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Pambazuka News 395: The political economy of ethnic identities

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

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

With over 1000 contributors and an estimated 500,000 readers 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. Announcements, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Advocacy & campaigns, 6. Pan-African Postcard, 7. Obituaries, 8. Books & arts, 9. Letters & Opinions, 10. African Writers’ Corner, 11. Blogging Africa, 12. Zimbabwe update, 13. African Union Monitor, 14. Women & gender, 15. Human rights, 16. Refugees & forced migration, 17. Social movements, 18. Elections & governance, 19. Corruption, 20. Development, 21. Health & HIV/AIDS, 22. Education, 23. LGBTI, 24. Racism & xenophobia, 25. Environment, 26. Media & freedom of expression, 27. Conflict & emergencies, 28. Internet & technology, 29. Fundraising & useful resources, 30. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 31. Publications

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Highlights from this issue

FEATURES: Onyango Oloo on the ethnicity question in Kenya

- Andile Mngxitama et al on Biko's legacy and continuing relevance
- Kevin Pina looks at the disappearance of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine
- Stephen Lewis on peace, continuing sexual violence and the role of the UN
- African Conference on Participatory Democracy calls for socialism in Africa
- Sokari Ekine on racism in the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association World Championship

- American filmmaker detained in Nigeria

PAN-AFRICAN POSTCARD: Tajudeen Abdul Raheem on why Zimbabwe is not Kenya

LETTERS: Readers respond to the Pambazuka News Obama issue

OBITUARIES: Breyten Breytenbach remembers Mahmoud Darwish

- Rasna Warah reviews Yash Tandon's 'Ending Aid Dependence'
- Kim Scipes reviews Steve Ellner's 'Rethinking Venezuelan Politics: Class, Conflict, and the Chavez Phenomenon'

AFRICAN WRITERS' CORNER: Amina Koki Gizo interviews Sa'adatu Baba about Nigerian popular fiction and censorship

BLOGGING AFRICA: Sokari Ekine rounds up African blogs

AU MONITOR: AU Monitor looks at debates on Aid EffectivenessANNOUNCEMENTS: Seeking judges for children’s essay competition
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Details of deal emerge
WOMEN & GENDER: UN worker accused of rape
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Clashes in eastern DRC draw UNSC concern
HUMAN RIGHTS: States urged to prioritize victims’ rights
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Israel expels 91 migrants
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: Report on shack-fires launched
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Angola opposition takes issue with vote in Luanda
CORRUPTION: Court rejects Zuma graft case
DEVELOPMENT: Africa becoming a biofuel battleground
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Using mobile phones to fight HIV in Uganda
EDUCATION: Kenya education ministry ‘has failed’
LGBTI: Fighting miscarriages of justice in South Africa
RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA: Belated apology for apartheid casualty
ENVIRONMENT: Experts examine trade and climate concerns
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Moroccan blogger jailed
ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGNS: Cesária Évora nominated for peace award
INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Africans ‘to gain from Web plan’
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

Global: Sign on to reduce IMF power - letter to Finance Ministers & IMF Board


Below is a sign-on letter initiated by Bretton Woods Project (UK) encouraging Finance Ministers and members of the IMF Board to shut down the Poverty Reduction & Growth Facility (PRGF), with the funds in it handed over to a more suitable institution providing finance to the countries that have been receiving PRGF loans. Sign-ons to [email protected] Organisational (preferred) and individual sign-ons will be accepted until 26 September. Please indicate if you are signing as an organisation or individual. Questions can be directed at [email protected]

Zimbabwe: Action alert from Pamberi trust


At Book Café we have created a place of beauty, joy, togetherness and tolerance; an arts centre that celebrates free expression, where artists work with dignity and audiences appreciate a diverse multitude of perspectives. Since 1997 our Book Cafe in Harare has guaranteed no censorship. It is a refuge from violence and threat that imposes cruel uniformity; a refuge from the denial of free creation that is the antithesis of African values.

American documentary filmmaker detained in Nigeria

Aaron Soffin


Andrew Berends, an established, award-winning American filmmaker and journalist from New York, was detained Sunday August 31st by the Nigerian military along with his translator, Samuel George, and Joe Bussio, the manager of a local bar. Andrew entered Nigeria legally in April 2008 to complete a documentary film. 

Andrew was held in custody without food, sleep, or representation, and with limited water for 36 hours. He was questioned by the army, the police, and the State Security Services in Port Harcourt. He was then temporarily released, with an order to the SSS office at 9AM Tuesday morning. The State Security Services has confiscated his passport and personal property. Andrew's translator, Samuel George, remained in custody over night.

The US State Department is aware of the situation, and an attorney has been retained on Andrew's behalf. We, Andrew's friends, family, and colleagues, are deeply concerned that he has been held without cause and are calling for his safe treatment and immediate release.

* Contact Aaron Soffin at Phone: 917.887.4063 / 212.712.2781 or by email at: [email protected]

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


The political economy of ethnic identities in Kenya

Part 1: Tribalism as shorthand for political problems

Onyango Oloo


The question of ethnic identities in Kenya is intricately tied up with the country's politics and influences to a greater or lesser degree the class cleavages in ways which often defy orthodox analyses from the right or the left.

But if you ask Kenyans across the political, ethnic, racial and religious divide what is the cause of major political problems in Kenya, many of them will, without hesitation, cite "tribalism" as the number one problem. Depending on who you are talking to, it will be either those "Kikuyus"and their determination to hog all political and economic power to themselves. Or it will be those "Luos" who are perennial trouble makers and stone throwers not content with accepting the status quo. If you go down to the Coast, you may hear people grumbling about those upcountry "Wabara" people who have consciously marginalized the Coastals. A good friend of mine argued in a national newspaper column a few days ago that the "small tribes" have really been left out by the dogfights between the "major tribes". And on and on it goes with outbursts against those "Indians" when it comes to looking for a convenient scapegoat to explain away our economic woes.

Quite frankly these perceptions are naïve, shallow, ahistorical and dangerous.

There is no doubt that certain elites in Kenya converge around and along narrow ethnic or even sub-ethnic agendas that are detrimental to the national good. It is true that what passes for political parties in this country are frequently nothing more than vehicles of political expediency fueled by tribal agendas and tribal constituencies. It is also a fact that political elites have hijacked the neo-colonial state to divvy out economic goodies based on a system of ethnic and regional patronage. As someone who argues from socialist positions, I am also aware of the reductionism of certain doctrinaire approaches which reduces everything in society to class, overlooking gender, racial, religious, generational and other specificities. In other words, nobody in their right mind can downplay the corrosive and debilitating effects of what some observers call “negative ethnicity” in Kenya.

When I assert that using a broad ethnic brush to explain away our national problems is naïve, shallow, dangerous and ahistorical, I am merely pleading for a sober, scientific deconstruction of ethnic identities in Kenya based on our collectively lived historical experience.


The entity we now know as Kenya is a product of the historical interaction between diverse African peoples in this particular patch of the eastern part of our great continent with the forces of world monopoly capitalism. A version of the many anecdotes about the origin of the name Kenya has it that in the mid 1840s when a couple of German missionaries were busy exploring and “discovering” Africa they ran into a bunch of locals in the Mount Kenya region. Depending on whether it a Mgikuyu or a Mkamba retelling the story, Herr Krapf (or was it his counterpart Rebmann?) pointed to the snowy peaks of our tallest mountain and inquired via their guide about the name. He was allegedly told “ Kirinyaga” or “the place where God lives”. To his Teutonic ears, the German visitor heard and contracted it to “Kenya”, leaving us stuck with a distortion which ended up being the name of the country famous for its long distance runners, stunning environment and exotic wild life.

In a sense, our national identity was built on a stencil cut out by a clueless European traveler almost two hundred years ago.

More fundamentally, the process of “becoming Kenyan” was directly connected with the imperialist incursion at the tail end of the 19th century- from the ravenous carving up of the African continent at the 1884 Berlin Conference to the annexation of our country by the British, first by the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888 to the formal declaration of Kenya as a British Protectorate in 1895 to the promulgamation of Kenya as a British Colony in 1920.

