Friday, October 30, 2009

DR Congo Villagers 'Slaughter 47 Cops'

Armed villagers killed at least 47 policemen trying to intervene in ethnic clashes in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, UN-sponsored radio has reported.

An unknown number of civilians also died in the violence, which erupted in the village of Dongo in Equateur province on Thursday, Radio Okapi said.

People from neighbouring villages representing two different ethnic groups have been involved in on-and-off fighting for months.

The violence is not linked to simmering tensions in Congo's east, which is the most unstable region of the country.

Several armed groups have been active there for more than a decade.

On Wednesday, an official said armed men beat up and robbed a group of about 100 people travelling in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.

The robbers were "dressed like troops of the FARDC (DR Congo armed forces), wearing balaclavas and carrying weapons", local civil society chairman Omar Kavota said.

But he was unable to confirm whether the attack reported to him by victims was carried out by regular soldiers or bandits.

The non-governmental organisation Mr Kavota heads has registered more than 30 such attacks on civilians since the start of this year.

Last weekend, at least six people were killed and several others injured in attacks blamed on Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guinea Forces 'planned crackdown'

A deadly crackdown on protesters in Guinea in September was "premeditated and pre-planned at the highest level", Human Rights Watch says.

Soldiers deployed at the sports stadium where protesters had gathered blocked the exits before systematically killing and raping protesters, the group says.

Activists say 157 people were killed but officials say far fewer died and claim most were trampled to death.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Africa Heading For 2009 Growth Due To China: Expert

By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters) - All African economies bar South Africa will grow this year because of China's demand for their raw materials, a leading South African analyst said on Monday.

Out of 53 African states only the continent's biggest economy, South Africa, will not grow this year, Martyn Davies, executive director of Stellenbosch University's Centre for Chinese Studies, told a conference.

"Chinese demand is underpinning African growth," he told the conference on China, organised by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).

Africa is already exporting 1 million barrels per day of oil to China, accounting for 25 percent of China's foreign energy supplies, said Davies, who is also chief executive of emerging market investment strategist Frontier Advisory.

These links are based on strong support by African leaders for Chinese investment in extractive industries -- in contrast to objections raised to Chinese investment in sensitive sectors in developed countries, he said.

China's engagement in Africa -- where it is the biggest trading partner -- reflects both state enterprises benefiting from preferential capital from state banks, and private entrepreneurs, of whom around 1 million may now be in Africa, he said.

China's export prowess has so far failed to provoke much protectionism in Africa, except, again, in South Africa, where sensitive labour-intensive sectors such as textiles and light industry compete with Chinese firms.

Chinese imports from Africa come in at an average tariff of 0.64 percent -- almost the duty-free level sought by developing countries in rich markets -- because of China's eagerness to facilitate imports of African energy and commodities.

Conversely, China faces considerable protectionist sentiment outside Africa, said Simon Evenett co-director of St Gallen University's Centre for Economic Policy Research.

According to Global Trade Alert, a website run by academics that Evenett co-founded, China is now the most targeted country for trade measures such as anti-dumping duties and safeguards, a trend likely to increase as the global economy and international trade recover, Evenett told the conference.

"They can expect to be targeted even more. Now that world trade flows are increasing is perversely going to make it easier to demonstrate that Chinese imports are causing injury," he said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Atrocities Haunt DRC Child Soldiers

The abduction of children by militias which then force them to work as soldiers, porters and sex slaves has been a long-term and widespread problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

But in the past few months, fighting between the DRC army and Rwandan Hutu rebels and other militias has intensified, deepening the crisis for the country's youth.

Aid agencies describe the present situation as "catastrophic", warning that child recruitment is on the rise.

Reporting from Goma in the eastern DRC, Mohammed Adow has found that the children are being put through terrifying ordeals; they are trained to kill almost as soon as they are recruited.

One tactic favoured by the militias is to force the child to kill a member of his own family.

Stolen innocence

Dede Amanor Wilks, Action Aid's international director for West and Central Africa, has spent time talking to child soldiers in the DRC.

She told Al Jazeera that even if a child soldier manages to escape or is rescued, their problems do not end there. They continue to be seen as "evil doers".

