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February 21 2014

February 20 2014

February 19 2014

February 18 2014

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.

Examining the Post-Colonial Evolution of Francophone and Anglophone Africa

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa via Le Monde

Screen capture of animated slideshow on the legacy of French and English colonization in Africa -Blue countries are French-speaking nations, red countries are English-speaking nations.  via Le Monde

The topic of the post-colonial evolution of francophone versus anglophone African states has always a fodder for intense debate. Cheidozié Dike, from Nigeria, brings a new perspective to the subject :     

While the French Loi Cadre system was mostly about integration, the British colonial system sought only exploitation. Creating an air of suspicion between the nations that make up present-day Anglophone Africa, fracturing connections before they were even made, all the better to rule.[.;] Francophone Africans do not feel the need to aspire to western culture, because the French culture was wedded with local customs such that it became an indivisible whole

However, the predominant analysis from francophone Africa is quite different. Ouréguéhi, from Benin, articulates why he thinks francophone Africa is lagging behind its anglophone counterpart financially [fr]:

Les pays anglophones ont été libérés de leur colon sur tous les plans. la France a toujours les regards dans les affaires des colonisés sans oublier la dictée qu'elle fait à ces pays. Quand tu veux voir celui que tu prétends aider évoluer, tu lui donne les conseils tout en lui laissant le choix de sa politique

English-speaking countries were freed from their colonizers at all levels. France still keeps an eye in the affairs of its former colonies, not to mention the fact that she still dictates (a few policies) of these countries. When you want to help someone evolve, you give him/her advice but you let them choose their own policy. 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Video: Why Young Nigerians Leave Home

Nigerian netizen Kola Olaosebikan uses YouTube to address, among other topics, the question of why young Nigerians are running from home:

This video addresses moving back to nigeria, why i left nigeria, brain drain in nigeria, and issues impacting youth and progress in nigeria all wrapped up in a nice little bow of love.

February 13 2014

Nigerian Governor Reportedly Pays Bloggers for Meet-Up

A group photograph of delegates and the Dr Fayemi at the #Ekiti State Social Media/Bloggers Interactive Forum. [Image by Olumide (@gboukzi) and used with his permission]

A group photograph of delegates at the #Ekiti State Social Media/Bloggers Interactive Forum with Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State (middle with wine red cap). Photo by Olumide (@gboukzi). Used with his permission

In a rather unprecedented move, the government of Ekiti State in Nigeria invited some bloggers and social media enthusiasts to meet with the state Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is up for re-election in early summer this year, with the aim of giving Nigerian bloggers a direct opportunity to assess the developmental strides in the state and also to engage the governor.

As was appropriate for a social media meet-up, the forum was announced via the Ekiti State government's Twitter handle. Some celebrated the state government's recognition of social media and blogging.

Others took issue with the news that that bloggers who attended the event were paid 50,000 Nigerian Naira (about 307 US dollars). 

Given that ‘brown pocket envelope’ syndrome has been the bane of traditional journalism in Nigeria and many of the bloggers are avouched critics of the government and any waste of public funds, conversation online zeroed in on the perceived double standards. 

Public commentator Feyi asked: 

Influential Nigerian political Twitter commentator Chike did the arithmetic of double standards:

Mr Ebube D Patriot, a member of the ruling party, posited:

Sports journalist Temisan said: 

But some tweets were just sarcastic. For instance, Emeka, a government party tweep, said:

Nonetheless, not everyone was partisan in their analysis of the meeting. Mr Mobility (@Mister_Mobility), a mobile content curator, speaker and blogger, wrote the following post:    

1. Government is waking up to the power of social media 

[...] a government has recognised the power of bloggers and social media and have created an opportunity to engage. This is a good move. We can expect more state governments to follow suit…

2. The question of propaganda

Some people are rightly bothered that such a forum is just another avenue to push government propaganda. Yes; that is likely so. But here is how it works. Invited bloggers are under obligation to report exactly what they see and hear – even if it is propaganda…

3. The question of payment

I have no idea whether or not the invited individuals were paid for the exercise, but I would hope that they were! People expecting bloggers not to be paid are odd. None of them work for their employer or clients for free…

4. The question of objectivity

When someone is hosting you and maybe also paying you, there is the question of how objective you can be. This is where people who understand business have no problems. They can separate issues. As mentioned above, news reporting is different from writing opinion. Separate the two and there are no issues…

5. The question of ethics

Hosting a bloggers’ forum is no more unethical than calling a press conference or having a TV media chat. It is the same thing. Only the platform is different. There is nothing unethical about the Ekiti State Government hosting a social media or bloggers forum.

Others saw the forum as a good thing. On Twitter, Nedu was surprised by the uproar about the meet-up:

One blogger who attended the event endorsed the governor for re-election: 

 

I am impressed by how prudent and transparent Kayode Fayemi has been in the execution of projects in Ekiti State. Contracts are awarded at very modest and verifiable amounts, an example being the laptop project in which each unit costs about N60,000. [...]

Kayode Fayemi has done well over the past three years and I urge the good people of Ekiti to give him a chance to continue the good work he has started by voting him as their governor for a second term. I urge them to be vigilant and hold him accountable at all times. As he goes about his campaign, visiting cities, towns and villages in the state, he will make promises and commitments, and they must hold him to these from day one of his second tenure.

My name is Ogunyemi Bukola (@zebbook), and I endorse John Kayode Fayemi for a second term as governor of Ekiti State.

Another user neither supported the Ekiti bloggers meeting nor the traditional media good governance tour by the Minister of Information Labaru Maku. But he did not begrudge the bloggers who honoured the invitation: 

However, other members of Nigerian social media and blogosphere had other problems with #JKFeedback, as the meet-up's hashtag was called. For instance, Twitter user Mr. Kermit argued that bloggers are not needed for the people of Ekiti to assess the government's pace of development. The citizens of the state can see it for themselves:    

This same line was toed by O'Femi: 

Opinion River thought it was mere window-dressing by the Ekiti State government:   

Anther user called it was shameful: 

Attai predicted newspaper headlines:

Doubts Arise Over Nigerian Journalist's Undercover Human Trafficking Exposé

A screenshot of the

A screenshot of the exposé.

A gritty undercover exposé of a human trafficking in Nigeria is making waves in the African country – but not for all the reasons you may think. 

Tobore Ovuorie (@DaughterofMit), a reporter for Nigerian online newspaper Premium Times, wrote about her experience going undercover to shed light on a ruthless human trafficking syndicate. The motives for the story, according to Ovuorie, were:

It had all started in Abuja, with me deciding to expose the human traffic syndicates that caused the death, through Aids, of my friend Ifuoke and countless others. As a health journalist, I had interviewed several returnees from sex traffic who had not only been encouraged to have unprotected sex, but who had also been denied health care or even to return home when they fell ill. They were now suffering from Aids, anal gonorrhoea, bowel ruptures and incontinence.

The human traffickers were not only involved in recruiting and exporting young Nigerian ladies to Europe as prostitutes, but were also training them to pickpocket. Ovurie also recounted an incident of cold-blooded murder: 

What happens next is like a horror movie… As we ‘unlucky’ four, are standing aside, Mama C talks with five well-dressed, classy, influential-looking visitors.The issue is a ‘package’ that Mama C has promised them and that she hasn’t been able to deliver. The woman points at me, but Mama C refuses and for unexplained reasons Adesuwa and Omai are selected. We all witness, screaming and trying to hide in corners, as they are grabbed and beheaded with machetes in front of us. The ‘package’ that the visitors have come for turns out to be a collection of body parts. The mafia that holds us is into organ traffic, too.

Ovurie however was able to escape from the mafia and publish her story, which stunned the Nigerian blogosphere. It also prompted an investigation by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters.

However, the shock had barely worn off when doubts over the veracity of Ovurie's report began to surface.

