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May 11 2013

Chef ! chef ! oui, chef !

« Les hommes en foule ne sauraient se passer de maître », affirmait en 1895 Gustave Le Bon, dans une formule qui plaira beaucoup aux esprits peu portés sur la démocratie. Selon Yves Cohen, c'est précisément à la fin du XIXe siècle que s'invente la figure du chef, lorsque s'évanouit une aristocratie qui (...) / Allemagne, Angola, États-Unis, France, Mexique, URSS, Démocratie, Histoire, Idées, Inégalités, Mouvement de contestation, Politique, Cuba, Mouvement de libération - 2013/04

May 07 2013

The Voice of Africa From All Over the World

Africa on the Blog is a blog by people of African heritage:

The big deal for us here is that we as Africans are telling our stories in our own words as well as talking about issues that affect us.

May 01 2013

‘Africa Is A Country’ Blog Challenges West's Idea of Africa

This isn't another blog about “famine, Bono, or Barack Obama,” warns the blog Africa is a Country in its description on Facebook.

The ironically titled blog aims, among other things, to do away with the the narrative told and retold by western media that Africa is “a perpetual sob story”, Africa is a Country founder Sean Jacobs told Global Voices.

At the same time, Jacobs said, the blog is a collective of scholars, writers, artists, filmmakers, bloggers, and curators who together produce online commentary, original writing, media criticism, short videos, and photography that is working to reimagine Africa as a community.



The founder of the Africa is a Country blog, Sean Jacobs. Photo courtesy of Sean Jacobs.

We recently caught up with Jacobs, a media and international affairs scholar who currently teaches at The New School in New York, to talk about the blog.

Ndesanjo Macha (NM): Will you briefly tell us about yourself?

Sean Jacobs (SJ): I was born in Apartheid South Africa and grew up in a working class coloured township in the city. I am very much a product of segregation, anti-apartheid student movements, affirmative action and the euphoria represented by political freedom in South Africa. I went to the University of Cape Town (still very white at that time) on a scholarship and worked briefly as a journalist before I came to the US as a Fulbright Scholar in the mid-1990s [...]

I returned to South Africa at the end of my studies as I felt I would miss out on the experience of working there while democracy was still fresh. So, in 1997 I got hired by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, an organization which played a central role in South Africa’s political transition. [...]

In 2001, I came to New York City to take up a graduate fellowship at The New School. I eventually settled in New York City and got married.

I suppose I consider myself an African immigrant in America now (I have two children who were born here) and while I keep up with specifically South African politics, I have also come to care more for how the continent and its people is represented in media here. That’s where Africa is a Country came into the picture.

NM: What is Africa is a Country?

SJ: Africa is a Country is a blog that developed over time — and I want to emphasize this process as it wasn't always clear what it would be become — into a collective of scholars, writers, artists, filmmakers, bloggers, and curators who together produce online commentary, original writing, media criticism, short videos, and photography that deliberately challenge and destabilize received wisdom about the African continent and its people in Western media (that definition includes “old media,” new social media as well as “global news media” like Al Jazeera).

Our main outlet at present is the blog, though we've collaborated with film festivals, print publications and co-hosted public events. We also count as part of our community people who read or comment on our site each day. We've sourced some blog posts and eventual regular contributors from amongst our readers.

NM: Why “Africa is a country”? Isn't Africa a continent?

SJ: Of course we don’t literally believe Africa is a Country. The title of the blog is ironic and is a reaction to old and tired images of “Africa.” As one of the core members of the collective, Neelika Jayawardane, explains in the “About” section on our Facebook page, the blog is that and more. That is, Africa is a Country is also about constructing a kind of “country.” One where the “nation” operates outside the borders of modern nation states in Africa and its continental and conceptual boundaries. So, yes, the blog announces that Africa is indeed a “country,” an imagined community whose “citizens” must reinvent the narrative and visual economy of Africa. I hope that makes sense.

NM: How did you come up with the title of the blog?

SJ: I can’t pinpoint the exact source or moment. It was definitely a mix of factors. There were countless instances of celebrities, politicians (including some who denied immediately that they had said so) who would make the mistake of talking about “the country of Africa” or be very vague of where they traveled when they visited the continent or who exactly (a country, a people, a city, etc) they were describing. In other cases, some journalists implied that Africa was a country in their writings or reporting. But there was something else I did regularly. While blogging as Leo Africanus, I started writing the words “Africa is a Country” in one or other incredulous post about some clearly misdirected reporting from and about Africa. One day I decided to just rename the blog Africa is a Country. It helped that the title attracted more people to show a sudden interest in or reading the blog or that searches for “Africa is a country” led to us.

NM: Who are other authors involved in creating content for the blog?

SJ: Currently the collective consists of about 30 core members and a fluid cast of contributors. So we’re a mix of graduate students, professors, activists, development workers, writers, journalism students, art critics, novelists, photographers, activists, filmmakers, a DJ, and a film curator, among others. [...]

NM: What kind of readers visit your site and where do most of them come from?

SJ: We now have more than 11,000 Facebook “Likes,” close to 20,000 Twitter followers, and average between 7,000-10,000 hits per day on the blog, which has had over three million total views since we made the name change. Readers come from all over, though a fast reliable internet connection helps. So most readers live, work or study in the United States and/or Europe. On the continent, most of the readers come from Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

NM: What are your greatest achievements with the blog so far?

SJ: That’s for our readers to decide. Again, let me drew on something Elliot and wrote down recently when asked the same question: We feel that global, by definition that’s usually Western, media — with few exceptions — have shown themselves time and again to be utterly unable to cover the continent in the depth and detail it demands, still less with any appreciation for Africa as a site of astonishing cultural and artistic production. Africa is a Country aspires to offer an international-scale corrective to this, not in terms of patronising “positive” news stories or PR-style neoliberal boosterism, but through the sustained daily work of presenting and engaging critically with the cultural and political life of Africa and its diaspora. [...]

Of course, not everything we do is hardcore: Something we are very excited about is the launch recently of a page on the blog titled “Football is a Country.” We've managed to convince some excellent writers, photographers, film makers and bloggers to commit themselves as contributors and we’re hoping to expand on it.

NM: What is most read post so far?

SJ: The most read post on the blog thus far has been by Elliot Ross on Kony 2012.

But I also want to mention a number of other excellent posts (and I am going to have to leave some posts out of this list, though that does not make them less deserving): There’s Boima Tucker’s explorations on DJ culture and Jeremy Weate's “When Kim Kardasian Came to Lagos and “419ed the 419ers”. Separately, we’ve featured a number of interviews such as Zachary Rosen’s interview with artist Toyin Odutola, Corinna Jentzch’s interview with the German photographer Gregor Zielke, Amkhelwa Mbekeni’s interview with Bongeziwe Mabandla and historian Dan Magaziner’s interview with the author of a book on Marcus Garvey.

March 19 2013

Tales of Love and Sex from Angola

Rosie Alves is a young Angolan blogger and “cronista” living in Luanda. The crónica is a Portuguese writing form that is very suited to blogging – originally published in newspapers, they are tales, sometimes true and sometimes fictionalized, that convey a point or a conceit in a very short form.

In her blog “Sweet Cliché“, Alves writes short tales, often about love and intimate encounters. (Blogspot warns readers of the adult nature of her blog). Here's an excerpt from her most popular recent post ”Matei o meu amor” – “I killed my love”:

Foi naquela noite fria e chuvosa, na entrada de casa. Com apenas um golpe no coração, cruel e sem dó, matei o meu amor. Matei aquele que me causava prazer e dor. Senti ele a morrer. Ele sangrava, aquele pedaço vermelho perdia a cor na medida que o sangue escorria…

Foi frio, cauteloso, vi ele decair-se lentamente e, um mar de sangue se formava. Tudo parecia girar. Pensei nos bons momentos que passamos juntos, nos grandes prazeres que ele me proporcionou, e não tardou, veio a imagem do dia em que ele me traiu, a rodar na minha cabeça. A senhora que passava às pressas com um saco plástico na cabeça para se abrigar da chuva, não pareceu se importar com o que vira.

It was on the cold and rainy night, at the entrance to the house. With just one blow to the heart, cruel and pitiless, I killed my love, cause of my pleasure and my hurt. I felt my love die – bleeding, that red lump lost color as the blood flowed…

It was cold, careful, I saw my love fall slowly, a sea of blood formed. Everything seemed to spin. I thought of the good moments we had together, the great pleasure my love brought me, but soon the image of the day my love betrayed me, went around in my head. The woman who was hurrying past with a plastic bag on her head to shelter from the rain did not seem bothered by what she saw.

Just 21 years old, Alves occupies a unique place in what she says is a growing Angolan blogosphere – however she is more popular outside of her country than within it. We interviewed Alves recently – over a very unreliable 3G connection – to learn more.

She has been blogging for three years, and has built up quite an online following in spite of her Twitter biography (@rosie_alves), which reads "Don't follow me, I'm lost".

Rosie has been blogging for three years, and has built up quite an online following in spite of her Twitter biography (@rosie_alves), which reads “Don't follow me, I'm lost”.

GV: How would you describe the genre that you write?

I like to write narrative crónicas - that are sometimes made up only of dialogue. They come very close to short stories. They are more committed to daily events, that is, banal, common events. I also don't forgo a humorous crónica or philosophical, reflexive one. I like to mix things up and explore new territory.

GV: When did you start blogging? Why do you write?

I decided to blog in 2010. Writing calms me. Every time I write, I feel that I am taking a load off of my shoulders. And my tongue (lol). For me, it is the best therapy.

GV: You write quite a bit about love, intimacy, and sex. How are these topics dealt with by Angolan society? Are they taboo? Is there erotic literature in Angola?

Angolan society is quite conservative in what relates to these themes. (This explains why, after Spain, Angola is the country that least visits my blog.) There are many taboos in Angola. In the old days, we could say that it was a question of conservatism. Now with all of the transformations ongoing in our society, I see no reason for taboos. I don't know of any erotic literature in Angola (at least published and distributed). The closest to this that I've read was the work of the poet Paula Tavares ‘Ritos de Passagem’ (Rites of Passage). I am used to hearing people say that Angolan society is not prepared for this kind of topic. That's true, it is not. And at the rate things are going, it will never be…

GV: Can you tell us what it is like to be a young woman in Luanda?

