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January 31 2014

Whistleblower Barrister Expelled for Denoucing Dictatorial Trends in Burundi

Isidore Rufyikiri, Barrister at the Bujumbura Court in Burundi has been expelled from the Bar Association for denouncing dictatorial practices by the regime in power [fr] :

J'ai osé dénoncer ce que les autres n'osent pas dénoncer, à savoir la dérive vers l'instauration d'un régime dictatorial au Burundi et la mise en place d'une milice à l'instar des Interahamwe du Rwanda

I dared to denounce what others do not dare to speak of, namely the drift towards the establishment of a dictatorial regime in Burundi and the establishment of a militia like the Interahamwe in Rwanda

According to the ministry of justice, the reason for his expulsion is that his message threatened homeland security.

November 12 2013

An Investigation into the World of Prostitution in Burundi

Cedric Soledad Urakeza from Burundi reports on his investigation into the world of  prostitution in Bujumbura [fr], published on the community blog Les voix du Burundi:     

Notre enquête montre trois catégories de prostituées. Il y a celles filles qui viennent de l’intérieur du pays pour chercher du travail domestique à Bujumbura. Lorsqu’ elles ne s’en sortent pas, elles trouvent refuge dans les différents quartiers populaires et souvent finissent sur le trottoir.
Une autre catégorie de filles est issue des familles vivant des situations familiales compliquées : divorce, pauvreté, veuvage, mésentente entre les parents et les enfants… La plupart de ces jeunes filles justifient leur comportement : payer les études, fuir la tension familiale.
Enfin, la dernière catégorie est celle de jeunes filles des familles plutôt aisées. Elles aiment faire la fête, ‘Ikirori’ comme elles disent, fréquentent de bons restaurants, mettent de beaux habits. Elle disent « profiter du moment présent » et adorent une vie de haut standing et de liberté en trompant la surveillance des parents. 

Our report shows that there are three main categories of person who engage in prostitution in Bujumbura. There are girls who come from the countryside in search of domestic work in Bujumbura. When they cannot find work, they find refuge in the more populous districts of the city and often end up on the streets.
A second group is comprised of girls who come from homes with complicated family histories: divorce, poverty, widowhood, disagreement between parents and children etc. Most of the girls state that they engage in sexual work to pay for their education or flee domestic tension.
The last category is that of girls from rather wealthy families. They like to party, ‘Ikirori’ as they call it here.  They do so to go to fancy restaurants and wear luxurious clothing. Their motto is to “enjoy the moment” and live a life of luxury and freedom while escaping parental supervision.

August 28 2013

Au Burundi, la privatisation malmène les producteurs de café qui perdent de l'argent au profit des…

Au #Burundi, la privatisation malmène les producteurs de #café qui perdent de l’argent au profit des #multinationales. Quelques coopératives parviennent à s’en sortir.

Dans le nord du Burundi, les collines des provinces de Ngozi et Kayanza sont celles où pousse le meilleur café du pays. Depuis que la privatisation de la filière a été lancée sous l’impulsion de la Banque mondiale, un bras de fer entre deux modèles économiques s’y joue. Un débat majeur pour le pays, où le café concerne directement 4 des 8 millions d’habitants et représente, avec le thé, 61% des recettes d’exportation.

http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130812-burundi-paysans-burundais-confrontes-privatisation-filiere-cafe

August 27 2013

Burundi : des descendants d'Omanais veulent être reconnu par leur pays - Burundi - RFI

Burundi : des descendants d’Omanais veulent être reconnu par leur pays - Burundi - RFI

http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130827-burundi-descendants-omanais-reclament-leur-pays-reconnaisse-apatrides?n

Une cinquantaine de ceux que les Burundais ont toujours appelées « les arabes » ont organisé un sit-in hier, lundi 26 août devant les bureaux du Haut commissariat pour les réfugiés (HCR) au Burundi, pour réclamer que leur pays d’origine, le richissime Sultanat d’Oman, leur accorde la nationalité de ce pays, ou alors qu’ils soient reconnus pour ce qu’ils sont dans les faits : des apatrides. Hommes, femmes et enfants ont manifesté silencieusement, brandissant des pancartes disant « Non à l’apatridie » ou encore : « Nous voulons rentrer chez nous à Oman ». Mais les choses ne sont pas si simples.

#burundi #minorités #oman #omanais

July 25 2013

Sifting Fact From Fiction on the French Speaking Web

A recent row between a veiled woman‘s husband and the police in Trappes, a low-income suburb of Paris, was followed by numerous erroneous posts and images [fr] posted on social media websites. The blog Les Décodeurs, which strives to sift out truth from lies on the Francophone web, was quick to counter the false information.

Fabrice Florin, the French-speaking founder of NewsTrust and TruthSquad, explains the need for fact-checking initiatives:

There is a growing amount of misinformation, particularly in this political climate [..] With an expanding universe of news options, once someone finds a source of information they like or agree with, they tend to cling to it. The reason [for fact check] is to get people thinking about what they read and hear, and from there, questioning it.

Here is a review of recent events that were reviewed extensively by fact checkers in French-speaking online media.

Row in Trappes

On July 19, 2013 in Trappes, the husband of a Caribbean woman who was wearing a niqab (face veil), allegedly tried to strangle [fr] a police officer. Following the husband's arrest, 200 people protested in front of a police station destroying property, and were eventually repelled by riot police. Images posted on social media were erroneously tagged as originating from the violence during the protests. Les Décodeurs unpacked numerous errors [fr]:

Quelques personnes, en général connues pour leur activité militante, diffusent sciemment de fausses informations. C'est le cas de cette photo, diffusée par Stéphane Journot, ancien militant UMP, actif durant la campagne de 2012

Some people, known for their political activism, knowingly share false information. As is the case with this photo, shared by Stéphane Journot, a former UMP (right wing party) activist from the 2012 campaign.

Below is the erroneous tweet and photo [fr]:

you might call this racism but..look for yourself #Trappes

The photo was in fact an old image taken in 2010 in Lyon. Les Décodeurs adds that there were many similar tweets spreading, knowingly or not, the wrong information.

Fact checking on the African continent 

African nations are well aware of the importance of fact-checking initiatives. Ushahidi, the world's first crowd-mapping platform  originated from the African continent. A project called Africa Check specifically monitors information from African leaders. Their mission statement says:

We test claims made by public figures around the continent, starting in South Africa, using journalistic skills and evidence drawn from the latest online tools, readers, public sources and experts, sorting out fact from fiction.

In Francophone Africa, the focus has been mostly on election monitoring. Election monitoring initiatives, in SenegalBurundi, are well-established.  Elections are coming up in a few Francophone nations,including Mali, Togo and Madagascar. Pen Plus Bytes has dedicated a specific platform for election monitoring in Africa called the African Elections Project (AEP). The project wrote the following report on the ongoing Togolese parliamentary elections:

About 3.3 million registered Togolese voters will cast ballots today in 7,600 polling stations to select 91 Parliamentarians out of about 1,174 contesting candidates from the ruling and opposition parties. This election has been delayed for eight months amid concerns by opposition parties that the poll won’t be transparent and fair.

