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Pambazuka News Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organisations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organisations, civil society organisations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

The Inagural 2016 Pan African Colloquium, Barbados

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Back Issues

Pambazuka News 418: Zimbabwe's coalition government: MDC's surrender?

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

Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

CONTENTS: 1. Action alerts, 2. Editors’ corner, 3. Features, 4. Comment & analysis, 5. Pan-African Postcard, 6. Books & arts, 7. Letters & Opinions, 8. African Writers’ Corner, 9. Blogging Africa, 10. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 11. Zimbabwe update, 12. African Union Monitor, 13. Women & gender, 14. Human rights, 15. Refugees & forced migration, 16. Social movements, 17. Elections & governance, 18. Corruption, 19. Development, 20. Health & HIV/AIDS, 21. Education, 22. LGBTI, 23. Environment, 24. Food Justice, 25. Media & freedom of expression, 26. Conflict & emergencies, 27. Internet & technology, 28. Fundraising & useful resources, 29. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 30. Publications

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Highlights from this issue

- Tendai Dumbutshena argues that ironically MDC may have become Mugabe's saviour
_ Friends of the Congo on the implications of Nkunda's arrest and Rwanda's role
- KANERE, the independent refugee newsletter, faces hostility
- Tom Kagwe reviews the successes and limitations of the formation of the coalition government in Kenya
- Chioma Oruh evokes a history of disunity, theft, rhetoric, marginalisation and the social toxicity of oil in Nigeria
- Chiuma Oruh considers the consequences of the Nigerian state’s crackdown MEND
- Pitso Tsibolane charts the rise and broad support for Kgalema Motlanthe
- Claudio Schuftan, Laura Turiano and Abhay Shukla on progress on the PHM in Africa
- Sudanese civil society calls for national conference to discuss the crisis in Sudan
- Tajudeen looks at the implications of Gaddafi's election as the AU chairperson
_ Karen Chouhan describes her hopes arising from the Obama presidency
- Food is a human right, not a corporate commodity - a challenge to Paul Collier
- A conversation with Lilian Masitera
_ Wangui wa Goro looks down from Mt Kenya
Dibussi Tande and Sokari Ekine review the African blogosphere
- Deadlock over the Union Government
- The global crisis and China's African committmentsBOOKS & ARTS: Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s Married but Available
ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Judge frees MDC’s Biti
WOMEN & GENDER: Female combatants in African wars
CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Leaders talk tough on Darfur war crimes
HUMAN RIGHTS: Slavery still weighs heavily on Mauritanian society
REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Kenya to set aside land for Somali camp
SOCIAL MOVEMEMNTS: Chavez speaks to social movements
ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Gaddafi condemns Africa democracy
CORRUPTION: Kenya denies blocking UK probe
DEVELOPMENT: Africa deserves financial bailout
HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: Excellent ARV adherence due to social networks
EDUCATION: Mali’s students left behind in MDGs race
LGBTI: Youth conference in South Africa
ENVIRONMENT: Key issues on the road to Copenhagen
FOOD JUSTICE : Farmers call to restructure food system
MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Kenyan journalist murdered
INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Global Information Society Watch released
PUBLICATIONS: New publication on African resistance against the Slave Trade
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

Seizing the final opportunity

Sudanese civil society call for national conference


Representatives of independent Sudanese civil society organizations, media and rights activists called on Sudanese government, political actors and civil society members to urgently convene a conference to discuss the crisis brought on by the Sudanese government’s reaction to the charges brought by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court against the President of Sudan.

Editors’ corner

Goodbye and go well, Mukoma


Mukoma wa Ngugi, who served as co-editor of Pambazuka News and later as Assistant Editor, ended his term with Pambazuka News. He has just signed a deal with Penguin South Africa to publish his first novel, The African Connection. It's a detective novel set half in Madison, Wisconsin and half in Kenya about the murder of a young white woman (Macy), which is being investigated by an African American detective (Ishmael). He has poetry appearing in New York Quarterly and short fiction forthcoming from Kenyon Review and is writing regularly for Foreign Policy in Focus. And, he tells us, he's going to devote more time to completing his dissertation. His humour, creativity and contributions to Pambazuka News growth will be missed. Go well, Mukoma! We are sure that we will continue to hear from him in Pambazuka News.


Surrender: the best form of defence?

Tendai Dumbutshena


cc. Sokwanele
After the June 27 putsch by Robert Mugabe signs were always there that the MDC were headed for surrender.

It officially happened on January 30, 2009 when the party hoisted a white flag on top of its Harvest House headquarters. What followed was a pathetic attempt by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to portray this decision to join the unity government without any of their conditions being met as some sort of victory.

Equally pathetic was a plea to Mugabe to be treated as an equal partner. There is a fat chance of that happening. The old tyrant must have chuckled when he heard this.

What the MDC has done goes beyond naiveté and lack of strategic nous. It is an ineptitude breathless in its magnitude. Besides guaranteeing an inevitable demise of the party as a political force, it has more importantly set back for many years the struggle for the democratic transformation of Zimbabwe. It threw a lifeline to a vile regime that was on the verge of death.

Mugabe and SADC leaders were desperate for the MDC to join the unity government to save the Zimbabwe leader from an ignominious downfall.

Tsvangirai had a big bargaining chip in his hand. He did not use it. He could not even get Mugabe to concede on modest and reasonable demands. On the basis of mere promises from a man who honours them more in their breach than observance, he joined the unity government.

The damage, however, was not done on January 30, 2009. It was done on 11 September 2008 when the MDC signed an agreement that legitimized Mugabe's coup d'etat. Before that the MDC had maintained that a unity government had to reflect the wish of the people as expressed in the March 29 election. The MDC won that election at all levels of government. This meant the party and its leader had to be top dogs in a unity government.

The reality is that they have been co-opted as junior partners on its margins. Tsvangirai is not even second to Mugabe. He comes fourth after Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru the two vice-presidents. Even more critical, all executive power is vested in Mugabe as head of government and state. Tsvangirai is a prime minister without any executive power. He is a glorified cabinet minister. The only power he will exercise is to give Mugabe names of MDC ministers.

Once the MDC conceded the presidency to Mugabe, ignoring the expressed wishes of the electorate it was on a slippery slope to capitulation. Now the party is at the mercy of Mugabe. All talk by Tsvangirai of outstanding matters being resolved before he is sworn in on February 11 is deceitful. There will be no more concessions from Mugabe. All that awaits him is further marginalization and humiliation. He has made his bed and Mugabe will ensure that he lies in it.

All five conditions for joining government that the MDC spelt out in official resolutions have not been met. As stated above Mugabe refused to yield an inch when Tsvangirai was in a strong bargaining position. What chance is there for him to make any concession when Tsvangirai has no single card to play? A statement announcing the MDC's decision claimed that this represented a transition to democracy.

"This inclusive government will serve as a transitional authority leading to free and fair elections," it said.

A transition to free and fair elections in a government dominated by Mugabe is a classic oxymoron. Who will guarantee that whenever elections are held Mugabe will break with tradition and allow people to choose their leaders freely? Where in the agreement does it say elections will be held after a stipulated transitional period? It only refers to a review of the agreement after the adoption of a new constitution without committing to an election. It is up to Mugabe to decide how long this government lasts. He will tolerate the MDC for as long as he needs to. When they are surplus to requirements he will, through an election that he controls, get rid of them.