What hitherto had been a conglomeration of diverse Kenyan peoples at various stages of socio-economic development from the autonomous semi-feudal kingdom of Wanga in the west to the Ismalized coastal city states of Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu etc and the myriad communal, largely egalitarian communities among the Mijikenda, Luo, Agikuyu, Maasai and the like were now transformed into a territorially distinct “country” where each and every one of these diverse Kenyan people were considered “British subjects” subservient to the Crown in the UK; a colony where the best land was grabbed by racist British settlers; a missionary lab where Christian ideologues attempted to wipe out all vestiges of the indigenous traditional cultures; a tea, coffee and wheat plantation dotted with vast ranches- with most of the proceeds destined for the so called “mother country”.

The British foreign domination was of course resisted by communities all over Kenya. In 1895-96 Mbaruk al Amin Mazrui led a valiant guerrilla war against the invaders along the Kenyan coast. In 1913-15, Me Katilili, an octogenarian grandmother emerged as a leader of the Giriama people in Kilifi mobilizing local peasants to resist forced labour and compulsory taxation. For her efforts she earned herself the title of Kenya’s first political prisoner- forcibly exiled hundreds of miles away from her community but heroically escaping from custody to continue her fight. Among the Dawida, Mwangeka also led and inspired an uprising. At around the same time in central Kenya Waiyaki wa Hinga was leading the charge against the British- he was later buried alive in Kibwezi. Among the Nandi, Koitalel arap Samoei was conducting a ten year armed resistance to the incursion of British imperialism, symbolized by the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Other stalwarts of these early resistance movements include women like Syotuna among the Akamba and Moraa wa Ngiti among the Gusii- not to speak of later nationalist heroes like Harry Thuku, Mary Nyanjiru, James Beuttah, Makhan Singh, Elijah Masinde, Oginga Odinga, Chege wa Kibacia, Muindi Mbingu, JD Kali, Pio da Gama Pinto, Achieng’ Oneko, Fred Kubai and others.

In the end, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, the British had the Maxim gun and we did not.

One of the immediate consequences of the brutal British take over was the question of entrenching tribal identities at the expense of more nationwide agendas. First and foremost, even the question of who were and how we called ourselves was mediated by the British colonial state. A colonial bureaucrat had in 1917 written a memo cited by Professor Al Amin Mazrui in his book on the history and identity of the Swahili peoples stressing the urgency of enforcing tribal identities as a bulwark against growing national consciousness. It is for this reason that the colonialists outlawed nationwide social and political organizations, restricting people to such outfits like the Kikuyu Central Association, the Ukambani Members Association, the Kavirondo Tax Payers Association, the Taita Hills Association and so on. This did not prevent these associations from collaborating together in a joint anti-imperialist project for national independence.

The other noxious by-product of British colonialism was the phenomenon of being "named" and identified by our oppressors. For instance upto this day in 2008 it is standard practice to talk of the "Kikuyus" even though the proper name is the Agikuyu; people refer to the “Taitas” even though they call themselves the Dawida. Fortunately slurs like “Kavirondo” for the Luos; “Suk” for the Pokot and “Kitosh” for the Bukusu have long since been abandoned. In the 1930s the colonialists robbed the Yiaku people of the Mukogodo forest in Laikipia District just north of Nanyuki of their identity by forcibly merging them with the Maasai. One of the consequences of that is that today, among the 4,000 remnants of the Yiaku, LESS THAN TEN can still remember and speak of their mother tongue and the majority are in their eighties and nineties dying out by the year. Similarly, the original indigenous hunter-gatherer communities of Kenya like the Ogieks, the Njemps and others are often arbitrarily “absorbed” into more dominant ethnic groups.

Also in the colonial period certain artificial clusters were baptized “tribes” even though it was often a convenient fiction to suit certain political agendas. An example is the appellation, “Abaluhyia” to refer to several distinct linguistic groups (Samia, Abakhayo, Marachi, Manyala, Wanyore, Ikhisa, Tiriki, Maragoli, Bukusu, Isukha, Idakho, Marama) as one tribe. The same goes with the “Kalenjin” cluster which brings together the Kipsigis, Nandi, Tugen, Keiyo, Marakwet, Pokot and other communities. One can make a similar argument that there are no such group as the Meru, but rather it has to be broken down to the Tharaka, Chuka, Tigania, Imenti and Egoji people. Until recently the Mbeere people were lumped together with the Embu. And in the 1960s, for political hegemonic reasons the larger “Meru” and “Embu” communities were cynically appended to the Agikuyu.

That is why it is bizarre to see, read and hear of violent evictions of so called “enemy tribes” in the 21st century- killed and displaced using the spurious and specious excuse of “ethnic purity”- when no such purity existed in the first place and even if it did has been thoroughly eroded through inter-marriage, urbanization and resettlements across the country.


Here is my theory about so called "Pure" Ethnic Identities in Kenya:

By and large, these are historically determined, socially constructed CONVENIENT community MYTHS.

Some years ago- 2005 to be exact- when I was still residing in the west end of Toronto, Canada, I ran into a middle aged Southern Sudanese who happened to be a Dinka. He had also lived in Kenya for over a decade and he told me his version of how the Southern Luos ended up in Kenya. He said that in Sudan they have another name for the Luos which means that this appellation came later in the history of this community.

My uncle, the veteran historian Prof. B.A. Ogot has documented in his seminal text on the Southern Luos how many Luhyia clans in Gem (Siaya District) were assimilated as Luos. And he should know- this grandson of Agina the son of Paulo Opiche and grandson of Ayieko. His grandfather is my father’s grandfather and my father told me that this polygamous ancestor of Onyango Oloo had both Luo and Luhyia wives. Ogot’s grandmother was a co-wife of my father’s paternal grandmother (who I was told by my own paternal grandmother was another Luhyia who did not speak a word of Luo. Interestingly enough my own “Luhyia” grandmother from Emanyulia- who spoke BETTER Dholuo than her sons and daughters- in law from Karachuonyo, Oyugis and Seme- startled me when she revealed to me sometime in 1972 or 1973 that her folks had actually been “Luos from Alego” who had resettled in Emanyulia near the Butere-Yala train tracks.

Quite frankly I never believed her- until over thirty years later, when a Kenyan woman born and raised in Emanyulia writing online from southern France repeated this story in a certain Kenyan cyberforum almost word for word- yes, indeed there was actually a Luhyia clan in Emanyulia who were originally Luos from Alego! She herself was quite conversant with the Luo language and had relatives from Anyiko on the outskirts of Yala Township.

When I once argued that many Kisiis are former Luos and many Luos are ex-Kisiis I was virtually slapped by tribal venom from Luo and Abagusii friends and colleagues of mine. But I was right: the Luos know it and the Kisiis know it.

It is just that our accumulated, largely mythological creation stories have encouraged us to imagine the "ethnic jirani other" as the enemy who stole our land, raped our grandmothers and placed a multi-generational pox on us.

I should have added that there are similar kinship ties among the Luos and the neighbouring Kalenjin communities. For instance, one of my sisters has a kid whose name is Samoei- even though the kid’s father is a Luo. But guess what, his grandmother is a Nandi. Back in my Luanda Dudi village in Kisa West, Khwisero, Western Province there was this old pint sized cattle-herd who never ever married. And he used to tell us that he was a Meru. Again, how far fetched that story is I am not sure.

What I am saying about Luos can be extended to the Agikuyu and the Maasai; the Akamba and Meru; the Waswahili na Mijikenda and even many Kenyans who imagine they are pure Wahindis. How many people know for instance that Kenya’s SECOND Vice President Joseph Murumbi was part Mhindi and part Maasai? How many people know that Najib Balala is part Mhindi and part Mwarabu (with probably some Mijikenda relatives somewhere down his lineage)? How many people know that John Keen’s father was of European descent? How about Kariuki Chotara? His last name is often a pejorative equivalent to the equally derogatory “Point Five” slur used to describe Kenyans of mixed race.

In my own immediate family I have cousins who have Swedish mothers; nephews who have Tanzanian fathers; in laws who are from Nanyuki. My own son has two Meru grandparents on one side- apart from the whole mchuzi mix on his father’s side.

Who knows what Kenyan communities and the attendant ethnic identities would have emerged had the British colonialists not invaded and occupied our lands?

Is it possible that over time, the Luos, the Luhyias and the Abagusii would have merged into a synthesized ethnic group called the Abagusiluohyias? Think of the stranglehold they would have on the Soccer Championships!

Could we be talking about the Maagikumerumbians?

Or the Akamboranas?

Or perhaps the Turkopokotomarkweiyo?

How about the Gujarasomalis or the Arabogiriamas?