"Some of these young people say, because they are discriminated against in society, they have no choice but to go back to those rebel groups and find a place there," Wilks says.

"The danger is that people who have suffered abuse sometimes become the abusers themselves. That's why the issue of reintegration is so important.

"All societal norms have been broken down here. Rape and the recruitment of child soldiers has almost become a normal fact of life."

Thirty-thousand recruited

In a 2006 report, the UN children's agency, Unicef, listed DRC at the top of a list of countries where armed forces and militia fighters use children as soldiers.

It estimated that as many as 30,000 children may be fighting or living with armed groups.

An estimated 30 to 40 per cent of that number are girls, the report said.

Meanwhile, the US-based Human Rights Watch organisation, has said children are currently recruited and used in armed conflict in at least 15 countries and territories.

In the DRC, at least five parties in that country's armed conflict are known to use child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this year.

It listed the Congolese army (FARDC), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the National Congress for the Defense of the People, pro-government Mai Mai groups, and the Lord's Resistance Army.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Zimbabwe's Political Crisis

Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's prime minister, has appealed for regional help in his stand-off in Zimbabwe's unity pact, as his ministers boycotted a meeting with Robert Mugabe, the president.

The suspension of ties has cast a shadow on the fragile partnership, as Mugabe chaired a cabinet meeting on Tuesday - without his Zanu-PF party's main government partners - as Tsvangirai's 13 cabinet ministers met separately.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader flew to Mozambique on Tuesday to ask southern African leaders to step in, after he cut ties with Mugabe's "dishonest and unreliable" camp four days ago.

Tsvangirai said he would resume unity relations only once unresolved issues are settled which include disputes over key posts and a crackdown against his supporters.

After years of economic freefall, Zimbabwe has seen an easing of international ties and rebuilding of shattered infrastructure and social services, but donors say they want to see more reforms before increasing aid.

Many people are taking this as a sign that the country is facing an economic crisis once again, as Haru Mutasu reports from Harare.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Prize For African Leadership

Sudanese magnate Mo Ibrahim will not be awarding any African ex-leader his $5m (£3m) annual prize for good governance.

Mr Ibrahim gave no reason for the decision, saying he had always intended for there to be years when no prize would be awarded.

Now in its third year, the prize is given to a democratically elected leader from sub-Saharan Africa who has served their term and then left office.

South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Ghana's John Kufuor had been the favourites.

The winners receive $5m over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year for life after that - the most valuable individual annual award in the world.

'No disrespect'

Mr Ibrahim said people could draw their own conclusions about why no prize was awarded this year.

But he said there was "no issue of disrespect" meant towards eligible candidates.

"The prize committee welcomed the progress made on governance in some African countries while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries," said a statement from the panel which made the decision.

"This year the prize committee has considered some credible candidates. However, after in-depth review, the prize committee could not select a winner."

Former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, one of the panel-members, said that if there had been a similar award for former European leaders this year, it might have been equally difficult to select a worthy winner.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says Mr Ibrahim established the prize because well-run African democracies are not thick on the ground.

Mr Ibrahim argues that the prize is needed because many African leaders come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.

But our analyst says recent evidence of the prize's effectiveness across Africa is not encouraging.

Uganda, Chad and Cameroon have all changed their constitutions so their leaders can retain their positions.

There have been coups in Guinea, Mauritania and Madagascar, as well as several elections that fell well short of international standards.

And the countries that have received most praise from Mo Ibrahim's foundation this year - Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles - are far from the continent's centres of power.

Botswana's former President Festus Mogae won the prize last year, after two terms at the helm of one of Africa's least corrupt and most prosperous nations.

The inaugural prize was given to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique's former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Commemorating Julius K. Nyerere -Ten Years On

Nyerere Debt Speech

Nyerere and Tanzania: No Regrets at Socialism

Wednesday, October 24, 1990

Julius K. Nyerere, who led Tanzania for the first-quarter century of its existence as an independent state, struck an unapologetic note as he said he had no regrets, despite the ramshackle condition in which he leaves his country.