Sylvio Combey in Togo has already posted images of alleged fraud from his Twitter account:

 

8:00, A ballot box is shown to be empty in #Kanyikopé (Togo) #TGinfo #TG2013 #Nukpola #Fb

In Mali, Rising Voices (a Global Voices project) grantee Fasokan has been involved with the monitoring the upcoming Presidential elections. He wrote about the training of electoral observers [fr] :

Pendant cinq jours, plusieurs thèmes ont été abordés : la loi électorale, la charte des partis politiques, les genres journalistiques (compte rendu, portrait, interview…), les règles de déontologie et éthique du journaliste, les contraintes liées à l’exercice de la profession

For five days, several topics were discussed: the electoral law, the charter for political parties, the different journalistic activities (report, biography, interviews …), the rules of conduct and ethics of a journalist, the constraints while conducting journalistic activities

Training  for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Training for Media and Elections in Mali. Photo by Fasokan published with his permission

Madagascar also awaits elections and concerns are already arising with false information posted on the web. During recent protests asking for a firm electoral calendar, a photo claiming that protesters were out in force was fact checked by Global Voices contributor Jentilisa.

Jentilisa wrote [mg]:

Fa maninona ho'aho ity sarin'ny tolon'ny 2009 na fony mbola tsy vita ny lapan'ny tanàna hita amin'ny “grue” manakaiky ny hazo avo ireo no miverimberina hanetanana ny tolonareo e? Sahala amin'ny hoe io no tao androany nefa tamin'ny 2009 ity sary ity?

Why is a photo from 2009 resurfacing again (and tagged as photo from recent events)? One can see with the crane in the background that it is clearly not a recent photo. This crane was there in 2009, wasn't it ?

The photo Jentilisa disputes is below:

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa - Public Domain

Fact checked photo of protests in Madagascar via Jentilisa – Public Domain

With the worldwide growth of the web, it is critical that fact checking project becomes more mainstream and better known as well.

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]:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOYQjegItnM

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 12 2012

October 21 2012

Burundi: Celebrating The First Democratically Elected President

Jean Marie Ngendahayo writes about [fr] the relatively unknown story of Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically elected president of Burundi after winning the 1993 election. Ngendahayo states that what stood out with Ndadaye was his willingness to reach out to all Burundians; in fact he chose an opponent, Mrs. Sylvie Kinigi as his prime minister but he was killed in a coup attempt before he could really reunite the ethnically-divided nation.

September 25 2012

Burundi: A Political Will to Provide Universal Education

The proportion of children in school increased from 59 per cent in 2005 to 96 per cent in 2011. The fact that Burundi is just emerging from war and that its schools were then often targeted makes the progress even more remarkable.

Africa Renewal Online reports that government in Burundi has put the emphasis on access to education for all children. Concerns remain about the dropout rates.

June 08 2012

The Evolution of African Social Welfare Systems

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development.

Considering the debate generated by healthcare reform in the United States and the gradual withdrawal of the French state from public-funded social action, one might think that social protection is an endangered idea. On the contrary, the right to security is an integral component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 22) and an important part of the Millenium Development Goals (MDG), as conceived by the United Nations.

For the majority of African countries, social welfare systems are still evolving. Each African government has chosen a system specific to its culture, with varying degrees of success, but all recognize the necessity of protecting at a minimum the most vulnerable populations.

An insufficient social protection system 

Assane Fall-Diop summarizes the struggles that are still needed to achieve a real social welfare system in Africa [fr]:

La protection sociale est devenue un thème obligé des débats électoraux en Afrique. En Côte d’Ivoire et en République démocratique du Congo, la Constitution ou la loi font même de l’assurance-maladie un objectif prioritaire. Cependant, l’essor de l’économie informelle et la faiblesse politique et financière des Etats handicapent les réalisations concrètes [..] En Afrique, « seulement 5 % à 10 % de la population active bénéficie d’une couverture sociale », selon l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), qui note une dégradation de la situation au cours des vingt dernières années. L’organisation souligne que « près de 80 % de la population n’a pas accès aux soins de santé de base ».

Social protection became a necessary theme of the electoral debates in Africa. In Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, either the Constitution or the law make health insurance a priority goal. However, the booming informal economy and the financial and political weaknesses of African states make it difficult to achieve real progress. In Africa, “only 5-10% of the workforce receives social security coverage,” according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), which notes that the situation has deteriorated over the last 20 years. The organization emphasizes that “close to 80% of the population does not have access to basic healthcare.”

 

End of the month pension queues. Clermont Township, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa by HelpAge on Flickr (CC-license-BY).

End of the month pension queues. Clermont Township, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa by HelpAge on Flickr (CC-license-BY).

Lambert Gbossa, deputy director of the International Labour Organization's Regional Office for Africa, explains why he thinks that social welfare is in decline all over the continent. The force of informal economy is, in his opinion, one of the principal causes [fr]:

d’abord, une poussée démographique galopante qui produisit chaque année des cohortes de primo-demandeurs d’emplois; ensuite, une crise économique grave proche de la récession qui a réduit à néant les capacités d’absorption du secteur moderne; enfin, la poussée de l’exode rural obligeant bon nombre d’individus à venir «bricoler» dans les villes. Ainsi, la population active atteint plus de 40 pour cent dans l’ensemble des pays, avec un taux d’accroissement de plus de 4,5 pour cent, légèrement supérieur à celui de la croissance démographique. Au rythme actuel d’évolution des données sur la population active et sur la population salariée, le taux d’occupation des travailleurs salariés pourrait n’être plus que 2 à 3 pour cent au maximum dans les 25 prochaines années. Comme cette population est la seule à bénéficier d’un système organisé de sécurité sociale, il y a ainsi une dégradation prévisible de la rentabilité sociale du système de couverture.

First, a runaway population boom that produces each year a cohort of first-time jobseekers; next, a severe economic crisis, verging on recession, that wiped out the modern sector’s absorptive capacity; finally, a mass rural exodus forcing many to come “mess about” in the cities. In this way, the workforce rose to over 40 percent in all countries, with a growth rate above 4.5 percent, which is slightly higher than the growth rate of the general population. At the current rate, the occupancy rate of employed workers could be more than 2 to 3 percent in the next 25 years. Since this population would be the one to benefit from an organized social security system, there is a predictable drop-off in the social benefits of such a system.