Literary critique Ikhide R. Ikheloa picked holes in Ovuorie's investigation in post entitled “Tobore Ovuorie's Story: Fact or Fiction”

Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Image sourced from his Twitter profile - @ikhide - and used with his permission)

Ikhide R. Ikheloa (Image sourced from his Twitter profile – @ikhide – and used with his permission)

Tobore Ovuorie (whose twitter handle is @DaughterOfMit) is enthusiastic, if anything else, as evinced by her vociferous testimonies on her timeline. If her narrative turns out to be true, Ovuorie and her sponsors (Premium Times and The Zam Chronicle deserve the Pulitzer. And her sponsors deserve to be censored for reckless endangerment of a reporter. As far as I can tell, Ovuorie is walking the streets of Nigeria unprotected after making serious claims against powerful interests. It is a mystery to me why she so brazenly attached her name to the story. If indeed there is a mafia, she is being quixotic and reckless to boot. She could be badly hurt or killed. As for the external sponsor of the adventure, The Zam Chronicle based in Amsterdam, it seems highly unusual for a Western outfit to sign on to such a risky venture without putting many things in place to minimize actuarial risk, the financial consequences may be too much to bear. What if she had been murdered? Her family could have sued the sponsors.

Ikhide asked seven questions

1. Why is the Nigerian Police silent on this story? Ovuorie seems to know many geographic details of the places where she was taken to and where she witnessed horrific crimes. She knows names of important personalities, there is even a name of a policeman provided. Has Premium Times contacted the Nigerian authorities? …

2. When she witnessed the beheading of two abducted girls, she had her phone (or seemed to). Who did she text? Who did she call? Forensic experts can learn a lot from these transcripts.

3. At what point did she and her sponsors realize that this was possibly an unwise venture and she needed to be rescued? Where there any discussions about this?

4. I am having trouble believing that she did not text any of the pictures that were in her cellphone to someone else. That just seems unlikely. Does anyone have pictures or anything?

5. How sophisticated can this syndicate be if they allow the girls keep their cellphones and presumably let them continue to chat with the outside world?…

6. Ovuorie seemed close to the two girls who were beheaded, does she have their phone numbers? Can they be traced back to their families? Why are people silent about all this?

7. The report talks of a “multibillion dollar syndicate” but the “syndicate” doesn’t appear very sophisticated, a reporter walks the streets asking for the leader and is promptly hooked up with one, gains the trust of the syndicate and along with the other “abducted girls” has access to her cellphone and even a charger. Interesting, but then we are talking about Nigeria. Nothing seems to stretch credulity:

Ikhide received a response from Editor of Premium Times Dapo Olorunyomi:  

In amusement, I notice the ambivalence in your review as you tried to challenge the veracity of the story.  This is how you put it: “How sophisticated can this syndicate be if they allow the girls keep their cell phones and presumably let them continue to chat with the outside world? There are so many tracking devices on a cell phone, you wonder if and why the game plan of the reporter did not include these free tools.”

Let’s cut to the chase. The logic in your question is erected on the assumption of the implausibility of infiltrating a syndicate and still use a cell phone. Thus, on account of your logic, if one gets to operate a cell phone in the environment of the syndicate, then the story automatically becomes false. Seriously? Sorry, this is either empty or dubious.

This twist has split the Nigerian blogosphere into those standing by Ovuorie's story and others swayed by Ikhide's scepticism. “Onas” wrote on Facebook

If she went undercover in November, when and where did she receive treatment for the trauma she allegedly underwent? When was she discharged? For how long was she there? Which hospital did she go to? Can we have the medical records? (Even though we know that her medical records are private and personal but the controversy surrounding the story has made the issue a matter of public interest). The Tobore that was at the conference in December was the life of the conference. She was bubbly, talkative and the soul of everything that transpired there. Someone that almost got beheaded, did stunts at the border and checked into a hospital won’t be the most talkative person with the brightest makeup in a human trafficking class. She did not betray any sign of distress even when the heart-rending stores of those who have been victims were told in the class.

Another blogger, Semiu A. Akanmu, asked for more clarification from the Premium Times. This time, Managing Editor Musiklu Mojeed responded:

I can tell you categorically that the story is not fiction. It was well reported by the reporter. It is cruel that Ikhide and others are casting aspersion on a reporter who risked her life to tell us an important story. I agree the story could have been better done, but it was such a dangerous assignment. We warned her against pushing too hard. Her safety was more important to us… 

…We knew what our organization and the reporter went through to tell that story. So, for anyone to declare, without any shred of evidence, that the story was a fabrication is simply cruel and annoying. It's an injustice to us and the woman who risked her life and dignity to tell us this story. But this is not the first time Ikhide has mounted a campaign to discredit our work… 

Nigerian blogger Akin came up with a series of questions and scenarios to question the authenticity of the story. He concluded his post by saying:

Too convenient and sadly expedient
Finally, it is all too convenient that critical evidence that could give the real truth to this story was lost, like why she had not immediately transmitted pictures, conversations and much else for most of the time she had her mobile phone. At worst, there should have been an electronic dead drop to collect all this data for the use of the expose.
In the end, we only have Tobore’s word and the threatened reputations of Premium Times and ZAM Chronicle through obfuscation, bluster, bullying and ad hominem attacks to go by, the rest in text messages and Facebook posts is hardly independently verifiable. It is a crying shame.
You cannot trust this
If Tobore was exposed to such evil and unconscionable human traffickers with connections to people in high places in Nigeria and abroad, she and her handlers must be recklessly bold, careless, and utterly irresponsible to reveal her identity where she must daily be at risk of being apprehended and assassinated.
I am sorry, it is time for Premium Times to cut loose of this travesty or both it and its reputation would sink with it, considering the reporter they are supporting has hardly been with the outfit for 6 months, the level of naïveté demonstrated by the seasoned journalists at Premium Times is befuddling to the point of bafflement.

The end of this story is no where in sight, yet one thing is certain: human trafficking is a vicious business in Nigeria, and it's about time attention is given to it.

February 07 2014

5 YouTube Channels African Food Lovers Should Watch

As part of our celebration of February as Food Month here at Global Voices Online, take a look at these five delicious YouTube video channels on how to cook African food.

1. Nigerian Food Channel:

Nigerian soup recipes, Nigerian snack recipes and lots more. Nigerian food recipes are increasingly gaining global recognition and I am proud to be able to use this platform to share tasty Nigerian food recipes in easy steps.

The video below demonstrates how to coook Nigerian dish Efo Elegusi (soup made with ground melon seeds) with Assorted Meat:

2. Afro Food TV:

Subscribe now and watch as chef and hostess, Yeti Ezeanii, takes you on a journey of everything epicuriously African. Learn popular recipes from different African countries and regions and get educated on the proper preparation of African cuisine.

The video below shows how to make pilau:

Pilau, An East African Rice dish and a great example of India's influence on African Cuisine. Tanzania's National Dish.

3. Kadi Recipes:

I cook and Eat African Foods.

In my channel you will find simple, delicious and easy to follow African Food Recipes. You will find the cuisine from almost all African countries. So join me on my channel and find out more about African foods

The video below shows how to cook peanut soup with smoked fish:

4. Taste of Tanzania:

This Channel brings to you healthy and simple recipes from Tanzania and once in a while will have from other countries in East Africa. Tanzanian recipes are the same as Swahili recipes. Here you will learn the Swahili cooking and also I will add more information on each recipe. Your comments and your questions are taken very serious.

The video below teaches viewers how to make chapati, a type of flatbread:


5. African Food Recipes:

My Goal Is That You Learn How To Prepare African And Spanish Food In a Delicious And Healthy Way—

Learn how to make banana fritters, a popular African snack, from the video below:

*Thumbnail source: Nigerian Food Channel Facebook page. Image used with permission.

