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      Pambazuka News 325: Justice for Mau Mau war veterans

      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. Action alerts, 2. Features, 3. Comment & analysis, 4. Books & arts, 5. Letters & Opinions, 6. Blogging Africa, 7. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 8. Zimbabwe update, 9. African Union Monitor, 10. Women & gender, 11. Human rights, 12. Refugees & forced migration, 13. Social movements, 14. Elections & governance, 15. Corruption, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Racism & xenophobia, 21. Environment, 22. Land & land rights, 23. Media & freedom of expression, 24. Conflict & emergencies, 25. Internet & technology, 26. Courses, seminars, & workshops

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      Highlights from this issue

      FEATURES: Mukoma Wa Ngugi calls for justice for Mau Mau vetrans
      - Mary Ndlovu exposes the truth about life in Zimbabwe
      - Mphutlane wa Bofelo on the myth of Rainbowism in the new South Africa
      - Onyeka Obasi reports from the Pan African Youth Leadership Forum
      LETTERS: Somaliland attacks on human rights network
      AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: Selome Araya highlights the latest news
      REVIEW OF AFRICAN BLOGS: Dibussi Tande reivews the blogs
      BOOKS & ARTS: Our Delimma by Chinwe AzubuikeACTION ALERTS: IMF fails Liberia – Take action now
      ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Mugabe refused sale of anti-riot gear by South Africa, says MDC
      WOMEN AND GENDER: Gender inequality damages the health of women and girls
      CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Definitive peace accord signed in Chad
      HUMAN RIGHTS: International Criminal Court and CAR government sign protocol
      REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Thousands flee North Kivu fighting
      ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Kenya polls set for 27 December
      AFRICA AND CHINA: China ‘opening up’ DRC for minerals
      CORRUPTION: Corruption scandal paralyses Nigerian House
      DEVELOPMENT: Agriculture neglected in Africa
      HEALTH AND HIV/Aids: Aids stripping Beninois farmers of land
      EDUCATION: ‘Auntie Stella’ website updated!
      LGBTI: None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa
      RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Nicholas Sarkozy’s Africa
      ENVIRONMENT: 20 year on, the world is in dire straits
      LAND & LAND RIGHTS: New IRIN film on slum survivors
      MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Nightmare year in Somalia
      INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Timid ICT revolution in Maghreb
      PLUS: e-newsletters and mailings lists; courses, seminars and workshops, and jobs

      *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

      Action alerts

      Liberia: IMF Fails Liberia - Take Action Now


      The brutal regime of Samuel Doe ran up much of Liberia's illegitimate debt, with no benefit to the people of Liberia. Today, Liberia has a $4.5 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other creditors. During the years of civil war, Liberia failed to make its scheduled payments, resulting in huge arrears, which the IMF insists must be cleared before Liberia can enter the debt cancellation process.


      Justice for Mau Mau War Veterans

      Mukoma Wa Ngugi


      As the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) prepares to sue the British Government for personal injuries sustained by survivors of the Mau Mau war for independence whilst in British detention camps in Kenya, Mukoma Wa Ngugi unravels the Colonial myths of Christianisation and civilization and exposes the reality of torture, murder, slavery, landlessness, dehumanization and internment.

      In February 2008, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) will file a representative law-suit against Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) in the British High Court on behalf of the survivors of the Mau Mau war for independence.

      The KHRC is suing HMG for “personal injuries sustained [by the survivors] while in detention camps of the Kenya Colonial Government which operated” under the direct authority of HMG during the State of Emergency (1952-60).

      But to understand the law-suit in all its implications, we have to look at Africa’s historical relationship to the West and separate the image from the reality. The Enlightenment of the 1600’s sought to civilize Africans, introduce reason and logic to them, and equip them with the key to heaven through Christianization. The reality masked underneath this image was one of torture, murder and slavery.

      Later, colonialism used the image of a gentle stewardship to guide Africans along until they were civilized. The reality, as the KHRC suit shows, was landlessness, torture and dehumanization, whole population internment, outright murder and mass killings.

      For the Westerners and Africans alike who have sought comfort in the images, the reality difficult to take. But the reality has been well documented. Adam Hochschild, writing in King Leopold’s Ghost, estimates that 5 to 10 million Africans died as a direct result of Belgian colonization in the Congo in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. And chopping off hands, quite literally, was a form of public control.

      And between 1904 and 1907, 65,000 Herero (80 percent of the total Herero population) were systematically eliminated by the Germans in Namibia. In Algeria, during the war of independence (1954 to 1962), the French routinely tortured and 'disappeared' FLN freedom fighters.

      These random examples illustrate an alarmingly simple principle: One nation cannot occupy another and seek to control its resources without detaining, torturing, assassinating and terrorizing the occupied. A modern day example of this principle at work is Iraq today where torture and killings under the occupation of the United States are rampant, even though the U.S. wants to sell an image of spreading democracy.

      Colonialism, Legacy and the Mau Mau

      In Kenya, British colonialism followed this same principle. Caroline Elkins’ Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag and David Anderson’s Histories Of The Hanged: The Dirty War In Kenya document tortures, hangings rushed through kangaroo courts, detention camps, internments, and assassinations, not to mention psychological warfare through fear and intimidation.

      Independence however did not bring justice for Kenyans - certainly not for the Mau Mau veterans. Kenyatta, even before being sworn as president in1963, had denounced the Mau Mau as terrorists. Contrary to British propaganda, Kenyatta was never a member of the Mau Mau. In an interview, Muthoni Wanyeki, Executive Director of the KHRC, said that:

      "On coming to power, [Kenyatta] proceeded, through the land ownership policies(and practices) of his government (and himself), to betray everything that the Mau Mau had stood for and to entrench the landholding patterns established under the colony"[1]

      It is not a surprise that Kenyatta by the early 1970’s had a few detentions and assassinations under his belt. In the words of politician J.M. Kariuki (assassinated in 1975), Kenyatta created a nation of ten millionaires and ten million beggars. He wanted the Mau Mau platform of Land and Freedom erased from Kenyan memory.

      In 1978 President Moi took over when Kenyatta died and continued with the same dictatorial policies. Irony is such that in 1982, Mau Mau historian Maina Wa Kinyatti was imprisoned by the Moi government in the same Kamiti Prison where the British in 1957 hanged and buried the leader of the Mau Mau, Dedan Kimathi, in an unmarked grave.

      It was not until the Kibaki government took over in 2002 that the colonial ban on the Mau Mau was removed. Finally in 2007 a statue of Kimathi stands on Kimathi Street, something unimaginable under the Kenyatta and Moi regimes.

      But more important than a hero's acre or a monument is a reckoning with the colonial legacy of torture, dehumanization and pauperization. Mau Mau veterans that are still alive, along with their children and grandchildren, live in abject poverty, landless and without formal education.

      The past and current Kenyan governments have as yet to ask the British government to at the very least issue an apology for the atrocities committed against the Kenyan people. The Moi and Kenyatta governments, dependent on Western aid and while maintaining a vicious elite system, were not in a position to pressure Britain for an apology. Or even to pressure HMG to reveal the exact location of Kimathi’s grave so that his widow, Mukami Kimathi, can bury him.

      This dependent relationship has allowed the British to commit crimes against Kenyans with near impunity. Forty plus years since Kenya’s independence, the British Army still uses Northern Kenya for military exercises. As a result of leaving unexploded munitions behind, “hundreds of Maasai and Samburu tribes people - many of them children - are said to have been killed or maimed by unexploded bombs left by the British army at practice ranges in central Kenya over the past 50 years” the BBC reported [2] With the legal aid of Leigh Day and Co Advocates, 228 survivors took the UK government to the British High Court. In 2002, a settlement was reached in which the UK government agreed to pay 7 million dollars plus legal fees.

      Economic Justice and Forgiveness

      Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery[3] shows how Western economies grew at the expense of African slave labor. Walter Rodney in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa [4] updates the argument to include colonialism –Europe developed at the direct expense of Africa. Today we find that economic giants, Barclays Bank [5], J.P. Morgan and Chase Manhattan Bank [6] are direct beneficiaries of the slave trade.

      Muthoni Wanyeki argues that “it has to be recognized that the UK (and all ex-colonisers) grew at great human expense and political-economic disruption and exploitation within the ex-colonies. It is on that recognition alone that current debates on 'aid'/'development financing', trade and investment can shift as they need to.” The call for forgiveness and reconciliation then has to rest on the realization that colonialism was first and foremost an exploitative economic relationship.

      Because the former colonizers continue to benefit from colonialism, while the victims of colonization continue to live in poverty, the governments of former colonizers have a moral duty to rectify the historical wrong in the present time. On the basis that colonialism as an investment is still paying off, the British cannot argue that they are not personally responsible for atrocities committed by their parents – they have inherited the economic well-being of a colonial system. They need to do right by this history because it is living.

      The British government has as yet to issue a formal apology for the atrocities it committed. In the same way that Clinton expressed shame and sorrow for slavery without offering a formal apology, so did Blair for colonialism. One can express sorrow, regret and shame for causing an accidental death, but surely this is not enough for a systematic exploitation that causes millions to suffer and die.

      It should be stated clearly that the authoritarian governments of Kenyatta and Moi are guilty of suppressing Mau Mau memory. And that there were thousands of Kenyans who collaborated with the British. But it should also be said that collaborators did not create colonialism, it is colonialism that created its functionaries. The real crime is colonialism.

      And because colonialism if we are to be honest with history is a crime against humanity, the British parliament should at the very least pass a bill offering a formal apology to its victims in Africa. And the apology should also make provision for restitution.

      Truth, Restitution, Reconciliation and Justice

      While revolutionary in attempting to heal a wounded nation, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission undermined the very concept of forgiveness and justice it espoused because it did not demand that the perpetrators address in word and deed the question of restitution. Muthoni Wanyeki on the TRC says that:

      Within the human rights movement in Kenya (and in Africa more broadly), the TRC process in SA while hailed for its reconciliation potential has always been critiqued for its enabling of impunity and its lack of direct recognition of, compensation for survivors.

      Even though a desired by-product, the struggle against apartheid was not waged solely for blacks to forgive whites, or for whites to ask forgiveness, but to bring economic, social and political equality for all South Africans. So then here is the irony of the TRC – the perpetrators go home to their mansions, the victims back to the township.

      To put it differently, after the TRC hearings the victims go back to a life of poverty, they remain without the means to feed, cloth or educate their children. Freedom comes without the content – it’s just a name – it has no meaning. Under these circumstances, forgiveness, healing and justice cannot exist without restitution.

      The British government, which had the largest empire in the world, has cause to fear losing the Mau Mau law-suit. Once it begins where it will end? In neighboring Uganda? India? Malaysia? Or Jamaica? And if the British lose, will this set precedence for the victims of French, Belgian or Portuguese colonialism? The British government knows that losing one law-suit will open closed colonial closets all over the world.

      It is precisely because this lawsuit has huge implications for the victims of colonialism all over the world that it deserves the support of all those who understand that history is still acting on us and that justice cannot exist without some form of restitution even if it comes in the form of the whole truth.

      Identifying the graves of the disappeared, so that their relatives can rest; the numbers of how many killed, so that nations account for their dead; the names of the guilty, so that they may be brought to justice or forgiven; initiating the return of what was stolen: all these issues resonate with formerly colonized peoples.

      For Muthoni Wanyeki says that “We see this case as being part of the process of understanding and coming to terms with our past...particularly given that our past impacts so clearly and evidently on our present.” African people in the continent and Diaspora should support the Kenya Human Rights Committee by calling on the British government to account for its torture of Mau Mau detainees.

      We have to become each other’s keeper of memory and see each atrocity perpetrated on the other as part our collective memory – whether we identify as Afro-Latino, African American, or African.

      We have to make common cause because ultimately the struggle for the truth will not be won because the British High Court finds it just, or because the British Government decides to come to terms with its past, it will be won because victims across Africa, the Diaspora and other survivors of colonial atrocities will make common cause with the Mau Mau struggle and vice versa. Truth will come to light because we will have demanded justice and restitution before offering forgiveness.

      It is only when an apology and restitution are offered, and the victim in turn forgives that for both the perpetrator and victim true healing can take place. For me, that is the truth of justice.


      1. Wanyeki, Muthoni (Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director). Interview by Author via e-mail. October 15th, 2007.
      2. UK pay-out for Kenya bomb victims. July 19th, 2002
      3. Williams, Eric. Slavery and Capitalism. New York, Russell & Russell, 1961
      4. Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C. Howard University Press, 1981
      5. Barclays admits possible link to slavery after reparation call.,,2047237,00.html April 1, 2007
      6. Corporations challenged by reparations activists February 21, 2002

      * Kenyan writer Mukoma Wa Ngugi is the author of Hurling Words at Consciousness (Africa World Press, 2006) and the forthcoming New Kenyan Fiction (Ishmael Reed Publications, 2008). He is a political columnist for the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine.

