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    Back Issues

    Pambazuka News 465: French nuclear energy: Powered by Niger / Haiti in crisis

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

    Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839

    CONTENTS: 1. Features, 2. Comment & analysis, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Pan-African Postcard, 5. Obituaries, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. Blogging Africa, 8. Emerging powers in Africa Watch, 9. Highlights French edition, 10. Zimbabwe update, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Development, 17. Health & HIV/AIDS, 18. Education, 19. LGBTI, 20. Environment, 21. Land & land rights, 22. Media & freedom of expression, 23. Conflict & emergencies, 24. Internet & technology, 25. Fundraising & useful resources, 26. Courses, seminars, & workshops, 27. Publications

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    Highlights from this issue

    - Jacques Depelchin on Haiti's continuing struggle following Tuesday's earthquake
    - Khadija Sharife reveals how French nuclear power is fed by uranium from Niger
    - Sylvia Tamale highlights the human rights impact of Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill
    - Alemayehu G. Mariam on Ethiopia's creeping famine
    - Dale McKinley looks at what the new decade holds for South Africa
    + more

    - Annar Cassam on Italy's uneasy relationship with immigrant labourers
    - Waheeda Amien on Muslim marriage in the South African legal system

    - Media gagging in Kenya's constitution review process
    - Attacks on Namibia's judges must be condemned
    + more

    - Bill Sutherland, Pan-African Pacifist

    - Chris Zambelis on China's inroads into North Africa
    + moreZIMBABWE UPDATE: SADC Troika meets in Maputo
    WOMEN & GENDER: Clash over abortion rights in new constitution
    CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Keeping dialogue alive in CAR
    HUMAN RIGHTS: Kenya police fire on Muslim protesters
    REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Congolese refugees not ready to return home
    EMERGING POWERS NEWS: Emerging powers news roundup
    ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Ivorian election under threat again
    HEALTH & HIV/AIDS: New campaign to boost condom use in Rwanda
    EDUCATION: Algeria fines parents to curb dropout rate
    DEVELOPMENT: Malawi Green Belt initiative takes shape
    LGBTI: Swaziland lesbian murder condemned
    ENVIRONMENT: Fighting climate change with grasslands
    LAND & LAND RIGHTS: Ethiopia offers land dirt cheap to farming giants
    MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Court lifts sanctions on Chad weekly
    INTERNET & TECHNOLOGY: Tanzania to track malaria drug supply via sms
    PLUS: jobs, fundraising & useful resources, publications, courses, seminars and workshops

    *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


    Let Haiti be Haiti

    Jacques Depelchin


    cc Wikimedia
    ‘Our deepest sympathies to the entire Haitian population’, writes Jacques Depelchin, ’and in particular to those who, prior to the earthquake were already suffering too much, simply because they were continuing a struggle started more than two centuries ago.’

    To all those who have lost loved ones, please accept our most sincere condolences. Our deepest sympathies to the entire Haitian population and in particular to those who, prior to the earthquake were already suffering too much, simply because they were continuing a struggle started more than two centuries ago. To those who departed, we wish them eternal peace and the most warm welcome by the Creator and the ancestors.

    We would like to express our solidarity for Haiti a country where, from 1791 to 1804, Africans unchained themselves in the name of fidelity to humanity. Africans, ahead of their time, had then given a lesson to those who usually assigned themselves that role, self-proclaimed revolutionaries of a revolution, we are told, prepared by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. But as Louis Sala-Molins amply demonstrated in Le Code Noir, not a single philosopher ever uttered a word on the Black Code, launched in 1685 and terminated in 1848.

    The destructions caused by nature are little compared by those created, inflicted, calculated, distilled by the godfathers of a system which has become today so predatory that the biological and ideological descendants (of the enslavers), as if on automatic pilot, can do no better than react through charitable gestures orchestrated by a deformed conscience dominated by a mindset sharpened by the constant search of ways to rape humanity, while giving it the impression of loving it.

    In the coming days, the suffering from the consequences of the destruction caused by nature will bury even deeper those caused by the predators and their admirers. But the fidelity to the truth that ‘tout le monde est monde’ shall always be stronger than forgetfulness. That kind of fidelity does not satiate its thirst from the crocodile tears poured by media correspondents who rehash statistical tables accumulated by humanitarian organisations whose task is to cover up the outcomes of a crime against humanity by empathising on the fate of ‘the poorest country of the planet’. That fidelity has resisted, is resisting and shall resist against the most brutal and softest forms of torture, imagined by those who in the name of capital’s liberty, are programming the slow liquidation of humanity.

    The same press correspondents, with tears in their eyes, point out Haiti’s ‘political instability’ while refusing to get into the root causes, direct and indirect, for if they were to dig further into such causes, they would have to recognise that, in Haiti, despite the reverses, fidelity to the values of liberty, equality, fraternity continues as vibrant as ever.

    In the face of such immeasurable tragedy, Haiti can best heal by being whole again. President Jean Bertrand Aristide must be allowed to go back among his compatriots. For it is in the face of such a tragedy that one must call for solidarity to rise above political and ideological divisions and cleavages. Haiti has suffered more than its share. It deserves to be whole again and it deserves the most generous gestures of solidarity as a Nation. Let all of its members get back together to rebuild their lives. How far shall one let Haiti bleed?

    It is difficult, in the forthcoming days and weeks, not to ask those organisations which wrap themselves in humanitarian clothes in order to avoid fidelity to humanity, to let us know of the fate of Pierre-Antoine Lovinsky who had been kidnapped for calling with persistence for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


    * Jacques Depelchin is co-founder of Otabenga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in the DRCongo.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Global responses to the Haiti earthquake

    Rebecca Zausmer


    Haiti is caught in tragedy once again. The country has been hit by its strongest earthquake for two centuries. While world leaders, institutions, NGOs, and individuals make their pledges, thousands are trapped beneath the rubble and unknown death tolls mount. The struggle to save lives is hampered by an obliterated infrastructure.

    Shortly before dark at 16.53 on Tuesday 11 January Haiti was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, its most powerful in 200 years. The earthquake struck only 15km south west of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. It lasted for nearly a minute. Witnesses stated that the city was cloaked in a cloud of dust and smoke for about 12 minutes after the earthquake. Rory Carroll, writing for the Guardian, describes what lay beneath the cloud of dust: ‘When it partly cleared the scene was apocalyptic. Neighbourhoods levelled, shopping centres reduced to rubble, ravines filled with corpses and debris. People streaked white with dust and red with blood wept and staggered, dazed amid an alien landscape.’

    The devastation in the city was described by Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, as ‘unimaginable’. While the death toll remains unknown, the Red Cross has stated that up to 3 million people have been affected. Survivors have been sleeping on the streets.

    Photographs are an immediate and stark portrayal of the extent of the devastation to Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas. Images are of entire shanty towns melted onto the side of hills; before shots of the crisp white domes of the presidential palace in their stiff splendor contrasted with a drooped and buckled pile; bloody, desperate faces; anonymous limbs.

    While the death toll cannot yet be calculated, it is clear that numbers do not lie in hundreds or thousands, but in tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. Jean-Max Bellerive, the Haitian prime minister, has stated that the number of dead could exceed 100, 000. Haitian senator Youri Latortue is far more pessimistic in his estimations, stating that the number of dead could be over 500, 000. There is no way of knowing exact numbers at the moment, however. The extent of the devastation and collapsed buildings is the only clue for estimating the death toll number, with Bellerive stating ‘so many, so many buildings, so many neighbourhoods are totally destroyed, and some neighbourhoods we don't even see people, so I don't know where those people are.’

    With a strong presence in Haiti, the United Nations and its personnel have been severely affected. The head of the UN mission to Haiti, Hedi Annabi of Tunisia, and his chief deputy, Luis Carols da Costa are still missing. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, is reporting 16 peace-keeping soldiers dead and between 100 and 150 people from its peace-keeping mission missing.

    Haiti’s already poor infrastructure has been severely damaged. Phone services, electricity and water are all down. Hospitals, schools, hotels have collapsed leaving injured survivors with nowhere to go to receive treatment.

    Brian Atwood, formerly of the Agency for International Development, said ‘I can't tell you how devastating this is to a very, very poor country, whose infrastructure was very bad in the first place, which is why the devastation is always worse…’

    Médecins Sans Frontières’s ground team is reporting that ‘communication systems such as mobile phone networks are not working and road access is severely hampered.’ A major concern is the devastation caused to medical facilities. The earthquake has severely damaged hospitals in the capital. MSF is currently treating existing patients and attempting to increase its capacity to treat new patients.

    Paul McPhun, a spokesman for MSF in Toronto has stated that of the three centres in which MSF has been providing care, ‘One has completely collapsed and two others are so structurally damaged we cannot use them… The challenge, therefore, for our team, is that the level of care we can now provide without that infrastructure is very limited.’ He adds, ‘The reality of what we’re seeing is severe traumas – head wounds, crushed limbs – severe problems that cannot be dealt with at the level of care we currently have available with no infrastructure really to support it.’

    The world is now rallying in its aid efforts. Ban Ki-moon has announced that the UN is releasing $10 million from its emergency fund. At the UN Security Council, General Assembly on 13 January, the Assembly’s Acting President Michel Tommo Monthe stated ‘The situation is overwhelming,’ he said. ‘Haiti is neither equipped nor does it have the resources to meet the challenge. It requires the full support and concerted action by the entire international community.’

    President Obama has vowed to give Haiti the US’s full support with a ‘swift and coordinated’ response and ‘aggressive effort to save lives’. He has also asserted that the effort must be an international one.

    The rest of the world’s leaders have been quick to follow suit. Aid is being offered in the form of funds, personnel and supplies and has been pledged by several other countries including Britain, Canada, China, France, Spain, Guyana, Iceland, Morocco, Cuba, Japan, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, the Netherlands, Belize, Brazil. On Thursday, Israel and Chile added themselves to the list.

    South Africa has sent its first team of ten rescue specialists to be followed by a team of trauma specialists, says Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers, SA disaster relief organisation. President Jacob Zuma has conveyed South Africa’s condolences to Haiti’s government and people.

    Development Banks have begun to pledge aid. The World Bank made its pledge of $100 million on 13 January. It is currently considering setting up a special trust fund to channel and coordinate aid to the country. The World Bank headquarters in the capital have been destroyed, but most of its staff is accounted for. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) is now to redirect US$98 million of undispersed funds to Haiti. Initially, however, IADB pledged only US$200,000.

    The Irish telecommunications network Digicel is donating US$5 million to aid agencies for relief efforts. Donations are being made to the NGOs that are at the forefront of these relief efforts.

    Surprisingly, while there is immense international pressure to act quickly, the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission are considering waiting until the end of January until a decision is made on whether it offers support.

    Initial efforts on the ground have concentrated on search and rescue efforts with make-shift hospitals being set up. On Wednesday Iceland was one of the first country teams to arrive in Haiti with 10 tonnes of rescue equipment and 37 rescuers. Most rescue workers arrived in Haiti on Thursday 14 January nearly two days after the earthquake. They arrived with thousands of tonnes of supplies.

    While aid workers are racing to save lives, scientists have begun explaining why the earthquake has been so devastating. According to David Rothery, Planetary Scientist at the Open University, the extent of devastation caused by the earthquake is not only a result of its magnitude but its closeness to the surface. The source of the earthquake occurred approximately 10km from the earth’s surface. The aftershocks of the earthquake continue to contribute to building collapse. According to Dr Brian Baptie, Seismologist of the British Geological Survey, aftershocks ‘always punch above their weight, affecting buildings that have already been damaged and hampering relief efforts.’ By 1400 GMT on 13 January, 33 aftershocks greater than a 4.5 magnitude had already been recorded.

    As the tragedy of the earthquake unfurls, Haiti’s fraught history is being retold. Al Jazeera’s Avi Lewis explains why Haiti is so susceptible to the tragedy: Haiti’s ‘history has been marked not only by natural disasters, but by political and economic conflict. It is a story of international intervention that has left the country particularly vulnerable.’

    The tragedy is being explored beyond the immediate devastation and loss of lives. Tim Padgett of Time magazine believes its potency to lie in the fact ‘that it struck at a rare moment of optimism’ in Haiti. In the last decade Haiti has experienced the violent political overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Astride, and four hurricanes. It stands as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Padgett sees hope taken over by tragedy. Haitian-American development consultant Jocelyn McCallan, however, claims that the positive backdrop that the earthquake took place against – ‘could accelerate recovery’. As Padgett states, this is ‘a welcome outlook at this dismal time.’

    Survivors on the ground are telling of the horror in Haiti. Ian Rodgers, working with Save the Children in Port-au-Prince says "You are hearing the grief of people as they realise they've lost people, they can't find their children".
    Troy Livesay, a Christian missionary in Haiti describes the situation a couple of days later, ‘Many roads are blocked by fallen buildings. MANY people walking around with open and serious wounds.’ He adds ‘Never in my life have I seen people stronger than Haitian people. But I am afraid for them. For us… The horror has only just begun.’

    Donations of US$10 can be made to the Red Cross by texting 90999. The money will be charged directly to your phone bill.


    * Rebecca Zausmer is an intern with Pambazuka News.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    French nuclear power fed by uranium from Niger

    Khadija Sharife


    cc Topato
    Niger exports enough uranium to France to generate 50 per cent of the latter’s electricity supply, writes Khadija Sharife. But ordinary Nigeriens reap little benefit from France’s control of their country’s uranium resources, with over three-fifths of the population living below the poverty line and reports of radioactive contamination of water, air and soil by multinational mining operations.

    It is known as the ‘uranium highway,’ a network of major roads connecting the Niger’s primary urban mining centres such as Arlit, Agadez and Niamey. Developed in the 1970s and 1980s, the north-south highway acts as the primary vein facilitating carriage of liquidated uranium resources. The network itself forms part of the Trans-Sahara route, an ancient system used since time immemorial by inhabitants of the ‘Tinariwen’ – or Desert of Many, as the Sahara was known to its native sons and daughters, including the Hausa and Tuareg. Despite the nip and tuck of territories by former colonialists, conveniently stitching together concessional nation-states (the better to divide, conquer and exploit), the Trans-Sahara route continued to survive by innovatively moving around border closures. Central to this route is the landlocked Niger, the bridge between North and sub-Saharan Africa, a land bordered by seven countries.

    The Sahara, spanning 11 countries, composes 50 per cent of the Niger’s land mass – a country generally characterised by poverty, famine, droughts and dictatorships. Over 60 per cent of the population live on the poverty belt, deprived of access to food, water and waste sanitation, infrastructure and education. Life expectancy is pegged at 43 years, and most citizens, including 71 per cent of females, are illiterate – just three per cent of the state budget is redistributed toward education. Instead, at the turn of the millennium, over 50 per cent of development finance was used to service odious debt. Debt cancellation, following Niger’s qualification in 2000 for the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, required mass privatisation of the Niger’s state- owned enterprises and provided partial relief. Nonetheless, in 2004, IMF directors would conclude that the country’s debt burden remained high in spite of ‘structural adjustment’ medicine.

    The Niger, exporting 7.7 per cent of the world’s uranium, consistently ranks in the top five alongside Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, and produces on par with Russia. The town of Arlit alone largely supplies the country’s former colonial landlord, France, with the uranium required to power up the latter’s nuclear programme and power stations – generating almost 80 per cent of France’s electricity via an estimated 59 nuclear plants.

    Uranium was initially discovered in Niger in 1957 by the Bureau Minier de la France d’Outre-Mer, one year prior to the creation of Republic of the Niger. This followed in the footsteps of extensive surveys conducted by France’s Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), which started in 1956 and resulted in several discoveries on the eve of independence in 1960. France’s successful decolonisation in Africa was realised through secretive military and resource agreements and special monetary zones. These agreements interlocked the interests of France with those of handpicked ‘native governors,’ such as Gabon and Togo’s Gnassingbé Eyadéma and Omar Bongo – both lifetime leaders from selective political liberation until death – and Cote d’Ivoire’s Felix Houphouët-Boigny. As a result, France was not only granted preferential priority access to strategic resources, but the presence of French military bases in former colonies was legitimised, simultaneously sustaining the rule of dictators while keeping them in line. From the 1960s onwards, 27 agreements were signed by former colonies, including the Niger.

    French interests on the continent were realised through France’s postcolonial Africa policy, known as Françafrique, extending to the diplomatic and political echelons of the Elysée from the days of de Gaulle. The policy comprised corporate and intelligence lobbies, multinationals intimately connected to the State such as Elf and Areva, French-backed dictators, and shadow networks named in honour of its masterminds such as Jacques Foccart, de Gaulle’s chief Africa advisor who was called out of retirement at age 81 by French President Jacque Chirac to resume activities. Chirac himself would declare in the early 1990s that the continent ‘was not yet ready for democracy.’ When asked to describe the role of Françafrique’s Foccart, de Gaulle’s Deputy Prime Minister Louis Joxe declared, ‘Nurse-maiding presidents and making sure that African civil servants are paid at the end of the month.’

    Uranium deposits, found in the Congo, Gabon and the Niger, have enabled France to circumvent flammable geopolitical landmines associated with uranium mined in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia, regions that were perceived as leaning towards, or managed by, the US – France’s rival in Africa and globally.

    Resource-hungry China, with a rapidly expanding footprint in Africa – extending over US$24 billion in loans since 2003, chiefly backed by resources – is also considered a threat to French interests. Presently, France maintains 10,000 specialised soldiers on the continent, many of them based in Libreville, Gabon, also known as ‘Foccartland.’ From 1997 to 2002, France militarily intervened 36 times; 24 of these incidents were conducted outside the umbrella of the UN. The Françafrique policy has continued under Nicholas Sarkozy, with French soldiers still intervening in domestic disputes.

    Since the days of flag independence, the Niger’s Diori Hamani and his political party, the Parti Progressiste Nigérien (PPP), indirectly handpicked by France, ruled the country aided by various covert and overt interventions beginning in 1963. Thanks to a secretive defence agreement, French soldiers based in Niamey collaborated with Hamani to obliterate and exile the opposition, such as Union Nigerienne Democratique. Hamani ran unopposed in 1965 and 1970, but made the fatal error of requesting the removal of French troops in the early 1970s. France duly removed the troops. Not surprisingly, thereafter a military coup brought Colonel Seyni Kountche to power. In 1987 Kountche was killed and succeeded by Colonel Ali Saibou.

    Fast-forward to the Niger’s electoral authoritarianism under dictator Tandja Mamadou. Currently, the Niger’s 12,000 armed forces are guided by 15 French military advisors, with Nigerien personnel largely trained, armed and financed by France, protecting five critical defence zones – namely geostrategic routes and mines. The Niger’s two key mines are controlled by Areva, the world’s leading nuclear entity, controlled by the Elysée via the company’s majority shareholder, France’s state-owned CEA.

    With a presence in 43 countries, extending to every aspect in the commodity chain from extraction to enrichment, propulsion, recycling and dismantling, and €13,16 billion in sales revenue, Areva’s powerful mobile economy dwarfs that of many ‘developing nations.’ The Niger’s mines (underground and open pit mines) are operated by Areva subsidiaries COMINAK and SOMAIR, accounting for 75-90 per cent of the country’s export earnings. A contract between Areva and Mamadou’s government, signed in January 2009, to exploit Imouraren’s uranium reserves, is estimated to produce 5,000 tons per annum, with a life of 40 years. Production is slated to begin in 2012, with an investment of €1.2 billion. COMINAK and SOMAIRE currently produce almost 5,000 tons. ‘The subject of uranium and the agreements that are linked with uranium are highly strategic in nature, placed at the level of relations between states,’ stated Publish What You Pay’s (PWYP) National Coordinator Idriss Ali. ‘These agreements took the form of a neo-colonial framework that led to the signing of mining agreements establishing the functioning of the SOMAIR (1968) and the COMINAK (1975), which are nothing other than a bias contract, making available the uranium in Niger to France. Under these conditions, the choice is of the buyers of the product; setting its price in the international market is the prerogative of the former colonial power,’ he stated.

    Since 2007, the Niger government, in an attempt to diversify the uranium industry, awarded 122 exploration licences to multinationals from France, in addition to companies from the US, South Africa, China, Canada and Australia. China’s state-owned uranium firm, SINO-U, will invest US$300 million to exploit deposits at the Somina mine, near Agadez, producing 700 tons per annum from 2010. Meanwhile, the US’s Exelon Corporation signed agreements with the government to access 300 tons each year for a period of 10 years. But the government has also further diversified the type of commodities exploited, including oil (the subject of a US$5 billion deal with China’s National Petroleum Corporation) and gold (already the third largest primary commodity exported, accounting for 13 per cent of resource rent). But France remains both the single largest source of investment and the primary force effecting geostrategic control over, and exploiting, the Niger’s uranium resources.

    According to Areva, by 2006, the company had reached the threshold of 100,000 tons of extracted uranium. The Niger government received 300 billion CFA francs of a total 2,300 billion CFA francs in sales revenue. Mining activities, largely centred on uranium, generate between 2.4 per cent and 4 per cent of the Niger’s GDP. Areva also remains the largest employer in the country, following the government, with 1,850 people on the direct payroll and more than 4,000 indirect jobs through subcontractors and general supply services. ‘Our sustainable investments in water and health represent a contribution of more than 3 million CFA francs annually,’ stated the company.

    Yet it is precisely Areva’s environmental investment claims that have resulted in the country being up in arms, especially on the subject of the use of non-renewable water sources for COMINAK’s underground mine and the leakages of radioactive matter, including the contamination of water, air and soil; the use of lethal radioactive scrap metal for sale in markets; radioactive ore used to build roads; and dumped radioactive tailings (pulverised uranium rock). ‘When we visited the Niger, we were told by officials, ‘Here in Niger, you are in France.’ If there is a problem in Niger, the problem goes back to France, to Areva,’ said Bruno Chareyron, a physicist and laboratory manager with French NGO CRIIRAD (the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radioactivity), who produced a damning report.

    CRIIRAD’s reports documented various findings, including 20 million tons of carcinogenic radioactive tailings stored in open air; radioactive materials from the company disposed of and sold in markets through scrap merchants; discharge of toxic gasses from COMINAK’s mines as well as exploitation of finite water sources underground; contamination of water sources; and violation of international radioprotection standards, among others.

    ‘When we released the results to the press, Areva organised a press trip to the Niger and paid for a plane to take a team of 30 journalists to the country – but there was no Geiger counter, no real or tangible way to discern the levels of radiation. They could have been standing on radioactive rocks built into the street and not known differently,’ said Chareyron. He also revealed that a laboratory contracted by the multinational to monitor radiation disproved the company’s claims. Areva claimed that the Niger government was solely responsible for regulation systems.

    Meanwhile, the government of the Niger itself appears to exhibit the same lack of concern as the corporation. The country’s official institution monitoring ionising radiation, the National Centre for Radiation Protection (CNRP), when inspected by CRIIRAD was found to be idle. Explained CRIIRAD’s Chareyron, ‘CNRP could not carry out analysis due to the fact that their only Gamma spectrometer was broken – a wire had been out of place since the machine was initially delivered to them.’ But citizens in the Niger have not been idle. The Niger Movement for Justice, active since 2007, led by a former official from the Niger Armed Forces, has demanded a greater share of uranium revenue, protection from ecological degradation and access to constitutional rights such as water and waste sanitation, education and electricity. The government has dismissed the armed civil society movement as anti-democratic ‘drug smugglers.’

    It goes without saying that the Niger cannot actually access any of the uranium mined within its borders: 100 per cent of electricity (225 million kWh) is derived from fossil fuels and imported largely from neighbouring Nigeria. France, though, is well aware of the situation. ‘Until now, it is impossible for French citizens and civil society to obtain the content of such ‘secret agreements’ concerning access and control of resources – it is confidential,’ stated Sebastian Alzerreca of Survie, a French-based NGO. But, he cautioned, ‘If diplomacy fails, they can still send the gunman in.’ No doubt, the uranium highway will come in handy.


    * This article first appeared in The Thinker (Volume 11, 2010).
    * Khadija Sharife is a freelance journalist and writer. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and a researcher with the Tax Justice Network.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Human rights impact assessment of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

    Sylvia Tamale


    cc V J H
    Challenging Ugandan MP David Bahati’s assertion that homosexuality poses a grave threat to the ‘traditional African family’, Sylvia Tamale looks at the social meaning and legal implications of the country’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill.

    Public Dialogue 18 November 2009, Makerere University.

    I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre (HURIPEC) for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill. It is great that HURIPEC organised this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarise and divide along irrational gut-level responses. A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges. I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.

    Mr Chairperson,

    My brief talk this afternoon is divided into four sections:

    First, I will address issues of mutual concern that I share with Hon. Bahati;

    Secondly, I will open the window of history and offer us a glimpse of the politics of hatred and discrimination that has affected the struggle for human rights over the years;

    Third, I will highlight the social meaning of the bill; and

    Finally, I shall put on my legal hat and outline the legal implications that this bill holds for our country if passed into law.


    I have scrutinised the bill thoroughly and the Honourable Member of Parliament David Bahati will be surprised to learn that I share some of his convictions. For example, Hon. Bahati I share your desires as expressed in the preamble to the bill:

    1. To strengthen the nation‘s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the family unit. It is nevertheless important to point out that most of these can hardly be realised through the regulatory mechanism of the law.

    2. To protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, particularly the positive aspects of it.

    3. To protect Ugandan children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation—whether the abuse is hetero and homosexual.