It hasn't been easy, here there is much discrimination and disrespect for women. Principally emancipated women. We are stereotyped in many ways.

GV: Tell us a memory from your childhood.

At four years old, I really wanted to read a storybook that my dad gave me, so he took me to a tutor who helped me read and write before I went to primary school. I would go there every day, with my backpack on my back. Even up until now, they were the most beautiful moments I've lived.

GV: How would you describe your generation in Angola?

My generation is living through great changes. It is a very able generation, full of dreamers and people with a lot of potential. Too bad few really know their own [potential]. On the other hand, we're very competitive, we cannot see those around us and come together for the same cause. Few know the meaning of the words union and solidarity. We have more access to information, and even so we act as though we live in the stone age.

In Angola, the phrase “a young person who does not party is not a young person.” Youth today only wants to party. Without generalizing, because of course there are exceptions.

GV: Do you fit into a larger blogging scene in Angola?

I think so. I have online peers, the Angolan blogosphere grows by the day. A Facebook group “Blogueiros Angolanos” (“Angolan Bloggers”) has been created, we use it to encourage each other and to get our work out there. It is where we converse, trade ideas, and experiences. And not just there, I have peers in other countries around the world.

Image from sweetclichee's Instagram: "- Waiter, a beer please.  - We don't have any. - Do you have Disappointment? I'll take a double. - We do, he's seated there with a cigarette in his hand. - That man there? What should I call him? - Call him love."

Image from sweetclichee‘s Instagram:
“- Waiter, a beer please.
- We don't have any.
- Do you have Disappointment? I'll take a double.
- We do, he's seated there with a cigarette in his hand.
- That man there? What should I call him?
- Call him love.”

GV: Tell us about your writing process. What are your greatest challenges?

Generally, I pick up my mobile and I begin to write and in less than two hours, I finish. Sometimes I spend two weeks developing a text, and it even really frustrates me. One of my great challenges, if not the only, is to make the reader find himself/herself in what I write, and I can say that I have achieved that based on the feedback I receive.

GV: Who are your readers, do you know? How do people react to what you write?

I can say that many people read it. With that I mean: all ages groups, in the most diverse group of countries. It is strange, but according to the statistics, the country that most visits my blog is the US. There are those who have told me they read via Google Translator. The majority congratulates me, gives me suggestions, and encourages me to carry on. Obviously there are always those who do not like it or take it the wrong way, I've even been challenged by someone telling me that I should take care with what I write.

GV: What are your aspirations for the future?

I am a person full of dreams, and if I start to recount all of my aspirations here, I will not even finish today. But one of them, and really special, is to become a cronista in a newspaper or a magazine. It would be fantastic.

March 14 2013

Banned Music and Missing Voices in Angola

[All links in this article lead to pages in Portuguese unless otherwise stated.]

The Angolan National Police have confiscated a series of audiovisual works by Angolan activists in an act of censorship against voices that are unsettling those in power in Angola. These works include rapper Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes‘s new DVD, a DVD about “the life and work of historical revolutionary leader Jonas Savimbi” [en] and some of musician Chingui Chinhama's CDs.

Brigadeiro's producer Independente Universal Produções together with the Movimento Revolucionário [Revolutionary Movement] called for a demonstration in front of the customs of Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Luanda on March 7, 2013, in response to this, demanding the return of works seized. Reports have emerged, mainly through Facebook, and the protest was eventually dissipated by violent police intervention.

Cover of the DVD "O Líder Revolucionário". Angola 24 Horas <a href=";view=article&amp;id=7653:policia-nacional-confisca-os-cds-do-brigadeiro-10-pacotes&amp;catid=23:angola24horas&amp;Itemid=34">says</a>, "Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes focuses his lyrics on problems within society, social inequality, political violence in Angola and the progress of the children of Angolan leaders".

Cover of the DVD “O Líder Revolucionário”. Angola 24 Horas says, “Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes focuses his lyrics on problems within society, social inequality, political violence in Angola and the progress of the children of Angolan leaders”.

A fatality was reported, although these statements have since been contradicted. However, whilst seeking “solid evidence” column space was given to what Central Angola dubbed “speculative rumours” regarding the whereabouts of “Mano Negro”, or Negrão, Brigadeiro's producer. A day after the protest, Pedrowski Teca sought answers on Brigadeiro 10 Pacote's Facebook page:

Ontem houve relatos de que o produtor do Brigadeiro Pacotes O Revolucionario, conhecido por Negrão, foi morto pela Polícia Nacional de Angola numa manifestação que visava exigir a devolução dos discos do Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes [outrora] apreendidos pelo regime. Em notícias no Club-K, Hugo Kalumbo afirmou ter visto o mano a ser alvejado e as autoridades afirmaram que o Negrão foi simplesmente detido e entregue às Forças Armadas Angolanas (FAA) visto que supostamente por lei um militar não deve participar em manifestações.


1 – O Negrão foi morto ou simplesmente detido?

2 – Será que as FAAs podem apresentá-lo à público e explicarem, com base a lei, os crimes de que o Negrão é acusado?

Yesterday there were reports that the producer of Brigadeiro Pacotes's The Revolutionary, known as Negrão, was killed by the Angolan National Police in a demonstration demanding the return of Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes's discs, [previously] seized by the regime. In news on Club-K, Hugo Kalumbo confirmed that he saw my friend being shot, but authorities said that Negrão was simply arrested and handed over to the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA), since allegedly, by law, a militant cannot participate in demonstrations.


1- Was Negrão killed or simply detained?

2- Can the FAA present to the public and explain, from the point of view of the law, the crimes of which Negrão is accused?

Some will remember Alves Kamulingue and Isaías Kassule, other activists also reported missing after a demonstration that took place in Luanda on May 27, 2012. Afonso Casimiro said in a comment:

se o “Caso” Kamulingue v Isaías Kassule, que já vai e dura e predura [sic] “já” quase ou aproximadamente “1 Ano”, desde que os mesmos (ambos) desapareceram nos Arredores ou algures e, nas Ruas desta Cidade Capital “Luanda”. Ainda e, até agora “Hoje”, não nos exclareceram-nos [sic] sobre o desaparecimento ou à suposta morte, do Kamulingue e Isaías Kassule; e, quanto mais Este recém-desaparecimento “ou acontecimento” do Produtor Musical Negrão??!!

[...] the Kamulingue vs. Isaías Kassule “case”, which has already been going on for almost or approximately a year, since they (both) disappeared in the vicinity or somewhere in the streets of our capital city, Luanda. And yet up to now we have not been enlightened on their disappearance or alleged deaths; and now the disappearance or “event” regarding the music producer Negrão?!

Central Angola's Facebook cover image

“I am Kamulingue Kassule! My children and brothers want to know where I am”, Central Angola's Facebook cover image

Two years of fighting
On March 7, 2011, exactly two years before the demonstration for the confiscated DVDs, the protest movement against the government was launched with the slogan “32 [years] is too long” [en], demanding José Eduardo dos Santos's exit from power. In August 2012, José Eduardo dos Santos was reelected for another five-year term.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Jang Nomada speaks about his two years of activism and says he knows that “the mission is hard and forces exist to disconnect the people who are creating this kind of mentality”, pointing to hip-hop as one of the activities that have been persecuted by the system.

This has not been the first time that Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes's musical works have been censored; in late 2011, the Ministry of Culture banned the sale of his album “Ditadura da Pedra”.

Brigadeiro 10 Pacotes- Estado da Nação

February 27 2013

Kallun: A Platform of Angolan Slang


“Kallun”. Foto partilhada na página do Fundador da Plataforma, Leocarpo Mário.

“Kallun”. Image shared on the Facebook page of KALLUN. (used with permission).

The Plataform KALLUN (meaning slang), founded by Leocarpo Mário, is a recent collaborative project with the ultimate goal of gathering in just one place all the slang with Angolan origins. Kallun enables interactive search of terms and their meanings.

February 22 2013

L'Angola au secours du Portugal

Avec une croissance de 7 % tirée par les exportations de pétrole, l'Angola se trouve en situation d'aider son ancien colonisateur, le Portugal. Au-delà de la crise, les acteurs économiques des deux pays envisagent des liens pérennes. / Angola, Portugal, Banque, Commerce international, Économie, (...) / Angola, Portugal, Banque, Commerce international, Économie, Énergie, Entreprise, Finance, Multinationales, Pétrole - 2012/05

February 19 2013

African Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign with effect from February 28, 2013 provoked many reactions in Francophone Africa, both in traditional media and on social networks. The predominant feeling was that of admiration for the Pope combined with the wish that certain African leaders would follow his example.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Photo Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr, licence CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Varied opinions, with underlying admiration

In a well-reported article from Togocouleurs blog entitled ‘Must the Pope Die Pope?’, Charles Lebon wrote that [fr]:

La nouvelle est tombée ce 11 février comme un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce coup aurait été moins violent si c’était le décès du pape, qui, dans ce cas et trop souvent prévisible, obligeait les journalistes à attendre sous les fenêtres du saint homme en agonie avec micro, camera et bougie. Mais ce n’était pas le cas. Il s’agit de la démission du souverain pontife au sens de : « renoncer à sa charge ».

The news hit on February 11 like a thunderclap in a quiet sky. The shock would have been less violent if they had announced the death of the Pope who, on this occasion, as on many others, made journalists wait under his windows in agony with a microphone, camera and candle. But this was not the announcement that was made. It was actually the resignation of the reigning pontiff, in the sense of: ‘renouncing his burden’.

Diery Diallo’s blog quoted Father Jacques Seck of Dakar [fr] :

Je dis que je suis heureux que le Saint-Père (Pape Benoît XVI) ait pris cette idée personnellement. Les hommes de Dieu que nous sommes (…) ne sont pas des fonctionnaires qui travaillent. Je suis heureux que le Saint-Père à la tête de l’Eglise nous donne l’exemple. Les évêques, Cardinaux, Pape, ne sont pas des fonctionnaires, quand ils ne peuvent plus ils cèdent la place aux autres », a réagi Abbé Jacques Seck sur les ondes de la Rfm. Rappelons que le Pape Benoit XVI a annoncé sa démission de ses fonctions de Pape pour le 28 février 2013. Il a donné comme raison, son âge avancé qui ne lui permet plus d’exercer le ministère Pétrinien.