The post March 29 and June 27 period was a crucial one. Sadly the MDC leadership at this defining moment lacked focus and strategic coherence. It was all over the place. It clearly had not anticipated a victory in March and planned for Mugabe's predictable response to it. Conflicting and contradictory statements emanated from an assortment of spokespersons. The left hand did not know what the right one was doing. It was not clear in which direction the party was headed.

Tsvangirai spent too long a time outside the country when his followers were under violent siege from Mugabe's coercive apparatus. There was a leadership vacuum in opposition ranks. It was bad politics on Tsvangirai's part. A strong impression was created that he was more concerned about his security and welfare than that of his supporters.

Meanwhile Mugabe, who had been thrown off balance by an unexpected electoral defeat, regained his nerve and composure. He focused on the job at hand – remaining in power. His focus was not distracted by any concern for the welfare of the country and its inhabitants. He long ago ceased to pretend that the welfare of Zimbabweans was a matter that exercised his mind. That is the hallmark of the man soon to be Tsvangirai's boss.

A conclusion to draw from all of this is that the MDC decided to join the unity government for two reasons. First, they no longer have the stomach to fight Mugabe. Fear and fatigue have taken their toll. There is no more fuel in the tank. Refusal to join the unity government would certainly have been followed by a massive crackdown against the party.


Secondly, the MDC leadership was seduced by the material comforts of office. Better a large air-conditioned office than a communal cell in Chikurubi. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Let us just take what is on offer.

It will be a busy time for Tsvangirai while Mugabe still needs him. Armed with a diplomatic passport his first and most important task will be to travel to Western capitals to get sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies lifted. This is his most important duty so that visits to London and other desirable destinations can resume. Much needed economic relief has to be secured from the same Western countries.

Tsvangirai has to convince those who control international purse strings that his association with Mugabe's regime has sufficiently cleansed it to deserve a financial rescue package. Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, who is going nowhere, and Zanu-PF will be grateful beneficiaries of such largesse. Once this is achieved Tsvangirai will become expendable, to be gotten rid off at a time that suits Mugabe.

In the months to come Tsvangirai must get used to life as Mugabe's useful underling. He must learn quickly how to win his favour from the craven pipsqueaks who have surrounded Mugabe for years. There will be frequent visits to State House to pay homage to the boss. An occasional gift to the First Lady will endear him to His Excellency. At least he will have the satisfaction of seeing the inside of State House, something the Mugabes vowed he would never do.


Tsvangirai had a good chance to ascend to the presidency of the country and change Zimbabwe for the better. He threw that chance out of the window on January 30. The seeds of that surrender were planted after March 29 when a catalogue of appalling decisions was taken by the party. They culminated in a decision that rescued a dying regime.

Even more tragic is the fact that a golden opportunity to transform Zimbabwe, for the first time, into a free society was missed. Nine years of struggle by the MDC came to nought. The buck stops with Tsvangirai.

In a most perverse way he became Mugabe's saviour at a moment of near death for the despot.

* Tendai Dumbutshena is a Zimbabwean journalist
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at

* This article was first published in The Zimbabwe Times ( on February 2, 2009.
After the June 27 putsch by Robert Mugabe there were signs were that the MDC was headed for surrender. It officially happened on January 30, 2009 when MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai decided to join the unity government. In a most perverse way he has became Mugabe's saviour at a moment of near death for the despot, writes Tendai Dambutshena.

Comment & analysis

Nkunda's ‘arrest’ and Rwanda's response to international pressure

Friends of the Congo


With events in the central African region unfolding at a dizzying pace over the last week, Friends of Congo (FOTC) responds to questions posed to them in the aim of enhancing readers’ understanding of developments on the ground. Casting doubt on the nature of Laurent Nkunda’s reported arrest and highlighting the persistently extra-parliamentary and undemocratic nature of negotiations between Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame around Rwandan troops entering the DR Congo, Friends of Congo discuss some of the limitations around recent efforts to achieve greater stability in the troubled eastern region of the country.

Report on KANERE’s progress and challenges

Kakuma News Reflector (KANERE)


cc. Hoisaeter
Kakuma News Reflector (KANERE) is an independent news magazine produced by Ethiopian, Congolese, Ugandan, Rwandan, Somali, Sudanese and Kenyan journalists operating in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. In a new article following on from an original piece published in Pambazuka entitled ‘Support KANERE for an independent refugee press’, KANERE discusses the current hostility towards its publication exhibited by the UNHCR and the office’s reluctance to support the development of an autonomous outlet for refugee voices. The second issue of the Kakuma News Reflector is now available online at

State of the Kenyan nation one year after the accord

Tom Kagwe


cc. Teseum
A year after the signing of Kenya’s National Accord, Tom Kagwe of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) reviews the successes and limitations of the formation of the coalition government. Highlighting the fragmented progress towards truth and justice, Kagwe argues that while the issue of post-election internally displaced persons remains a troublesome reality for the country, the CIPEV report represented a celebrated step towards ending political impunity.

Guns, oil and steal

Chioma Oruh


In a poetic piece subtly traversing Nigerian post-colonial experiences, Chioma Oruh evokes a history of disunity, theft, rhetoric, marginalisation and the social toxicity of oil.

Niger Delta crisis continues: Can hope be restored?

Chioma Oruh


In the wake of the death of alleged militant Tubotamuno ‘Boy Chiki’ Angolia at the hands of Nigeria’s Joint Task Force (JTF), Chioma Oruh considers the consequences of the Nigerian state’s crackdown on the militant efforts of organisations such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). While much of the mainstream international press lauds the state for the stability (and enhanced official access to oil resources) achieved under the watch of the JTF, Oruh contemplates the inequity behind a system that will happily find funds to enforce order yet comes up empty in the face of local people’s abject poverty.

Kgalema Motlanthe on the walls of history

Pitso Tsibolane


cc. World Economic Forum
Highlighting the success of a leader able to command respect through calm resolve, Pitso Tsibolane charts the rise and broad support for Kgalema Motlanthe from both the Zuma and Mbeki camps in the ANC in the wake of Mbeki’s resignation. But with growing grumbles about alleged dithering over decisions and suggestions of extra-marital affairs, Tsibolane argues that the caretaker president’s initial honeymoon period is long gone in the face of ever greater ANC and media scrutiny.

The People’s Health Movement: Progress in Africa

Claudio Schuftan, Laura Turiano and Abhay Shukla


cc. World Bank
Over the last two years, the People’s Health Movement (PHM) campaign has advanced significantly in Africa. It now has active, funded campaigns in the DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, Burkina Faso, Togo and Cameroon, with Zimbabwe and South Africa also involved (without receiving PHM funding), as well as advanced negotiations to launch the campaign in Senegal and Djibouti. Elsewhere, new PHM circles have been formed in the last three months in Mali, Kenya, Morocco and Uganda, where representatives will be submitting campaign proposals shortly. The countries that are on the verge of completing the assessment are now eligible for small, additional funding to hold national workshops through which to present the results to their respective governments, along with UN agencies, international and national NGOs and the media.