The possibilities are just endless.

What happened in Kenya instead is the REALITY of historical colonial oppression.

About thirteen years ago I read a book called The Swahili: Idiom and Identity of an African People by author/activist/scholar Alamin Mazrui and Ibrahim Noor Shariff. Somewhere in the pages of that book I recall a passage about a 1917 letter from some colonial DC instructing other functionaries to do everything they can to foster tribal identities among the Kenyan nationalities as a way of thwarting the growth of a collective national consciousness.

This is one of the reasons why the first nationalist organizations had names like the Kikuyu Central Association, the Taita Hills Association; the Kavirondo Tax Payers Association, the Ukambani Members Association and so on and so forth. It is not that Kenyans back then were so tribal that they could only form “tribal bodies” - on the contrary - they wanted to form nationwide patriotic formations but this was considered a grave threat to the colonial status quo.

For evidence, you will find out that all these organizations collaborated and worked together and had a common anti-imperialist objective of fighting for Kenyan independence. As early as 1923 Kenyans of Indian descent defied the attempt to segregate them from their African brothers and sisters by leading the fight which led to the defeat of the White Paper which wanted to transform Kenya into an apartheid state like South Africa or the former Rhodesia.

When we pick up this multi-ethnic patriotic thread in 1990 when Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia and to a certain extent the Reverend Timothy Njoya went public with their agitation for multiparty democracy we should not forget the very important 1981 to 1990 chunk of underground anti-imperialist organizing featuring patriotic and again multi-ethnic formations like Second of March Movement, Cheche Kenya, the December Twelve Movement, the Kenya Anti-Imperialist Front, Harakati ya Kupambania Demokrasia Kenya, Upande Mwingine, the Kenya Socialist Alliance, Chama Cha Ukombozi, the Kenya National Front, the Kenya Revolutionary Movement, Ukenya, Umoja, Mwakenya, the Me Katilili Revolutionary Movement, the Kenya Patriotic Front, the Muungano wa Kupambania Demokrasia Kenya, the Organization for Democracy in Kenya, UWAKE, the Februray 18th Movement and many others that have slipped my mind.

As a rule all of the above formations were multiethnic, multiracial NATIONAL progressive and patriotic formations something that can be gauged by some of the insiders and foot soldiers- Ngugi wa Thiongo, Koigi wa Wamwere, Willy Mutunga, Alamin Mazrui, Abdilatif Abdalla, Shadrack Gutto, Micere Mugo, Edward Oyugi, John Munuve, Rubiik, Odindo Opiata, Adanje, Shadrack Mwarigha, Kathini Maloba, Maina wa Kinyatti, Ngugi wa Mirii, Kaara wa Macharia, Omondi K'Abir, Njuguna Mutahi, Wahu Kaara, Wang'ondu wa Kariuki, Mwandawiro Mghangha, Wafula Buke, John Odongo, Zarina Patel, Shiraz Durrani, Sultan Somji, Irung'u Houghton, Njeri Kabeberi, Jembe Mwakalu, Oduor Ongwen, Odenda Lumumba, the Mungai Brothers, Tirop arap Kitur, Onyango Oloo, Adongo Ogony, Kishushe Mzirai, Mwangi wa Githinji, Chitechi Osundwa, Karimi Nduthu, Yusuf Hassan, the late Mwakdua wa Mwachofi, and a whole bunch of other people some of whom are alive and some who have passed away.

Ironically, some of the "Young Turks" veterans were much, much older than the patriotic comrades that I have name-checked in the preceding paragraph. But again, you see them continuing the very same multi-ethnic NON-TRIBAL national tradition of political mobilization- FORD’s founders like the late Jaramogi and the late Mzee Muliro and Martin Shikuku, Jaduong’ George Nthenge, Kenneth Matiba and Shahib Bamhariz liaised with younger firebrands like Wamalwa Kijana, Raila Odinga, Paul Muite, Gitobu Imanyara, Anyang Nyongo, James Orengo, Murtaza Jaffer, Kiraitu Murungi and other patriots to create the massive opposition that would have surely toppled Moi in 1992-were it not for the artificially created schisms imported from without.

The period between 1992 and 1997 again exhibited yet another multi-ethnic phase of popular mobilization with the likes of Dr. Willy Mutunga, Njeri Kabeberi, Kivutha Kibwana, Timothy Njoya and Davinder Lamba forging the NCEC into the most militant and progressive political machine agitating for democratic reforms and constitutional change.

The period between 1998 and 2002 we saw the faith communities led by stalwarts like Ndingi Mwana Nzeki, David Gitari, Timothy Njoya and Reverend Mutava Musyimi picking up the thread from fiery clerics of an earlier era like Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge and Henry Okullu to lead the fight for democratic reforms.

And of course we see the Unbwogable Eruption of 2002 leading to this massive anti-KANU pan Kenyan coalition umbrella group bringing together Charity Ngilu, Mwai Kibaki, Anyang Nyongo, Wamalwa Kijana, Raila Odinga, Najib Balala, Kipruto Kirwa, Mukhisa Kituyi, Kivutha Kibwana etc to confront and defeat the Moi-KANU dictatorship. Again we see that Kenyans coming together as Kenyans- not as Luos, Gikuyus, Kalenjins etc.

In summary, my argument in this section is that contrary to mainstream clichés, Kenyan politics has NOT always been dominated by narrow ethnicity as the driving force.

[To be continued]

* Onyango Oloo is Secretary General Social Democratic Party of Kenya Nairobi. This paper was delivered at the Goethe Institute, Nairobi on June 18, 2008. Be sure to look for Parts II and III in the next two issues of Pambazuka News.

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


Global: Seeking judges for children's essay competition


Men and women of African descent wanted from across the African diaspora to Judge essays written by children aged 8 to 16 years for "The Annual Essay Contest for Children of African Descent". Essays will be submitted in both English and French. Schools in English- and French-speaking Africa and the diaspora are invited to indicate their interest in participating in this contest. Visit: for previous years' winners. [email protected]

Comment & analysis

Steve Biko's paradise lost

Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C Gibson


The following is taken from the introduction to Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko is edited by Andile Mngxitama, Amanda Alexander and Nigel C Gibson and published by Palgrave Macmillan.

"This is one country where it would be possible to create a capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black middle class, would be very effective … South Africa could succeed in putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture, with still 70 percent of the population being underdogs." - Steve Biko (1972)

The 30th anniversary of Steve Biko's murder in police custody (on September 12 1977) comes almost 15 years after the formal ending of apartheid in South Africa. This fact alone raises several fundamental questions: how do we remember Biko? What contributions did the black consciousness movement make to the course of black liberation in South Africa and the world? How does the conception of black liberation, as enunciated by Biko and his colleagues, square up against the realities of post-apartheid South Africa?

Indeed, Biko lives today in South Africa, but so do the material outcomes of colonialism, segregation, apartheid and - most recently - neo-liberal economic policies. South Africa continues to be characterised by sharply contrasting realities.

Cover-up grows in the case of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine

Kevin Pina


Events marking the one-year anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine took place in several major cities in August, 2008. Demonstrations and vigils were held in Port au Prince, Haiti where several hundred supporters marched to the Palace of Justice to demand that the government of President Rene Preval and the United Nations release a report on their investigations into his disappearance. Similar actions took place in London, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was last seen in Haiti after leaving a meeting with a human rights delegation from the United States and Canada on August 12, 2007. His abandoned vehicle was found the next morning and he has not been heard from since. Although his alleged abductors contacted friends and family two days later demanding a $300,000 ransom, most people including Amnesty International, believe this was a ruse to cover up what was actually a political abduction aimed at silencing Mr. Pierre-Antoine. They point to the fact that most kidnappers maintain contact in an effort to negotiate and arrange for payment. Amnesty International issued an appeal last January where they stated, "Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine's abduction was reportedly made to look like a kidnapping for ransom. On Tuesday 14 August, the alleged abductors called Pierre-Antoine's family asking for a ransom of USD 300,000. However there has been no further contact from the abductors."

Peace is a mere illusion when rape continues

Stephen Lewis


Here is an unassailable truth: if sexual violence is not addressed during the course of a conflict, then sexual violence will haunt the post-conflict period, and make of the ostensible peace a mockery for half the population.