Unequal progress across the continent

Steps have been taken to mitigate this lag in the development of a social welfare system for Africa. The Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP) wants to see concrete measures to elevate and reinforce the social contract between states and their citizens. The APSP recommends [fr]:

tout programme doit être conçu à partir des structures existantes, y compris les systèmes classiques de protection sociale. En parallèle, la Plateforme insiste sur le fait que les défis de l’intégration régionale et notamment ceux liés à la portabilité des droits sociaux ne pourront être surmontés qu’à la condition que l’évaluation des réalités et opinions locales et nationales s’accompagne d’approches régionales et continentales

For the APSP, programme design must build on existing structures, including traditional social protection systems. At the same time, the Platform highlights that this attention to national and local situations and perceptions has to go hand in hand with the development of regional and continental approaches.

However, Lambert Gbossa is concerned about the danger represented by the willingness to provide a standard welfare system without considering the specificities of each region and without a participatory dialogue [fr]:

..la question de la réforme de la protection sociale dans les pays d'Afrique se pose avec acuité, elle s’est cantonnée à l'intérieur du système actuel et a rarement essayé de s'intégrer dans une politique globale. Le résultat de ce cantonnement est non seulement une marginalisation de l'immense majorité de la population mais surtout, la perpétuation d’un modèle extraverti et parfois incompris qui a fait de la protection sociale au profit du secteur formel l’essentiel et non le complément d’une problématique plus conforme aux identités. Les schémas très techniques et parfois très formels sont conçus en dehors des populations et n’ont pas été conformes au plan national de développement intégré..

…the question of reforming the social welfare system in the African countries is a good one. This question is confined within the current system and has rarely tried to insert itself into a comprehensive policy. The result of this confinement is not only the marginalization of a great majority of the population, but more importantly the perpetuation of an often misunderstood model that prioritized social protection for the formal sector over the problems in line with identities. The very technical and often extremely formal systems were conceived outside of these populations and were not part of a national plan for integrated development…

Some successful implementations   

Before Mali was shaken by the current political crisis, the country had made considerable progress with regard to social protection and healthcare coverage. This video of a project to improve the treatment of diabetes in Mali by the NGO Santé Diabète Mali, shows an example of social action with a strong impact on healthcare coverage:


Mandatory health insurance was established in Mali in 2010. This program enabled better protection for poor and marginalized populations, but did not reinforce the two other pillars of social welfare in Mali: the development of production infrastructure and the consolidation of structural adjustments. Funding remains one of the major obstacles affecting the sustainability of these social programs.

The foundation for social welfare in Burkina Faso meanwhile is currently being built. The basic principle of a social protection system rests on two essential tools: services and transfers. Olivier Louis dit Guérin defines these tools [fr]:

- Accès géographique et financier aux services essentiels : eau, assainissement, santé, alimentation, éducation, logement, épargne, assurance
- Transfert sociaux versés aux enfants, personnes âgées et personnes actives disposant d'un revenu insuffisant pour les services essentiels mentionnés précédemment.

- Services: Geographic and financial access to essential services, such as water, decontamination, health, diet, education, housing, savings, insurance
- Transfers: Welfare payments to children, seniors and working individuals who earn less than what is needed to have the essential services identified above.

In a study comparing the social welfare systems of Rwanda and Burundi, Solidarité Mondiale offers the following conclusions on social welfare in these two neighboring countries [fr]:

L’étude comparative des systèmes de protection sociale du Rwanda et du Burundi a clairement montré que le Rwanda a déjà réalisé des pas importants dans ce secteur clé qui sont aujourd’hui portés par une forte volonté politique et bénéficient d’un encadrement soutenu de la Cellule Technique d’Appui aux Mutuelles de santé au sein du Ministère de la Santé. La complémentarité fortement encouragée par les pouvoirs publics entre le système étatique de protection sociale, actuellement en pleines réformes, et les systèmes communautaires des mutuelles de santé extrêmement avancés au Rwanda, constituent un atout très important du processus de renforcement et d’extension des systèmes de protection sociale [..] Le Burundi, à la suite d’une guerre prolongée, n’a pas pu renforcer les systèmes existants de protection sociale en vue de leur extension au secteur informel et rural. Néanmoins, à certains égards, certaines initiatives privées ont fait des avancées remarquables dans ce domaine. le Burundi devraient l’inciter à privilégier des systèmes de protection sociale à forte participation populaire, s’il veut en garantir l’appropriation et la durabilité. En effet, la tentation peut être très grande de mettre rapidement en place un système de couverture universelle largement soutenue par les bailleurs de fonds externes.Le retrait de tels bailleurs peut rapidement conduire à la catastrophe comme cela a déjà été le cas pour certaines provinces du pays.

The study comparing the social protection systems of Rwanda and Burundi clearly shows that Rwanda has already made significant strides in this key sector that are today bolstered by a strong political will and that benefit from the support of the staff of the technical support unit (CTAMS—la Cellule Technique d’Appui aux Mutuelles de Santé) within the Ministry of Health. The government strongly encourages extremely sophisticated collaboration among the state system of social protection, current reforms, and the system of community-based health insurance. This collaboration is a very important trump card in the process of strengthening and extending the social protection systems […] Burundi, following a lengthy war, could not support the existing systems in order to extend them to the informal and rural sectors. Nevertheless, certain private initiatives have made remarkable advances in this field. If it wants to ensure ownership and sustainability, Burundi should encourage the prioritization of social protection systems through strong popular participation. It may be tempting to put in place a system of universal coverage, largely supported by external donors. The withdrawal of funds by such donors could quickly lead to a disaster, as has already been the case for some provinces in the country.

This post is part of our special coverage Global Development.

Featured and thumbnail image shows examination close-up in a hospital for women and children, Cote d'Ivoire, by Flickr user World Bank Photo Collection (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

March 07 2012

Africa: Interview With Africa Desk Officer at the Committee to Protect Journalists

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): First of all, who is Mohamed Keita ?

Mohammed Keita (MK): I run the Africa desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is based in New-York.

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

MK: CPJ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide since 1981. CPJ was founded by a group of eminent American journalists, including the late Walter Cronkyte and Dan Rather, to support their colleagues around the world during a period of kidnappings and murders of journalists in Lebanon and Latin America in the 1980s. CPJ cherishes its independence from any government and does not take any contributions from any state.

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): First of all, who is Mohamed Keita ?

Mohammed Keita (MK): I run the Africa desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is based in New-York.

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

MK: CPJ is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide since 1981. CPJ was founded by a group of eminent American journalists, including the late Walter Cronkyte and Dan Rather, to support their colleagues around the world during a period of kidnappings and murders of journalists in Lebanon and Latin America in the 1980s. CPJ cherishes its independence from any government and does not take any contributions from any state.

Logo of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Image source: http://cpj.org/.

AB: What are the African countries where freedom of expression is most at risk?

MK: Eritrea: President Isaias Afewerki brutally closed down the independent press in this Red Sea nation in a September 2001 crackdown on dissent. Since then, Isaias' information minister Al Abdu runs and directs the propaganda machine of the state-controlled press. The government directs journalists what and how to report on. It is the African country whose prisons are holding the largest number of journalists (at least 28). All the journalists are held in secret prisons without charge or trial and without contact with their families, with many of them thought to have died in custody. Only Iran is imprisoning more journalists worldwide.

