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February 14 2014

“Another Face of Africa”: Call for Photos, Stories

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A group of young volunteers from southern Germany, many of whom have lived in Africa, are calling for photos, essays, videos, blog posts or poems by locals of five major African cities: Lagos, Addis Ababa, Gaborone, Kigali and Kinshasa.

With a forthcoming exhibition called “Sichtwechsel,” their goal is to show another face of Africa than what typically appears in German media — modern, urban, rapidly developing societies.

See their website at Missing-Images.com in English, French and German. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2014.

January 30 2014

Château-Rouge: A Promiment African Food Market in Paris

Market in Chateau-Rouge, Paris by Zanbard on Flickr via CC-BY-NC

Market in Chateau-Rouge, Paris by Zanbard on Flickr via CC-BY-NC

In order to find ingredients for African cuisine in Paris, the go-to place is still the Château-Rouge area located in the 18th District, specifically in the Rue Dejean street market [fr] that operates every day except Monday. The African Expatriate explains why the market is such a draw for many shoppers :

Visiting this predominantly African neighborhood in Paris, is like stepping right into Congo Market in Freetown, Serrekunda Market in Banjul, Sandaga Market in Dakar, Adjame Market in Abidjan. Your eyes will instantly take in the colorful array of fresh food produces lined haphazardly along the streets [..] all in all you would love it, for it would surely transport you back to a typical market day in Africa.

Metro Politics points out that gentrification has had an impact on the local market:

The extraordinary density of business activities in the neighbourhood masks large-scale daily mobility flows that connect it to other residential and commercial spaces, and which extend beyond the metropolitan area.   67% [of surveyed shoppers] said they did not live in the neighbourhood. These non-residents share certain characteristics: over 70% of them were born outside mainland France, of which half in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

January 17 2014

Remembering Congolese Leader Patrice Lumumba's Struggle Against Colonialism

Patrice Émery Lumumba was a Congolese independence leader and the first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was killed 53 years ago on January 17, 1961 under circumstances that still remain unclear.

Lumumba, an iconic figure of the struggle against colonialism in Africa, was removed from power because he opposed the Belgian-backed secession of the mineral-rich Katanga province. His successor, Joseph-Desiré Mobutu, along with Mobutu's squad arrested Lumumba and executed him shortly after. His death was the culmination of a period of political turmoil in the country known as the Congo Crisis.

Congolese citizens the world over paid tribute to his uncompromising leadership on the anniversary of his death: 

53 years ago, Patrice Lumumba and his two companions were killed. Cc @Survie @Billetsdafrique

They cut his body to pieces and then they dumped it into an acid tank. 53 years later, they still cannot deal with their act.

His last letter to wife Pauline before he died was widely shared online. Community blog Quartier Libres republished the letter, in which Lumumba wrote:

Que mort, vivant, libre ou en prison sur ordre des colonialistes, ce n’est pas ma personne qui compte.

C’est le Congo, c’est notre pauvre peuple dont on a transformé l’indépendance en une cage [..] L’Afrique l’Asie, et les peuples libres et libérés de tous les coins du monde se trouveront toujours aux côtés de millions de congolais qui n’abandonneront la lutte que le jour où il n’y aura plus de colonisateurs et leurs mercenaires dans notre pays.

A mes enfants que je laisse, et que peut-être je ne reverrai plus, je veux qu’on dise que l’avenir du Congo est beau et qu’il attend d’eux, comme il attend de chaque Congolais, d’accomplir la tâche sacrée de la reconstruction de notre indépendance et de notre souveraineté, car sans dignité il n’y a pas de liberté, sans justice il n’y a pas de dignité, et sans indépendance il n’y a pas d’hommes libres.

What I can say is this: dead or alive, free or in jail, it is not about me personally.

It is about Congo, our unhappy people, whose independence is being trampled upon. [...] We are not alone. Africa, Asia, the free peoples and the peoples fighting for their freedom in all corners of the world will always be side by side with the millions of Congolese who will not give up the struggle while there is even one colonialist or colonialist mercenary in our country.