    I do not have the time and space this afternoon to engage in a detailed sociological discussion of the concept that the bill refers to as the ‘Traditional African Family’. However, it is my humble opinion that the concept needs to be unpacked and scrutinised. Mr. Chairperson as you very well know, Africa is a vast continent with an extremely rich and diverse cultural history. Indeed it would be next to impossible to mark a particular institution as the one and only ‘Traditional African Family’.

    I will cite just a few examples to demonstrate that matrimonial relations among various African communities have differed a great deal:

    a) While marriage between first cousins was traditionally taboo among the Baganda, marriages among blood-related kin were considered the best unions among the Bahima here in Uganda;

    b) There is the phenomenon of ‘chigadzamapfihwa’ where the family of a barren wife among the Ndaus of Zimbabwe would ‘donate’ her brother’s daughter to her husband to become a co-wife and bear children on behalf of the barren woman;

    c) Practices of non-sexual woman-to-woman marriages among various African customs e.g., the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania for purposes of coping with various reproductive, social and economic problems; and

    d) Levirate marriages where a man inherits his dead brother‘s wife were a customary requirement in many African communities.

    While these may have been cultural practices at some point in our history, it is also important to recognise that family institutions all over the world are undergoing rapid transformation. The changes that we see in this basic unit of society are the result of many factors including, economic crises, an increasing number of working mothers, technological advancements, armed conflicts, natural disasters, globalisation, migration, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, etc. Many of these changes and indeed the evolution of culture cannot be halted, certainly not through law.

    Perhaps the undisputed value that is a common denominator in all traditional institutions of the family in Africa is the group solidarity that we have embedded in our extended family networks. Unfortunately, the support, stability, love and respect that were the hallmark of this family model are rapidly being eroded and will soon become history.

    Thus, while I agree with you Hon. Bahati that we must seek ways of dealing with issues that threaten our families, I do not agree that homosexuality is one of those issues. Mr Chairperson, Ladies and gentlemen, what issues currently threaten our families here in Uganda? I will name a few:

    a) Blood thirsty Ugandans and traditional healers that believe that their good fortune will multiply through rituals of child sacrifice.

    b) Rapists and child molesters who pounce on unsuspecting family members. Research undertaken by the NGO, Hope after Rape (HAR) shows that over 50 per cent of child sexual abuse reports involve children below 10 years of age, and the perpetrators are heterosexual men who are known to the victims.[1]

    c) Sexual predators that breach the trust placed in them as fathers, teachers, religious leaders, doctors, uncles and sexually exploit young girls and boys. A 2005 report by Raising Voices and Save the Children revealed that 90 per cent of Ugandan children experienced domestic violence and defilement.[2]

    d) Abusive partners who engage in domestic violence whether physical, sexual or emotional. The 2006 national study on Domestic Violence by the Law Reform Commission confirmed the DV was pervasive in our communities. 66 per cent of people in all regions of Uganda reported that DV occurred in their homes and the majority of the perpetrators were – male heads of households. [3] The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2006 put the figure slightly higher at 68 per cent. [4]

    e) Parents who force their 14-year old daughters to get married in exchange for bride price and marriage gifts.

    f) A whole generation of children who were either born and bred in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or abducted by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the northern sub-region of Kitgum, Gulu and Pader districts.

    g) The millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The Uganda Aids Commission puts the cumulative number of orphans due to AIDS at 2 million. [5]

    h) The all-powerful patriarchs that demand total submission and rule their households with an iron hand.

    i) Rising poverty levels and growing food insecurity which lead to hunger, disease, suffering and undignified living. Figures from the latest report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that over 60 per cent of Ugandans living in rural areas live below the poverty line.[6]

    I do not see how two people who are in a loving relationship and harming no one pose a threat to the family simply because they happen to be of the same sex. The argument that homosexuality is a threat to the continuity of humankind and that it will lead to the extinction of human beings in the world simply does not hold water because there are too many heterosexuals in the world for that to become a reality. How many of you in this room would convert to homosexuality any time soon? So, just as the priests, nuns and monks who are sworn to a life of celibacy will not cause the extinction of humanity, homosexuals will not either.


    Anyone who cares to read history books knows very well that in times of crisis, when people at the locus of power are feeling vulnerable and their power is being threatened, they will turn against the weaker groups in society. They will pick out a weak voiceless group on whom to heap blame for all society‘s troubles –refugees, displaced populations, stateless persons aka illegal immigrants, minorities with no status, children, the poor, the homeless, commercial sex workers, etc. I will offer a few examples to illustrate this point:

    In Uganda, colonialists at various times blamed traditional chiefs and elders as well as Muslims as the main impediments to progress and civilisation.

    Dictator Idi Amin blamed Asians for Uganda’s dire economic problems and expelled all Indians in the early 1970s.

    When Milton Obote‘s political power was threatened during his second regime in the early 1980s he embarked on a deliberate campaign of hostility towards refugees in Uganda, particularly those of Rwandese extraction. Obote‘s persecution of the Banyarwanda in Uganda and the whipping up of anti-Rwandese sentiments included the constant reference to his political opponent, Yoweri Museveni as a foreigner from Rwanda.

    In the 20 years that northern Uganda faced armed conflict, the NRM administration pointed fingers at Kony and the LRA was blamed for all the atrocities and suffering of the people in the north.

    The transmission of HIV/AIDS at various points in our history has been blamed on different ― weak constituents including commercial sex workers, truck drivers, young women aged 15-23, and mothers to babies.

    When native South Africans faced dire economic crisis they turned against black foreigners, blaming them for the high unemployment rates and sparking off brutal xenophobic attacks against helpless immigrants/migrants and refugees in May 2008.

    The lesson drawn from these chapters in our recent history is that today it is homosexuals under attack; tomorrow it will be another exaggerated minority.

    Homosexuality has troubled people for a very long time. Some religions find it distressing and there are many debates around it. Mr Chairperson and distinguished participants where did the idea of destroying homosexuality come from? As his excellency President Museveni pointed out at the inaugural Young Achievers Awards Ceremony last weekend, homosexuals existed prior to the coming of Europeans to Uganda. According to the President: ‘They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either’ (Daily Monitor, 16 November 2009, p2). The idea of destroying homosexuality came from colonialists. In other words, homosexuality was not introduced to Africa from Europe as many would want us to believe. Rather, Europe imported legalised homophobia to Africa.

    Homosexuality was introduced as an offence in Uganda directly through laws that were imported from Britain during colonialism. And what did these same colonialists think of the African traditional family in Uganda? They certainly did not introduce sodomy laws in order to protect the traditional African family. In fact they believed that the traditional African family was inferior to their nuclear monogamous one and considered the former barbarous and ‘repugnant to good conscience and morality.’ This colonial attitude was well exemplified in the infamous 1917 case of R. v. Amkeyo, in which Justice Hamilton dismissed customary marriages as mere ‘wife purchase.’

    Today, with all the economic, social and political crises facing Uganda, homosexuals present a convenient group to point fingers at as the ‘biggest threat’ or the ‘real problem’ to society. Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the re-criminalisation of homosexuality is meant to distract the attention of Ugandans from the real issues that harm us. It conveniently diverts the attention of the millions of Ugandans who have been walking the streets for years with their college certificates and no jobs on offer. Ladies and gentlemen, homosexuals have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of families that sleep without a meal or the millions of children who die unnecessarily every day from preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, measles, pneumonia, etc. Homosexuals are not the ones responsible for the lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care centres.


    You may think that this bill targets only homosexual individuals. However, homosexuality is defined in such a broad fashion as to include touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality. This is a provision highly prone to abuse and puts all citizens (both hetero and homosexuals) at great risk. Such a provision would make it very easy for a person to witch-hunt or bring false accusations against their enemies simply to destroy their reputations and cause scandal. We all have not forgotten what happened to Pastor Kayanja and other men of God in the recent past.

    Moreover, the bill imposes a stiff fine and term of imprisonment for up to three years for any person in authority over a homosexual who fails to report the offender within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge. Hence the bill requires family members to spy on one another. This provision obviously does not strengthen the family unit in the manner that Hon. Bahati claims his bill wants to do, but rather promotes the breaking up of the family. This provision further threatens relationships beyond family members. What do I mean? If a gay person talks to his priest or his doctor in confidence, seeking advice, the bill requires that such person breaches their trust and confidentiality with the gay individual and immediately hands them over to the police within 24 hours. Failure to do so draws the risk of arrest to themselves. Or a mother who is trying to come to terms with her child‘s sexual orientation may be dragged to police cells for not turning in her child to the authorities. The same fate would befall teachers, priests, local councillors, counsellors, doctors, landlords, elders, employers, MPs, lawyers, etc.

    Furthermore, if your job is in any way related to human rights activism, advocacy, education and training, research, capacity building, and related issues this bill should be a cause for serious alarm. In a very undemocratic and unconstitutional fashion, the bill seeks to silence human rights activists, academics, students, donors and non-governmental organisations. If passed into law it will stifle the space of civil society. The bill also undermines the pivotal role of the media to report freely on any issue. The point I am trying to make is that we are all potential victims of this draconian bill.

    Dr Martin Luther King Jr told us many years ago, ‘Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.’ Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs us: ‘All Human Beings are Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights.’ Many great people that we respect and admire have spoken out for the rights of homosexuals. These include international award winners and champions of freedom and humanity – President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Barack Obama. Just yesterday, it was reported that former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae added his voice to those who have come out in opposition to the Bahati Bill (Daily Monitor, 17 November 2009, p10).

    We must remember that the principal message at the heart of all religions is one of LOVE (‘And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’ – 1 Corinthians 13: 13). All religions teach the virtues of tolerance and urge their followers to desist from passing judgment. Ladies and gentlemen, this bill promotes hatred, intolerance, superiority and violence. Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, this bill is not the best method to address the issue. It is valid to have religious and spiritual anxieties but our jurisprudence has a long history of separating the institutions of religion from the law. The law, Mr Chairperson, does not seek to ally any legal principle with a particular religion. Mr Stephen Langa is free to deliver his lectures on morality but it is unacceptable to reduce what his is preaching into law. In my final submission I want to turn to a legal analysis of this bill.


    Mr Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the Anti-Homosexuality bill has a total of 18 clauses. 12 of these 18 clauses (i.e., 67 per cent) are not new at all as they simply replicate what we already have on our law books. So the first point I want to highlight is that Parliament has been given a bill two-thirds of whose content duplicates existing laws.

    So, let us examine the content of the remaining six clauses that introduce new legal provisions.

    Clauses 6 provides for the recognition of the right to privacy and confidentiality for the victim of homosexual assaults. This is a procedural issue that no one can dispute and it can easily be inserted in the Penal Code provisions that criminalise rape and aggravated defilement.

    Nevertheless, the remaining 5 clauses are extremely problematic from a legal point of view. They violate Uganda‘s constitution and many other regional and international instruments that Uganda has ratified.

    The interpretation section (Clause 1) replicates several definitions that are provided for elsewhere. Its novel provisions lie in the attempt to define homosexuality and its related activities. I have already alluded to the potential danger that Ugandans face in the threatening and broad fashion that the bill defines a ‘homosexual act’.

    Clause 13, which attempts to outlaw the ‘Promotion of Homosexuality’, is very problematic as it introduces widespread censorship and undermines fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech, expression, association and assembly. Under this provision an unscrupulous person aspiring to unseat a member of parliament can easily send the incumbent MP unsolicited material via e-mail or text messaging, implicating the latter as one ‘promoting homosexuality.’ After being framed in that way, it will be very difficult for the victim to shake free of the stigma. Secondly, by criminalisng the ‘funding and sponsoring of homosexuality and related activities’, the bill deals a major blow to Uganda‘s public health policies and efforts. Take for example, the Most At Risk Populations‘ Initiative (MARPI) introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2008, which targets specific populations in a comprehensive manner to curb the HIV/AIDS scourge. If this bill becomes law, health practitioners as well as those that have put money into this exemplary initiative will automatically be liable to imprisonment for seven years! The clause further undermines civil society activities by threatening the fundamental rights of NGOs and the use of intimidating tactics to shackle their directors and managers.

    Clause 14 introduces the crime of ‘Failure to Disclose the Offence’ of homosexuality. As I have noted above, under this provision any person in authority is obliged to report a homosexual to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge. Not only does this infringe on the right to privacy but it is practically unenforceable. It dangerously opens up room for potential abuse, blackmail, witch-hunting, etc. Do we really want to move sexual acts between consenting adults into the public realm?

    Clause 16 relates to extra-territorial jurisdiction, and basically confers authority on Ugandan law enforcers to arrest and charge a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who engages in homosexual activities outside the borders of Uganda. This law enforcement model is normally used in international crimes such as money laundering, terrorism, etc. The Ugandan Penal Code already provides for crimes that call for extra-territoriality. All these touch on the security of the state e.g., treason, terrorism and war mongering (see S.4 of the PCA).

    When it comes to offences committed partly within and partly outside Uganda, the Penal Code provides:

    ‘When an act which, if wholly done within the jurisdiction of the court, would be an offence against this Code is done partly within and partly beyond the jurisdiction, every person who within the jurisdiction does or makes any part of such act may be tried and punished under this Code in the same manner as if such act had been done wholly within the jurisdiction. Section 5.’

    Note that clause16 of the Bill employs the disjunctive ‘or’ which gives it wider reach than S.5 of the Penal Code that uses the conjunctive ‘and’. Therefore, what the Bill proposes to do is to elevate homosexual acts to a position of such importance that they appear to be at an even higher plane than murder, rape or grievous bodily harm for which no such provision is made. It is difficult to see any rational basis for such inordinate attention to homosexuality. And how exactly will they enforce this provision? Is the government going to storm the bedrooms of consenting adults, or deploy spies to follow them when they travel abroad in order to establish who they have slept with and how they did it? Does this include heterosexual couples that engage in anal sex? What about our constitutional right to privacy? In short, this provision of the Bill is a gross abuse of the principle of extra-territoriality. But more importantly, the bill carries hidden venom that is bound to spread beyond persons that engage in homosexuality.

    Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this bill is Clause 18, which requires Uganda to opt out of any international treaty that we have previously ratified that goes against the spirit of the bill. Article 287 of the Constitution obliges Uganda to fully subscribe to all its international treaties obligations ratified prior to the passing of the 2005 constitution. We cannot legislate or simply wish these obligations away. Indeed, international law prohibits us from doing such a thing. Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly sets out the pacta sunt servanda rule which requires that ‘Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.’

    Article 123 (1), a provision deliberately placed in Chapter Seven of the Constitution (dealing with the powers of the Executive) says: ‘The President or a person authorised by the President may make treaties, conventions, agreements, or other arrangements between Uganda and any other country or between Uganda and any international organisation or body, in respect of any matter.’

    This is a wide power that can only be limited by express language under the Constitution itself. A major procedural limitation is found in the next clause of the same article, which provides: ‘Parliament shall make laws to govern ratification of treaties, conventions, agreements or other arrangements made under clause (1) of this article. (Art. 123.2)’

    Another substantive limitation is to be found in the Bill of Rights found in Chapter 4. In effect, the President cannot by the mechanism of Article 123(1) sign treaties whose effect would be to amend the Constitution. Indeed, any such treaty would be, as a matter of municipal law, null and void to the extent of such inconsistency, in terms of Article 2 (2) of the Constitution.

    Parliament therefore has only a procedural role to incorporate treaties into Ugandan law – and that is the full extent of its powers. It cannot purport to proscribe ex ante (before the fact) the limit of the President‘s treaty making powers. Nor indeed, can parliament bind its own future action by purporting to exercise in advance its power to scrutinize treaties signed by the President and determine which of them to ratify. All that Parliament can do is to either ratify or refuse to ratify a treaty after it is signed, and in the latter case such treaty does not become part of Ugandan law. This is the balance of executive power and democratic input achieved by Article 123, and one that clause 18 of the Bill is incompetent to amend.

    Mr Chairperson, distinguished participants, I wish to end by appealing to members of parliament and all Ugandans that believe in human rights and the dignity of all human beings to reject the Anti-homosexuality bill. I am imploring Hon. Bahati to withdraw his private members bill. Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, out there and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorised into suicide? Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell. However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve. I suggest that Hon. Bahati‘s bill be quietly forgotten. It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.

    Thank you for your attention.


    Mr Chairperson, in the interest of time I will respond to only three issues:

    ‘Mad people’, ‘like bats seeing the world upside down’, ‘animals’, ‘wicked’… These are some of the words used to describe homosexuals by the audience. All the heckling and vicious jeering… Mr Bahati you commenced your talk this afternoon by saying, ‘We are not in the hate campaign’. Well, if you were in any doubt about the fact that your bill is whipping up hatred and violence against homosexuals, just reflect back on the discourse that transpired in the room this afternoon.

    Secondly, Mr Chairperson I think it is the height of paternalism and arrogance for Hon. Bahati and Mr Langa to stand here and say they are legislating against homosexuals because they love them, they feel sorry for them, they face the risk of cancer, their lives are reduced by 20 years, etc. Homosexuals are not asking for your pity, love, approval or redemption. They only want you to affirm their humanness and their right to exist and be different.

    Finally, Mr Chairperson, Hon. Bahati asked the question, ‘Tamale, do you support homosexuality?’ I would like to tell Hon. Bahati that I am a simple woman that recognises all human beings as worthy of dignity and rights and I am not obsessed with how people have sex in the privacy of their bedrooms. I support the rights of all human beings regardless of how and with whom they have sex as long as they are adults and are not harming anyone. So, the question should not be whether I support homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter.

    Thank you very much Mr Chairperson.


    * This speech was given at a public dialogue on 18 November 2009, Makerere University. It is republished from the Global MSM & HIV Forum.
    * Dr Sylvia Tamale is a Ugandan feminist lawyer and academic based in Kampala, Uganda. She was elected as the first female Dean of Law at Makerere University in 2004.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] Study cited in Uganda Youth Development Link, Report on Sectoral Study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Uganda, Commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (January 2004).
    [2] See Raising Voices and Save the Children (edited by Dipak Naker), Violence Against Children: The Voices of Ugandan Children and Adults. (2005). Available at 4
    [3] See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112
    [4] See
    [5] See Report by the Office of the Auditor General, Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda AIDS Control Project, October 2007. Available at
    [6] See UBOS, Spatial Trends of Poverty and Inequality in Uganda: 2002-2005, February 2009.

    Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill is inherently discriminatory

    Amnesty International


    cc Scroniser
    Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill would, if enacted into law, violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations, a report from Amnesty International has said. This extract from the report offers a human rights analysis of the bill.


    The Anti-Homosexuality Bill (the bill) published on 25 September 2009[1] would, if enacted into law, prima facie violate international human rights law and lead to further human rights violations. This memorandum presents Amnesty International’s analysis of the bill and highlights specific serious concerns the bill raises. The bill which has already been tabled before the Ugandan Parliament is currently being considered and pending for consideration by two committees of the Parliament before being submitted for parliamentary debate.[2]

    If passed, the bill would institutionalise discrimination against those who are, or who are thought to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It would reinforce the existing prohibition against consensual sex between individuals of the same sex – legislation that is itself contrary to international norms. The bill would go further, purporting to criminalise the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, compelling HIV testing in certain circumstances, imposing life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage, introducing the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ homosexuality, and punishing those who fail to report knowledge of any violations of these sweeping provisions within 24 hours. The confidentiality clause[3] would compromise the right to fair trial. The bill would have lasting deleterious effects on the lives of individual Ugandans who are thought to run afoul of its far-reaching provisions, and it would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and public health professionals.

    In sum, the bill would violate the principle of non-discrimination and would lead to violations of the human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, liberty and security of the person, privacy, the highest attainable standard of health, and life. These rights are guaranteed under Uganda’s Constitution and in international and regional treaties to which Uganda is a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). In the following pages certain provisions of the Anti Homosexuality Bill are analysed in the context of Uganda’s international, regional and domestic human rights obligations.



    Clause 2 of the bill would define and punish what the bill terms the ‘offence of homosexuality’. This provision largely replicates the existing prohibition on consensual sex between individuals of the same sex, section 145 of the Penal Code (an offence punishable by life imprisonment). Both the current law, clauses 2 and 14 of the bill (the latter on the ‘failure to disclose offences’) constitute prima facie violations of a number of human rights including the rights to equality and non-discrimination, privacy, liberty and security of the person, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and health.

    Moreover, section 145 has been and continues to be used by the police and other law enforcement officials to subject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda to arbitrary arrest and detention often resulting in torture, cruel, inhuman and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International and other groups have also documented instances of violence directed at those who are or who are thought to be LGBT persons. Clause 2 of the bill would reinforce such abusive practices, in violation of the rights to equality and non- discrimination; privacy, liberty and security of the person, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as outlined more fully in the sections below.

    The ‘offence of homosexuality’ as defined in clause 2 criminalises engagement in consensual sex with someone of the same sex as well as the ‘intention of committing the act of homosexuality’. The criminalisation of both the act and intent renders the definition of the offence excessively broad, imprecise, arbitrary and open to abuse. For example, it paves the way for the use of the so-called ‘homosexual panic defence’ which is a provocation defence that excuses violence against and even the unlawful killing of individuals who are perceived to have transgressed social norms.

    The bill deals mostly with homosexuality, but refers to gender identity in clause 18(2). This clause states that ‘definitions of ... “gender identity” shall not be used in any way to legitimise homosexuality, gender identity disorders and related practices in Uganda.’ This reference when read together with the strict binary definition of ‘gender’ provided in part 1 of the bill suggests that transgender individuals would also be criminalised if this bill is adopted into law, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Transgender individuals would be at increased risk if they did not appear to conform to gender ‘norms’, and if they were perceived as different by their behaviour, dress, or appearance because their abusers would infer sexual conduct from their gender non-conformity.

    The bill, which proposes to strip a section of the population of their human rights, could not only be construed as an official incitement to violence against LGBT persons, or anyone thought to be, but would also deprive the victims of this bill any redress, and allow their abusers to continue assaulting others with impunity. As noted by the former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Asma Jahanghir:

    ‘...The criminalisation of matters of sexual orientation increases[s] the social stigmatisation of these persons. This in turn makes them more vulnerable to violence and human rights abuses, including death threats and violations of the right to life, which are often committed in a climate of impunity.’[4]


    The criminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct is discriminatory. It violates the Ugandan constitution’s guarantee of equality and freedom from discrimination: ‘All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.’[5] It is also contrary to Uganda’s obligations under the ICCPR, the African Charter and other human rights treaties to which Uganda is party.

    The ICCPR recognises the right to equal protection of the law and the right to freedom from discrimination (articles 2 and 26). In Toonen v Australia, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance with the ICCPR, confirmed that sexual orientation is a prohibited ground of discrimination under these articles.[6]The UN Human Rights Committee has since urged states not only to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality but also to enshrine the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation into their constitutions or other fundamental laws.

    Article 2 of the African Charter provides that individuals are entitled to the rights under the African Charter ‘without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, fortune, birth or any status’. Article 3 of the Charter provides for ‘every individual’s’ right to equality before the law and equal protection before the law. In the process of considering state reports submitted to it under Article 62 of the Charter, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which monitors states’ compliance with the Charter has expressed the view that: ‘Together with equality before the law and equal protection of the law, the principle of non-discrimination provided under Article 2 of the Charter provides the foundation for the enjoyment of all human rights...The aim of this principle is to ensure equality of treatment for individuals irrespective of nationality, sex, racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.’[7]

    All of the non-discrimination provisions in international human rights law end with reference to ‘other status’, which has repeatedly been interpreted to include sexual orientation. The UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have all called for the repeal of laws criminalising consensual same-sex conduct, and also to enshrine the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation into the constitutions or other fundamental laws of states parties. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recently adopted a general comment interpreting the non-discrimination clause in the ICESCR, in which they specifically address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (for example, paragraphs 11 and 32) and gender identity (paragraph 32).[8] All people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to all human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Affirming human rights as they apply to diverse sexual orientations and gender identities is not claiming new or ‘special’ rights. It is demanding that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is guaranteed the fullest enjoyment of their civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. Amnesty International therefore calls on the Ugandan authorities to ensure consistency in Uganda’s commitment guaranteeing each and every individual’s right to non-discrimination by withdrawing this bill which targets persons for criminal sanctions on the basis only of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


    Article 17 of the ICCPR states: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, or to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.’ The right to privacy is also protected by the Ugandan constitution.[9]

    In Toonen, the UN Human Rights Committee found that ‘it is undisputed that adult consensual activity in private is covered by the concept of ‘privacy.’[10] The committee calls for the repeal of legislation that criminalises same-sex sexual conduct because such laws amount to a ‘serious infringement of private life.’[11]

    Further, invasion of privacy can amount to discrimination where such interference makes distinctions between individuals’ ability to exercise their right to privacy on the basis of sexual activity, sexual orientation or gender identity.


    Arrest and detention on the grounds of consensual same-sex conduct or gender identity or expression constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention is guaranteed by article 9 of the ICCPR and article 6 of the African Charter.