Ethiopia: In February 2011, Ethiopian police threatened to throw into prison dissident blogger Eskinder Nega if he did not stop comparing the Arab Spring uprisings to Ethiopia’s 2005 pro-democracy protests. Eskinder was arrested 9 months later on terrorism charges and faces a possible life sentence in a politicized case based on his critical online writings. Ethiopia operates sub-saharan Africa’s most extensive snd sophisticated Internet censorship infrasctructure and was ranked among CPJ’s top 10 Online Oppressors.

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is trailing only Eritrea in imprisonment of journalists. Almost all the journalists, including two Swedish reporters, have been charged with terrorism for reporting on opposition and rebel groups. With a series of restrictive laws, Meles' ruling EPRDF has tightned absolute grip over media licensing and regulation, the public state media and all public institutions. The independent press is limited to a handful of private newspapers and one radio station. The government also jams radio programs from Voice of America and Deutsche Welle and bans journalists’ access to the Ogaden where a rebellion is taking place. Meles' government has driven into exile the largest number of journalists in the world over the last decade.

Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh's years of intimidation of the press, a series of arson attacks on media houses, the closure of newspapers and radio stations, the unsolved murder of Deyda Hydara and the disappearance in government custody of reporter Ebrima Chief Manneh, have created a climate of terror for journalists in Gambia and forced the best journalists into exile.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe arrested and prosecuted a man last year for posting a political comment on Facebook. President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF has allowed only a handful of independent newspapers to operate in Zimbabwe while retaining absolute grip over media licensing and regulation and national airwaves. Journalists operate under some of the world's most restrictive security and media laws.

Equatorial Guinea: President Teodoro Obiang's grip on the oil-rich nation is based on strict control of news and information. The president and his associates control all the media outlets in the country and no journalist is able to report independently about national priorities or spending or corruption.

Rwanda: Paul Kagame justifies restrictions on the press by invoking Radio Milles Collines, which in fact was a government-sponsored radio station, not an independent station. Kagame's government also abuses laws against “genocide ideology” and “ethnic divisionism” to prosecute and jail critical journalists and opinions contradicting the official version of the 1994 genocide.

Somalia: all belligerents in Somalia's conflict target journalists who are caught in the crossfire between rival militias, warlords, government and insurgents. Somalia is the deadliest country for the press in Africa: at least 40 journalists have been killed since 1992.

South Africa: President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress has faced press criticism over its record on corruption, crime and poverty. To silence the critics, the government has introduced a series of legislative proposals that would criminalize investigative journalists, including the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, which critics have called the secrecy bill. Verbal and physical intimidation of journalists, particularly by the ANC’s youth league is on the rise.

Angola: President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and his associates of the ruling MPLA control most of Angola's media outlets and enforce censorship of news and information. only 2 newspapers and 2 radio stations were not controlled by the government. Journalists reporting about official corruption are prosecuted and given prison sentences. Security forces attacked and intimidated journalists reporting on anti-government protests by youths calling for Dos Santos to step down.

Angola and Cameroon have introduced legislative measures to combat “internet crime” but the laws punish the electronic dissemination of photos and videos of public events with prison terms.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Journalists operate at the mercy of security forces, rebel groups and powerful politicians who abuse journalists in total impunity. at least 8 journalists have been murdered since 2005 with justice falling short of solving the murders.

Ethiopia's dissident blogger Eskinder Nega. Photo courtesy of Lennart Kjörling.

AB: Bloggers from North Africa have contributed significantly to the success of revolts in the countries of North Africa. Is it conceivable that in sub-Saharan Africa bloggers play a similar role?

MK: Social media tools have become platforms for the kind of dissent that is repressed offline and they are used to organize protests offline. Some governments, such as Ethiopia, Angola, and Cameroon, are beginning to crack down on this use of the Internet, by passing laws against “cyber crime” or intimidating bloggers. In addition, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube users who are posting photos and videos from the streets using their cell phones are breaking some of the biggest news in Africa these days, and traditional media is trying to keep up with them.

AB: In Mozambique, in 2008 and 2010, well before the revolutions in the Arab world, the civil society was able to organize a demonstration against the rising cost of living using SMS. In Ghana, in 2010, citizens participated massively in constitutional review by using Facebook and mobile phones. Should these examples be regarded as exceptional cases or other similar events may occur elsewhere?

MK: Social media in the hands of young citizen journalists is fueling protest movements in Angola, Nigeria and Senegal.

The cover of CPJ

AB: What role do you attribute to social media in Africa and what are the obstacles?

MK: They have democratized news and information - making it more difficult for governments and the enemies of press freedom to keep a nation into the dark. it has created a virtual bridge between Africans in the Diaspora and those in the home countries. but the users are still largely unprepared to the dangers lurking online. Zimbabwe arrested and prosecuted a man last year for posting a political comment on Facebook. and many governments regularly demand email passwords of journalists in custody. Data security is the next challenge for journalists as more of them start to mostly work online.

AB: What can we expect from the African Union?

MK: The AU has a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression but she works only part time and lacks the resource to do her job. AU member states still lack the political will to respect press freedom and protect journalists. Regional human rights instruments like the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) give us hope. The court issued landmark rulings against the Gambia on cases of disappearance and torture of journalists, but the problem is enforcement.

AB: The year 2011 was difficult for the press freedom in Africa, how do you see the year 2012?

MK: Each new year brings new challenges in this battle to keep the press free. The secrecy bill in South Africa has to be defeated, because South Africa is a model of democracy and free press for the continent, and this bill threatens to undo 18 years of progress since the end of Apartheid. South Sudan, the world's newest nation, is already abusing press freedom, this is also worrying. Ethiopia and Burundi's abuse of terrorism laws to prosecute and jail critical journalists is a disturbing new trend that has to be stopped. Press freedom is on the brink of extinction in Ethiopia, Angola, Gambia and Rwanda. Niger is probably the best example of a country where press freedom has advanced.

You can follow Mohamed Keita on Twitter @africamedia_CPJ and also read his articles on CPJ blog.

 

January 17 2012

Black Women in European Politics: from Struggle to Success

Nowadays, it is a common occcurence to witness African-born women having successful careers in Europe. Despite the evident challenges, many of them have also distiguished themselves in politics. Still, it was not so long ago that such success would have seemed impossible. To achieve greatness, these women have often come a long way, both literally and figuratively.

In order to better appreciate the progress made, one needs to think back to the 19th century and consider the image of black women in Europe then. For the purpose of this article, we will only address the story of women from the African diaspora who have been elected to positions of leadership in countries other than the colonial powers that previously ruled their home countries.