To my sons, whom I am leaving and whom, perhaps, I shall not see again, I want to say that the future of Congo is splendid and that I expect from them, as from every Congolese, the fulfillment of the sacred task of restoring our independence and our sovereignty. Without dignity there is no freedom, without justice there is no dignity and without independence there are no free men.

In the magazine CeaseFire, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina, and Jonathan Jacobs, a writer and activist based in London, explained the importance of Lumumba's legacy:

According to unconfirmed reports, Walter Kansteiner – US Secretary of State for African Affairs under George W. Bush, between June 2001 and November 2003 – designed a plan for the division of Congo into four countries. The justification for such a Balkanisation would be that, in its present dimensions, the country is too large and ungovernable. [...] In fact, this would facilitate access to resources, and make their transfer to outside markets easier. [...] the reality is that their project for the recolonisation of Congo will always stumble against the determination of the Congolese people to defend their unity, their national patrimony, and the territorial integrity of their homeland. The legacy of Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Lulele, André Kisase Ngandu and so many other martyrs brings women, men and children to shout “No” to balkanisation and “Yes” to a “United Congo, a strong nation.” 

December 06 2013

Music Lovers Remember King of Congolese Rumba Tabu Ley Rochereau

The undisputed King of Soukous, Congolese musician Tabu Ley Rochereau, died of stroke on November 30, 2013 in Belgium at the age of 73. He was a prolific songwriter and one of Africa's leading vocalists who internationalised Soukous by creating a fusion of Congolese folk music and Cuban, Caribbean and Latin American rumba.

Congolese legend Tabu Ley Rochereau. Photo release by Kingjumbo under Creative Commons  (CC BY-SA 3.0) .

Congolese legend Tabu Ley Rochereau. Photo release by Kingjumbo under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) .

Reacting to the news of his death, radio producer and DJ Minna Zhou remembered how Tabu Ley experimented with diverse music styles, which includes incorporating Jimi Hendrix's guitar techniques and producing a cover of The Beatles’ “Let It Be” in Lingala, a language spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Throughout his 50-plus-year-long career, Tabu Ley never stopped innovating and keeping himself open to sounds from around the world. In the same 1993 interview cited above, he spoke of changing the more intellectual, refined feel of L’African Jazz to create something that could appeal more readily to the masses. In 1972 after a tour of Senegal, he came back with a new rhythm for rumba called “Soum djoum,” which some say was inspired by Soumbedioune, Dakar’s largest fish market. When Jimi Hendrix approached the man in London as a fan of Dr. Nico, they exchanged musical ideas, which led Tabu Ley to incorporate some of Hendrix’s guitar techniques into Afrisa International. He made a Lingala cover of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. He experimented with synths as a stand-in for likembe [a thumb piano, which is also known as Mbira]. He also created a hugely successful back-up dancer group “Les Rocherettes,” which included the sensual and honey-voiced Mbilia Bel who became an integral part of the Afrisa International [Tabu Ley's band] sound.

Below is a YouTube video of one of his greatest hits titled “Muzina”:

Minna continued:

It was only in 2008 that the King of Soukous moved to Paris where his family had immigrated years prior. He sought his family’s support and medical help for the stroke from which he would never truly recover. As if prescient, the twin capitals Kinshasa and Brazzaville held a months-long tribute to Tabu Ley just last year in 2012. The DRC’s Chancellor of National Orders honored the living legend with two gold medals — one for civic merit and the other for his deep cultural contributions to Congolese arts, sciences, and humanities. In November of 2013, he was admitted to l’Hôpital Saint-Luc in Brussels, where he spent his last days.

Kenyan blogger Ken Opalo wrote the following after hearing the news of Tabu Ley's death:

The Rhumba legend Tabu Ley has passed on. For Kenyans of my generation his songs are a reminder of a childhood marked by our parents’ great love of Congolese music (dominated by Tabu Ley and Franco Luambo Makiadi). Back then Kinshasa seemed like the most fun place on the planet (and probably is/was, as I have never been) and a bustling centre of cultural production. We didn’t know what the songs were about, but we knew the lyrics (or what we imagined them to be). I particularly grew to love “Muzina.”