    The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the expert body on the issue, has repeatedly clarified that the detention and prosecution of individuals ‘on account of their homosexuality’ is arbitrary because it violates the ICCPR’s guarantees of ‘equality before the law and the right to equal legal protection against all forms of discrimination, including that based on sex.’[12]

    The bill, if enacted into law, would further be used as the basis for arbitrary arrests and detention of persons solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


    Freedom of expression is central to issues of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Although it is the sexual act that is criminalized, individuals are frequently targeted for discrimination or violence because of assumptions made on the basis of how individuals present themselves – such as their clothing, hairstyle, speech, manner, the company they keep. As such, laws criminalizing individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity constitute a violation of the individual’s right to freedom of expression, which is protected by the ICCPR (article 19), the African Charter (article 9) and the Ugandan constitution (article 29(1) (a)). The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has said that ‘all citizens, regardless of... their sexual orientation, have the right to express themselves, and to seek, receive and impart information.’[13]


    One of the rationales given for the Anti Homosexuality bill is Uganda’s ‘religious values’. However, the Ugandan Constitution protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief and the right to practise any religion,[14] and there is no state religion. Article 18 of the ICCPR provides that ‘everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’ Article 8 of the African Charter provides that ‘freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms’.

    The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors and advises on implementation of the ICCPR, has commented that: ‘The fact that a religion is recognized as a state religion or that it is established as official or traditional or that its followers comprise the majority of the population, shall not result in any impairment of the enjoyment of any of the rights under the Covenant, including articles 18 and 27, nor in any discrimination against adherents to other religions or non-believers.’[15]

    Indeed the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief notes that action in the name of religion or belief can be a cause of human rights violations: ‘the disregard and infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or whatever belief, have brought, directly or indirectly, wars and great suffering to mankind, especially where they serve as a means of foreign interference in the internal affairs of other States and amount to kindling hatred between peoples and nations’.[16]

    In other words, under international human rights law, Uganda cannot use religion or traditional African values as a justification to restrict people’s human rights.


    The Anti Homosexuality bill violates the right to health recognised in article 16 of the African Charter and article 12 of the ICESCR. These articles oblige Uganda as a state party to take measures to protect the health of her people. The re-criminalization of homosexuality, the provisions criminalising promotion of homosexuality,[17] and ‘aiding and abetting homosexuality’,[18] would negatively impact on the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health services for lesbians, gay men, bisexual or transgender people.

    Further, if the proposed bill becomes law, it will almost certainly undermine Uganda’s treatment and care for people living with HIV and AIDS. It will also likely have a negative impact on the campaigns to prevent HIV transmission. It will drive populations already suffering stigma for their consensual sexual conduct still further underground; this will make it more difficult for outreach and education efforts and will criminalise civil society groups engaged in that vital work.

    The International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights state: ‘States should review and reform criminal laws and correctional systems to ensure that they are consistent with international human rights obligations and are not misused in the context of HIV or targeted against vulnerable groups.’19



    Clause 3 of the bill imposes the death penalty for seven situations which it considers to constitute ‘aggravated homosexuality’.

    Clause 3(1) states: ‘A person commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality where the – (a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years; (b) offender is a person living with HIV; (c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed; (d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed; (e) victim of the offence is a person with disability; (f) offender is a serial offender, or (g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy, overpower him or her so as to thereby enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex’.

    This provision violates several human rights as discussed in the sub-sections here below.


    Clause 3 makes ‘aggravated homosexuality’ a capital offence.

    The proposal to impose death sentences as punishment for the acts described in clause 3 runs counter to the global trend toward a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2007 calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 104 UN member states in favour, 54 countries against and 29 abstentions.[20]

    Article 6(2) of the ICCPR stipulates that the death penalty, if it is to be applied at all, may only be imposed for the most serious crimes. The definition of ‘crimes’ should be consistent with the provisions of the Covenant. As explained in sub-section 2.1.1 above, many provisions of the bill are inconsistent with the prohibitions of discrimination found in international human rights law. In addition article 6(2) requires that the death penalty be reserved for only the most serious crimes. The UN Human Rights Committee has noted that Article 6 is abolitionist in outlook and held that the expression ‘most serious crimes’ must be ‘read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure.’[21] The former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Asma Jahanghir, said it was:

    ‘...unacceptable that in some States homosexual relationships are still punishable by death. It must be recalled that under article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights death sentences may only be imposed for the most serious crimes, a stipulation which clearly excludes matters of sexual orientation.’[22]

    By categorically excluding the criminalization of same-sex relations from the scope of article 6, the Special Rapporteur took a clear position against the criminalization of same-sex relations, not on privacy grounds, but by making the link to other violations of the right to life, saying that ‘the criminalization of matters of sexual orientation increase[s] the social stigmatization of these persons. This in turn makes them more vulnerable to violence and human rights abuses, including death threats and violations of the right to life, which are often committed in a climate of impunity.’[23]

    Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.


    Amnesty International recognises that states have a duty to protect against the infringement of others’ rights, including by proscribing actions such as coercive sex and the sexual abuse of children. However, consensual same-sex sexual relations should not be associated prejudicially with sexual abuse as clause 3(1) (a) of the Bill does to the extent that it considers all forms of consensual same-sex relations involving persons below the age of 18 as constituting child abuse.

    Sexual crimes against children are already criminalised under Ugandan law. Section 129 of the Ugandan penal code provides that ‘any person who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of 18 years, commits a felony known as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.’24 This section also provides for the offence of ‘aggravated defilement’ punishable by death.[25]

    Existing provisions on ‘defilement’ and ‘aggravated defilement’ under the penal code do not differentiate between same-sex and heterosexual sexual abuse. Hence it is not clear what the proposed offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ under the Anti-Homosexuality bill aims to achieve.


    Under clause 3 ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is also committed where the ‘offender is a person living with HIV’. On its face, the bill would impose criminal penalties in any case in which one of the partners is living with HIV/AIDS. Steps taken to prevent transmission, disclosure, or ignorance of one’s status are immaterial, as is actual transmission of HIV.

    In practice, the application of the criminal law to HIV and AIDS raises serious concerns, including their potential to interfere with public health strategies and to increase stigma and discrimination against people living with or thought to be infected with HIV/AIDS. If this bill becomes law, it will almost certainly have a negative impact on the campaigns to prevent HIV and AIDS transmission, which have to date met with considerable success in Uganda. It risks driving populations already suffering stigma for their consensual sexual conduct still further away from sources of support and information. This will make it more difficult for outreach and education efforts to reach them, and potentially it will criminalize civil society groups engaged in that vital work.

    The question of whether to punish individuals for the transmission of HIV to others has been reviewed by UNAIDS. UNAIDS is the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS which brings together ten UN organizations in the global response to HIV and AIDS. Its conclusion was that: ‘There are no data indicating that the broad application of criminal law to HIV transmission will achieve either criminal justice or prevent HIV transmission. Rather, such application risks undermining public health and human rights. Because of these concerns, UNAIDS urges governments to limit criminalization to cases of intentional transmission, that is, where a person knows his or her HIV positive status, acts with the intention to transmit HIV, and does in fact transmit it.’[26]

    The UN Human Rights Committee, the body in charge of monitoring the ICCPR, has noted that ‘the criminalization of homosexual practices cannot be considered a reasonable means or proportionate measure to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS’ and further noted that ‘criminalization of homosexual activity thus would appear to run counter to the implementation of effective education programmes in respect of the HIV/AIDS prevention.


    The bill proposes in clause 3(3) that ‘Where a person is charged with the offence under this section [‘aggravated homosexuality’], that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.’

    Forcibly imposing testing on individuals breaches their human rights and risks prejudicial outcomes to those tested in this manner. The right to privacy is violated through coercive measures such as mandatory testing for HIV. The right to liberty and security of the person (article 9 of the ICCPR) is violated when HIV status is used to justify deprivation of liberty or detention.

    For the reasons set out in the preceding and this sub-section, Amnesty International opposes the introduction and application of such legislation as a means of stemming HIV transmission. It would be inappropriate, ineffective and incompatible with the right of the individual to privacy, to non-discrimination and to due process. Such legislation would also violate Uganda’s obligation to take measures to protect the health of its people, as provided by article 16 of the African Charter and article 12 of the UN International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.


    The proposed provision against same-sexual relations with a person below the age of 18 years (clause 3(1) (a)) would appear to apply even if the accused were also below age 18. Other provisions of the bill could also be applied equally to children and adults – meaning, for example, that an adolescent under the age of 18 could be arrested and prosecuted for having consensual sex with another adolescent under the age of 18. And the criminalisation of the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ (clause 13 of the bill), discussed more fully below, may lead to limits on adolescents’ access to important health information.

    The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Uganda is a state party, recognises that ‘the best interests of the child’ needs to be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children.[27] These provisions are not in the best interests of children: Criminalisation is not an appropriate response to consensual sexual conduct by children. The promotion of adolescent health requires, as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has observed, ‘effective prevention programmes, including measures to change cultural views about adolescents’ need for contraception and STI prevention, and to address cultural and other taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality.’[28] More generally, the rights to freedom of expression, including the right to be heard in the wider society (guaranteed in article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child); access to information (article 17); and freedom from discrimination (article 2) are essential to prepare children for adulthood. [29]


    The bill proposes to introduce the death penalty for a person who engages in consensual sexual relations with an individual of the same sex who is living with a disability, considering such consensual conduct to be a form of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ (clause 3(1)(e)).[30]

    Whilst it is necessary to protect people living with a disability from sexual violence, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – which Uganda has ratified – includes in its guiding principles, Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons; Non-discrimination; And respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.[31]

    As a state party to the Convention, Uganda is obligated to ‘provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.’[32] The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health has provided a definition of ‘sexual health’ that includes:

    ‘A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality, not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity; sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.’[33]

    Rather than affirming the individual autonomy and inherent dignity of persons with disabilities, clause 3 of the bill would in fact discriminate against this category of persons.


    The preamble (memorandum) to the bill contends that current Ugandan law ‘lacks provisions for penalising the procurement, promoting, disseminating literature and other pantographic materials concerning the offences of homosexuality hence the need for legislation to provide for charging, investigating, prosecuting, convicting and sentencing of offenders.’

    Following on this, clause 13 of the bill is a wide-ranging provision that would prohibit the ‘promotion of homosexuality’. It seeks to punish what it terms as ‘participation in production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality; the funding or sponsoring of homosexuality or other related activities; the offering of premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality; the use of electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality’.

    Persons found guilty of the ‘offence of promotion of homosexuality’ are ‘liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment’. Where the offender is a corporate body or a business or an association or a non-governmental organisation, on conviction its certificate of registration shall be cancelled and the director or proprietor or promoter shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for seven years.

    This clause prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ would criminalise the activities of individuals or organizations who work on issues of human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity – and have ramifications for other civil society actors, including individuals and organisations working on HIV/AIDS prevention programmes and access to treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS. It poses potential severe unjustifiable restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in the context of legitimate human rights defence work.

    Clause 13 also poses unjustifiable restrictions to the exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and association in human rights defence work. The Ugandan constitution protects the freedom of assembly and association.[34] The African Charter and the ICCPR protect rights central to the promotion of human rights, including the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of association. Article 22 of the ICCPR states that ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others...’ Article 13 of the African Charter provides for the rights of ‘every citizen’ to participate in public life.

    The right to promote and strive for the protection and realisation of human rights is enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which was adopted by consensus by UN member states.[35] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has called upon its member states ‘promote and give full effect to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders’.[36]

    Key to the standards contained in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is the recognition that individuals or organizations who work on issues of human rights have the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.[37]

    The Declaration also recognises that human rights defenders frequently face violence in the course of and because of their work. The Ugandan state should protect human rights defenders against violence, threats and retaliation.38 Responding to a similar law in Nigeria that sought to restrict the work of human rights defenders working on sexual orientation or gender identity, the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders commented, ‘In particular, serious concern is expressed in view of the restriction such law would place on freedoms of expression and association of human rights defenders and members of civil society, when advocating the rights of gays and lesbians.’[39] The UN Special Representative on human rights defenders has also repeatedly documented violations against Ugandan human rights defenders who work on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.[40]

    As the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders has noted: ‘Of special importance will be women’s human rights groups and those who are active on issues of sexuality, especially sexual orientation and reproductive rights. These groups are often very vulnerable to prejudice, to marginalisation and public repudiation, not only by State forces but by other social actors.’[41] Given that this bill refutes the language of sexual rights (clause 18(2)), it could potentially be used against human rights defenders working on other sexual rights issues, such as sexual violence against women. Even if it is not, targeting this marginalised group of human rights defenders in the bill sets a dangerous precedent that could lead to the targeting of other marginalised groups, and those who work to promote and defend their rights.

    Far from restricting human rights, ‘the State has the responsibility to promote and facilitate the teaching of human rights and fundamental freedoms at all levels of education and to ensure that all those responsible for training lawyers, law enforcement officers, the personnel of the armed forces and public officials include appropriate elements of human rights teaching in their training programme.’[42]

    Passage of this bill would demonstrate a lack of commitment to the universality of human rights. The bill acts as a warning to human rights organisations that they are neither to work on the application of human rights to sexual orientation and gender identity, nor even to associate with an activist or organisation that does so. The bill would threaten individuals' ability to carry out legitimate activities in the defence of rights either individually or in association. This would apply not only to Ugandan activists, but to regional and international organisations who work in Uganda.


    *This is an extract from Uganda: Anti- homosexuality bill is inherently discriminatory and threatens broader human rights.The full report is available from Amnesty International.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] See Bill No. 18, The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009, Uganda Gazette No. 47, vol. CII, Bills Suppl. No. 13 (25 September 2009).
    [2] The Parliamentary Sessional Committee on Presidential Affairs has already considered some views on the Bill from groups and individuals. The
    Bill awaits consideration by the Sessional Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
    [3] Clause 6.
    [4] Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Asma Jahangir, E/CN.4/2001/9, 11 January 2001,
    [5] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda , Article 21(2)
    [6] UN Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 488/1992: Australia. CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992, 4 April 1994 (Toonen v Australia)
    [7] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, twenty first activity report, EX.CL/322 (X).
    [8] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 20: Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    (art. 2, para.2), E/C.12/GC/20, 25 May 2009. The Committee in its General Comment 14, “The right to the highest attainable standard of health”,
    U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2000/4 (2000), para.18 has also stated that : “By virtue of article 2.2 and article 3, the Covenant proscribes any discrimination
    in access to health care and underlying determinants of health, as well as to means and entitlements for their procurement, on the grounds of
    race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, physical or mental disability, health status
    (including HIV/AIDS), sexual orientation and civil, political, social or other status, which has the intention or effect of nullifying or impairing the
    equal enjoyment or exercise of the right to health. [...]”.
    [9] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda , Article 27.
    [10] Toonen v Australia, para. 8.6.
    [11] Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee: United States of America. 03/10/95. CCPR/C/79/Add.50; A/50/40, para.287.
    [12] Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, E/CN.4/2004/3, 15 December 2003, para. 73; see also Working Group on Arbitrary
    Detention, Opinion No. 7/2002 (Egypt), para. 27, UN Doc. E/CN.4/2003/8/Add.1; Opinion No. 22/2006 (Cameroon), para. 19, UN Doc.
    [13] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ambeyi Ligabo – Addendum Mission to Colombia, UN
    Doc. E/CN.4/2005/64/Add.3, 26 November 2004, para.75.
    [14] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda , Article 7 and Article 29(1)b and c.
    [15] UN Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 22: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Art. 18):
    CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, 30 July 1993, para.9. And in para.10 of the same general comment, “If a set of beliefs is treated as official ideology in
    constitutions, statutes, proclamations of ruling parties, etc., or in actual practice, this shall not result in any impairment of the freedoms under
    article 18 or any other rights recognized under the Covenant nor in any discrimination against persons who do not accept the official ideology or
    who oppose it.”
    [16] Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. UN General Assembly resolution
    36/55 of 25 November 1981, preamble.
    [17] Clause 13
    [18] Clause 7
    [19] International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights (2006 Consolidated Version), Guideline 4,
    pub07/jc1252-internguidelines_en.pdf, accessed on 6 June 2008.
    [20] UN General Assembly resolution 62/149, 18 December 2007. For more information see,
    penalty/international-law/moratorium. A further resolution adopted on 18 December 2008, was supported by 106 countries voting in favour –
    increased support which provides further evidence of the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. 46 countries voted against
    and 34 abstained. Uganda voted against both the 2007 and 2008 resolutions.
    [21] Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 6 (1982).
    [22] Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Ms. Asma Jahangir, E/CN.4/2001/9, 11 January
    2001, para.50.
    [23] E/CN.4/2001/9, para.50.
    [24] Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2007.
    [25] “Aggravated defilement” is defined as where, “a person performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years’ in
    circumstances where the victim is below the age of fourteen years; the offender is infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); where the
    offender is a parent or guardian of, or a person in authority over the victim; where the victim is a person with a disability; or where the offender is
    a serial offender.” Under this law, ‘aggravated defilement’ is punishable by death and the offence of attempted defilement is punishable by a
    maximum prison term of 18 years. Criminalisation is not an appropriate response to consensual sexual conduct by children. As the UN
    Committee on the Rights of the Child has observed in its General Comment No. 4 (2003) on Adolescent Health and Development, para.30 (a):
    states require “effective prevention programmes, including measures to change cultural views about adolescents’ need for contraception and STI
    prevention, and to address cultural and other taboos surrounding adolescent sexuality.” Amnesty International acknowledges the serious nature
    of the crime of child abuse and affirms the need for states to protect children from violence and sexual abuse. However imposition of the death
    penalty in cases of child sexual abuse runs counter to international standards seeking to narrow the scope of the death penalty, and contradicts
    the global trend towards eradication of capital punishment. While children must be protected from violence, the death penalty is not the way to
    do it. The death penalty has never been shown to be an effective deterrent. A child who becomes a witness is vulnerable to being influenced or
    coerced into making false statements, a matter of extreme concern when such evidence may be what secures a death sentence. Legal
    proceedings in such cases need to provide special protection, assistance and support to the child in order to avoid re-victimisation. And while the
    victims of childhood sexual assault deserve all possible therapeutic assistance, executing the offender does little to heal the trauma caused by the
    crime. It is Amnesty International’s experience that executions detract from other measures more effective at repairing the severe trauma caused
    by sexual violence.
    [26] UNAIDS. Criminalisation of HIV transmission: Policy brief. Geneva, August 2008. Available at:
    [27] Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 3.
    [28] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4 (2003) on Adolescent Health and Development, para.30 (a).
    [29] See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 12 (2009): The right of the child to be heard. CRC/C/GC/12, 20 July 2009,
    para.90. See also ibid., paras.80-84. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has affirmed that the non-discrimination provision in the
    Convention also cover adolescents’ sexual orientation. See UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment, para.6.
    [30] Clause 3 (1) of the bill provides that a person commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality where the (e) victim of
    the offence is a person with disability. Victim has been given an open-ended definition as including a person who is involved
    in homosexual activities against his or her will. Even if the principal sense of victim in the bill might be to address situations
    of non-consensual sexual relations, the definition of victim could also cover consensual sexual relations.
    [31] UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 3, Guiding principles, paragraphs (a), (b) and (d), respectively.
    [32] Article 25(a)
    [33] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,
    E/CN.4/2004/49, 16 February 2004, para.53.
    [34] Constitution of the Republic of Uganda , Article 29(1)d and e.
    [35] Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized
    Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. General Assembly resolution 53/144, U.N.Doc.A/RES/53/144, 8 March 1999.
    [36] Resolution on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Africa, 35th Ordinary Session of the African Commission n Human and Peoples’
    Rights, 21 May to 4 June 2004.
    [37] Article 6 of the Declaration provides: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (a) To know, seek, obtain, receive and
    hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms
    are given effect in domestic legislative, judicial or administrative systems; (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international
    instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
    (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and,
    through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.”
    [38] Article 12.2: “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and
    in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary
    action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”
    [39] Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Hana Jilani, Addendum: Summary
    of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/4/37/Add.1, 27 March 2007, para. 511.
    [40] Report submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, Addendum: Summary of
    cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, A/HRC/7/28/Add.1, 5 March 2008, paras.1907 to 1909; Report of the Special
    Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, A/HRC/4/37/Add.1, March 27, 2007, paras.559 and 560.
    See also Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and
    replies received, E/CN.4/2006/55/Add.1, March 27, 2006, paras.1046 and 1048.
    [41] Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, E/CN.4/2001/94, para.89(g).
    [42] Article 15, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

    Ethiopia’s 'silently' creeping famine

    Alemayehu G. Mariam


    cc Oxfam
    As famine and hunger envelop Ethiopia, Alemayehu G. Mariam asks why the alarm is not being sounded. Instead, with Ethiopia’s leaders flatly denying the existence of famine and the international community hiding behind the jargon of ‘food insecurity’, Mariam sees a predictable pattern to Ethiopia’s history of responses over the last four decades: ‘Always too little, too late’.

    'Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,' said Sir Walter Scott, the novelist and poet. Is there 'famine' in Ethiopia, or not? Are large numbers of people 'starving' there, or not? Is convulsive hunger a daily reality for the majority of Ethiopians, or not?

    No one wants to use the 'F' word to describe the millions of starving Ethiopians. In August 2008, the head of the dictatorship in Ethiopia flatly denied the existence of famine in a Time Magazine interview. Meles Zenawi explained, 'Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long, it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch - emergencies, but no famines.' Last week, the dictatorship’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mitiku Kassa, reacting defensively to the latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) projections, was equally adamant: 'In the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine… It is baseless [to claim famine], it is contrary to the situation on the ground. It is not evidence-based. The government is taking action to mitigate the problems.' Last October, Kassa claimed everything was under control because his government had launched a food security program to 'enable chronic food insecure households attain sufficient assets and income level to get out of food insecurity and improve their resilience to shocks… and halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.'

    But there is manifestly a 'silent' famine and a 'quiet' hunger haunting the land under Zenawi’s 'watch.' In April 2009, Zenawi gave an interview to David Frost of Al Jazeera in which he openly admitted that famine is rearing its ugly head once again in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa. Frost asked: 'Is there any danger that as a result of this [current] crises there could be famine like there was famine in 1984?' Zenawi responded:

    ‘Well, the famine of 1984 was precipitated by drought in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in general. The famine that could emerge as a result of this [current] crises is likely to be silent across the continent in terms of not swaths of territory that are drought affected but people suffering hunger quietly across the continent. That is the most likely scenario as I see it.’

    So, if the Famine Horseman of the Apocalypse is haunting Ethiopia and the continent 'silently' and 'quietly', why are we not sounding the alarm, ringing the bells and hollering for bloody help? Why are we quiet about the 'quiet' hunger and silent about the 'silent' famine enveloping Ethiopia today? Why?

    It is mind-boggling that no one is making a big deal about the fact that famine and hunger are back in the saddle once more in Ethiopia. Ethiopians need help, and they need a lot of it fast and now. Of course, nothing is more depressing than the sight, smell and experience of famine and hunger. For the second part of the 20th Century, much of the world believed the words 'Ethiopia' and 'famine' were synonymous. But it is unconscionable and criminal for officials to avoid using the 'F' word to describe the forebodingly bleak food situation in Ethiopia today because they are concerned it would cast a 'negative image' of them. Even the international experts have joined the local officials in boycotting the use of the 'F' word. Just last week, the US-funded FEWSNET declared that the majority of Ethiopians will be facing 'food insecurity' (not hunger, not starvation, not famine) in the next six months. According to FEWSNET, because of poor harvests from the summer rains in 2009, ‘as well as poor water availability and pasture regeneration in northern pastoral zones [and coupled] with two consecutive poor belg cropping seasons… high staple food prices, poor livestock production, and reduced agricultural wages, [there will be] elevated food insecurity over the coming six months [particularly in the] eastern marginal cropping areas in Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia pastoral areas of Afar and northern and south-eastern Somali region, Gambella region, and most low-lying areas of southern and central SNNPR…. In most areas of the country, food insecurity during the first half of 2010 is projected to be significantly worse than during the same period in 2009… Food security in eastern marginal cropping areas will likely deteriorate even further between July and September 2010. Overall, humanitarian assistance needs are expected to be very high.’

    Is it not a low-down dirty shame for international organisations, political leaders, officials and bureaucrats to use euphemisms to hide the ugly truth about famines and mass-scale hunger? These heartless crooks have invented a lexicography, a complete dictionary of mumbo-jumbo words and phrases to conceal the public fact that large numbers of people in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa are dying simply because they have nothing or very little food to eat. They talk about 'food insecurity ', 'food scarcity', 'food insufficiency', 'food deprivation', 'severe food shortages', 'chronic dietary deficiency', 'endemic malnutrition' and so on just to avoid using the 'F' word. FEWSNET has invented a ridiculous system of neologism (new words) to describe hungry people. Accordingly, there are people who are generally ‘food secure’, ‘moderately food insecure’, ‘highly food insecure’, ‘extremely food insecure’ and those ‘facing famine’ (see map above). Translated into ordinary language, these nonsensical categories seem to equate those who eat once a day as generally food secure, followed by the moderately secure who eat one meal every other day, the highly insecure who eat once every three days, the extremely insecure who eat once a week, and those in famine who never eat and therefore die from lack of food.

    For crying out loud, what is wrong with calling a spade a spade? Why do officials and experts beat about the bush when it comes to talking about hunger as hunger, starvation as starvation and famine as famine? Do they think they can sugar-coat the piercing pangs of hunger, the relentless pain of starvation and the total devastation of famine with sweet bureaucratic words and phrases?

