghana forges gender advocacy agenda


The University of Ghana is forging a gender advocacy trail in West Africa by setting up a sex-assault crisis center, forming a policy on harassment and improving the campus culture for women.

Human rights

Global: Amnesty International 2007 report


In an inter-dependent world, global challenges, whether of poverty or security, of migration or marginalization, demand responses based on global values of human rights that bring people together and promote our collective well-being. Human rights provide the basis for a sustainable future. But protecting the security of states rather than the sustainability of people’s lives and livelihoods appears to be the order of the day, says the Amnesty International 2007 report.

Global: Nearly a quarter of world’s workforce clocking ‘excessive’ hours – UN report


A new study by the United Nations labour agency finds that more than one in five workers around the world – over 600 million people – are working “excessively” long hours. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 22 per cent of the global workforce are still working more than 48 hours a week, “often merely to make ends meet.”

Global: Press Release on anti-trafficking law


The New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition is delighted by the passage of a strong anti-trafficking law in New York. The Human Trafficking Law, signed into force by Governor Spitzer, is the strongest state anti-trafficking legislation in the country. The Coalition, an alliance of over 80 state-wide organizations, strongly endorses this anti-trafficking law, which has all the elements considered essential to a strong law.

Sierra Leone: New website to track Charles Taylor trial


A new website, has been launched to provide news and expert analysis—¬updated daily—on the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Ghankay Taylor. The website will feature daily updates from the courtroom, as well as analysis, background information, the trial calendar and other resources. The site is a joint project of the Open Society Institute, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and the International Senior Lawyers Project.

Sudan: UN war crimes prosecutor calls for arrest of first Darfur suspects


Briefing the Security Council, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has called for the arrest of the two suspects wanted to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region.

Refugees & forced migration

DRC: UN official urges protection for civilians caught in conflict


At a conference of religious leaders in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations humanitarian official has said dialogue among parties is a cornerstone for the protection of civilians caught in the conflict.

Sierra Leone: More than 100,000 Liberians repatriated


The number of UNHCR-assisted returns to Liberia passed the 100,000 mark on Tuesday with the arrival of a convoy carrying scores of returnees from neighbouring Sierra Leone. The landmark convoy bearing more than 250 returning refugees entered Liberia at the Bo Waterside border crossing. Government officials, UNHCR representatives and humanitarian workers attended a welcoming ceremony at the nearby Sinje transit centre.

Somalia: An estimated 90,000 people return to Mogadishu


The UN refugee agency estimates that up to 90,000 people may have returned to Mogadishu in recent weeks, or almost a quarter of those who fled fierce fighting earlier this year in the Somali capital.The figure is based on monitoring of population movements inside Somalia by UNHCR and a network of partners.

Somalia: Returnees find supplies short in Mogadishu


Residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are flocking back to the city but many have found their homes destroyed, while food and medical care are in short supply, local sources said. "Our estimate is that since the end of major combat, [late April-early May], 16,000 to 17,000 families have returned to the city," said a civil society source involved in assisting the returnees.

Sudan: Wave of refugees swells Darfur's camps


Insecurity, tension and attacks on aid convoys have this year added another 140 000 people to an estimated two million people displaced by civil war in Sudan's western Darfur region, the United Nations said on Wednesday. Many of the camps set up for the homeless are full, and more than half a million people are completely out of reach of aid agencies, the UN mission in Khartoum added in a report.

Social movements

Chad: Violence against unions "escalates"


Trade unions are expressing their concerns over what they call an "escalating violence" by security officers against their representatives all over Chad. The country has been paralysed by an unpopular general strike for over one month. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has denounced what it called "the recent escalation in anti-union repression in Chad," where a public sector strike launched a month ago by the Inter-Union Group continues.

Nigeria: Militants announce suspension of attacks on foreign oil workers


One of the main militant groups operating in the Niger Delta says it will suspend hostilities for one month to allow the government of new President Umaru Yar'Adua to create a plan for peace in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The group has also released six foreign hostages. But as Sarah Simpson reports from Lagos four more foreign oil workers have been kidnapped in the oil-rich region.

South Africa: Strikers planning 'complete shutdown'


Striking public servants will completely shut down all government services in the Western Cape by Friday 8 June, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) said. Provincial secretary Suraya Jawoodeen said Nehawu would intensify its strike action and re-mobilise all members to ensure a complete shut-down of services by Friday.