A history of racism

Postcard depicting Sarah Baartman, Wikipedia (public domain)

The story of the “Hottentot Venus” is symptomatic of the relationship between the West and African women in the last two centuries. Sébastien Hervieu, an Africa correspondent for Le Monde newspaper in France, tells the story of Sarah Baartman from South Africa, better known as the “Hottentot Venus”. In an article published in October 2010 in his blog afriquedusud.blog.lemonde.fr, he reviews [fr] Abdellatif Kechiche's [fr] film about her tragic story, Black Venus:

Au début du XIXème siècle, cette servante est emmenée en Europe et devient un objet de foire en raison de ses attributs physiques proéminents. Certains “scientifiques” utilisent sa présence pour théoriser l'infériorité de la “race noire”. Lorsqu'elle meurt à seulement 25 ans, ses organes génitaux et son cerveau sont placés dans des bocaux de formol, et son squelette et le moulage de son corps sont exposés au musée de l'Homme à Paris. C'est seulement en 2002 que la France accepte de rendre la dépouille de Saartjie Baartman à l'Afrique du Sud, concluant ainsi un long imbroglio juridique et diplomatique

At the beginning of the 19th century, this servant was brought to Europe and became a fairground attraction because of her prominent physical attributes. Some “scientists” used her presence to support the theory that the “black race” was inferior. When she died at only 25, her genitals and her brain were placed in jars of formaldehyde. Her skeleton and a molding of her body were exhibited at the Museum of Man in Paris. It was only in 2002 that France agreed to return Sarah Baartman's remains to South Africa, thereby drawing to a close a long running legal and diplomatic imbroglio [fr].

Sarah Baartman died in Paris on 29th September 1815. More than 100 years later, the Khoïkhoï people in South Africa called on Nelson Mandela to demand the restitution of Sarah's remains. The demand was met with the refusal of the French authorities and the scientific community citing the inalienable heritage of science and the state, but France eventually repatriated the body to South Africa where, in accordance with the rites of her people, it was purified and placed on a bed of dried herbs which were set alight.

Norway

Two centuries later, the position of black women in Europe has drastically changed. Amongst others, many have now been elected to political office.

Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen on Wikipedia (Norway) (CC-BY 3.0)

Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen in Norway is one of these women, and one of the most interesting because she shows the contradictions that still exist within some countries. She had to step down from a ministerial post in the Norwegian government just four months into her job. An article on Grioo.com sets out her career [fr]:

Originaire de l’Ile de la Martinique, à 44 ans, Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen a obtenu son poste de ministre de l’Enfance et de la Parité au sein du gouvernement de centre-gauche norvégien le 18 octobre 2007[…] Elle est mariée avec Terje Osmundsen, un homme politique membre du parti conservateur norvégien. Après son mariage, elle a pris la nationalité norvégienne et renoncé à celle de la France. Le pays n’autorisant pas la double nationalité.

Born in Martinique, 44 year old Manuela Ramin-Osmundsen gained her post as Minster for Children and Equality in the centre-left Norwegian government on 18th October 2007 […] She is married to Terje Osmundsen, a politician and member of the Norwegian conservative party. After their marriage she took Norwegian nationality and renounced her French nationality as the country does not allow dual nationality.

In an interview with Patrick Karam from the website fxgpariscaraibe.com in 2008 she explains [fr] some of the things that played in her favour in being appointed and why she stepped down following a controversy over an alleged conflict of interest in the hiring of a political appointee:

En Norvège, il y a obligation de représentation des deux sexes dans les conseils d’administration, 40 % de femmes au minimum. Nous menons aussi une politique pour inciter les hommes à prendre plus de responsabilité dans le foyer pour laisser les femmes entreprendre professionnellement. J’ai travaillé aussi sur l’enfance en danger, les violences, les maltraitances… J’ai travaillé quatre mois sans être critiquée, c’était une expérience réussie. Les critiques sont venues avec la nomination d’une médiatrice. Avec du recul, tout le monde voit que c’est une bagatelle. J’ai cédé au pouvoir de la presse.

In Norway there must be parity of representation between the two sexes within the administrative councils, with a minimum of 40% women. We are also pursuing a policy which encourages men to take more responsibilty at home, leaving women able to pursue a career. I also worked on child endangerment, violence, abuse… I worked for four months without criticism and it was a real success. The criticism began with the appointment of an ombudsman for children. In hindsight everyone can see it was something being made out of nothing. I gave in to the power of the media.

Sweden

Nyamko sabuni

Nyamko Sabuni, Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA)

Nyamko Sabuni [fr] is a former minister in Sweden, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Born in Burundi in 1969, her father fled the country due to persecution. She was elected to the Riksday as a member of the parliament in 2002, and at 37 years old became a Swedish goverment minister from 2006 to 2010. An article published on congopage.com sets out [fr] her progress.

En 1981, à l’âge de 12 ans, elle est arrivée en Suède avec sa mère et trois de ses cinq frères et sœurs. Là, elle a retrouvé son père, un opposant politique plusieurs fois emprisonné au Congo (actuellement République démocratique du Congo), venu dans le pays nordique grâce à Amnesty International.

In 1981, at the age of 12, she arrived in Sweden with her mother and three of her brothers and sisters. There she was reunited with her father, an opposition politician imprisoned several times in Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), who had come to the Nordic country with the help of Amnesty International.

The Netherlands

Ayaan hirsi ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wikipedia (public domain)

The Hirsiali blog presents a profile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Née en Somalie en 1969, excisée à l’âge de 5 ans, Ayaan Hirsi Ali est scolarisée dans un lycée musulman pour filles. Soumise à ses parents, à son clan et à sa religion jusqu’à l’âge de vingt-trois ans, elle profite d’un passage dans sa famille en Allemagne, pour s’enfuir et échapper à un mariage forcé. Réfugiée aux Pays-Bas, elle adopte les valeurs libérales occidentales au point de devenir une jeune députée à La Haye et de s’affirmer athée. Pour avoir travaillé dans les services sociaux du royaume, elle connaît, de l’intérieur, les horreurs tolérées à l’encontre des femmes au nom du multiculturalisme.

Born in Somalia in 1969 and circumcised at the age of 5, Ayaan Hirsi Ali went to a Muslim girls school. Subjugated by her parents, her clan and her religion up to the age of 23, she took advantage of a trip to visit family in Germany to flee and escape a forced marriage. Taking refuge in Holland, she adopted Western liberal values to the extent that she became a young member of parliament in The Hague and declared herself to be an athiest. After having worked in the country's social services she knows, at first hand, the horrors tolerated against women in the name of multiculturalism.

A fierce apponent of some of the aspects of Islam and African traditions that go against basic human rights, she founded an NGO whose aims are set out, on her website Ayaan Hirsiali in the following terms:

In response to ongoing abuses of women’s rights, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her supporters established the AHA Foundation in 2007 to help protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture.