Pan-African Postcard

Gaddafi and African unity

Addis summit putting brakes on progress

Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


cc. Andrew Heavens
Following Muammar al-Gaddafi’s election as the African Union’s new chairperson, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem calls upon the long-time Libyan leader to promote genuine strides towards greater pan-African unity. Noting Gaddafi’s traditional support for minority groups and left-wing political causes across Africa and around the world at large, Abdul-Raheem argues that substantive achievement will rest on the ability of the new leader and the AU to effectively engage with pan-Africanists at all levels outside of the corridors of governmental power.

Yes we can!

Karen Chouhan


Reflecting on her visit to Washington during Obama’s inauguration, Karen Chouhan discusses how the new president has transcended traditional divisions around race and gender. Saluting Obama’s campaign for never resorting to personal attacks or disparaging remarks, Chouhan hopes that the momentum generated behind the message of change will bear fruit in the form of progressively greater equal opportunities, opportunities which are the responsibility of all of us to work towards.

Books & arts

Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available

Researching sexuality in Africa

Omobolaji Olarinmoye


The book Married But Available is a unique one, unique in the sense that it is first an exposé – a mischievous and daring one for that matter – on the issue of sexuality (in Africa and the discourse guiding research on the issue) and more importantly (at least for the reviewer) a critique of the process of data collection for research in the social sciences. In other words, through an examination of sexuality in Mimboland (a fictional country based on the author’s home country of Cameroon, but which could easily represent any African country), the book addresses the issue of how to or not to undertake social research and examines the consequences, personal and public, of sloppy data collection.

Review of Yoon Jung Park’s A matter of honour: being Chinese in South Africa

Stephen Marks


South Africa is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in Africa, estimated at over 300,000. Most have arrived since the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1988, many of them as illegal overstayers. There are also an estimated 30,000 Taiwanese, the remainder of a once larger population of over 100,000 established during and after the 1970s, when the apartheid regime established close relations with Taipei.

Letters & Opinions

Food is a human right, not a corporate commodity

Open letter to Paul Collier, director of Oxford's Centre for the Study of African Economies

William Aal, Lucy Jarosz and Carol Thompson


Paul Collier (‘Politics of Hunger’, November–December 2008) advocates ‘slaying three giants’ to end the food crisis: peasant agriculture, the fear of scientific agriculture, and the myth of biofuels from grain to overcome US oil dependence. His analysis is, however, very much grounded in the agriculture of the last century.

Collier continues to make the 20th century-long argument that increased yields is what can feed the hungry, a point that seems self-evident. But much research now documents that the hungry remain with us, not because of a lack of food but rather because of distribution and the inability of the poor to access food that is available, often only a few miles away. Amartya Sen won the Nobel Prize for Economics (1998) for demonstrating not only the theory, but the empirical reality, of famines occurring in the midst of plenty. Moreover, research on commercial agriculture demonstrates its negative effects on the environment, public health, and farming families (Magdoff et al. 2000; Nestle 2002). Commercial farming is highly dependent upon fossil fuels for production, processing, and transport, and is a major contributor to climate change (IPPC 2007).

Collier is correct to lament the high price of food in 2008, causing food riots in about 80 countries. However, he places blame for ‘the root cause’ on the increasing consumption of the Asian (i.e., Chinese and Indian) middle-classes. The statistics tell a different story. As stated by a senior economist at the International Grains Council, Amy Reynolds, ‘At the start of the decade, a small amount of grain—18 million tons—was used for industrial purposes. This year 100 million tons will go towards biofuels and other industrial purposes. Can anyone really tell me that hasn't had an impact on what we pay for food?’ (Chakrabortty 2008, p. 4).

There is never one root cause, and using grain to feed American cars, instead of people, is just a single factor, but one we can change quickly. We fully agree with Collier that Americans must end their addiction to oil, by refusing to put, as he states, one-third of our grain production into gas-guzzling vehicles. A longer term issue, but relevant to increasing demand, is that more than half the US grain and nearly 40 per cent of world grain is being fed to livestock, rather than being consumed directly by humans (Pimentel 1997).

Other contributing factors include the increasing costs of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides and increasing speculation on commodities markets (Stewart and Waldie 2008). These factors demonstrate, contra Collier, that the root causes of the global food crisis are related to the political economy of commercial agriculture itself, and not simply a matter of supply and demand.

We disagree quite strongly with Collier’s derisive depiction of ‘peasant agriculture’. He attacks the populism that ‘Peasants, like pandas, are to be preserved.. This overly general categorisation seems to include the very diversified category of small-scale family farming, a category which comprises the majority of farm operations throughout the world. These smallholders (often female farmers) are highly entrepreneurial and innovative. They are even more efficient than commercial agriculture, if one uses the measure of capital expenditure per bushel or tonne of yield.

Many scientists now provide statistics that ‘Africa can feed itself’ and that ‘organic farming can feed the world’ (Halberg et al 2007; Norstad 2007). Organic food production and localised forms of small-scale food production are among the fastest growing areas in agriculture today as the health and environmental effects of commercial agriculture are increasingly rejected and as people move to more healthful plant-based diets. Small-scale urban agriculture in the form of community gardening is becoming increasingly important in seasonal food supplies and local forms of food security.

Commercial agriculture, according to Collier, may increase yields by 10 to 20 per cent. Yet long term analyses from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) demonstrate, across the globe, that ‘best practices’ of smallholder agriculture will double yields. ‘Best practices’ include the sharing of seeds (farmers’ rights), research following farmers’ requests, available and affordable credit and yes, agricultural extension. Collier is very wrong in saying that the latter has ‘largely broken down’, for many sources across the African continent document that removing the government from agriculture was a systematic policy of the World Bank (Berg report) and USAID from 1981. If agricultural credit, extension and markets do not work in Africa, the explicit policy of removing ‘government interference’ from agriculture is a major cause.

Another way Collier reveals he is caught in the last century is that he considers ‘scientific’ thinking as coming from those with white coats in elaborate laboratories. The barefoot woman bending over her cultivated genetic treasure is not ‘scientific’, even though such farmers have cultivated genetic biodiversity over thousands of years. These free gifts do not fit into the corporate logic behind commercial agriculture, where only profit can be an incentive, not curiosity nor sharing. Yet indigenous knowledge provides us with all our current food diversity and is the basis for 70 per cent of our current medicines. Americans, for example, need to know that every major food crop we use today was given to us by Native Americans. In contrast, commercial agriculture makes a profit by depleting the gene pool, the result of valuing only very specific traits. As the FAO concluded (1996, p. 13–14), ‘The chief contemporary cause of the loss of genetic diversity has been the spread of modern commercial agriculture.’

A major point which Collier avoids is that genetically modified seeds rely on the patenting of life forms, which most all the world rejects, with the exception of the US government and the global biotechnology industry. Much of the genetically modified research currently involved in the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA of the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations) relies on freely taking seeds and experimenting them with them in the laboratory; if an innovative trait is produced (e.g., pesticide resistance), the plant is patented, with zero recognition to other breeders of the variety over thousands of years. By adding one gene, the corporation patents the whole plant, and often, the whole specie. Africans call this act ‘biopiracy’, or the theft and privatisation of genetic wealth which had previously been available to all (Mushita and Thompson 2007). We agree with farmers that the sharing of biodiversity is both the past, and the future, of human sustenance.