Three days ago, I returned from Liberia. While in the country, I met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, with senior officials of the Ministry of Health, with the Minister of Gender, with the leadership of the Clinton Foundation, with the consultant who drafted the legislation for the special court to try sexual offences, with the UNICEF Representative and significant numbers of the UNICEF staff. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet with UNMIL, but the UN Mission in Liberia and its peacekeeping forces were inevitably a part of every conversation.

She was speaking about the contagion of sexual violence that currently engulfs the country and causes such intense concern. The statistics are horrifying: a recent study by UNICEF indicated that more than fifty per cent of all reported rapes are brutal assaults on young girls between the ages of ten and fourteen. The gender advisor in UNICEF felt that the percentage was probably on the rise, and it’s feared that increases in the HIV rates among female youth will not be far behind. The Minister of Gender showed me figures for March, 2008, indicating that the majority of reported rapes in that month were committed against girls under the age of twelve, some under the age of five, and she narrated stories of gang rape so insensate and so depraved that it reminded me of exhibits in a Holocaust museum. A further survey, of all fifteen counties in the country, found that girls and boys were united in their conviction that young girls were the most endangered group in Liberia, and incredibly enough, that there was no place and no time of day or night where adolescent girls could be considered safe.

The context of my discussions is encapsulated in the words of the Deputy UN Envoy for the Rule of Law in Liberia when she said, as recently as May 20th: We cannot expect the future leaders of Liberia, the doctors, nurses, and engineers of Liberia to be brought up amongst men who are rapists and women who are angry, degraded, frightened, depressed, embarrassed and confused.

The Johannesburg Declaration: Build socialism now!

African Conference on Participatory Democracy


As comrades and compatriots, gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 14-16, 2008, from all parts of the world, at the African Conference on Participatory Democracy, hosted by the South African Communist Party and the Swedish Left Party under the auspices of the International Left Forum declare the following:

1. The African continent has been, and continues to be, ravaged by effects of neo-colonialism, the comprador bourgeoisie, and imperialism, devastated by curable diseases- amongst them TB, Malaria, underdevelopment, abject poverty and squalor living conditions affecting the majority of its inhabitants amidst its riches. That, the African continent is a repository of rich minerals - gold, diamond, coal, platinum, plants, water and oxygen resources and others.

2. The capitalist system and imperialist forces continue to plunder these riches at the expense of the majority whilst enriching a small capitalist class and some corrupt African leaders chosen to defeat substantive democracy and perpetuate a neo-liberal democratic outlook that promises rights without substance.

Township Soccer in London

Sokari Ekine


Sport is continuously being assigned to a non-political space but no-one lives in a bubble – sports people or LGBTI people. The arrival in London of the Chosen Few (CF), a team of young out Black lesbians from the township of Soweto to play in theInternational Gay & Lesbian Football Association World Championship tournament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by white gay men, is very much a political event. An event in which the only other three lesbian teams have a total of three Black players, and where the CF are stomped and fouled upon with some outrageously poor and unprofessional refereeing.

A little background on the tournament: one of the fixtures of the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association which was started in 1980. The description of the games in the Pink Paper is somewhat misleading ............"Six continents fight for cup” – one team from the whole of Asia, one from Africa and two from South/Central America with a totally disproportionate number coming from North America and Europe is hardly representative of “six continents”! Nonetheless the championship, like most amateur sporting events and associations has a laudable mission:

“to foster and augment the self respect of gay women and men throughout the world, and engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world, through the medium of football (soccer).”

But the IGLFA also needs to accept that there a huge amount of work to “engender respect and understanding” between LGBTI people. For example, acknowledging lesbophobia and racism as expressed by white gay men, as well as sexism and other prejudice in the non-gay world. The event claims to be a “World” tournament inclusive of lesbians and gay men. Yet no less than 95% of the participants were men, of whom 90% were white with only three teams from outside Europe and America – Japan, Mexico and Argentina. On the women’s side there were only five teams - the two CF teams from South Africa, one team from Chicago and two local London teams.

Advocacy & campaigns

Cesária Évora nominated for peace award


Cape Verdean singer Cesária Évora has been nominated for the second time for the Prince of Astúrias Concord Award, which is given to people or institutions whose work has contributed toward promoting peace and freedom and combating injustice and poverty in the world.

Pan-African Postcard

Kenya and Zimbabwe: No size fits both

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


There are indications that after so many false starts, grand standing, braggadocio and unrealistic demands, both sides in the Zimbabwe conflict are finally negotiating genuinely and a deal may be reached soon. It will be a tribute to the much criticised President Thabo Mbeki's tenacity but also a final realisation by the hawks on both sides that neither can finish the other without finishing the country.

One recalls a statement I made at a public meeting in Harare in 2000 soon after the unexpected defeat of Mugabe and ZANU PF in the referendum on the constitution. The Public Forum at Hotel Monomopata was organised by SARIPS (a formidable institute then, under the leadership of Prof Sam Moyo). The CDD Observer Group was led by Former President of Liberia, Prof Amos Sawyer, who also spoke at the forum. One of the speakers, Dr Ibbo Mandaza was booed because of his pro-Zanu PF stance.

My key contribution in that Forum was that the government was not prepared for defeat while the opposition was not prepared for victory. My conclusion was based on extensive conversations we had with different groups and leading figures on both sides. When we met Prof Jonathan Moyo, one of the key figures propelling the government proposals, at his Sheraton residence and office the day before the referendum, I asked him what will happen if they were defeated. His answer was that there was no way they could be defeated and if it happened, there was going to be chaos. When the delegation met Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, the same day, his response when I asked him what would happen if they won, was that there was no way Mugabe would allow it. He was convinced that the government would jail all opposition leaders.


Mahmoud Darwish

Breyten Breytenbach


I just heard the terrible news that Mahmoud Darwish passed away. As for many of you, I’m sure, the anguish and pain brought about by this loss is nearly unbearable. Some of us had the privilege, only a few weeks ago, of listening to him reading his poems in an arena in Arles. The sun was setting, there was a soundless wind in the trees and from the neighbouring streets we could hear the voices of children playing. And for hours we sat on the ancient stone seats, spellbound by the depth and the beauty of this poetry. Was it about Palestine? Was it about his people dying, the darkening sky, the intimate relationships with those on the other side of the wall, ’soldier’ and ‘guest’, exile and love, the return to what is no longer there, the memory of orchards, the dreams of freedom…? Yes - like a deep stream all of these themes were there, of course they so constantly informed his verses; but it was also about olives and figs and a horse against the skyline and the feel of cloth and the mystery of the colour of a flower and the eyes of a beloved and the imagination of a child and the hands of a grandfather.

And of death.

Books & arts

Review: 'Ending aid dependence' by Yash Tandon

Rasna Warah


This week, ministers from over 100 countries, heads of donor agencies and representatives of civil society organisations are gathering in Accra, Ghana, for a meeting to discuss ways in which rich nations can help “developing countries and marginalised people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and results-oriented”.

“Aid Effectiveness”, the main theme of this high-level meeting, has, however, come under severe criticism from the most unlikely quarters – the recipients of aid themselves. A leading voice is Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania, who in a foreword in the just released book, Ending Aid Dependence, by Yash Tandon, urges developing countries to formulate strategies to exit from the aid dependence bandwagon.

Mkapa argues that aid subjects recipient countries to “a discipline of collective control by donors right down to the village level” and that some of the most successful emerging economies, such as China, India, Brazil and Malaysia, developed not through aid, but through strong nationally-oriented investment and trade policies. (Mkapa’s own country, ironically, is one of the most aid-dependant countries in the world.)

The idea that aid is a bad idea has been around at least since the 1980s, when academics and activists began questioning the effectiveness of World Bank-IMF prescriptions, such as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), which increased poverty levels in almost every country where they were implemented.

In his book, Tandon, the executive director of the South Centre in Geneva, argues that there needs to be a “radical restructuring of the institutional aid architecture” but falls short of calling for a total ban on aid. Aid that imposes ideological positions on countries, for instance, should be shunned completely, according to Tandon, but aid that supports struggles for social justice in the international community is acceptable as long as it is people-centred.

Ending Aid Dependence by Yash Tandon is published by Publisher: Fahamu and the South Centre 160pp.

Review: 'Rethinking Venezuelan politics'

Kim Scipes


Since the arrival of Hugo Chavez on the Venezuelan scene—and later, for the left and the right, on the world scene—he's been the source of considerable interest.  Is he a new caudillo in the Latin American style, perhaps a reincarnation of Argentina's Juan Domingo Peron, or is he just an ego-maniac, who seeks to install a dictatorship on Venezuela? 