February 06 2014

Nigerian Blogger Blossom Nnodim Talks ‘Social Media for Social Good’

Blossom Nnodim is a Nigerian writer, master of ceremonies and social media enthusiast. Nnodim is passionate about the good inherent in social media, and she not only uses social media to create value, but also to spread good. 

Global Voices caught up with Nnodim to discuss her #AdoptATweet campaign, the positive impact of social media, and the role of online platforms in Nigerian politics.

Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE): ”Author, blogger, compère (MC).” That’s how you describe yourself! Can you tell us about the Blossom we don’t know about?

Blossom Nnodim -

“Social Media for Social Good means creating a positive societal impact using social media as a voice.” – Blossom Nnodim
(Image used with her permission)

Blossom Nnodim (BN): The Blossom you do not know is one that is outwardly fearless but inwardly at a crossroad between doing what is right and what is expected from the society. She deliberately sees life as a “half filled” cup despite the fact the emptiness often time outweighs the fullness.

NE: You are the creator of #AdoptATweep, a social media and entrepreneurship project. What is it all about, how did it come about and what has been the story so far?

BN: The #AdoptATweep brand came out of a desire to create as many “overlords” as possible on Twitter. I joined Twitter actively after the existing “cabal” had already being formed. At this point I realized that most Nigerians tend to take Twitter validations serious either by way of retweets or follow-backs by an assumed overlord.

The real truth about coming up with the #AdoptATweep concept was to demystify the entire Twitter concept and make regular users become celebrity users in the shortest possible time.

Following the success of the first year, the concept naturally took on a more serious approach and it was at this point that the “Twitter-preneurship” focus of #AdoptATweep was explored and the focus shifted. More details can be found here.

NE: You are an advocate of Social Media for Social Good. Can you explain what this means?

BN: Social Good is an action that benefits society. This gives a somewhat non reaching definition especially with the invention of social media. As such, the striking word in the term “social good” is the social component, which aptly conveys the “shareable” aspect of the term. Social Media for Social Good means creating a positive societal impact using social media as a voice.

Anyone with access to technology, Internet, qwerty keyboard, etc. can organize an impact reaching campaign that has the possibility of benefiting the society. Social good is the process of using social media and social-focused communities to create a positive impact on our surrounding environment.

NE: There have been fears over Nigeria’s government ramping up of Internet surveillance and, most recently, failed attempt to gag netizens. What is your take on free speech and the Internet?

BN: There is a thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech. This line is not always clearly defined and as such netizens could in a bid to break the news inadvertently share updated that could tear down instead of building up.

The Internet surveillance bid and recent attempt to “gag” citizens at first glance may seem like an effrontery on freedom of speech. Deep down, the key focus is on false information. The only challenge is on the full explanation of what false information means. If the Federal Government [of Nigeria] is both the decider on what false information is and who becomes culpable in disseminating false information, the challenge could range from intimidation of the opposition to clear cut witch-hunting.

NE: Do you think the Nigerian blogosphere has the capacity to influence traditional media's news reporting, especially in matters of investigative journalism or seeking greater accountability from political leaders?

BN: It is sad to note that most traditional media platforms have allowed the narratives of the new media to shape and define their news reportage especially in the negative spectrum of professionalism. There are ethics and values that guide news reportage in the traditional media which is commonly lost by the qwerty hugging private citizen with access to internet and social media. What that conveys is that sedation is rife and unsubstantiated news is common with the social media and as such the traditional media should be more informed in news selection culled from the social media.

In summary, I believe the traditional media might have inadvertently allowed some of its core values to become eroded in the quest to keep up with the quickness and speed associated with the new media.

There are however, a few success stories where news trend in the new media have spiraled a more objective reportage by the traditional media.

NE: A large percentage of Nigerian youth are upward mobile, tech-savvy and vocal netizens. Do you think that these young netizens can propel the change that Nigerian needs?

BN: The large proportion of the yuppie generation is ideally passion driven with little or no concern for diplomacy and tact. The latter attributes are core ingredients in driving change. When passion is the only driver, what we see is a class of people that allow sentiments to rule their advocacy efforts.

I believe that if more young people focus on getting their facts right before embarking on any given campaign, the change that is expected will become inevitable. Secondly, young Nigerians should shed the entitlement mentality and make far reaching demands that even politicians cannot relegate to the background. What we see is a situation where politicians believe that they are doing young people a favor by making the special advisors and technical assistants. This may seem ideal in the short run but in the long run, we find out that several of such positions have little or no impact in policy shaping.

NE: The national electoral umpire just announced the schedule for the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. Do you think that social media will break new ground in the campaign and influence voting during this election?

BN: The power of social media will not be absolute if offline engagements are not put in place to ensure effectiveness of online campaigns. The extent social media will add value to the quality of the 2015 election will be determined by the offline actions ranging from voter registration, exercising franchise and field monitoring to ensure credible election process.

The outcome of an election is decided by the ballot box and not the update box of social media platforms.

NE: What do you think will be the future of the Nigerian blogosphere after the 2015 elections?

BN: I foresee a better sanitized reportage as most individual bloggers and social media users will ideally align with specific political parties. We will have folks leaning to affiliations not out of fear of walking solo but out of conviction that they are on the right track.

A two mega party system is actually what Nigeria needs and post-2015, we will have a better driven opposition that will be more focused on issues than on propaganda.

February 05 2014

8 Irrresistable Food Blogs From Sub-Saharan Africa

A display of foodstuff. Public domain image from  National Institutes of Health (USA).

A display of different types of food. Public domain image from the United States National Institutes of Health.

Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Scrumptious South Africa

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.


Scrumptious South Africa is a food blog run by Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who is a cook, food writer, recipe developer and professional freelance journalist:

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa almost seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

2. Dobby's Signature

This is a Nigerian food blog by Nigerian blogger Dobby:

I'm dobby, a culinary enthusiast with a flair for Local Cuisines in Nigeria and around the globe. Welcome to my online recipe diary where I explore and showcase dishes from my Nigerian kitchen to inspire meals in yours. Let me confess, i'm not a professional chef…..Yeah! i'm not. But Cooking is one of my major hobbies and i do it well. Whenever i'm not cooking, i do illustrations/graphic designs too as shown on the blog. So, Stick around and explore Nigerian food from my own point of view.

Dobby's signature is a Nigerian Food Blog focused on Showcasing Nigerian dishes, Exploring Traditional food recipes and Flavors with strong emphasis on Photography, Diversity, Vibrant colors and Health benefits… Just the way Mama makes it ;)

3. Kadi African Recipes

Oumou Bah from Guinea shares her passion for food on her blog. The blog also uses YouTube videos:

I love the fact that in Africa, mealtimes are moments of great gatherings for big families. In most African countries such as Mali, Somalia, through Guinea, Nigeria and Eritrea, people use their fingers instead of a spoon, fork and knife to eat which make the meals more special and taste so unique.

The dishes are mostly made of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables all usually accompanied by the staple such as rice,FouFou, Tô, ugali and many more . Peppers and spices are widely used, which gives the taste especially African cuisine. Also without forgetting the vegetable leaves such as sweet potatoes leaves, Ukazi, bitter leaves and so on . Yams, corn, okra, and tomatoes and many other vegetables are also heavily used varies according to the region.

The YouTube video below from Kadi African Recipes show how to make Attiéké, the main dish of the Ivory Cost:

4. Taste of Tanzania

After sharing recipes online on various sites since 2004, Miriam Rose Kinunda now runs the Taste of Tanzania blog:

Tanzania is located in East Africa (Indian Ocean is on the East). Since Persians visited the coast of East Africa dated as early as 17th century, they introduced many things including spices and some recipes; example, Pilau, Haluwa, samosa, Bagia, etc. Our diet is a mainly African, and a little bit of Indian and Arabic. I hope you will enjoy these simple recipes from Tanzania and a few of my favorate from other countries.