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

      Comment & analysis

      Blowing Away the Rhetorical Smokescreeens in Zimbabwe

      Mary Ndlovu


      Mary Ndlovu presents some hard truths about life in Zimbabwe and questions those Pan Africanists who fall for Mugabe’s “anti-imperalist rhetoric”. She asks if there is hope? Yes there is but only if Pan Africanism is “turned on it’s head” and “seized by the people” away from leaders not just in Zimbabwe but across Africa who have consistently betrayed the people.

      Thanks to Rotimi Sankore (Pan Africanism and the Zimbabwe crisis) for blowing aside the smokescreen which obscures the real issues in Zimbabwe for many well-wishers of a Pan Africanist persuasion. President Mugabe is very clever in his use of anti-imperialistic rhetoric to attract the loyalty of many unsuspecting supporters throughout Africa. It saddens Zimbabweans to see how easily people can be misled by words and ignore the true facts on the ground, thus failing to reach a meaningful understanding of our tragedy. Perhaps their perspective could be improved by a few hard realities:

      Zimbabweans have a lower material standard of living now than they have had since the 1940's up to one quarter of the population has fled the country, due either to political harassment and torture or to inability to survive and feed their families tens of thousands of Zimbabweans are dying of treatable diseases because the health system has collapsed teachers earn less than the cost of their transport to work; their monthly salary will buy ten litres of petrol, but none can afford a car chiefs, discredited during the liberation war as supporters of the Smith regime, are being restored and elevated, imposed on the rural population as unelected leaders, and placed on the government payroll a small elite of ruling party cronies, families and relatives, without any evidence of working for it, live at a standard far beyond the expectations of most middle class professionals of the developed world Anyone who wishes to study the situation honestly will have to admit that none of this is caused by western "sanctions".

      Our government has systematically destroyed an already troubled economy, for the purpose of staying in power. Rather than respond falling living standards in the 1990's by devising rational policies which could serve the people - or alternatively admitting failure and allowing the opposition to try their own solutions - the government panicked, determined to stay in power at all costs, put politics ahead of economic sense, and the whole descent into repression and chaos resulted.

      It is an insult to Zimbabweans to expect that, faced with declining living standards, they would not seek to change a government which might bring them something better. Why should they be used by foreign exploiters - any more than the nationalist movement of the 60's and 70's was being used by communist meddlers?

      Here are better explanations of the current Zimbabwean crisis:

      There is a shortage of food because government forcibly stopped the most knowledgeable and skilled farmers from growing food there is a shortage of almost everything, including food, medicine, transport, manufactures and services because government has forced everyone to sell their goods and services at less than the production cost people are dying of starvation because government would prefer them to die than to lose control of food distribution to donors Bulawayo, a city of a million people has no water because government, since Independence in 1980, has not constructed a single new source for a population which has multiplied five times; it would prefer to kill a city which has the reputation of being an opposition stronghold those who dare to protest publicly that the situation is intolerable are arrested, battered, tortured, and thrown into lice, flea and excrement infested cells It is also true that there were poor rains in 2007. There have been poor rains before, and much of Zimbabwe is drought-prone. It is the responsibility of governments to deal with this type of problem and develop contingencies. If the government has not found out in 27 years how to deal with recurring drought, then they do not know how to fulfil their responsibilities.

      Imperialists have been around for at least two centuries. If government has not found out how to deal with modern day "imperialists" (or globalisation) to protect their own people, they do not know how to lead an African nation. No amount of rhetoric is going to change the world order. But the rhetoric, along with the repression that has destroyed the economy, the society and the polity has killed a once vibrant nation full of hope. The dismemberment of families and the moral and material destruction of an entire society may have kept our government in power; it will never solve the problem of imperialism.

      It is one thing to analyse what has gone wrong in Zimbabwe. It is quite another to take action which will promote positive change. Zimbabweans once (only seven long years ago) naively believed that leaders in Africa would understand the true nature of the tragedy which has struck us. No longer. It is now crystal clear that they are cast in a similar mould. Problems in their own countries stem from some of the same causes. If other governments in the region faced the same strength of opposition as Zimbabwe did in 2000 and 2002, they might look very similar to ours. We have only to watch the repression of protesters over housing and service provision in South Africa to understand the true position. Yes Mbeki may succeed in forcing some kind of accommodation between the MDC and ZANU PF. It might just improve the sad lot of Zimbabweans in some small way. But let us not fool ourselves into believing that it will promote any kind of social justice.

      Opposition parties are cut from the same cloth and in countries where they have gained power have yet to show that they can deliver to the people Our nationalist movements for independence were led by intellectuals, by petty bourgeoisie, by labour aristocrats frustrated by their own lack of opportunity. They gained the support of the peasantry and the workers. But once in power they became distracted by the comforts of office, the self-importance of command and the prospect of fabulous wealth through corruption. Africa as a whole has been betrayed by nationalist movements, by governments, by liberation movements, and even by the new elite- the NGOs. So let us not expect much from our "leaders". They are not going to bring us social justice, whatever elite-pacting may take place in the secret places behind closed doors.

      Where, then lies the future? Must we stop hoping and trying? Does Pan Africanism have any role to play? Of course it does. But only if we claim it away from the rhetoricians and the charlatans and the leaders who have betrayed us. We must turn it on its head and seize it for the people. Only through Herculean efforts of the social movements who demand a share of the wealth, and respect and comfort for the people will we make progress. And for this purpose we must form cross-border alliances at grass roots level to counter those alliances of corrupt leaders that the AU and SADC have become.

      No one said this could be easy. Just as the liberation struggle was long and hard, so will this one be. But this time we must be more aware of the reality of not just potential but probable betrayal by leaders. We must develop new styles of leadership based on service not power and privilege. Then we can support each other across Africa, and step by careful step build a new Pan Africanism based on social justice for the people.

      * Mary Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean human rights activist.

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

      Democracy in Africa: Renewing the vision

      Report on thhe Pan African Youth Leadership Forum

      Onyeka Obasi


      Onyeka Obasi believes it is up to Africa’s youth to “revive the vision” of the founding fathers of Africa’s Independence – nation building, development and democracy. In this article she assesses the recent PAYLF held in Accra in June this year.

      Can Africa survive today with its present leadership? Notably, there has been a dramatic shift in the value system since 1970. Looking at what democracy means in Africa today and tomorrow, one cannot help but think about the dreams of the founding fathers of this great continent. When the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) was established, African leadership was committed to nation building. Therefore, the future of Africa will be determined by present policy formulation and agenda setting. What has been lacking from development agendas in the African context has been a systematic and unified approach to tackling the continent's challenges. Development goals often have short-sighted projections and do not conceptualize long term plans for the continent's future. A systematic and long term plan for Africa is absolutely essential for the future and the mobilization of Africa's youth is imperative to its inception and execution. It is left for the African Youth to revive that vision, bearing in mind that democracy is crucial for the economy of the continent. Key to achieving this is working towards gaining recognition in the important channels of decision making through organizing and proactive involvement. Enabling youth involvement in African political discourse must entail the appropriate training and education.

      It was with this in mind that the first Pan African Youth Leadership Forum (PAYLF) was convened. The week-long, international event, held in Accra from June 18-25, 2007 brought together a diverse group of some of the continent’s committed young leaders and afforded them the unique opportunity to offer their expertise in addressing key issues relevant to the youth, democracy, and development on the continent. The international forum was organized by Friends of Africa International (FAI), an international non profit organization dedicated to promoting social justice, human rights, democracy and good governance in Africa.

      During the week-long interactive debates and dialogues with key stakeholders and resource persons, the youth delegates in attendance demonstrated deep and insightful perspectives on youth issues, while offering innovative insights on best practices for promoting democracy and development. The forum concluded with the drafting of a comprehensive action plan which articulates the vision of the youth delegates of the PAYLF and which will guide the future activities of the youth network that was established over the course of the deliberations.

      To read the full article, follow the link below.

      * Onyeka Obasi is President, Friends of Africa International

      * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at
      Her Excellency, President Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and currently President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative), gave the opening address and set the tone for the week’s deliberations in a presentation titled, “Realizing Human Rights in Africa. The Commitment of Youth is Essential”.

      Delegates noted with concern that Africa was already experiencing the effects of global warming significantly more than her counterparts in the West despite not being responsible for most of the carbon emissions. It is therefore necessary for Africa to be at the center of talks on climate change since there is a justice element to global warming that is not being dealt with sufficiently on the international level. This has to go hand in hand with pursuing sustainable development that drew African countries away from overdependence on natural resources. The latter will be a challenging feat for nations emerging from conflict.

      It was also asserted that there could not be substantial dialogue on human rights without discussing the availability of jobs and a living wage for the youth, the empowerment of women (especially adolescent girls), HIV/AIDS, access to healthcare, corporate social responsibility, and the implementation of democratic values. Of special concern was the institutionalized drain of skilled health personnel to the West, an ongoing phenomenon which has worsened the state of health care throughout Africa. There is need to think deeply about this and other human rights aspects of globalization. It was agreed in the end that coherence, cohesion and sustainability are needed in accelerating the achievement of the MDGs in African countries. President Mary Robinson ended the session with a final charge to the PAYLF participants “be bold, be determined, Africa needs your leadership.”

      In a subsequent workshop headed by Mohammed Monneib Genedy, chair of the Arab Human Rights Organization, the floor was opened for delegates to contribute by communicating the main abuses faced by youth in the areas of political, economic, civil, social, and cultural rights in their respective countries. It was agreed that there is need to fight on all these fronts since all these dimensions of human rights are equal. It was also asserted that in order to affect positive change, young people must understand human rights legislation in their respective constituencies and how to access relevant institutions and organizations.

      Perhaps the most discussed document throughout the forum was the African Youth Charter (AYC) which was developed in line with the African Union Commission 2004-2007 Strategic plan. The forum was pleased to host Dr. Raymonde Agossou (Head of Human Resources and Youth at the African Union) who presented the delegates with a thorough presentation on the provisions of the AYC. The charter was acknowledged by all as a major milestone of unprecedented importance to the cause of African Youth. There is need to ensure requisite signatures and ensure its ratification and implementation across the continent as an integral part of improving the lives of young Africans. Having this in mind, the PAYLF delegates deliberated on best practices and strategic tools to employ in making policy makers across the continent
      adopt the document into law by the end of 2007. One of the popularization strategies suggested by the delegates was that the charter be used as a reference document in the formulation of national youth policies.

      Heavy debate ensued during lectures presented by Professor Mzobz Mboya (NEPAD advisor on Training, Education and Youth) on the agenda and programming of NEPAD. While the guiding principles of NEPAD were generally found to be agreeable by participants, especially those addressing the need to propagate an African vision of development that is largely funded and implemented by Africans, there were many criticisms concerning the discrepancies between the vision of NEPAD and its practices on the ground. Prof. Mboya echoed the concerns of the participants admitting that NEPAD’s largest challenge has been its failure to connect with the people and adequately represent their interests, especially those of youth. Subsequently, delegates engaged in a dialogue on how young people can be involved in NEPAD’s initiatives and take advantage of its resource base to bring about and implement youth-centered development endeavours.

      In presenting opinions and expertise on what the vision of youth development issues must be, empowering youth in conflict and post conflict zones was another recurring theme that placed high on the PAYLF agenda. A break out session was held entitled, “Armed Conflicts in Africa: The Role of Youth as Change Agents”, in which participants from each of the sub-regions formed a panel to discuss conflict prevention, mediation, rebuilding and reconciliation. It was affirmed that young Africans must be involved in these processes, especially in light of their being the most involved and negatively impacted by conflict. Rehabilitation and re-integration of child combatants into society through education and vocational training were seen as priority areas for the PAYLF.

      Involving African youth in leadership was the essence of two sessions entitled “Governance in Africa: Creating Space for Young People” and “Making Electoral Politics attractive to Africa’s Young Women and Men”. In discussions facilitated by the youth delegates, Prof. Mboya, and Dr. Roselyn Achieng (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa –CODESRIA), the youth delegates asserted the importance of mobilizing youth within their individual spheres of influence in order to form a ‘critical mass’ with a unified vision for development. Fostering effective leadership skills and encouraging youth to be politically informed will play an integral role in the establishment of the critical mass. Delegates were concerned with apathy among youth, and recommended that young people be socialized to understand political and human rights issues in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions. The question of establishing institutions of excellence in the areas of developmental and African studies on the continent remained a priority, as the lack of such institutions promotes a drain of leaders who choose to pursue studies in the West. Youth in Africa must be afforded the opportunity for quality higher education on these fields to ensure that there is a mass of educated young professionals that are qualified to engage in complex intergenerational political discourse.