Italy

The first black person to be elected to the Italian parliament is Mercedes Lourdes Frias from the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean. This is how she is described [en] on the blogging site Black Women in Europe:

Mercedes Lourdes Frias was born in the Dominican Republic. She was the first black person elected to the Italian Parliament in 2006 where she served through April 2008. She was a member of the Commission on Constitutional Affairs and the Parliamentary Committee on the Implementation of the Control of Schengen Agreement, and the Control and Surveillance on Immigration. She works on anti-racist activities and welcoming immigrants. From 1994 1997 she was a member of the Council of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy. In the town of Empoli Ms Frias served a councilor for the environment, rights of citizenship, equal opportunities.

The most surprising of the black women to have been elected via universal sufferage or appointed to positions of elevated responsibility in European countries is Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane, elected in 2009 on a Northern League ticket; the most racist and xenophobic of Italy's political parties. One of the party's objectives is the secessoin of some of the northern part the Italian peninsula (though the boundary is not clearly undefined) because the party leaders do not like Southern Italians.

The blog stranieriinitalia.it (foreigners in Italy) gives a brief outline of her career [it]:

Il primo sindaco di colore in Italia ha la camicia verde. Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane si è aggiudicata con appena 38 voti di scarto la fascia tricolore a Viggiù, cinquemila anime in Valceresio, tra Varesotto e Canton Ticino. Alle sue spalle, una lunga storia di migrazioni. Di Viggiù era originaria la famiglia materna del neosindaco, scalpellini emigrati in Francia, dove durante la seconda guerra mondiale arrivò il padre, un soldato statunitense afroamericano. Il neo sindaco è nata a Springfield, nel Massachussets, nel 1961, ma a dieci anni, dopo la separazione dei genitori, ha seguito la madre nel paesino d’origine.

Italy's first coloured mayor wears a green shirt [the colour worn by Northern League supporters]. Sandra Maria (Sandy) Cane won the tricolour scarf of the Mayor of Viggiù, a town of five thousand inhabitants in the Valceresio region, between the town of Varèse and the Canton of Tessin, with a margin on only 38 votes.
A past with a long history of migration. The new mayor's family on her mother's side were stone masons, originally from Viggiù, who migrated to France. During the Second World War, her father, an African-American soldier from the United States arrived in France. The new Mayor was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1961, but ten years after the separation of her parents she followed her mother back to her home village.

This, according to the blog associazioneumoja.wordpress.com, is how she found herself [it] in politics, with a rather unlikely ideological platform:

Della Lega sono sempre stata sostenitrice, anche se mai vera militante. Quando ero ragazza morivo dal ridere a vedere i loro manifesti, curiosi e di forte impatto. Poi quindici anni fa, più o meno, mi sono avvicinata di più. […] Vedo come «molto americana» anche la Lega, per la richiesta di rispettare rigorosamente la legge, anche per i clandestini. Anche se a Viggiù, precisa, non ci sono problemi di integrazione, nè tantomeno di sicurezza. Tra le priorità, guarda al rilancio turistico del paese, con manifestazioni e attenzione alla cultura.

I have always supported the Northern League without ever being very active. When I was a little girl their posters used to make me laugh, they were curious and had a big impact. Then, around fifteen years ago I became a little more involved. […] I see it as being “very American”, even the Northern League, because they insist on a rigorous respect for the law, even for illegal immigrants. Even so, she points out that there are no problems of integration and still yet security in Viggiù. One of her priorities is to reignite tourism in the area, with events and a focus on culture.

Despite the marked progress in the inclusion of African women in European politics, they represent isolated cases as, beyond the difficulties they face due to racism or culture and religion, even within their own families and their own societies, they also have to face up to the challenges that all women across the world face [fr]: domestic violence, the challenge of bearing children, marginalisation and under-representation.

October 16 2011

Worldwide: Dialogue and Peace through Sport

Joël Bouzou [fr], a bronze medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games and modern pentathlon World Champion in 1987 from France, is the founder and president of Peace and Sport, a global initiative created in 2007 whose objective is building sustainable peace through sport.

Burundi : le centre sportif Peace & Sport de Gihanga  - Photo Peace and Sport

Burundi: Peace & Sport sport center in Gihanga - Image from website Peace and Sport

In countries where Peace and Sport operates, the organization supports local actors and heps them design and implement programs for vulnerable youth, while strengthening existing sports facilities damaged during armed conflicts.

In Burundi, for instance, Peace and Sport is funding the renovation of sports facilities, equipment and training for coaches. Since 2008, 300 out-of-school children in Gihanga, war orphans and children living in the streets nearby, have been receiving training in football, athletics, karate, modern biathlon, judo, volleyball, basketball and tennis. Community events are organized to foster reconciliation, education as well as the promotion of peace.

Pascal, a 16-year old former refugee and would-be football player from the Gihanga Center, is quoted [fr] on Peace and Sport's Burundi page:

“Sport clears my mind. When I play football, I expend a lot of energy: suddenly, I no longer think about the death of my relatives, it removes dark thoughts from my mind. It soothes me. In addition, through football, I can communicate better with other children. I am learning how to guide them, not necessarily by giving them orders. I like that.”

Peace and Sport worked in Côte d’Ivoire, even during the period of political turmoil and ethnic strife in early 2011, and continues to do so in Bouake, Abidjan (Marcory), Daloa, Man and Yamoussoukro. The organization supports local NGOs and reaches nearly 600 children through social, education and social inclusiveness programs (literacy, health, civic education).

Global Voices spoke to Joël Bouzou about his work.

GV: Joël Bouzou, why did you create Peace and Sport?

Joël Bouzou with Nelson Mandela - Image from Peace & Sport website

Joël Bouzou: I created Peace and Sport in 2007 because, as an Olympic medalist, I am particularly attuned to the power of sport to create unity across political, social, ethnic or religious divides, which are often the core reasons for conflicts on the planet .

In which countries do you operate?

JB: We have supported or coordinated the implementation of programs in seven countries: Côte d'Ivoire, Burundi, Timor LesteColombiaHaïtiIsraël-Palestine and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

GV: To what extent do you think you have contributed to peace?

JB: To me, peace is not just a state of “no war”; peace has to be taught, learned and transmitted. Sport is a recognized educational tool. It is easy to implement, even when infrastructure is lacking. Sport, taught in a structured maner, helps vulnerable children regain a personal balance and to set goals and standards for themselves. They reacquire the wish to improve and to succeed.  They rediscover the path to solidarity, tolerance and a sense of solidarity. They learn how to communicate, to overcome their prejudices and to engage in dialogue.

Peace and Sport, whose patron is Prince Albert II of Monaco, has also created Champions for Peace, an initiative that brings together 56 world level athletes. It grants awards to grassroot organizations or sports events, such as Skateistan, a  skateboarding teaching initiative for both girls and boys in Afghanistan.