Zimbabwe: WOZA members arrested in Bulawayo


Approximately 20 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA) were arrested in Bulawayo. Amongst those arrested are Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who handed themselves in at Bulawayo Central in solidarity with a group that had been arrested earlier.

Zimbabwe: WOZA/MOZA's view - ten steps to a new Zimbabwe


WOZA has been reading and hearing about 'the talks' and wish to express our views about these. Firstly, we would like to know exactly what South African President Thabo Mbeki, Tanzanian President Kikwete and our SADC brothers and sisters want to achieve by their mediation.

Elections & governance

Algeria: Contention over amendment to electoral law


A proposed amendment to Algeria’s electoral law, expected this June, will set limits on the existence of non-representative or small parties, with the official intention of preventing the fragmentation of Algerian politics. The amendment is also expected to place stricter conditions on prospective candidates.

Algeria: Reshuffle divides politicians


President Bouteflika's decision to reappoint nearly the entire previous government has come as a great disappointment to some Algerians who had been hoping for a change. Although most citizens were firm in their opposition to the decision, Algerian politicians were divided, Magharebia news reports.

Comoros: Anjouan polls delayed after violence


Comoros has delayed an election due on Sunday on the mutinous island of Anjouan for one week after police there shot three civilians during political unrest, national radio said late on Thursday. The coup-prone Indian Ocean archipelago was due to elect local presidents for its three main islands. The authorities said polls would go ahead as planned this weekend on Grande Comore and Moheli, but Anjouan's would be postponed to June 17.

Ethiopia: 55 goverment opponents charged with rebellion


Ethiopia has charged 55 opposition members with trying to launch a rebellion, a government prosecutor told said on Wednesday. More than one hundred opposition figures are already on trial, accused of plotting a coup after disputed 2005 elections.


Africa: African appointed to head TI


South African Cobus de Swardt, 44, Director of Global Programmes at Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption, has been appointed Managing Director of TI’s Berlin-based Secretariat. De Swardt has served as Global Programmes Director since May 2004, leading the work on TI's global priorities, and heads the International Group of four regional departments. Since 30 April 2007, he has also served as Acting Managing Director.

Ethiopia: 50 officials arrested over graft


Ethiopia said on Thursday it had detained 50 government and company officials for graft in one of the East African nation's largest crackdowns. Ethiopia has a relatively clean image by the continent's standards, managing to avoid the sort of major public corruption scandals plaguing neighbour Kenya, for example

Kenya: A rare gem from parliament on corruption


Since 1963, corruption has begat corruption in the successive governments of Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki, as a silent majority watched hoping against hope that they would not be affected. Pastor Martin Niemöller described this phenomenon - the assumption of the ostrich position by collectively burying our heads in the sand as the fruit of inaction ripens.

Nigerian Oil Workers protest takeover of refinaries.


Nigerian oil workers threaten to physically prevent the takeover of Kaduna Port Harcourt refineries by their new owner, Blue Star Oil, a Nigerian consortium.

Zambia: UK court freezes Chiluba's assets


A London high court has frozen the assets of Zambia's former president Frederick Chiluba after he was convicted last month of stealing $46-million in state funds, according to court documents obtained by AFP on Tuesday. The Zambian government obtained an injunction to freeze Chiluba's assets in London in order to prevent the ailing Chiluba and 18 of his cohorts from disposing of their properties, according to the court order.


Africa: Debt write-offs boost closer trade ties with Russia


Long seen as funding the continent's wars and doing little other than seeking out petroleum and mineral resources, Russia is now looking to kick-start better trade relations with Africa, and has made its first move by writing off the majority of the continent's debt.

Africa: U.S. mistakes make dictators happy


According to William Gumede, competing nations are exploiting increasing anti-American sentiment in Africa to muscle out U.S. companies for lucrative business deals, especially in energy and minerals. Unless U.S. policies change, it appears that negative sentiment in Africa will result in more loss of business and political clout.

Global: Poverty reduction and climate change inextricably lnked - activists


Activists have underscored the need for progress with both climate change and poverty alleviation - key items on the meeting's agenda - for there to be real improvement in Africa's living conditions.