Miriam Rose Kinunda started to post Tanzanian recipes just for fun in June 2004 with the domain name miriammalaquias.com; In 2006 I changed to mirecipe.com and started to blog, In July 2009, I decided to give this site a name that fits, A taste of Tanzania

5. Chef Afrik

Adhis, the owner of Chef Afrik, plans on “cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”:

First started in November 2011, Chef Afrik is my African food and travel lovechild. The site's motto, “Cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”, indicates my pursuit as a Kenyan diasporan to discover the continent of Africa through its food. As well as showcasing food from all over the continent “In the Kitchen”, I also enjoy interviewing people who work with African food, whether as food writers, bloggers or chefs in my “Get to know” series.

6. Foodie in the Desert 

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Wangeci Wandere believes that anyone can cook no matter where they live. She started her food blog in a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya:

Thanx for stopping by Foodie in the desert, my online home for recipes I try out and my culinary journeys from all around the place. Here, I share recipes that I have tried and loved anything from a simple stew to a complicated dessert, a few kitchen disasters and I will give you a few tips and tricks here and There.

I am a big believer that ANYBODY can cook whether you live in a bedsitter (studio apartment) or a lavish duplex, whether your a bachelor who just moved out of home or a wife with 4 kids. I started this blog in Kakuma refugee Camp, I live in a tiny studio apartment and I barely get any supplies so if I can do it so can you. So join me in discovering how to spice up your meals using supplies that you can find in your local supermarkets.

7. A Hungry African

This is a blog written by Brandi Phiri, a graduate student in Botswana, who despised cooking until recently:

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana,  in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana, in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

I’ve never really been a fan of the kitchen or any chores involving it. Until very recently I despised the Kitchen, I mostly especially despised cooking, anyone in my family will attest to that!

But after finally moving into a campus flat equipped with a kitchen I realised I didn’t want to eat boring food. If I was forced to feed myself everyday it would be with good food!

Traditional African cooking (at least in southern Africa) doesn’t allow for much experimenting or variety. We don’t play fast and loose with spices like the west Africans or Indians, our baking is mostly limited to plain cakes,breads and buns, our staple food is nsima/pap/sadza/ugali/posho/fufu/bugari/phaletshe and we tend to favour meat stews. Of course there is slight variation from country to country. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional African food, nothing at all however I yearn for something different at times, something to surprise my taste buds and that is how my culinary adventures began.

8. Mzanzi Style Cuisine

South African blogger Thuli started Mzansi Style Cuisine in 2011 to encourage young people to cook and provide them with an online platform to access traditional and indigenous dishes:

Indigenous dishes are not widely documented reason being that the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation by training young women. Nowadays things have changed, young women move to the city to get education and jobs before they could have that entire food heritage passed down to them by the older generation. Well, I hope to bridge that gap through this blog. In addition to that, I urge young people, both women and men, to spend more time with the older generation. By that I mean our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Let us embrace them, listen and learn from their experiences. Knowing where one comes from makes for a grounded individual and there is nothing cooler than that.

There are many more African food blogs than those listed above. Do you have a favorite African food blog? Please share it in the comments section below.

January 17 2014

Being Gay in Nigeria Now Means Arrest, Prison

Nigeria has arrested dozens of gay men under the country's new anti-gay law, signed by President Goodluck Jonathan on January 7, 2014. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act criminalises homosexual relationships, bans gay marriage, gay organisations, societies, clubs and events, and imposes prison terms of up of to 14 years.

The bill was passed by Nigeria's Senate in November 2011, the same Senate that approved child marriage in July 2013

Pew's Global Attitudes Project shows that Nigeria is the least tolerant country in the world when it comes to homosexuality.

A map showing penalties targeting gays and lesbians in Africa. Image source: http://ilga.org/

Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries and it can be punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria. The parliament of Uganda passed a controversial anti-homosexuality bill on December 20, 2013 that would punish gays and lesbians with life in prison in some cases as well as jail anyone who did not report gay people to authorities.

The Nigerian government has started arresting gay men since the president signed the bill into law.

Nigerian blogger Ayo Sogunro reacted to the news by explaining why Nigerians should be worried about the anti-gay law. He countered most common arguments put forward by anti-gay groups in Nigeria. One of the arguments is that homosexuality is not part of “our culture”:

A common argument in support of the prejudicial legislation—and one infamously and misguidedly utilized by Mr. David Mark, the Senate President, states that homosexuality is not part of our “culture”. Let us ignore the obvious fact that Nigeria has over 250 ethnic groups with diversified cultures out of which at least one involves a woman “marrying” another woman, another involves a husband “gifting” his wife to a male guest, another approves raiding a neighboring nomadic camp to kidnap a wife, and several involve a brother or son taking the surviving wives of a deceased as inheritance—let’s ignore all of these disparate sexual and marital cultural phenomena and focus instead on the nature of culture. What we call “our culture” is not a set of fixed, written rules handed down by our forefathers in a leather bound book. Instead, “our culture”, like any other culture, is an interwoven set of constantly changing practices. Culture, a student of sociology will tell you, is constantly in a state of flux: it grows new ideas, it borrows from other cultures, it ceases some long-held beliefs, and it is forever changing. You see, the only permanent culture is a dead culture. Jackets and fast cars are not the African culture, but I am yet to see a black man going to jail for perfectly stringing a Windsor knot.

He concluded by saying:

And now, here’s the worst part: if this law is allowed to sail through, it could be your affairs that will be considered criminal tomorrow. You use your left hand to write? Criminal. You squeeze your paste from the bottom of the tube? Criminal. You wear your wristwatch on the right hand. You criminal! The facts may be different, but the principle is the same. This law is a test by the legislature, a measurement of how much nonsense can be dumped on the public. Of course, it is general public opinion that there is a number of clowns seated in the legislature—some whom attained their claim to lawmaking solely by affiliation with their political party and not through a personal resume—and there is a tendency to just ignore them. However, when clowns begin to create dangerous precedents, then it is time for the audience to get serious and put them in place.

Ayo's post has attracted over 100 comments. Reader Uju, who admits being extremely homophobic, said the law is harsh, stupid and wicked:

though i’m extremely homophobic, I can’t help but reason with your article. Criminalizing homosexuality is very harsh. However, I just don’t wish for time when two men will be publicly displaying their affection. I can’t also help but feel like a hypocrite since I know I have my sins but in my defence, it’s my private sin. My point is most of us may never come to term with homosexuals being born that way but we will try not to cast our hypocritical stones at the born that ways as long as they keep their ‘born that wayness’ in private. That being said, I vehemently believe that making homosexuality a criminal act is sheer stupidity and wickedness.

Despite being a Christian who considers homosexuality a sin, Osemhen thought it is not up to the state to decide on a moral issue:

[...]I’m Christian, and I consider homosexuality a sin. I think it’s absolute nonsense to hurt someone because they’re gay. I think it’s outside the jurisdiction of the state to decide on what is so obviously a moral matter, and not a legal one.
I’m not sure of the origin of this bill but I think it started with someone wanting to legalize gay marriage. Talk about back-firing. This is what happens when you invite the government into your bedroom.

Another reader, spacyzuma, observed that:

[...]Homosexuals didn’t delay my civil service salary; the oga employer at the top of my employee organization did. He also reduced my salary; homosexuals didn’t. Homosexuals didn’t raise fuel prices; aren’t the ones who keep crippling our power, educational, agricultural, petroleum, transport sectors. [...] These legislators who wanna pass this anti-gay law will never support a bill that says looting our Treasury should be punishable by public flogging or decades of years in jail. They will completely ignore a bill that requires adulterers and fornicators to be jailed and punished.