On September 21, on the occasion of  World Peace Day, the Peace and Sport youth centers organized a special event, an Open Door day, to promote the values of sport.

September 08 2011

Burundi: The Challenges of Making a Living from Farming

Lwesso writes [fr] :” It is difficult nowadays to find people who can make a living from farming in Burundi. Farmers often lack the necessary capital to run their businesses and end up putting their lands up for lease.”

June 21 2011

Africa: LGBTI Rights in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi

Learn about LGBTI rights in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi from a paper written by Naome Ruzindana. Naome is a feminist and founding member of the Coalition of African Lesbians.

June 18 2011

Au Rwanda comme au Burundi, l'argument ethnique ne fait plus recette

Le Haut Commissariat aux droits de l'homme de l'ONU a publié, le 1er octobre, un rapport accablant pour le Rwanda sur les crimes commis en République démocratique du Congo de 1993 à 2003. La politique sécuritaire du président Paul Kagamé semble inspirer le Burundi voisin. / Burundi, Rwanda, Conflit, (...) / Burundi, Rwanda, Conflit, Génocide, Droits des minorités, Parti politique, Politique - 2010/12

June 14 2011

India Close Behind China in the African Continent

In May, the second India and Africa Summit was held at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This Summit should lead to the adoption of two documents: the Declaration of Addis Ababa and the Cooperation Plan between India and Africa (which can be found on the official website of the African Union [all links in French unless otherwise indicated].

The Summit has inspired comments from Francophone African bloggers on the competing influences of China and India in Africa. It has also inspired TheLeadersOfTheWorld to post this short satirical video on YouTube:

Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Image by Agência Brasil, Creative Commons (2.5 Brazil).

Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Image by Agência Brasil, Creative Commons (2.5 Brazil).

Blog journaldutchad.com gave the key statistics of the Summit:

India will therefore break its piggybank and cash meters are already going crazy  with a list of loans totalling 2400 billion CFA francs (5 billion USD) for the African continent over the next three years. Moreover, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who shares the same vision for the continent, intends to grant a subsidy of 336 billion CFA francs (700 million USD) in grants to Africa.’

Patrice Garner on afrique7.com gives further details on the new projects:

Acts speaking louder than words, and in line with this new partnership, an Institute of information technology will be built in Ghana, another Institute for educational planning in Burundi, an Institute of foreign trade in Uganda and a diamond institute in Botswana.

Indian investments are already visible in the daily life of Africans, reminds Assanatou Baldé on Afrik.com:

One of the most important investor  is the Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel, which has disbursed $ 10 billion to access the mobile telephony industry in 15 African countries. Indian car maker Tata trades  in 11 countries on the continent and has the monopoly of public transportation in Uganda and in the district of  Thiès, in Senegal.

 

A Tata minvan in Africa. Image by Robin Elaine on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A Tata minvan in Africa. Image by Robin Elaine on Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A debate has opened on the platform Flamme d'Afrique, les autres voix de l’Afrique (Flame of Africa, other African voices) opened by the Panos Institute website, where Ousseini Issa compares the Chinese and Indian approaches in Africa:

The way Delhi manages trade and cooperation with Africa differs from the Chinese way, with a swoop on mainly private local companies, but bought with subsidies from the Indian state, via a merger and acquisition strategy, whereas China favors direct trade with governments. But India also has this feature:  that it tries to develop approaches inclusive of the regional economic institutions such as ECOWAS and SADC. […] the issue is, for many, the prospect of the continent building different relationships from those marking its exploitation for centuries, under  the north-south axis.

Commenter NIBIZI hopes this partnership will herald a new era:

With this new partnership, African leaders should learn a lesson and break away from  the corrupt ways that have plagued the continent. The culture of human rights must come first,  if we want to make the most of the dividends, which will put an end to wars, and the internal power struggles which have prevented Africa from making a good start.

karl is more pragmatic, both confident and worried, wary of a possible ” land grab” [en]:

This summit should be an opportunity for Africa to negotiate ways to collaborate to solve the critical energy issue. But it should also put an end to the lease and sale of African land, while farmers are struggling to access them to help achieve food self-sufficiency and to satisfy their right to housing

On the Radio France International website, an article on the Addis Abeba Summit has also generated comments from readers. They are much more vocal in rejecting “L'indépendance sous haute surveillance” (Independence under strict surveillance, lyrics from a song by African singer Alpha Blondy), which is to say, the post-colonial cooperation model imposed by France.

Kamerun:

With India and China arriving on the African continent, we are very proud, because it will help us shoe away the imperialist thieves who have been looting the continent since 1960. […]

Anonymous:

[…] I don't see (President of Ivory Coast) Ouattara grant juicy markets to Indians or Chineses and deprive France of them any time soon. Unless he does not wish to stay long in power.

Ma belle Afrique:
The Indian cooperation approach with Africa est more altruit that the one privileged by France under Mr. Sarkozy. From now on, Africans must turn their back to countries which impose governance at gun point.
RéaPar:

These forms of cooperation, where Africa's natural resources are coveted by many (Europe and the BRIC countries) cannot be a sustainable solution for the development of this continent. Cooperation must be built around a long term vision that will allow African to  sell some day Tata cars to India, China or France (ok, I'm caricature there). This involves training young people, democracy, and long term ambitious economic policies the outstretched hand (begging) of this continent.

The Addis Ababa summit was also an opportunity for a percussionists band from Rufisque, a city southeast of Dakar, to bring a touch of West African culture in Ethiopia. On rufisquenews.com, Cherif FAYE announced they had been invited to perfom in Ethiopia by the Embassy of India in Senegal:

The “Kër Gi” band from Bargny [should] perform a concert called “Guur Nduuy” which means “léboue tradition”. The “Guur Nduuy” show trace some aspects of the rich immaterial heritage of the léboue community.

May 22 2011

Technology for Transparency: Final Report

The Technology for Transparency Network is proud to announce the release of its final report, Global mapping of technology for transparency and accountability.

The report is being published by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (@TAInitiative) along with a over a dozen other reports on the global transparency movement. The reports focus on three key research areas: Impact and Learning, New Technologies, and Policy Innovations.

Many thanks go to the Transparency and Accountability Initiative for supporting our work, to our amazing team of researchers, and to David Sasaki, who launched and directed the initial phase of the Technology for Transparency Network, which laid the groundwork for this report.

Get the report

Executive Summary

This report contains the key findings from having reviewed more than 100 projects and having interviewed dozens of practitioners in Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Sub-Saharan Africa who use new technologies as a means to increase transparency and accountability. This summary helps to ‘take the pulse‘ of the Technology for Transparency and Accountability movement and suggests both exciting possibilities for scaling impact as well as important caveats and challenges.