Steve Ellner's recent book shows that Chavez and the movement he heads is much more important than either of these two questions suggest.  Unlike the large majority of the writing on Venezuela in the Chavez era, which focus on Chavez' "style" or personality, Ellner focuses on substantive issues, especially around class and race.  Ellner's approach rests "on the proposition that political movements best serve a developing nation by combining efforts to achieve four critical goals, as opposed to one or two of them to the exclusion of others."  He then identifies these goals:  "(1) the struggle for social justice; (2) the struggle for democracy; (3) the effort to promote national economic development; and (4) the adoption of economic and political nationalism."

Letters & Opinions

Obama - same old politics



Regarding Third world prospects in an Obama presidency: If you check the African-American press you will see widespread concern about Obama's lack of interest in the Black American community! He has been hand-picked by the American elite and has no interest whatsoever in Panaficanism as it is generally understood. He is no more a friend of Africa than Morgan Tsvangirai or the late Jonas Savimbi of Angola. the ethnicity or sex or age of the next American president will not be the deciding factors in the policies of imperial America. Obama is a product of corporate America and will do what he is told by the big banks and the pentagon!

Obama for better or worse!

A. Wosni


So nobody really knows what the guy is gonna do - see Obama and US foreign policy. Obama might be a bit better than McCain - but he might even be worse. Remember the right wing Charles de Gaulle granting independance to Algeria, something the Socialist Party would not do being scared to be regarded as unpatriotic and weak.

At the end it may well be that Osama will pursue the same line as MacCain both serving US-corporate interests but that he will disguise this by grosser human rights propaganda.

Walden Bello's article

Terry Manning


I have read Walden Bello's 2008-08-05 article "The Destruction of African Agriculture" and the comments on it made by Regina Birner (IFPRI) and Dan Taylor (Find your Feet).

Analysis of cause is, of course, important. Yet the essence is to actually do something to solve the issues which have arisen.

NGO Stichting Bakens Verzet ("Another Way") promotes a Model for self-financing, ecological, sustainable local integrated development projects for the world's poor. The Model enables grass-roots NGOs and interested parties in developing countries to draft their own advanced integrated development projects and apply for their seed financing. The Model provides simple, down-to-earth practical solutions to poverty- and development-related problems. It sets out step by step how the solutions are put into effect. By following the steps social, financial, productive and service structures are set up in a critical order of sequence and carefully integrated with each other. That way, cooperative, interest-free, inflation-free local economic environments are formed in project areas. Local initiative and true competition are then free to flourish there.

This work is in the public domain. It can be accessed and downloaded from website and is available for use free of charge. The website is ranked by search engines as one of the world's leading resources on a wide range of development-related topics.

A series of four short Powerpoint presentations on the Model are directly acessible from the website homepage.

It is hoped Pambazuka and its readers will consider setting a link up with the website and that researchers may see fit to cite and make use of our work in their future publications.

Why is liberation only felt away from home?

Fridah Karimi


Wambui Mwangi's Barack Obama and the graveyard of hope is an articulate and well researched article that has touched the core. We are too quick to identify with heroes only when they are away and despise/ignore them when they are home. We only remember them when they die or leave for other lands and become victorious. Our mediocrity doms us to baselessness and unabashed revelry in pseudo victories which lead to no real growth. Why is liberation only felt away from home? Are we afraid to take the bull by the horns and the attendant responsibility imposed to see it through to the end. Is that why we elect substanadrd leaders over and over again who lead us to ruin? Thank you for the article. Am glad to know that it's a view held by many.

African Writers’ Corner

Censorship in Nigeria

Interview with Hausa novelist Sa’adatu Baba

Amina Koki Gizo


While formal publishing companies in Nigeria languished through the economic crises that accompanied the structural adjustment programmes of the late 1980s and early 1990s, young Hausa writers began writing about their lives and contemporary problems they faced. Bypassing formal publishers, they self-published their novels, often with the help of a writers' cooperative.

Although the books were dubbed ‘littattafan soyayya’ (romance novels) for the predominant themes of love and marriage, the novels -- written in colloquial Hausa that reflects the rhythms of everyday speech -- also serve as muckraking critiques of a corrupt elite and the failures of the older generation.

Women writers dominate the field, perhaps because of the large female readership; their work explores the daily life and tensions of women’s lives in contemporary Northern Nigeria. According to Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, the head of Kallabi Writer’s Association, a group of women writers, there are over 300 Hausa women publishing novels in Northern Nigeria.

The large female readership has caused anxiety, mostly from male authority figures, about a supposed negative effect the novels have on young girls. In May 2007, A Daidaita Sahu, the Kano state agency for the ‘reorientation’ of society, organized a book and film burning at a local girl’s school.

That book burning, however, was a tame threat compared to the new requirements that the Kano State Censorship Board, under the leadership of Director General Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, is seeking to impose on writers. In a letter to Kano's five writers' organisations dated Aug. 12, the board confirmed that it wanted each writer in the state to register individually before they can publish or distribute writing.

At 25, Sa'adatu Baba has twenty-three books in print and another twenty that are not yet published. She is also an executive committee member of the Association of Nigerian Authors and a student of Languages at Bayero University.

She spoke with IPS writer Amina Koki Gizo in Kano on 16 August about her writing and the current crisis Hausa writers are facing.

Blogging Africa

Africa blogging roundup 10 September 2008

Sokari Ekine


Zimbabwe update

Caution greets deal as SA groups wait for change


The deal reached between Zimbabwe’s political leaders has been greeted with caution from South African human rights groups and trade unions – as the world waits to see what the deal has in store for Zimbabwe’s future. Human Rights Activist and Chair of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in South Africa, Elinor Sisulu told Newsreel on Friday the group is ‘cautious’ about commenting on the deal until all the details have been released. She explained that so much needs to change in Zimbabwe and the deal needs to encompass these changes, including opening up the media channels.

Details of Zimbabwe deal emerge


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is to retain control of the army and chair cabinet meetings, according to leaks of Thursday's power-sharing deal. South African President Thabo Mbeki said Mr Mugabe had agreed to share power with Morgan Tsvangirai but said details would be released on Monday.

Troubled times ahead for service chiefs


A senior advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday said that they expect the country’s service chiefs to follow the laws of the country and support the government of the day and the new political dispensation, or resign. The heads of the country’s army, police, air force, CIO and prison services have often repeated statements that they will not salute the MDC leader. Tsvangirai is expected to be confirmed next week as the new Prime Minister of the country.

African Union Monitor

Impact as Effectiveness

AU Monitor Weekly Roundup: Issue 150, 2008


The third high level forum (HLF-3) convened in Ghana this week to discuss aid effectiveness. Aid agencies that attended the forum said donors have not made enough progress since the 2005 Paris Declaration in dealing with long-time problems related to aid effectiveness. During the forum, Ghanaian president, John Kufuor, called on developing and developed countries to deploy and manage development assistance so that poor countries can cease being aid dependent. He further urged stakeholders to come up with ‘ambitious resolutions, to minimise existing impediments to aid effectiveness in recipient countries’.

Civil society organisations note that ‘with all the attention given to High Level Forums on aid effectiveness, it is easy to lose sight of the simple fact that after all aid effectiveness is not about the effectiveness with which aid is delivered, managed, aligned or harmonised such as how much comes through budget support versus project funding; but the positive impact it makes on the lives of the people at the grassroots such as those of Accra’s Sodom and Gomorrah and South Africa’s Free State which at best remains subtle’. In addition, participants of the HLF-3 discussed the aid effectiveness in situations of fragile and conflict states, suggesting that donors, in order to have greater risk-bearing capacity, should channel funds through the budgets of recipient countries.

Women & gender

Africa: 6th ADF to focus on gender issues


The sixth African Development Forum (ADF VI) will be convened on the theme " Action on gender equality, empowerment and ending violence against women in Africa " from 19 to 21 November 2008 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia. The Forum, one of the principal events of the Economic Commission for Africa 's 50 th Anniversary celebrations, is being jointly held with the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Africa: French UN worker accused of rape


A former U.N. employee went on trial in France on Tuesday accused of raping around 20 underaged girls during missions to Africa between 1998 and 2004. Didier Bourguet, a mechanic who worked for the United Nations from 1994, faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years if he is found guilty of a series of sexual offence and pornography charges ranging from rape to corruption of minors.