I say that I am glad that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has taken this step personally. Men of God such as we [...] are not functionaries with a job. I am pleased that the Holy Father as the head of the Church has given us the example. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope, are not functionaries, when they can no longer go on, they give their place to others.” reacted Father Jacques Seck on the airwaves of RFM. Let us remember that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papal duties would take effect on February 28, 2013. As reason, he gave his advanced years which no longer allow him to fulfil the duties of the Holy See.

On the facebook page of Radio France International, a widely-listened to station in Francophone Africa, many reactions were posted [fr] during a programme dedicated to this event:

File:Benoît XVI synode 2008.jpg

Many Africans seem to wish their leaders would be inspired by the courageous act of Pope Benedict XVI. Source photo:

From Conakry in Guinea Hilal Sylla [fr] wrote that:

Pour peu que cela ait du sens, cette démission de Benoit XVI me renvoie au Film culte sur l'église et les illuminatis. Une façon de dire que l'église n'a plus de force dans un monde dominé par tant de perversion. Une question : la fin du monde n'est-elle pas proche?

Although it doesn’t make much sense, Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds me of the popular film about the church and the Illuminati. A way of saying that the church no longer has strength in a world dominated by so much perversion. One question: Is the End of the World nigh?

For Samuel Azabho [fr] from Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Cette démission est normale par le fait de l'age. son pontificat est positif dans la mesure où il est le précurseur de la lutte contre la pédophilie. je pense qu'il était un homme de décision. Et celui qui doit venir après lui doit relever le défis de l'avenir de l'église catholique et de toute l'humanité peu importe sa race et ses origines.

This resignation is not unusual because of the matter of his age. His papacy was mainly positive in so far as it was the precursor of the fight against paedophilia. I think that he acted as a decisive man. And whoever follows him must be up to the challenges in the future of the Catholic Church, and of all humanity, no matter his race or origin.

From Yaoundé, Ben Mbele remarked that [fr]:

nous pouvons cependant dire ke le pontificat de benoit xv1 n'a pa été un fleuve trankil, de son discours sur l'islam et la violence en passant par le scandal des prêtres pédophiles et enfin du débat sur le mariage gay,au demeurant notons ke la décision salutaire de benoit xv1 fera un précédent car il lancera le débat sur la modification du droit canon en matière du mandat du pape, personnellement il ne faut pa trop attendre du nouveau pape en matière d’émancipation sur certains sujets car la plus part des cardinaux actuels ont été nommé par benoit xv1 et jean paul 2 eux très conservateurs.

However, we can say that the papacy of Benedict XVI has not been plain sailing, from his speech about Islam, through the scandal of paedophile priests, finishing with the gay marriage question, for all that, we note that the salutatory decision of Benedict XVI will set a precedent because it will launch a debate on whether Canon Law regarding the Pope’s mandate should be modified, personally I don’t think we should expect too much from the new Pope regarding emancipation of certain groups of people because most current cardinals were named by Benedict XVI and John Paul 2, and are very conservative.

Alpha Ulrick Marcellus from Brazzville, in Congo thought that [fr]:

La décision du Pape est courageuse. Il ne démissionne pas mais il renonce, il renonce au ministère pétrinien. Une décision qui n'est pas facile à prendre. Son pontificat a été à mon avis celui des grandes épreuves, des discours aux vérités sans détours et choquant. Benoit XVI à donné le meilleur de lui-même, dans la direction d'une Église en conflit avec un monde de plus en plus excentrique. Pour le futur Pape plaise à Dieu de choisir celui qui est apte, valide à prendre des décisions courageuses contre les déviations que le monde légalise pour préserver l'intégrité de la foi et de l'Église.

The Pope’s decision was courageous. He did not resign, but renounced, he renounced the Holy See. Not an easy decision to take. In my opinion, his papacy was one of great trials, of shocking and hard-hitting speeches about truths. Benedict XVI has given the best of himself, for a Church in conflict with a world becoming more and more eccentric. Let us hope that, for the future Pope, God chooses the one who is best-suited, capable of taking courageous decisions against the deviations that the world legalises, to preserve the integrity of faith and of the Church.

The BBC also broadcast special programmes about Francophone Africa, which were played by local radio stations. The BBC’s facebook page about Africa has more than 17,000 fans [fr]. During the programme about this resignation, Africa Live on February 16, many Africans gave their points of view. Michel Djadji Anigbe from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, wrote that [fr]:

Relativement à la décision de démission du Pape, son motif me laisse perplexe et pantois. Comment un grand intellectuel tel que lui a pu accepter ce pontificat avec tous les sacrifices que cela demande. Surtout avec ce que son prédécesseur, le vénérable Pape Jean Paul II , a fait du sien. De plus, son argument est trop facile avec le scandale qui nous a été servi par l'affaire de son majordome. Et quand on sait aussi que le Vatican n'est pas ignorant et étranger à tous ce qui passe actuellement dans le monde.

Relative to the Pope’s decision to resign, his motive leaves me perplexed and speechless. How could a great intellectual like him have accepted this papacy with all the sacrifices which that demands? Especially with what his predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II, had achieved with his. What is more, his argument is too simplistic regarding the scandal of this business with his majordomo. And when you also realise that the Vatican is not ignorant of or a stranger to what happens in the world today.

Didier Didou Mady posed an interesting question [fr]:

Le rejet de la démission du Pape est-il envisageable au regard du droit canon? Quoi de plus normal que les touristes au Vatican visite à la fois le pape et l'ex-pape. Difficile d'avoir un pape infatigable!

Is the rejection of the Pope’s resignation conceivable with regards to Canon Law? What could be more normal than tourists at the Vatican visiting the Pope and the ex-Pope at the same time? It is difficult to have an indefatigable Pope!

An Example for some African leaders?

Africa has many badly run countries. Is this linked to the fact that on this continent we also find heads of State who have been in power the longest?:

Many Africans have commented on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by relating it what has happened on their own continent. Josiane Kouaghe from Cameroon wrote [fr] on his blog:

Passés ces moments de disputes, les vraies questions s’imposent. Et les comparaisons ne tardent pas à suivre. «Ah…Il me rappelle Nelson Mandela. Tu te rappelles, en 1999, quand il a démissionné après seulement cinq ans? », demande Éric Ntomb, 64 ans, à son ami. «Tu parles Éric. C’est la même chose avec le pape. Il n’est là que depuis 2005. Si seulement nos dirigeants africains pouvaient faire comme lui», répond l’ami en poussant un long soupir. L’ami dit haut ce que des millions de personnes pensent bas. Et je vous arrête. Ne dites pas que le pape a démissionné parce qu’il est un homme de Dieu. Non!  Il dirigeait le plus petit et puissant État du monde.

After these disputes, the real questions make themselves felt. And the comparisons are quick to follow. “Ah, he reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Do you remember, in 1999, when he resigned after only five years?” Eric Ntomb, 64, asked his friend. “Now you’re talking Eric! It’s the same thing with the Pope. He’s only been there since 2005. If only our leaders in Africa could do the same as him”, answered the friend with a deep sigh. The friend said out loud what millions of people think deep down. And I am stopping you! Don’t tell me that the Pope resigned because he is a man of God. No! He was leading the smallest and most powerful state in the world.

Josiane Kouagheu then reviewed the list of African presidents who resigned their duties voluntarily:

However, by far the most famous of all African leaders to leave power voluntarily was unquestionably Nelson Mandela, in 1999, a fact which has invited these comparisons between Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

February 16 2013

Angola: Viral Videos Provoke Reflection on State Violence

Blogger Claudio Silva argues on Africa Is a Country that a deeper look at state-sponsored violence (urban evictions and crackdowns on protest) is needed to put into perspective two viral videos that recently shocked the country (see Global Voices coverage). He writes “the violence in Angola comes from the very top: the State”.

February 12 2013

Video of Brutal Beating of Women Shocks Angola

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages.]

On February 7, 2013, Angola awoke to the sounds of screams of pain and the sound of two women customers of a store being whipped. In just three days the 13 minute video that showed two women being brutally beaten had more than 25,000 views on Youtube, was aired on state television and shocked the Angolan community.

Accused of stealing soap and champagne bottles, the women were severely punished and sexually humiliated by several men, including the owner of the store. They later told reporters their ordeal lasted hours.

The aggressors used machetes, nightsticks and hoses to torture the women, in a scene that reminds of the days of slavery. In a country where the internet still has a limited role, in this instance it was transformed into an instrument of greater oversight and brought the country to see firsthand the meaning of “private justice”. The internet, a symbol of emancipation, only now in Angola takes its first steps as a watchdog in service of the people, as journalist Reginaldo Silva explains on Facebook:

Acho que a partir de hoje as redes sociais ganharam um outro estatuto junto de quem manda neste país, com as minhas atenções voltadas para o poder judicial…É importante que os poderes estabelecidos passem a encarar de outra forma a informação que se produz aqui…

I think from today on, social networks earned a new status for those who run this country, with my attention now turned on the judiciary… It is important that the established powers start to face the information that is produced here in a different way…

Warning: graphic images. Video shared by ClubKnet on Youtube.

Warning: graphic images. Video shared by ClubKnet on Youtube.