      The forum concluded with a drafting of an action plan to be coordinated by Friends of Africa International and carried out by PAYLF. This plan of action can be summarized as follows: Firstly, that by the end of December 2007 a significant number of African countries should have ratified the African Youth Charter in order for it to take effect as binding legislation for all AU member states. Secondly, by January 2008 a Pan African Youth Leadership Forum would be created and held prior to each African Union Heads of State Summit to foster intergenerational dialogue. Thirdly, PAYLF recommended the organization of Vocational Training Programs for youth in conflict zones that will provide young people with ready marketable skills and access to public and private sectors of employment; it also recommended the monitoring and implementation of agreed NEPAD and African Union programs for youth in Conflict. The fourth recommendation being that African Heads of State realize their commitments to the UNGASS declaration with regards to dissemination of information, and services provision such as ARV treatments for youths. Finally, it was recommended that human rights education be introduced in primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions and the subsequent establishments of human rights clubs in these institutions to serve as focal points for resource exchange, mobilisation and continued education.

      In addition to the plan of action, the PAYLF drafted several recommendations to the AU heads of state currently meeting in Accra. African Heads of State were urged to commit to including the youth in policy making processes both at regional and national levels with the AYC as a guiding legislative tool. The delegates also called for the creation of a youth desk at the NEPAD secretariat in Johannesburg. The recommendations also made several provisions concerning conflict: i) That governments address the conflicts in Sudan, Somalia and Northern Uganda in a timely fashion, and ii) That youth be integrated in conflict mediation and resolution and in peace and security dialogue iii) That African nations ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons since scores of youth have been maimed in armed conflict iv) That countries should adhere to the provisions made by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. HIV/ AIDS, the effects of climate change on sustainable development, and global trade were other issues which PAYLF deemed to be among the most pressing, and which were also included in the final recommendations.

      These recommendations were presented at the final international plenary session themed “What Must Be the Legacy of this Generation to the Next?” The session was attended by Matts Karlsson (Country Director, World Bank, Ghana), Professor Mboya (NEPAD), Mohammed Genedy (Cairo), Professor Nagia Essayed (African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology) and Dr. Roselyn Achieng (CODESRIA), and Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi (African Women Development Fund). The session kicked off with a presentation by Prof. Ali Mazrui (presented on his behalf by Prof. Alamin Mazrui, Rutgers University) entitled “Democracy in Africa: Rise, Decline and the New Revival”.

      These leaders engaged in stimulating discourse with the delegates. One of the key points raised was the need to distinguish between democracy as a means and as a goal in Africa. It was also stressed by the panelists and the youth delegates that democracy was not a Western import, rather, a universal, intrinsically woven principle that offers the conditions for human beings to achieve their maximum potential. Transparency (access to knowledge and information), participation, instruments of dialogue, effective monitoring institutions, bottom-up approaches, and the decentralization of institutional power were also cited as being key to democracy. It was stressed that this was the generation of youth that had to make sacrifices and create new and meaningful identities with the understanding that there are new, emerging, African identities. The international session facilitated precisely the type of intergenerational dialogue that is needed for greater political engagement by youth.

      At the end of the forum, delegates from each sub-region elected a representative who would serve as the key contact person and link with other PAYLF members and youth institutions who could not make the forum. It was hoped that this would enable channels of communication to be maintained within and across sub-regions, while ensuring that action plans were executed through the sharing of resources and expertise among African youth networks. This would be coordinated by the PAYLF organizers – Friends of Africa International.

      * Onyeka Obasi is President, Friends of Africa International

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

      Green Revolution my foot!

      Mphutlane wa Bofelo


      Forget the Green (Springbok Rugby Special) Revolution – What we need is a Red Revolution “bottom-up, participatory, accountable democracy, worker-control of the product of their labor, the socialization of land, state control and public ownership of the major means of production”

      Referring to the Springbok mania that is currently gripping South Africa as "The Green Revolution" is but just another example of how the mass media appropriates the language of justice for ends that have nothing to do with the real issues represented by the struggle lexicon. As the big wigs of world rugby and corporate capital smile to the bank-and the Springbok’s victory shift the focus away from the team’s lily-whiteness, the poorest of the poor, the working class and the rural and township majority return from the merry-making ceremonies to squalid, unsafe and unhealthy living and working conditions. Reality dawns upon them that South Africa and the world is far away from the realization of the real green revolution, which among others entails:

      •Sustainable development of communities through equitable allocation and distribution of power, wealth and resources and people’s participation in designing, implementing, evaluating and reviewing policies and programmes geared towards their development.

      •A break from policy programmes that sacrifice labor-demands and the welfare and wellbeing of society and the environment to profit-maximization, the deity of economic growth and the tyranny of the market.

      •Taking tough measures against the ravages of big industry, high finance and corporate and speculative capital on the ecosystem and the economies and cultures of peoples of the world.

      •Zero-waste initiatives promoting recycling, energy conversation and nature preservation, environmental awareness programmes at the grassroots, promoting responsible motoring and encouraging the use of public transport. Making big industry to pay reparation to the communities that are victims of their environmental terror.

      This green revolution will not be possible without the red revolution: bottom-up, participatory, accountable democracy, worker-control of the product of their labor, the socialization of land, state control and public ownership of the major means of production(the commanding heights of the economy) and equitable redistribution of the wealth and resources of the land. Only when this is achieved will we do way with unequal social and power relations, and therefore be able to close all the doors of prejudice, which is the foundation upon which true integration and a South Africaness that transcends the boundaries of creed, color, language, ethnicity and gender shall be built. Real integration will be possible when access to quality arts, sports and cultural facilities, social amenities and social services, quality health services and good education does not depend on the socio-economic status, and racial background of individuals or their gender.

      In other words, real integration will be realized when all the socio-economic factors and institutional and structural arrangements that work against workers and the rural and urban poor, the women, the disabled and Black people have been done away with. In the absence of these conditions the rainbowism that we suddenly fall in love with when the Springboks lift up the world cup only serve to give people a false sense of unity and one-nationess which ignore class contradictions.

      Most importantly, the green revolution rainbowism put the enormous gap in the quality of life of the under-classes and the elites and upper-classes, the laborers and employers, and the poor and the rich under the carpet. This is a typical example of using popular sport as an opium, feeding the masses illusions of joy and happiness that distract their attention from issues such as the lethargic pace of transformation in rugby, the fact that in material and economic terms Black people and the poor have no real stake in rugby or 2010, and that the real beneficiaries in the world cup tournaments are the rich and the propertied. We are made to forget that the chances of poor Black hawkers selling at rugby match in South Africa are zilch as much as they will not be able to be within the reach of the stadiums during the 2010 football world cup.

      The phantom display of a nation united behind the green banner and the national flag will not change the fact that invariably South Africa is two worlds in one country: the world of utter want, abject poverty, rampant disease and de-humanizing and brutalizing squalor and the world of raging consumerism, shameless opulence and decadent pomp. As Steve Biko put it, integration cannot be imposed on a people, it will automatically happen when all doors of prejudice have been closed. As of now, we are far from achieving what Biko posited as the struggle’s glittering prize: bestowing upon South Africa (and the world) a more human face.

      * Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a creative writer, performance and social critic, and is currently the national General Secretary of the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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

      Books & arts

      Our Dilemma

      Chinwe Azubuike


      You, our gods of immortals and living Of seas and lands Of all visible and not we beseech, hear our cry this day and come to our rescue.

      Our sacred weapons of pleasure are being destroyed by the day rendered useless by our overseeing Lords and Ladies of ancestral descent.

      They perform a barbaric operation on our 'flesh of honour' and call it 'Female Circumcision' in the white man's language.
      They mutilate our pride and say it is 'tradition' "The initiation to womanhood."

      They cut us!
      Oh yes, they cut us with the blade.

      In the gaze of our fellows, they cut us!
      At times in the secrecy of our mother's haven.
      They do not concede to the tools, nor words of the physician's for our safety.
      To them it has been for ages and tradition dare not be defiled.
      They just cut us.

      Against our will as they are wont to, for we foresee the agony and anguish.
      To these we try to parry but helpless we are.
      Our eyes have cried, tears of unending pain and torment They have run dry of water.
      Our hearts, laden with loathsomeness we fear may burst.

      They cut us! with or without our consent.
      Left to bleed by their ignorance sometimes fatal to our existence.
      Other times, we become plagued with illness of strange names "Infection" the physician would call it.

      Again, they say it delivers us from the hands of promiscuity as we ascend the ladder of womanhood.
      Such blasphemy! We think.
      As if we are not bound for the act of consummation in our 'married' days.

      As we watch our counterparts this day-buried deep in this sin, Sisters whom we term fortunate, cut at childbirth fortunate to have escaped the pain we feel now, we can't but wonder… "Who is fooling who?"

      You, our ancestral Lords and Ladies suffer us no more we beg.
      What profit do you aspire when our lives are wont to expire in this course of tradition?

      Oh! What a shame.
      That you who drum to our ears to revere the dignity between our legs become the ones that destroy it.

      * Poetry by Chinwe Azubuike | Nigeria. © Chinwe Azubuike

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

      Letters & Opinions

      Somaliland attempting to silence human rights network

      Michael Walls


      Somaliland Focus (UK), an organisation set up by returned election observers and members of the diaspora, is concerned about reports that the government in Hargeisa is attempting to silence or subvert the independent human rights network SHURO Net. Reports are that the Somaliland government, particularly the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, and the Human Rights Commission, organised an extraordinary AGM inviting some Shuro-Net members from the regions.

      The meeting was held on 24th October and a new Board of Directors were elected by the participants. We are not yet sure how many member organisations participated but according to Zamzam Abdi, the SHURO Net chairperson, the government is trying to get rid of the current BOD and administration and put in their place one selected by the government. The chairperson also informed us that the SHURO Net members in the regions were threatened by the Mayors of their regions that if they did not participate in the extraordinary meeting in Hargeisa, they would not be allowed to work in their regions. Those who refused made their way to Hargeisa and reported the case to SHURO Net office.

      The chairperson elected by yesterday's meeting is the head of the programmes at the government-controlled Radio Hargeisa, a civil servant, who is not a member of SHURO Net. The Somaliland Journalist Association (SOLJA) declared that he did not represent them.

      It is believed that SHURO Net was targeted by the government because of their calls to abolish the Emeregency Law, and for appealing for the release of prisoners including political prisoners and journalists. The heads of the 30 member organisations of SHURO Net have signed a letter declaring yesterday's meeting illegal.

      Somaliland Focus (UK) is concerned that these reports mirror other recent occasions where the government has shown authoritarian tendencies contrary to its push for democratisation which we and others have been so keen to highlight. It does not make the work of organisations such as ourselves who pride ourselves on being international friends of Somaliland an easy one.

      Blogging Africa

      Review of African Blogs

      Dibussi Tande


      One of the most commented issues in the African blogosphere has been the tragic death of South African Reggae star Lucky Dube. The sadness and anger at his death has been accompanied by widespread belief that South Africa’s crime rate is spiraling out of control. As African Loft writes:

      “I hope this situation brings the global media’s eyes to what is going on with young black youths in South Africa where many are turning to a life of crime to have access to the “good things of life” . Though South Africa is cited as one full of natural resources and is noted as one of the top destination of global travelers - it is still a country ridden with a high crime rate. According to data collected on crime, South Africa has the second highest rate of murder, rapes, assaults with firearms in the world.

      I know that many will cite post apartheid syndrome as the reason why these crime rate is so high but I do not think that law abiding Africans or global citizens should keep on using this as an excuse. It is quite clear that there is a problem and it is up to us to find a way of solving it.”

      Another hot topic has been the award of the first Mo Ibrahim Foundation Prize for Achievement in African Leadership to former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano. Mwankole Kumushi Kulishani writes that the five million-dollar award is “an incentive to stem presidential plunder and waste” in Africa:

      “The first recipient is Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique – Perhaps this will serve as an incentive to stop the plunder and waste of public money by African Presidents. If only our presidents could stomach a simpler existence!”

      This view is shared by Dion’s random ramblings who thinks that the huge price money is worth every penny:

      “I say well done to Mr Chissano, and well done to the generous benefactor, Mo Ibrahim. May we see many, many more examples of good, honest, integral, African leadership. We are NOT a corrupt continent, we are NOT doomed to poverty and subservience. We are African. We can teach the world another way to live.”

      Meskel Square quotes a report by the Sudanese official media which states that the Dafur crisis is a “Zionist conspiracy”:

      “Presidential advisor Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail said the fundamental cause of Darfur dispute was mainly an economic one. However this reason was exploited by some internal and foreign elements alleging that the dispute was between Arab and African groups. Ismail gave this statement in Doha capitol of Qatar before the meeting of higher committee for reconstruction of Darfur region.