    As officials and bureaucrats quibble over which fancy words and phrases best describe the dismal food situation, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are dying from plain, old-fashioned hunger, starvation and famine. The point is there is famine in Ethiopia. One could disagree whether there are pockets of famine or large swaths of famine-stricken areas. One could argue whether 4.9, 6, 16 or 26 million people are affected by it. But there is no argument whether or not there is famine; this is not a matter for speculation, conjecture or exaggeration. This can be verified instantly. Let the international press go freely into the 'drought affected' and 'food insecure' areas and report what they find. For at least the past two years, they have been banned from entering these areas. Is there any doubt that they would reveal irrefutable evidence of famine on the scale of 1984-85 if they were allowed free access to these areas?

    Obviously, it is embarrassing for a regime wafting on the euphoria of '11 per cent economic growth over the past 6 years' to admit famine. It is bad publicity for those claiming runaway economic growth to admit that millions of their citizens are in the iron grip of a runaway famine. If the 'F' word were to be used, then the donors would start asking questions, relief agencies would be scurrying to set up feeding stations, the international press would be demanding accountability and all hell would break loose. That is why the dictatorship in Ethiopia reacts reflexively and defensively whenever the 'F' word is mentioned. They froth at the mouth condemning the international press for making 'baseless' claims of famine, and castigate them for perpetuating 'negative images' of the country merely because the international press insists on finding out verifiable facts about the food situation in the country. The fact of the matter is that, unless action is not taken soon to openly and fully admit that large swaths of the Ethiopian countryside are in a state of famine, we should soon expect to see splattered across the globe’s newspapers pictures of Ethiopian infants with distended bellies, the skeletal figures of their nursing mothers, and the sun-baked remains of the aged and feeble on the parched land.

    Denial of famine by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes is nothing new. During 1959-61, nearly 30 million Chinese starved to death in Mao’s Great Leap Forward programme, which uprooted millions of Chinese from the countryside for industrial production. Mao never acknowledged the existence of famine, nor did he make a serious effort to secure foreign food aid. Ironically, the Chinese Revolution had promised the peasants an end to famine. The Soviet Famines of 1921 and 1932-3 are classic case studies of official failure to prevent famine.

    Why is it so difficult for dictatorships and other non-democratic systems to admit famine, make it part of the public discussion and debate and unabashedly seek help? Part of it has to do with image maintenance. Official admission of famine is the ultimate proof of governmental ineptitude and depraved indifference to the suffering of the people. But there is a more compelling explanation for dictators not to admit famine conditions in their countries. It has to do with a fundamental disconnect between the dictators and their subjects. As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argued,

    ‘The direct penalties of a famine are borne by one group of people and political decisions are taken by another. The rulers never starve. But when a government is accountable to the local populace it too has good reasons to do its best to eradicate famines. Democracy, via electoral politics, passes on the price of famines to the rulers as well.’

    An examination of the history of famine in Ethiopia lends support to Sen’s theory. Emperor Haile Selassie lost his crown and life over famine in the early 1970s. He said he was just not aware of it. The military junta (Derg) denied there was famine in 1984/85 while it waged war and experimented with the long-discredited practice of collectivised agriculture. That famine accelerated the downfall of the Derg. The current dictators have opted to remain wilfully blind, deaf and mute to the 'silent' famine and 'quiet' hunger that are destroying the people.

    The official response to famines in Ethiopia over the past four decades has followed a predictable pattern. Step 1: Never plan to prevent famine. Step 2: Deny there is famine when there is famine. Step 3: Condemn and vilify anyone who sounds the early alarm warning on famine. Step 4: Admit 'severe food shortages' (not famine) and blame the weather, and God for not sending rain. Step 5: Make frantic international emergency calls and announce that hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are dying from famine. Step 6: Guilt-trip Western donors into providing food aid. Step 7: Accuse and vilify Western donors for not providing sufficient food aid and blame them for a runaway famine. Step 8: Tell the world they knew nothing about a creeping famine until it suddenly hit them like a thunderbolt. Step 9: Put on an elaborate dog-and-pony show about their famine relief efforts. Step 10: Go back to step 1. This has been the recurrent pattern of famine response in Ethiopia: Always too little, too late.

    The fact of the matter is that famines are entirely avoidable, as Sen has argued with substantial empirical evidence.

    ‘Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up to independence … they disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multiparty democracy and … a free press and an active political opposition constitute the best early-warning system a country threaten by famines can have.’

    There is another question that needs to be answered in connection with the 'severe food shortages' in Ethiopia. Why are millions of fertile hectares of land under 'lease' or sold outright to foreigners to feed millions, continents away, when millions of Ethiopians are starving? To paraphrase Sen, such a thing would be unthinkable in a functioning multiparty democracy.

    With no pun intended, the 'breadcrumbs' of famine (or, as they euphemistically call it, the 'early warning signs') are plain to see. There have been successive crop failures and poor rainfall; water availability is limited and staple food prices are soaring; livestock production is poor as is pasture regeneration. Deforestation, land degradation, overpopulation, pestilence and disease are widespread across the land. If it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and walks like a duck, it is famine.

    If those whose duty it is to sound the alarm and get help are not willing to do their part, it is the moral responsibility and duty of every Ethiopian and compassionate human being anywhere to create public awareness of Ethiopia’s creeping famine and call for 'Help! Help! Help!'


    * This article first appeared in The Huffington Post.
    * Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino, and an attorney based in Los Angeles.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    2010: South Africa's upside down world

    Dale T. McKinley


    cc M Sill
    Dale McKinley looks at what the new decade holds for South Africa, as politicians, corporate mandarins and the media attempt to gloss over the “dirty” realities of the country's ‘grinding poverty, homelessness and mass inequality’ ahead of the World Cup.

    Even if the meanings we give to measurements of time are most often overblown, there is something about the mark of a new decade. In the case of South Africa, 1990 marked the beginning of the end of the apartheid system, ushering in a period pregnant with new hopes, possibilities and dreams. When 2000 rolled around it heralded not only a once in a lifetime turn of a century but carried with it the delayed weight of majoritarian expectation of an age of progress and plenty. So what are our ‘inheritances’ as we begin the new decade? Where do things stand? What is the mark of 2010?

    No doubt, the most obvious and widespread association with 2010 in South Africa is the upcoming soccer World Cup. The amount of work, money, media coverage and public propaganda expended in the last few years on this month-long event is unparalleled in our short post-apartheid history. Indeed, the sporting showpiece, is being presented as South Africa’s defining moment, the crowning glory of the political, social and economic standing of a nation, confirmation that South Africa is on the right path and has ‘arrived’ as a ‘world class’ country. Anything to the contrary is to be seen and treated as unpatriotic, negative and inherently treasonous (‘counter-revolutionary’ can’t be far away…).

    But there is something seriously distorted about the dominant picture that has been painted. If a government that has spent billions to build new stadiums and other infrastructure mostly designed to service tourists and a small domestic minority cannot ensure that school kids in the most needy of communities have decent soccer facilities and equipment, or that meaningful development programmes are in place for players in those communities where soccer is one of the most basic forms of social relations and recreational activity, then it should be clear that priorities have gone horribly wrong. When politicians, corporate mandarins and most of the media try to outdo each other in glossing over (and in many cases, practically hide, rationalise and deny) the ‘dirty’ realities of South Africa’s grinding poverty, homelessness and mass inequality in the rush to join the elitist imaging, self-interested short-term palliatives and profit gouging of the FIFA mafia, we should know that the picture is a fake.

    The soccer World Cup is however, simply South Africa’s ‘gorilla in the room’ metaphor for what Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano so ingeniously describes as our ‘upside down’ world. It is a world where ‘lead learns to float, cork to sink, snakes to fly and clouds drag themselves along the ground’.

    Like the politically convenient and elitist ‘forgiving’ of apartheid-era politicians and generals clearly guilty of crimes against humanity, the fact that South Africa is the most unequal society in the world has already been swept under the carpet less than a few months after it was once again statistically reconfirmed. The frenzied accumulation of the last decade that has produced more South African multi-millionaires per capita than any other country in the ‘developing’ world is celebrated as a sign of national pride and developmental maturity. Meanwhile, the complementary fact of ever-increasing unemployment and record inequality is fiercely contested and made to appear as either a necessary (systemic) aberration or as an Afro-pessimist and racist plot to discredit the government and the nation.

    When it comes to basic needs/services for the majority, things are certainly not as they appear. We continue to be regaled with exaggerated claims of delivery around things such as electricity, water and housing but are told nothing about the sustainability and affordability of such deliverables for that majority. No surprise then that the recent revelation that Eskom is charging high-end industrial consumers of electricity less than a third of what low-income residential consumers pay per KwH received scarcely a comment from those in positions of power and privilege. Similarly, the Constitutional Court judgment in late 2009, which effectively ruled that the enjoyment of the most basic need of life, water, should be determined by one’s ability to pay, was widely hailed as progressive and humane. In other words, if you are rich and use large amounts of a basic need/service you are affirmed and encouraged. Bad luck to everyone else, just grin and bear.

    What of the application of the law when it comes to that most practically ubiquitous but conceptually manipulated of 21st century South African ‘problems’, crime? Collude with your fellow corporates over several years to fix the price of some of the most basic food staples (read: Stealing from those least able to afford it) and your punishment is a minimal fine and some mild public scolding. Get caught stealing a loaf of bread from a grocery store and you’ll most likely to end up sitting in a jail cell for months before being criminally convicted of theft. Get arrested for rape and your bail will hardly ever exceed R2,000. Engage in ‘public violence’ while being a part of a community demonstration against local corruption and non-delivery of services and you can expect outrageously high and strict bail conditions.

    Things are even more upside down in the realm of leadership, work and personal responsibility. Here in South Africa, and this applies equally to the public and private sectors, dishonesty and incompetence are either rewarded or simply ignored and replicated. With a few exceptions, those who expose and confront the truth, who raise the alarm and who try to uphold collective, social as well as personal accountability are punished, marginalised, labelled and made to feel like outcast spoilers who do not belong. It is as if basic honesty and human decency have come to be seen as just another set of commodities, whose realisation only has meaning and application in the context of a self-beneficial application or transaction. When lying, cheating and conscious ineptitude not only become standard ‘governance’ practice (whatever the ‘sector’) but widely accepted within the social and economic sinews that hold societal institutions and life together, we are in deep crisis.

    So, is 2010 and the new decade it heralds already a ‘lost’ cause? Not quite. Upside down worlds tend to create and incubate a great deal of disorientation and disillusion, precisely the kind of societal ‘attributes’ that those who are on top seek to feed and sustain. Fortunately, despite the various semantic nomenclature created and sustained – in speeches, in education, in advertisements, in political debates et al – to deflect and obscure social dysfunction, to colonise and/or distort the real meaning of words and to excoriate the unwanted/uncomfortable, reality, like pap[1] at the bottom of the pot, has a way of always sticking. There is no law, no social norm, no impenetrable barrier that prevents us from changing that reality as opposed to suffering it.

    * This article first appeared in The South African Civil Society Information Service .
    * Dale T. McKinley is an independent writer, researcher, lecturer and political activist based in Johannesburg.


    [1] Maize meal porridge

    How to turn black education around

    William Gumede


    cc S F L
    ‘If we want to turn around black education in South Africa, we must start by changing prevailing anti-learning attitudes’, argues William Gumede. ‘Anti-learning attitudes’, says Gumede, are compounded by a ‘lack of political will from leaders to do something beyond mouthing off rhetoric, wrong official priorities and absentee black parents’.

    Beyond the usual official rhetoric, one does not get a real sense of crisis, and a sense of urgency from government to do some different. Introducing shortcuts, such as downgrading pass marks, is an indication of the lack of seriousness.

    There is a link between the rampant anti-intellectualism in the country, and the poor matric results. In dominant political circles, knowledge is rarely appreciated. In poorer black communities’, education is not strongly enough seen as an escalator out of poverty.

    Off course, the fact that many black learners see former matriculants wandering the streets, unemployed because they did not graduate with the right kind of subjects and results, that would make them employable, does not help.

    No country after the Second World War industrialised without educating the masses. Japan, South Korea, Singapore and now China’s prosperity is based on educating their nations.

    Education is the single most effective black economic empowerment strategy, or redistribution tool, to reverse the crippling apartheid legacy of deliberately under-developing black communities, to lift substantial amounts of the poor out of poverty. The continued slide in black education entrenches apartheid patterns.

    A minority that are in private schools, mostly white, and a small black middle class, can access education that can compare with the best in the world. The majority, overwhelmingly black, gets the worst education imaginable, leaving them without the skills to navigate the world of work.

    At this rate, blacks will continue to do the menial work, and whites will manage the sophisticated parts of the economy. But the lack of skilled blacks is not only a drain on the economy, black resentment, anger and powerlessness because of the economic marginalisation is a ready time-bomb.

    The election of Jacob Zuma as ANC leader and South African President and Julius Malema, as ANC Youth League President (and anointed by Zuma as future ANC President) show that anyone, no matter how sparse their education can make it to the most influential positions in the country.

    Yet, on the flipside, it could also easily send out the message that education does not matter. One can advance without education, if one only joins the ANC, became a loyal cadre, or links up with a local party boss, and stays loyal to him or her, and so on.

    The current way in which the ANC’s deployment system is being frequently manipulated means that even if someone has impeccable education, one can be bypassed for a job in the public sector, if not connected to dominant party bosses – the jobs given to those who lack competency but are allied to the local party boss.

    In most of East Asia, almost every second politician is an engineer or a commerce graduate.

    To expect delivery on promises for better education without parents, communities and civil groups keeping the pressure on government and teachers is just silly. As black parents we accept too much mediocrity from our government.

    Often a township school will be left without windows or a toilet, while the local councillor or politician supposedly representing the constituency drives an R1.2 million car.

    Those parents that can must be more involved, not only in tracking the progress of their children, but also in putting greater pressure on schools and government to improve schools.

    The reality that most black parents in poor communities cannot effectively support children. We must find ways to support them. School hours must be extended, and more after care support given at schools in poor communities. But poor families with children in school must be given a basic income grant. In return, the recipients of such grants, can be asked to guard, clean or offer general support to schools.

    Good teachers must be rewarded by government, communities and parents, and lazy ones disciplined. It is not the trade union’s job to protect poor teachers, just because they are members of the union. In fact, it is the union’s job to see that quality of teachers – its members – is high.

    Business must adopt poor schools, instead of appointing token politicians to boards and striking meaningless BEE deals with the politically connected. Government must provide resources to teachers and schools on time – and govern better.


    * This article first appeared in the Sowetan.
    * William Gumede is co-editor (with Leslie Dikeni) of the recently released The Poverty of Ideas.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Senegal: Casamance women call for peace


    cc T S
    Since the onset of violence in Casamance back in 1982, the Senegalese government and the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) have not been able to negotiate a lasting peace. Periods of relative calm have been regularly punctuated by violent flare-ups that lead to fresh negotiations. In recent months, the region has once again been plunged into violent conflict. The women of Casamance make this call for an immediate end to the violence.

    Manifesto issued and the start of negotiations between the government of Senegal and the Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC), to end the Casamance conflict:

    Casamance is in a deplorable state! Violence is once more taking root all over the region. The people are taking sides in the conflict as a result of the insecurity. As usual it is the people who bear the brunt of the conflict. According to the Senegalese press, between May and November 2009, the violence resulted in 16 dead and close to 25 injured. This is too much!

    The people of Casamance want to watch their children grow and prosper without risking mines and other forms of danger: they want a return to family and village life, they want to sing and dance, the want to sleep peacefully, they all want to return to their homes.

    The people face growing hardships and a lack of basic social services such as health and education. In some places rice fields and farms have been abandoned in the middle of farming season. The free movement of people and goods is constantly under threat.

    The region has become unstable, and is succumbing to drug-trafficking and unfettered pillaging of its natural resources. Tourism and other economic activities are suffering and the region is slowly dying.

    The consequences of the conflict are poverty, worsening public health and environmental degradation. There is long-term risk of irreversible social and ecological disaster. Even if we as parents do not see this come to pass, our children will have no future. Is this really what we want? No! The Senegalese people wish to live in peace, go about their daily business and circulate freely, in dignity and with mutual respect.

    The men of the MFDC would like to look after their parents in their old age, live in peace, and above all, watch their children grow and prosper. The MFDC wants to see a Casamance that is peaceful and prosperous, and that cherishes its rich and diverse culture. The young men have gone underground, some for their entire youth. Do they prefer to be separated from their families, absent while their parents age and die? No! Did they choose not to send their children to school? No!

    The State would like to see peace throughout its territory, and harmonious development across all regions. Senegal would like to be seen as an exemplar of stability and democracy, regionally and internationally. A major conflict somewhere would scupper all this. The people are suffering displacement, as well as loss of life and property. Any prospects for decent work and a good standard of living are fast disappearing.

    What does a regional conflict mean for the state? Under these circumstances, can Senegal benefit from the riches of Casamance? No! Can a strife-torn Casamance attract tourism? No! Does Senegal’s international image benefit from poor internal communication? No.

    Civil society has been all along been working to minimise the impact of the conflict on the people. It has strived to boost their moral, rebuild their homes and safeguard their livelihoods. Needless to say, civil society is not willing to perpetually repeat this cycle every time the conflict flares up.

    Senegal, and Casamance in particular, prides in its cultural diversity, and the peaceful coexistence of its citizens. We can be proud of the mutual respect that exists between the religions. Family ties transcend religion and ethnicity. In a world where conflicts talk on an ethnic dimension, and religion is used to disguise political aspirations, diversity and peaceful coexistence are fundamental assets to be safeguarded. We declare that Casamance in is a multicultural and tolerant region in a Senegal that is equally multicultural and tolerant!

    Since the start of this crisis, civil society has been working tirelessly. It has worked with the population, the state and the MFDC to restore peace. There are a lot of organisations, working at all levels, to ensure sustainable development.

    The two key players in the conflict, the government on one hand, and the MFDC on the other, have tried to resolve the crisis through negotiations on several occasions. A number of ceasefires accords have been signed (1991 at Cacheu in Guinea Bissau, 1993 at Ziguinchor, 2004 at Ziguinchor). The last accord in particular seemed very promising. At the moment, nobody knows how to proceed in order to achieve lasting peace.

    After spending 8, 15, or even 20 years living with relatives in other villages, or in Zinguinchor, the displaced are tired and discouraged. Having left everything behind, shared rooms with others, what hope do they have if they still cannot return home for fear of land mines and insecurity?

    Where does one find the means to rent a accommodation in town, or to lease a farm while cut off from one’s own land? What is one supposed to eat? Some of the displaced were so desperate to leave their trouble city existence and return to their homes that they decided to risk de-mining their fields with traditional farm implements!

    We are not politicians, we are women, just citizens. We are members of civil society organisations working in Casamance. We ask all to join us in urging a resolution to the Casamance crisis and an end to the conflict.

    Casamance has faced violence for almost thirty years. A whole generation has grown up knowing only war. Does this afford opportunities for a prosperous future for all? No! The war has left an indelible mark in the hearts of the people, and Casamance continues to languish.

    Violence begets violence. One can see this elsewhere in the world: it is an endless chain-reaction. When will we decide to break this vicious cycle and pull away from the edge of the abyss.

    At this point, it is immaterial who is wrong and who is right. We are not even at the point where we can discuss living together on the same planet, let alone West Africa, Senegal, or even Casamance. First, we must demand an end to the violence.

    It is time we treat each other with respect. Nobody deserves to be oppressed or demonised. Regardless of political inclination, everyone deserves respect as a human being, with the right to express oneself and share one’s experiences. The exchange of experiences and perspectives is the basis for peace. Peace is not built on physical or verbal domination. It is built of combining different views into one global perspective. We are all called upon to contribute by communicating with each other respectfully. In the traditions of Casamance, women were allowed to come between warring parties and force them to lay down their arms. It is in this tradition that we demand an immediate ceasefire. We, the women of civil society, call all to reason.

    Senegalese, Senegalese, we must not hide out common needs. Let us recognise that, whether president of the republic, fighter, farmer, or development worker, we have the same needs: to be respected by society, to live a decent life, to thrive, to move freely, to work, to be acknowledged in our work, to live in a family, to practise our religion, to be a part of society’s debate, to share our suffering and celebrate our successes.

    Our key principles are:

    - Transparency
    - Communication based on mutual respect: let us seek the ties that bind!
    - Recognising one another as partners in a dialogue
    - A distinction between the theme of discussion, and the discussant
    - A focused discussion that seeks to build consensus
    - A non-violent discussion, devoid of accusations, stigmatisation and generalisations

    We demand:

    - A complete end to the violence
    - The start of a true negotiation process between the government and the MFDC

    Support this petition by signing!

    Zinguinchor, 17 December 2009

    Signatory organisations:

    AJAC Lukaal
    Kagamen Sénégal
    Enfance et Paix
    WANEP Sénégal
    Caritas Ziguinchor
    Fédération des Associations Féminines du Sénégal, cellule de Ziguinchor

    * This article is also available in French.
    * Translated from the French by Joshua Ogada.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Comment & analysis

    Blood oranges from Italy

    Annar Cassam


    cc P Keller
    A recent outbreak of violence between migrant workers from Africa and the townspeople of Rosarno in southern Italy higlights the country's uneasy relationship with illegal immigrants, many of whom are trafficked into Italy by the mafia to provide cheap labour during the fruit-picking season, writes Annar Cassam.

    All over western Europe, in supermarkets and street-markets, the Christmas/New Year period is marked by the arrival of masses of oranges, tangerines, clementines and mandarins sold at cheap prices and consumed in vast quantities. These tropical fruits are supplied from citrus groves in southern parts of Spain and Italy, where they are grown in hothouse and industrial conditions and picked and packed for export by migrant labourers from Morocco and sub Saharan Africa.

    Last weekend, the festive season showed its inhuman face in the little town of Rosarno, in the southern Italian region of Calabria, the heartland of the fruit-growing area. For the last 20 years, seasonal, illegal immigrants from Africa have been recruited by Italian networks to labour in the fruit industry for €20 a day (12-14 hours). They live in makeshift card-board structures inside abandoned factories without electricity, clean water or sanitation facilities. Last year, a BBC documentary made the point that these conditions amounted to slave labour and that here, ‘in the heart of Europe, they treat Africans worse than we treat animals.’ The Italian authorities appear not have been concerned by this state of affairs, despite periodic revelations in the media, Italian and foreign.

    Suddenly last week, on 8 January, two men appeared on the site and shot at random at the African workers with airguns, killing two of them. In response to this unprovoked attack, the Africans, who are daily treated to verbal and physical abuse by Italian supervisors, decided enough was enough. Hundreds of them descended on the town of Rosarno (which has a population of 15,000), attacking, breaking and setting on fire shops, cars and so on.

    The next day, the townspeople took their revenge, went up to the camp armed with guns and shot at the Africans; the ensuing confrontation, or ‘mini civil war’ as one Italian paper put it, left five more Africans dead and 33 injured in a total count of nearly 70. Some Italian commentators called the episode ‘our Klu Klux Klan in action.’

    It was at this point that the police finally appeared, to evacuate the 1,000 or so workers to refugee centres pending deportation to their countries of origin. The cardboard living quarters have been razed, all traces removed.

    The Minister of the Interior in Berlusconi’s goverment has put the blame exclusively on the illegal migrants and on the previous government’s laxism in letting them into the country in the first place. The fact that the entire fruit growing and exporting industry depends for its existence and profits on these foreign slaves who work and live in conditions and for wages totally inacceptable to the natives is of course never mentioned.

    It was, however, Berlusconi’s own newspaper, Il Giornale, which gave the real background to the episode, explaining that the two men who first shot at the workers were members of the local mafia of Calabria, the ‘Ndranghetta’, judged generally to be the most vicious of the four mafias that control Italy’s non-formal economy….and much else besides. The shooting of the Africans was a reprisal attack by the mafia on the state authorities for recent police action against them; it was the mafia’s way of showing the police who controlled the turf in Calabria. After all, the workers’ very presence in Rosarno is due to the mafia who organise the human trafficking of these people every fruit-picking season. Berlusconi’s paper went on to advise the good people of Rosarno not to ‘shoot the negroes, but shoot the mafiosi’!

    This comment sums up the general attitude of the rightwing press towards illegal immigrants, of whom there are some 600,000 in a population of 4 million foreigners living in Italy. Racist terms (‘nigger’ or ‘bingo-bongo’) for Africans are commonplace and nothing is done by the authorities to help even these foreigners integrate into Italian society which needs their labour – and their taxes. The criminal exploitation of the defenceless, illegal worker by the mafia is similarly ignored, certainly by Berlusconi and his allies of the Northern League.

    Italians themselves were once migrants, working in the factories, farms and home of their richer European neighbours. There are 50 million Italians who have migrated to other countries today, the largest such group in the world. They were never treated and exploited with such cynical racism as the Africans are today in Italy. It is true and fair to say that Italy is not unique in this area and that illegal migrants are abused elsewhere in Europe.

    However, what makes the Italian situation special is the mafia connection, over which this advanced democratic state seems to have little influence, if any. ‘We are not animals’, said the makeshift cardboard banners the Africans in Rosarno waved as they were herded off the site by the police. Strangely, the same sentiment was voiced by the Pope, but in different words, in his Sunday sermon, ‘An immigrant is a human being who must respected.’