Africa: ICC appeal for war victims


The International Criminal Court (ICC) has appealed for $14m (£8m) to help the nearly two million victims of sexual violence in Africa's wars. The ICC said sex attacks against women and girls had been found to be the most widespread form of criminality. Rape has become a weapon of war often used to fuel ethnic cleansing, it said.

Kenya: Armed Police disperse FEMNET staff and activists


Officials from the Zimbabwe High Commission this morning barred African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) from delivering a letter of solidarity with the women of Zimbabwe. While at the Zimbabwe High Commission, an official came to the gate to meet the FEMNET staff and activists from Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) and assured them he was going to make arrangements for the letter to be officially delivered to authorities inside the offices.

Kenya: Murugi proposes life term for FGM culprits


People who practise female circumcision should be jailed for life, a Cabinet minister has proposed. The practice, according to Gender and Children Affairs minister Esther Murugi, was entrenched in all but four communities in Kenya and the prevalence was alarming. Ms Murugi said previous attempts by the Government as well as local and international organisations bore little success, going by the number of incidents reported.

Morocco: Strong reaction to underage marriage fatwa


Moroccans and rights groups are speaking out against a recent fatwa that would allow parents to marry off their underage daughters. Opponents to Cheikh Mohammed Maghraoui's fatwa say the marriage of nine-year-old girls is a violation of human rights in general, and children's rights in particular.

Nigeria: Widow set ablaze for shunning prostitution


Pandemonium broke out in Igueben Local Government Council of Edo State when a widow and mother of three, Patience Iyah was set ablaze by her uncle, Ahmed Okoro Evbohon over her refusal to take to prostitution abroad. The attack which took place when the widow arrived her village for the burial ceremony of a late relation created confusion in the community as the villagers wondered whether all was well with him.

Sierra Leone: Unicef Goodwill Ambassador says no to prostitution


The UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Angelique Kidjo in collaboration with Children Associated with the War [CAW] at George Street in Freetown said that the practice of forcing girls into prostitution must stop, and the girls must be given a chance to rebuild their lives.

Human rights

Burundi: Letter to UNHRC from human rights organizations


As representatives of national and international human rights organizations working in Burundi, we urge you to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi. He has been and should continue to be an effective counselor to the Government of Burundi, a firm support to Burundian civil society organizations, and a passionate voice for victims of human rights abuses.

Global: States urged to prioritize victims' rights


The OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Eva Biaudet, has urged OSCE participating States to put victims' rights at the centre when investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases. "The victim-centred approach means taking the needs of the trafficking victim to be protected, assisted and ultimately empowered to live a dignified life, as the fundamental starting point during all phases of criminal proceedings," Biaudet said at the opening of a high-level conference in Helsinki.

Kenya: On enforced disappearances


On the occasion of this year’s International Day of the Disappeared Persons -30th August- International Center for Policy and Conflict [ICPC] express its solidarity with families of all those who suffer from enforced disappearance in Kenya and internationally and pays special tribute to the selfless efforts of human rights defenders working for enforced or involuntary disappeared persons and their relatives.

South Africa: Is SA business ready to embrace human rights?


In June this year, the United Nations (UN) extended, Special Representative on Human Rights and Business, John Ruggie’s mandate to continue finding solutions to bridge the gap between business and human rights. Ruggie’s work is largely aimed at addressing the perils of globalisation given the increasing mobility of big companies marching across the planet in search of the best labour deals in the most pliable working environments

Zambia: Campaign breaks the silence on child abuse


Camfed Zambia this year launched an ambitious child abuse prevention initiative, funded by Irish Aid. Camfed’s Zero Tolerance to Child Abuse Campaign breaks through the culture of silence surrounding child abuse, and calls on all sectors of Zambian society to put an end to it.

Refugees & forced migration

Horn of Africa: Migrant bodies washed up in Yemen


Thirty-five bodies have been found washed up on the beaches of Yemen, Medecins Sans Frontieres says. The medical charity says the people died attempting to cross the sea from Somalia in an effort to escape the country's extreme poverty and warfare.

Middle East: IDF breaks own rules, expels 91 Africans


The army recently expelled 91 Africans who crossed the border into Israel from Egypt - in violation of its own procedures, which it presented to the High Court of Justice less than four months ago. In an affidavit presented to the court, obtained by The Jerusalem Post, the state admitted that the 91 infiltrators, who came from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, had been returned to Egypt on four separate occasions between August 23 and August 29.

Social movements

South Africa: Abahlali baseMjondolo launches a report on shack fires


Today (8th September) we are launching an important report on shack fires. We asked for this report to be written and we worked closely with the writer at all stages. We are releasing the report today so that it can be widely discussed in the lead up to the City Wide Shack Fire Summit called by the movement for Monday 22 September 2008. We will launch the isiZulu version of the report soon. We call on all organisations that are concerned with justice and that want a city in which everyone is safe to read and discuss the report.

South Africa: Helping the Desmond Tutu Hall dwellers

Ikamva Youth


It's been three months since I sent out an email appealing for your help as the xenophobic crisis hit Khayelitsha. Your response was overwhelmingly rapid and generous, and has enabled us help the people who ended up living at the Desmond Tutu hall. (By now, most have re-integrated into the community, and about 30 of the original Desmond Tutu hall dwellers are now in the nearby Solomon Mahlangu hall).

South Africa: SSM picket for free education


The Socialist Student Movement (SSM) is making a call to action for free education against the background of a year of protests at institutions of higher learning, culminating at the closure and beginning of the academic year. Financial exclusions, triggered by exorbitant annual fee increments, academic exclusions, shortages of accommodation, of resources necessary for learning and teaching and of qualified educators have pushed students into battles where they have been faced with brutal state repression, with shootings at for example Wits and the University of Johannesburg.

South African: Citizens protest mass eviction order in court


Dancing the toyi-toyi, stomping their feet and singing protest songs, more than 100 residents of the informal Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town and their supporters rallied outside of South Africa’s Constitutional Court last month in support of the community’s right to adequate housing. Nearly all had traveled 28 hours by train to attend the hearing concerning the future of their community.

Zimbabwe: CHRA demands legal reforms from Parliament


The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) condemns the decision to convene the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe. It is the Association’s view that the Parliament should have been convened after the completion of the inter party talks between ZANU PF and the MDC. Without an agreement between the two parties, it is very difficult for the Parliament to conduct its business. None the less, CHRA reasserts its demands for legal reforms on Zimbabwe’s local Governance system.

Elections & governance

Angola: 2008 National Assembly election provisional results


The election was held on 5-6 September 2008. Originally scheduled for the 5 September only, voting was extended to the 6 September as a result of delays caused by logistical problems.

Angola: Keep an eye on small fry


Have no doubt. Only one party can win Angola's parliamentary elections next Friday and that is the MPLA, the party of government since independence in 1975. More difficult to predict is whether or not it will win an absolute majority and, even harder, how the remainder of the vote will split. Beyond the MPLA's former civil-war enemy Unita, the Angolan opposition tends to be ignored as small parties only in the game for money and prestige.

Angola: Opposition takes issue with vote in Luanda


Angola opposition Unita on Friday contested at the Constitutional Court landmark elections in the capital, Luanda, where chaos resulted in a second day of voting last week. The former rebel movement last week accepted the result of nationwide parliamentary elections, with the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) guaranteed a large victory.

Southern Africa: Why regular Angolans find little solace in democracy


At the first sound of nighttime rain on the scrap-metal roof of her shack, Ines Monteiro wakes her husband and four children. She hustles them from the two beds they share, out into their metre-wide yard. And they stand there, for as long as the rain falls – sometimes as many seven hours. In daytime rains, they stand out, too: their house is perched on the sideof a mountain of garbage – of plastic bags, empty bottles, crushed boxes, scraps of food.

Sudan: Election 'could be delayed'


A minister in South Sudan's government has said nationwide elections due by July 2009 could be delayed by at least six months. Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong said torrential rain and a series of logistical problems could make it difficult to vote as scheduled.