"If I had my time over again, I would do it much the same way," said the 68-year-old founding father who is called Mwalimu -- Swahili for the teacher -- by Tanzanians. He made his comments in an interview while on a recent visit to the United Nations.

A thin, gray-haired man with a ready laugh, Mr. Nyerere has given up his last official position, stepping down in August as chairman of Tanzania's single, ruling party. Five years earlier, he became one of the handful of African leaders to leave office voluntarily, resigning as President, a post he held since 1962, a year after independence from Britain.

In the years that followed, Mr. Nyerere came to be revered throughout Africa as a nationalist who, along with men like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast and Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia, brought an end to colonial rule. They served as the first generation of leaders of independent Africa. Pulling Together

He was also a social engineer who brought his own vision of "African socialism" -- he called it "ujamaa," or pulling together -- to his country.

Peasants were regrouped into collective villages; factories and plantations were nationalized; state-run corporations were established; egalitarianism was encouraged; great investments were made in literacy, the accumulation of private wealth was discouraged.

At first, many Western aid donors, particularly in Scandinavia, gave enthusiastic backing to this socialist experiment, pouring an estimated $10 billion into Tanzania over 20 years.

Yet today, as Mr. Nyerere leaves the stage, the country's largely agricultural economy is in ruins, with its 26 million people eking out their living on a per-capita income of slightly more than $200 a year, one of the lowest in the world.

The World Bank reports that Tanzania's economy contracted on average by 0.5 percent a year between 1965 and 1988. It notes a 43 percent decline in average personal consumption since 1973 and reports that "food purchases have moved away from meat, dairy products and vegetables toward cheap starches and beans." A Number of Achievements

To be sure, despite the economic decline, Tanzania can claim some achievements, the work of its gentle and charismatic former leader, an admirer of Rousseau and an intellectual who loved to translate Shakespeare into Swahili.

The country enjoys one of the highest rates of literacy and primary-school enrollment on the continent. It has avoided the civil wars and tribal conflict that plague many other countries. "Tanzanians have more sense of national identity than many other Africans," Mr. Nyerere said.

But while the former President admits some errors, he argues that his inability to translate a relatively educated populace and a stable society into tangible economic progress is largely the fault of an unsympathetic industrial world.

"What would I have changed if I had my time over again?" he mused. "Not much."

Mr. Nyerere said socialism did allow the Tanzanian economy to develop in the 1960's and 70's. "There was growth and wealth distribution," he said, and statistics generally support this view.

What knocked Tanzania off course, he said, was "the hostile international environment" of the 1970's and 80's, including rising oil prices that "absorbed 60 percent of foreign exchange earnings" and falling revenues from the sale of sisal hemp and coffee, major Tanzanian exports.

Sisal, once the raw material of ropes and mats, was increasingly replaced by synthetics, and the international commodity price of coffee plummeted.

"We used to sell our coffee in London for $:3,000 a ton, now we get $:600," he said. "How do you fight that?"

Mr. Nyerere rails against the austerity programs that the West is imposing on developing countries these days through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for loans. As budget deficits are cut in an effort to reduce inflation, he complains that social progress is being reversed and poverty increased as the promised speed-up in economic growth fails to materialize. Not Just in Tanzania

Many of Tanzania's problems are widespread in Africa, where living standards have fallen for a decade. But some countries, like Kenya or the Ivory Coast, partly bucked the trend with the free-enterprise approach that Mr. Nyerere rejects.

Even this was insufficent to shield them from the pervasive recession on the continent. And today, Mr. Nyerere almost gloats at their discomfort. "Houphouet-Boigny is really bitter with the West," he said. "He feels capitalism has betrayed him."

Mr. Nyerere's sucessor as President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, signed an agreemeent with the International Monetary Fund, something that Mr. Nyerere could not bring himself to do, and in 1987 began an Economic Recovery Program that is slowly reversing many of Mr. Nyerere's cherished achievements. Government spending is being cut, the Tanzanian shilling devalued, price controls lifted and foreign investment encouraged. Modest growth has resumed.