On Twitter, Zichivhu  pointed out that the only major Western media that covered his death was France24:

Activist and founder of activist @SavetheCongo, Vava Tampa wrote:

Naomi Mutua described why Tabu Ley is a legend:

Below is a YouTube video of King of Congolese rumba Tabu Ley and Congolese singer M'bilia Bel, known herself as the Queen of Congolese rumba, singing “Shauri Yako”:

ĔĎ ђØŦĔҎ reported that Tabu Ley has a son who is a rapper:

Kenyan artist Suzanna Owiyo mourned:

funk of 40k years noted:

September 02 2013

When Reality TV Meets Humanitarian Action in Italy

RAI 1, the flagship television channel of the national public service broadcaster and the most watched channel in Italy, is developing a humanitarian aid show in reality form. The first episode is planned to be broadcast next 4 December 2013.

“The Mission”, which is presented as a social experience, will show eight celebrities over two weeks working for the Italian NGO Intersos in refugee camps in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. All of this will take place under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

On the blog African Voices, Carlo Catteneo explained more about the premise of the show in a post entitled  “Mission” by RAI 1. A time bomb?:

The goal of RAI would be to propose, through this social experiment, as a means of advertising the cause of the most excluded and the engagement of humanitarian workers in order to create greater awareness in the audience. From the rumors collected production will not be focused on the suffering and desperation of refugees but rather on the positive and concrete commitment of humanitarian workers on the stories of refugees and the reasons for fleeing from their native countries. Each episode of The Mission will be introduced by an accurate explanation of the social, historical, political and cultural development of each country visited in order to offer the public with adequate information and to avoid the spectacularization of refugees. Laura Lucci, head of UNHCR Italy ensures that they are focusing on a program of information. The presence of UNHCR will ensure that they are only collected the stories of refugees volunteers standing up supervisor of the right of privacy and personal freedom of each individual. The increase of awareness and private story telling by refugees will help, according intentions of the promoters, to make public opinion more open and sensible on issues such as illegal immigration and the reasons that lead to the desperate search of a better life through the Mediterranean.

Cattaneo also published a copy of the official authorisation to shoot the programme from the DRC

ministry-of-culture_authorization-for-filming_09-07-20132

 

Many Italians – whether humanitarian or not – have already begun to criticise the programme several months before it is to be broadcast. There is intense debate on the Internet. An online petition [it] asking for the programme not be be broadcast has already been signed by more than 91,000 people. They agree that the show plays with the lives of the refugees, and downplays the consequences of conflicts.

The site Afriqinfos [fr] argued that the world of reality TV is about to cross another line by going to refugee camps in Africa [fr]:

Change.org et Activism.org ont lancé chacun une pétition visant à annuler la mise en place de The Mission : « ça vous dirait de voir votre mère, qui a survécu à des violences inimaginables, être tournée en ridicule comme comparse d’un reality show ? » argumente la première organisation.

Change.org and Activism.org have each launched a petition to cancel the broadcasting of The Mission: “How would you like to see your mother, who has survived unimaginable violence, becoming an object of ridicule as an extra on a reality TV show?” argues the first of these organisations.

In addition to the recurrent criticisms, notably relating to the celebrities’ wages for the show [it], another argument against this show is that the celebrities chosen are second-class, B-listers [it] or attempting a comeback.

As zaccunu09 writes in the article Sfiga Africa: ci mancava Albano [it] (Poor Africa: Albano on top of everything else) of l'Espresso magazine [editor's note: Albano is an Italian singer who was popular in the 1970s and 80s]:

Che bella idea questa di Leone,figlio dell'ex Presidente della Repubblica,ed è superfluo dire perché oggi si trova a quel posto !, forte di un'autorità che non sappiamo bene da dove venga ,ha organizzato questa ridicola messinscena con personaggi che hanno un seguito da ridere se non fosse per la Rai che continua a farli apparire sulla scena televisiva,il più delle volte a sproposito. Albano, ci basta la presunzione e l'atteggiamento malandrino;il rampollo ruspante di casa Savoia,che non si sa a che titolo calca la scena Rai e con quali meriti se non una eredità che più scalcinata ed inquietante non poteva essere; Barale, ma esiste veramente? ,Cocuzza per più cocuzza non poteva essere,forse ho dimenticato qualcuno ma sicuramente sarà all'altezza degli altri. VIVA LA RAI ………