Global: G8: Declare Vulture Fund Profiteering

Soren Ambrose


On the opening day of the G-8 summit, leading international debt cancellation advocacy groups declared that the debt deal G-8 leaders negotiated 2 years ago has not solved the debt crisis and issued a strong call to the G-8 to stop the activities of so-called "vulture funds".

Global: G8: Protesting for/against whom?


One thing about the Rostock demonstrations is the predictability of it all. Yes, globalisation is simply marginalisation of the poor. Yes, the rich countries – including Germany – have reneged on their promise (renewed two years ago in Gleneagles) to give more aid to poor nations. But will this violence against police and blockading of roads necessarily change the plight of people in poor countries? asks Richard Kavuma for Panos.

Malawi: Malawi struggles with too much food


Malawian farmers have had a good year, enjoying their best maize harvest in 12 years or more. So why, in a year of "historic plenty", is Malawi yet again on the receiving end of food aid, asks Alex Renton in Britain's Observer newspaper. Malawi suffered food crises in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Last year it produced a 250,000-tonne surplus of maize, yet still received over 40,000 tonnes of food aid from the United States.

West Africa: Vital West African bridge opens


A vital bridge linking Sierra Leone with Liberia - both recovering from civil wars - has officially re-opened. Relations between the countries have been strained as Liberia's ex-President Charles Taylor was accused of fuelling Sierra Leone's brutal conflict. It is hoped the Mano River bridge will increase trade and unite families living on the two sides of the border.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Kenya: Link between malaria and low childhood mortality studied


Placental and infant malaria protect HIV-infected infants against early childhood deaths, according to the findings of a longitudinal study published in the July 1st edition of The Journal of Infectious Diseases. But the study found that infant anaemia was a significant risk factor for postneonatal infant mortality (PNIM) in HIV-negative children of HIV-positive women.

South Africa: Thousands of babies are still being infected with HIV by mothers


South Africa has had a prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) programme since 2003, yet it is only reaching an estimated one-sixth of pregnant, HIV positive women. This means that thousands of babies are being infected each year as at least one in three pregnant women nationally was HIV positive by 2005 and around a third of HIV positive mothers transmit HIV to their babies.

South Africa: Sexual behaviour a worrying factor


Sexual behaviour is not changing in South Africa despite the massive energy and expertise that goes into research. This was the sobering message from Olive Shisana, CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council at the 3rd South African Aids Conference at Durban's International Convention Centre on Tuesday June 5.

Swaziland: Campaign supports HIV-positive truckers


Swaziland's truck drivers, who are twice as likely to be infected with HIV than the general population, are finally getting the programmes required to provide them with treatment and support, a conference was told this week.

West Africa: Viral load decline in pregnant women: faster in West Africans and those on nevirapine


Women who begin potent anti-HIV therapy during pregnancy achieve undetectable viral loads more quickly with nevirapine-based compared to nelfinavir-based regimens, according to findings from the European Collaborative Study. Results published in the June 15th issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases also showed that women of western African origin achieved viral suppression more quickly than non-African women.


Kenya: Learning at the flick of a switch


The role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in improving education throughout Africa has been in the spotlight over recent days at the e-Learning Africa Conference. An annual event, the gathering was held in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi this year (May 28-30), bringing together participants from across the globe.

South Africa: Provincial border dispute threatens school for challenged children


The protracted provincial border dispute between the government and residents of Khutsong, a township outside the mining town of Carletonville, has blocked the funding of a care centre for mentally and physically challenged children.

Tanzania: Concern over school drop-out rate


Authorities in Tanzania have expressed concern over the large numbers of pupils, mostly girls, who drop out of school because of pregnancy, teenage marriage, child labour or truancy. President Jakaya Kikwete said the number of primary school drop-outs rose to 44,742 in 2006 from 32,469 the previous year.

Uganda: Being truly educated goes beyond writing your name


Uganda is one of the ‘highly indebted countries’ that had its debts cancelled after the Gleneagles G8 summit of 2005. It recently stepped up school spending - introducing free secondary education – but the future is looking doubtful, contends Collins Vumiria, for Panos.


Africa: Oxfam warns G8 on cost of inaction on climate change


International agency Oxfam today warned that failure among G8 countries to provide a clear steer on climate change would leave confusion in its wake and cause an unacceptable delay as poor countries bore the biggest burden of global warming. According to this year's IPCC report, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change.