There were a number of voices raised against the video and expressing their grief and repudiation of the disseminated footage, such as the Prosecutor General Paulo Tchipilica, and the Governor of Luanda, Bento Bento. However in a statement the Radio Eclésia commentator and President of [opposition party] Bloco Democrático, Justino Pinto de Andrade, believes that it is impossible to believe these members of government:

Todos os dias há violência gratuita e bárbara contra cidadãos, como se não tivessem direitos, os mais elementares direitos. Agora, fruto da exposição a que as referidas imagens tiveram direito, ouvimos manifestações de repúdio por parte do Procurador de Justiça, Paulo Tchipilica, e até mesmo por parte do Governador de Luanda, Bento Bento. A questão que eu coloco é a seguinte: dá para acreditar na manifestar de “pesar” exibida por estes dois responsáveis, quando nunca se ouve a sua voz de protesto, quando se agridem pessoas na rua, se molestam os manifestantes de forma bárbara

Every day there is gratuitous and barbarous violence against citizens, as though they had no rights, the most fundamental rights. Now, fruit of the exposure this footage enjoyed, we hear manifestations of repudiation by the Prosecutor General, Paulo Tchipilica, and even by the Governor of Luanda, Bento Bento. The question that I pose is the following: is it possible to believe in the manifest “grief” shown by these two men in charge, when their voice of protest is never heard, when people are attacked on the street, when protesters are assailed in barbarous ways

The Group of Parliamentary women also condemned the scenes of violence against the two women.  In a communiqué to Lusa news agency, MPLA MP, and former Minister of the Family and Promotion of Women, Candida Celeste Silva said that:

O Grupo das Mulheres Parlamentares felicita os cidadãos que denunciaram o crime, considerando-o um atentado aos Direitos Humanos

The Group of Parliamentary women congratulates the citizens who reported the crime, considering it an attack on Human Rights

However journalist and ex-BBC correspondent Reginaldo Silva, believes that most women should watch the footage again:

Todas as senhoras que hoje ouvi a condenarem a cena de violência contra as duas mulheres, parecem ter ignorado que a mesma foi testemunhada no local por pelo menos três mulheres conforme as imagens comprovam facilmente. É um pormenor que faz alguma diferença e que não pode ser ignorado na hora de se fazer justiça…

All the women who I heard from today condemning the scene of violence against the two women seem to have ignored that the scenes were witnessed on the spot by at least three women, as the footage itself easily proves. It is a detail that makes some difference and should not be ignored when justice is to be done…

The stolen bottle, Moet Chandon, which costs just 28€, is now associated on social networks with the scenes of aggression, as can be seen on an image shared by Master Ngola Nvunji‎ on Facebook.

Warning: graphic images. Video shared by ClubKnet on Youtube.

Warning: graphic images. Video shared by ClubKnet on Youtube.

Since last year, cases of violence exposed on the internet have made Angola tremble. Earlier this year, images of a prisoner being beaten were disseminated.

The blog Círculo Angolano Intelectual (Angolan Intellectual Circuit) also cautions that this video is a portrait of Angolan society and where it is headed.

Temos que repensar o tipo de País e sociedade, que queremos deixar aos nossos filhos e as gerações vindouras, e nesse aspecto temos todos que reagir e ninguém pode ficar indiferente,porque infelizmente casos como este é o nosso dia dia… a criminalidade é fruto da pobreza , miséria ,desemprego,politicas sociais injustas, a própria polícia com baixos salários mais preocupada com a gasosa para a sua sobrevivência do que a defesa do cidadão e do bem comum.

We have to rethink the type of country and society that we want to leave for our children and future generations, and in this way we all have to react and nobody can remain indifferent, because unfortunately cases like this are everyday for us… criminality is the fruit of poverty, misery, unemployment, unjust social policies, even the police themselves with low salaries are more worried about gasosa [a way of referring to bribes] for their survival than for the defense of the citizen and the common good.

Angolan state TV reported that the Prosecutor General of the Republic and the National Police have already detained the suspects in the beating case. The Prosecutor also recognized the fundamental role of the dissemination of the video in social networks.

This post was written in collaboration with Janet Gunter.

January 25 2013

Three Portuguese Language States Ignore UN Convention Against Torture

Three Portuguese language countries are part of a short list of states which have not ratified the UN Convention against Torture: São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Guinea Bissau. Fábio Pereira, Communications Officer and Assistant Editor of Torture Journal, shares an open letter [pt, pdf] he has sent to the Portuguese Language Countries Community (CPLP) and a petition in Avaaz.

December 31 2012

From Indigenous Protests to Online Preaching, Portuguese Language Countries in 2012

Every year, as the last days of the calendar approach, we select a few glimpses of citizen media from the action and imagination of the Portuguese-speaking online world.

Mainstream media often fails to provide broader and deeper coverage of social, cultural, political and environmental issues occurring in any of the eight lusophone countries. But citizen media from this vast linguistic region that spreads across the globe, has been there to fill some of the gaps and to fuel public awareness.

Such has been the case of the coverage of development policies adopted by the Brazilian government, and the consequences that directly affected river-dwellers, ‘caboclos' and indigenous communities across the country, and particularly in the Amazon. The construction of the Belo Monte Dam in the Xingu river, has perhaps become one of the strongest causes at the national level and beyond borders. In October, Sany Kalapalo, a young indigenous and a Xingu activist, told us how she makes use of the Internet as a tool to disclose indigenous culture and to mobilize people towards her campaign to protect the Volta Grande do Xingu region in the state of Pará.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá quickly spread from the village of Pyelito Key/Mbarakay, in the town of Iguatemi, State of Mato Grosso do Sul, to a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the indigenous rights for their lands.

In November, the Cry of Resistance of the Guarani Kaiowá triggered a worldwide wave of protests in solidarity with the Indigenous Guarani-Kaiowá and their cause.

Photo of 5,000 crosses planted in Brasilia. Image from the Facebook page of Itiban Comic Shop

Throughout the year, a series of articles on Brazilian migration has taken us in journeys we don't embark upon through mainstream media.

From a “Dekasegibridge-blogger in Japan for the Brazilian community after the earthquake, to the 93 year-old Syrian migrant living in the state of São Paulo, passing through the history of the “Brazilebanese“, or Brazilians from Lebanon, and other stories. Brazilian immigration policy itself faces new challenges. In December, immigrant associations in Sao Paulo organized a rally demanding more rights with regard to the law of the country. Brazilian emigration too has been under debate, particularly through the lens of how Brazilian women are seen abroad, after highly criticized statements from the President of the Portuguese Bar Association at the end of the year, who said that what Brazil exports the most to Portugal is prostitutes.

To calm down the waters surrounding that debate, and bringing a bit of music to the mix, something that Brazilians have also exported this year was Michel Telo's hit ‘Oh if I Catch You' song, whose official video on YouTube has already reached an impressive 470 million visits. Although Telo's major worldwide success didn't reach the numbers of Gangnam style, it did indeed spark a global phenomenon of “Telobalization” at the beginning of the year, with the appropriation of the song for new versions in dozens of different languages. It also attracted some critics due to the arguable quality of Telo's work, and whether or not it should represent Brazilian culture abroad.

On culture and literacy, we highlight the Bicicloteca, a bicycle that carries a small library and free solar-powered internet access to the homeless of the city of São Paulo, and a creative writing competition promoted by the young Cape Verdean journalist Odair Varela on his blog over the course of seven weeks.

Platforms for civic participation

Interesting initiatives for civic participation that bridge the offline and the online worlds arose in Mozambique in 2012.

Up North, in Cabo Delgado, an "open terrace" hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country.

In the Northern region of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado, an “open terrace” hosts monthly public debates - which are transcribed live to Facebook - allowing for the discussion and dissemination of important issues such as the missing transparency in the extractive mega projects in the country. Photo by Terraço Aberto (Public Debate in Cabo Delgado) on Facebook

The People's Wall of Maputo, an authentic ”offline Facebook wall” in the extensive outer wall of @Verdade newspaper's building, allows for any citizen to express his or her complaints in a public and open way. Messages are later transcribed to @Verdade's media outlets, such as their print newspaper but also Facebook page and website.

A local diving school in Tofo, Bitonga Divers, has been raising awareness on the need to defend marine life against overfishing at one of Mozambique's most important tourist beaches.

Whereas in Guinea Bissau, where there is a huge Internet accessibility gap, a digital inclusion project called CENATIC - a computer center featured by Rising Voices in April - unfortunately had to shut down at the end of the year due to the high costs to support it. CENATIC was launched by a local NGO and aimed at providing more affordable access and support to individuals and organizations interested in exploring how a better connection can benefit their work.

From Sao Tome and Principe, STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins)

In December Global Voices interviewed STP Radio (Somos Todos Primos / We Are All Cousins), from Sao Tome and Principe, an online community radio that plays an important role uniting the diaspora.

The future awaits

In the political arenas, 2012 was a year of presidential and parliamentary elections in East Timor, municipal elections in Brazil and local elections in Cape Verde. In Angola, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected after 33 years in power. The country's complex path of development through the lens of citizen media is summarized in a separate post, Year of Change in Angola, But Everything Stays the Same.

By the end of November, São Tomé and Principe plunged into a political crisis, and in Guinea Bissau another military coup d'etat toppled the government in April 2012. A post from October reads:

While the international institutions express “concern” and conduct meetings, the people of Guinea-Bissau have little outlet for their fears and frustrations.

In Portugal, there were plenty of protests and two general strikes against the austerity measures in the European economic crisis scenario which develops into harder life conditions for the general population. The most participated demonstration took place in September under the motto “Screw Troika! We Want Our Lives”.

Among the multiplicity of conventional uses of digital platforms for activism, one of the most curious characters that caught our attention early in the year is in fact a 75 year old priest and writer called Mário Pais de Oliveira. He religiously uses social networks to share his very particular - and disruptive - thoughts on current events, and has hundreds of videos on Youtube and thousands of friends on Facebook. We finish this roundup of the year with a simple quote from one of his subversive homilies. Whatever 2013 brings:

We must come up with new ways to transform society

December 30 2012

New GV e-book: African Voices of Hope and Change

Here is a perfect gift to salute the new year: our new e-book dedicated to Africa's Sub-Saharan region. “African Voices of Hope and Change,”  gives you an intimate perspective into the stories and people of Sub-Saharan Africa through our best English-language posts from 2012. From a total of about 800 posts produced over the year from the region, we hand-picked 13 posts to feature from Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kenya, Angola and other countries.

African Voices of Hope & ChangeYou are welcome to download it here. You can even send a copy (in PDF, ePub or Mobipocket format) to your relatives or friends across the world, maybe as a present for their donation to GV. Most important, please spread the word in your global circles, social networks and anywhere you deem fit!