      Ismail said the Zionism has exploited the situation and alleged that the war was a genocide led by Arab elements supported by the government against African groups. However he said western countries including the United States of America have started to understand the real cause of Darfur dispute.”

      “Of course, it all makes sense now”, the blogger wryly comments.

      Jamii ya Kenya writes about the dissolution of the Kenyan Parliament in view of the upcoming general elections:

      “Our outgoing MPs in this parliament were well paid, we now wait for the house speaker Mr. Francis Ole Kaparo to officially declare their jobs vacant for them to re-apply for their lucrative jobs. The vacant positions are 210 posts but he will be sending 222 MPs home (12 were nominated). Just like previous elections, the posts have attracted applicants from all walks of life to the variety of parties. These positions are so lucrative such that applicants don’t mind paying high non-refundable nominations fees proposed by the parties…. I can only conclude that Kenyan politics is an interesting drama that leaves people in suspense as to what will happen next.”

      The drama of Kenyan politics is also the focus of Kenya Imagine which uses a video by the “Why Democracy?” global campaign as the backdrop for an analysis of Kenyan democracy:

      “It's election season and the candidates and their parties are out in force putting their case to the public on why they would be best suited for government. This is democracy.

      Elections are one of the most prominent institutions in democracies, being themselves the mechanism by which voters express what programmes they desire of the state and what agents they would have marshal these programmes on their behalf. Vitally also, elections are the citizen's primary means of holding their governments to account.”

      Kenya Imagine however laments at the Kenyan electoral process is characterized by:

      “The use of demonisation and negative campaigning, the peculiar attraction to candidates with a history of violence and coercion, the use of bribes in the electoral process and the manner in which crowds are whipped up to wholly emotive and irrational decisions.”

      Paul Adujie comments on the positive aspects of Nigeria’s “Federal Character” or quota system which he compares to Affirmative Action in the United States:

      “The Constitutions of Nigeria, (from 1979 to 1999) for decades now, have made provisions for a Quota System and the reflection of a Federal Character in appointment of public office holders. This in my view makes perfect sense in a diverse country and society as Nigeria. Diversity needs to be actively and purposefully encouraged and legally enforced as provided by Nigeria's Supreme law, the Constitution of Nigeria.

      All states, but especially the educationally disadvantaged states, need special provisions and protections in the admission process in Nigeria's educational system, especially in higher education and the professions! All Nigerians and Nigeria will be the beneficiaries of such good policy, that encourages the grooming and nurturing of opportunities for every Nigerian from every communities in Nigeria, and particular effort should be made, in order that Nigeria does not live anyone behind, economically, socially, educationally and developmentally, this is in our national interests, its nothing to jeer or sneer at!”

      Scribbles from the Den also writes about the regional quota debate, specifically at the University of Buea in Cameroon where the government seemed to have amended its position that admission into the medical school be based primarily on “regional balance” considerations and not on merit:

      “So did merit really trump over the “regional alchemy” for which the University of Buea served as a Guinea Pig last year? If that is indeed the case, is the debate over regional balance finally over? If not, should merit alone determine admissions into the ‘Grandes Ecoles’ (or even into the civil service, police force, army, etc.), or should some form of ‘affirmative action’ also play a role in a country where history and geography have created regions that are lagging behind others, and where colonialism and post-colonial politics also created favored and disfavored ethnic groups? The jury is most certainly still out on this emotionally-charged debate which even countries such as the United States are still grappling with.”

      * Dibussi Tande, a writer and activist from Cameroon, produces the blog Scribbles from the Den,

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

      Emerging powers in Africa Watch

      DRC: China ‘opening up’ DRC for minerals


      China has signed its largest single deal in Africa with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): a $5 billion loan to develop infrastructures, mining, bioenergy, forestry and agriculture. Infrastructure Minister Pierre Lumbi said the money will be spent on building roads, railroads, hospitals, health centres, housing and universities.

      Africa: China helps Africa where West failed - state bank official


      China is spreading prosperity in Africa where the West failed, a Chinese bank official has said, in a sharp rebuke to critics of his country's growing role in the world's poorest continent. Li Ruogu, president of China's state-owned Export-Import Bank, key funder of China's push into Africa, said roads and radios were more urgent needs for Africans than human rights and freedom, and that China was delivering such concrete benefits.

      Zimbabwe update

      Zimbabwe This Week

      Grace Kwinjeh


      Grace Kwinjeh has begun a weekly set of summaries of powerful progressive politics for the Center for Civil Society based in Durban. Below are the links to this week's articles.

      Health and Human Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe:

      Defending women

      Stand-off between MDC and NCA healthy for democracy

      Inflation solution lies in politics

      Empowerment law: UN rings alarm bells

      Migrant workers worldwide sent home more than US$300 billion in 2006:

      Timeline: Zimbabwe's economic decline

      New prices still too little

      Zimbabwe crashes currency through million-for-US-dollar mark

      Is ZSE bull run losing its steam

      MDC’s Mbeki talks shocker

      Zanu PF, MDC sign new constitution

      Zimbabwe: Eyes on Zimbabwe


      "Eyes on Zimbabwe," is a project of the Open Society Institute designed to raise awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe. In anticipation of the country's 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, we are launching a blog/social networking outreach program intended to inform and involve as many people around the world as possible about the inevitable violence and corruption surrounding the vote.
      "Eyes on Zimbabwe," is a project of the Open Society Institute designed to raise awareness of the crisis in Zimbabwe. In anticipation of the country's 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, we are launching a blog/social networking outreach program intended to inform and involve as many people around the world as possible about the inevitable violence and corruption surrounding the vote.

      To raise awareness, OSI has created an online portal ( for individuals to learn about the crisis and to take action in support of the people of Zimbabwe. The centerpiece of the effort is an arresting video documenting the abuses of the government through the words and images of the Zimbabwean people. We've created an online petition and a tool allowing individuals to send letters to the U.N. Security Council urging them to investigate human rights abuses, monitor the upcoming elections, and convene a UNSC meeting to address the situation in Zimbabwe. Finally, Eyes on Zimbabwe ( contains these resources for newcomers to the issue:

      1. The eight-and-a-half minute documentary video;
      2. A 30-second preview video with embedding code;
      3. A detailed summary of the crisis in Zimbabwe;
      4. A timeline of events leading up to the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe;
      5. Graphics with embedding code linking to our video;
      6. Links to other sites with information on the Zimbabwe crisis.

      Zimbabwe: Govt in climbdown, MDC promised full investigation into violence


      The government has pledged to investigate opposition allegations of state sanctioned violence against its supporters, apparently under pressure from South Africa, which is mediating in the Zimbabwe crisis, to keep the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at the negotiating table. MDC officials, who attended a meeting with Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi at his offices in Harare yesterday told journalists that the Minister made an undertaking to investigate charges by the opposition of a new wave of Zanu PF attacks against its supporters.

      Zimbabwe: Mugabe refused sale of anti-riot gear by South Africa, says MDC


      The Mugabe regime’s plans to acquire state-of-the-art anti-riot gear to use against the opposition ahead of next year’s elections have been foiled, the MDC says. Allegations that Zanu PF had made proposals to the South African government to buy US$1,5 million worth of military equipment came to light at a meeting convened by Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and officials from the main opposition party.

      Zimbabwe: President secures endorsement


      As the Zanu PF power struggle rages on, President Robert Mugabe has all but secured the endorsement he desperately needs to be the party's presidential candidate in next year's elections. What remains is an automatic approval of his candidacy at the party's extraordinary congress in December, it became evident this week.

      Zimbabwe: Three MDC officials abducted in Chipinge South


      n aspiring MDC parliamentary candidate and two other party officials were abducted from their homes Thursday in Chipinge South and are being held at a police post manned by war veterans at Checheche growth point. The opposition officials were bundled into a white B1800 truck with no number plates by six heavily built men in broad daylight. Before startled onlookers could help, the truck was driven away at high speed.

      African Union Monitor

      AU Monitor Weekly Roundup

      Issue 109, 2007

      Selome Araya


      In this week's AU Monitor, we bring you news and updates from the Pan African Parliament. Members from the European and Pan African Parliaments met in South Africa to prepare for the upcoming EU-Africa Summit. Parliament leaders stress the need for a strong parliamentary dimension when it comes to policies and decision-making; the development of a joint declaration is also in the works. In other Parliament news, the Pan African Parliament elected the Hon. Malik Al Hassan Yakubu from Ghana as its Fourth Vice-President. Also, the Protocol of the African Court on Human and People's Rights has been ratified by 23 of the 53 member states of the African Union. All state parties are being urged to rectify the Protocol to contribute to Human Rights development and protection in Africa.

      In financial news, South Africa is opposed to the new generation issues in the economic partnership agreements (EPA's), including liberalisation of the services sector, investments, competition policy, and intellectual rights. Nkululeko Khumalo of the South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA) states, "the coercive approach adopted by the European Union on service liberalisation poisons the negotiating atmosphere". In donor news, at a recent UN General Assembly meeting, Benin's representative Jean-Marie Ehouzou urged UN-led development initiatives to develop international trade strategies in their aid policies in Africa. Ehouzou also criticized developed countries for failing to provide the resources needed to accelerate economic reforms in African countries. Further, The Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) held a series of actions that coincided with the International Financial Institution (IFI) meetings in Washington, D.C. Demands from this civil society alliance include greater accountability, transparency and democratic governance in the IFI's. Lastly, in its 300.000 USD pledge to the African Peer Review Mechanism , Italy supports the African continent in managing its own economy and development efforts in the framework of NEPAD.

      Women & gender

      Global: Gender inequality damages the health of women and girls


      Gender differentials in health related risks and outcomes are partly determined by biological sex differences. Yet they are also the result of how societies socialise women and men into gender roles. This paper published by the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network draws together evidence that identifies and explains what gender inequality and inequity mean in terms of differential exposures and vulnerabilities for women versus men, and also how health care systems and health research reproduce these inequalities and inequities instead of resolving them.

      Africa: Fistula survivors speak out at conference


      They travelled from different places across Africa—Sudan, Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya—but their common stories brought them together at Women Deliver, a landmark conference focused on curbing pregnancy-related death and disability. As part of the Campaign to End Fistula, a delegation of six fistula survivors shared harrowing tales of childbirth gone wrong in panel events and plenaries, building awareness—on a global platform—of this preventable and treatable injury.

      Global: Women Deliver conference launches new commitments


      Strong new pledges of commitment to invest in women’s health came from donors, government officials, corporations, foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at closing sessions of the landmark Women Deliver Conference, which sought to mobilize political will and investment to reduce pregnancy-related deaths and disabilities worldwide. More than 1,800 participants from 109 countries cheered a final statement from the 70 cabinet ministers and parliamentarians present, who pledged to make achievement of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 5 (improve maternal health) “a high priority on the national, regional and international health agenda”.

      Sudan: Sudan benefits gender education


      A five-year Gender Equity through Education Programme has been launched in the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba. Launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in cooperation with the South Sudan government, a total of US $6.5 million has been earmarked for the programme.

      Human rights

      CAR: International Criminal Court signs protocol deal with government


      The International Criminal Court (ICC) has entered a protocol agreement with the Central African Republic (CAR) setting out the cooperation and protection that the Government will provide to court officials investigating whether war crimes have taken place in the impoverished country since 2002. Bruno Cathala, the ICC registrar, signed the agreement with the CAR Justice Minister Thierry Maleyombo during a meeting yesterday in the capital, Bangui, according to a press statement released by the Court. Prime Minister Elie Doté was also present.

      Global: Canada accused of trying to buy African votes against Indigenous Peoples


      It was a moment more than two decades in the making and when it was over, the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed in the UN General Assembly with only four countries voting against formal adoption of the document-the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. During a press conference a week before the final vote, the African Indigenous Caucus co-ordinator accused Canada of trying to turn African countries against the declaration in exchange for aid dollars.

      Zimbabwe: Police beating claims Tsvangirai bodyguard, months later


      MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai’s long serving bodyguard, Nhamo Musekiwa, has died in South Africa from complications sustained during an assault by state security agents in March this year. The 37 year old had been guarding Tsvangirai since 1999 when the party was formed. At the time of his death he was recuperating at a hospital in South Africa. This followed the brutal assaults on Tsvangirai and several other activists after an aborted prayer rally in Highfields.

      Chad: Government stops group from flying 103 children to France


      Police in Chad arrested nine French people on Thursday as they were preparing to fly more than 100 children to France with a view to having them adopted, Chad's government and French diplomats said. They included the head of a group called Zoe's Ark, which said earlier this year that it intended to bring orphans from Sudan's violent Darfur region to France for adoption.