Ashiwel wondered why there are lots of pending bills demanding urgent attention:

It worries me that there are a lot of pending bills before the Legislature, some since 2005– like the bill to deal with cybercrime– which demand the urgent attention of Nigeria’s lawmakers; and yet they choose to focus time and resources on criminalizing sexual orientations.

Should we take that to mean they lack the intellectual capacity to focus on and deal legislatively with these issues?

And if both religions claim to preach and practice love, peace and tolerance, where did the storied tolerance go?

American blogger David Mixner wrote a post explaining the reason behind the signing of the bill into law:

With all the dramatic problems facing Nigeria (including an insurgency that threatens its very existence as a nation state) why would President Jonathan be using political capital to pass and sign such legislation? It is exactly because of the Boko Haram insurgency that the President has signed the law. With his signature, he distracts his Christian followers from his failure to stop Boko Haram in the Islamic northern provinces.

He warned:

Ironically, the anti-gay law only deepens the division in this frail nation state and in the end won't make a damn bit of difference in the direction of the emerging civil war. Don't be surprise to see political opponents arrested for ‘homosexual conduct'.

Below is a sample of reactions on Twitter:

Not all tweeps are against the new law:

December 10 2013

Nigeria: Gagging Critics or Fighting Cyber Crime?

Nigerian Naira. Photo by Shardayyy via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Nigerian Naira. Photo by Shardayyy via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Nigerian lawmakers are deliberating over multiple bills of law that aim to fight cybercrime — but could gag government critics along the way.

“An Act To Provide For The Prohibition of Electronic Fraud In All Electronic Transactions In Nigeria And For Other Related Matters” [SB198, Year: 2008] would target various forms of fraud and financial crimes carried out online or via mobile phones. Initially sponsored by Ayo Arise, a Senator in the 6th National Assembly of Nigeria, the bill's original draft provided long prison terms (of five to 14 years) for violators of the law.

The bill's new sponsor, Senator Sefiu Adegbenga Kaka of the 7th National Assembly, has promised to excise “any unacceptable clause(s) in the proposed bill.”

This bill's prohibitions on electronic fraud are broadly articulated and cover activities ranging from accessing electronic devices “without authorization” to “trafficking” passwords:

Prohibition of Electronic Fraud

(1) From the commencement of this Act no person or body corporate shall:

  1. Without authorisation access a computer (or) and other electronic devices or in case of authorisation, exceeds authorised access to computers and or communication devices;
  2. use counterfeit access devices;
  3. use unauthorised access devices;
  4. possess any device designed to manipulate credit or ATM card;
  5. damage a government computer with the intent to defraud;
  6. access computer and or electronic device to commit espionage:
  7. traffic in pass words for public, private and or financial institutions computer or relevant electronic devices;
  8. traffic in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorisation with intent to defraud, copy financial institutions website, email customers with intention to defraud customers and financial institutions; and
  9. Intentionally create computer worms to destroy government computer.

(2) Anybody who contravenes any of the subsections above shall be guilty of an offence punishable with a sentence of 7 years imprisonment or a fine of 5 million Naira or both.

The section of the bill that has drawn the ire of netizens addresses “false” information:

Section 16 (3): Anyone who intentionally propagate false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message shall be guilty of a felony and upon  conviction shall be sentenced to 7 years imprisonment or 5 million Naira fine or both.

Without question, this section of the law could be used to criminalize critical speech, calls for protest, and other forms of political activism. Nevertheless, some influential members of the tech community see value in the measure. Blossom Nnolim, creator of the AdoptATweep social media and entrepreneurship project, thinks that “false information” is the operative word in the bill. Nnolim believes that while freedom of speech should be sacrosanct, there must be regulations against defamation or peddling of false news.

The bill could effectively impede Snowden-style disclosures of classified documents with the following sanctions:

Tampering with protected computers

9. From the commencement of this Act, any person who being employed by or under Local, State or Federal Government of Nigeria with respect to working with any protected computer, electronic mails commits any act which he is not authorized to do by virtue of his contract of service or intentionally permits, tampering with such Computer, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years.

Obtaining electronic messages

11. Any person or organisation who by means of false pretence induces government of Nigeria or any person in charge of electronic devices to deliver to him any electronic messages which includes but is not limited to E-mail messages, credit and debit cards information, facsimile messages which is not specifically meant for him or his organisation (in the latter case except he is authorised to receive such messages for and on behalf of his organisation) is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for two year or a fine of no more than 1 million Naira or both.

‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, drew Global Voices’ attention to what he described as a greater potential threat to online freedom in Nigeria — the Cyber Crime Bill (2013) – which is currently in the National Assembly.

Why is the Cyber Crime Bill a grave threat to free speech? Sesan explains:

The new Cyber Crime Bill (2013) has gone through various drafts, including having been known as Cyber-Security Bill (2011) at some point. The bill was jointly authored by the… wait for it… National Security Adviser's office and the Ministry of Justice. It had some provisions such as security agents having the power to seize equipment based on reasonable suspicion but this has since been improved to include the need for a court warrant. The problem with this in the Nigerian context is that warrants are easy to obtain since the judiciary isn't exactly an institution that activists or ordinary internet users can rely on. In fact, there's a joke that for the Nigerian judiciary, “the rich get bail but the poor get jail.”

Sesan fears the bill tips the scales in favor of security agencies and could be used to target critical voices online. However, he suspects it may end up on the shelf with 2015 elections not too far off.

This is not the first time Nigeria has come under scrutiny for restrictive Internet-related policymaking. In July 2012, we reported on calls from the President of the Nigerian Senate for social media censorship. Earlier this year, we looked into government plans to ramp up Internet surveillance using software purchased from Elbit Systems, an Israeli company.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 06 2013

Nigerians Celebrate Nelson Mandela, ‘A Source of Inspiration for People’ Everywhere

Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa who played a crucial role in that country's dismantling of apartheid, died on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. The beloved statesman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is often referred to as Madiba, spent 27 years in prison for his political activities during the country's white minority rule before becoming president.

Since the news of his death broke, Nigerians have been celebrating the life and times of the man some call Africa's greatest gift to humanity. Within the African world view, the departure of a sage is no time for mourning, but a time of reflection on and appreciation of a worthy legacy. Eulogies have continued to stream in on Nigerian social media since the announcement of his death. 

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Photo released by South Africa The Good News under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Oluwatosin Olaseinde, an accountant and auditor, captured this succinctly:

Oby Ezekwesili, formerly vice president of the World Bank's Africa division, wrote:

Twitter user @ba55ey celebrated Mandela: 

Journalist Abang Mercy-Asu shared a video of Madiba's “Freedom Speech”:

Writer and blogger Nze Sylva Ifedigbo shared a post from his blog: 

User @KwamiAdadevoh called for personal introspection: 

User @WilDeji, a dog trainer, tried to capture the historic date of Madiba's release from prison: 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a politician and prominent member of Nigeria's opposition, asserted that: 

Nnayelugo called for “Mandelaness”:

Literary critique Lord of the Gourds’ tweet was sarcastic:

User @nnamdiarea did not spare African leaders:

Social commentator Jason Kayode thought that it's not as much about leadership as it is about good citizenship:

RamblersINC, a blogger and literati, summed up Mandiba's legacy thus:

Mojisola Sodeinde wrote: 

Molara Wood (@molarawood), a writer, journalist and editor, summed up the sentiments of Nigerians in this poetic tweet:

Madiba will dance to the cadence of this dirge, written by Nigerian poet, Tosin Gbogi, as he approaches “heaven's gate”: 

Nelson, neon lights cast upon the night
Eons heavy with caste of memories,
Language bares to its final sole.

Soweto remembers the penal boundaries of up-rising
On a night like this, Nelson, a night like this when
Neon lights cast upon the world a cast of

Memories: a massacre so sharp
And vile: A Botha bold to a brainless core
Night on his lips, pronounces his race into the hate of
Dawn that brings Robben Island to its knees.