African Voices of Hope and Change is more evidence of the power of we‘, a collective effort focusing on places and people too often ‘forgotten' by mainstream media worldwide, despite Africa’s diverse but promising growth in the upcoming years. As stated in the ebook introduction, “At the start of the new millennium, it felt as though the African continent was essentially written off by the international community… [but] recent statistics suggest that nine of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

And while many experts actually believe that new technology's most lasting influence will be on a broadening field of education, “also important is the potential for leveraging technology towards a more general transparency and accountability, as shown by initiatives based on social and citizen media for monitoring local elections or making government data available on the Internet.”

Aimed at providing a larger context and fostering the Global Voices mission, this collection of 2012 posts will try to parse out such complex framework and open up the horizon for the upcoming year. These voices tell us about moving forward in hope and change, their accounts reveal a path infused with struggle and collaboration.

Thanks to Mohamed Adel for technical support and to those who variously contributed to articles selected for this new e-book: Afef Abrougui, Ahmed Jedou, Anna Gueye, Eleanor Staniforth, Endalk, James Propa, Kofi Yeboah, Lova Rakotomalala, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Richard Wanjohi, Sara Gold, Sara Moreira, and Ndesanjo Macha.

December 21 2012

Guinean Journalist Mysteriously Disappears in Angola

Where is Milocas Pereira? A question echoing through the blogosphere for a couple of weeks, but the response is slow in coming. On social networks a movement sprung up to pressure Guinean authorities to investigate the disappearance, six months ago, of the journalist and university professor in the Angolan capital city Luanda, where she has lived since 2004. On Facebook the group “SOS, STOP! – Queremos a Jornalista Milocas de volta” (We Want Journalist Milocas Back) [pt] already has 5,775 members.

Recently, the President of the Association of Community of Guinea-Bissau Immigrants in the United States, Celina Spencer, also launched a petition directed to the UN High Commission of Human Rights, to try and get support to locate the journalist.

She offered some interviews, analyzing some of the crises currently occurring within Guinea-Bissau. Specifically, the Guinean government's role and presence of the Angolan military “Missang” deployed to Guinea-Bissau for military reformation [on which Global Voices reported upon the coup d'etat in April 2012]. It is unknown whether her disappearance is connected with the interviews or not. It is certain however, she was assaulted by strangers. Afterwards, feeling threatened in Luanda, she considered and confided to a friend that she desired to return back home.

In an interview with Angolan television, at the beginning of January, the professor spoke about the situation in Guinea-Bissau after the death of President Malam Bacai Sanhá. After this, Milocas Pereira said that she began to feel under great pressure [pt].

On last November 3, the Sindicato dos Jornalistas Angolanos (Union of Angolan Journalists) [pt] denounced that the Guinean journalist had been “terrorized” in Luanda:

Milocas Pereira foi agredida no início do mês de Maio por desconhecidos antes de ter comunicado a algumas pessoas com quem falou a sua intenção de deixar Angola, na sequência desta agressão, que foi apontada pela própria como sendo a causa mais próxima da sua decisão.

Milocas Pereira was attacked in the beginning of the month of May by unknown people, before having communicated her intention to leave Angola to some people she had spoken with. She pointed to this attack as the cause for this decision.

According to “Sol Mansi” Radio [pt], the journalist had no doubts that the attack had strong political motivations:

Ela estava a correr risco de vida, pelo que a única solução que tinha era abandonar imediatamente Angola, para regressar ao seu país. Aconselhada pela sua amiga a denunciar publicamente a agressão, MP disse que preferia não o fazer. Aconselhada ainda a ir para Portugal, MP disse que não confiava nos portugueses e que se sentia melhor na Guiné-Bissau com os responsáveis de transição.

She was running the risk of losing her life, and the only solution that she had was to immediately leave Angola, and return to her country. Counselled by a friend to publicly denounce the attack, MP said she preferred not to. Further counselled to go to Portugal, MP said she did not trust the Portuguese and said she would feel better in Guinea-Bissau with those responsible for the transition.

Last October, in statements to the same radio station, the Secretary of State for Communication in Guinea-Bissau, Idelfrides Gomes Fernandes confirmed the news [pt] about the possible disappearance of the journalist for the first time. Four months after her mysterious disappearance, the family decided to contact authorities, but the only response that they got was silence.

In its November 2nd edition, the Novo Jornal (New Newspaper) (Angola) dedicated an entire page to the disappearance of the journalist.

In its November 2nd edition, the Novo Jornal (New Newspaper) (Angola) dedicated an entire page to the disappearance of the journalist.

Two months ago, Bartolomeu Capita of the National Movement of Cabinda wrote on the site of the organization Peace & collaborative development network that Milocas Pereira could have been ordered killed in Angola:

Nobody has seen Ms. Pereira or simply heard from her for almost a month now. Yet she was teaching at the independent University of Angola. Concerns have arisen which must be addressed. More and more fellow scholars are discreetly suggesting that she may have been murdered, for having sought to investigate certain matters related to the obscure links between Angola's criminal regime and Guinea-Bissau.

News of the disappearance [pt] of the 58 year old journalist was made public at a time in which the family – that was trying not to complicate police investigations – began to lose hope that Milocas was still alive. The brother of the professor, Carlos Pereira, who lives in Lisbon, said to Voice of America [pt]:

O que nos chega [de Luanda] é isso, está desaparecida desde finais de Julho. Suspeitamos de muita coisa. Que ela tivesse dado com muita coisa e tivesse necessidade de fugir, de esconder ou que tenha havido alguma retaliação.

What comes to us [from Luanda] is this, she has disappeared since the end of July. We suspect a lot. That she could have run into many things and needed to flee, hide or had some could of retaliation.

On the blog Rispito [pt], the Guinean Samba Bari alleges that the disappearance is another challenge for the transitional authorities and that the situation could widen the fissure between the Guinean government not recognized by Luanda and the Angolan government.

December 14 2012

A Timeline of 50 Years of Conflict in the D.R. of Congo

The current conflict between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army cannot be completely understood without recollecting the history of the genesis of conflicts in this region of great lakes. Here is a detailed chronology of the last 50 years of confrontations in this region.

On Congo Forum, Jacques Mbokani wrote [fr]:

Depuis son accession à l’indépendance la R.D.C. a toujours été en proie à des conflits de tous ordres. … L’exposé consiste essentiellement à identifier les causes des conflits en RDC. … Les causes des conflits en R.D.C. peuvent être regroupées en deux catégories majeures. … les causes externes … et d’autre part, les causes internes.

Since the DRC became independent , it has been prey to all kinds of conflicts. … … The presentation is mainly focused on identifying the causes of the conflicts in the DRC. …The causes of the conflicts in the DRC can be grouped into two main categories. …external causes … and, on the other hand, internal causes.

The Congo was declared independent on June 30, 1963, and renamed Congo-Leopoldville. Power was shared between the head of state Joseph Kasa-Vubu and the Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. On November 25, 1965, supported by governments of Belgium and the United States, General Joseph Desire Mobutu deposed President Kasa-Vubu, removing him from power and naming himself president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He would remain in power for 30 years. The country was renamed Zaire between 1971 and 1997.

This video covers the history of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba [fr]:

Another video tells of the coming to power of Mobutu, King of Zaïre, Conquest of Power [fr]:

Important economic issues at stake

Jacques Mbokani continued [fr]:

Dans le film intitulé : « Blood Diamond » (le diamant du sang) un vieil homme soupirait en ces termes : « j’espère qu’ils ne vont pas trouver du pétrole… alors nous serons réellement en danger… ». Les propos de ce vieil homme, révèlent en réalité la question des ressources naturelles comme sources des conflits.

In the film entitled “Blood Diamond”, an old man sighs in these terms: “I hope that they’re not going to find oil… then we really will be in danger…”. The words of the old man reveal the real question about natural resources as sources of conflict.

On the website Maps of the DRC [fr], we learn that :

Qualifié de scandale géologique, le sous-sol de la RD du Congo regorge de plusieurs minerais et d'énormes réserves énergétiques. Les ressources minières les plus connues sont celles des groupes de l'Etain, du Nobium et du Cuivre, auxquels on peut ajouter le manganèse, l'or et le diamant. Concernant les richesses énergétiques, on peut citer le pétrole off-shore de l'Atlantique et d'importants gisements du nord-est, lesquels aiguisent déjà, beaucoup d'appétits de tous les milieux mafieux aussi bien congolais qu'internationaux, au mépris des populations locales. De même, l'uranium dans le sud-est pays, ainsi que le gaz méthane du lac Kivu, font partie des ressources énergétiques dont le pays ne semble pas maitriser la gestion présente ou future. Ce manque d'autorité et de contrôle de ses propres richesses, se traduit par un trafic sans précédent à l'EST du pays, opéré par des bandes armées avec, malheureusement souvent, la complicité des congolais eux-mêmes au détriment de leur propre pays.

Often called a “geological scandal”, the subsoil of DRC is bursting with various minerals and enormous reserves of energy. The most well-know mining resources are those of clusters of tin, nobium and copper, to which we can also add manganese, gold and diamonds. As for energy wealth, we can point to the oil off-shore in the Atlantic, and to major deposits in the north east, which have already stimulated many appetites within the Mafia-like underworld, as much Congolese as international, to the disgust of local people. Also, uranium from the south east of the country, as well as methane gas from Lake Kivu, make up part of the energy resources that the country cannot seem to manage properly right now or in the future. This lack of authority and control of its own wealth, betrayed by unprecedented trafficking operations in the east of the country, controlled by armed gangs with, unhappily often, the complicity of the Congolese themselves to the detriment of their own country.