    If there is a clash of civilisations, it is surely here, in enlightened Europe, in the backyard of the Vatican, except that to understand it, one will have to read Joseph Conrad backwards and look into the heart of darkness here, where the mafia and the Klu Klux Klan meet and treat African labourers as cannon-fodder in their turf and profit wars.

    2000 years after Christ asked his flock to ’love one’s neighbour as one’s self’, his representative on earth advises the faithful to treat immigrants as humans. Well, that is a start, of sorts. But then, come the next festive season, who will pick and pack the oranges…for €20 a day?


    * Annar Cassam is a Tanzanian and a former director of the UNESCO Office, UNO, Geneva.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    South Africa’s courts and Muslim marriages

    Waheeda Amien


    cc Hammer
    Muslim marriages have no legal recognition in South Africa, writes Waheeda Amien, but the use of written marriage contracts – the terms of which are enforceable in a secular court – offers a form of protection for parties, both within marriage and upon divorce.

    In South Africa, Muslim marriages are not legally recognised. While there are movements afoot to afford them recognition, we do not know when it will happen. In the meantime, it is necessary to consider ways in which Muslim parties can protect themselves until that happens.

    Shari’a, in fact, provides a remedy for protection within the marriage, namely the conclusion of a written marriage contract. Shari’a recognises a Muslim marriage as a contract, which means that parties can include agreed upon terms in the marriage contract. Therefore, it is up to parties to be proactive and to ensure that they conclude a contract when entering marriage.


    Most people who enter marriage do not want to contemplate the possibility that the relationship may end in divorce or that the relationship may not meet their expectations. In fact, it is hoped that every marriage will be successful. Unfortunately, divorce is a real possibility so it would be unwise for those entering marriage not to make provision for the possibility that it may happen.

    A marriage contract is additionally important if either party wants to legally enforce a term of the contract that the other party is failing to uphold. South African secular courts have indicated that terms of a Muslim marriage contract are enforceable in court. If parties have rights accruing to them from the marriage or divorce and those rights have been recorded in a marriage contract, they will be able to enforce them in a South African court. It is preferable for the contract to be in writing because that constitutes proof of the agreement. It is more difficult to prove that you have entered into an oral contract because you have to rely on the testimony of witnesses, which is not always possible, for example, if the witnesses are not available.

    Some women may also not consider a marriage contract because they fear that their fiancés would refuse to marry them if they insisted on having one. Yet, if a man is not willing to guarantee his future wife’s protection in writing before he marries her, what guarantee does she have that he will protect her after they are married? And if he is not willing to recognise the rights that Shari’a affords her, then he is not worth marrying in the first place. A person would only fear entering a written contract if she or he does not intend or does not think she or he will be able to uphold the terms of that contract. In fact, parties should recognise that a marriage contract could benefit them both because they could each hold the other accountable to the terms of their marriage contract.


    Which rights could one include as terms in a marriage contract to ensure sufficient protection? The list could be endless. But here are some that immediately come to mind:

    Parties could agree on the type of matrimonial system that should apply to their marriage. For example, they could decide that they wish to have a combined estate so that if the marriage ends, there would be a 50/50 split of the assets accrued during the marriage. Or they could decide to keep their estates separate throughout the marriage but agree that if one contributed to the maintenance or increase of the other’s estate, then that contribution should be compensated by the other party. In the latter instance, it would be advisable for parties to keep a record of purchases made during the marriage so that each has proof of whatever contributions she or he made. This becomes important when there is a legal dispute because the judge will only be able to make an award for contributions if, firstly, there is proof of payment and, secondly, there was an agreement that the contributions should be compensated.

    The parties could record the ‘mahr’ that has been agreed upon and stipulate precisely when payment will be made.

    The parties could agree that the wife will be entitled to ‘tafwid-ul-talaq’ i.e. that the husband delegates his right of ‘talaq’ to his wife. She would then be in a position to release herself from the marriage without having to apply for faskh or wait for her husband to issue ‘talaq’ against her.

    The contract could also record the wife’s right to obtain ‘khul’a’ without requiring her husband’s consent in exchange for the return of her ‘mahr’. Although some members of the South African ‘ulama’ think that ‘khul’a’ can only be granted with the husband’s consent, there are many ‘fuqaha’ in Muslim countries that believe otherwise. For example, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines have codified ‘khul’a’ into their family laws as a form of divorce available to the wife that does not require her husband’s consent. In fact, the khul’a codification in Egypt emanated from a fatwa of Al-Azhar University, which is globally accepted as the ‘seat of Islamic scholarship’. So it would be quite feasible for a contract to include ‘khul’a’ as not requiring the husband’s consent.

    The parties could further agree that should the husband take a subsequent wife, the consent of the first wife should first be obtained, failing which she will have the right to exit the marriage without requiring ‘talaq’ from her husband.

    In the event that the husband takes a subsequent wife, the parties could moreover agree that the husband and all existing wives should go for HIV testing on a regular basis and that for example, failure by the husband to do so will entitle the wife to be released from the marriage without his permission. In fact, this is a condition that could also be included if the parties were to remain monogamous. This is an important issue to consider given the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa and the fact that among others, it is directly linked to circumstances involving multiple sexual partners.

    The parties could also agree on guardianship and custody arrangements relating to children born of the marriage in the event that the marriage dissolves. However, any dispute relating to minor children will ultimately be decided by a South African secular court, which will consider the best interests of the child as the primary criterion for its decision.

    As part of the husband’s maintenance obligation, the parties could agree that the wife will be remunerated for: Periods of breastfeeding; childrearing; and all household work that she performs (unless the husband undertakes to hire a domestic assistant). The agreement could stipulate that failure by the husband to adhere to these terms of the contract would afford the wife sufficient grounds to obtain divorce.

    The parties could undertake to treat each other with respect, kindness and compassion. Furthermore, if the parties agree, the contract could record that their relationship will be based on equality and not the subservience of one party to another. The contract could also note that any form of domestic violence would enable the victim to exit the marriage without requiring the consent of the perpetrator.

    The above points are some of the generic terms that could be included in a marriage contract. There may be issues that parties would want to make provision for that would apply specifically to their individual circumstances. Since the list is not exhaustive, there is no reason why terms other than those listed above cannot be included in a marriage contract, provided they are reasonable.


    While a marriage contract would enable parties to assert their rights in the event that a marriage terminates in divorce, it can also serve to hold parties accountable for their rights and obligations within marriage. A contract can therefore be seen as an enabling mechanism to prevent abuse within marriage. It also affords the parties an opportunity to consider what marriage entails so that parties do not enter the bonds of matrimony lightly. It gives them a chance to think about what type of relationship they would want to have with their life partner and to set the terms to facilitate engendering that relationship. It is no secret that the lifelong commitment encompassed by marriage is one of the most important decisions that any person can make in her or his lifetime. Therefore, we should encourage those contemplating marriage to seriously consider having a marriage contract. And for those who are already married but do not have a marriage contract; all is not lost. A marriage contract can be entered into at any time; before or after the conclusion of the ‘nikah’.


    * Waheeda Amien is a Law lecturer at the University of Cape Town. This article is written in her personal capacity.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Who sent the assassin?

    John Otim


    cc D M P
    Ugandan-born lecturer John Otim recounts his experience of an attempt to assassinate him at his home on the campus of Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University in December.

    A beautiful sun was going down. Lights from the grid were back. I pull up my laptop, log on to the web. Such an evening, the world is a beautiful place.

    Suddenly a man tore through the wired door. I turned and rose to meet him. I was dazed by a single blow to the head. It happened very quickly. It was about 7:15pm. The evening of the first Sunday of December 2009, the smell of Chrismas was in the air.

    Blood oozed. I seized a stool in defense. I made awful noise. The attacker appeared to want to go on, but hesitated, retreated, was gone, a beast from the wilds strayed into domicile zones.

    He was young, probably seventeen? He was dark, malnourished, glazed eyes, shirt once white, trousers nondescript. He accomplished his mission silently, no campus fellow, but a man of the type usually available for hire in these places. Now someone had sent him to kill me.

    I was loosing blood, growing weaker by the moment. I was crying and shouting loudly. I seized a whistle from a wall and started to blow. I lost count. It was early. The sun had just gone down. Although my neighbours were within earshot of the commotion, none responded. I was on my own.

    Suddenly, as if in a dream, I heard voices approaching my house. Four boys –campus students, from a far-off quarters usually reserved for house helps – heard my cry and hurried. They said they were surprised they could hear me ‘because we were playing very loud music. But the noise shocked us.’

    They got my car and rushed me to the Sick Bay; half carried me to the emergency room. The nursing staff were wonderful. Angels in white. A man truly allergic to pains, I cried and bothered them. But they calmed me down. Finally after some argument, the doctor stitched the cut that he and the nurses described as very deep.

    Professor Daniel Adawa of the Veterinary Medical School and his family restored the human touch. They hurried to my aid and subsequently accommodated me in their lovely home, rather than permit me to return to my desecrated house and face the wrath of unknown assassins and the studied silence of neighbours. ‘I got my problem you got yours.’ That kind of attitude.

    In those still early stages, my problems were legion. It was possible my attackers would still pursue me. It was for this reason Professor Adawa rejected the good doctor’s dogged insistence that I should be moved at once and treated in the teaching hospital, kilometres away from campus. ‘Who will look after him there? Who will guarantee his security?’

    The university security personnel were great. They stayed with me throughout the night in the sick bay, guarding the door and telling me not to worry.

    What had come over the Ahmadu Bello University? That an assassin should go after a simple lecturer? That now he should require bodyguards fit for a monarch? In the days ahead my campus house would be placed under around the clock security guard as I lay recovering in a secret safety zone.

    Why was I attacked? Who dunnit? No properties were taken and the house was not ransacked. In a town where computers are still stolen and sometimes even kept in cages, the laptop I was working on was left alone. Who sent the assassin? What will happen to me in the days ahead?


    * John Otim is a Ugandan teaching at Nigeria's Ahmadu Bello University.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Advocacy & campaigns

    Media gagging and constitution review process

    Release Political Prisoners Trust


    Some elements within the Kenyan government are not sincere on the constitutional review process and are using the media gagging law, and some politicians, to scuttle the just released Harmonised Draft Constitution. The Release Political Prisoners (RPP) castigates such a move and implores upon the two principals (His Excellency Mwai Kibaki and the Honourable Raila Odinga) to show leadership on the constitutional review process.

    Some elements within the government are not sincere on the constitutional review process and are using the media gagging law, and some politicians, to scuttle the just released Harmonised Draft Constitution.

    The Release Political Prisoners castigates (RPP) scolds at such a move and implores upon the two principals (His Excellency Mwai Kibaki and the Honourable Raila Odinga) to show leadership on the constitutional review process.

    We are deeply concerned as to why the law gagging the media is being tabled at the same time when Kenyans are keen focusing on the Harmonised Draft Constitution, which strengthens freedom of the press and enhances democracy in the field.

    RPP reminds Kenyans that the same conservative forces and elements that blocked reforms since 1990s are ganging together to scuttle the review process under the guises of gagging the media.

    The debate about the executive powers and where they will hinge – with the president or the prime minister - are being taken a notch higher to cripple the review process altogether. The media law is being used as a scapegoat to lead to messing up of the review process and content.

    As an organisation that has been involved in the review process we wish to highlight some facts;
    a) that Kenyans have been fighting against imperial presidency in all manner of ways since the debate on review process begun in 1990s
    b) that the CKRC report from the people and the Draft then reduced the powers of the president by proposing the country to have an head of state (president) and an head of government (prime minister)
    c) that the Bomas Draft had the hybrid system which now is causing a lot of unnecessary heat
    d) that Wako Draft also had the hybrid system in fact leaning on a presidential system
    e) that the No vote of the then “Orange” was in support of the parliamentary leaning system which many are now opposed to
    f) that some of those who opposed the Wako Draft then are now claiming they need a presidential system
    g) that those calling for two drafts are not sincere and honest to Kenyans for they ought to have demanded for amendment of the law to have two drafts, something which civil society lobbied with no success! Why is the issue of two drafts enticing now yet they know the Constitution of Kenya Review Law demands for only one draft?
    h) that if these politicians were genuine, they ought to have tabled an amendment law to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act being used by the Committee of Experts.

    We appeal to
    a) the president and the prime minister to discard the media gagging law in toto and lead the country towards a new democratic constitution that accommodates the views of the people since the review process begun in 1990s.
    b) the media to name and shame those opposed to a new constitution through side shows and kicks.
    c) Kenyans to ignore the conservative, egocentric and manipulative politicians espousing the system of government as the only issue that will deny Kenyans a new constitution. Some of these forces have been the same ones who have blocked reforms and are now moving in to silence the media before the debate on the constitution kicks off.
    d) All genuine actors to unite and ensure that the country gets a new constitution this year.

    We join the rest of the civil society and say Katiba Ni Sasa!

    Signed by

    Stephen Musau
    Executive Coordinator


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

    Namibia: Attacks on judges must be condemned

    Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR)


    Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) is gravely appalled by what appears to be an escalating spate of misguided and, sometimes, punitive attacks on the independence of judges in the country.

    Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) is gravely appalled by what appears to be an escalating spate of misguided and, sometimes, punitive attacks on the independence of judges in the country. These attacks have assumed absurd and dangerous proportions recently following the ruling by the Supreme Court of Namibia to stay the banning of Africa Personnel Services (APS), a labor hire outfit in the country.

    On December 14 2009, in the matter of Africa Personnel Services (Pty) Ltd vs the Government of the Republic of Namibia[1], the Court ruled (see decision attached), inter alia, that Section 128 of the Labor Act 2007 (Act 11 of 2007), under which the banning of the controversial APS was sought, was contrary to the provisions of Article 21(1) (j) of the Namibian Constitution, the Supreme Law of Namibia, and ipso facto unconstitutional and of no force and effect.

    The ruling Swapo Party-affiliated and highly politicized National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) had recently described Supreme Court ruling inter alia as “reactionary”, “imperialistic” and “unpatriotic”. NUNW activists vowed that immediate measures would be put in place by the Swapo Party-controlled Parliament with the view to override, contradict or nullify the Supreme Court ruling in casu (i.e. in this case).

    In a report entitled “Labour ruling ‘insensitive’ towards poor – LaRRI”[2], the State-owned and Executive Branch-controlled New Era newspaper reported that Herbert Jauch, a well known labor activist and the Director of Research and Education at the Labour Resource Institute (LaRRI), also joined the NUNW bandwagon and criticized the Supreme Court decision on APS. New Era quoted Jauch as inter alia imputing that the Supreme Court has made a perfunctory and politically biased judgment when he reportedly said:

    “The Supreme Court judgment is highly insensitive towards the plight of the labour hire workers … [there was a] fertile ground for suspicion”.

    According to media reports last week, several other non-NUNW affiliated and independent labor unions have also attacked the Supreme Court ruling declaring the APS banning unconstitutional.

    In terms of Article 81 of the Namibian Constitution, a Supreme Court decision is preemptory and binding upon all and sundry unless it is reversed by the Supreme Court itself and or unless it is contradicted by an Act of Parliament lawfully (and, NSHR adds, constitutionally) enacted.

    “Of course, as we have done in the past, we reiterate our unreserved condemnation of the offending activities of APS. However, as an advocacy organization, one of whose principal objectives is to promote democracy, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in this country, we are totally appalled by the aforementioned misguided and often politically motivated attacks on the judiciary. At least some of these attacks run clearly contrary to the provisions of Article 78 (3) of the Constitution, in that such attacks deliberately and actively seek to tarnish the image, and, hence, to erode the sine qua non independence, dignity and effectiveness of this country’s judiciary”, said NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh.

    NSHR reminds all and sundry about the constitutionally entrenched independence of the judiciary as contemplated under paragraph 3 of the Preamble to the Namibian Constitution as well as in terms of Articles 12(1)(a) and 25(1)(a), read in conjunction with Article 78, of the said Constitution. Consideration must also be had about the Constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers[3] of Government as provided for under Paragraph 3 of the Preamble to the Constitution and under Articles 1(3), 5, 32(2) as well as under Chapters 6 and Article 44 as well as Chapters 9 and 10 of the said Constitution.

    “Hence, having been threatened ourselves with banning by the ruling Swapo Party through the August 20 2007 Hakaye Motion[4] in the National Council, we, view in a very serious light, the growing tendency in the country to ban and or eliminate those with whom one disagrees. Labor unions and other pro-ban activists should have known better that it was Parliament, of which the majority of lawmakers are Swapo Party members who have been bulldozing un-debated bills into laws, which has failed to pass effective laws and not the Judiciary”, added ya Nangoloh.

    Rather than banning APS, Parliament should have enacted an appropriate law and the Swapo Party-controlled Executive Branch should have put in place effective administrative measures to ensure that APS complied with such a law and measures. Once effective legislative and administrative measures are in place, the Executive Branch of Government must ensure that labor hire workers are accorded equal treatment as any other workers and this includes receiving all and any other benefits like any other workers and employees in the country-which include, among others, social security, paid leave days and severance pay.

    “The judiciary, including the Supreme Court, is there to interpret and enforce the Constitution and the subordinate laws of the country. It is absurd for critics to even suggest that Parliament must enact a law reversing or contradicting the Supreme Court judgment in casu, as the said judgment is rooted in the non-derogable and permanently entrenched Bill of Rights (i.e. Chapter 3 of the Constitution)”, concluded ya Nangoloh.

    NSHR’s position is: the labor unions and other critics should rather vent their misguided anger, if any, not by attacking the courts and or the judges, but by urging the lawmakers to adopt effective legislative measures and the Executive Branch to ensure that appropriate administrative steps are in place to give force and effect to the proposed legislative measures.


    * In case of additional comment, please contact Steven Mvula or Phil ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 253 447 or +264 61 236 183) or Mobile: +264 811 406 888 (office hours). Alternatively, contact them via email or website
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Namibia: When some people are more equal than others

    Namibia’s National Society for Human Rights (NSHR)


    The Namibian Police and or the Office of Prosecutor General as well as the Lower Criminal Division of the Namibian Judiciary are making themselves vulnerable to charges of discrimination and political bias, owing to the inconsistency with which they are handling certain criminal cases.

    The Namibian Police and or the Office of Prosecutor General as well as the Lower Criminal Division of the Namibian Judiciary are making themselves vulnerable to charges of discrimination and political bias, owing to the inconsistency with which they are handling certain criminal cases. In cases where Swapo Party activists are the complainants, the accused are being treated as if they have already been found guilty and or the police investigations are pursued with urgency, while stringent bail conditions are imposed on the accused, if at all.

    However, in cases where ordinary citizens are the complainants and or where members of the ruling Swapo Party are the accused, Police investigations are taking much longer while the accused are treated in accordance with especially the provisions of Article 12 (1) (d) of the Constitution, which require accused persons to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law. In some cases no steps are taken against the accused. Consider the following incidents:

    1. Teofelus Sheelongo

    On January 6 2010, Oshivelo Police arrested Teofelus Sheelongo (32) for allegedly having “threatened to ambush and kill” Oshikoto Governor Penda ya Ndakolo. Sheelongo, who is an unemployed and unschooled former communal farm worker, is a resident of Omutsegwombahe village. The village is adjacent to Omutsegwonime village where Governor ya Ndakolo owns a shebeen, in the Omuthiya Constituency of the Oshikoto Region. The two villages are located some 40 kilometers west of the Oshivelo Veterinary Checkpoint.

    During the just-ended controversial National Assembly and Presidential elections in 2009, Sheelongo, a member of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), was a party agent for RDP. During his arrest or during initial police investigations, some of the Police officers allegedly asked Sheelongo: “Why do you, an RDP member, go to the shebeen of a Swapo Party member?”

    Sheelongo appeared in the Tsumeb Magistrate’s Court on January 7 2010 and was denied bond. He is scheduled to re-appear before the same court on February 2 2010. In the meantime, he is remanded in Police custody at Oshivelo Police precinct. Governor ya Ndakolo is allegedly the complainant while Sheelongo is the accused in the incident.

    In contrast to the above case, consider the following incidents in which SWAPO Party members are the accused and or non-SWAPO Party members are the complainants:

    2. Ndilimeke Haame

    During November 2009, three male Swapo Party members allegedly assaulted Ms. Ndilimeke Haame (20), an RDP member then residing at Oshikango border post in the Ohangwena Region.

    Ms. Haame (see attached color picture) told human rights investigators that, before they assaulted her by cutting her on a wrist, the said Swapo Party members objected to her playing RDP CDs on her CD player in her home. As a result, they accused her of being “poor” and questioned as to why she joined RDP. Haame laid a criminal charge (Ohangwena CR 169/11/09) against her assailants and all three were allegedly arrested by Ohangwena Police on the same day. However, although one of them threatened to kill her for reporting them to the Police, all the accused were set free the following day. In order to protect her life, Haame was compelled to relocate to Oikokola village, some 100 kilometers west of the town of Eenhana. Both the town and the village are situated in the Ohangwena Region.

    2. Placido Hilukilua

    Mr. Placido Hilukilua (47), a senior Oshakati-based journalist in the employ of Republikein newspaper, has been receiving numerous death threats from a former colleague since November 2009. Although he laid a criminal charge (Oshakati CR 139/12/2009) against the accused on December 9 2009, no arrest has been made. During the Christmas Holiday, NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh, alarmed by the apparent Police negligence or indifference, contacted the Inspector General of the Namibian Police who promised to ensure that the accused has been brought to book. No arrest has so far been made.

    3. Sakaria Iyambo

    On October 2 2009 an alleged Swapo Party member allegedly stabbed RDP activist Sakaria Iyambo (26) twice with a knife. The incident occurred at the Ondobe cuca shop at Akoonde no.1 village on October 2 2009 at approximately 20h00. The village is situated some 20 kilometers northeast of Omuthiya town, in the Oshikoto Region. Iyambo told human rights investigators that the male Swapo Party activist “had stabbed me twice in the right cheek over my RDP T-shirt, which I wore at the time of the incident”. The accused, who is well known at the village, is still al large.

    Iyambo was subsequently admitted at the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital for medical treatment and he had undergone a mild operation. The incident had been reported to Omuthiya Police precinct for investigation.

    4. Phil ya Nangoloh

    On May 30 2008, Swapo Party Youth Secretary for Rundu Urban Constituency, one Vensel Mavara, allegedly stated, in the presence of a disturbed female human rights defender, that NSHR executive director Phil ya Nangoloh was “the most wanted person in the country. The day I see him, I will kill him”. Mavara is said to be a close friend of SPYL Secretary Elijah Ngurare, who has also in the past made similar threats against ya Nangoloh. Mavara is said to be a resident of Mabushe village, some 60 kilometers east of Rundu. A criminal charge of “assault by threatening” (Rundu CR 19/06/2008) has been laid against Mavara with the Police. However, no arrest of the accused has so far been made by the


    * In case of additional comment, please contact Steven Mvula or Phil ya Nangoloh at Tel: +264 61 253 447 or +264 61 236 183) or Mobile: +264 811 406 888 (office hours). Alternatively, contact them via email or website
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Zimbabwe: Call for real schools with real teachers for a real education

    Women and Men of Zimbabwe


    Over 800 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise took to the streets of Bulawayo on 13 January to peacefully protest about the state of education in Zimbabwe. Five groups started separately and converged on Mhlahlandlela Government complex to hand over the WOZA report on the education system in Zimbabwe entitled 'Looking Back to look Forward'.

    Over 800 members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise took to the streets of Bulawayo at midday today to peacefully protest about the state of education in Zimbabwe. Five groups started separately and converged on Mhlahlandlela Government complex to hand over the WOZA report on the education system in Zimbabwe entitled – Looking Back to look Forward. The report covers recommendations and a list of demands that parents want addressed by the Minister of Education, Senator David Coltart. Before they could hand over the report however, the peaceful group was dispersed by at least 12 police officers, including high-ranking officers. No arrests have been reported to date but WOZA leaders are still verifying whether everyone returned safely to their homes.

    The theme of the protest was –‘real schools with real teachers for a real education’. Education has been a long-term mobilisation issue for WOZA. As the new school year begins, many members have reported that their children were turned away at the gates of schools yesterday on the first day of term. Reasons given include account arrears and non-payment of the US$5 required for last year’s report card. One school even turned away children for non-payment of a ‘vandalising day’, a ZAR 10 contribution.

    Given the general unhappiness of parents at the state of education in Zimbabwe, support for the peaceful march from bystanders was high. Observers reported that many bystanders joined the group at Mhlahlandlela. One man who joined the demonstration was overheard saying that he would be prepared to be arrested because the issue of education is so close to his heart. Uniformed police officers also asked members as they were dispersing why they had stopped singing and encouraged them to continue with their songs of protest. The songs included the words, “our children are crying for education”.
    Attempts to hand in the report to the Regional Director for Education were unsuccessful as apparently the position in Matabeleland has not been filled. Security guards at the gate of the government complex told the protestors to go to Harare and speak directly to the Minister of Education. Copies of the newsletter were left with the guards instead.

    The demands included in the report include:
    • Teachers must produce quality teaching and show that they are committed to the learning of all their pupils equally.
    • Education authorities must utilise the vehicles that are being purchased to supervise teachers and demand more discipline in schools.
    • Teachers must stop demanding top-ups from parents and the Ministry must prohibit this practice.
    • The Ministry must work to produce a new and relevant curriculum as recommended above.
    • Parents will do their best to pay reasonable fees set by Ministry and levies set by properly constituted and democratic parents meetings at the beginning of each year – we will not accept any fee or levy changes in 2010.