Cote d'Ivoire: W. Bank says aid tied to cleaning up cocoa


The World Bank has ordered Ivory Coast to tackle "serious corruption" in its lucrative cocoa industry, saying it will not lend money to the country unless it sees better governance of the sector. Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa region, said it would be "absolutely unacceptable" to support reducing poverty while the poor were being denied adequate reward for their work.
The World Bank has ordered Ivory Coast to tackle "serious corruption" in its lucrative cocoa industry, saying it will not lend money to the country unless it sees better governance of the sector. Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa region, said it would be "absolutely unacceptable" to support reducing poverty while the poor were being denied adequate reward for their work.

Kenya: Kenya to become looters' paradise


Over the past week, there has been a renewed Government proposal, seemingly in response to public comments by ex-PS John Githongo, to grant conditional amnesties for corruption as a means of dealing with the past. Githongo’s proposal seems to be based on one of the elements of the Usawa Programme an election manifesto proposal of the Orange Democratic Movement – Mr. Githongo is associated with authorship of Usawa’s anti-corruption aspects.

Sierra Leone: Government reviews mines policy amid iron ore dispute


Sierra Leone is reviewing its mining policy while two foreign firms fight over the rights to a potentially lucrative iron ore project, the government of the West African state said on Tuesday. The Marampa iron ore deposit at the centre of a legal battle between London Mining (LOND.OL: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and African Minerals (AMIq.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is estimated to be worth at least half a billion dollars, according to one London Mining executive.

South Africa: Court rejects Zuma graft case


A South African court has ruled that a corruption case against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma cannot go ahead. He was facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering relating to a multi-billion dollar 1999 arms deal. A judge in Pietermaritzburg said there was reason to believe the decision to charge him was politically motivated.


Africa: Biofuels: Africa becoming a biofuel battleground


Western companies are pushing to acquire vast stretches of African land to meet the world's biofuel needs. Local farmers and governments are being showered with promises. But is this just another form of economic colonialism?

Africa: EU to help Africa expand energy sector


The EU is to help African countries expand their electricity networks and promote energy interconnections between Africa and the EU, such as a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline. The EU aid will amount to €1 billion for a period of two years, the European Commission and the African Union announced in a joint statement on Monday (8 September).

DRC: Government prepares to sell off mining assets


The government of Democratic Republic of Congo is planning to privatise some of its most valuable mining assets, as well as take a larger share of any future discoveries made in the mineral-rich country.Victor Kasongo, Congo’s deputy minister of mines, said on Friday that “a major future initiative” for the government was the transformation of state-owned mining companies into commercial entities.

Ghana: $22 million for poor farmers


The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has announced a $22 million loan to Ghana to boost the livelihoods of over 100,000 households in the West African nation. The funds from IFAD are part of a larger $103 million initiative targeted at achieving sustainable livelihoods for poor people in rural areas, especially small farmers, women and vulnerable groups in northern Ghana.

Southern Africa: Can the SADC FTA create growth?


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) free trade area (FTA) was launched on 17 August 2008 under the theme “SADC FTA for Growth, Development and Wealth Creation”. Eleven of the fourteen countries that comprise the SADC region are set to participate in the FTA.

West Africa: WB pulls out of pipeline on poverty rule


The World Bank said Tuesday it has withdrawn financing of a Chad-Cameroon pipeline because the Chadian government failed to honor an agreement to use some oil revenues for poverty reduction. The Chadian government "fully" prepaid the loan as of Sept. 5, the development lender said in a statement.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Kenya: Young girls the new bait for fishermen


Dunga Beach, along the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya's western city of Kisumu, erupts into activity when the boats bring in their catch. Female fishmongers scramble along the beach to buy fish, shouting themselves hoarse to get the attention of the fishermen and middlemen, who control whether or not the women will have anything to sell that day. Mingling with the jostling fishmongers is 19-year-old Lillian Onoka; stylishly dressed and with neatly plaited hair, she is easily noticed. "I do not sell fish but my aunt does, and she brings me along with her. I just help her get the fish without her

Kenya: ‘Shocking’ rates of adverse events seen with circumcision


A rate of adverse events, infections and delayed healing described as ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ by the investigators has been revealed by a survey of both traditional and medically performed circumcisions amongst a traditionally-circumcised ethnic group in Kenya.

Zambia: High mortality of HIV+ children prior to availability of ARV


During the pre-antiretroviral therapy era, the mortality rate in HIV-infected Zambian children was 7- and 25-fold higher than in HIV-uninfected Zambian children, respectively, according to the results of a prospective study published in the September 15th edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Zambia: Men queuing up to be circumcised


Hundreds of Zambian men are enthusiastically queuing to be circumcised as part of measures to curb HIV/AIDS in that country. Reports say men are put on waiting lists for close to four months or more and are sometimes turned away due to lack of doctors and inadequate health centers for such cases.


Kenya: Management of education: Ministry 'has failed'


Schools re-opened in the backdrop of recent violent strikes in secondary schools which have brought into sharp focus the role of the Ministry of Education in the management of the public education system in Kenya. Management is the art of getting people together to accomplish desired goals through planning, organising, sourcing, leading or directing, and controlling an organisation or effort for the purpose of accomplishing a goal, writes Collins Wanderi.


Kenya: Cleric stands his ground


“I do not find religious arguments against homosexuality persuasive because I have come to learn that historically religion has been manipulated and misinterpreted to oppose the rights of various minority groups such as women, slaves, etc.” So said Reverend John Makokha of the United Methodist Church of Kenya in his August 16 open-letter to Bishop Daniel Wandabula who is allegedly silent, after numerous complaints by Makokha that he is getting hateful messages from the church, based on his positive views on homosexuality.

South Africa: Fighting miscarriages of justice in the justice system


The agony for Eudy Simelane’s family and friends continues due to the failure of the South African justice system. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists, social movements and Kwa-Thema residents held a public protest on September 10 aimed at raising their concerns over the delays in the Eudy Simelane court case.

Racism & xenophobia

South Africa: Belated apology for Apartheid casualty


In 1968 the BBC's Africa Editor Martin Plaut was one of 600 students at the University of Cape Town protesting because black lecturer Archie Mafeje had been denied a teaching post there. Returning to Cape Town 40 years later for a reunion of campus rebels, he discovered the real reason for the university's stance.


Benin: Coastal erosion threatening to wipe out parts of Cotonou


Rising sea levels have destroyed hundreds of homes, hotels, roads and harvests, and threaten to engulf large areas of Cotonou, Benin’s capital. A government-commissioned study about a year ago recommended urgent action to hold back the rising tides, and save the city’s ports, airport, and coastal communities, but political infighting has blocked funding.

Global: Climate talks end amidst fears over carbon colonialism


The United Nations climate talks focused on 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries' risk moving towards 'carbon colonialism', Friends of the Earth International campaigners warned. The inclusion of forests in carbon markets would allow rich countries to buy their way out of greenhouse gas emission reductions and threaten local communities who could be expelled from their forests.

Global: Experts examine trade and climate concerns


The relationship between development, trade and climate change has come under the spotlight as leaders seek practical ways to move rapidly towards a low-carbon world economy. Experts from Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean are examining key issues in order to suggest steps that policy-makers can take to start the process of adapting their economies to climate change.

Media & freedom of expression

Egypt: Government offensive on TV includes new broadcasting bill


Reporters Without Borders condemns growing Egyptian government control over the media, especially the broadcast media. Egypt already has a repressive press law and a state of emergency law that has been in effect since 1981. In November, parliament is due to examine a new broadcasting bill that is causing further concern. At the same time, several production companies working with foreign satellite TV stations have already been censored this year.

Kenya: Nation Media's Integrity Watch - KUJ Statement


Our attention has been drawn to the effort by the Nation Media Group to “stop corruption in media circles” by establishing an e-mail address to report corrupt photographers, reporters and editors. The group promises that “those who are found to have flouted our ethical principles will be dealt with firmly”.

Morocco: Blogger jailed for peacefully expressing his views


On Monday 8 September, a Moroccan man became the first blogger to be sentenced to two years imprisonment. Mohamed Erraji was also fined 5,000 dirhams (US$625) for “lack of respect due to the King”. He is not the first Moroccan to be jailed for peacefully expressing his views on the monarchy, which is still a “taboo” subject in Morocco.

Niger: Minister urged to end crack-down


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has urged the Communication Minister of Niger, Mohamed Ben Omar, to stop his crackdown on the Press House, an independent media support group, after he threatened to dissolve its board and all the member associations."Minister Ben Omar’s comments represent a serious abuse of power and reflect his determination to silence any independent voice that can defend journalists and media workers in Niger," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.