Mr. Nyerere remains skeptical. "We're not earning any more foreign exchange with the World Bank and the I.M.F. running the economy," he said. "In my day, inflation was 28-30 percent a year. Now it's 22 percent. I don't see much success.

"They keep saying you've failed. But what's wrong with urging people to pull together? Did Christianity fail because the world isn't all Christian?"

Monday, October 12, 2009

China Praised For African Links

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has praised the way China does business in Africa, criticising the West for basing relations with the continent on aid.

Huge Chinese investment in African companies and infrastructure is helping Africa develop, Mr Kagame said.

Annual trade between China and Africa is now worth more than $100bn (£63bn).

Chinese companies are active across Africa, but have been criticised by some in the West, who accuse Beijing of failing to promote good governance.

Chinese firms, many of them state-owned, regularly bid for major construction projects at costs which Western firms cannot match.

In addition, Beijing also operates a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs.

That has allowed China to do business in areas of Africa, such as Sudan, where Western firms are constrained by human rights concerns.

Old problems

Speaking to a German newspaper, Mr Kagame - seen in the West as one of Africa's more dynamic leaders - was as critical of the West as he was generous in praise of China.

"The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies," he told business newspaper Handelsblatt.

"China is investing in infrastructure and building roads," he said, adding that European and American involvement "has not brought Africa forward".

"Western firms have to a large extent polluted Africa and they are still doing it," Mr Kagame said.

"Think of the dumping of nuclear waste in the Ivory Coast or the fact that Somalia is being used as a rubbish bin by European firms."

Although Rwanda received substantial international aid in the wake of the 1994 genocide, which left more than 800,000 dead, Mr Kagame told Handelsblatt that relations based more on trade than aid were now the most useful to Africa.

"I would prefer the Western world to invest in Africa rather than handing out development aid," he said.

"There is a need for help - but it should be implemented in such a way as to enable trade and build up companies."

The Rwandan leader also said that high trade tariffs prevented African producers from gaining equitable access to global markets.

"It would help Africa much more if industrialised countries allowed us the same trade rights as they give to each other," Mr Kagame said.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Colonialism Blights Africa- Pope

Opening a three-week synod of African bishops, pope Benedict has warned that the developed world continues to export materialism and lack of moral values which he called ''toxic spiritual waste'' to the African continent.

He praised Africa's rich cultural and spiritual treasure, calling them spiritual lungs for the world but the continent was afflicted by an export of the so called ''first world.''

In this sense colonialism, which is over at a political level, has never really come to an end.

The pope went on to denounce religious fundamentalism, which he warned was mixed with political and economical interests.

''These groups do not teach love and respect for freedom, but intolerance and violence'', he said.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Why Millions Of Rural Africans Are Poor

By Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga

Each year, millions of rural Africans find that they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs despite the fact that there are signs of money around them. Sometimes the problem is caused by conditions over which they have no control –illness, old age, discrimination, big business, unions, and economic trends such as inflation; if they could they would vote the culprits out of power.

At other times, however, their own choices are directly responsible –low level of education and career selection are two such areas of choice.

If you take a close look at schools in most African countries, the picture that emerges is that they have become “institutional props for the privileged” yet at the same time they are supposed to be instruments of social mobility.

Clearly, we need to consider alternative in education –alternative content and organization. Above all, we urgently need alternative views on education itself, its nature and possible function in society. Alternative education under the concept of life-long learning is an essential philosophy particularly in this era of rapid scientific and technological information advancement. It ‘s also important to provide ammunition to fight the socio-economic forces, create cultural and demographic awareness in the people and the need to continue learning throughout life. Through this, rural Africans will be equipped and enabled to respond effectively to the changes around them.

According to a recent report of inquiry into education system in Africa, marginalization from the global business due to our low capacity of information use makes us vulnerable to all manner of exploitation by the advanced nations.

This marginalisation occurs not only as a result of our economic poverty but much more so due to our limited knowledge base.

Since the quest for knowledge and its utility are the current measure of human progress across the globe, our survival hangs very much on the extent to which we give due emphasis to education.