For practitioners in the transparency and accountability space, it is useful to frame the potential for leveraging technology towards transparency and accountability initiatives in at least four ways:

  • Bringing projects and interventions to scale.
  • Bringing citizens closer to the policymaking process through new and improved channels of participation as well as citizen monitoring of government.
  • Identifying policy priorities and service delivery challenges through ‘data mashing‘ and other visualisation and data manipulation techniques of both government and private datasets.
  • Improving the efficiency of civil society organisations working in the transparency and accountability space through adoption of best practice technology platforms.

Additional Findings

The majority of projects we studied focus on the executive or legislative branches of government.  A smaller number of projects focus on the judicial branch, the media, the private sector, and donors.

Nearly half of the projects focus on monitoring elections.  While many of these use Ushahidi, some have developed their own approaches, including aggregating elections news from multiple sources on a single site and tracking official election monitors’ reports on Google Maps.

Projects in multiple regions focus on transparency in the legislature, often tracking legislative bills and posting profiles for each representative that include biographies and voting records. Some also include profiles of political parties or records of legislative spending.

Data visualization and navigation tools are a key feature in more than half of the projects we documented, as are diverse forms of data collection from citizens. Approximately one third of the projects use mobile phones in some way, most commonly by allowing citizens to submit or receive information via text messages.

What's next?

The Technology for Transparency Network website will remain open as a place where we can share projects, tools, and ideas, as a meeting point for successful initiatives and those who want to learn from the work others have done. You can subscribe to our mailing list, read or contribute with specialized articles on Global Voices Online, and follow us on Twitter (@techtransparent) and Facebook. This field is just beginning to emerge, and we look forward to helping nurture global efforts through collaboration and communication across borders.

January 28 2011

Burundi: Nation-wide forum on media and ICT next month

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Burundi plans to hold nationwide talks on the press and the new information and communication technology next month: “Its objective would be to look into the big challenges of material, financial, legal and administrative challenges facing media professionals in the country.”

December 26 2010

Tragedy bookends Year 2010 for Francophone Citizen Media

By Lova

It appears that tragedy will bookend yet another year rich in remarkable events in the world of  French-speaking citizen media.

The month of January set the tone for the rest of the year with the traumatic fallout from the earthquake in Haiti, the  attacks against the Togolese football team at the African Cup of nations in Cabinda and the firing of tear gas against protesters in Madagascar.  The end of the year did not provide much respite from violence as the ongoing political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire has already claimed close to 173 lives and social tension sparks riots in Tunisia.

The year 2010 was also marked by the 50th anniversary of the independence of  many African countries, highlighted by a controversial military parade at the Champs-Elysees in Paris and the hosting of Young African Leaders Symposium by US president Obama.  Throughout the year, citizen media in Francophone countries was once more at the forefront of information dissemination and often found itself under duress for exercising their right to free speech.

An Ominous Start


The earthquake took everyone by surprise but despite the frequent interruptions of phone services and generally poor access to internet, Haitian citizen media responded to the challenges and provided frequent updates and a much needed on the ground perspectives regarding the recovery effort.

In the midst of the tragedy, a francophone “show of solidarity” was discussed at length when Senegal's president Wade offered free land to Haitians earthquake survivors. The offer was met with a mix of skepticism and support by Senegalese, Haitian and citizen media worldwide.

On February 18th, a coup took place in Niger in which President Mamadou Tandja was captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey, led by led by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna.  The general sentiment of the Nigerien citizen media seemed to go from “blasé” to “good riddance”.

The financial crisis also affected the African continent; African bloggers reacted to the apparent differential treatment from the IMF when it comes to helping countries like Greece compared to some African nations.

From financial to natural crises, The northern and western African regions were plagued by prolonged period of rains and severe floods. Morocco, Mauritania, Benin, Nigeria and Togo were amongst the most affected by floods with initial reports often provided by citizen media.

The security and stability of the west African region was also on the mind of bloggers when AQIM made headlines repeatedly by taking hostages  in Mali and killing Michel Germaneau in July and again capturing several employees of AREVA hostages in Niger later that year.

AQIM Area via Orthuberra on Wikimedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Celebrating Independence in Francophone Africa

Despite the weary start, the year 2010 was also supposed to be a celebration of 50 years of independence and a critical election year for many African nations. Yet given the delayed human development progress, questionable governance and mismanagement of natural resources, many African bloggers wonder whether there is really a cause for celebration in Africa so far.

Yet the celebrations went on, sometimes quite lavishly as seen in Brazzaville, Congo.

None of these celebrations caused quite the stir that the military parade of African soldiers on Bastille Day at the invitation of French president Sarkozy provoked. With the growing exposure of the corrupt nature of “La Françafrique“,  refering to the relationship between some African leaders and French lobbying groups, many observers pointed out that the presence of African armies at the Champ-Elysees was condescending and awkward at best, not unlike Sarkozy's Dakar speech. [Another speech by the French president in Grenoble this summer about delinquents of foreign origins and the forced expulsions  of Roma people also provoked intense reactions in the francophone blogosphere.]

A  different approach was taken by the US administration in marking the multiple independence anniversaries in Africa. In early august 2010,  US President Obama held a three-days symposium for Young African Leaders to exchange ideas on how to foster development, human rights and democracy.  The emphasis on the youth of Africa was in clear contrast with the presence of the old guards of African leaders showcased on Bastille Day.

Hoping for Transparency

Year 2010 was also supposed to be the year when some African nations would make important strides towards free and transparent elections.

That hope quickly faded away.

The electoral process in Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar and Rwanda were all at some point subject to major question marks, marred with missed deadlines, suspicions of massive fraud and acts of violence.

Yet one has the feeling that citizens in those countries are eager to move forward and prove that mediocre leadership cannot hold countries back forever. The rise of a burgeoning civil society and local citizen media provide hope that progress are being made, often in spite of proper governance.

Théophile Kouamouo and Saint-Clavier Oula

The impact of online citizen media has become evident enough that authoritarian African governments have taken major steps towards increasing censorship of digital media. Ivorian bloggers and journalists were arrested in July for publishing documents on corruption in cocoa and coffee trade.  Since the Ivorian political crisis broke out in December, many bloggers and twitter users have withdrawn from their online activities and are no longer posting updates on the situation because of personal threats.

In Madagascar, a slew of journalists and political opponents were arrested for alleged threats against national security and voicing their dissents online.  Steps towards more control of online  content in Madagascar are also being taken,  highlighted by a proposal that all Malagasy digital content are to be be managed by a single private provider (fr).

It is yet to be seen whether this year's lessons from some African nations' electoral hardships  will be learned by their neighbors. Senegal and Cameroon among others will face important electoral deadlines  in 2011. Cameroonian bloggers do not appear overly optimistic about the upcoming elections. As for Senegal, local citizen media has already been quite vocal  about  perceived nepotism and corruption inside the current administration.

It would be a refreshing sight in 2011  if the streak of dubious electoral results and post-electoral violence were to be halted for a change. African leaders owe that much to their resilient population.

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