    The full education report and the text of the newsletter can be found on the WOZA website.

    Pan-African Postcard

    Tales from a post-conflict zone

    L. Muthoni Wanyeki


    L. Muthoni Wanyeki shares anecdotes from a friend working for a UN mission in a post-conflict African country. While the stories are amusing, says Wanyeki, what they really show is how hard it is ‘to re-construct even a semblance of normalcy following a war’.

    A friend working in a post-conflict situation entertained us thoroughly over the holiday. She works for a United Nations mission in an African country – let’s call Kajamhuri – and follows the rule of law sessions of that mission. Her stories of what is happening there had us in fits. Here are a few examples:

    The American consultant tasked with re-compiling Kajamhuri’s penal code walked off with it when he was done, claiming he now had copyright over it and wouldn’t release it unless he was paid for his intellectual labour.

    The ministry responsible for the prisons ran out of money for food and came up with the innovative solution of releasing the prisoners, with the exception of those in the capital, to go home for lunch and return to be tucked in at night behind bars. Apparently, they do return, the prisons essentially serving as convenient bed and breakfasts where housing is short.

    The American government repatriated a number of Kajamhuri citizens who had served time in the United States for various offences ranging from petty theft to rape to murder. The government decided they needed re-orientation before being released into society, so detained them in the southeast of the country – but gave them the keys to their detention centre, which again served basically as a bed and breakfast. Leaving them free to descend upon the local population.

    Given their celebrity detainee status (having returned from the US after all, all gangster-like and tattooed to boot), they soon wreaked havoc with local females’ hearts, married and unmarried, and spend far too much time in the local bars, generally creating chaos. The result? No less than the Kajamhuri president had to beg the US not to repatriate a second lot of celebrity detainees.

    There are not enough jobs for the ex-combatants in the civil war that wrecked the country. The president has refused to allow private security contractors into Kajamhuri. So the ex-combatants troop in numbers into the neighbouring country, awaiting the weekly arrival of the plane from Iraq. Iraq? Yes, Blackwater, American private security contractors, is using ex-combatants from the region (notorious for their brutally unconventional warfare – think chopping off of various body parts) to fulfil their contracts in Iraq. Blackwater, of course, was recently all in the news for the killings of Iraqi civilians. No wonder.

    A functionary is arrested for trying to walk onto an aeroplane with a briefcase full of external money intended for direct budget support. There is no great public reaction – everybody does it and he just apparently failed to pay the necessary ‘facilitation fee’ to the officials he had to get past to board the plane with the briefcase full of cash.

    Like I said, we laughed. But somewhat despairingly. Because beyond the laughter is the obvious. How hard it is to re-construct even a semblance of normalcy following a war. How easy it is to consign Africa as a whole to the rubbish bin if one has worked in a place like that...

    The conditions that sent that country to civil war pertain here. And let’s not fool ourselves – if a civil war begins in Kenya, all Kofi Annan’s horses and Kofi Annan’s men will not be able to put us back together again.


    * This article first appeared in The East African.
    * L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    Bill Sutherland, Pan-African pacifist


    Esi Sutherland-Addy, Ralph Sutherland, Amowi Sutherland Phillips and Matt Meyer


    Bill Sutherland, unofficial ambassador between the peoples of Africa and the Americas for over fifty years, died peacefully on the evening of 2 January 2010. He was 91.

    A life-long pacifist and liberation advocate, Sutherland became involved in civil rights and anti-war activities as a youthful member of the Student Christian Movement in the 1930s. Sutherland was raised in New Jersey, the son of a prominent dentist and youngest brother to Reiter Sutherland and to Muriel Sutherland Snowden of Boston, who founded Freedom House in 1949 and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship ‘genius’ grant. He spent four years at Lewisburg Federal Correctional Facility in the 1940s as a conscientious objector to World War Two, striking up what became life-long friendships with fellow C.O.s Ralph DiGia, Bayard Rustin, George Houser, Dave Dellinger, and others. In 1951, in the early days of the Cold War, Sutherland, DiGia, Dellinger, and Quaker pacifist Art Emory constituted the Peacemaker bicycle project, which took the message of nuclear disarmament to both sides of the Iron Curtain.

    In 1953, in coordination with the War Resisters International and with several activist groups and independence movement parties on the continent, he moved to what was then known as the Gold Coast. An active supporter of Kwame Nkrumah, he married playwright and Pan African cultural activist Efua Theodora, and became the headmaster of a rural secondary school. The call of Pan Africanist politics was very strong, and Sutherland was instrumental – along with a small group of African Americans living in Ghana at the time, including dentists Robert and Sara Lee – in hosting the visit of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King to the 1957 independence celebrations.

    In the early days of the first Ghanaian government, Sutherland also served on the organising team of the All African Peoples Congress. He was appointed private secretary to Finance Minister Komla Gbedema. He was also central to the development of the Sahara Protest Team, which brought together African, European, and US peace leaders to put their bodies in the way of nuclear testing in the Sahara Desert.

    Sutherland left Ghana in 1961, working in both Lebanon and Israel for the founding of Peace Brigades International, and for the Israeli labour organisation Histadrut. It was also in this period that he began a friendship with Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan of the Ismaili community, working in support of displaced persons as Sadruddin became United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    He settled in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1963, as a civil servant. Sutherland’s chief work in Dar involved support for the burgeoning independent governments and liberation movements. A close friend and associate of Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, Sutherland helped develop the Pan African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa (PAFMECA). He served as hospitality officer for the Sixth Pan African Congress – held in Dar in 1974 – working with C.L.R. James and other long-time colleagues to bridge the gap between Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora.

    He hosted countless individuals and delegations from the US in these years, including assisting Malcolm X in what would be his last trip to Tanzania. His home in Dar became a camping ground for liberation leaders in exile from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and throughout the region. His love of music, especially jazz, his passion for tennis (which he played well into his 80s), and the pleasure he got from dancing, were hallmarks of his interactions, shared with political associates and personal friends the world over.

    Despite Sutherland’s close association with those engaged in armed struggle, he maintained his connections with and commitment to revolutionary nonviolence, and joined the international staff of the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in 1974. As the AFSC pushed for the Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded to South African anti-apartheid clergyman Bishop Desmond Tutu, Sutherland was working as the AFSC international representative.

    In 2003, the AFSC initiated an annual Bill Sutherland Institute, training Africa lobbyists and advocates in various policy issues and educational techniques. Sutherland was also the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree from Bates College, and served as a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. He was awarded a special citation from the Gandhi Peace Foundation in India, and, in 2009, received the War Resisters League’s Grace Paley Lifetime Achievement Award.

    In 2000, Africa World Press published Sutherland’s Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, and Liberation, co-authored by Matt Meyer. Archbishop Tutu, who wrote the foreword for the book, commented that ‘Sutherland and Meyer have looked beyond the short-term strategies and tactics which too often divide progressive people…They have begun to develop a language which looks at the roots of our humanness.’ On the occasion of Sutherland’s 90th birthday last year, Tutu called in a special message, noting that ‘the people of Africa owe Bill Sutherland a big thank you for his tireless support.’

    Bill Sutherland is survived by three children– Esi Sutherland-Addy, Ralph Sutherland, and Amowi Sutherland Phillips – as well as grandchildren in Accra, Ghana; Spokane, Washington; Lewiston, Maine; New Haven, Connecticut; and Brooklyn, New York. In addition to scores of family members, friends, and loved ones, he will be missed by his niece, Gail Snowden, his loving partner Marilyn Meyer, and his ‘adopted’ sons Matt Meyer and John Powell. There will be a private funeral for family members this week, and memorial services will be organised for later this year.


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

    Letters & Opinions

    No transparency in Kenya’s examination board

    Isaac Newton Kinity


    Isaac Newton Kinity asks if a ‘political, secret shadow examination board’ is ‘still alive in Kenya’.

    For many years, the members of the Luo community in Kenya were famous for their excellence in education. In every field of education, the Luos performed the best. During the regime of the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, many Kenyans from other communities continued to wonder at the unique academic achievements in Nyanza. The Luo community continued to lead in both Primary and secondary education final results year after year. Because the common staple in Nyanza included the consumption of large amounts of fish, it was construed their success was influenced by the special fish nutrients they ate.

    But from the beginning of 1980, two years after Kenyatta’s death, the entire scenario changed. The results of the performances of the students in Nyanza, especially those from the Secondary Schools declined, and started to indicate poor performances. That trend has continued up to this day.

    In mid 90s, 95 per cent of all students who sat for both primary and secondary examinations in Kikuyu Constituency, were declared failures by the examination board when the results were out. Those results surprised every one in the constituency, including the then area member of parliament, the prominent Kenya Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Paul Kibugi Muite. After consultation with his constituents, Mr Muite paid for the remarking of the examination papers.. Kenyans were shocked after the results. 90 per cent of the students who had been declared failures were found to have passed the examination. So in total, 90 per cent of all the students who sat for the Secondary examinations in Kikuyu Constituency at the time, had initially passed their examination but the results had been manipulated.

    The new examiners found that those who marked the examination papers had done a good job. What was discovered was that, after the students examination papers were marked, there was a political, secret shadow examination board which declared who were to be failures and who were to be approved for a pass. It was this organ which handed the results to the actual legal examination board for the release of the results. Could this be what befell the wonderful performances of the Members of the Luo community in 1980 and in the latter years?

    The possibility of some bright Kenyans who would have excelled in education, being found on the streets of Kenya as hawkers, touts, idlers and as members of the Mungiki sect, cannot be ruled out. No one knows for sure whether the secret board still exists or not. Also no one knows how many times what happened in the Kikuyu constituency, happened elsewhere in Kenya. What Kenyans are sure of, is that not much has changed, even after the introduction of the coalition government of power sharing.

    What can save bright Kenyan students is the re-examination of the examination papers by a fully independent panel of foreigners, from either the neighbouring countries to Kenya or from abroad, before the results are released. There is no transparency and accountability in the Kenya Examination Board

    * Isaac Newton Kinity is the former secretary general of the Kenya Civil Servants Union and chairman of the Kikimo Foundation for Corruption and Poverty Eradication.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Blogging Africa

    Bullets, bombs and blogs

    Sokari Ekine


    The ‘Nigerian bomber’, the attacks on the Togolese football team, LGBTI politics in Africa, the mafia and migrant workers in Italy and a murder in London are among the topics in Sokari Ekine’s roundup of the African blogosphere.

    Although we are well into the new year and Dibussi covered a number of blog posts on the ‘Nigerian bomber’, the topic continues to dominate the Nigerian blogosphere.
    Chippla’s Weblog’s first post on the Nigerian bomber asked us to be mindful that terrorist could be anywhere – in our families, work colleagues, friends and so on. I think this some what paranoid and I don’t agree that terrorists could be found in just ‘any’ family, not least of all because there is a huge gap between being sympathetic and taking that to the level of suicide. In my mind, the choice to become a suicide bomber is a predictable outcome of a devout commitment to a lack of critical thinking… There is no logical purpose, no defence in ideology, religion or anything else. Simply a desire to commit mass murder – not something that can be found anywhere! To return to Chippla… In this post he comments on an invitation he received to join a Facebook group ‘150 Million Nigerians who have disowned Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’ and explains why he will not be joining the group. I too find the notion of ‘disowning’ unpalatable:

    ‘To ‘disown’ connotes a refusal to accept as one's own or to repudiate. Irrespective of what one may say or think, Umar Farouk is a Nigerian. And while his actions certainly do not represent what one could expect from a ‘typical’ Nigerian male adult (Muslim or not), disowning him does not in any way help understand why he did what he did and ensure that such does not happen again.’

    Nigerian Curiosity comments on the placing of Nigeria on the ‘list of Terror Prone countries’ and the continued absence of President Yar’Adua who has been in Saudi Arabia for the past 6 weeks with no word on his condition or whether he is alive or not. A BBC report on 12 January claims they spoke to him by phone but this doesn’t necessarily prove anything and the question remains as to why he has not spoken to members of his own government and the Nigerian media:

    ‘Alas, it is little surprise that Nigeria failed to launch an adequate offensive in the days since the 'knicker bomber' incident. And so, while Nigerians endure embarrassing treatment at airports the world over, their President is somewhere only he knows (hopefully recovering), their legislators are on holiday and those officials who speak on the incident and its fallout, have little to no diplomatic authority to engage international allies and persuade them and Nigerians themselves that steps are being taken to address valid concerns. Granted, Abdulmutallab only spent 23 minutes in Nigeria en route to Detroit. Yes, his radicalisation likely began in England and obviously was completed in Yemen. Of course, valuable information from his father, Great Britain, and other informants was not shared/acted upon efficiently by US agencies.’

    Africa is a Country comments on the ‘tragic’ attack in Angola on the Togolese football team bus during the African Nations Cup in which three people were killed. The attack was to highlight the conflict over the ‘disputed province of Cabinda’. Jacobs points out how the Western media have used the attack as a way of questioning South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup:

    ‘What’s even more tragic is that it took a random attack on a football team to get the media to give attention to the conflict in Cabinda. Then there’s European observers who can’t help themselves in exploiting the tragedy, making connections to South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup next year. In the process they let their racism get the better of their knowledge of geography.’

    Gukira has a thoughtful essay on the problematics of ‘the homosexual’ in ‘African queer studies’ The discussion speaks to the debate as to who brought what to Africa – homophobia or homosexuality?

    ‘My goal is not to dismiss ‘the’ homosexual from queer African studies, but to be more deliberate about using its figural status, that is, to be more attuned to the act of cultural translation required to ‘use’ this figure in African studies.

    ‘Doing so requires a few space-clearing gestures. The first involves re-thinking the use of anthropological studies.

    ‘Within lgbti African studies, the figure of the homosexual has most frequently been approached in functionalist terms. Homosexuals and homosexual-like figures are ‘accepted’ and even ‘revered’ in certain traditional communities. They are both integrated into and integral to the lifeworlds so studies, fulfilling useful social and cultural roles, be it as spiritual leaders and advisers or as alternate social couplings, supplemental to other hetero-formations.’

    Meskel Square ‘dares’ to suggest 5 reasons to be optimistic about Sudan in 2010... Oil, talks and process, low expectations, external pressure, war and fatigue:

    ‘A lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace deal on the brink of collapse,’ warned ten aid groups in a report on Thursday. ‘Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup, and time is running out,’ said the International Crisis Group in December. International efforts to ‘prevent all-out war in Sudan are failing,’ said the US-based Enough Project soon after…

    ‘But another oft-repeated truism about Sudan is its ability to come up with the unexpected, to catch even the mot seasoned ‘Sudan expert’ by surprise…

    ‘So, might the most unexpected – and therefore the most truly Sudanese – outcome of the next 12 months be flawed but grudgingly-accepted elections, followed by a painful but grudgingly-accepted separation? What happens in the 12 months after that, of course, is another question. What do you think?’

    Radical Africa reports on the revolt by African migrants in Southern Italy following a racist attack.

    ‘A racist attack on African migrant farm workers in the Southern Italian region of Calabria by a gang of local youths armed with air rifles has provoked a series of disturbances in the town of Rosarno. Last night hundreds of cars were damaged and set on fire as the migrants sought revenge for the attack that left several of them injured.

    ‘Earlier today, some migrants erected road blocks on the main roads into the town, whilst shop windows were again smashed as up to 2,000 immigrants gathered to protest outside city hall, chanting “we are not animals” and waving placards saying “Italians here are racist”. They demanded to see the town’s government commissioner, Francesco Bagnato, appointed last year when the town council was dissolved to try and combat local influence of the mafia.’

    Sahel Blog questions whether the recent international pressure on Guinea’s military junta will lead to democratic elections:

    ‘When I think about politics, I tend to give more weight to institutional and environmental forces than to specific individuals, but this situation in Guinea is teaching me some lessons about individuals’ impact and the repercussions that wild chance and pure contingency can have. What if the bullet had missed Camara? What if Konate has a fatal heart attack? The fate of these individuals is playing a huge role in shaping the country’s trajectory right now. I’m not saying Konate is some kind of hero or savior, but it does seem we should hope, for the sake of Guinea’s prospects of avoiding a civil war, that Konate stays in good health and follows through on a transition to civilian rule. The military junta survived Camara’s absence, but things could get even shakier soon if Konate too is absent and there is no clear leadership in the country.’

    Black Looks: Sadly the new year began on a very personal note, with the murder and attempted murder of two young men in London. The men Darren and Junior Deslandes were close friends of my sons and my first post of the year is the public press release issued by the Deslandes family on the murder, the treatment of the police at the crime scene and the response of sections of the UK media.

    ‘Darren and Junior Deslandes are the children of Wintworth, Sr and Lurline Deslandes. Wintworth, Sr worked in the City for 25 years as an insurance underwriter. In 1999, Mr and Mrs Deslandes bought and became pub landlords of the Newton Arms in Queen’s Road, Thornton Heath. They turned the then-struggling Newton Arms into a popular and well-loved community pub renowned for its family atmosphere. A friendly place that was a home away from home for regular patrons who were of all ages and races. ‘Was’ because now that has all been destroyed by a callous act of senseless violence by what can only be described as a devout coward.

    ‘The Deslandes family hosted a private party to celebrate New Year’s Eve this year with extended family, friends and pub regulars, all of who were welcome to bring guests. Unfortunately, one regular patron brought his nephew with him, the man who later murdered Darren in cold blood and has left Junior fighting for his life.’


    * Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Emerging powers in Africa Watch

    China’s inroads into North Africa: An assessment of Sino-Algerian relations

    Chris Zambelis


    The geopolitics of African countries such as Algeria, a country in North Africa that has traditionally enjoyed strong relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and whose strategic importance and regional profile have increased markedly of late, is key to grasping the dynamics that shape contemporary Sino-Algerian ties and China’s Africa strategy overall, writes Chris Zambelis.

    The geopolitics of African countries such as Algeria, a country in North Africa that has traditionally enjoyed strong relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and whose strategic importance and regional profile have increased markedly of late, is key to grasping the dynamics that shape contemporary Sino-Algerian ties and China’s Africa strategy overall. A glimpse into Sino-Algerian relations at this time is appropriate considering Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s state visit to Algeria in January (Xinhua News Agency, December 31, 2009). Sino-Algerian relations made headlines in the summer of 2009 when al-Qaeda threatened China in response to the unrest between Beijing and ethnic Uighur Muslims in July; Al-Qaeda’s Algerian-based North African affiliate al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) threatened to target the estimated 50,000 Chinese working and living in Algeria and Chinese interests in the country (China Brief, August 5, 2009). In August, a fistfight between a Chinese migrant worker and an Algerian merchant sparked a local crisis that reverberated to the highest levels of power in Beijing and Algiers, raising questions about the role of Chinese migrants in Algeria and xenophobia among Algerians ( [Paris], August 5, 2009). Understanding the dynamics of Sino-Algerian relations, however, requires reading beyond the headlines. This article will examine various aspects of the relationship between China and Algeria as they relate to natural resources, economics and politics. As will be made evident throughout this article, the circumstances underlying Beijing’s relationship with Algiers differ significantly from China’s bilateral ties with most African countries [1].


    Considering China’s status as the world’s fastest growing oil consumer and third-largest net importer of oil and Algeria’s position as Africa’s fourth largest producer of crude oil in 2008 (and the world’s 18th largest producer of crude oil), the logic underpinning the PRC’s interests in Algeria seems clear (U.S. Energy Information Administration [EIA], May 13, 2009). China’s relentless pursuit of oil to fuel its growing economy is a key factor driving its Africa strategy. Yet well over 90 percent of Algeria’s high-quality, low sulfur sweet crude oil exports goes to Western Europe (Algeria is the European Union’s second-largest source of natural gas), not China. China’s imports of Algerian oil remain marginal compared to its oil imports from other parts of Africa. At this stage, China’s stake in Algeria’s oil industry revolves around exploration and future development projects. At the same time, China’s role in exploration and future development in Algeria is—like its overall role in Algeria’s hydrocarbon sector—small, especially compared to the role of international blue chip energy giants such as Statoil, Shell, British Petroleum, or Total SA in Algeria’s oil industry. In an era of tightening energy markets, even a small presence in Algeria’s hydrocarbon sector makes sense for China. Algeria is keen on expanding its oil production and export capacity as well as increasing its proven reserves, and it appears that China is positioning itself to reap some benefits when it does.

    China’s minor role in the Algerian oil industry has steadily increased since Algeria has made it easier for foreign companies to enter the Algerian market. In October 2002, China’s Sinopec teamed with Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach—the largest company in Africa and the world’s twelfth largest oil and gas conglomerate—in China’s first oil development venture in Algeria to jointly develop the Zarzaitine oil field in southeastern Algeria at a cost of $525 million; Sinopec assumed 75 percent of the overall investment ( [Dubai], August 20, 2009; Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections [Netherlands], October 22, 2002). In July 2003, the China National Oil & Gas Exploration & Development Corporation (CNODC), a section of the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), built a $350 million refinery in Adrar, in southwestern Algeria (APS Review Downstream Trends, February 5, 2007). A visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Algiers in 2004 ushered in a new round of Sino-Algerian cooperation in the energy sector, leading to agreements between CNPC and Sinopec and Sonatrach for oil exploration rights and related projects (APS Review Downstream Trends, February 5, 2007). Algeria’s Energy Ministry recently awarded the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOCC) an exploration license for Hassi Bir Rekaiz (Reuters, December 20, 2009). In October 2009, Sonatrach announced that Sinopec was among a group of four international companies on a shortlist for consideration to design and engineer a new oil refinery in Tairet, in western Algeria, a project estimated to cost $6 billion. Sinopec is also represented along with other companies bidding for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) of the Algiers refinery, a project estimated to cost $300 million (, October 21, 2009; [Dubai], October 22, 2009).

    In spite of its substantial oil resources and membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), it is Algeria’s status as a major producer of natural gas and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) that have solidified its position as an energy powerhouse. Algeria, which became home to the world’s first commercial LNG facility in 1964, is the world’s sixth largest producer of natural gas, 70 percent of which is exported to markets in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. Algeria is also the world’s fourth-largest exporter of LNG (EIA, May 2009). Algeria’s combined revenues from hydrocarbons account for well over 90 percent of its export earnings. While the United States represents the fifth largest importer of Algerian LNG, China’s imports of Algerian LNG are negligible (EIA, May 2009; New York Times, October 19, 2009). Instead, China relies on domestic natural gas sources and LNG shipments from the Middle East and Asia. Beijing is also awaiting the completion of pipelines that will transport natural gas to China from Central Asia. At the same time, China is committed to further developing its natural gas networks to meet growing demand, to include expanding its LNG terminal network, which may entail a greater role for Algerian LNG in China (EIA, July 2009; People’s Daily, June 22, 2006). Chinese firms have partnered with Sonatrach to explore for gas in Algeria, however, the Chinese footprint in gas exploration operations in Algeria is minimal.


    As Africa’s third largest economy and with a population of about 34 million, China sees a great deal of potential in Algeria as a market for Chinese goods and technical expertise. Likewise, Algeria also counts China as a key trading partner. Algeria’s economic strength is crucial to understanding the dynamics underlying Sino-Algerian relations, particularly Algeria’s leverage in its dealings with China. Unlike much of Africa, Algeria does not seek Chinese loan and aid packages in exchange for granting access to its strategic industries and markets to Chinese firms. In fact, Algerian banks regularly finance major projects undertaken by Chinese companies in Algeria (, April 19, 2006). This bilateral dynamic is unique in Sino-African relations. China’s economic and trade dealings with much of Africa are often characterized by transfers of Chinese largesse into the treasuries of African countries eager to attract Chinese investment. Beijing’s higher appetite for investment risk makes it an ideal partner for African countries with a legacy of social, political and economic instability. In addition to securing lucrative contracts in strategic industries such as hydrocarbons and minerals across Africa, China’s entry into the economic and business sectors in Africa affords it with political influence in the countries where Chinese money flows. In contrast, Algeria’s economic power allows it to negotiate from a position of relative strength and to be more judicious in its business dealings with China [2].

    Overall, Sino-Algerian bilateral trade relations are strong. The volume of trade between China and Algeria has increased significantly in recent years. From a figure of $272 million in 2001, bilateral trade between China and Algeria topped $4 billion in 2008, and the current trends project a further expansion of trade (China Daily, December 19, 2008). After France and Italy, China has emerged as Algeria’s third largest import source (El-Khabar [Algiers], March 30, 2009). China’s economic footprint is most apparent in Algeria’s infrastructure sector, a sector where Algeria lacks the technical expertise and the capacity to undertake major projects on its own. Algeria has emerged as one of China’s largest overseas markets for infrastructure development. In May 2006, Algeria tapped the China International Trust and Investment Company (CICTC) and the China Railway Construction Company (CRCC) to undertake a mammoth effort to help construct the 1216 km road link dubbed the East-West Highway, which is designed to link eastern and western Algeria, and Algeria to Morocco and Tunisia (Reuters, August 4, 2009). At a cost of approximately 12 billion, the East-West Highway is currently the largest construction project in the world. Algiers also awarded three contracts worth $2.1 billion to the China Civil Engineering and Construction Corporation (CCECC) to construct railway networks in western Algeria (Agence France-Presse, July 20, 2009). Algeria also tapped China to help alleviate its housing shortages—a major domestic political issue that has sparked tensions in recent years—in urban centers such as Algiers. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is counting on Chinese firms to fulfill his promise of creating an additional 1 million affordable housing units over the next three years (Reuters, October 20, 2009; Xinhua News Agency, February 26, 2008).