The causes of the internal conflicts within the DRC date from the dictatorship of Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who remained in power until 1997:

La raison du plus fort était la meilleure, … médiocrité de la classe politique, … l’effondrement et le manque d’indépendance de l’appareil judiciaire …inexistence des services publics tant administratifs que sociaux. … Le recrutement des militaires que ce soit par le processus normal ou dans le cadre du brassage ou mixage, ce recrutement se fait sans tenir compte de la citoyenneté, de l’âge, de la moralité ou du passé judiciaire

The strongest reason was the best, … mediocrity of the political class, … the collapse and the lack of independence of the judiciary …non-existence of public services, both administrative and social. … The recruitment of soldiers, be it by the standard process or within the framework of brewing or mixing, this recruitment is done without taking account of the citizens, of the times, of morality or of the judicial past

The following video shows the hold that Mobutu had over the DRC during this period: Mobutu, King of Zaïre 2, Master of the Game [fr]:

Website Konexinfo [fr] traced how several countries found themselves implicated in this conflict:

La situation actuelle en RDC, dans la région du Kivu, découle de plusieurs conflits qui ont eu lieu depuis une vingtaine d’années dans la région des grands lacs africains. Ces multiples conflits sont liés les uns aux autres. De nouveaux seigneurs de la guerre prennent la relève de ceux qui accèdent au pouvoir.

The current situation in the DRC, in the Kivu region follows from several conflicts which took place over twenty or so years in the African great lakes region. These many conflicts are all linked to one another. New warlords take over from those who have acceded to power.

Seven countries at war on Congolese soil

Meeting between Kabila, Bush, Kagame and Annan at NYC in 2002 by Eric Draper - public domain

Meeting between Kabila, Bush, Kagame and Annan at NYC in 2002 by Eric Draper - public domain

The Ugandan Yoweri Museveni recruited and organised an army of 6,000 men at the frontiers of Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda and overthrew the elected president of his country, Milton Obote in 1986.

In Rwanda between 1990 and 1993 the FPR with Paul Kagamé at its head fought against the regime of the sole party of the president, Juvénal Habyarimana.

In 1994, the genocide in Rwanda, which has a common border with the DRC, forced around 2 million people to migrate to Eastern DRC.

From Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo [fr] and to the current chaos, website la documentation francaise gave a detailed chronology [fr] of events in the DRC:

In 1996, in South Kivu, the Banyamulenge rebellion started, involving Congolese Tutsi of Rwandan origin (who had migrated to the region from 1959 to flee the violence in Rwanda), with the military support of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. With others opposing the president of Zaire, Marshall Mobutu, they regrouped as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire, ADFL, led by Laurent Desire Kabila.

After 30 years of power, President Mobutu left in exile before the rebels’ victory. Laurent Desire Kabila named himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the new name for Zaire. The rebels took control of capital Kinshasa on May 17, 1997.

Dismantling the camps of Rwandan refugees infiltrated by former Rwandan armed forces and extremist Hutu militia - the Interahamwe - responsible for the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda.

Kabila then broke his alliances with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

In 1998, a new Tutsi rebellion, among the Banyamulenge broke out in Kivu against Kabila’s government troops, supported by his ex-allies Rwanda and Uganda. A new political-military coalition was formed - the Congolese Assembly for Democracy (RCD) - led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.

Seven countries at war on Congolese soil, with Congolese rebels supported by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi….capturing Kisangani, capital of the Eastern province and the country’s third city. They would be stopped in their advance towards Kinshasa by the intervention of troops from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

This resulted in the partitioning of the country, with North and South Kivu falling under the control of the RDC and the West remaining under the control of Kabila and his allies Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Also in 1998, another rebellion, this one led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, in the province of Equator, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), took control of the region. With the support of Uganda, they took the city of Kindu and the mining regions of Kasai and Katanga.

On May 17, 1999, Wamba’s RCD split into two movements: RCD-Goma, led by Emile Ilunga Kalambo and supported by Rwanda, and RCD-Kisangani, which remained under Wamba’s control, and was supported by Uganda. Uganda were also still supporting Bemba’s MLC.

Kabila’s government no longer controlled the western half of the country.

The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement (Zambia), signed in July 1999, changed nothing with respect to the massacres. The Rwandan army occupied one part of the Eastern province, North and South Kivu as well as North Katanga. The Ugandan army controlled the north parts of Equator and Eastern provinces. Despite the agreements, fighting and massacres continued. Both countries disputed control of the city of Kisangani, global hub of the diamond market, leading to the death of two hundred citizens.

In 2001, following the assassination of President Laurent Desire Kabila, his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state, on January 17.


Countries directly or indirectly involved in Congolese Conflicts

Countries directly or indirectly involved in Congolese Conflicts by Jaro7788 - Public Domain


Since then, United Nations resolutions and peace agreements between aggressors and attempts at democracy have periodically punctuated the repeated massacres and rapes as a weapon of war. The cyclical conflicts have allowed foreign powers and companies to access the precious minerals [fr] so vital to mobile phones worldwide.

Jacques Mbokani concluded [fr]:

En résumé, la cause centrale réside dans la faillite de l’Etat congolais qu’il faut reconstruire. C’est parce que l’Etat n’existe plus que les Etats voisins pillent, violent et font ce qu’ils font. C’est parce que l’Etat n’existe plus qu’il y a la prolifération des seigneurs de guerre et la prolifération des armes légères.

In summary, the central cause resides in the failure of the Congolese state which must be rebuilt. It is because the state no longer exists that neighbouring states steal, rape and do whatever they want. It’s because the state no longer exists that there has been a proliferation of warlords and of heavy weapons.

November 28 2012

Angola's Sophisticated Censorship

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages, except when otherwise noted.]

Angola celebrated the 37th anniversary of its independence on November 11, 2012. But, in reality, how independent is the country nowadays? In terms of media and social communication, for instance, the reality is disturbing and, according to specialists, the censorship in Angola is tending to become more sophisticated.

One of the most recent episodes of censorship occurred on October 27, 2012, when the newspaper Semanário Angolense was withdrawn from the printing press by the company Media Investe. The reason was the publication of almost an entire speech by the president of the opposition party UNITA [en], Isaías Samakuva, in which he was being highly critical about the state of the nation. Maka Angola published it first:

A  empresa proprietária, controlada por altas figuras dos Serviços de Segurança e Informação do Estado (SINSE), retirou os exemplares impressos do jornal para serem queimados. Maka Angola obteve uma cópia digital do jornal censurado, cujas páginas 8, 9 e 10 reproduzem, com tratamento gráfico, o discurso de Samakuva, de 23 de Outubro.

The company owner, controlled by high profile figures of Security and Information Services of the State (SINSE, in Portuguese), withdrew the printed copies of the newspaper to be burned. Maka Angola got a digital copy of the newspaper censored, whose pages 8, 9 and 10 reproduce, with graphic treatment, Samakuva's speech of October 23.
Copy of the cover of the censored <em>Semanário Angolense</em>. The speech given by Samakuva on October 23 is reproduced on pages 8, 9 and 10.

Copy of the cover of the censored Semanário Angolense. The speech given by Samakuva on October 23 is reproduced on pages 8, 9 and 10.

The speech of the leader of Angola's largest opposition party- the full version was made available online by Maka Angola [pdf]- criticised the fact that the Angolan President, José Eduardo dos Santos, has not made the speech on the state of the nation at the opening of third Legislature, as laid down in the Constitution. Instead, the Angolan Head of State asked that copies of his inauguration speech be distributed to the members of parliament on September 26. The move was widely criticised by the opposition and by various sectors of society.

In an interview with DW, the Angolan human rights activist and founder of Maka Angola, Rafael Marques, says that this is “another way to control the information that circulates” in the country:

O presidente da UNITA fez um discurso bastante contundente que teve grande aceitação na sociedade (…). Daí a necessidade de ter que garantir que o discurso de Isaías Samakuva não tenha ampla circulação. Ele está a circular apenas na internet e, como é do conhecimento geral, Luanda e o país sofrem uma grave crise de abastecimento de eletricidade. Logo muito poucas pessoas têm acesso à internet e os jornais são mais lidos, porque um jornal pode ser lido por várias pessoas. Agora também os jornais privados são controlados pelo aparelho de segurança e neste caso houve uma falha dos censores, mas mesmo assim ainda foram a tempo de ir buscar os jornais da impressão diretamente para a queima.

The president of UNITA made a very harsh speech which was widely accepted in society (…). Hence the need to have to ensure that the discourse of Isaías Samakuva does not have wide circulation. It is only on the internet and, as is generally known, Luanda and the rest of the country are suffering a severe crisis of electricity supply. Therefore very few people have access to the internet and the newspapers are the most read, because a newspaper can be read by many people. Now even private newspapers are controlled by security apparatus; in this case the censors failed, but they still went on time to go get the newspapers from the printing press to burn them immediately.

On its website, the Union of Angolan Journalists (SJA) regrets that “incidents” like this are no news in the panorama of “press freedom” in Angola:

Este tipo de atentados começou verificar-se desde a altura, já lá vão mais de dois anos, em que alguns semanários luandenses começaram a ser comprados por empresas sem rosto, tendo neste âmbito mudado de proprietários o “Semanário Angolense”, a “A Capital” e o “Novo Jornal”. Do ponto de vista editorial, “A Capital” foi até agora a publicação que mais foi violentada/censurada pelos seus novos proprietários, por razões claramente políticas e relacionadas com a sua discordância no tocante a determinadas matérias desfavoráveis aos interesses do actual poder político.

This type of attack began to occur more than two years ago, when some weeklies from Luanda started to be bought by faceless companies who had changed owners like the Semanário Angolense, A Capital and O Novo Jornal. From an editorial point of view, A Capital is, so far, the publication that has been the most violated/censored by their new owners, clearly for political reasons and reasons concerning the newspaper's disagreement with certain matters which are unfavourable to the interests of the current political power.

The case of the Semanário Angolense generated numerous comments on social networks. On October 29, 2012, Joana Clementina commented on Facebook:

Tanto barulho porquê? O Semanário em questão tem um dono e cabe a ele decidir o que vai para a rua. Se o problema é o discurso do man samas [Isaías Samakuva], a Rádio Despertar pode passar sempre que quiser e diga-se que a Despertar tem maior audiência em relação ao Angolense. No big deal. Ficaria feliz se vocês apontassem soluções para o problema da luz e água. O Semanário Angolense nem está ao alcance do bolso do cidadão comum, uma minoria é que o lê.