Education should be viewed as a process that is not limited to formal or institutional learning only. Rather, it should go beyond the classroom to include cultural and creative activities. The emphasis here in my considered opinion should be to motivate people of all ages and background to continue learning for the sake of acquiring knowledge.

Concerted efforts should also be made to expand and strengthen the campaign for the reduction of illiteracy through the development of reading material couched in local language (i.e. Kiswahili).

Learning materials that would help the youth cope with the society and understand the rest of the world should also be produced in local language (i.e Kiswahili) and made available to them.

The number of teachers for these literacy programmes can be increased through recruitment and in- service training and the use of retired teachers. We have behaved hypocritically by allowing our retired teachers languish in abject poverty instead of utilizing them.

To ensure the efficiency of civic education programmes, there is need for a close collaboration between the government, NGOs and the private sector so that areas of greater need can be identified, prioritized and addressed in a timely manner.

As I had mentioned earlier, school should not be the only place for teaching. And in Africa as we all know, the radio, above all transistor sets, allows the great world news to be instantly known in the most remote corners of the earth. Sometimes when you visit the rural villages of Africa, you hear over the radio “This is Washington DC, “This is BBC London,” “This is Moscow,” and so on. This clearly shows that the entire world is known to the entire world.

Clearly, we need a general civic education. We must foster a more rational scientific outlook toward life. We must understand our true history, our environment –natural and social. We must confront age –old discrimination against certain groups in our society –including women.

Civic education in my opinion should also deal with the evils in society, economic as well as moral.

Civic education should cultivate in the people a sense of self – reflection and the ability to manipulate nature for survival.

And the question we must seek at answer is: What is it that schooling actually does if its education function is laden with archaic administrative philosophies that lead it to rapidly lose touch with the very people it is meant to serve?

Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga is executive director Volunteer network Africa,
a volunteer organization committed to social and economic change across the globe,
Email: or orute_obiro@hotmail.comor

Africa Joins The Space Race

By Louise Greenwood
Africa Business Report, BBC World

Developed by students at South Africa's Stellenbosch University and local space technology firm SunSpace, the "SumbandilaSat" micro-satellite, took off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on 17 September.

Pictures of the momentous event were streamed live over the internet and South Africa's Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor, was in Kazakhstan for the launch.

Taking its name from the Venda word meaning "pioneer", the SumbandilaSat will gather crucial information about weather patterns and how climate change is affecting Africa.

It heralds a huge milestone in Africa's space ambitions. Experts predict that before too long similar projects will be underway, at the cutting edge of communications and even defence.


While the SumbandilaSat was funded by the South African government, it was developed by the Sunspace lab, a commercial firm on the Western Cape that develops satellite technology, mostly for the telecoms and agriculture industries.

"We take off the shelf, technologies, putting them together cheaply efficiently, quickly and in such a way that our customers are able, with a small product, to outperform... the traditional space models," explains Ron Oliver, managing director of Sunspace.

But despite the huge strides Africa's space technology industry has made in recent years, it faces big problems.

As well as lack of infrastructure and funding, employers complain of a desperate shortage of trained staff.

Until the end of apartheid, university courses in science subjects were open to whites only.

Sunspace has begun a programme of positive discrimination to address the skills gap.

Jessie Ndaba, an engineering graduate, is one of the first to benefit.
"I've always wanted to be a rocket engine designer," she says.

"But growing up in Soweto, I didn't think that was possible because I didn't know if there were any space activities going on in South Africa, so I ended up doing electrical engineering.

"If I had been exposed to what is happening I would have taken a different path".


However, Africa's bid to join the space race has attracted criticism.
The SumbandilaSat alone cost $3.5bn (£2.2bn) to develop, and had to piggyback onto a Russian rocket to enter orbit.

With the South African economy in deep recession, unemployment at 22% and millions still living in shanty towns, opposition politicians claim that money could be better spent elsewhere.

But the ruling ANC believes sustained investment in a space satellite programme is a calculated risk, which, if it pays off, could benefit millions of Africans, both in terms of jobs and getting the information the continent needs to plan for a more stable and prosperous future.

Horn Of Africa Events

Scholarship Programme for African Students - UK and South Africa