      Botswana: Respect my brothers and sisters the Bushmen - Brazilian Indian leader


      A renowned Yanomami Indian leader from Brazilian Amazonia has made an emotional plea to the Botswana government to let the Kalahari Bushmen live on their land, ‘in peace for the rest of their lives’. Davi Yanomami, UN Global 500 award winner, spoke today from Berlin where he is holding meetings with top German politicians.

      DRC: Hidden crimes exposed


      The hidden crimes of systematic detention, torture and murder committed against the opponents of the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by security forces has been exposed. Amnesty International (AI) that exposed the crimes in a newly published report asked the government of President Joseph Kabila to urgently and independently investigate the alleged cases.

      Kenya 'Hundreds dead' in gang crackdown


      Police may have killed hundreds of people in a crackdown on Kenya's notorious Mungiki gang, a rights group said on Thursday, in a growing national controversy ahead of a presidential election in December. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said it suspects police dumped hundreds of bodies in a Nairobi mortuary before lack of space forced them to use secluded bushland outside the capital.

      Refugees & forced migration

      DRC: Thousands flee into Uganda to escape North Kivu fighting


      The latest escalation in fighting in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has forced thousands more people to flee southwards towards Goma and across the border into Uganda. An estimated 8,000 Congolese refugees who fled to Bunagana in Uganda over the weekend were still there on Tuesday morning.

      Somalia: Displaced women tell tales of rape and fear


      When the two buses from Mogadishu finally reached Galkayo, everyone aboard felt relieved even though the road had been paved with militiamen robbing passengers at gunpoint and five women had been raped. Once in Galkayo, the second largest city in Puntland in north-eastern Somalia, the women joined the belt of settlements sheltering displaced families that has grown around this city due to a recurrent civil conflict over the past 17 years.

      Central Africa: Congolese refugees return to Equateur in growing numbers


      More than 16,000 refugees have returned to their home districts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) Equateur province so far this year – almost as much as in the three previous years combined. The surge in the number of returns to the rainforests of northwest DRC – almost all from the neighbouring Republic of Congo (RoC) across the Oubangui River – comes as UNHCR prepares to phase out assisted voluntary repatriation to this area in mid-2008.

      Horn of Africa: Gulf of Aden crossing claims up to 66 lives


      The dangerous Gulf of Aden crossing claimed more lives at the weekend when up to 66 people drowned after being forced overboard by smugglers off the coast of Yemen. The tragedy involved two smugglers' boats that left the Somali coastal town of Bossaso on Saturday with 244 people aboard, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians. The two vessels reached the Yemeni coast off Hawrat Al Shatee on Sunday, survivors said, adding that passengers were forced into deep water and many drowned.

      Horn of Africa: IOM to create database for African migrants


      The International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Sanaa is to create and manage a database that will register migrants and asylum seekers from Africa who have arrived in Yemen by sea after crossing the Gulf of Aden, according to Stefano Tamagnini, head of office. Tamagnini, who said his office was still seeking funding for the project, told IRIN the database would be crucial since it will contain all information about African migrants coming to Yemen. However, he said his office would not be in a position to manage the database for new arrivals without donor support.
      SANAA, 25 October 2007 (IRIN)

      The International Organization for Migration (IOM) office in Sanaa is to create and manage a database that will register migrants and asylum seekers from Africa who have arrived in Yemen by sea after crossing the Gulf of Aden, according to Stefano Tamagnini, head of office.

      Tamagnini, who said his office was still seeking funding for the project, told IRIN the database would be crucial since it will contain all information about African migrants coming to Yemen. However, he said his office would not be in a position to manage the database for new arrivals without donor support.

      "It is important to have a database. It's going to be about everybody arriving in the south [of Yemen]. We are focusing on the south as most of the migrants arrive there," he said.

      According to IOM, the database will be shared with UN agencies, international NGOs and local authorities dealing with migrants and asylum seekers. The aim is to enable IOM and its partners to better coordinate humanitarian assistance to migrants and asylum seekers and also to adopt prevention strategies in countries of origin in the Horn of Africa as well as along well-established migration routes.

      Many migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn, particularly from Somalia and Ethiopia, risk their lives on small, overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels. Sometimes they are thrown into the sea by traffickers who wish to avoid detection as they near the Yemeni coast, said IOM. In interviews last year, it found very few migrants were aware of the risks involved.

      IOM is also looking for funding to work with UN partners and local authorities in Somalia to prevent thousands of migrants and would-be asylum seekers from risking their lives to reach Yemen by boat.

      According to UNHCR, about 26,000 migrants and asylum seekers entered Yemen in 2006. So far this year, 18,757 people crossed the Gulf of Aden by boat, with an estimated 4,040 having died at sea while 393 remain missing and are presumed dead.

      Tamagnini added that the database would be tailored according to the profiling forms the IOM office is going to develop. "The [format for the] forms will be discussed by our partners, UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) and government authorities," he said.

      The database will have an update on new arrivals from Africa together with all their data, Tamagnini said. "It will enable us to know who is who and whether they are refugees, asylum seekers or economic migrants."

      According to him, US$1 million is needed for funding the database. The funds will also enable IOM to open a sub-office in the port city of Aden, southern Yemen. Tamagnini said that initially the programme will last for between nine months to one year. "Every year we will have to refinance the programme. Everything will depend on the first year because only from then will we will know the exact situation of African migrants," he said.

      Government support The IOM also needs Yemeni government's support, added Tamagnini. "The government is responsible for everything concerning refugee issues. We need to have the government's cooperation in creating the database in the south," he said.

      When the database is created, the IOM office will be able to help those African refugees and asylum seekers who wish to return home voluntarily. It will also give the option of voluntary return to those Africans who are not eligible for asylum. The office will provide means of transportation (either by sea or air) for the migrants' return as well as pre-departure counselling, medical screening and additional assistance upon arrival.

      His office has found that after a time many African migrants ask to return home. "We have done research on the situation. A lot of information comes from the UNHCR as they know what's going on. But we are going to start a new research by an international expert before the end of this month."

      As the IOM does not have the mandate to protect refugees, it will work with the UNHCR when registering the African migrants arriving in Yemen. "UNHCR are in charge of protecting refugees and we are in charge of registering them. We are the ones who arrange their transportation for returning them to their home countries," he said.

      Social movements

      Somalia: Who is behind the campaign to smear the reputation of SHURO-Net, and why?


      None of us know when we might need the services of an effective human rights organization to defend us, our families, colleagues and communities, or even our way of life. What is certain is that we will need them at some point in our lives. That is why we all have an interest in making sure that the individuals who have chosen this difficult job are allowed to do their jobs without pressure and intimidation.

      Elections & governance

      Kenya: Polls set for 27 December


      Kenya's electoral commission has named 27 December as the date for elections. Presidential, parliamentary and civic polls will be held simultaneously and are expected to be closely contested. President Mwai Kibaki is running for a second five-year term, having won an election in 2002 to replace former long-time leader Daniel arap Moi.

      Nigeria: Court removes governor of oil state


      Nigeria's Supreme Court removed Celestine Omehia as governor of Nigeria's richest oil state on Thursday in the fourth major legal indictment of polls in April. The elections were meant to mark a democratic milestone for Africa's most populous country, but were so marred by fraud and violence that outside observers said they were "not credible".

      North Africa: Western Sahara parties applaud UN draft resolution, maintain positions


      All parties in the Western Sahara dispute are celebrating a new draft resolution unanimously adopted on October 15th by the United Nations General Assembly's Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonisation). At the same time, neither Morocco nor the Polisario Front appears to be backing down from their opposing positions.


      Nigeria: Corruption scandal keeps House paralysed


      Nigeria's House of Representatives adjourned for another week on Tuesday as warring sides in the ruling party prolonged a crisis over alleged corruption. Nigeria's lower chamber has been paralysed for weeks since Speaker Patricia Etteh, a former beautician, was found by a House panel to have broken rules in awarding contracts worth $5-million to renovate two official houses and buy 10 cars.

      Kenya: Anglo Leasing billions traced to Jersey, Guernsey and Switzerland


      Investec is a respected Anglo South African merchant bank listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2002 and said to be worth UK £3.5 billion (about Ksh 472.5 billion). Its Guernsey operation Investec Trust Guernsey (ITG) has become embroiled in Kenya’s Anglo Leasing grand corruption scandal.


      Africa: Agriculture is neglected - World Development Report


      The World Development Report 2008 calls for greater investment in agriculture in developing countries.The report warns that the sector must be placed at the center of the development agenda if the goals of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 are to be realized.

      Africa: Limited progress in implementation of Monterrey Consensus - ECA Survey


      The results of a recent survey by the Economic Commission for Africa suggest that, in general, very limited progress has been made in realizing the objectives of the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development. The release of the survey results coincides with the 23-24 October high-level biennial review of the United Nations General Assembly Plenary on the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus.

      Southern Africa: Water resources of the SADC: demands, dependencies and governance responses


      Achieving poverty reduction and economic development in Africa based on a sustainable utilization of the continent's rich natural resources remains an unresolved challenge. Natural resources use in Africa, similar to other parts of the world, is characterized by overexploitation and unsustainable patterns.

      Global: European Commission presents roadmap for negotiating trade agreements


      The European Commission has issued a communication to the Council and the European Parliament on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), setting out clearly the way forward and the issues at stake to conclude these important trade pacts. The Commission sees full EPAs as essential to enable ACP states to play a full part in international trade.
      The European Commission has issued a communication to the Council and the European Parliament on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), setting out clearly the way forward and the issues at stake to conclude these important trade pacts. The Commission sees full EPAs as essential to enable ACP states to play a full part in international trade.

      The end of 2007 represents a firm deadline for negotiating the goods market access element of the EPAs, and the communication deals with how the Commission intends to work with the ACP to address this deadline while still securing full EPA content and full regional coverage. The communication also answers the important questions this raises for development cooperation, Rules of Origin and market access in the event full EPAs are not concluded.

      Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the subject of EPAs, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson summed up the Commission's ambition: "Our objective remains to conclude comprehensive, full economic partnership agreements with all interested ACP countries and regions. These agreements have a WTO-compatible goods agreement at their core, but also cover other issues. …Those completing these full EPAs will benefit from the full development potential of these agreements." The Full text of the Communication can be found at:

      Africa: Internal watchdog slams World Bank agriculture programs since 1991


      As the World Bank launches its latest flagship World Development Report, this year on "Agriculture for Development," the Independent Evaluation Group's report clearly acknowledges that the Bank's engagement with the most important sector in its highest-priority region has largely been a failure.

      Global: African produce to lose organic labelling


      Britain's leading organic body, the Soil Association, is to ban all but "ethical" air-freighted food in a move designed to throw a financial lifeline to poor countries while cutting pollution linked to climate change. By 2011, farmers and distributors must be Fairtrade or meet the Soil Association's own ethical standards if they are to be certified for sale here, said the organisation. At present, only a "small minority" of growers in developing countries meet the new rules, but the Soil Association said it hoped they would be able to respond in time for the ban – a compromise between development and the environment.

      Health & HIV/AIDS

      Benin: AIDS stripping farmers of their land


      Comlan Houessou certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to the impact of AIDS on rural communities. He is a farmer in Benin who has lost everything because of HIV: the respect of his neighbours, his savings and his land. He is now fighting to rebuild his life.
      COTONOU, 25 October 2007 (IRIN)

      Comlan Houessou certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to the impact of AIDS on rural communities. He is a farmer in Benin who has lost everything because of HIV: the respect of his neighbours, his savings and his land. He is now fighting to rebuild his life.

      Just five years ago, Houessou had two hectares of land in the Couffo region of southwest Benin. He inherited the land from his family and grew corn, cassava and cotton on it to meet the needs of his two wives and their six children.

      In 2003, however, his health began to deteriorate. "It started with headaches. I told myself that it would pass, but they got worse", he told IRIN/PlusNews at the conference 'From research to Action: mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on agriculture and food security in West Africa', which took place at the start of October in Cotonou, Benin.

      His relatives attributed his illness to witchcraft, so Houessou went initially to a traditional healer, to try and relieve his pain. Many months of visits forced him to sell off his land bit by bit, which he was in no fit state to farm in any case.

      "I had to pay for my treatment, giving goats as offerings. At first I used my savings but when they weren't enough and I had to sell my land", reported Houessou, 42.

      Houessou's health was deteriorating by the day and he ended up in hospital. After a few months, he was bed ridden and was becoming weaker and weaker but still did not know what was wrong with him. Then he overheard a conversation between two doctors.

      "I heard one doctor say to another, when referring to me: 'the one with HIV' ", he said. "I made a scene and decided to leave the hospital and go home. Then I went and got tested and it confirmed that I did indeed have HIV".