Food is a human right, not a corporate commodity for speculation. Mother Nature does not operate on a boardroom quarterly profit margin. But food production can be very profitable, sustainable and feed all of us. It is just not capable of feeding the ‘giants’ of Wall Street or the City of London; it is those giants’ interference with food production that needs slaying, because food produced mainly to feed corporate profit will merely lead to more food crises, not fewer.

* William Aal is with the Community Alliance for Global Justice, Seattle. Lucy Jarosz is a professor of geography at the University of Washington. Carol Thompson is a professor of political economy at Northern Arizona University.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at


Chakrabortty, Aditya. 2008. ‘Fields of gold,’ The Guardian (London), 16 April, p. 4.
Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations. 1996. Report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, prepared for the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, Leipzig, June17-23, Rome: FAO.
Halberg, N., et. al. 2007. Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects. London: CABI Publishing.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), United Nations. 2007. Climate Change 2007.
Magdoff, Fred, et al., 2000. Hungry for Profit. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Mushita, Andrew and Carol Thompson. 2007. Biopiracy of Biodiversity – International Exchange as Enclosure. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
Nestle, Marion. 2002. Food Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Norstad, Aksel, ed. 2007. Africa Can Feed Itself. Oslo: The Development Fund.
Articles from a June 2007
Pimental, David. 1997. ‘‘U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat,’ Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists.’ Cornell University Science News.
Stewart, Sinclair and Paul Waldie. 2008. ‘Who is responsible for the global food crisis?’ Globe and Mail, 31 May.

African Writers’ Corner

Interview with Lilian Masitera

Conversations with Writers


In an interview with Conversations with Writers, the Zimbabwean author Lilian Masitera talks about the background to and influences behind her work.

Looking down from Mt. Kenya

Wangui wa Goro


Where do you hope to join my life
Not like a river
But as torrents and currents of the tide
Buffeted by multitudinous waters of change
Going back or forth?
Lapping up the high and low banks
Dazzling the plains with illuminous floodings
Awash against the orange red sky of our history?
Do you and I
Merge as minor or major (con)tributeries
To the great sea -
Vast ocean of change?
Or where do we become engulfed by (o)the)r tides of the past
Of victory and of shame
And of what futures unforetold, then and now?
What do we become?
Droplets of vapour
Carried under the translucent sky
To descend on unsuspecting blossom of spring-tide freedom
As a dew drop - inseparably defiant;
Or swallowed by the parched earth of our desert(er)s
Or a hail stone in the tropical storm?
Here we stand poised to (e)merge
Like Gikuyu and Mumbi
In a world of numerous possibilities
Drawing from history
And awed by the great expanses of the earth, the sea and the sky
That our our future
And which hold promises of infinite, infinite...
London 1997

Blogging Africa

Africa blogging review February 5, 2009

Dibussi Tande


African Blogging roundup, 5 February 2009

Sokari Ekine


Emerging powers in Africa Watch

Navigating the world recession: In the year of the Ox

Stephen Marks and Sanusha Naidu


Stephen Marks and Sanusha Naidui look at China’s response and the impact on Africa. It’s early days so far in the Obama Presidency but there continue to be worrying indications of US-China friction on trade. If co-operation did break down it would be bad news for Africa. But there are encouraging signs that a lot of the noise may be posturing. There are also good reasons to believe that China’s African commitment will not suffer, and may even be stepped up as a result of the global crisis. But the reasons for African vigilance on the ground will also continue.

Zimbabwe update

Cholera crisis worsening


Zimbabwe's cholera crisis has reached unprecedented levels with nearly 63,000 people being infected by the epidemic, according to a report by a United Nations agency. The epidemic, which began in August, has already killed more than 3,000 people - the deadliest outbreak in Africa in 15 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Judge frees MDC's Biti


A Zimbabwean judge has dropped charges of treason against the secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti. He had faced a possible death sentence after being accused of plotting a coup against President Robert Mugabe. But Magistrate Olivia Mariga said prosecutors appeared unprepared to proceed against Mr Biti. It could be a sign that the ruling Zanu-PF wants a proposed coalition government to work, say correspondents.

Mugabe to sign unity deal bill


Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is due to sign into law a constitutional amendment allowing his rival Morgan Tsvangirai to become prime minister. It paves the way for the men to share power, as agreed last September. Meanwhile, a judge has dismissed treason charges against a key opposition MDC figure, removing another obstacle to forming a unity government.

U.S. statement on Zimbabwe unity government


The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has agreed to join a unity government with Robert Mugabe under the conditions called for in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) January 27 Communiqué. The success or failure of such a government will depend on credible and inclusive power sharing by Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

African Union Monitor

Africa: African leaders deadlock over Union Government


Dumping an earlier agreement, African leaders meeting here on Wednesday failed to reach a consensus on the transformation of the African Union Commission (AUC) to the African Union Authority, as a first step towards the establishment of a Union Government. On the last day of their 12th summit, African leaders met until the early hours of Wednesday to work out the final details of the Union Government, but hit a brick wall when it came to the modalities for transforming the AUC into an Authority.

Women & gender

Africa: Female combatants in African wars


Young women are not only combatants in contemporary African wars, they also participate in a whole array of different roles. By and large, though they remain invisible in these contexts to northern policy makers and NGOs. This policy dialogue argues that to improve policy and programming efforts it is necessary to broaden the understanding of young women’s roles and participation in armed conflict in Africa historically and today. The intention is to provide policy makers and aid practitioners with a state-of-the-art overview of the situation for young women in African war and post-war situations.

Burkina Faso: Cutters turn razors on babies to evade FGM/C law


Women performing excisions in Burkina Faso are cutting babies instead of young girls to escape increased scrutiny, according to the government and organisations fighting female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). FGM/C has been outlawed in Burkina Faso since 1996 and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and US$1500 in fines.

Egypt: Tougher sex-harassment law on the agenda


When Egypt's new parliament convenes in early February, some members will be proposing a law to strengthen penalties against sexual offenders by increasing jail time and fines. The bill will also put more pressure on police to crack down on perpetrators by calling on them to intervene when incidents occur and not to remain passive bystanders when women demand justice.

Global: Geneva gathering discusses livelihoods for displaced women


A cosmopolitan mix of women from the corporate and humanitarian aid fields gathered in Geneva on Friday to discuss the empowerment of displaced woman through livelihoods. More than 30 people from around the world attended the half-day "Worlds of Women Coming Together" meeting, co-organized by the UN Refugee Agency and Women's International Networking. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, general secretary of the World YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association), gave the keynote address.

Global: World Pulse - Voices of Our Future

Call for Applicants


World Pulse Media is pleased to announce a Call for Applicants for Voices of Our Future, an exciting new international women's correspondent network. World Pulse will choose up to 30 applicants who are beginning to use new media to speak for themselves to the world, transform their communities, and change their own lives.

Global: WSF 2009 Women's Assembly declaration


In the year in which the WSF joins with the population of the Pan-Amazon, we, women from different parts of the world gathered in Belém, reaffirm the contribution of indigenous women and women from all forest peoples as political subjects that enriches feminism in the framework of the cultural diversity of our societies and strengthens the feminist struggle against the patriarchal capitalist global system...