Burundi: Urban waste becomes urban fuel


Several months ago, residents of the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, were struggling with disposal of household waste. Fast forward to June 2007, and matters have taken a turn for the better -- thanks to a waste management process imported from neighbouring Rwanda, and put into effect by the recently-created Association for Development and the Fight Against Poverty (Association pour le développement et la lutte contre la pauvreté, ADLP).

Malawi: Technology to save forests


Malawi's utilisation of energy resources is heavily dominated by firewood, which provides 93 percent of all energy needs. Current annual household consumption of firewood and charcoal are at 7.5 million tons, exceeding sustainable supply by 3.7 million tons. Poverty and population growth in the country are placing escalating pressures on Malawi's indigenous forests which, the ministry of environment says, translates into an annual destruction of approximately 50,000 to 70,000 hectares of forest.

Rwanda: Environment minister talks about climate change


Rwanda is a small sub-Saharan African nation that is learning to adjust to global warming and the effects of climate change. Decreasing water levels have contributed to loss of agricultural productivity and an energy crisis due to loss of power generated by hydropower stations.I n this Development Gateway interview, Patricia Hajabakiga, Rwanda Minister of State in Charge of Lands and Environment, talks about how Rwanda is adjusting to, among other things, unpredictable climate patterns.

Tanzania: Timber looted by criminals


Millions of dollars worth of timber revenue is being lost each year in Tanzania because of poor governance and rampant corruption in the forestry sector, according to a new report by TRAFFIC International.

Land & land rights

Tanzania: Emirates royals threaten indigenous people


The Hadzabe indigenous people of northern Tanzania are facing "a direct and serious threat to the survival" as their hunting and gathering grounds are falling prey to powerful safari organisers. Royals from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their UAE Safari Ltd count on Tanzanian government support to drive out the Hadzabe, also called "Bushmen".

Media & freedom of expression

Africa: Plans for Africa media-freedom debate


African presidents and editors are to debate the thorny issue of media freedom on the continent at next month's African Union summit in Accra, Ghana. This was announced by chairperson of The African Editors' Forum (TAEF) Mathatha Tsedu.

Gambia: Journalist convicted


A Gambian journalist of the sealed bi-weekly newspaper, 'The Independent', was convicted by a regional court to either pay US $2, 000 or in default serve a year in prison. His attorney, Lamin Camara, vows to appeal against the conviction at the High Court.

Global: Censorship 'changes face of net'


Amnesty International has warned that the internet "could change beyond all recognition" unless action is taken against the erosion of online freedoms. The warning comes ahead of a conference organised by Amnesty, where victims of repression will outline their plights. The "virus of internet repression" has spread from a handful of countries to dozens of governments, said the group. Amnesty accused companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo of being complicit in the problem.

Somalia: Media shutdown silences community voices


The closure of several leading radio stations by the Somali government has silenced important community voices in the war-ravaged country, a media watchdog has said. The stations, HornAfrik radio and television, Shabelle Media Network and Radio Voice of Holy Koran, were shut down on 6 June, for alleged support of anti-government elements.

South Africa: Broadcaster agrees to screen controversial documentary


The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) welcomes the fact that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has decided to schedule the controversial documentary on President Thabo Mbeki for screening on Sunday 10 June at 9 pm on SABC 3. In marches, pickets and demonstrations held outside various SABC offices since last November, the FXI has repeatedly called for the screening of the documentary, and the Institute is pleased that this is finally going to take place.

Tunisia: Independent media threatened


Between 30 and 60 plain-clothed policemen have over the past two weeks surrounded the offices of 'Kalima', an online newspaper that is the only independent media based in Tunisia. 'Kalima' journalists have thus been prevented from working and updating their news site, which for years has been inaccessible for Tunisian readers.

News from the diaspora

Africa: Europe looks to encourage diaspora investment


Africa's robust diaspora in Europe will soon have an investment facility to help people make direct investments to better develop their home countries thanks to a new study by the Brussels-based Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Business Climate (BizClim) facility.

Conflict & emergencies

Congo: rebels burn weapons


Former "Ninja" rebels led by a renegade pastor in Congo Republic burned their weapons late on Thursday in a ceremony meant to underline their commitment to peace in the central African country. The rebels, named after ancient Japanese warriors, fought an insurgency against Congo's government in the late 1990s and although a peace deal was signed in 2003 sporadic violence has plagued the Pool region where they are based ever since.