Why so much noise? Semanário has an owner and it is up to him to decide what goes onto the street. If the problem is the speech of the samas man [Isaias Samakuva], Rádio Despertar can play it whenever it wants, and the radio has a larger audience than the Semanário. No big deal. I'd be happy if you gave us solutions to the problems with electricity and water. Semanário Angolense is not within the reach of ordinary citizens; a minority reads it.

Shortly after, Mingiedy Mia Loa responded directly to the comment:

Joana Clementina: independentemente do dono, existe o Conselho Nacional de Comunicação Social e cabe a este órgão regular e fiscalizar a linha editorial dos órgãos de comunicação social, sejam eles privadas ou publicas, e por outra a Constituição de Angola não prevê censuras em matérias jornalísticas no seu capitulo de liberdades de expressão…

Joana Clementina: regardless of the owner, there is the National Council for Social Communication and it is up to this body to regulate and supervise the editorial line of the media, whether private or public, and on the other [hand] the Constitution of Angola doesn't provide censorship on news stories in its chapter of freedom of expression…

On October 31, Maurilio Luiele also wrote on Facebook:

O facto é que a constituição consagra a liberdade de imprensa e ipsis factus proíbe a censura. Se isso não é censura então é o quê? O que está em causa é a violação da Constituição, e pior ainda, a forma sistemática e leviana como se ultraja a Lei em Angola. Sempre me faço a seguinte pergunta: se a lei não é a baliza e livre arbitrio prevalece onde fica o Estado Democrático de Direito? Onde está a PGR para defender a legalidade?

The fact is that the constitution consecrates press freedom and ipsis factus prohibits censorship. If this is not censorship, then what is it? The violation of the Constitution is at stake, and, even worse, the systematic and wanton way in which the law in Angola is ignored. I always ask myself the following question: if the law is not the goal and free will prevails, where does the Democratic State of Rights stand? Where is the PGR [Attorney General of the Republic] to defend the legality?

As SJA indicates, quoting the current legislation (Law no. 7/06 from May 15, 2006 [pdf, pt]), the attack on the freedom of press happens when:

[…] aquele que fora dos casos previstos na lei impedir ou perturbar a composição, impressão, distribuição e livre circulação de publicações periódicas, impedir ou perturbar a emissão de programas de radiodifusão e televisão, apreender ou danificar quaisquer materiais necessários ao exercício da actividade jornalística.

[…] someone outside the cases provided by law blocks or disrupts the composition, printing, distribution and free circulation of periodicals; blocks or disrupts the broadcast of radio and television programmes; seizes or damages any materials necessary for the exercise of journalistic activity.

“Should the freedom of each individual not be respected?” questions the researcher Eugenio Costa Almeida in an opinion piece on the subject, published in the Angolan weekly Novo Jornal, on November 2:

A ser verdade esta eventual atitude, deram mostras de não respeitar a liberdade de cada um. A liberdade de quem escreveu, a liberdade de quem produziu e, mais grave ainda porque a condiciona, a liberdade de escolha do leitor. Porque os jornais, a comunicação social, só existe porque há leitores, ouvintes e telespectadores que lêem, ouve, ou vêem as notícias e as opiniões emitidas para, posteriormente, terem a liberdade de as apreciar, citar ou questionar e criticar as mesmas e delas tirarem as ilações possíveis.

If this eventual attitude is true, they showed no respect for each individual's liberty. The freedom of the writer, the freedom of those who produced [the newspaper] and, even more serious because it conditions it, the freedom of choice of the reader. Because newspapers, the media, only exists because there are readers, listeners and viewers who read, hear, or watch the news and opinions transmitted so that, afterwards, they have the freedom to enjoy them, quote them or question and criticise them to learn the possible lessons.
"Samakuva: Where's my speech?"  Picture shared on the Facebook profile of Kissonde Project.

“Samakuva: Where's my speech?” Picture shared on the Facebook profile of Kissonde Project.

Episodes like this are proof that the Angolan “lapis azul” (blue pencil- a symbol of censorship) is taking on new dimensions, with propaganda and censorship increasingly restricting press freedom. The Angolan model of censorship is even “more sophisticated than the Chinese”, argues the Angolan analyst Nelson Pestana in an interview with DW:

O modelo de censura chinês é assumido como um dos mecanismos do partido. Em Angola não. O discurso de legitimação passa pela ideia de democracia, pela ideia de pluralismo. Não é um órgão exterior que impede o jornal de circular é o próprio dono do jornal que decide que desta vez não circula. Só que o dono do jornal faz parte do grupo do poder e por isso é evidentemente um mecanismo de censura e de controlo da opinião pública nacional.

The Chinese model of censorship is assumed to be one of the mechanisms of the party. Not in Angola. The discourse of legalisation involves the idea of democracy, the idea of pluralism. It's not a body that blocks the circulation of newspapers; it's the newspaper's owner who decides that this time it won't circulate. The problem is that the owner of the newspaper is part of the group's power and so it is clearly a mechanism of censorship and control of national public opinion.

“None of the countries of the PALOP [African Countries of Official Portuguese Language] has the means of pressure that Angola has”, criticised the Portuguese journalist Pedro Rosa Mendes in an interview in February this year, shortly after the radio programme he worked with (Este tempo, broadcast on the public radio Antena 1) had been suspended after the broadcast of an opinion piece [en] which criticised the Angolan government:

É óbvio, para toda a gente que não queira ser ingénua, que muita da pressão que Angola pode fazer já funciona por si. É uma espécie de diplomacia paralela e de pressão tácita.

It is obvious, for everyone who does not want to be naive, that much of the pressure that Angola puts on already works by itself. It is a kind of parallel diplomacy and implied pressure.

This post was proofread in English by Georgi McCarthy.

November 15 2012

An Initiative to Keep Portuguese Language Teaching in French Universities

[All links lead to pages in French unless otherwise stated.]

The Portuguese language is spoken by about 250 million people, making it the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. There are about two million Portuguese speakers in France; they are mostly immigrants and the children of Portuguese immigrants.

On August 30, 2012, Geneviève Fioraso, the Minister of Higher Education and Research, gave an interview to Mediapart about the need to restructure Universities, in which she stated:
Avoir du portugais dans toutes les universités, est-ce indispensable ? J’adore le portugais mais avoir une discipline rare dans toute les universités, ce n’est peut-être pas utile.

Is it essential to have Portuguese in all universities? I love Portuguese, but to have this rare discipline in all of our universities may not be useful.

The interview caused concern within the Portuguese community in France and an appeal was launched by Casa Amadis [pt], a Portuguese association based in Montpellier, to protest against the minister's proposal:

Il faut savoir que le portugais est la troisième langue européenne de communication, qu’il est parlé par plus d’habitants dans le monde que le français et que c’est la langue de l’un des pays du G20, le Brésil.[…] Défendre l’enseignement du portugais, de l’italien, de l’arabe… en France, c’est donc aussi contribuer à la défense de la francophonie.

It's important to recognise that Portuguese is the third most common European language of communication; it is spoken by more people than French worldwide, and it is the language of one of the G20 nations, Brazil. […] Defending the teaching of Portuguese, Arabic and Italian in France also contributes to the defence of the French language.

Flags of Portugal and France <br />(Wikimedia Commons- public domain)

Flags of Portugal and France
(Wikimedia Commons- public domain)

The appeal was later taken up by Lusojornal [pt], a newspaper for the Portuguese communities in France and Belgium. In issue number 94, Alexandra Custodio de Saint-Etienne stated:
Les 2 millions de Français, les 60.000 entrepreneurs d’origine portugaise qui contribuent tous les jours à l’économie de notre pays et qui sont tout à fait bilingues portugais/français, étaient jusqu’à ce jour, un atout pour la France, une passerelle naturelle pour l’accès à ces marchés de langue portugaise, mais maintenant ils se sentent «ignorés» et sont révoltés. Les entreprises en France recrutent chaque jour de très nombreux diplômés, commerciaux, ingénieurs, etc… parlant portugais. Il faut à la France des étudiants formés en langue portugaise. Savez vous que les étudiants sortant des Universités françaises, formés en langue portugaise, ont un taux d’emploi de plus de 90%?

There are two million French people and 60,000 entrepreneurs of Portuguese origin who contribute daily to the economy of our country and who are completely bilingual in Portuguese and French. They have always been an asset to France, and a natural bridge for access to Portuguese-speaking markets. But now they feel “ignored” and have become alienated. Every day, companies in France recruit many graduates in business, engineering, etc., who speak Portuguese. France needs students trained in Portuguese. Did you know that students graduating from French universities who are trained in Portuguese have an employment rate of over 90%?

In terms of scientific research and technological innovation, France is the second largest trading partner of Brazil (after the United States). Many Brazilian universities are engaged in international cooperation projects with France through research projects, usually with the support of bilateral funding such as CNPq [National Council for Scientific and Technological Development] or CNRS [French National Centre for Scientific Research].

Cape Magellan- Portugal Without Clichés emphasises the importance of these academic exchanges:

Cet enseignement est réellement indispensable car de plus en plus les entreprises, mais aussi les laboratoires de recherche, les formations les plus diverses demandent à avoir des spécialistes capables de travailler avec le Brésil, l'Angola ou autre pays lusophone. La coopération universitaire franco-brésilienne a d'ailleurs le vent en poupe et le Brésil vient de créer  un très vaste programme de formation internationale de ses étudiants: Science sans frontières.

This teaching really is necessary since more and more companies, research laboratories and other organisations need specialists capable of working with Brazil, Angola and other Portuguese-speaking countries. Academic cooperation between France and Brazil is also on the rise, and Brazil has created a vast international training program for its students called Science Without Borders.

In a letter addressed to the minister, the blog Transatlantic Correspondances emphasises:

[…] la vivacité de l’intérêt des Brésiliens pour la création littéraire, artistique et cinématographique française (le Brésil est aussi le plus grand marché en Amérique du Sud pour la littérature française).

[…] the strong Brazilian interest in French writing, art and cinema (Brazil is also the largest market in South America for French literature).