En route, Nelson is finally en route to Free(dom)Town
Let him have eternal peace, oh
Angels Biko and Brutus, quicken his pace to heavensgate

November 08 2013

Newfound Oil Met With Hope, Concern in Benin

The Benin government announced the discovery of a source of oil in the Sèmè-Podji region on October 24. The announcement was made by the Minister for Energy and Oil Exploration, Barthelemy Kassa [fr]:

Quelques 87 millions de barils du pétrole sont disponibles sur le bloc 1 du champ pétrolifère de Sèmè-Podji et feront l'objet d'une exploitation sur quatorze ans, à raison de 7500 barils par jour  à compter de la date d'exploitation

Some 87 million barrels of oil are available from block 1 of the Sèmè-Podji oil field and will be subject to exploitation over 14 years, thanks to the 7,500 barrels per day expected from the start date of the exploitation.
Le Ministre Barthelemy Kassa via nouvelles mutations (avec leur permission)

Minister Barthelemy Kass via ‘nouvelles mutations’ website. Image used with permission.

It is believed discussions will take place with Nigerian company South Atlantic Petroleum (Sapetro) for a production sharing contract.

However, some in Benin remain skeptical and are asking many questions about the announcement. Journalist Marcel Zouménou raised certain inconsistencies on the Nouvelle Tribune [fr] website:

Selon des sources proches du dossier, la quantité trouvée n’est pas pour autant importante, et n’est qu’un résidu de ce que le Bénin a exploité dans les années 70 et 80, par Saga Petroleum.

Les 12.000 milliards de recettes annoncées, reviennent-ils au Bénin uniquement ? Combien gagne Sapetro dans cette opération.

According to sources close to the project, the quantities found are not all that great, being only a residue of what Benin, via Saga Petroleum, exploited during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Will the 12 billion in revenue announced be solely for Benin? How much will Sapetro earn from this operation ?

Even certain members of parliament in Benin are far from trusting of the country's current president in relation to management of this new source of oil. Candide Azannai is one such member. According to an article posted on his Facebook page [fr], he learned that President Boni Yayi allegedly could be preparing to use a portion of the oil exploitation revenues to buy a plane so he is able to rapidly cover all counties of Benin to win over locals for his potential candidacy in the next presidential elections.

For the president then, enlightened management is necessary so that the Benin people can finally be happy about this oil which has always existed under the soil.

Another member of parliament, Lazare Sehoueto, stated that the information broadcast was a matter of propaganda. He too explained this on his Facebook page [fr]:

Pour que chacun se fasse une idée juste, notons que le Nigeria produit 2,5 millions de pétrole par Jour soit 25 millions de barils en dix jours. L’exploitation de nos 20 millions de baril de pétrole résiduel pourra être effectif vers Septembre 2014. Pour combien de jours ? Qu’est ce qui nous restera quand l’inconnue société qui bavarde actuellement aura retiré ses “billes”, il restera quoi à mon pays ?

Mais tout espoir n’est pas perdu. Sur le Bloc 4, un consortium travaille actuellement. Il s’agit d’un consortium composé de sociétés sérieuses (Shell, Petrobras du Brésil et d’une société “béninoise” créée par un Portugais). Il y a de bons espoirs que ce consortium pourra forer jusqu’à 2000 à 3000 m en profondeur dans la mer afin de nous confirmer si nous cernons effectivement la nappe de pétrole. Nous avons du pétrole comme nous avons de l’eau. Mais il faut que les forages “tombent” sur la nappe.

Just so that everyone has the right idea, let us note that Nigeria produces 2.5 million [barrels] of oil per day, that is 25 million barrels in ten days. The exploitation of our 20 million barrels of residual oil could start around September 2014. For how many days? What will be left to us when the unknown company who is talking to us right now has finished their dealings? What will be left for my country?But all hope is not lost. A consortium is currently working on Block 4. The consortium is made up of legitimate companies (Shell, Petrobas from Brazil and a ‘Benin’ company created by the Portuguese). There are great hopes that this consortium could drill up to 2,000 or 3,000 metres deep under the sea to confirm whether we have properly defined the oil layer. We have oil just like we have water. But the drilling must strike the layer.

In summary, for the moment there is still nothing new in King Behanzin’s country (a.k.a. Benin). It is undoubtedly still too early to be pleased about the potential of these new energy resources.

November 04 2013

PHOTOS: From Outer Space to Cyberspace, Nigeria’s Partial Solar Eclipse

Nigerians witnessed a partial eclipse of the sun on Sunday, November 3, 2013. According to Ikenna Okonkwo – a geo-scientist, blogger and university teacher: 

The eclipse actually what is known as a hybrid Eclipse. A hybrid eclipse occurs when a Solar eclipse is seen as Total and Annular at the same time. A total eclipse occurs when the silhouette of the Moon completely obscures the Sun, allowing the much fainter solar corona to be visible. In an Annular eclipse the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon. Usually the path of totality where a full (total or Annular) eclipse occurs is at best a narrow path with totality lasting about 2 minutes. On a much larger area observers get to see a partial eclipse.

Naturally, this event prompted reactions from Nigerians online. Many were enthused because they were witnessing another solar eclipse within a space of seven years, as seen in this tweet by Owolabi Caleb (@owocaleb):

Elijah Balogun (@EarlEternal), a digital media enthusiast, dedicated his 1,000th tweet to commemorate the event: 

Many Twitter users shared the pictures of the eclipse as observed from their homes. For instance, Ikenna (@Failedrift) shared this picture on his Twitter timeline:

Victor Olurnfemi (@mavol), a digital graphic designer, did as well: 

Some tweets were humorous. Nigerian writer Ayodele Olofintuade (@aeolofintuade) remarked: 

Nokwai (@chuksikeji), an entrepreneur, wrote:  

Lee_alifa, a student (@dlordna). thought that: 

Timmy (@lil_timmzy), tweeted this:  

September 29 2013

Boko Haram Militants Kill Up to 50 Nigerian University Students

Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram opened fire on students at the College of Agriculture in Yobe state, gunning down dozens of students aged 18 to 22 while they slept in a dormitory.

According to the Associated Press, up to 50 students were killed, and the militants also torched classrooms during the assault.

Boko Haram is a jihadist militant terrorist organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger. Since 2001, the group have actively launched attacks in Nigeria. This is a timeline (though not exhaustive) of Boko Haram's death toll in the country:

  • December 24, 2003: Christmas Eve attacks in Kannama and Geidam in Yobe State
  • September 21, 2004: Attack on Panshekara Police station, Kano
  • September 21, 2004: Attack on Bama and Gwarzo Police Stations
  • December 31, 2007: Attack on Presidential Hotel Port/Harcourt
  • July 26-30, 2009: Launch of mass uprising with attack on a police station in Bauchi that spread to Kano, Yobe and Borno states
  • September 7, 2010: Attack on a prison in Bauchi and freeing numerous prisoners including BH members.
  • October 6, 2010: Assassination of ANPP leader, Awena Ngala in Maiduguri
  • December 24, 2010: Christmas period bombing in Jos killed 38
  • October 9, 2010: Assassination of Muslim cleric Bashir Kashara and one of his students in Maiduguri
  • December 31, 2011: Mogadishu Assassination of ANPP gubernatorial candidate Modu Fannami Gubio and 8 others in Maiduguri
  • June 6, 2011: Assassination of Muslim cleric, Ibrahim Birkutu in Maiduguri
  • June 16, 2011: Bombing of Police Force Headquarters in Abuja
  • August 26, 2011: UN Building Bombing in Abuja
  • September 22, 2011: Attack on Maiduguri jail to free hundreds of prisoners
  • December 20, 2011: Dozens killed in Maiduguri shootings
  • December 25, 2011: Series of bomb attacks on Christmas day in Niger and Plateau States killed dozens
  • January 22, 2012: Multiple bomb explosions and attacks in Kano on Police facilities and security agency offices: death toll 215
  • April 9, 2012: Easter Sunday explosion in Kaduna. Death toll 38

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa which had been most hit by the terrorist attacks. The Nigerian president vowed that: 

…whoever they may be, wherever they may go, we will hunt them down, we will fish them out, and we will bring them to justice. No matter what it takes, we will win this war against terror.