South Africa: Government to facilitate processes dealing with gender equality


Government is to facilitate the processes aimed at strengthening the machineries dealing with matters of gender equality such as 50/50 representation in decision-making structures. Delivering the State of the Nation Address during a joint sitting in Parliament on Friday, President Kgalema Motlanthe said in the coming few months pending on the national and provincial elections, government will endeavour to complete that particular mandate.

West Africa: FGM/C knows no borders


Laws against female genital mutilation are driving the practice underground and across borders, says UNIFEM. A study released in 2008 looked at the flow of girls traveling to be excised between Burkina Faso and its neighbours Mali, Niger, Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire. Except Mali, all four countries in the study have laws against female genital mutilation (FGM), although enforcement varies widely.

Zambia: Rampant rape of schoolgirls by their teachers


In February 2006, a thirteen year old schoolgirl, R.M., was raped by her teacher, Edson Hakasenke when she went to his house to collect her school papers upon his request. Mr. Hakasenke told her not to report the incident as she would be thrown out of school and he would lose his job. R.M. did not report the rape until several weeks later after she was treated for a sexually transmitted infection that she had contracted as a result of the rape. Her aunt/guardian filed a complaint with the headmaster. When confronted, Mr. Hakasenke claimed R.M. was his “girlfriend.”

Human rights

DRC: Rights panel condemns abuses against children


The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo should urgently carry out new recommendations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to protect children from violence and abuse, Human Rights Watch and the Coalition of Congolese Non-governmental Organizations on Child Rights (CODE) has said.

Ethiopia: Jailed – judge who refused to say sorry


Birtukan Mideksa has been sentenced to life in prison. She spends her days and nights in solitary confinement in a two-metre by two-metre cell. She cannot leave it to see daylight or even to receive visitors. Previous inmates say the prison is often unbearably hot. Her crime: refusing to say sorry. The judge, aged 34, is the head of Ethiopia's most popular political party, the only female leader of a main opposition party in Africa.

Mauritania: Slavery still weighs heavily on society despite ban


During a seminar entitled "Discrimination in Inheritance" held in Tunis on January 24th, Mauritanian human rights organisations and activists spoke out against slavery, which they said is still eroding Mauritanian society. "Slavery is a painful reality in Mauritania," said Bairam Ould Messaoud, head of Mauritania-based organisation SOS Slaves. "Some families still own slaves and take them around houses and farms here in Nouakchott without the government intervening."

Senegal: UN: Press government on Habré Trial


The United Nations Human Rights Council should ask Senegal to move forward on the trial of the exiled former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, five African and international human rights groups have said. On February 6, 2009, the council will examine Senegal’s human rights record as part of its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure.

Refugees & forced migration

Africa: Hundreds of migrants at risk if repatriated


Over 1,600 migrants currently held on the Italian island of Lampedusa are at risk of being forcibly returned to their home countries. According to an official statement by the Italian Minister of the Interior on 23 January, 150 migrants have already been returned from Lampedusa since 1 January. All those on the island are at risk of being returned without access to a fair procedure for examining their asylum claims or the opportunity to challenge their deportation.

Ethiopia: UN rushes supplies to Somali refugees


The United Nations refugee agency and its partners are sending staff and vital relief supplies to assist some 10,000 new asylum-seekers who have arrived in the Somali Region of south-east Ethiopia since the beginning of the year after fleeing insecurity in neighbouring Somalia. “About 150 people are now crossing the border each day and it is likely that [the] number of new arrivals will increase further over the next few weeks,” Ron Redmond, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva.

Global: Plans to intern illegal Africans outrage Lampedusans


Residents of the Italian island of Lampedusa are rebelling against Rome. Thousands of refugees who have arrived there by boat could soon be interned on the small island -- to prevent them from disappearing into the European Union. When drama becomes commonplace, even idealists can sound callous at times. Antonino Maggiore says that he wants to build "a better world" -- for Italians, even more so for persecuted foreigners and, in fact, for everyone. Maggiore is 25, an age at which idealistic pronouncements like that are to be expected.

Kenya: Government to set aside land for new Somali camp


The UN refugee agency said Friday that the Kenyan government has agreed to allocate land to accommodate the increasing numbers of Somali refugees who are fleeing to north-eastern Kenya to escape the escalating conflict in their country. The commitment came during a three-day visit to Kenya by Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Craig Johnstone, who arrived back in Geneva on Friday.

Kenya: Somali refugees put strain on camps


A growing tide of Somalis fleeing conflict at home has led to overcrowding in refugee camps in neighbouring Kenya and the United Nations does not expect the influx to ease soon, a U.N. official said. The Dadaab refugee camp in arid northern Kenya received 62,000 new arrivals from Somalia in 2008 compared with only 18,000 in the previous year, U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

Social movements

Global: WSF: Chávez speaks to social movements


Social movements in Latin America have been in the “trenches of resistance” against global capitalism, and now need to move to an “offensive,” taking concrete steps toward the creation of alternatives to capitalism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez expressed during a speech to thousands of participants in the World Social Forum Thursday in Belém do Pará, Brazil. “Just like Latin America and the Caribbean received the biggest dose of neo-liberal venom, our continent has been the immense territory where social movements have sprouted with the greatest strength and begun to change the world,” said Chávez.

Nigeria: Chevron asks Nigerian plaintiffs for $485,000


Despite a U.S. jury finding in Chevron’s favor late last fall in a U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco, the company is now asking the plaintiffs - all who are Nigerian villagers - to pay Chevron over $485,000 in legal costs the company incurred during the five week long trial.

South Africa: CALS statement against the use of Transit Camps (TRAs) in Cape Town and Durban


The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is disturbed at a growing trend in South African cities in terms of which the state forcibly removes shackdwellers from large shacks on well-located land to 'temporal housing' in transit camps (also known as 'temporary relocation areas' or TRAs) on the urban periphery. Relocation to transit camps is most often done to make way for infrastructure and development projects which will not benefit those being removed

Elections & governance

Africa: Gaddafi condemns Africa democracy


The new African Union (AU) chairman, Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi, has said that multi-party democracy in Africa leads to bloodshed. Speaking at the AU summit in Ethiopia, Col Gaddafi said Africa was essentially tribal and political parties became tribalised, which led to bloodshed. He concluded the best model for Africa was his own country, where opposition parties are not allowed. Analysts say the AU is in for an interesting year under Col Gaddafi.

Madagascar: Leader ready for talks with opposition rivals


Madagascar's President Marc Ravalomanana is ready for talks with his political rivals without any preconditions but would not consider early elections, Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara said on Tuesday in Addis Ababa. President Ravalomanana is ready to talk with his rivals on the modalities of ending the political stand-off, which escalated following an attack on a local radio and television station, followed by a prolonged political stand-off.

Malawi: Former president begins come-back bid


Malawi's former president Bakili Muluzi Wednesday presented his nomination papers to contest the 19 May presidential elections despite having served as president for two consecutive five-year terms. "The Constitution does not bar me from standing again," a cheerful Muluzi told journalists after presenting his nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson, Supreme Court judge, Justice Anastazia Msosa.

Malawi: Leader picks foreign minister as running mate


Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika picked Foreign Minister Joyce Banda on Friday as his running mate for the May presidential and parliamentary election. Wa Mutharika chose Banda, 67, who held several cabinet posts under former president Bakili Muluzi, over Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, who is respected by the opposition and donors.