Kenya: Bloody gang violence raises alarm


Severed heads displayed on poles, savagely mutilated bodies and dozens of deaths have sparked alarm in Kenya as a secret criminal society goes on the rampage and police launch bloody retaliation. With presidential elections little more than six months away, the crisis has sparked a fierce row between government and the judiciary, set politicians at each others' throats and brought calls for emergency rule in affected areas.

Somalia: Bomber targets Ethiopian army base


Ethiopian soldiers fired at a would-be suicide bomber who was speeding towards their base in the Somali capital blowing up the car and killing the bomber and a civilian who was standing nearby, officials have told Al Jazeera. Monday's attack came one day after a suicide car bomber drove through a roadblock guarding the compound of the Mogadishu home of Ali Mohamed Gedi, the interim prime minister, and rammed the vehicle into a wall, killing seven people but missing Gedi.

Sudan: Eyes on Darfur


Amnesty International is using satellite cameras to monitor highly vulnerable villages in war-torn Darfur, Sudan. The human rights organization is inviting ordinary people worldwide to monitor 12 villages by visiting the Eyes on Darfur project website and put the Sudanese Government on notice that these and other areas in the region are being watched around the clock.

Sudan: Plans ready for UN Darfur force but not deployment


The United Nations and the African Union were close to a deal on Wednesday on fielding 23,000 peacekeepers in Sudan's violent Darfur region, but full deployment is not expected until next year at the earliest. The so-called "hybrid" U.N.-A.U. force is the culmination of two earlier stages allowing the United Nations to bolster 7,000 beleaguered African Union troops.

Internet & technology

Africa: ICT is a catalyst for African development - Forum


Regulators and industry players in the ICT sector have identified the development of sound Information and Communication Technology (ICT) regulation as key to Africa's development agenda and said that ICT development should be regarded as catalysts for overall development. Arising from a two-day forum on telecommunications/ICT Regulation in Africa (FTRA-2007), which opened Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya, participants agreed that ICT stands the chance of leapfrogging the continent on its developmental strategies.

Africa: Affordable computers for small-scale entrepreneurs


The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Microsoft have announced a joint initiative to help bridge the gap between corporations disposing of their used computers and small and medium enterpreneurs (SMEs) in Africa that can use these PCs to help grow their operations.

Africa: UN takes a byte to save Africa from e-waste


The United Nations has called for policies to protect African nations from unregulated imports of electronic wastes (e-waste) that release heavy metals and chemicals. This call comes after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that over 50 million metric tonnes of electronic e-waste are produced globally, much of which finds its way to the African continent as charitable donations.

Africa: UNIDO and Microsoft partner on investment monitoring and governance platform


Information is a public good that provides accurate signals for investors, enhances the public private partnerships needed to move an economy toward greater prosperity and brings transparency to the dialogue between civil society concerns and private sector motives. It is a public good that, in the context of Africa is unfortunately insufficient.

Burkina Faso: The economic benefits of second-hand cell phones


Two years ago, the association Yam Pukri began to sell second-hand cellular telephones as part of its policy of disseminating ICT in Burkina Faso. Yam Pukri buys the phones in Switzerland through its partner, the NGO Terre des Hommes Suisse (Geneva branch), and resells them in Burkina Faso at very low prices (from 7,500 to 45,000 CFA francs).

Fundraising & useful resources

Africa/Global: Third World Organization for Women in Science Fellowships


The Third World Organization for Women in Science (TWOWS) with funds generously provided by the Department for Research Cooperation (SAREC) of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), has instituted a fellowship programme for female students from Sub-Saharan Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), who wish to pursue postgraduate training leading to a Ph.D., at centres of excellence in the South (developing countries), outside their own country. Deadline: 31 July 2007

Global: International Foundation for Science: Special joint calls for applications


International Foundation for Science occasionally issues calls for applications together with other partner or donor organizations. Currently IFS has open special calls for research project proposals on: Use of Water as a Scarce Commodity in Biological Production; Sustainable Sanitation in developing countries; and Water Research in OIC Countries. The deadline for all calls are June 30, 2007.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Libya: The African Brain Drain - Managing the Drain: Working with the Diaspora


The Conference of Rectors, Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) is an assembly of the chief executive officers of member institutions or their representatives. The theme for the Conference is: "The African Brain Drain - Managing the Drain: Working with the Diaspora". The conference will take place from 21-25th of October, 2007. The deadline for registration is June 30, 2007.