Nonetheless, this vicious massacre of innocent children in their sleep threw the Nigerian blogosphere into mourning. 

Obi Asika, the chairman of SocialMediaWeek Lagos, lamented: 

Mark Amaza, a public commentator, was livid:

Journalist Abang Mercy recalled a similar Boko Haram death spree in July 2013:

Nnodim Blossom, an author, blogger and compère, offered a prayer for the dead:

 Henry Okelue questioned: 

  Opeolu Abiodun asked the question on many minds:

  Borrowing the words of Nigerian writer, Chiagozie Nwonwu wrote:

September 28 2013

‘How Much Are You Paid?’ Young Nigerians Ask Their Members of Parliament

On September 27, 2013, hundreds of Nigerian youths took to the streets, or rather to the chambers of the National Assembly to air their grievances about the bloated income and allowances of their lawmakers.

#OurNASS (Our National Assembly) was an initiative of Nigerian civil society group Enough is Enough and some Nigerian netizens. They demanded for more financial openness from an opaque legislature:

OURNASS

DEMAND

  1. Immediate comprehensive breakdown of their budgetary allocation of N150 billion for 2013.
  2. An account of the N1 trillion received since 2005 before the next recess in December.
  3. Functional contact information – numbers, email addresses and physical addresses of their constituency offices.
  4. ALL voting records on ALL constitutional amendments.
  5. We demand that the attendance list for each plenary be made public.

Determining the exact figure that the legislator earns, like most issues that require accurate data in Nigeria, is almost “mission impossible”. However, Nigerian blogger and public commentator Akin Akintayo offers insight:

Getting round the inscrutability of the remuneration for Nigerian legislators has been a completely fraught exercise that none of the organisations with the function of regulating such appear to have a handle on.
 
However, when the Economist blew the lid off the exorbitant salary packages of the Nigerian Senators a few weeks ago as I wrote in this blog, the uproar that followed especially on social media meant that it was impossible to ignore and something had to be done.
 

What did the Economist reveal? Writing in Nigeria Village Square, Femi Ajayi explains:

The Economist magazine revealed that Nigeria federal legislators, with a basic salary of $189,500.00 per annum (N30.6m), are the highest paid lawmakers in the world. It looked at the lawmakers’ basic salary as a ratio of the Gross Domestic Product per person across the world. According to the report, the basic salary (which excludes despicable allowances); of a Nigerian lawmaker is 116 times the country's GDP per person of $1,600.00.

In another report, the 469 federal lawmakers (109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives) cost Nigeria over N76 billion on annual salaries, allowances and quarterly payments. Each member of the 54 standing Senate committee, receives a monthly imprest of between N648 million and N972 million per year, while, a member of the HOR receives N35 million or N140 million as quarterly or yearly allowances; which means conservatively the 25 per cent of the overhead of the nation's budget goes to the NASS.

 
Ameh Ejekwonyilo in an op-ed in Rise Networks (a Nigerian social enterprise with bias for youths and ICT) recalls that:
[...] one will understand the reason why the National Assembly members were asking for the head of Lamido Sanusi Lamido, the Central Bank governor, who once said that the Federal lawmakers take about 50 per cent of our National Budget. If you juxtapose the above figures with our current budget, you will see clearly that the National Assembly members are the albatross of Nigeria; because they legislate on, and appropriate public funds to themselves, thereby looting the masses blind.
 
The reaction of Twitter users about the #OurNASS protests naturally varied. Kolawole Osafehinti (@kolaosafehinti), an engineering consultant, wondered:

Royal Amebo (@RoyalAmebo) pointed out:

Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive (@nnamdianekwe), a security specialist, wanted to know what he achievements of Members of Parliament:

Zainab Usman (@MssZeeUsman), a writer and blogger, wrote:

Emerie Udechukwu (@emerieconqueror) shared a link to a video of the protest:

 

The protest was endorsed by Nuhu Ribadu(@NuhuRibadu), Nigeria's former anti-corruption chief:

September 27 2013

“An e-Book is a Book” – Nigerian Poet and Linguist

In March this year, speakers of Yoruba, a language spoken by over 30 million people in Nigeria and in the neighbouring West African countries of Benin and Togo, set Twitter aflame with tweets in the language. The Tweet Yorùbá Day was an effort to revive and publicize this tonal language on Twitter. Nigerian poet, writer and linguist, Kola Tubosun was part of the effort behind Yoruba day.

A passionate advocate of African literature, the use of local languages and social media, Tubosun is a freelance editor with Author-Me.com, and the editor of the NTLitMag, a literary journal resident in NigeriansTalk.org news opinion website. He can be found on Twitter as @baroka and blogs at KTravula.com, a travel blog. His first collection of poetry “Headfirst into the Meddle” was published in April, 2005. 

After meeting for the first time following a long virtual correspondence, Global Voices author, Nwachukwu Egbunike,  spoke with Tubosun about African languages, Nigerian literature, and how new technologies are shaking our assumptions of what a ‘book’ is. 

Nwachukwu Egbunike (NE): You are a blogger, writer, teacher and linguist, yet the question remains, who is Kola Tubosun?

Kola Tubosun (image used with permission)

Kola Tubosun (image used with permission)

Kola Tubosun (KT): I’m all of the above, and more, of course. I have also worked in broadcasting.

I am the fifth child out of six. I was born in Ibadan and schooled there, mostly, and I’ve grown up within environments that made it easy, fun, and necessary, to continue to express myself, just as I was brought up. I was also educated in Kenya and the United States. I am a writer because writing is my primary means of engaging with the world. I am linguist because this is what I went to school to be qualified to do. Both are my professions and passions at the same time. However, I would hope that I’m known as someone who used his skills and passion to influence the world for good.

I am interested in a number of things that excite me, but my daily fascination is with being able to create or facilitate innovations in language technology and/or literature. I grew up around artists, so I like journalism and broadcasting. My interest/passion for blogging stems from this background. It also informs my interest in literary journalism. I write poetry and I am rounding off work on a collection of poems I’d been working on for a number of years.

I gave up a while ago trying to put myself in a box of descriptions. Hope this works.

NE: You were part of the facilitators of the Tweet Yoruba Day. What were the main successes of the Twitter initiative?

KT: For me, the first victory was getting Twitter’s attention. This happened in March 2012, on the first Tweet Yoruba Day which we had set up to pressure Twitter so that Yoruba is included in the list of languages into which the platform is currently being translated. The response was a promise by Twitter to do more in “the next couple of months”. And though we haven’t got as far as we hope, it encouraged me to continue work on the project, but this time to celebrate the use of Yoruba in the 21st century. The linguist in me is interested in observing trends in contemporary language use, so the annual Tweet Yoruba Day makes that possible.

Since the first Tweet Yoruba Day, there have also been a few encouraging news: Apple included Yoruba in the list of languages that can be used on iPhones (and I assume, iPads and iPods). It is impressive to be able to have African languages being represented and recognized in this form at last. Just last month, I also found out that Google Translate is including Yoruba in its list of languages. You can now translate from English to Yoruba, and from Yoruba to English. The machine isn’t perfect yet – as I said in a blog post – but the baby steps are highly encouraging. I’m happy to be part of the movement to create the awareness that makes these steps a reality.

NE: How are Yoruba speakers using Twitter?