Mauritania: Sanctions put on junta


The African Union (AU) has imposed sanctions, including a travel ban and a check on bank accounts, on Mauritania's military junta, it has announced. The AU says it will urge the United Nations to extend the measures so they are applied by every country. The move comes amid speculation that General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz could contest elections, set for 6 June.

Mozambique: Police arrest Renamo parliamentarians


Police have arrested two parliamentary deputies from Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, for acts of violence during the current municipal election campaign in the northern port of Nacala. According to a report in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, the two deputies, Luis Trinta and Simao Buti, with two other Renamo members, are accused of assaulting two of the policemen who were assigned to accompany a Renamo campaign parade.

South Africa: Elections offer fresh hope


The break-up of the African National Congress and the forthcoming general election provide a unique opportunity for a realignment of forces in South African politics. Creation of the Congress of the People, a new party, will erode the ANC’s grip on power and reignite the public debate over pressing issues such as corruption, crime and poverty.

Zambia: Grumbling over constitutional review


Two years into its work, the Zambia's National Constitutional Conference (NCC) is finding it difficult to get wide public acceptance. Evans Kaputo is involved in corruption advocacy with the Civic Education Network, a grouping of civic organisations in Lusaka. He is not impressed that $80 million has been set aside for the constitutional conference. "All this NCC is a waste of money. What we need to change is the way our money is spent and stiffen laws regarding theft by public servants, corruption, abuse of office and so forth.


Gabon: Anti-corruption campaigners released on bail


On Monday 12 January 2009 at 7pm, of the four Gabonese civil society activists – Grégory Ngbwa Mintsa, Marc Ona Essangui, Georges Mpaga and Gaston Asseko – who had been detained in Libreville since 30 and 31 December 2008, respectively, were released from jail. This release follows days of large-scale international mobilisation by both non-governmental groups and French authorities in Paris and Libreville.

Kenya: Government denies blocking UK probe


Kenya's top legal officer has denied that the government has been blocking a probe by the United Kingdom into the Anglo Leasing affair. On Thursday, the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) halted a probe into the corruption case, saying Kenya was not cooperating with the investigation.

Kenya: UK blames government over Anglo Leasing


The Kenya Government failed to cooperate with the British in investigations of the Anglo Leasing scandal leading to the termination of the probe. The Serious Fraud Office on Wednesday suspended the probe due to a lack of evidence. British High Commissioner to Kenya Rob Macaire described the termination of the investigations as a sad day and called on the government to act on all senior officials named in graft.

South Africa: Zuma to face court after polls


A high court in South Africa has postponed the corruption trial hearing for ruling African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma until 25 August. Outside the Pietermaritzburg court, Mr Zuma told thousands of supporters if he quit it would be like admitting guilt. The ANC leader is favourite to become president after general elections expected between March and July.


Africa: Africa deserves financial bailout


Many African countries are threatened with collapse or becoming failed states, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has warned. He told Heads of States at the just ended 12th AU summit that if their governments do not address the effects of climate change and the global financial crisis, some half of Africa's countries could be failing within 10 years.

Africa: IMF monitoring Central Africa bank losses


The International Monetary Fund is hoping for more information on the losses suffered by the Bank of Central African States and is watching the situation closely, a senior IMF official told Reuters on Wednesday. Leaders from half a dozen mostly oil-producing central African nations ordered far-reaching audits of their central bank at the weekend in connection with investments held with France's Société Générale SA.

Africa: Responding to Accra? Donor governments' aid policy


High on the agenda for developing countries at the Accra High Level Forum on aid effectiveness was a commitment to use developing country systems (alignment) and to regulate division of labour (harmonisation). Regarding alignment donor governments agreed to channel at least 50% of aid through developing country systems. As for ‘donor harmonisation’, no specifics were given except for a call for donors to ‘harmonise their assistance proactively’.

Global: Civil Society consultation on the global economic crisis


In the wake of the global financial and economic crisis, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, set up a commission of experts chaired by Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, whose mandate includes putting forward “credible and feasible proposals for reforming the international monetary and financial system in the best interest of the international community”. The Commission of Experts of the President of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System will present its final report in early April 2009.

Tanzania: Generating power and money


The introduction of solar power systems to rural communities in East Africa is providing new business opportunities, as well as affordable and safe electricity supplies. Johari lives in the Iringa region of Tanzania. She used to work as a manual labourer, breaking rocks and selling the stones for building material. But now, after a short training course, Johari is assembling and selling small solar panels that can be used to power radios and recharge batteries for lamps and mobile phones.

Health & HIV/AIDS

Africa: Africa must focus on maternal, child health - AU


Countries in Africa should promote maternal, infant and child health and report on progress, in order to curb high death rates on the continent, according to the African Union (AU). "There are continents where women give birth and it is a pleasant experience because they are bringing life," said AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Bience Gawana.

Africa: Excellent adherence due to social networks


The very high levels of adherence to antiretroviral therapy observed in some settings in sub-Saharan Africa appear to be explained by the need to preserve a network of social relationships that people with HIV rely upon to survive, rather than being a consequence of individual motivation, according to a study conducted in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

CAR: Finally making the AIDS money work


After years of delays, HIV/AIDS funding in the Central African Republic is finally making its way to thousands of HIV-positive people in desperate need of care and treatment. Hope and excitement were in the air in 2003, and again in 2004, when the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria allocated two grants, totalling US$40 million over five years, to combat HIV/AIDS in the Central African Republic (CAR), where an estimated prevalence of 6.3 percent makes it the hardest hit country in central Africa.

Kenya: Address children’s rights in AIDS strategy


The new Kenyan National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan should address rights abuses that make children vulnerable to HIV infection and impede access to care, Human Rights Watch has said in a policy proposal submitted to the government. The organization pointed out that tens of thousands of children in Kenya who need anti-retroviral treatment (ART) are not receiving it. The Kenyan National Aids Control Council (NACC) is currently preparing its new five-year strategic plan.

Nigeria: Baby poison deaths rise


The death toll from a contaminated baby medicine sold in Nigeria has risen from 34 - recorded in early December - to 84, the health ministry has said. There have been 111 reported cases of children who have fallen ill after being given teething syrup "My Pikin". The poisonous syrup was discovered last November when babies began dying of organ failure across the country.


Côte d’Ivoire: Pregnancy hits girls' education


Sylvie Kouamé*, 17, told IRIN she had sex for money with a man she met on line in her home country Côte d’Ivoire. She needed a few dollars for school fees. She no longer needs money for school. Five months pregnant, Kouamé dropped out a few years short of graduating secondary school.

Mali: Students left behind in race for education MDG


As Mali’s government makes strides toward the Millennium Development Goal of primary education for all by 2015, increased school enrolment and the resulting shortage of teachers and classroom space have blocked a growing number of students from secondary education. In 2008, some 17,000 students out of more than 80,000 who passed their secondary school exams, known as the diplôme d’étude fondamentale (DEF), were not admitted to secondary schools, according to the Ministry of Education.


South Africa: 3rd youth conference to empower students’ gay groups


The Third National LGBTI Youth Leaders’ Lekgotla, which unites students’ gay groups from different universities in South Africa, is starting on 3 to 7 April 2009. The University of Cape Town’s gay rights group Rainbow UCT will be hosting this annual gathering and is expecting groups from about nine universities in South Africa.