      "I think that they [the doctors] hadn't told me about it because they had tested me without my consent. They could have suggested that I take the test once they knew though!" he said.

      He was immediately put on antiretrovirals (ARV) drugs, the medication that lengthens and improves the lives of people living with HIV. Houessou was then confined to his house, especially since his wives were also infected with HIV, and faced rejection from his community.

      "My neighbours knew and they avoided us, my wives and me", he told us. "One morning, my wives cooked 10 kilos of rice to sell at the market, but some young people blocked their way with tree snags and forced them throw the rice on the ground".

      Thanks to the ARV treatment, Houessou slowly got strong again and decided to fight it, for himself and for others in his situation.

      "I started to openly report on it and work with others to raise public awareness of the problems facing people who are infected, particularly in rural environments where there is little information on the epidemic", he explained.

      Now he heads the Benin Network of associations of people living with HIV, which comprises 46 organisations and has more than 45,000 supporters - people infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, many of whom are from rural areas- Houessou is fighting for social and economic rehabilitation for people who are HIV positive, many of whom have lost everything.

      "Often, people are exhausted before they are even tested for HIV and they have used up their resources and sold their land in an attempt to get treated", he explained. "When they finally go to get tested, therefore, people have no further resources and the majority of them are poor people. This is a real problem in Benin".

      The stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, particularly an issue in rural areas, is another major concern for Houessou, because one of the consequences of this is that people who are infected are cautious about sharing their tests results with their partners.

      He feels that this is exacerbated by ongoing traditions, such as polygamy and widow inheritance.

      "When an infected man with two or three wives dies, and his wives then have to marry the brother [of the deceased] who himself may already have two or three wives, without them realising [their HIV positive status], the number of people becoming infected is multiplied", he remarked.

      The current difficult socio-economic climate is furthering the practice of inheriting women, says Houessou.

      "If the husband leaves land when he dies, the wives must sell it to pay for the funeral ceremony, and even if they don't sell it, they must stop the land being split up between the heirs, because this will make it smaller and smaller. They also need to be capable of farming the land, which is why women are forced to remarry", he explained.

      According to a study presented at the Cotonou conference, another concern lies in the fact that 80 per cent of the approximate 8420 patients currently on ARV treatment in Benin do not have food security and nearly one in four suffers from malnutrition.

      A healthy and balanced diet is indispensable to people with weakened immune systems though, reminded Houessou, but "partners working in rural areas do not go into detail, they [rural populations] are underprivileged" compared to urban communities, he said regretfully.

      Also, despite the fact that antiretrovirals have been free in Benin since 2004 and that access to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment has improved over the last few years - there are now has 48 treatment centres across the country - there are still regular breaks in ARV distribution, particularly in provincial centres, which remains a major concern.

      "Our work [with the Network] also involves appealing to the government on the need to make treatments sustainable", he concluded.

      Thanks to his paid work with the Network, Houessou has managed to save some money and buy back a half-hectare of land, on which he grows corn and cassava to feed his wives, one of whom is on ARV drugs, and his children, all of whom are HIV negative.

      However, Houessou knows that his situation is far different from that of his fellow farmers infected with HIV. "We are in need of support to get our land back and resume work on it", he pleaded.

      Africa: Africa faces cancer ‘catastrophy’

      Anso Thom


      Unless urgent attention is paid to decreasing the burden of cancer, there are going to be e catastrophic results especially in Africa and parts of Asia, experts warned at a gathering in Cape Town this week. In 2000, there were an estimated 10,4 million new cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide, 6,5 million deaths from cancer, while over 25 million people were living with cancer. By 2030, it is projected that there will be 25,4 million new cases of cancer, 16,4 million cancer deaths annually and a staggering 75 million people living with cancer.

      Swaziland: Israeli surgeons helping Swaziland in drive to curb HIV


      Small teams of Israeli doctors will travel to Swaziland to perform circumcisions for two-week stints this year under a program organized by the Jerusalem AIDS Project and financed by Hadassah, a US-based Jewish organization, and other donors. The effort to circumcise Swazi men is being carried out in the hopes of curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in a country with the world's highest HIV infection rate.

      Africa: Women who don't have enough to eat taking more sexual risks - study


      Not having enough food is associated with a higher frequency of multiple high-risk sexual behaviours among women in Botswana and Swaziland, a study published in the October edition of PLoS Medicine has found. Women who reported food insecurity in the previous year had an 80% increase in their likelihood of transaction sex, a 70% increase in their risk of reporting unprotected sex with a non-primary partner, and a 50% increase in their likelihood of intergenerational sex.

      Africa: Detecting primary HIV infection without viral load test is possible - study


      US and African researchers have developed an algorithm, based on rapid test results, symptoms and risk behaviours, that makes it possible to accurately detect acute HIV infection without widespread use of HIV RNA assays. Identifying acute infection has significant implications for curbing the spread of HIV infection, particularly in resource-poor settings. The findings were published the October edition of AIDS.

      Somalia: Conflict frustrates efforts to manage HIV


      Ongoing clashes coupled with a lack of central government control are crippling attempts to develop a national AIDS strategy in Somalia, where thousands have been displaced and are living in temporary shelters, with little access to basic healthcare.
      GALKAYO, 23 October 2007 (PLUSNEWS)

      Ongoing clashes coupled with a lack of central government control are crippling attempts to develop a national AIDS strategy in Somalia, where thousands have been displaced and are living in temporary shelters, with little access to basic healthcare.

      Fighting continues on the border between the northeastern region of Puntland and south-central Somalia, where the town of Galkayo is located. More than 30,000 people fleeing insecurity are packed into the town; some have been displaced since the 1990s, but most have arrived since fighting in Mogadishu escalated earlier this year.

      The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have a presence in the town, but they and other relief agencies have been overwhelmed by the number of people arriving every week. The local community, which already lacks sufficient food and water, healthcare and education facilities, has shouldered much of the burden of the influx.

      The immediate needs of the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Galkayo are so pressing that HIV awareness raising has not been considered a priority and it shows in the high level of ignorance about the disease.

      "I have only heard of HIV from some of the community meetings; I don't really understand what it is," said Khadra Osman Ali, who has been living in Galkayo for 10 years. "I know there are many here who have this disease, but I don't think I can get it."

      Ali fled to Galkayo with her three children after her husband was killed in Mogadishu, the capital, and now lives in one of hundreds of wood-and-cardboard shelters scattered throughout the town. Her knowledge about the virus is similar to many others in her situation, most of whom live in shabby IDP camps.

      The international medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres, ( supports the local hospital in south Galkayo, but the town has no HIV voluntary counselling and testing facility and no antiretroviral treatment services.

      "We do not have treatment available for HIV patients, therefore we do not test patients, even if we suspect them of having HIV," said Karin Fischer Liddle, MSF Holland's medical coordinator in Somalia.

      A very real threat With around 1 percent of its population HIV-infected, Somalia's epidemic is much smaller than that of neighbouring countries such as Kenya, which has 5 percent HIV prevalence, and Ethiopia with 3.5 percent.

      However, the insecurity in Somalia has caused frequent migration between these countries, potentially exposing more people to the virus, and there are few treatment options for Somalis who find themselves infected after returning home.

      "HIV is a big risk for people living in IDP settlements here. Many people have got no idea what HIV is and if they do know, there is such a stigma attached that they don't want to become isolated from their communities by going to be tested or admitting they may be infected," Malyun Osman Omar, chairperson of the Bula Ba'lay IDP camp in Galkayo, told IRIN/PlusNews.

      "There is an urgent need for awareness campaigns throughout the region, but at the moment there are no resources to allow this to happen." Omar said the large Ethiopian community in Galkayo, primarily economic migrants who have come in search of work, was believed to have a much higher HIV prevalence than the local Somali population.

      "The local community feel very threatened by the Ethiopian community," she commented. "But this is largely due to stigma and lack of understanding."

      Knowledge and behaviour surveys conducted in Somalia by UNAIDS [] revealed "a serious lack of understanding and awareness of basic information on HIV". The agency noted that major work still needed to be done, especially with those most vulnerable to infection.

      One such group are women who, because of the prevailing insecurity and poverty, have turned to commercial sex work, or 'survival sex', to support their families.

      "Many women have fled insecurity in the south and been widowed. They have no means of making money ... they are often uneducated and therefore have no knowledge of the risks they are taking," Omar said.

      "The mother-and-child healthcare facilities do provide free condoms, but the problem is that women don't know they should use them," she added. "Nobody wants to admit this is happening, but we cannot remain ignorant when people's lives are being put at risk."

      Despite these hurdles, the few local and international NGOs, the Somali AIDS commission and the United Nations agencies present in the country are making some headway in fighting stigma and educating the population about the pandemic.

      "We have seen positive developments in overcoming the extreme stigma attached to HIV since starting work in Galkayo 10 years ago," said MSF's Liddle. "Three years ago it was impossible to even bring condoms in."

      More importantly, religious leaders are starting to speak more candidly about AIDS. Abdulkadir Ali Ghelle is chair of a local NGO responsible for teaching Islamic scholars about HIV/AIDS. "It has taken time to convince the mosques to understand the importance of this training but, at the moment, with so few resources available to us and no central government, it is the most powerful tool we have."

      His organisation is also lobbying for HIV to be discussed in classrooms, but health workers in Somalia say ultimately it will be impossible to create and implement a successful HIV prevention, treatment and care programme while current levels of insecurity continue.


      Africa: Training and Research Support Centre (TARSC) updates 'Auntie Stella' website


      Are you a teenager, or do you work with young people? If yes, take a look at the updated website The ‘Auntie Stella’ website is an adaptation of the dynamic interactive tool ‘Auntie Stella: Teenagers talk about sex, life and relationships’ developed by the Training and Research Support Centre (TARSC) in Zimbabwe (see

      Africa: Thirst for education overwhelms African universities


      Demand for higher education in sub-Saharan Africa is exploding, and countries like Ghana are struggling to cope. Though sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest university enrollment rates, Ghana has been forced to tackle Africa’s newest development problem — many more applicants than slots to fill.


      Africa: None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa


      None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa Edited by: Notisha Massaquoi & Selly Thiam WE are collecting stories of Africans from the continent and within the diasporic communities that identify as queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (QLGBT).
      None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa Edited by: Notisha Massaquoi & Selly Thiam WE are collecting stories of Africans from the continent and within the diasporic communities that identify as queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (QLGBT).

      It is the goal of None on Record to link the struggles, triumphs, joy and pain of QLGBT Africans everywhere. We aim to add to the exponential growth of histories and stories being told by queer Africans all over the world.

      We invite QLGBT Africans to submit original, unpublished essays, poems, short stories, plays, creative non-fiction, and visual art. We're looking for work that explores the lives of QLGBT Africans and how your experiences have shaped you emotionally, politically, socially, and culturally. We are interested in the ideas and language that make you African and QLGBT.

      We accept work from QLGBT Africans from the continent and those who have immigrated to other parts of the world. We also accept submissions from first generation QLGBT Africans born outside the African Continent. If you self-identify as a QLGBT African but do not fit the criteria written above and would like to submit work for consideration, please write us at:

      [email protected] Deadline: must be received by March 31, 2008 ALL WORK NEEDS TO BE TYPED in 12-point font, double-spaced. All submissions should include your name, address, titles, phone number and email address.
      Please include a short biography with your work. All submissions must be unpublished work.

      Fiction should be one short story or an edited piece from and larger work. 15pg maximum Non-fiction should be one essay or an edited piece from and larger work. 15pg maximum Poetry should be a maximum of three poetry submissions per author. 6 pg maximum.

      Playwrighting should include one complete work or one act from a larger work. Please limit submissions to 15 pgs.

      VISUAL ART Photos and artwork must be reproducible in black and white. Do not send originals. hi-res digital files on CD or ZIP, or high quality photocopies of line art All pieces must include a short bio, including age, gender, sexual orientation, nation of origin and/or ethnicity, adopted country, and any other biographical information which is important to understanding your work. This demographic information will not be published. Please indicate the name(s) you would like to use for publication. Don't forget to include your contact information! You will receive confirmation that your submission was received. We greatly appreciate all submissions, and will handle them with care and respect. We look forward to seeing your fantastic work!

      Please submit work to:
      [email protected]

      Notisha Massaquoi is a researcher, educator and activist originally from Sierra Leone. She is currently the Executive Director of a health centre for black women and women of color in Toronto, Canada and a doctoral candidate at OISE/University of Toronto. Her most current publications include the anthology Theorizing Empowerment: Canadian Perspectives on Black Feminist Thought.