What a great idea from Leone – son of the ex-President of the Republic [Giovanni Leone] – and we don't need to ask how he's got that job today [director of RAI 1][it]! Relying on his authority from no one knows where, he has organised this farce with personalities who would no longer exist in the public sphere if RAI didn't take care of their media appearances by exhibiting them inappropriately as often as possible. We've had enough of Al Bano‘s complacency and mischief, and as for the direct descendant of the House of Savoy, we don't know how or why he is shown on RAI if not solely because of a legacy which could not be more pathetic and disturbing. Barale, does she even really exist? Cocuzza [the name of a RAI personality which also means thoughtless], you can't get any more thoughtless, I might have forgotten someone [it], but no doubt they will be at the same level as the others. LONG LIVE RAI……..

At Articolotre.com, Albano addressed some of these criticisms:

Io difendo questo programma, e non capisco davvero cosa ci vediate di male: ce l'avete con me? Non capisco perché si parli di reality quando si tratta di realtà. Non sarebbe stato uno spettacolo, ma un'indagine, un'occasione per accendere i riflettori sulla gente che soffre. A me piaceva proprio l'idea di andare in un luogo in cui le persone sono abbandonate. Io voglio accendere qual faro, far vedere cosa succede. Continuano a morire dappertutto, ma se non proviamo ad accendere le luci che succederà?

I defend this programme, and I don't really understand what you see as negative: do you have a problem with me? I don't understand why we are talking about reality TV when this is about reality. It won't be a spectacle, but an investigation, an opportunity to highlight the issue of these people who are suffering. Personally, I really liked the idea of going to a place where people have been abandoned. I want to shine a light on the problem, to see what is happening. People are continuing to die everywhere, but if we don't highlight the problems, what will happen?

While with Invisible Children's Stop Kony 2012 campaign, a great majority of African comments were negative, this time they seem to give a more nuanced view, particularly on Facebook [fr]:

Aragone Diger : Sortir les réfugiés de l'ombre, c'est aussi montrer les tares de la guerre et ainsi conscientiser les populations de pays impliqués dans les guerres surtout en Afrique.

Aragone Diger: Bringing refugees out of the shadows also means showing the destruction of war, and making people living in the countries affected, especially in Africa, more aware.

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Moi j'aime ça montre que dans la vie y'a pas que Kardashians et y'a des problèmes plus sérieux !!

Renaud-Désiré Essoh Lath: Personally, I like that it shows that there is more to life than the Kardashians and that there are more serious issues!!

Following rumours that the show would be cancelled, RAI published an official denial. Thanks to the debate it has started, “The Mission” has benefited from publicity that just can't be bought.

Abdoulaye Bah and Antonella Sinopoli contributed to this article

August 07 2013

Congolese Teacher Pushed Out of Moving Police Van in Morocco, Dies

The death of Toussaint-Alex Mianzoukouta, a french teacher in Tanger is symptomatic of increasing brutality towards sub Saharan immigrants from the Moroccan police, Afrik Online reports [fr]. Mianzoukouta was not given the opportunity to  present his immigration documents before he was taken into the van, the report says. He died from multiple head injuries and leaves behind a wife and two children.

July 11 2013

Reform Underway for the Army in Congo ?

Congo Siasa posits that a slew of new promotions (list here) are signs that important reforms are underway for the Congolese army:

According to the official plan, the county will be split into three Zones de Défense, based in Kisangani, Lubumbashi, and Kinshasa. Each zone will have three rapid reaction brigades, two defense brigades, and a share of the 20 regiments [..] But it does not provide remedies for the root problems of the army: parallel chains of command, rampant racketeering and embezzlement, and impunity

June 19 2013

Song, Video Shed Light on Congo War

‘In the Congo’ is a song and video that shed light 20 year conflict over minerals used in mobile phones and electronics:

The video is produced and directed by Zavara Mponjika, the respected hip hop pioneer and filmmaker from Tanzania and features New York based female hip hop group Rhyme Like A Girl and Los Angeles based Kenyan Afro-Soul artist Nasambu.