Africa: Climate Change: Key issues on the road to Copenhagen


African peoples’ high vulnerability to climate change stems partly from historical global inequities that have left them ill-equipped to cope with the climate extremes they are already experiencing and the food security, water scarcity, and climate-induced migration crises that these extremes exacerbate. This year’s negotiations toward a post-2012 climate agreement must recognise African countries’ need for technological and financial support to pursue low-carbon development that will reduce poverty and strengthen their resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Africa: Why humanitarians and climate scientists don't talk


Last May, the Red Cross office for West and Central Africa decided it wasn't going to let the flood disaster of 2007 happen again. The floods had affected over 800,000 people when torrential rains pummelled the region, destroying crops and homes. Red Cross partner, the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development, and other forecasters issued warnings for abnormally heavy rains during the 2008 wet season.

Global: Climate change hits fishing economies


Eight countries - four in Africa and four in Asia - have been identified as those most economically vulnerable to the effects of climate change on fisheries in the first ever detailed study of the subject. The most badly hit countries are those where fish play a large role in diet, income and trade, and also lack the capacity to adapt to the impact of climate change such as the loss of coral reef habitats to the bleaching effect of warmer waters, and lakes parched by an increase in heat and a decrease in rainfall.

Food Justice

Global: Farmers call to restructure the food system


The High Level Conference on Food Security in Madrid on the 26th and 27th of January excludes the main stakeholders in the debate on the food crisis from meaningful participation. It is a forum dominated by the World Bank, IMF and WTO, as well as transnational companies such as Monsanto, and it is an outrage that they are given space on the panels of discussion while representatives of small farmers - who produce 80% of the world's food – are left only a few minutes on the floor to give their position.

Media & freedom of expression

Eritrea: Calls for urgent action over journalist's ordeal


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called for urgent humanitarian action by the international community over the plight of Dawit Isaak, a journalist and writer who has been held in Eritrea without trial for almost eight years and who is believed to be seriously ill.

Gambia: Editor faces trial


Reporters Without Borders condemns the way the Gambian authorities continue to hound The Point, a privately-owned daily based in Banjul. Its editor, Pap Saine, was charged with publishing false information yesterday, two days after being arrested and then freed on bail for reporting the arrest of a Gambian diplomat. Saine is to appear in court again on 19 February.

Global: IWMF Calls for Neuffer Fellowship applications


The International Women’s Media Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2009-10 Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship, which is open to women journalists whose focus is human rights and social justice. Named for the 1998 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner and Boston Globe correspondent who was killed in Iraq in May 2003, the fellowship allows one woman journalist to spend an academic year in a tailored program with access to Boston-area universities as well as the Boston Globe and New York Times. Applications will be accepted until April 15, 2009, and the fellowship will run from September 2009 – May 2010.

Kenya: Freelance journalist murdered


Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the murder of Francis Kainda Nyaruri, a freelance journalist based in the southwestern town of Nyamira, whose decapitated body was found on 29 January in a nearby forest. He had been missing since 16 January. “We would like above all to express our deep sympathy to the victim’s family,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the competent authorities, especially Nyanza province police chief Larry Kieng, to do everything possible to establish the motive for this appalling murder and to bring those responsible to justice, keeping in mind its shocking symbolism for the Kenyan population.”

Niger: Editor sentenced to three-month jail term


Boussada Ben Ali, the managing editor of the independent weekly L’Action, was today sentenced to three months in prison and fined 50,000 CFA francs (about 76 euros) for “publishing false information”. The journalist immediately appealed against the sentence but will remain in custody at Niamey prison where he has been since 26 January while awaiting the outcome of the appeal.

Somalia: Call for new blackout opposed


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has warned that a call by the United Nations Special Envoy in Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah, to suspend news reporting from Somalia was an "ill-thought out and counter-productive" response to the media crisis in the country. "We oppose this move because it will not work and could make the situation even worse for journalists," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

Tunisia: Journalists union decries perceived crackdown


The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) issued a statement Monday (February 2nd) condemning the government's confiscation of the January 31st issue of Attariq Aljadid, a newspaper operated by opposition party Attajdid Movement, and expressing solidarity with members of Tunis radio station Radio Kalima, which was shut down last Friday.

Zimbabwe: Media caught in the political vice


As the gap between the fierce political rivalries of Zimbabwe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) narrows, there are fears that the independent media will be squeezed even more. In the past decade, while Zimbabwe lurched from one political crisis to another and the economy went into freefall, the independent media were lambasted by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government for their often critical views, and subjected to increasingly repressive media laws.

Conflict & emergencies

DRC: 335 former Rwandan Hutu fighters and their dependents repatriated


The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says that it has repatriated 335 former Rwandan Hutu fighters and their dependents to Rwanda in the past month alone. During the same period, the Mission has also transferred 120 Rwandan civilians to the United Nations refugee agency for further consideration as potential refugees in the Congo. As of 5the February, another 219 Rwandan nationals are awaiting repatriation at United Nations-run facilities in north-eastern Congo.

Morocco: Bad weather causes devastation


Freak weather conditions continue to cause devastation in Morocco as authorities struggle to address the humanitarian crisis. A number of people have lost their lives, mainly in the countryside and in mountainous regions and areas near rivers and dams.

Sudan: African leaders talk tough on Darfur war crimes


African leaders on Wednesday supported a plan to delay the execution of an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, but asked him to take steps to end rights violations in Darfur. The African leaders went beyond words and asked the Sudanese leader to accept a team of lawyers from the African Union (AU) and the Arab League to help bring perpetrators of the violence in Darfur and help carry out investigations there.

Sudan: Rebel group withdraws from South Darfur


The leader of an armed group involved in recent combat in the South Darfur region of Sudan has pulled his militia out of the conflict zone as a result of the decision made by the hybrid African Union (AU) and United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to stay and protect civilians in the area. There have been renewed clashes since last month in Muhajeria involving the Government of Sudan and the rebel groups known as the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Mini Minawi (SLA/MM).

Internet & technology

Cameroon: Government to launch telemedicine


A telemedicine programme will start in Cameroon this month in partnership with several international institutions, including UNESCO, the main promoter of the project, Cameroonian scientist and economist, Jacques Bonjawo, has said. Telemedicine is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred via telephone, the Internet or other networks.

Global: Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch)


GISWatch is a groundbreaking publication, which will impact on policy development processes worldwide and could make a difference in your country if more people hear about its findings. GISWatch is an annual watchdog report which this year asks: How do we ensure access to the internet is a human right enjoyed by everyone? The report highlights the importance of people's access to information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, and where and how countries are getting it right (or wrong), and what can be done about it.

West Africa: Women and cybercrime in Burkina Faso


Fraud, data piracy, seeking partners on the internet: women in Burkina Faso are as much victims as perpetrators. From Ouagadougou to Banfora via Bobo-Dioulasso, and from Ouahigouya to Dori, all towns with an internet connection are affected by this phenomenon. However, the fight against this crime is in the tentative stages, if not altogether non-existent. Legislation is still under development.