      Selly k. Thiam, is a queer identified Senegalese woman born in Chicago. She is an independent journalist and oral historian. She is currently the Associate Producer for the StoryCorps Griot Initiative in New York City. Selly is the founder of the None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa oral history project.

      None On Record Stories of Queers Africa was originally created in 2006 as a sound documentary project that collects the stories of Africans from the continent and within Diasporic communities.

      Uganda: PEPFAR money being used to 'promote homophobia', charges human rights group


      Money from the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is funding organisations in Uganda that actively promote homophobia, a leading human rights charity has warned. In a letter to the Mark Dybul, US Global AIDS Coordinator, Human Rights Watch, expressed grave concern about “an expanding pattern of attacks in Uganda upon the human rights of lesbian, gay and transgender people”, and highlighted the homophobic activities of Pastor Martin Ssempa, a member of the First lady’s of Uganda’s Task Force on AIDS and recipient of PEPFAR prevention HIV prevention money.

      South Africa: despite constitution, gays are not safe


      Three weeks ago, 35-year-old Waldo Bester was found stabbed to death in Vredenburg, north of Cape Town. Although details of this gay man’s attack are unclear at present, the fact remains that he was murdered brutally in what is believed to be hate crime according to Cape Town’s Triangle Project – which is long standing gay organisation in the Western Cape Province.

      Racism & xenophobia

      Africa: Nicolas Sarkozy's Africa


      What credibility can we afford such gloomy words that portray Africans as fundamentally traumatized beings incapable of acting on their own behalf and in their own recognized interests, asks Achille Mbembe. What is this so-called historicity of the continent which totally silences the long tradition of resistance, including that against French colonialism, along with today’s struggles for democracy, none of which receive the clear support of a country which, for many years, has actively backed the local satrapies?

      Sierra Leone: Youths loot Lebanese stores over rape


      Youths went on the rampage in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown on Thursday, attacking and looting Lebanese-owned shops after reports a Lebanese man had raped and killed a local woman. Police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of young men who broke into shops in the impoverished and densely populated east end of Freetown, walking out with mobile phones, generators, TVs and radios, a Reuters reporter said.


      Global: 20 years on, world in dire straits, U.N. says


      Two decades after a landmark report sounded alarm bells about the state of the planet and called for urgent action to change direction, the world is still in dire straits, a U.N. agency said on Thursday. While the U.N. Environment Programme's fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) says action has been successfully taken in some regions and on some problems, the overall picture is one of sloth and neglect.

      Sahel: Foundation money to allow long term approach to water problem


      A donation of US$150 million to a 10-year water project in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and nine other countries in Africa and Central America by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation could be the start of a much-needed injection of donor innovation into the relief sector, non-governmental organisations involved in the project say.
      DAKAR, 25 October 2007 (IRIN)

      A donation of US$150 million to a 10-year water project in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and nine other countries in Africa and Central America by the Howard G. Buffet Foundation could be the start of a much-needed injection of donor innovation into the relief sector, non-governmental organisations involved in the project say.

      The foundation's money will be used to start the Global Water Initiative (GWI), a partnership of seven charities and relief organisations which will be given US$15 million a year for 10 years.

      In the whole West Africa region in 2006, traditional donors spending on water and sanitation was US$130,000 - just 11 percent of the US$1,165 million aid agencies had asked for - according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

      "We have found a shift in the whole donor funding scene towards large amounts of money being given to direct budgetary support which is good for governments but has sapped energy and resources from locally defined and implemented activities," said Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London.

      "We're trying to get more energy and resources back into the local-based agenda, which I hope this initiative can do."

      The Buffet Foundation-funded NGOs are to study and eventually provide communities with long-term access to clean water and sanitation, access to water for rural production, and protection and sustainable management of ecosystem services.

      "Projects will deliver water and sanitation in rural communities," the GWI said in a statement on 25 October.

      "In addition, investments will be made to strengthen institutions, build capacity to enable organisations to initiate and sustain long term projects, increase community participation, improve local governance, facilitate inter-governmental coordination and cooperation, raise awareness, emphasise innovation and support the development of responsible water policies."

      "The GWI was designed to integrate all aspects of sound water resource management, from emergency relief and community needs to development and sustainable resource management," said Youcef Hammache, project officer at Action Against Hunger (AAH) in Paris.

      "The needs in the Sahel are varied and the GWI's programs will attempt to tackle the full spectrum of needs in both the short- and longer-term - not just in the Sahel, but in all 13 countries covered by the GWI coalition."

      Traditional European donors and USAID came in for heavy criticism in a scathing report released in July 2007, co-authored by 10 NGOs including most of those involved in the GWI. The NGOs accused the donors of funding projects only for one to two years and for demanding results rather than letting NGOs experiment to find the best solutions.

      "The Buffet Foundation is funding things that don't necessarily produce rapid and immediate results and is prepared to find that some things we do don't always produce the expected results," said IIED's Toulmin. "There's extraordinary interest in seeing things over the long term and there aren't many donors who are as open-minded and willing as that."

      Howard Buffet, the President of the Foundation said in a statement: "It is our objective to utilise and leverage the experience of our partners to create a flexible and spontaneous approach to providing poor communities access to safe drinking water. By building new constituencies, creating stronger alliances and engaging all stakeholders, it is our hope to create a new vision and an effective platform for change."

      Improving water in the Sahel region of West Africa is central to improving health and nutrition and to providing the predominantly rural communities with the ability to provide for themselves year round, not just during the annual July-October rainy season, experts say.

      Worldwide, more than one billion people are estimated to lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion people lack sanitation. Countries in West Africa's Sahel consistently feature at the bottom of human development indexes for the particularly high level of poverty found there and the poor access to water.

      The NGOs involved in the GWI are Catholic Relief Services, CARE, IIED, IUCN, SOS Sahel, AAH and Oxfam. In addition to the Sahel, the project will cover El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Uganda.

      The Howard G. Buffet Foundation is multi-million dollar private foundation controlled by the eldest son of the billionaire American investor Warren Buffett.

      Egypt: Ancient Egyptian industry gets environmental makeover


      Air pollution is so bad in Cairo that living in the sprawling city of 18-million residents is said to be akin to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. According to the World Health Organisation, the average Cairene ingests more than 20 times the acceptable level of air pollution a day. A 2002 World Bank report estimates that pollution causes $2,42-billion-worth of environmental damage each year, about 5% of Egypt's annual gross domestic product.

      Global: Global Water Initiative created in response to world water crisis


      A new partnership has been launched to address the declining state of the world’s fresh water supply and the lack of access to clean water services by the world’s poorest people. The Global Water Initiative (GWI) brings together a group of seven leading international NGOs, including Action Against Hunger (ACF) – USA, CARE, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The World Conservation Union (IUCN), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Oxfam America and SOS Sahel – UK.

      Land & land rights

      Africa: Slum Survivors - new IRIN film released


      Worldwide, more than a billion people live in slums, with as many as one million in Kibera, Africa's largest such settlement, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Slum Survivors, IRIN's first full-length documentary, tells some of their stories.
      NAIROBI, 24 October 2007 (IRIN)

      Worldwide, more than a billion people live in slums, with as many as one million in Kibera, Africa's largest such settlement, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Slum Survivors, IRIN's first full-length documentary, tells some of their stories.

      Meet Carol Meet Carol, a single mother of three, who walks miles each day in search of work washing other people's clothes. It is a hand-to-mouth existence - sometimes she gets work and buys food, but most of the time she and her children go to bed hungry.

      Carol's situation is so desperate that on more than one occasion she has come close to suicide. With no-one to rely on for support, she's left hoping for miracles.

      "We hope that one day God will come down - we keep on saying that. One day God will come down and change our situations."

      Dennis' story Dennis Onyango fell into poverty when his father left his mother for another woman. Forced out of school because of unpaid fees, he ended up in Mombasa where he found work as a DJ.

      Life was good until inter-ethnic fighting forced Dennis back to the safety of Nairobi. But poverty and desperation pushed him into a life of crime.

      "Many of my friends had guns. I had grown up in the hands of the police because my father was a policeman. He used to leave his gun on the table so I knew how to dismantle and reassemble guns, so my friends used to bring their guns to me for cleaning - that's how I got started."

      But these days, Dennis is trying to change. He wants to turn his back on crime and start afresh.

      Patrick's struggle Patrick Mburu says he has lost many friends to crime and believes hard work is the only way out of poverty for him and his young family. His parents were both alcoholics and so he has had to fend for himself from a young age.

      Patrick empties latrines for a living. Most toilets in Kibera are privately owned and residents must pay to use them. There are so few toilets that on average each one is shared by more than a thousand people.

      Most slum dwellers never finish school and end up trapped in poverty, which is why Patrick is adamant his kids will get an education.

      "In Kenya, no education means you can't get a good job; that's why I send my son to a good school, because I want him to know that the job that I do is only for people like me who didn't go to school.

      "So, I will struggle - I will carry a lot of shit, I will do anything but steal to keep him in school."

      Abdul's school Abdul Kassim also believes in the importance of education. He works as a telecoms engineer, but puts most of his income into a free secondary school for girls, which he started in January 2006.

      "I saw that there was no gender equity between the boy child and the girl child here in Kibera, and so we started a girl's soccer team. Then all the challenges, all the bad things that happen within Kibera saw some of them getting into early marriages, some of them got pregnant - there was a time when I lost the entire striking force of my team and it brought into question the starting of another alternative, which was nothing but education."

      Christina, 17, is just one of 48 pupils at Abdul's school but her story is typical. She lives with her mother, father and five siblings in a one-room shack. Her parents' relationship is fraught and Christina is often left alone in charge of the house.

      When she finished primary school, her father refused to send her to secondary school, claiming that educating girls was a waste of money.

      "My dad wants everyone to drop out of school. He complains that he has no money, or that he's sick . I don't know . I don't know why he doesn't want us to learn."

      Christina has a hole in her heart - a serious condition for which she should take daily medication but the cost - US$10 a day - is far beyond her family's means. School, a job and then a salary might just save her life.

      For Abdul, education is the key to solving the problems of the urban poor and that is why he started the school. He has lived here all his life and has seen Kibera change beyond recognition as more and more people flood into the city in search of a better life.

      "I don't see why people are living the way they are living in Kibera, or in any other slums, there is no reason - there is no justification.

      "And in Kibera if this issue is not handled at some time this problem is going to come knocking at people's doors - and those who think it's not their problem might be surprised one day when this problem comes knocking at their door."

      Global: Securing tenure and ending forced evictions


      As the main agency within the UN system working on human settlements issues, UN-HABITAT is committed to the goals of enhancing tenure security and ending forced evictions. To this end HABITAT is involved in a number of initiatives to influence actors at international, national and local levels. The Global Campaign for Secure Tenure focuses on achieving slum upgrading through negotiation, not eviction; and monitoring forced evictions and advancing tenure rights.

      Swaziland: Food or biofuel seems to be the question


      The government of Swaziland announced this week that it would be allocating thousands of hectares to a private company to cultivate cassava for biofuel. About 40 percent of the country's one million people are facing acute food and water shortages. "The cassava ethanol project has restarted the debate on how the country should use its agriculture land," said Sipho Mthetfwa, an agriculture extension officer in Shiselweni Region in the south of the country.
      MBABANE, 25 October 2007 (IRIN)

      The government of Swaziland announced this week that it would be allocating thousands of hectares to a private company to cultivate cassava for biofuel. About 40 percent of the country's one million people are facing acute food and water shortages.

      "The cassava ethanol project has restarted the debate on how the country should use its agriculture land," said Sipho Mthetfwa, an agriculture extension officer in Shiselweni Region in the south of the country.

      "The quick answer is, 'to grow food for the people', but government's stance is that we need to develop industry and new markets so people can collect wages and buy food, because traditional agriculture is too undependable."

      As oil prices soar and biofuel production becomes more attractive, especially to poor countries, a global debate is raging over the possible impact on food security.

      By placing the cassava project in drought-affected Lavumisa, in southeastern Shiselweni, where agriculture has been limping along for years, government is attracting criticism that it favours exports over food security at home.

      "This year's drought has been nationwide, but drought has hit Lavumisa for 15 years," said Mthetfwa. "There are mostly small landholder farmers here - they are too poor to buy inputs for irrigation. And don't talk to them about alternative, drought-tolerant crops - they don't want to grow anything other than maize ... [which] has not grown well in years."

      Time for cassava Cassava is drought-tolerant and productive in poor soils, and has traditionally been grown by poor farmers in marginal areas. Between 1961 and 1995, cassava production for human consumption rose by 50 percent in Africa and 70 percent in Asia, the leading producer of cassava-derived starches, which are now being fermented to produce biofuel, according to the FAO.