    In a trend typical of China’s ventures in Africa and the developing world, Chinese firms awarded contracts by Algeria largely use Chinese laborers—both skilled and unskilled workers—to see their projects to fruition. While Chinese firms do employ Algerians, their overall numbers and the wages they tend to earn remain low. Moreover, skilled and unskilled Chinese laborers are often able to undercut the salary demands of their Algerian counterparts (Financial Times [London], June 2, 2008). These circumstances are largely tolerated by Algiers, as the state is primarily concerned with achieving quick completion of its projects. Yet the prominent Chinese presence in the Algerian labor force has also bred resentment in a country where strong overall economic indicators have yet to dent high unemployment rates, especially among youth; with a median age of 26, seven out of 10 Algerians under the age of 30 are unemployed (Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2009; China Daily, August 5, 2009). In spite of feelings of resentment, relations between Algerians and Chinese on the personal level in Algeria are characterized as very good (Agence France-Presse, November 6, 2009). In addition to working as laborers in the construction sector, Chinese merchants also operate shops throughout the country. Estimates of the number of Chinese living and working in Algeria run as high as 50,000, making them one of the largest communities of overseas Chinese in Africa. Questions surrounding the Chinese presence in Algeria topped regional and international headlines when a fistfight erupted over a dispute between an Algerian shopkeeper and a Chinese migrant worker in Bab Ezzouar, a suburb of Algiers, and spiraled into clashes between groups of Algerians and Chinese. Bab Ezzouar has been dubbed “Chinatown” by the local proprietors and customers who shop at the many Chinese-owned businesses there (El Watan [Algiers], August 4, 2009). After scores were injured and thousands of dollars in property damage, Sino-Algerian diplomacy stepped in to downplay international media reports claiming that the incident signaled a rift in Sino-Algerian relations. In spite of the media hype, there is little indication that the flare up in violence in August represented something more than an isolated incident.


    China and Algeria share a strong tradition of political ties rooted in their respective roles as leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and their staunch support for anti-colonial and national liberation movements across the globe. As an Arab, Berber and Muslim country, Algeria has always been a staunch advocate of popular causes such as Palestinian nationalism and resistance against Israeli military occupation. During a July 2009 visit to Algeria by Wu Sike, China's Special Envoy to the Middle East, Algerian officials thanked China for its vocal support for Palestinian self-determination (Chinese Foreign Ministry Website, July 28, 2009). Public diplomacy in Sino-Algerian relations is also imbued with references to the “brotherly” ties both countries profess to share based on equality and mutual respect and their efforts to further South-South cooperation (Xinhua News Agency, August 31, 2008). China’s approach to relations with Algeria are well-received; owing to its particularly harsh experience under French colonialism, Algeria often pursues a fervently independent foreign policy and is sensitive to outside interference in its domestic affairs. President Bouteflika once described Sino-Algerian relations as the model for further Sino-African cooperation (Xinhua News Agency, November 7, 2006).

    As the first non-Arab country to recognize Algerian independence in 1962, China occupies a special place in Algerian diplomacy. Prior to Algeria achieving formal independence from France, China was among a handful of countries to have recognized the Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne (Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, known by its French acronym GRPA) in 1958, the political wing of the Front de Liberation Nationale (National Liberation Front, known by its French acronym FLN), an armed resistance movement fighting French colonialism. Significantly, Beijing and Algiers mark the establishment of bilateral relations from the day China established ties with the GRPA on December 20, 1958 [3], four years before Algeria won its independence (People’s Daily, December 31, 2008; China View, March 21, 2008). Chinese diplomacy often contains references to the political, economic, and military support Beijing provided to the FLN during the Algerian independence struggle. China also expresses its gratitude to Algeria for its unequivocal support of the “One-China” principle that defines Taiwan as part of the PRC and its support for the restoration of China’s seat at the UN in 1971 (PLA Daily, September 16, 2009) [4]. Sino-Algeria relations also contain a strong cultural component marked by regular exchanges of artists, students, scientists and educators. When Algeria was struck with a devastating earthquake in 2003, China dispatched a rescue team to assist relief and aid workers in Algeria. The decision to dispatch rescue workers to Algeria marked the first time China sent rescue workers abroad. China also played a major role in developing Algeria’s health care sector following Algeria’s independence. Not coincidentally, the team of doctors dispatched by Beijing in 1963 to Algeria marked the first time China sent doctors overseas (Xinhua News Agency, March 21, 2008).

    The tradition of strong Sino-Algerian relations also extends to the security realm. Algerian military officers have trained in China over the years. In fact, high-level exchanges between Chinese and Algerian military officials occur regularly; Algeria has maintained a defense attaché in Beijing since 1971 (Xinhua News Agency, August 15, 2006; China Brief, May 30, 2007). China has also played a key role in Algeria’s nuclear program. At one point, Sino-Algerian cooperation in the nuclear arena raised concerns in U.S. intelligence circles about Algeria’s possible intentions to develop nuclear weapons [5]. While Russia remains Algeria’s largest source of arms, especially advanced weapons platforms, China is determined to expand its arms exports to Algeria. Algeria was the first country in Africa to import China’s C-85 (Project 802) missile boats fitted with C-802 ship-to-ship missiles and a 5,550 ton training ship (UPI, December 31, 2008; UPI, November 5, 2007). Algeria has also purchased Chinese artillery, namely 155mm howitzers (UPI, January 30, 2009).


    Sino-Algerian relations will remain strong and are poised to develop further in the future. Given Algeria’s relative economic strength, growing strategic significance, and overall leverage, however, the trajectory of Sino-Algerian relations will likely continue to follow a path distinct from China’s relations with other countries in Africa. Yet China is not alone in its efforts to expand ties with the Maghreb’s preeminent power; long regarded as a country within France’s sphere of influence, the United States, NATO, and Russia are also aggressively courting Algeria [6]. How China maneuvers these dynamics will say a lot for the extent of its influence and interests in Algeria and beyond.

    * Chris Zambelis is an Associate with Helios Global, Inc., a risk analysis firm based in the Washington, DC area. This article first appeared in China Brief Volume: 10 Issue: 1 on 7 January 2010.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.


    [1] Many of the author’s insights into Sino-Algerian relations were shaped by a September 2009 trip to Algeria.
    [2] While a decline in global oil and gas prices will contribute to a decrease in its GDP in 2009, Algeria’s economic indicators remain strong, even amid the global financial downturn. A November 2009 assessment of the Algerian economy conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded that Algeria is one of the countries least affected by the global economic crisis. The windfall in hydrocarbon revenues in recent years has enabled Algeria to maintain a strong trade surplus and to pay down the majority of its external debt to the Paris Club and other global multilateral financial institutions and to accumulate foreign exchange reserves of about 146 billion. For more details, see “Statement of the IMF Mission on the 2009 Article IV Consultation Discussion with Algeria,” Press Release No. 9/388, November 4, 2009,
    [3] Prior to formally establishing ties with the GRPA, China acknowledged its legitimacy upon its founding in September 1958.
    [4] Algeria was one of 23 countries to have put forth a motion at the 26th session of the UN General Assembly to restore the PRC at the UN.
    [5] See William Burr, “The Algerian Nuclear Problem, 1991: Controversy over the Es Salaam Nuclear Reactor,” National Security Archive, Electronic Briefing Book No. 228, September 10, 2007,
    [6] For the United States, Algeria’s experience fighting radical Islamists on its soil facilitated unprecedented levels of intelligence cooperation between Washington and Algiers immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Given its diplomatic influence in Africa coupled with its own particularly harsh experience under French colonialism, Washington is also sensitive to Algeria’s position as it defines the mission of the recently established Africa Command (AFRICOM). Algeria also participates in joint military training exercises with U.S. and NATO forces. A resurgent Russia is also courting Algeria as more than just a reliable customer when it comes to its defense exports. Russia, the world’s leading source of natural gas, and Algeria have floated the idea of establishing an OPEC-like cartel for natural gas powers.

    The international expansion of Chinese dam builders

    Jacqui Dixon


    China is now the world's largest producer of, hydropower, with Chinese firms now building 19 of the 24 largest hydropower plants currently under construction worldwide, and roughly half of all the world's large dams are within its borders, writes Jacqui Dixon.

    Historically, Western countries have provided the technology for the bulk of China’s hydropower dams. The first turbines to be installed on a river in China was under the Qing Dynasty in 1909, by German company Siemens. But when the Chinese government decided to build the giant Three Gorges and Ertan dams in the early 1990s, it decided to do things differently. Western equipment suppliers were still needed, yet this time, the rules were that the leading hydropower companies of the time, including ABB, Alstom, General Electric and Siemens, had to manufacture half of the turbines and generators on Chinese soil in co-operation with Chinese partners. As in the case of other manufacturing sector players entering joint ventures with Chinese suppliers, technology and knowledge of dam building were transferred in the process. From that point on, China became one of the biggest players in the international dam market in the 21st century.

    Chinese firms are now building 19 of the 24 largest hydropower plants currently under construction worldwide. Roughly half of all the world’s large dams are within China’s borders. With a capacity of more than 170,000 megawatts, China is now the world’s largest producer of hydropower. Chinese manufacturers had been involved in small dam building in countries such as Burma and Nepal for several decades but it was only in 2003 that they entered the exclusive market for large hydropower projects. Three companies, which had picked up the latest technology in the Three Gorges and Ertan projects and soon managed to underprice and outpace their Western competitors were Dongfang Electrical Machinery, Harbin Power Equipment and Sinohydro, China’s leading Beijing-based hydropower contractor. Adapting Western technology to poor-country needs, China’s hydropower companies have ventured into foreign markets en masse.

    The discussion on conflicts over large dams and the socio-environmental implications of poorly managed developments in unstable, developing countries is not new, but how China came to dominate the global market in dam building and at what price are questions that anyone with an interest in the future of hydroelectric power would be interested in knowing the answers to. These key questions are examined in Peter Bosshard’s long essay ‘China Dams the World’, in the latest issue of the World Policy Journal. Bosshard, the Policy Director of International Rivers, has been monitoring the global dam industry for almost 20 years. His eyewitness accounts of resettlement sites of communities affected by dams, and his involvement in key policy processes and project campaigns which have shaped the sector, make him an important commentator on the social and environmental standards of governments, financial institutions, and the dam industry. He has been promoting corporate social responsibility since the early 1990s and in particular working towards strengthening the social and environmental standards of China’s overseas investors. The Export-Import Bank of China (also known as China Exim Bank) is a key source of finance for large overseas dam construction and is the key tool through which the Chinese government supports the global expansion of its infrastructure companies.

    Created 60 years after its Western competitors, its portfolio has outgrown all other export credit agencies, including the World Bank.

    Controversial projects range from the Merowe Dam in Northern Sudan and the Gibe 4 Dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia, to the well documented Three Gorges Dam on the Yangzte River and the myriad number of major hydropower projects in Myanmar. In places like Myanmar, the government does not require environmental impact assessments for large dams, many of which are located in the remote territories of ethnic minorities.

    But, as Bosshard points out, China is not the only country to push the global boundaries of hydropower development. Indian companies are building dams in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Thai, Malaysian, and Vietnamese companies have proposed building dams throughout the Mekong Basin. Russian, Iranian, and Korean suppliers are also not far behind. Many do not follow accepted international social and environmental standards in their projects, but, as Bosshard argues, China’s disproportionately large stake means that it must take a fair share of the blame.

    While officials in Beijing strengthen China’s own environmental regulations to clean up the mess in its own backyard, a great disconnect appears still to be happening with its investment elsewhere. This is not necessarily due to a lack of guidelines to improve the environmental performance and community relations in Chinese overseas projects. Government agencies have been issuing a series of recommendations since 2006, and ministries are currently preparing guidelines that will require investors to apply Chinese domestic environmental laws to overseas projects if host country standards are too weak. Yet distance poses a serious challenge to any form of implementation.

    In his essay, Bosshard eloquently shows how ‘dams have become the highly visible symbols of burgeoning economic cooperation between China and the developing world - at a time when Western governments are going soft on risky infrastructure projects’. Chinese investors and companies are moving in and rapidly expanding the industry to places where Western governments no longer dare tread. Yet in an age where knowledge transfer is almost instantaneous thanks to the prevalence of the World Wide Web, the potential socio-environmental implications of large-scale infrastructure projects no longer go unheard. As Bosshard points out, civil society groups in China and in host countries have begun to act as a check on the role of these companies. They are becoming more adept at monitoring the role of foreign investors. The backlash against Chinese investors that we have seen in recent years, and the Chinese government’s move towards sustainability standards for overseas investments, are perhaps positive signs of what is to come. Bosshard further concludes that Western dam builders should not hide behind the lower social and environmental standards of their Chinese counterparts, but should instead work together with Beijing and host country governments to strengthen standards in global projects.


    * Jacqui Dixon is a Senior Project Manager at CSR Asia based in their Hong Kong office. This article first appeared in CSR Asia Weekly Vol.6, January 13 2010
    * Peter Bosshard’s essay is available at Other articles in the current issue of the World Policy Journal also focus on the global water crisis.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Highlights French edition

    Pambazuka News 129: Sénégal: Les femmes au front pour la paix en Casamance


    Zimbabwe update

    SADC Troika meets in Maputo to discuss Zimbabwe


    The SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security held a summit in Maputo on Thursday to consider, among other issues, reports on developments in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government.

    Women & gender

    Gambia: Police declare zero tolerance for gender-based violence


    Gambia's Assistant Superintendent of Police Yahya Fadera has declared there will be zero tolerance for gender-based violence, in particular rape and sexual assault against women and girls, warning that perpetrators will have no place to hide.

    Kenya: Clash over abortion rights in new constitution


    A harmonised draft constitution has now been handed over to Kenya's Parliamentary Select Committee. Influential Christian leaders are warning that the question of abortion could derail the constitutional review process.

    Zimbabwe: Electing to rape: Sexual terror in Mugabe's Zimbabwe


    In the weeks immediately following the June 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, AIDS-Free World received an urgent call from a Harare-based organization working on behalf of women and girls. They believed that hundreds and possibly thousands of women had been raped by members of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party as a strategy to influence the election, and sought help from AIDS-Free World in documenting these crimes.

    Human rights

    Botswana: Global advertising campaign exposes malice of government


    Survival has launched an ad campaign exposing the Botswana government’s malicious treatment of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen, the country’s oldest inhabitants. An advertisement depicting an inverted Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), the Bushmen’s ancestral home, has appeared in a series of popular magazines, including Condé Nast Traveller, The World of Interiors, and Red Bulletin which is distributed with the UK’s Independent newspaper.

    DRC: Warlord Nkunda seeks trial or exile: lawyer


    Former Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda is ready to face trial for alleged war crimes or go into exile to end his detention without charge in Rwanda, his lawyer said.

    Kenya: Police, people clash with Muslim protesters


    Kenyan security forces shot in the air and fired tear gas at hundreds of people protesting in the capital on Friday against the detention of Jamaican Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal. The protesters, chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and some holding the flag of Somali rebel group al Shabaab, were blocked by police with dogs as they tried to march through the heart of Nairobi after prayers at the downtown mosque.

    Sudan: Government hangs six over 2005 refugee riot in Khartoum


    Six Sudanese men have been executed for their part in a riot at a refugee camp in Khartoum in 2005. The men were held responsible for killing 13 policemen during the riots in which five civilians also died.

    Zambia: Police breaking the law to prevent crime


    Detaining someone without cause is against the law in Zambia. But the country’s police continue to do this, specifically targeting the female relatives of a suspect, in an attempt to gather information or force the suspect out into the open.

    Zimbabwe: The invisible suffering of commercial farm workers


    This report presents the findings of preliminary quantitative and qualitative surveys of workers on commercial farms in the wake of the catastrophic "Land Reform" policy in Zimbabwe. Whilst the companion reports produced from this series of projects have received some attention, this report is the first to deal solely with data gathered from the farm workers themselves.

    Refugees & forced migration

    CAR: Refugees not ready to return


    Assurances from authorities in Kinshasa that peace had been restored to their home areas in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo carry little weight with thousands of refugees across the Ubangi River in the Central African Republic (CAR): they are in no hurry to return home.

    DRC: Massive refugee influx straining neighbours’ resources – UN


    A massive influx of 125,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into neighbouring Republic of Congo (ROC) and Central African Republic (CAR) after deadly ethnic clashes is severely stretching the meagre resources of the impoverished region, the United Nations refugee agency has reported.

    DRC: Over 100, 000 refugees flee


    More than 107,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have fled to the Republic of Congo since early November of last year. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, another 17,000 refugees have crossed into the Central African Republic (CAR).

    Global: UN-backed microfinance project to benefit thousands of refugees


    Tens of thousands of displaced people around the world will get micro-loans to set up their own businesses and become self-sufficient thanks to a new agreement between the UN refugee agency and a microfinance services organisation set up by Bangladeshi Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus.

    Kenya: Corruption keeps resettlement funds from IDPs


    Kenya’s government faces internal wrangling over the allocation of 1.4 billion shillings ($19 million) to buy land for IDPs. The Standard newspaper has reported that government officials have taken millions of shillings meant for resettling IDPs and then claimed that they had been disbursed to beneficiaries.

    Somalia: Insecurity causes new displacement and suspension of food aid


    Fighting between pro-government militias and the Al-Shabaab rebel group has caused continuing death and displacement in central Somalia. Clashes concentrated in the areas of Wabho, Warhole, and Beladweyne killed 27 civilians and displaced some 250 pastoralist families, according to rights groups in Somalia cited by Reuters on 12 January.

    Somalia: Surge in fighting uproots more Somalis


    The United Nations refugee agency has warned that many parts of central Somalia are witnessing a surge in fighting, sparking growing displacement and worsening the plight of an already beleaguered population.

    Emerging powers news

    China's Foreign Minister completes African trip

    Stephen Marks


    In this week's roundup of emerging powers news Stephen Marks looks at China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's just-concluded six-nation tour of Africa.

    China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi completed his six-nation tour of Africa. On the trip he ‘strengthened coordination with governments of those African states on implementing the agreements reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting’, he told Chinese reporters on his return. More

    The Foreign Minister began his six-nation tour of Africa and the Middle East in Kenya with a pledge of a $7m grant to help fund infrastructure development. More

    Deng Hingbo, the Chinese ambassador, felt the Minister’s visit was ‘fruitful’.More
    However, there were fears that the planned major port development at Lamu could have damaging effects on the local environment. More

    In a sign of the growing importance of China-Kenya economic links, Standard Chartered Kenya reached an agreement with Chinese card provider China Unionpay to give Chinese cardholders in Kenya access to their money.More

    In Nigeria Foreign Minister Yang met with his Nigerian counterpart Ojo Maduekwe to discuss further investment in power transmission and generation and in oil exports. China is also helping to repair the rail system and develop communication satellites for Nigeria. Chinese and Nigerian officials held discussions about China increasing investment in the West African country’s electricity and oil industries.More

    In Sierre Leone he met with President Ernest Bai Koroma who thanked China for providing ‘selfless assistance which contributed to the economic and social development in the country’. More

    In Algeria President Bouteflika said Algeria was‘willing to enhance coordination and cooperation with China on international affairs’ and work with China to boost strategic cooperation. More

    In Morocco the Foreign Minister published an article in the Moroccan newspaper ‘Le Matin’calling for the strengthening of the Sino-African relationship. More

    Morocco’s Prime Minister stressed his willing ness to ‘push forward’ relations with China, and the Chinese Minister said he ‘values the implementation of the follow-up actions of the fourth ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), and is willing to work together with Morocco and other FOCAC member countries to fulfill the tasks’. More

    The Minister concluded his tour in Saudi Arabia. In the interview he gave Chinese journalists on his return, he said he was ‘looking forward to meeting with foreign ministers of Arab states and chief of the Arab League at the fourth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum slated for June in China’. He stressed that ‘China is willing to work with Arab states to step up communication and coordination’.He also mentioned climate change as an issue discussed with the countries visited, and said China was ‘willing to closely cooperate with these countries to push international climate change negotiations toward the right direction’. More

    At the same time China's Minister of Commerce Chen Deming was visiting Ethiopia where he extended RMB172 million [$25 milllion] of preferential loans as well as RMB 50 million in aid, which doesn't have to be repaid, More

    He also signed a RMB 100 million ($14,645,576.89) grant agreement on economic and technical cooperation with the African Union Commission. The grant will be used for implementing the project of the Conference Center of the African Union, which is being constructed in Addis Ababa by the Chinese government.

    The AU Commission’s Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha said the AU Commission is willing to play a bigger role in implementing the eight new measures and enhance dialogue between Africa and China.

    The Minister also took the opportunity to appeal to African leaders to guarantee the safety of Chinese workers involved in the exploration of oil and other minerals in the continent from acts of terrorism. More

    The Chinese Commerce Minister also visited Mozambique, where he and Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang signed two agreements, the first of which grants Mozambique an interest-free credit of US$14.7 million for additional financing of work to build the National Stadium. The Minister stressed that China intends to continue aiding Mozambique and encouraging Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in the country. More

    The Minister later attended the swearing-in of the country’s new President Armando Guebuza. More


    India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari was also on tour, visiting Zambia, Malawi and Botswana.
    India’s role in Africa will be powered by the private sector and would generate local employment instead of importing workforce, he told reporters. More

    Ansari stressed India’s role in providing assistance in areas such as training of personnel, contribution to agricultural development, training for specialized jobs, and upgrading developmental assistance. He also made a particular mention of the signature role being played by the Indian community in all three countries. He reiterated that the India-Africa Summit of July 2008 had chalked out a path for incrementally moving towards targets set through its deliberations. More

    Mineral exploration was another area in which he expressed India’s special interest. More

    In Botswana Ansari held talks with his counterpart Momfati Merafhe before announcing a grant of $8 million for projects in the social sector as well as a $20 million line of credit for development of infrastructure projects. More

    The two governments later signed agreements on agriculture and education. More

    Over 80 Indian firms are operating in Botswana, and play a particularly important role in the country’s diamond industry. More

    Ansari praised the role of Indian businesses in his address at the Indian Community Reception. More

    Continuing to Malawi - the next Chair of the SAU - the Vice-President announced a line of credit of $50 million as well as $5 million in grants for earthquake relief and projects in the social sector. Three agreements were signed, for foreign office consultations, cooperation in agriculture and small enterprises.
    Malawian leaders also expressed a wish for Indian private companies to help build up the inland port of Nsanje, and in the possibility of joint exploration of potential uranium sites. More

    China’s Premier Wen Jiabao may also visit Malawi later this year for the inauguration of Malawi’s Chinese-built Parliament building in Lilongwe. More

    India’s Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor was also in Mozambique for the inauguration of President Guebuza, who expressed a wish to impart ‘greater vigour and momentum to the close and cooperative relations between India and Mozambique’ in his second term of office. Since 2002, India has extended five lines of credit totalling $115 million for projects in rural electrification, water management and Information Technology. "Mozambique greatly values the S&T park and research incubator financed under a Line of Credit and to be completed in two years. Capacity building support in several sectors is underway and the Pan African e-network project has been commissione” acording to an official statement. More

    Meanwhile in Lagos, Nigeria’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa and his Indian counterpart, Mr. Anand Sharma witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for trade and investment partnership between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce. The deal is expected to generate trade worth $1 billion. More

    Nigeria-India trade has already reached $10 billion. And Nigeria’s vice-president is confident this will increase, especially given the boost to business confidence from the peace agreement in the Delta region. More

    In further attempts to promote India’s African profile in competititon with China, India is planning to assist African countries with developing national savings schemes. More

    About 100 captains of South African business and industry have expressed interest in participating in an global business meet being planned by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry on the periphery of the Commonwealth Games 2010, to be hosted in Delhi in October. More

    According to a recent poll 40% of Chinese see India as the biggest security threat after the USA. More


    The group of four emerging economies – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – that played a major role in arriving at the Copenhagen Accord – will meet in Delhi on January 24 to discuss issues before endorsing the agreement on climate change arrived at in the Danish Capital last month.
    The ministerial level meeting is likely to draft a collective response to a communication from the United Nations Secretary-General asking these countries to work quickly and diligently to get all other Parties of the conference to sign the Accord by January 31. More

    A top Chinese climate official confirmed that climate ministers from four emerging economies will meet in India this month, to help chart a roadmap toward a legally binding global climate change agreement in Mexico City this year.
    While the official downplayed the scheduled conference on Jan 24-25 as an "ordinary event" among China's international climate engagements, the government's top-ranking advisors said the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) are likely to coordinate their follow-up actions required in the Copenhagen Accord achieved by 190 economies in December. More

    America sees a diminished role for the United Nations in trying to stop global warming after the "chaotic" Copenhagen climate change summit, an Obama administration official said. More

    ‘I am more convinced than ever that when historians look back at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, they will say that the most important thing to happen was not the Great Recession, but China’s Green Leap Forward. The Beijing leadership clearly understands that the E.T. — Energy Technology — revolution is both a necessity and an opportunity, and they do not intend to miss it’ says influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. More


    2010 is a critical year for wellbeing and growth across the public and private sectors, according to Standard Chartered. The bank’s Global Focus report provides detailed outlook and forecasts for the world’s major economies and key emerging markets and regions, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Among the key predictions are: global growth is likely to be 2.7% in 2010, compared with an estimated 1.9% contraction in 2009; Asia is likely to grow by 7% in 2010, compared with an estimated 4.5% growth in 2009 while China and India are expected to grow by 10% and 7.5%, respectively, compared with 8.5% and 6.8% in 2009. More

    China surpassed Germany as the world's top exporter. More

    China continues to attract criticism from Europe and the US for refusing to allow the Yuan to appreciate, thus giving its exports a price advantage seen by others as unfair. More

    But there are fears that China’s economy may be overheating. ‘Some experts fear that too much of the stimulus money was put into unprofitable projects and bad loans that will be exposed in a few years. In that view, China’s 2009 boom, in which automakers sold nearly 14 million cars and trucks, and housing prices doubled, is really a sign of an overheated economy at risk of serious recession down the road’. More

    However there were signs that China’s central bank was beginning to rein in the excessive credit boom. More

    This led the Wall Street Journal to conclude that a revaluation of the yuan may be more likely than investors had assumed. More


    Hu Shuli, founder of Chinese news magazine Caijing, is editing a new weekly after her resignation amid claims of censorship. More

    Liu Jianqiang is one of China’s pioneering environmental journalists. A former senior investigative reporter at Southern Weekend, China's most influential investigative newspaper he provided front-line and in-depth coverage of China's burgeoning environmental movement. Some of Liu's most influential articles include his 2004 expose on the controversial Tiger Leaping Gorge dams in Yunnan province and 2005 article on the Summer Palace lake reconstruction. He has also serves as columnist and associate editor for In an interview during a US visit, he discusses his investigative stories on the ecological impact and displacement of people by China’s hydroelectric projects, special interest groups harming China’s environment and the constant struggle against censorship. More

    China told companies to cooperate with state control of the Internet on Thursday, showing no sign of giving ground on censorship after U.S. Internet giant Google threatened to quit the country. More

    Eralier, Google’s stance had been welcomed by Chunese internet activists. More

    * Stephen Marks is research associate and project coordinator with Fahamu's China in Africa Project.
    * Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Elections & governance

    Côte d'Ivoire: Elections under threat again


    Preparations for presidential elections scheduled for the end of February or the beginning of March - elections which have already been postponed numerous times since 2005 - have again reached an impasse in Côte d'Ivoire.