Nigeria: American filmmaker returned to US


Andrew Berends, the American filmmaker who had been detained by Nigerian State Security Services was returned to the United States Wednesday. He was escorted to his plane by Nigerian immigration officers without an explanation as to why he was being sent home. Berends was never charged with a crime, and had a legal business visa in his passport at the time of his detainment.

Nigeria: Writers, film-makers defy censors


"I don't sell cocaine," says the video vendor in Kano's Rimi market when I ask for Adam Zango's music video CD Bahaushiya. He is not referring to the white powder, but instead a new illegal substance -- Hausa films that have not passed through the Kano State Censors Board. The video CD in question is an especially hot drug: a series of six music videos satirising corrupt old men, lamenting fickle girlfriends, and featuring dancing Hausa girls.
"I don't sell cocaine," says the video vendor in Kano's Rimi market when I ask for Adam Zango's music video CD Bahaushiya. He is not referring to the white powder, but instead a new illegal substance -- Hausa films that have not passed through the Kano State Censors Board. The video CD in question is an especially hot drug: a series of six music videos satirising corrupt old men, lamenting fickle girlfriends, and featuring dancing Hausa girls.

Senegal: IFJ demands prosecution of gang boss


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Senegalese judiciary to investigate and prosecute the persons responsible for ordering the ransacking of two Senegalese newspapers after 12 members of the gang were convicted. Among those convicted were relatives of the former Minister for the Craft Industry and Air Transports.

Conflict & emergencies

Djibouti: Drought, high prices intensify extreme food insecurity


Drought conditions and high staple food prices have left more than 340,000 people - over half of Djibouti's population - highly or extremely food insecure and in need of emergency food and non-food assistance through the end of 2009. Four consecutive years of minimal rains to support pastoral and agropastoral production have left rural and urban Djiboutians even more dependent on food imports at a time when international commodity prices have risen steadily.

DRC: Army 'works with rebels'


The Democratic Republic of Congo army is collaborating with rebels to mine gold and tin, instead of fighting them, says lobby group Global Witness. Its researchers found that the two groups operated their own mines and even traded with each other.

DRC: Recent clashes in the east draw UNSC concern


The Security Council has voiced serious concern at the recent fighting between Government forces and rebel groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), some of the worst violence since the signing of a January peace deal. The Council stressed that the clashes that broke out in North Kivu on 28 August between the country’s armed forces (FARDC) and the National Congress for People’s Defense, known by its French acronym CNDP, are a violation of the Actes d’Engagement signed by both parties earlier this year.

Sudan: 'Don't protect Bashir' - HRW


We write in regard to the arrest warrant requested by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan. We understand that this request is likely to come under intense international scrutiny in the coming weeks. The stakes are extremely high for the victims of atrocities in Darfur and for global efforts to curtail impunity for the most serious crimes. We urge your government to weigh these issues in light of basic principles already expressed by the Security Council.

Internet & technology

Global: 'Africans to gain' from web plan


Google is helping develop a system to bring high-speed internet connections to three billion people developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. The 03b Networks system aims to use satellites to provide broadband services at the same speeds as those on offer in rich countries.

South Africa: Blogs help addicts get clean


Cape Town residents are using micro-blogging and instant messaging technology to fight drug addiction among township youth. Speaking during a Digital Citizen’s workshop, Marlon Parker, a lecturer at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said parents can now smile knowing that their children are now protected from drugs.

Uganda: MP roots for extension of ICT services to rural areas


Though the phenomenon of rural-urban migration is on the increase in Uganda, the trend can be reduced with the extension of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to rural busy ‘growth’ centres. According to Hon. Kasamba Mathias, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kakuuto County in Rakai District, the tendency to migrate to urban areas may be a thing of the past if people are able to access information.

Uganda: SMS a boon to Ugandan farmers


Rural farmers from the Lango sub-region in northern Uganda have learnt how to use mobile phone Short Message Service (SMS) to get prices of agricultural produce, seeds and markets. The service, so far restricted to MTN Uganda mobile telephone subscribers enables one to get for instance price information by selecting MTN services, then commodity prices, and selecting the name of the produce from the menu. Alternatively one can type the name of the commodity and send to 8198.

Fundraising & useful resources

Africa: Nelson Mandela International Essay Competition 2008


The 2008 Nelson Mandela International Essay Competition on African Security and Development invites entrants to examine the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, explore why it remains such a dysfunctional, conflict-prone state, and speculate on future options for the country.

Africa: Wanted: African reporters


To serve our fast growing portfolio of international clients like KLM, Heineken, Microsoft, Nestlé and Nike Africa Interactive is urgently looking for African reporters to do paid assignments. We are looking for: African journalists, African photographers and African cameramen/women in all African countries, who speak English or French or Portuguese

Global: 2008 AHRC photo competition


To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Australian Human Rights Commission is holding a photo competition based on the theme - ‘Dignity and justice for all of us’. The theme reinforces the vision of the Declaration as a commitment to universal dignity and justice, and reinforces how human rights are an inextricable part of our lives – for everyone, everywhere, everyday.

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Africa: Human rights fellowship program

Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde


Conectas Human Rights, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Open Society Initiative for Western Africa (OSIWA) and Open Society Justice Initiative (the Justice Initiative) are pleased to invite applications for the Human Rights Fellowship Program for the year 2009. The Fellowship Program is 21 months in duration and involves both academic study and practical experience in human rights/public interest advocacy. Human rights activists and lawyers from Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde will be selected to participate in the program.

Africa: LAWA Fellowship programme

Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa


The Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA) Fellowship Program was founded in 1993 at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in order to train women's human rights lawyers from Africa who are committed to returning home to their countries in order to advance the status of women and girls in their own countries throughout their careers.

Africa: Pan African Youth Leadership Forum II report


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

Africa: Website for the EQUINET conference 2009 now live!


The Third EQUINET Regional Conference on Equity in Health in east and southern Africa will be held at Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda September 23rd-25th 2009 with the theme Reclaiming the Resources for Health: Building Universal People Centred Health Systems in East and Southern Africa. Welcome to the site where you will find latest updates on the conference,opportunities for participation and pre and post conference activities. Please let us know if you have any problems or feedback in using the site.... and welcome to Uganda in 2009!


Africa: African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) - New Path

Call for articles


The New Path: The African forum for intellectual thought is published quarterly by the African Research and Resource Forum (ARRF) and provides a forum for innovative thinking about our common future and about how we need to tackle the most intractable problems facing Africa today – focusing on Eastern Africa. The editor invites your articles (opinion and analysis) for the September 2008 edition. This edition of ‘New Path’ will cover the following areas:

Global: September issue of Alliance


The September issue of Alliance, just published, has a special feature on ‘philanthrocapitalism’ and international funding; guest editors are Michael Edwards and Olivier Kayser. The new issue also has an interview with Luis Ubiñas, President of the Ford Foundation, and introduces two new regular columns. One will bring ‘investors’ perspectives’ while the other will offer stories ‘on the grapevine’. We are also happy to announce publication of the first issue of our new Spanish edition of Alliance.

IkamvaYouth's photography and poetry book FOR SALE!


Through Our Eyes, Ikamvanites' book of photography and poetry has just been released! The photographs and poems showcase some of IkamvaYouth's best creative talent, and provide unique windows into the lives of South African township youth.

Journal of African Cinemas


The Journal of African Cinemas will explore the interactions of visual and verbal narratives in African film. It recognizes the shifting paradigms that have defined and continue to define African cinemas. Identity and perception are interrogated in relation to their positions within diverse African film languages. The editors are seeking papers that expound on the identity or identities of Africa and its peoples represented in film.

Pan-Africanism and African Nationalism


The first edition of this publication was based on the proceedings of the 17th All African Students’ Conference (AASC) held in 2005 in Windhoek, Namibia, which series began in 1988. It covered the major issues arising for the unity movement from the 2005 conference, with diverse contributions from a broad range of participants, including a head of state, the head of a liberation movement, youth, students and various other concerned social groups and individuals.

Sierra Leone: A framework for citizenship education


This book has been written to lay the foundations of a single curriculum framework for citizenship education in Sierra Leone. It is a direct result of a consultative process aimed at complementing and consolidating a number of citizenship-related initiatives within and outside government circles in Sierra Leone. The framework it presents looks at some significant and critical themes, and goes on to set parameters and suggest guidelines to ensure its successful implementation.

Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice

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