May 07 2013

Congolese-Italian Woman Joins Italy's Cabinet

[All quotations are translated from the original French articles, except the Twitter quotes, which were originally Italian]

Two months after the February 2013 Italian general election, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, selected by the President Giorgio Napolitano to create a consensus government, revealed the members of his team. Among the surprises was the nomination of Doctor Cecile Kyenge, specialist in Opthamology, as Minister of Integration. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she is the first immigrant ever to accede to a ministerial position in Italy.

News website oeildafrique.com described her [fr] as follows:

Cecile Kyenge, member of the Democratic Party, was born on August 28, 1964 in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She arrived in Italy in 1983 and is now an Italian citizen. She obtained her degree in medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Rome, before specialising in opthamology at the University of Modena.

Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Dr Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Although elected into the left wing Democratic Party during the recent elections, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, she had already become the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament, when she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for the Democratic Party. In an article published on afrokanlife.com [fr], Rene Kouame wrote:

The honorable Cecile Kyenge is not taking her first steps in the political life of Italy. She has been a councillor since the last legislature of the Emilia Romagna regional council. At the heart of the Italian Democratic Party she occupied the role of responsibility for the immigration forum for several years. As a human rights supporter, Cecile Kyenge has fought for several years to gain respect for the rights of immigrants in Italy. She is spokesperson of the national movement March First (a national organisation fighting against any kind of discrimination and for respect for the rights of immigrants).

The following video [it] shows Cecile Kyenge swearing in before President G. Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace in Rome:

She has fought for many years for better immigration laws, notably for repeal of the crime of illegal immigration which has filled Italian prisons with people whose only crime, for the most part, is to not have identity papers. News website auxinfosdunain.blogspot.fr covered her journey [fr]:

Minister of the Democratic Party, the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament was in the middle of preparing a file on ‘institutional racism’ in Italy. She was also fighting for repealing the crime of illegal immigration and wants to make the job market more accessible to foreigners.
According to Cecile Kyenge, it is also necessary to ‘fight against violence of a sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other, nature.’ Mr Letta, who also belongs to the Democratic Party, exulted in this choice which ‘clearly demonstrates belief in a more integrated, truly multicultural Italy.’

Blog jolpress.com said this [fr] about her:

She owes her position as a M.P. to her engagement at the heart of the Democratic Party in the Emilia-Romagna region. In particular, she looked after immigration questions – the portfolio that she will be in charge of at the heart of the new government.
At the heart of her political, associative and militant combat lies the free circulation of people and the desire for a new citizenship law. What is more, in September 2010, she became national spokesperson for the March First movement where she promoted human rights, including those for migrants.

Before the elections Cecile Kyenge defined her combat objectives [fr] in an article published on blog starducongo.com:

My candidacy represents and gives a voice to the ‘New Italians’ (term designating foreigners who become Italian), these foreigners who only ask to become a citizen. As a minister of the republic, my voice must also defend the community of Italian citizens, because I believe intermixing can and must be an added value in our culture and not an obstacle like some would have us believe for so long.

Of course, as soon as the composition of the government was published, right wing extremists and xenophobes unleashed themselves to denounce her presence among the other ministers. @adilmauro cited Roberto Maroni, ex-Minister of the Interior and leader of the Northern League, on Twitter:

@adilmauro: Cecile Kyenge is not Italian, say those who want to make Italy change. Here we have the League who ‘march on racism’ (said Maroni)

Journalist Enrico Grazioli (@engraz), also on Twitter, commented on the racist reactions :

@engraz: Cecile #kyenge has ‘already been welcomed by the worst of Italy as we should have expected. But she will not be afraid http://t.co/96IdxqSHGV #governoletta

April 22 2013

Attempted Coup d'Etat in Comoros

Comoros police forces state that they have arrested Congolese and Chadian mercenaries in an attempted coup over the week-end. Linfo.re adds that [fr]:

Army commanders did not want to engage in an open conflict with the mercenaries. They believe that “any Comoran casualties over protecting an elite cast is itself a act of betrayal towards Comoros”.

March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

February 20 2013

[Webcast] Thoughts On The Fallout from Kony 2012

Every Tuesday, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society hosts a public lunch gathering in our conference room in Boston. Each session involves a short presentation by a guest speaker or one of our community members, talking about a challenge that emerges from his or her current work. We are excited to partner with Global Voices to bring these presentations to a wider audience.