The letter also recalls the economic and cultural importance of learning Portuguese in France:

Outre le fait que de nombreuses industries des secteurs-clé de l’économie brésilienne sont françaises (exploitation pétrolière notamment), les prochains événements de portée mondiale au Brésil (Jeux Olympiques, Coupe du Monde de Football) devraient renforcer l'attractivité que le Brésil va exercer pour les entreprises françaises. Ces événements devraient ainsi offrir de nouvelles opportunités commerciales dans les domaines du BTP, transports, ingénierie environnementale et énergies renouvelables.

Besides the fact that many industries in key sectors of the Brazilian economy are French (petroleum production in particular), the upcoming global events in Brazil (Olympic Games and World Cup Football) should enhance the attractiveness of Brazil to French companies. These events should thus offer new business opportunities in the fields of construction, transportation, environmental engineering and renewable energy.

Paulo Pisco, a member of the Portuguese Overseas contingent of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, responds in French and Portuguese to the Minister in an article posted on Mediapart:

Pourquoi madame la ministre n'a-t-elle pas pensé à l'héritage culturel profond du portugais, qui va du Japon au Canada, du Sri Lanka en Uruguay? Elle aurait dû penser à l’importance croissante de la Communauté des pays de langue portugaise (CPLP), dont 12 candidats de toutes les parties du monde veulent devenir membre-associé, et parmi lesquels on peut trouver des pays comme l’Indonésie, le Venezuela ou le Maroc. À titre d'exemple, le Sénégal et Maurice sont déjà membres-associés.

Why has the minister not thought about the deep cultural heritage of Portuguese, which ranges from Japan to Canada, from Sri Lanka to Uruguay? She should have thought about the growing importance of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which 12 candidates from all over of the world want to join as associate members; among them, we can find countries such as Indonesia, Venezuela and Morocco. Senegal and Mauritius are already associate members, for example.

Laeticia Trigo, who participated in the appeal, received the following response from the Minister, who authorised the redistribution of her letter:

Je suis bien désolée de ce malentendu […] Mon message, insuffisamment retraduit (peut être n'avais je pas été assez claire avec la journaliste) était le suivant : dans un contexte où les universités connaissent des situations financières de plus en plus préoccupantes depuis le passage à l'autonomie (mal) effectué des universités suite à la loi Pécresse de 2007, il faut organiser une offre de formation en réseau et mutualisée. Il se trouve que je venais de recevoir deux universités qui avaient une offre de formation au portugais pour 4 étudiants dans un cas et 3 dans l'autre. J'assume le fait de dire que nous ne pouvons plus financièrement assurer ce type de formation. (…). Bien entendu, cela suppose une aide à la mobilité des étudiants pour ne pas pénaliser une discipline, en l'occurrence une langue pratiquée de plus par une communauté très présente sur notre territoire.

I am very sorry for this misunderstanding. […] Perhaps I did not make myself clear to the journalist. My message, which was inadequately re-translated, was as follows: in the context where universities are experiencing increasingly worrisome financial situations since the transition to independence under the poorly implemented Law Pécresse of 2007, we must organise a network to offer this instruction collectively. As it turned out, I had just been contacted by two universities that offer training in Portuguese, for 4 students in one case, and for 3 in the other. Suffice it to say that it is no longer financially possible for us to provide the training in this manner … Of course, this requires us to give the students more mobility so as not to penalise the study of this discipline, of this language used by a community which is very active in our country.

This post was proofread in English by Georgi McCarthy.

October 30 2012

Africa: The Challenges of Building African Platforms

John Karanja discusses the challenges of building African platforms:

What is an African platform? What does it look like? and perhaps more importantly what does it do? Will it address a Need or a Want? What exactly will make it African? Will it work elsewhere in the World?

October 21 2012

Angola: War Remnants Become Toys

Children playing with an old abandoned tank from the Angolan Civil War in Kuito, Bi Province. Photo by Bruno Abarca copyright Demotix (11/03/2012)

Children playing with an old abandoned tank from the Angolan Civil War in Kuito, Bi Province. Photo by Bruno Abarca copyright Demotix (11/03/2012)

“Soberano” Canhanga on his blog Mesu Ma Jikuka writes a short post [pt] on children playing in old war tanks in Angola.

October 15 2012

Angola: Elinga Theatre, from Glory to Oblivion

The curtain rises for a voyage into the world of theatre and in this moment we escape reality and open the doors to a dreamworld where the unexpected becomes the backdrop. For 24 years the Elinga Theatre in Luanda opened the doors to this dream and allowed thousands of people to enter into the magic of theatre. Its opening is often confused with the birth of theatre in Angola.

Considered as one of the only spaces in Luanda dedicated to theatre, the association always remained open to the promotion and development of theatre and of the imagination. Just like other historical buildings surrounding it, the theatre is now about to disappear, letting the curtain fall definitively, to give way to modernisation.

In an article for Le Monde newspaper, the journalist Christophe Châtelot says that [pt]:

Um importante centro da cultura angolana, vai desaparecer, como tantas casas antigas do centro da capital. Os arranha-céus, esses, crescem como cogumelos e deslocam para os subúrbios, a toque de bulldozers selvagens e de bastonadas da polícia, os musseques, essas favelas angolanas sem água nem eletricidade em que se amontoa a maior parte dos 6 a 7 milhões de habitantes de Luanda.

An important centre for Angolan culture will disappear, just like so many other old houses in the centre of the capital. The skyscrapers, on the other hand, grow like fungus and move into the suburbs, accompanied by savage bulldozers and police beatings, to the ‘musseques', those Angolan favelas without water nor electricity in which the majority of Luanda's 6 to 7 million inhabitants crowd together.

Elinga Theatre, photo by Stef Meaow published on the site Buala under CC licence (BY-NC-SA)

Elinga Theatre, photo by Stef Meaow published on the site Buala under CC licence(BY-NC-SA)

The building was built in the 19th century, a ‘living' symbol of the passage of the Portuguese through Angolan lands, and was declared a historical monument by the Angolan Minister for Culture. However, in April this year this status was rescinded in order to make way for the Elipark building project, which will comprise a car park, offices and a hotel.

The threats to demolish the building which houses the theatre have given rise to negative reactions on the social networks. On his blog “Morro da Maianga”, journalist Reginaldo Silva emphasised [pt]:

Uma batalha antiga do “gangue do betão armado” que está prestes a ser ganha. Um decreto da ministra dá o dito pelo não dito ao dizer que já não há mais história naquele edifício. Acabaram-se as histórias por ali. Agora história é outra. Por este andar (…) a baixa histórica de Luanda vai desaparecer completamente dentro de 20 anos ou menos. Espero ainda estar vivo para apagar a luz e fechar a porta.

An ancient battle of the “armed gang of concrete” which is about to be won. A minister's decree goes back on its word by saying that there is no longer any history in this building. That kind of history has come to an end. Now history is something else. At this rate (…) Luanda's historical downtown area will completely disappear in 20 years or less. I hope to still be alive to turn off the light and close the door.

Photo shared on the Facebook page of the Elinga Theatre.

Photo shared on the Facebook page of the Elinga Theatre.

One of the Elinga Theatre's founders, actor Orlando Sérgio, speaking to the newspaper Público, said that [pt] “the building and the way in which it was experienced have given a unique feel to the city's downtown area, so, some day, Luanda will be just like so many other cities”.

The director and playwright José Mena Abrantes, in a note on Facebook, tells the story and trajectory of the Elinga Theatre:

O grupo Elinga-Teatro (do umbundo ‘elinga', que significa acção, iniciativa, exercício) foi criado no dia 21 de Maio de 1988. A sua existência inscreve-se, no entanto, numa linha de continuidade iniciada com o grupo Tchinganje (1975/76) e prosseguida com o Xilenga-Teatro (1977/80) e com o Grupo de Teatro da Faculdade de Medicina de Luanda (1984/87).

De comum entre todos, a presença do mesmo director artístico, a activa participação de um núcleo de actores (…) e, acima de tudo, um mesmo projecto de teatro, voltado para o resgate e promoção da cultura angolana a todos os níveis, incluindo um tratamento moderno dos seus valores tradicionais, e para a difusão de um repertório teatral universal.

De um propósito vincadamente interventivo do ponto de vista político, em que o teatro foi utilizado principalmente como instrumento de mobilização e consciencialização popular (Tchinganje), passou-se a uma etapa em que começou a ser dada ênfase a uma função expressiva mais elaborada (Xilenga e grupo de Medicina), até à fase actual, em que a pesquisa de linguagens novas e a experimentação se tornaram dominantes (Elinga).

The Elinga Theatre group (from the umbundo ‘elinga', meaning action, initiative, exercise) was created on May 21st 1988. Its existence, however, follows in a long line which began with the Tchinganje group (1975/76), succeeded by the Xilenga Theatre (1977/80) and the Theatre Group of the Luanda Faculty of Medicine (1984/87).

Common to all of these initiatives is the presence of the same artistic director, the active participation of a nucleus of actors (…) and, above all, a single theatre project, aimed at rescuing and promoting Angolan culture at all levels, including a modern treatment of its traditional values, and at spreading a universal theatrical repertoire.

From a pronouncedly proactive purpose from a political standpoint, whereby the theatre was used primarily as an instrument of popular mobilisation and awareness-raising (Tchinganje), it then moved into a phase in which the emphasis began to fall on a more elaborate expressive function (Xilenga and the Medicine group), right up to the current phase, in which the investigation of new languages and experimentation became dominant (Elinga).

Internationally recognised, the Elinga has performed plays in 8 countries including Mozambique, São Tomé, Spain and Portugal. Nothing suggested that the theatre and, as a consequence, the cultural hub where numerous events linked to art and culture are held, were to be wrapped up.

In 2009 the Theatre's members had already received an eviction order from the Provincial Housing Board, in which it was stated that the rental contract on the space had come to an end. At that time the plan to reorder the Luanda Marginal and to build a five-star hotel was still in progress.

Contained within an “old house” which always needed work, the old building and cultural heritage site of the Angolan people also had an area dedicated to art, music concerts and dance. Numerous plays were performed at the Elinga, plays which will be remembered forever, such as “The Wardrobe and the Bed”, a comedy about the mistakes made in love and friendship.

At the current time it is not known where the new home of the Elinga will be, and a farewell to the theatre's magic seems ever nearer.

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