    Cote d'Ivoire: Government to probe allegations of voters roll fraud


    Cote d'Ivoire's government has ordered an investigation into allegations of fraud by the electoral commission. Last weekend, President Laurent Gbagbo accused the commission of trying to register hundreds of thousands of ineligible people.

    Guinea: Camara demands home return


    Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, Guinea’s wounded junta leader, feels he was tricked into taking a flight to Burkina Faso instead of going back to Guinea and is determined to get home, officials have said.

    Madagascar: SADC throws out Rajoelina


    Leaders from the southern African region have urged the international community to reject plans by Madagascar's military-backed Andry Rajoelina to ignore power-sharing talks and hold an election.

    Nigeria: VP 'can act as president'


    A Nigerian court has ruled that Goodluck Jonathan, the vice-president, can take over the duties of the president, who has been sick, without a formal transfer of power.

    Southern Africa: Angola to endorse new constitution


    Angolan legislators are expected to endorse the new constitution that will strengthen the three decades-long rule of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The vote comes earlier than expected as the nation reels from a deadly rebel attack last week. The vote was expected in March.

    Sudan: SPLM leader Salva Kiir snubs national election


    South Sudan leader Salva Kiir is to seek re-election in that post rather than tackling Omar al-Bashir for the national presidency, his party says. The SPLM will instead field a northern Muslim, Yassir Arman, in the national elections due in April.

    Tunisia: President reshuffles cabinet


    Two months after being re-elected for a fifth five-year term, president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has reshuffled his cabinet with the departure of several known figures.


    Africa: Ethiopia inaugurates first ever no-dam hydropower plant


    Ethiopia's first and biggest hydroelectric power generating plant that does not have its own dam was inaugurated by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and a senior official from the project financier, Italy. The 281 million euro (US$ 407 million) plant, Gilgel-Gibe II (GII), uses water from another dam constructed more than 26 kilometres from GII for an earlier comm i ssioned power plant, called Gilgel-Gibe I (GI), has an installed capacity of 420

    Africa: Rising electricity demand boosts the wind turbine market - study


    A study on African Large-Scale Wind Turbine Market, has found that the market earned revenues of over $148.4 million in 2008 and estimates this to reach $424.3 million in 2015, according to a new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.

    Africa: Seychelles agrees to swap $283 million in debt


    Seychelles has said it had agreed with creditors to swap old debt worth $283 million, representing 89 percent of the debt it sought to restructure in an exchange offer.

    DRC: Egyptian experts to undertake projects in Kinshasa


    Egyptian experts have completed a mission in Kinshas a aimed at evaluating the construction of an ultra-modern hospital and hydro-electric power in DR Congo by Egypt.These projects are efforts to contribute to the accessibility of quality care and provision of electric power supply in DR Congo.

    Malawi: Green belt initiative taking shape


    Let the rains fail, even for several successive seasons, and Malawi should still be able to produce enough to feed itself.
 This is the motivation for the country's green belt concept. It is strengthened by painful memories of the severe drought beginning early 2002 which triggered three years of hunger.

    Mauritius: ‘Doing Business 2010 in Africa’ conference opens


    Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, speaking at the opening of a three-day conference on “Doing Business 2010 in Africa: Sharing Reform Experiences” in Balaclava, Mauritius, has said that Africa is poised for what may be the most buoyant years in its economic history, provided it facilitates doing business despite the worst global economic recession in decades.

    Health & HIV/AIDS

    Africa: Unicef child-death campaign in Africa 'failed'


    A UN programme to combat child deaths from disease in West Africa has failed, a Johns Hopkins University study says. Unicef spent $27m (£17m) rolling out vaccinations, vitamin A pills and bed nets to protect against malaria from 2001 to 2005 in areas of 11 countries.

    Kenya: New strategy targets most at-risk populations


    Kenya has launched an ambitious strategy to fight HIV/AIDS that aims to reduce new infections by at least 50 percent over the next four years and focus more on most at-risk populations (MARPs).

    Rwanda: New campaign to boost condom use


    A campaign by the Rwandan government aims to significantly increase the use of both male and female condoms in the country, where it is estimated that sexually active people use an average of just three condoms per year.

    South Africa: Foreigners fare better on HIV treatment than citizens


    A study finding that foreigners are about half as likely to fail antiretroviral (ARV) treatment as South African citizens attending the same Johannesburg clinic has challenged widely held assumptions about migrants' ability to adhere to HIV/AIDS drug regimens.

    West Africa: Learning how to stop children dying


    The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) “accelerated child survival programme” in 11 West African countries did not save significantly more lives than in areas that were not targeted, says an evaluation published in The Lancet this week - but analysts say this does not mean UNICEF was doing the wrong things.


    North Africa: Algeria fines parents to curb drop-out rate


    Algeria's Ministry of Education, faced with a worrisome drop-out rate, has begun fining parents who do not send their children to school.

    Zimbabwe: Police arrest 25 students over Bindura University demo


    Twenty-five students were arrested at Bindura University on Thursday, after a demonstration over exorbitant tuition fees which have resulted in at least 40 percent of students being denied access to write their exams.


    Malawi: Drop charges against same-sex couple


    Malawi's government should drop all criminal charges against a same-sex couple who are facing up to 14 years in prison, Human Rights Watch has said in a letter to high-level justice and home affairs officials.

    North Africa: Egypt jails two journalists over homosexuality claims


    An Egyptian court has sentenced two journalists to one year in prison after finding them guilty of printing a report in their newspaper about the alleged homosexuality of three celebrities.

    Swaziland: Lesbian murder condemned


    The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has accused the media and the public of ‘trying and convicting’ Thulani Rudd, accused of murdering the woman she was engaged to, before the investigation has even been completed.

    Uganda: Pastor plans "million-man" anti-gay march


    A Ugandan preacher with close ties to U.S. evangelicals and President Yoweri Museveni's family said on Friday he planned to organise a "million-man" march in February to support a proposed anti-gay law in parliament.

    Uganda: President Museveni wary of anti-gay bill


    Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from a bill proposing execution for some gay people. He stressed that the MP who proposed the bill, who is a member of the ruling party, did so as an individual and was not following government policy.


    Africa: Fighting climate change with grasslands


    Grasslands have vast untapped potential to mitigate climate change by absorbing and storing Carbon Dioxide (CO2), according to a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    Global: Copenhagen accord makes sham of global environmental justice


    The controversial Copenhagen Accord, secretly drafted by countries of the Global North with the approval of a few handpicked emerging economies, including South Africa, is green washed capitalism with thinly veiled energy security at its heart, writes Michael Pressend.

    Global: South Africa and partners to tackle climate deal


    Four of the world’s largest and fastest-growing carbon emitters will meet in New Delhi this month ahead of a January 31 deadline for countries to submit their action plans to combat climate change.

    Kenya: President, Prime Minister clash over conservation


    Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga appeared headed for a fresh round of wrangling after the President pulled out of a tree-planting exercise in Mau Forest.

    Land & land rights

    Africa: Agri-Vie eyes $300 million for farm projects


    Sub-Saharan focused private equity fund Agri-Vie will reach its $100 million target for investment in agricultural projects by March, and could triple this amount in a second fund, a top official has said. Agri-Vie funds food and agricultural projects in Africa seeking to make equity investments across the agribusiness spectrum, including processing and product distribution.

    Africa: Ethiopia offers land dirt cheap to farming giants


    Addis Ababa is selling vast fertile swaths to international companies in effort to introduce large-scale commercial agriculture.

    Media & freedom of expression

    Chad: Court lifts sanctions against weekly La Voix


    A court in the capital N’Djamena has found the privately owned weekly La Voix “not guilty” of charges against it and lifted a provisional order for automatic seizure of all copies of the paper made on 3 December 2009. An appeal will be heard on 13 January

    Eritrea: UN asked to investigate the fate of journalists imprisoned


    Reporters Without Borders has written, on the third anniversary of Eritrean journalist Fessehaye “Joshua” Yohannes’ death in detention, to Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, asking him to do everything possible to obtain an improvement in the conditions of journalists imprisoned in Eritrea.

    Mauritania: IFJ condemns arbitrary detention of journalist


    The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the unlawful, arbitrary and unjustified detention of Hannevy Ould Dehah, Director of Taqadoumy website in Dar Nahim prison in Nouakchott, after he had served his term.

    Namibia: Public broadcaster DG quits over political interference


    Namibia's national broadcaster's Director-General (DG) Mathew Gowaseb has quit his job, becoming the third DG to leave the public broadcaster in one year. Media reports said that Gowaseb, who was appointed in acting capacity at the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) last year, had thrown in the towel citing political interference.

    North Africa: Morocco launches first Amazigh TV channel


    An Amazigh-language TV channel first proposed three years ago finally hit Moroccan airwaves on January 6th, satisfying a long-awaited demand by a significant percentage of the country’s citizens.

    Zambia: FAJ condemns moves to undermine media self regulation


    The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ), the African regional organisation of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), is calling on the Zambian authorities to immediately end attacks on Zambian media as they work to establish self-regulatory mechanism.

    Conflict & emergencies

    CAR: Keeping the dialogue alive


    This latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the impact of the Inclusive Political Dialogue and the current challenges to a state that has lacked meaningful institutional capacity for some three decades. I

    Haiti: Desperate Haitians await foreign disaster relief


    Thousands of people injured in Haiti's massive earthquake spent a third night twisted in pain, lying on sidewalks and waiting for help as their despair turned to anger.

    Somalia: Clashes kill 138 in two weeks: rights group


    Fighting in central Somalia has killed at least 138 people and displaced 63,000 others in the last two weeks, a rights group said on Friday. Hizbul Islam and its rival, al Shabaab -- branded by Washington as an al Qaeda proxy in the region -- want to impose a strict version of Islamic sharia law in the Horn of Africa nation that has had no functional central government since 1991.

    Sudan: Critical year for to secure peace


    There is only one year left for Sudanese parties to salvage a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than 20 years of war and requires a pivotal referendum next January on unity or secession for Southern Sudan.

    Internet & technology

    East Africa: Tanzania to track supply of malaria drugs via SMS


    A pilot drugs supply management project called "SMS for Life" has Tanzania authorities excited over its potential. The project, which brings together IBM, Novartis, Vodafone and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, taps into a combination of smart technologies to track and manage the supply of anti-malarial drugs.

    Fundraising & useful resources

    Africa: Music Crossroads International

    Call for applications Mali/Senegal/Cape Vert


    The Music Crossroads program was initiated in 1995 by Jeunesses Musicales International (JMI), the world's largest youth-music network. Music Crossroads is going to lead a research on the creative sector as well as a feasibility study/search for partnership for Music Crossroads International in Mali, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cape Vert.
    The Music Crossroads program was initiated in 1995 by Jeunesses Musicales International (JMI), the world's largest youth-music network. In 2008, Music Crossroads International, a non-governmental, non-profit association, changed its base to the multicultural city of Barcelona (Catalonia), Spain. Music Crossroads International (MCI) is a unique youth empowerment through music program, providing young people aged between 15 and 25 in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, with musical opportunities and exposure, in addition to training in music and life skills.

    Music Crossroads is going to lead a research on the creative sector as well as a feasibility study/search for partnership for Music Crossroads International in Mali, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cape Vert.

    The researcher will address the following subjects:

    - Verified needs to empower young people through music
    - Possibility to identify reliable local partners (organizations and individuals)
    - Strong and diverse musical traditions, most popular music
    - Lack of free/reasonably priced music education
    - Lack of promotion/exposure opportunities for young musicians
    - National music infrastructure in need of strengthening
    - Potential interest from potential partners and stakeholders
    -Music industry and operators: existing record companies, existing distribution companies/networks, record stores, studio facilities...
    - Legal protections and piracy in the country
    - Activities organized by musicians
    - Government role in music promotion and in Music education
    - Major music festivals in the country

    Music Crossroads International has approached the Arterial Network to help them find a research assistant for each of the following countries: Senegal, Mali and Cap Vert.

    The researchers – one per country – will assist the Music Crossroads researcher, Ingrid Mengod, for 10 days. The research assistant, in each country, will help Ingrid build up the agenda in coordination with her, make the contacts and assist her in the interviews and during her stay and travels in these countries.
    This work will be paid 150€ for the 10 days research (15€ per day plus meals) by Music Crossroads and will provide an opportunity for the selected researchers to further develop their skills and to network with international researchers.
    The schedule in the different countries is as follows:

    - Mali: 8-18th February
    - Senegal: 15-25th March
    - Cap Vert: 25th March to the 3rd April

    Interested researchers based in Cape Vert, Mali, Senegal should submit an application including a covering letter, a CV and two letters of reference in support of their work as researchers to Margerie Vacle at [email protected] by Thursday 21st January 2010. For further information, write to me at this address. Do not hesitate to forward this call to people you think would be interested in it.

    ERNWACA Research Grants Programme

    Call for proposals


    This call for proposals set out the conditions for accessing the sixth edition (2010) of ERNWACA Research Grants Programme.

    North Africa: New Human Rights guide, localized for MENA


    This manual is designed to help NGOs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) who may be interested in the field of Human Rights but feel that they do not know enough about it or where to start.

    The Current Analyist


    The Current Analyist is an authoritative analytical web site which assesses, analyzes and documents conflict situations so as to keep up Africa regional issues in focus internationally. It's goals are to improve overall availability of political, security and defense related information in policy circles and the public domain through research, analysis and development of policy options.

    Courses, seminars, & workshops

    CFP - 7th Iberian Congress of African Studies

    "50 years of african independencies: challenges to modernity" (Lisbon, 9-11 Sep 2010)


    The Center for African Studies (ISCTE / Lisbon University Institute) and the Center for African Studies of the University of Porto are organizing the 7th Iberian Congress of African Studies which will be hosted by ISCTE / Lisbon University Institute between 9 and 11 September 2010.

    China's increasing engagement in Africa in the aftermath of the financial crisis


    The seminar is aimed at generating policy-oriented research on the impact of the rising strategic and economic role of China on Africa's development prospects and its economic and political governance. The seminar will be held in Tunis, Tunisia, on 25-26 March 2010.

    South Africa: 3rd edition of Talent Campus Durban

    23 - 27 July 2010


    The 31st Durban International Film Festival (22 July - 2 August 2010) is proud to announce the 3rd edition of Talent Campus Durban from 23 - 27 July 2010, an intensive 5-day programme of workshops and seminars delivered by film professionals to enhance both theoretical and practical approaches to filmmaking.
    The 31st Durban International Film Festival (22 July - 2 August 2010) is proud to announce the 3rd edition of Talent Campus Durban from 23 - 27 July 2010, an intensive 5-day programme of workshops and seminars delivered by film professionals to enhance both theoretical and practical approaches to filmmaking. The 3rd Talent Campus Durban theme Focusing on Africa: Unleashing Talent in 2010 will focus activities towards the development and strengthening of partnerships between African filmmakers.

    Talent Campus Durban invites filmmakers from Africa to apply to participate in these workshops and seminars, which take place in Durban, South Africa, over five days. In addition to specific activities offered by the Campus, the selected talents will have the opportunity to attend films and events at the 31st Durban International Film Festival.

    Deadline for application: 15 March 2010

    Full Rules and Regulations can be downloaded from:

    For further details:
    Phone: +27 (0)31 260 2506/1367
    Fax: +27 (0)31 260 3074
    Email: talent at or at

    Talent Campus Durban is produced as a cooperation between the Durban International Film Festival and the Berlinale Talent Campus, and Berlin International Film Festival and is supported by the German Embassy in South Africa, the Goethe-Institut South Africa and the Department of Economic Development - KwaZulu-Natal.

    The Durban International Film Festival is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN) with principle funding and support from the National Film & Video Foundation, HIVOS and the City of Durban.

    Vacancy for a Ph.D. position, January 2010

    Mobile Africa revisited


    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.
    Vacancy for a Ph.D. position, January 2010
    Title of the programme
    Mobile Africa Revisited: A comparative study of the relationship between new communication technologies and social spaces (Chad, Mali, Cameroon, Senegal, Angola)

    Programme Coordinators
    Mirjam de Bruijn (ASC, Leiden, The Netherlands), Francis Nyamnjoh (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Inge Brinkman (ASC, Leiden, The Netherlands)

    Counterpart Institute
    Langaa, Research and Publication centre Bamenda, Buea University Buea, Cameroon.

    Outline of the PhD project in Anglophone Cameroon

    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.

    Title of the case-study in Anglophone Cameroon:

    Communication technologies, Politics and Mobility in the Bamenda Grassfields and amongst Bamenda Grassfielders in Cameroon and the diaspora.

    Summary of case study proposal:
    In this marginal Anglophone region in Cameroon where the state is perceived to be Francophone-dominated, the history of ICTs is closely linked to the perception and articulation by Anglophones (largely originating in the Bamenda Grassfields) of political, cultural and economic marginality. The region has a long history of mobility, hence the concept of mobile margins is applied to the communities that exist between Cameroon Grassfields, diaspora (Europe and USA, but as well within Africa, i.e. South Africa). In this project transformations in the mobile margins, arising in relation to ICTs with their significant transnational character, are linked to the construction of political, socio-economic and cultural identities and the articulation of politico-social aspirations. ICTs are explored as vehicles for physical and social mobility away from (perceived) marginality and also for staying in touch with the place called ‘home’ in the interest of negotiated social change. The study thus seeks to understand how the people of this region have increasingly discovered and struggled for recognition, representation and social transformation through the possibilities offered them by new information and communication technologies. First the lorry made it possible for them to discover the marvels and dangers of colonial plantation agriculture in the coastal region. Here first arose the tensions and attractions of feeling at home away from home. With better roads and increased mobility such places became less mysterious, more visible and real as predatory sites of accumulation, where migrants slaved away without relent. Still more technological advances (airplane, television, Internet and mobile phone) are taking people of the region further afield into distant foreign lands and virtual spaces, as families and 2 communities sacrifice sons and daughters to forage for opportunities in Africa, Europe, North-America and elsewhere. The interaction between migratory trends and stay-at-home communities appears to be giving rise to a wholly new social landscape, not always of a positive nature. As evident from complaints by diasporic Cameroonians, the expectations of modernity through consuming foreign goods have engendered highly mercantilist attitudes by kin and acquaintances determined to treat those in the diaspora essentially as disposable wallets on legs. The economic, political, social and cultural implications of all these encounters with and negotiation of ICT should be fascinating to study.

    The candidate is expected to be:
    1. prepared to carry out ethnographic fieldwork (qualitative, in-depth interviews, participant observation) in the area of the case-study concerned. Knowledge of south-west Cameroon (Grassfields) is necessary; Research with the diaspora community is preferably based in the Netherlands or in South Africa;
    2. interested in combining a historical/anthropological perspective in research.
    3. possess a good knowledge of English;
    4. prepared to travel to Leiden and Cameroon for proposal writing/training and for writing-up of the PhD thesis;
    5. prepared to attend workshops and seminars of the programme;
    6. produce half-yearly reports to be send to the programme coordinators of the ASC, in which all financial aspects and the proceedings of the research are explained, inclusive of all evidence (original tickets, original receipts) of the costs made;
    7. Available and prepared to do the PhD full-time for a duration of three years and end the 3 years programme with a completed PhD thesis conform international academic standards.

    Includes stipend of 1,000 Euro per month, research and transport costs will be covered by the programme. The candidate is expected to start immediately and be in position for 3 years in a full-time engagement. The contract period is April 1, 2010 until March
    1, 2013
    To apply for this PhD position the interested candidates are requested to send:

    1.) A copy of Research MA degree or Mphil an electronic copy of MA or Mphil
    thesis or dissertation
    2.) A letter of motivation
    3.) A preliminary (draft) research proposal inspired by the theme of the Cameroon case study
    4.) Evidence of familiarity and engagement with ethnographic research
    5.) Declaration of availability to pursue the PhD full time for the next 3 years.
    6.) The names and addresses of two referees Please send application electronically or by post to:

    Inge Brinkman, Programme Coordinator, African Studies Centre, PO Box 9555, 2300
    RB Leiden, The Netherlands
    [email protected]

    The final date of application is 15th of February 2010

    Zimbabwe: Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA)

    Call for artists


    The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) began in 1999 and has received an enthusiastic response from Zimbabwean audiences, participating artists as well as local/regional and international media. The event celebrates the finest Zimbabwean and international music, theatre, spoken word, dance and visual and applied arts.
    The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) began in 1999 and has received an enthusiastic response from Zimbabwean audiences, participating artists as well as local/regional and international media. The event celebrates the finest Zimbabwean and international music, theatre, spoken word, dance and visual and applied arts. HIFA 2009 featured over 120 international artists from 24 countries, and attracted unprecedented public attention in Zimbabwe; over 50 000 tickets were sold.

    HIFA 2010 will run from 27th April to 2nd May and will again feature diverse international programming with participating artists from more than 20 countries, in addition to the huge Zimbabwean arts showcase ( The theme for this year's Festival is About Face.

    The theme for this year's Festival is an invitation to all Zimbabweans to turn things around- to look with hope and optimism for transformation and new beginnings, both artistic and societal. It is a call to artists to consider new vantage points, ideas and inspiration at a time when moving forward is about facing the past and about facing the future. The theme is also a celebration of the resolute face of Zimbabweans, past and present, who continue to stare down seemingly overwhelming challenges with grace, determination and creativity.

    HIFA is calling for artists who would like to participate in this year’s edition to please contact [email protected] before 31 January 2010.

    Rijksakademie Call for Entries
    The Rijksakademie Residency in Amsterdam is an international research and production place for emerging, professional artists from all continents. The Rijksakademie is more than a residency. It has extensive technical facilities, a library and an art collection. In addition, the Rijksakademie offers basic facilities such as a studio, assistance by technical specialists, a work budget, and mediation with accommodation and grants.

    There are approximately fifty studios where resident artists work for a period of one to two years on research, experiment, projects and production. Confrontation with diverse cultures and advice by internationally active artists, curators and others, promote the deepening, expansion and acceleration of artistic practice.

    A period at the Rijksakademie has the greatest effect on an artists' career, three to five years of professional experience before applying. Primary selection criteria are excellence and possibilities for further development. An ability for critical reflection and sufficient focus within the work are important in order to be able to make optimum use of the facilities the Rijksakademie offers.

    Resident artists pursue all major contemporary visual art disciplines: painting, drawing, graphics, photography, print-making, sculpture, video, film, sound and digital media. Links with other disciplines such as architecture, music, dance, literature and cinematography are possible.

    Each year, out of almost 2000 applicants, around twenty-five artists are invited for a residency period. Artists can apply for the residency January to December 2011 by using the online application form. The deadline for application is 1 February 2010.


    Mobile phones : the new talking drums of everyday Africa


    'We cannot imagine life now without a mobile phone' is a frequent comment when Africans are asked about mobile phones. They have become part and parcel of the communication landscape in many urban and rural areas of Africa and the growth of mobile telephony is amazing: from 1 in 50 people being users in 2000 to 1 in 3 in 2008. Such growth is impressive but it does not even begin to tell us about the many ways in which mobile phones are being appropriated by Africans and how they are transforming or are being transformed by society in Africa. This volume ventures into such appropriation and mutual shaping.

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