Mazonde and Thomas (eds): Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Intellectual Property in the 21st Century

New titles from CODESRIA


This volume discusses the contested nature of intellectual property rights and indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in the context of southern Africa, including the protection of folklore, IKS in a digital era, the valuation and safeguard of heritage sites, the need for appropriate IKS legislation, community-based control of natural resources, and the role played by traditional music in the maintenance of community.

This empirical grounded collection of papers is a unique and distinctive contribution to the literature on IKS. The specific IKS-related issues raised and dealt with in this volume are generic in the sense that the very same issues are being contested in different parts of the world.

ISBN: 978-2-86978-194-8, 138pp, publ. 2007
Africa: 20.00 USD; CFA 10,000; elsewhere: US$24.95/GBP16.95

Africa -
North America -
Elsewhere -

Nigeria: Author Adichie wins Orange Prize


Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been named winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. She beat five other contenders for the £30,000 women-only award, including Kiran Desai, shortlisted for her Booker Prize winner The Inheritance of Loss. Adichie's novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, is her second work and set during the Biafran War of the 1960s.

Zeleza (ed.): The Study of Africa. Vol. 2, Global and Transnational Engagements

New titles from CODESRIA


This is the second of a two-volume work taking stock of the study of Africa in the 21st century: its status, research agenda and approaches, and place. The volume is divided into two parts, the first entitled Globalisation Studies and African Studies, and the second, African Studies in Regional Contexts.

Topics considered include: African and area studies in France, the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and Sweden; anti-colonialism and Russian/soviet African studies; African studies in the Caribbean in historical perspective; the teaching of African history and the history of Africa in Brazil; African studies in India; African studies and historiography in China in the 21st century; and African studies and contemporary scholarship in Japan.

'This two-volume collection…establishes entirely new parameters for Africanist scholarship…[it is] interested in answering the question: What is Africa's place in the world today'– Ato Quayson, professor of English and director, Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.

ISBN: 978-2-86978-198-6, 416pp., publ. 2007
Africa: 35.00 USD; CFA 17,000; elsewhere: US$49.95/GBP39.95

Africa -
North America -
Elsewhere -

Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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Editor: Firoze Manji
Online News Editor: Sokari Ekine
French Edition Online News Editor: Hawa Ba
Editorial advisors: Rotimi Sankore, Patrick Burnett
Blog reviewer: Sokari Ekine
Links and Resources Researcher: Joshua Ogada
African Union Monitor editor: Hakima Abbas
Multimedia producers: Heidi Bachram, Robtel Pailey
Online Volunteer: Elizabeth Onyango
Website technical management: Mark Rogerson
Website design: Judith Charlton
Publications manager: Stephanie Kitchen

Pambazuka News currently receives support from Christian Aid, Fahamu Trust, Ford Foundation, Oxfam GB, New Field Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, HIVOS, Open Society Initiative, and TrustAfrica and many individual donors.

The French edition is supported by New Field Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation and by OSIWA.

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This Newsletter is produced under the principles of 'fair use'. We strive to attribute sources by providing direct links to authors and websites. When full text is submitted to us and no website is provided, we make the text available on our website via a "for more information" link. Please contact [email protected] immediately regarding copyright issues.

Pambazuka News includes short snippets from, with corresponding web links to, commercial and other sites in order to bring the attention of our readers to useful information on these sites. We do this on the basis of fair use and on a non-commercial basis and in what we believe to be the public interest. If you object to our inclusion of the snippets from your website and the associated link, please let us know and we will desist from using your website as a source. Please write to [email protected]

The views expressed in this newsletter, including the signed editorials, do not necessarily represent those of Fahamu or the editors of Pambazuka News. While we make every effort to ensure that all facts and figures quoted by authors are accurate, Fahamu and the editors of Pambazuka News cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies contained in any articles. Please contact [email protected] if you believe that errors are contained in any article and we will investigate and provide feedback.

(c) Fahamu 2007

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ISSN 1753-6839 Pambazuka News English Edition

ISSN 1753-6847 Pambazuka News en Français

ISSN 1757-6504 Pambazuka News em Português

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