      Liquefied cassava starch is fermented from two to four days using a yeast, sometimes in combination with a bacterium. "A basic production plant - peelers, graters, fermenters and a distiller - can produce about 280 litres of 96 percent pure ethanol from a tonne of cassava with 30 percent starch content," the FAO says on its website.

      The Swazi government is allocating unirrigated land to a local concern called USA Distilleries, which makes molasses from the sugar cane grown in the eastern lowveld but is based in Big Bend, a town 60km north of Lavumisa. The company is investing more than US$5 million in the biofuel project, which is expected to generate 700 jobs in an area that has remained undeveloped since the country's independence in 1968.

      USA Distilleries declined to comment on its new venture but more details are expected to be released after the environmental impact assessment has been completed.

      "The ethanol made from cassava will be sold overseas, where there is a ready market," said Lutfo Dlamini, Minister of Enterprise and Employment, who announced the arrangement this week.

      Cautious response The proponents of prioritising food security over revenue from biofuel cite government's efforts in the 1990s to encourage small-scale farmers to form cooperatives to grow the "cash crop", sugar cane, rather than food. When sugar prices started falling three years ago the cooperatives went bankrupt. "If we had grown vegetables for the market we would be in business today," said Abner Dlamini, a member of a cooperative that was dissolved in 2005.

      Florence Dube, a food aid worker in Manzini, the main commercial town, said, "There is a need for food today. Food prices are so high that this is an investment as worthy as ethanol. If the fields of Lavumisa can be irrigated to grow cassava, they can be irrigated to grow food for people."

      However, a source at the ministry of enterprises pointed out that "This company is a distillery and not a food processor. It can only do the business it does. Creating jobs at a place where there are absolutely none right now is one way of addressing the food crisis."

      The ministry of agriculture also declined to comment on the project, but said it was pursuing irrigation schemes aimed at small-scale farmers on communal Swazi Nation Land, where 80 percent of the population lives.

      Mfomfo Nkhambule, a member of parliament who has been critical of government attempts to cultivate sugar cane rather than staple foods, has raised his concerns in parliament, but few other politicians have commented on the food crisis.

      "As long as the WFP [World Food Programme] and others are providing food, there seems a lack of urgency," a local newspaper columnist commented.

      Skewed priorities Agriculture extension officer Mthetfwa said the cassava ethanol project illustrated a similar skewing of priorities. "We cannot depend on food aid to come to us indefinitely ... from what I hear, the donors are wondering why we are not doing more for ourselves with the resources we have."

      Treasure Maphanga, the director of the Esicojeni Foundation, a child hunger alleviation programme run by business and civil society, commented at a press briefing this week, "I am angry at the fact that, with all the human and natural resources, this country still depends on food handouts. We have an opportunity to correct the situation by the involvement of all people in the fight against the dependency syndrome."

      At the beginning of 2007 the WFP projected that 220,000 people would be in need of assistance in Swaziland, but has since increased this figure to 365,000 beneficiaries receiving assistance from October 2007 until the next harvest in April 2008.

      Media & freedom of expression

      Somalia: Murder and intimidation as "Nightmare Year" continues


      The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the assassination on Friday of a leading radio journalist in Somalia where a wave of brutal and targeted attacks has claimed eight media victims this year. On the same day a number of incidents across the country suggested independent media face a new wave of intimidation.

      Gambia: IFJ condemns persecution of missing journalist


      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the persistent threats to the life of Yaya Dampha, a reporter with the Foroyaa newspaper in The Gambia, after him and two Amnesty International staff were arrested, detained and released for alleged ‘spying’. According to reliable sources from Banjul, plain clothes officers, believed to be agents of the National Intelligence Agency, (NIA), on Sunday, October 14, stormed Dampha’s house in Latrikunda Sabiji, about 20 kilometres from the Capital Banjul.

      DRC: Community radio stations threatened by botched government decree


      Reporters Without Borders has condemned information, press and communication minister Toussaint Tshilombo Send’s announcement of a ban on around 40 TV and radio stations five days ago. It has had the effect of silencing four community radio stations based in Kinshasa, while around 200 other community radio stations throughout the country are also threatened.

      North Africa: Human rights activist prevented from travelling to support Egyptian journalist in trial


      The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has condemned the denial of the right to travel and movement inflicted upon former prisoner of conscience, lawyer Mohamed Abbu by the Tunisian authorities. He was prohibited from travelling to Cairo to attend the trial of Ibrahim Essa, editor in chief of the independent "Aldostur". The trial is set to take place on 24 October 2007.

      Liberia: Judge threatens journalists with contempt charges, jail over coverage


      On 22 October 2007, Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis threatened to imprison journalists for committing such "infractions" as "misspelling his name", "giving him wrong and inappropriate titles" and "attaching his photos to stories that have nothing to do with him in their papers." Lewis made the threats in open court, with the heads of several newspapers in attendance by invitation. The session was also attended by other members of the Supreme Court.

      Conflict & emergencies

      Chad: definitive peace accord signed


      Chad's government and four Sudan-based Chadian rebel groups signed a "definitive peace accord" in Libya on Thursday that included an immediate ceasefire, a Chadian presidency official said. The deal, which aimed to end more than two years of sporadic fighting in eastern Chad, was signed in the Libyan city of Sirte in the presence of Chadian President Idriss Deby, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the official, who asked not to named, told Reuters.

      DRC: Ituri civilian populations still subjected to sexual violences, high levels of brutality


      Despite an overall decrease in the intensity and recurrence of conflicts in the district of Ituri in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), civilian populations there are still subjected to high levels of violence. Based upon four years of medical work in the region, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has issued a report titled "Ituri: Civilians Still the First Victims", emphasizing the persistence of sexual violence as well as the direct humanitarian consequences of military operations in 2007 during a "pacification process" in the region.

      Niger: MSF halts activities in Dabaga following attack


      Monday morning, October 22, five men - one of whom was armed - attacked a team of MSF workers travelling in two vehicles by road from Agadez to Dabaga, where MSF has been providing medical care at the local health post since the start of October. Following this violent incident, MSF has decided to cease activities in
      Dabaga and the surrounding region because the security situation is preventing the organization from adequately carrying out its work for the people living in this area. Moreover, this incident follows the October 16 theft of an MSF vehicle that was travelling on the same road to Dabaga.

      Sudan: Darfur peace talks 'doomed' after rebel leaders pull out


      Peace talks aimed at ending the four-and-a-half-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region could be doomed before they begin after the leaders of the two largest rebel groups said they would not take part. Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has joined Abdul Wahid al-Nur, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), in refusing to take part in the talks in Libya, which are due to begin on Saturday.

      Burundi: Villagers flee as rebel fighters attack splinter group's position


      Fighters of Burundi's last active rebel group have for the second time in one week attacked a position occupied by a break-away faction, forcing villagers to flee their homes, a senior military official said. The evening raid by combatants of the Front National de Liberation (FNL), led by Agathon Rwasa, took place on 24 October evening on a site where the so-called FNL "dissidents" have gathered in Gakungwe village of Kabezi commune in Bujumbura Rural province.
      BUJUMBURA, 25 October 2007 (IRIN)

      Fighters of Burundi's last active rebel group have for the second time in one week attacked a position occupied by a break-away faction, forcing villagers to flee their homes, a senior military official said.

      The evening raid by combatants of the Front National de Liberation (FNL), led by Agathon Rwasa, took place on 24 October evening on a site where the so-called FNL "dissidents" have gathered in Gakungwe village of Kabezi commune in Bujumbura Rural province.

      It forced hundreds of people from surrounding villages to run away as the army sent reinforcements to the area to guard the splinter faction's settlement, residents said.

      "There has indeed been such an attack and the heavy exchange of gunfire was heard," deputy army chief of staff Major General Godefroid Niyuhire told IRIN on 25 October. There were, however, no casualties during the attack, he said.

      The "dissidents" say they fought with Rwasa for the FNL, but Rwasa's supporters have denied their claims and accused the government of creating a faction within the FNL. Rwasa has said these men, who intend to join the country's peace process, are not even party to a 2006 ceasefire agreement signed between the government and the FNL.

      The ceasefire agreement has not been put into effect because Rwasa's FNL has refused to take part in the implementation process, accusing Charles Nqakula - South African security minister and head of the mediation team - of pro-government bias.

      On the night of 21 October, seven FNL "dissident" fighters were killed when Rwasa's combatants attacked their position at Gakungwe in Kabezi, according to army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza. Two government soldiers and two of the raiders also died in the attack.

      Internet & technology

      North Africa: Timid ICT Evolution in Maghreb


      The Maghrib region wich is considered the richest part of the African continent is experiencing a slow uptake of ICTs. Figures released by the United Nations Development Programme in Algiers show a timid evolution of ICTs in the Maghreb region with only 2,5% of Internet penetration.
      Highway Africa News Agency

      Figures released by the United Nations Development Programme in Algiers show a timid evolution of ICTs in the Maghreb region with only 2,5% of Internet penetration.

      Algeria has reached 5, 33%, whereas Morocco is leading with 14, 36%, Tunisia is lagging behind, it faces technical and political obstacles to catch up with the rest of the region inspite of the slow pace of ICT penetration.

      However, for computing penetration, Tunisia is doing quite well with the rate of 5,63% compared with a catastrophic 1, 06% in Algeria, but a promising 2,35% in Morocco and 1,41% in Mauritania. For mobile telephone density, Tunisia leads the group with 56,32%, seconded by Algeria with 44,52%, Morocco is in the third place with 39,70%, Mauritania has 24,30% and Libya is the last one with a mere 4,45%.

      On the other hand, a survey on ICT carried out in Algeria by FOREM, a local NGO, says only 0,10% of small and medium enterprises (SME) have introduced computers in their businesses, 70% of existing computing equipments are outdated but 12% is the computing penetration rate iof the networks.

      In its report, Forem concludes that a high digital illiteracy level still prevails. In order to curb or at least to reduce the digital gap, Boujemaa Haichour, the Algerian minister of ICTs has initiated a series of measures. He has set up first regional academic networks to offer e-learning trainings, opened up the ICT market for more competition and established online universal access services.

      However, the UNDP?s expert argues that Algeria is not exploiting rationally and fully its huge ICT potentials, namely Internet facilities, he has also suggested to develop an internet policy to establish adequate structures to run and monitor related activities and services.

      Along the same lines, Ali Kahlane the DG of private company Satlinker has proposed a content industry development for the web. Although the internet does not belong to use, said Kahlane, we can re-appropriate it by filling the pipes with our content and that is why Algeria is badly in need of a concrete content industry, he concludes.

      Africa: The digital gap: More than a click to put Africa online


      When it comes to computing power, the gap between Africa and the broadband world is still a Grand Canyon. Only 4% of Africans have access to the internet. They pay the most in the world, around $250-300 a month, for the slowest connection speeds. E-commerce barely exists. Nigeria's 140m-odd people have but a few hundred decently trafficked websites in their domain. Blogging is a vibrant but peripheral activity.

      Global: Low-cost laptop project for poor children closer to reality, says UN advocate


      The ‘One Laptop per Child’ initiative, a pioneering project to give children in poor countries access to affordable computers, is in sight of becoming a reality, the United Nations advocate for the world’s most vulnerable nations has said. After watching a special demonstration of the so-called $100 laptop at UN Headquarters in New York, Under-Secretary-General Cheikh Sidi Diarra praised the scheme’s organizers for their efforts to bring the project to fruition given the sceptical response it met with at first.

      Courses, seminars, & workshops

      Global: The Human Rights Accountability Challenge


      The Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus, a World Social Forum-related coalition of human rights and development organisations, has been organising human rights events in the framework of the World Social Forum since 2002. In 2008, the Forum will be held as a Global Day of Action in many different places around the world. At the same time, the human rights movement will be celebrating, in diverse ways, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
      2008: Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the World Social Forum

      The Human Rights Accountability Challenge

      The Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus, a World Social Forum-related coalition of human rights and development organisations, has been organising human rights events in the framework of the World Social Forum since 2002. In 2008, the Forum will be held as a Global Day of Action in many different places around the world. At the same time, the human rights movement will be celebrating, in diverse ways, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

      Combining both events, the Human Dignity and Human Rights Caucus is calling for proposals by 15 November 2007 to organise activities during January 2008 at local, national, regional and international levels. Proposed activities (including events, projects and initiatives) should focus on redressing accountability deficits in realising human rights exploring innovative ways to improve Human Rights Accountability. Activities should support effective awareness, dialogue, research, action or advocacy to hold responsible actors to account for realising a pressing human rights issue or redressing violations committed.

      Nigeria: Human Rights Training


      Global Human Rights Leadership Training Institute, GHRLTI 2007 APPLICATION FORM DISTANCE EDUCATION COURSE Certificate Course in “Human Rights Leadership Development and Training”. 1st November – December 10th, 2007.

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