KT: Same as everyone else. Code switching with English or whatever language soothes their need at the moment. This is fine. I think it’s important to mention that our intention at the start of the Tweet Yoruba project was not to turn every Yoruba speaker on twitter to monolingual Yoruba “tweeterer”. No, it was to encourage use and improve the current attitude to indigenous language use anywhere. Yoruba just happens to be the language I’m most familiar with. I am interested in (and always encouraged by) indigenous language use anywhere/everywhere, even along with other international languages, until the attitude that one of them is inferior on the basis of the number of speakers is discredited.

But if your question is about how folks who participate in the Tweet Yoruba Day have used twitter, I’d say it has been pretty impressive. I’ll categorize the users into three: the first are the top-rate Yoruba speakers, capable of conducting conversations in the language (and in writing) without any code switching/mixing. They have the native competence and can translate texts from their second language (English) into Yoruba. The second level below that are those who can speak fluently but can’t write fluently because of their complex about the use of tone marks. Because of this, most of them just participate by reading and re-tweeting, while lamenting how bad their writing skills are. The last level, are those who can’t write or speak it fluently for a number of reasons (some of which includes the fact that they grew up not being encouraged to do so, or a lack of sufficient education). Some of them still tried to cash in on the Tweet Yoruba day by participating in the crudest way they could muster, while some just sat and called us names. For them, that was a way to get back at those knowledgeable in the language enough to make them look bad. I found it all fascinating.

NE: Why do few Africans communicate on social media using local languages?

KT: The obvious reason is the absence of an audience. If you’re followed by people from different parts of the world, the obvious way to communicate is in a language that most people can understand. I look forward to finding a twitter feed on which only Yoruba is spoken, though. In the absence of one, it would be nice to found one, where you’re already sure that the audience are self-selected. You don’t follow the feed if you don’t want to read Yoruba tweets. Simple. (You’ve just been intimated with the next project of the Tweet Yoruba movement J ). It would be nice if the same happens for other local languages. I know many Kenyan tweeters who tweet mainly in Swahili. It adds to the dynamism that twitter represents. But then, the exclusive use of Swahili (and Zulu, and a few other African languages) is common among educated citizens in those places perhaps because they don’t have the hang-ups that many of us in West-Africa have about ours. And most people who are monolingual Yoruba speakers likely don’t know what Twitter is, or have any interest in using it. One of my interests is pursuing opportunities that can bridge that divide between people considered “illiterate” by the old definition of “the ability to read and write” and the tools of information technology.

NE: Nigeria has produced ‘literary institutions’ and has also continued to evolve with many young and talented voices. What is your take on literature in Nigeria and the continent?

KT: For anyone interested in literature, and literary development, this is a good time to be alive, not just because of the quality of output and the zeal of the participants, but also because of the presence of new media and the dynamism it has allowed for the production of new forms, and new ways of expression. We have a new generation of writers doing great things in the face of tremendous odds. We are doing well. Last year’s Caine Prize had four out of five Nigerians (Five writers of Nigerian descent, if you consider Pede Hollist). Teju Cole, Chimamanda Adichie, Chika Unigwe, Igoni Barrett are doing great out there, and new ones are coming up behind them: Emmanuel Iduma, Dami Ajayi, Ukamaka Olisakwe, Ayodele Olofintuade, etc. The Booker also has Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo, who might as well win it. I think we’re doing well.

I hope, of course, that new media eventually gets its pride of place in the mainstream of literary appraisal. It already does well in consumption and reach. Until the Booker, the NLNG, the Orange, or any other major prize rewards someone whose platform is mainly online, then we haven’t reached there yet. I don’t advocate for the death of the book, just like inventors of the automobile didn’t go ahead and shoot all the horses. But judges of prizes need to start looking at the quality of production in the new media, and begin to pay attention to them. It is the future. We may as well get used to it.

NE: Can social media revive the culture of creative writing and reading? Or it will do the opposite?

“The new media is the future. We may as well get used to it.” – Kola Tubosun (image used with permission)

KT: I believe so. Like I said earlier, social media already makes it easy to get literary output to reach a number of previously ignored audiences. Our attention span in today’s world, and the number of things that compete for them, makes the platform of the web a very helpful medium of sharing and receiving. It might change how information is shared and consumed. It will shake our assumptions about what a ‘book’ is – after all, an e-book is a book – but the overall impact is that information gets to reach more people. Sticklers to traditional modes of publishing will lament this as retrogression, but they will be wrong.

NE: Critics have sounded the death knell on African literature with the propensity of authors to create “poverty porn” narratives. What can be done to reverse this trend?

KT: Well, what we need to first acknowledge is that poverty itself is a present and continuing reality on the continent (and outside of it). And for that reason, literature that describes and reflects this reality will always continue to exist (until even long after poverty is a thing of the past). See countless movies/literature about European or American wars, or the cannibalism of vampire stories, or literature about royalty. Nobody complains that there are too much of those, so it should be the same about human distress. As long as something feeds an audience or an imagination, it will always be written for entertainment. Were that not the case, movies like Precious, or The Color Purple, or Gone With the Wind, or Slumdog Millionaire would not have become hits. What is important is not that the story reflects poverty or is set in a place where poverty exists, or show depravity in a way that probably has already been said a thousand times before. It is that the story tells us something else other than what we already know, or tells us something we already know in a different emotional and imaginative form.  That’s more important.

Death knell? I don’t know about that. African literature will continue to exist for as long as there are Africans. They will also continue to be as diverse as they are now, reflecting the realities and imaginations of the continent.

NE: Recently, you suffered a violation of your intellectual rights when your photograph was used by a Nigerian print medium without your consent. Did you seek legal redress?

KT: No, I didn’t. Let me point you to an interview I did with Critical Margins on the matter. I found out that the most I could get in redress – even if I won a lawsuit that could cost me a fortune to pursue to a logical end, and many productive years of my life – would not even be enough to pay the lawyer’s fees, so I never bothered with a lawsuit. I however got a temporary reprieve in form of a belated attribution by the newspaper. I wish many more editors took more care before violating other people’s intellectual property rights, and that more newspapers responded to such complaints faster than they do now. But until the punishment for violating other people’s intellectual rights is grave on the violator, much isn’t going to change.

NE: There is an ongoing global conversation about copyrights and intellectual property rights as personified in the ‘martyrdom’ of Aaron Swartz. Do you think the same scenario is present within the continent when placed side-by-side with your personal experience?

KT: Well, usually I have a liberal outlook to access to information. I am 100% in support of the principle of fair use, where information is available to everyone everywhere, as long as the original creator of the content is credited. That is why my blog has the Creative Commons tag, saying that anyone can use any part of the contents in the blog as long as credit is provided on the site of second use. I once fought with a popular Nigerian youth site because of this same issue. They were taking articles written by people for Nigerian newspapers and reusing them on their site without proper attribution. Sometimes, they even removed the name of the original writer. This is not only wrong, it is criminal, and I’ve called them out on it a number of times.

However, what happened to Aaron Swartz was a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened: threatening a young man with such extreme punishments because of his pursuit of knowledge was heartbreaking. I think it was also political, perhaps because of his earlier work against SOPA et al. If all one is seeking is information, which in his case had no way of hurting anyone at all, I don’t see why he should have been so prosecuted. I think information should be free and accessible. I also believe that they should be used responsibly and with proper attribution. What happened to me was a violation because the paper used my photographic work without acknowledging that it was mine, and it took days and a threat of lawsuits before the attribution was done.

I understand the argument for increased monetary gain for the artist from a total prevention of any form of sharing at all of works in the public domain. I just don’t buy it, pardon the pun. If art is a noble and important endeavour, it should also be capable of transcending avarice. Its ability to delight and inspire as many people as possible should, I believe, trump its need for exclusive privilege prompted by greed.

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