Title: The Next 27 Minutes Are An Experiment: Thoughts On The Fallout from Kony 2012
Date: February 19, 12:30pm ET
Presenter: Ruha Devanesan, Executive Director of the Internet Bar Organization and Berkman Fellow

On March 5th, 2012, the American nonprofit, Invisible Children, published a video called “Kony 2012″ on the social video-sharing network, Youtube. Within six days, the video was dubbed the “most viral video in history,” beating out pop artists Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Beyonce’s music videos in how quickly it hit 100 million views. Much has been written on the Kony 2012 phenomenon by journalists, bloggers and academics. My aim in this talk is to only briefly summarize their thoughts and my own on the successes and failures of the initial Kony 2012 campaign, but then, more importantly, to explore the way in which Invisible Children has responded to criticism and adapted its messaging, and to ask what lessons can be learned by the human rights advocacy community from Kony 2012 and Invisible Children's subsequent actions.

About Ruha

Ruha is the Executive Director of the Internet Bar Organization, a nonprofit organization working to improve access to justice through technology through applied research in the fields of Online Dispute Resolution, mobile technology for dispute resolution, ICT4D, ICT4Peace and digital-economic inclusion for individuals in emerging economies. In her capacity as Executive Director, she has led the design and implementation of several tech-focused social justice initiatives, of which PeaceTones is her personal favorite. The PeaceTones Initiative helps talented, unknown artists from developing nations build their careers while giving back to their communities. Through PeaceTones, Ruha and her team are looking to rework the traditional record label into something more fair to the artist, while teaching musicians the legal, marketing and technology skills they need to succeed as social entrepreneurs of their own making.

Links

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:
commons.wikimedia.org

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.

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.


View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

January 11 2013

2012: A Year of Revolt and Social Change in Francophone Countries: Part 1 of 2

2012 is over, and for Francophone countries a more serene 2013 would be more than welcome.

The year 2012 was marked by armed conflicts in Mali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in the Central African Republic (CAR). There were elections in Senegal, as well as in Quebec and France. Demonstrations for change took place in Chad as well as Madagascar and Togo. Debate raged on topics such as immigration, the economic crisis and equal marriage rights. All this took place against a backdrop of major changes in the ways of sharing information.

In the first part of our 2012 review, we recap what was an eventful year in Francophone countries with the help of Global Voices contributors:

The future of Mali  (by Marc-André Boisvert

A long chain of events completely devastated the country in 2012 as a Tuareg rebellion was followed by a military coup and the fall of North Mali, which was subsequently captured by Islamist groups. There have been endless political military shake-ups: during this one year, Mali's well-polished international image as a model of democracy and development has been completely shattered, leaving the country destabilised, broken and neglected.

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0)

A year ago in Mali tweets, facebook posts and blogs were mainly personal. At the start of 2012 the only political content was from candidates honing their campaign strategies for the presidential elections (subsequently cancelled) expected to take place that April.

During 2012 Malians took over social networks. More effective than the mainstream media, internet users shared images of amputations committed by Islamists under the hashtag #Mali and exchanged views on the new powers, notably on messaging list Malilink.

The Northern Citizens Collective (COREN) and the Cri de Cœur collective mobilised Malians and their allies to send humanitarian aid to occupied regions. Social networks were no longer simply a tool for sharing people's impotence faced with the atrocities occurring, rather, they were used to organise people, to rise up and refuse to accept the situation.

The people of Mali weren't just waiting around for outside intervention - the internet is proof of that.

Passing crisis of transformation of society? 

The economic crisis was the central theme of the 2012 French election. After nearly four years of the crisis the question was, rather that it being a temporary crisis, were we witnessing a structural transformation of society and the way it functions?