Fundraising & useful resources

Africa: CODESRIA/SEPHIS Faculty Exchange Programme


CODESRIA/SEPHIS collaborative programme is pleased to announce the launch of its Faculty Exchange Programme. The programme is scheduled for May-June 2009 and will start off with one fellow. The basic idea of the Faculty Exchange programme is to foster knowledge and understanding by facilitating exchange of faculty and publications between two departments in different continents of the South. The objective is to create South-South awareness and curiosity among staff in educational institutions through a dynamic intellectual exchange among research traditions and networks in the South.

africa: Vacancy for a PhD position


In this research programme an interpretation will be offered of the relationship between the new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), social space, mobility and marginality in Sub-Saharan Africa. In six case-studies (Central Chad, West-Cameroon, Central Mali, Senegal, North Angola and South-East Angola), the programme seeks to arrive at an interdisciplinary analysis of the dynamics of mobility, social relations and communication technologies.

Global: Special collection of online learning tools on violence against women

VAWnet eNewsletter (December/January 2009)


This collection provides a sampling of available Online Learning Tools with subject matter related to violence against women prevention and intervention. Materials included in this collection have four key components: they are 1) free, 2) available online, 3) interactive, and 4) self-guided. The resources listed here can be used for the purposes of staff development (by individuals), or as tools for trainers (in groups).

Courses, seminars, & workshops

Africa: CODESRIA Social Research in Africa: 2009 Special Session for East Africa

Fields and Theories of Qualitative Research


The 2009 session of the CODESRIA sub-regional methodological workshops will explore the conditions for the employment and validation of qualitative perspectives in African contexts. To this end, the workshops will be open to all the social research disciplines. These disciplines are uniformly confronted with broadly similar difficulties of understanding social reality and the challenges posed by techniques of data collection and analysis, which, on account of their “qualitative” nature, are suspected by some to be seriously lacking in scientific rigour.

Africa: CODESRIA Social Research in Africa: 2009 Special Session for Nigeria


The Special Nigerian edition of the methodological workshops that is on offer for 2009 is designed for doctoral students and young, mid-career African researchers based in Nigeria. The working language to be employed during the workshop will be English. The session will be led by a director who will be assisted by a team of three lecturers, all with an acknowledged expertise in the application of social science research methods. Senior researchers wishing to be considered for a role as resource persons are invited to send an application which indicates their interest and includes their current CV and an outline of issues they would like to cover in four lectures of two hours each.

Africa: CODESRIA/SEPHIS Lecture Tour 2009 - Call for Applications


CODESRIA / SEPHIS programme is pleased to announce the 2009 session of its Lecture Tour series. The Lecture Tour series is an international academic forum that seeks to create a space for scholars from the South to discuss and express their ideas and share their perspectives on selected themes. It serves as an opportunity for Southern institutes or universities to invite a scholar with an established reputation from another area of the South, affiliated to a historic school or specific research approach, to present a series of public lectures and seminars on chosen themes.

Africa: CODESRIA: Comparative Research Networks (CRNs)

Call for Proposals for 2009


Within the framework of its strategy for building comparative knowledge on Africa produced from within the African continent, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) invites proposals from researchers based in African universities and centres of research for the constitution of Comparative Research Networks (CRNs).

Africa: CODESRIA: Text Book Programme: Call for applications for 2009


The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is pleased to call for proposals for its revamped programme for the publication of text books for use in African universities. The programme was initially introduced as part of a broad set of objectives for achieving greater balance and relevance in curriculum development in African universities by making available to teachers and students, text books that are adapted to the African historical context and the environment of research and learning on the continent.

Global: AAPDEP Conference, Feb. 21-22, 2009

A Call to African Engineers, Scientists and Healthcare Workers


On February 21 - 22, 2009, the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP) will hold it’s second annual International Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Conference will open with a presentation by African Socialist International (ASI) Chairman Omali Yeshitela, who is credited with keeping alive the vision of Kwame Nkrumah and Marcus Garvey for a united prosperous Africa and forging a practical 21st century program for its achievement.

Global: Contemporary India-East Africa relations: shifting terrains of engagement

27 – 28 April 2009. Call for papers


This conference forms part of a collaborative project between the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) and the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS). Compared to the rapidly proliferating work on China in Africa, India, the other great ‘Asian Driver’, has been rather neglected in academic and policy circles. This event will bring together a series of papers on India’s changing relations with one region of sub-Saharan Africa.

Global: Great Lakes Conference at LSE in May 2009

Call for Papers


In September 2007, the International Humanitarian Law Project at the London School
of Economics and Political Science held a Symposium to discuss the content of the
Pact and its Protocols. The follow-up Conference on 29-30 May 2009 will focus on
the implementation and enforcement of the Protocols. Individuals who played an
integral role in drafting the Pact and Protocols as well as those responsible for its implementation have been invited to participate during the course of the first day.

ISA World Congress of Sociology, 11-17 July 2010

Call for presentation abstracts


The disaster of climate change is intertwined with peace and conflict at many levels, from international environmental negotiations to indigenous communities using local abilities and resources to forge connections for dealing with climate change's impacts. This session will explore these interlinks, in particular to try separate the hyperbole over climate change causing all witnessed problems from the reality of climate change exposing vulnerabilities and conflicts that have long simmered but have not been addressed. Authors are encouraged to think broadly about peace and conflict and to ensure that any presentation critically engages with contemporary discourse on the topic.

South Africa: The 2009 Annual Rosa Luxemburg Cape Partners Seminar


For a number of years now, particularly in the period of globalisation, trade unions have been faced with major challenges which call for strategic responses. These challenges include building trade union internationalism in the period of mobile capital, assessing relations with left political parties as these have been dragged towards the political centre, tensions between collective bargaining and defensive struggles and strategic, revolutionary unionism and so on. This, the first of a new series of Annual Conferences, hosted by ILRIG and other partners, is an opportunities for activists and analysts - trade unionists as well as those involved in social movement campaigns - in South Africa to debate experiences of organising in South Africa, and elsewhere, whilst hearing of other forms of trade unionism in South Africa and elsewhere.


Africa: Africa Policy Outlook 2009


The outpouring of emotion across Africa when President Barack Obama was sworn in had as much to do with his heritage as with the possibility that he might reverse some of the Bush administration's disastrous policies. President George W. Bush trumpeted Africa as a foreign policy success, highlighting the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) as proof. He didn't mention the extremely unpopular ideological limitations on PEPFAR that he championed.

Global: 200 Years Later…

Awarded new publication on African resistance against the Slave Trade


This catalogue was published on the occasion of the Event Series “200 Years Later…”, commemorating the 200 year anniversary of the official Abolition of the Maafa (Transatlantic Slave Trade), Berlin, 23-30.11.2008. It was awarded UNESCO's Toussaint Louverture Medal for its “contribution to the struggle against domination, racism and intolerance”. At the centre stands the celebration of the much neglected and still widely unknown manifold strategies of resistance of African people / people of African descent against one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind and the cultural and artistic practices they developed on the basis of this resilience.

Switzerland and Slavery


After some five years of research, Hans Fässler's book on Switzerland's links with slavery and the slave trade was published in 2005 under the title "Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine in Sachen Sklaverei" (Rotpunkt-Verlag, Zurich). It has since been translated into French and been published in France under the title "Une Suisse esclavagiste. Voyage dans un pays au-dessus de tout soupçon" (Duboiris, Paris) with a preface by Doudou Diène, special rapporteur to the UN on contemporary forms of racism.

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