Innovative ideas emerged on the possible ways society could evolve with regard to the current economic context. Stanislas Jourdan enlightened us with ideas exchanged on various approaches which could transform the existing paradigms. The direct democracy team initiative for a guaranteed basic income in Switzerland was part of this:

L'initiative populaire « pour un revenu de base inconditionnel » propose d'inscrire dans la constitution fédérale « l'instauration d'une allocation universelle versée sans conditions » devant «permettre à l'ensemble de la population de mener une existence digne et de participer à la vie publique ». La loi réglerait le financement et fixerait le montant de cette allocation. Le revenu de base est inconditionnel : il n'est subordonné à aucune contre-prestation. [..] Comment le financer? Par l'impôt direct sur le revenu et la fortune, par l'impôt indirect sur la consommation (la TVA), par un impôt sur les transactions financières, et surtout par le transfert des ressources consacrées au financement de l'AVS, de l'AI, de l'aide sociale et des autres revenus de substitution inférieurs au montant du revenu de base.

The grassroots initiative “for an unconditional basic income” proposes that “the establishment of an unconditional universal benefit” be written into the federal constitution which would “allow the entire population to lead a dignified existence and participate in public life”. The law will address financing and set the amount of the benefit.[…] The basic income does not come with any conditions attached: it is not subject to any means testing. […] How will it be financed? Through direct taxation of income and wealth, indirect taxation on consumption (VAT), taxing financial transactions, and most especially through the reallocation of resources currently allotted to financing state pensions and unemployment payouts, social security and other welfare payments lower than the amount of the basic income.

Human reasons to work by freeworldcharter.org via active rain used with permission

The Occupy Movement was started in North America, and among other aims, worked to remove debt from families and students by crowdfunding, similar to the way that governments aided the banks during the subprime mortgage crisis:

[It] would create fiat money in the same way as with Quantitative Easing, but would direct that money to the bank accounts of the public with the requirement that the first use of this money would be to reduce debt. Debtors whose debt exceeded their injection would have their debt reduced but not eliminated, while at the other extreme, recipients with no debt would receive a cash injection…

 

Rebels without a cause?

Whether the M23 rebels in the DRC, the Seleka Coalition in the Central African Republic or Islamist groups in Mali, groups rarely claim a clear political ideology or uniformity of operation between their various factions. These armed groups have strongly expanded their spheres of influence in 2012, establishing a definite lever for negotiations in the stabilisation process in their respective regions. As noted by Julie Owono, the timing of the progression of attacks in the CAR suggests that financial stakes have changed the deal regarding short-term objectives of the Seleka rebels. In the DRC, Anna Gueye detailed the complex historical context of the M23 rebellion and its recent evolution. The financial stakes in the Kivu and Katanga regions are extremely high. The tragic new feature in 2012 was the expansion of the conflict and the humanitarian disaster to areas with high potential for intensification of the violence. The remarkable initiatives of the civilian population did much to protect the health and the social cohesion of populations weakened by these conflicts.

 

The second part of this 2012 review of Francophone countries will follow shortly.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

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 27 2012

Africa's Tainted Global Media Coverage

The #Kony2012 campaign led by the Invisible Children NGO certainly contained a few over-simplifications about Africa. This prompted a counter-campaign #WhatILoveAboutAfrica aimed at rectifying these 'stray shots'.

poster for Kony 2012.

The Kony 2012 campaign poster. Public domain

Inaccurate media approximations about Africa is not a rare phenomenon - even if the comedy of errors has steadily declined over the last few years. The misrepresentation of the continent in the media is not a trivial subject, as Professor Charles Moumouni explains [fr]:

La mauvaise représentation de l’Afrique dans les médias occidentaux n’est ni un
phénomène nouveau, ni un phénomène exceptionnel. Elle fait l’objet de préoccupations depuis les années 1970, notamment dans le cadre des discussions sur le Nouvel ordre mondial de l’information et de la communication (NOMIC). Mais l’image que propagent les médias occidentaux de l'Afrique est d’autant plus préoccupante qu’elle influe négativement sur les efforts de développement de l'Afrique

Poor representation of Africa in Western media is neither a new nor an exceptional phenomenon. It was already a subject of concern during the 1970s, notably in the context of discussions about New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). But the image of Africa currently being propagated by Western media is all the more concerning as it adversely effects African development efforts.

African media itself, however, is certainly not immune from criticism of this sort. Several initiatives have emerged, in recent years, to help improve the accuracy of African media. The African Media Initiative and Media Monitoring Africa</