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January 26 2014

Cries of Discrimination as Israel Detains Illegal African Immigrants

La grève des immigrés africains  à Tel-Aviv

Screenshot of African immigrant demonstrators in Tel-Aviv via Zahi Shaked on YouTube 

About 30,000 undocumented Africans living in Israel [fr] mounted a three-day strike and a series of protests backed by human rights defenders in early January against an act that allows Israeli authorities to place illegal immigrants in detention without any trial nor case review for up to a year.

Aside from the new law, approved on December 10, 2013, protesters denounced the refusal of Israeli authorities to consider their applications for refugee status as well as the detention of hundreds of them. The video below highlights the scale of events and presents protesters demands:   

The Holot detention centre in the Negev desert, near the border between Israel and Egypt, already has received numerous inmates since December 2013.

The site irinnews.org offered an idea of the centre's capacity

Holot can house 3,300 migrants and is set to expand, eventually reaching a capacity of between 6,000 and 9,000 people, according to Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel's Public Security Minister.

The anti-illegal African feeling has reached alarming levels, fed by hate speech, such as the “Le sentiment” video published by Djemila Yamina. The video shows Israeli citizens stating in a public gathering that illegal immigrants are “psychopaths, scum and manure that need to be expelled from our country”

Elsewhere, minority extremist groups have attacked immigrants. In Israel, the government and the judiciary systems are taking an active part. Previously in July 2012, Allain Jules condemned [fr] on his blog:

 Ce qui se passe en Israël actuellement est indigne. Entre un ministre qui demande que les clandestins soient simplement assassinés, puisqu’il recommande qu’on tire sur eux au moment où ils tenteront de franchir les frontières, un autre qui parle du risque d’impureté future de l’État d’Israël qui doit garder son caractère juif 

What is going on in Israel is shameful. Between a minister demanding that illegal immigrants are simply assassinated, suggesting we shoot at them at the very moment they try to cross the borders, and another minister that talks about the risks of impurity for the future state of Israel that must retain its Jewish character

Racism was apparent even before the new law. On July 18, 2013, Darfuri asylum-seeker and actor, Babaker (Babi) Ibrahim was arrested simply for not having a receipt for his bicycle.

Jean Shaoul explained [fr] the reality for asylum seekers in Israel on his blog cameroonvoice.com: 

En vertu de la loi israélienne, il est interdit aux immigrés de travailler tant qu'ils ne sont pas enregistrés comme demandeurs d'asile. Ce qui leur est pratiquement impossible. En effet, selon l’agence des Nations unies pour les réfugiés, alors que le taux de reconnaissance national moyen des demandeurs d’asile est de 39 pour cent, en Israël ce taux est inférieur à 1 pour cent. En Israël, la plupart des demandeurs d’asile sont des Erythréens et des Soudanais qui connaissent un taux de reconnaissance international moyen de 84 pour cent et de 64 pour cent respectivement.

By virtue of the Israeli law, work is prohibited for immigrants as long as they are not registered as asylum seekers. Which is virtually impossible for them. In effect, according to United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), while the national average recognition rate for asylum seekers is 39 percent, in Israel this rate is lower than 1 percent. In Israel, the majority of asylum claimants are Eritreans and Sudanese, that have an international recognition rate of 84 percent and 64 percent respectively.

 In a post published on a Mediapart blog, JOSEPH AKOUISSONNE [fr] wrote:

Ce racisme est incompréhensible de la part d’un peuple qui a souffert de l’abjection nazie, avec sa cohorte d'actes odieux visant à l'extermination des juifs. Pourtant, c'était bien Madame Golda Meir qui proclamait que  : « …les Africains et le peuple juif partagent des points communs. Ils ont été victimes de l’histoire : morts dans les camps de concentration ou réduits en esclavage… » Dans les années 1960, l'état d'Israël avait tissé des liens très forts avec le continent noir. Des étudiants africains étaient accueillis dans les kibboutz. Inversement, nombreux étaient les Israéliens qui allaient en Afrique pour soutenir le développement des états fraîchement indépendants. Il faut aussi rappeler le combat des juifs sud-africains, aux côtés de Nelson Mandela dans sa lutte contre l’apartheid. Sans oublier ceux qui s’engagèrent avec les militants des Droits Civiques aux États-Unis.

This racism is incomprehensible coming from people who have suffered under the Nazis, with its cohort of heinous acts aimed at Jewish extermination. Nevertheless, it was Golda Meir who proclaimed that:  “… Africans and Jews share common points. They have been victims of history, who died in concentration camps or have been enslaved… “. In the 1960s, the Israeli State forged strong links with the African continent. African students were welcomed into the kibbutz. Vice versa, there were plenty of Israelis who were involved in supporting the development of the newly enacted independent states. It is worth mentioning too the struggle of South African Jews alongside Nelson Mandela in the strife against apartheid. Not to forget those who engaged with the Civil Rights activists in the United States.

What is it about illegal immigration that provokes so much hatred in Israel? In response, JOL Press site presents figures [fr] from the Freedom 4 Refugees Association:

“Environ 50 000 demandeurs d'asile et réfugiés africains vivent aujourd’hui en Israël. Nous avons fui la persécution, les forces militaires, la dictature, les guerres civiles et le génocide. Au lieu d'être traités comme des réfugiés par le gouvernement d'Israël, nous sommes traités comme des criminels » explique Freedom4Refugees. ”Nous réclamons l’abrogation de la loi, la fin des arrestations, et la libération de tous les demandeurs d'asile et les réfugiés emprisonnés”, ont encore déclaré les réfugiés dans une pétition relayée par l’association Freedom4Refugees. Principalement d'origine soudanaise, sud-soudanaise et érythréenne, les manifestants demandent également que les demandes d'asile soient effectuées de “manière individuelle, équitable et transparente ”.

“Approximately 50,000 asylum seekers live currently in Israel. We fled persecution, military forces, dictatorship, civil wars and genocide. Instead of being treated as refugees by the government of Israel, we are being dealt with as criminals,” explained Freedom4Refugees. “We demand that the law be revoked, the end of arrests, and the release of all asylum seekers and refugees imprisoned,” the refugees declared in a petition communicated by the Freedom4Refugees Association. Mainly Sudanese, South Sudanese and Eritrean demonstrators further demand that asylum applications are made “in an individual, fair and transparent way”.

Al Monitor website noted the discriminatory character of measures taken against African immigrants:

At the same time, however, there are some 93,000 “tourists without valid visas” in Israel, about half of them from the former Soviet Union. Needless to say, the government is not building special detainment centers for them. The number of people requesting asylum is also significantly lower than the number of legal guest workers in Israel (approximately 70,000), much to the relief of those companies that arrange to bring them to the country and employ them.

There has been striking indifference at an international level. In an article published on Rue89, Renée Greusard disclosed everyday racism against Israel's black population:

Quand nous abordons ce sujet ensemble, David Sheen, le journaliste américain, pèse ses mots et parle plus lentement :

“Le niveau de racisme actuel en Israël, il peut être comparé à ce qu’on a connu dans d’autres pays occidentaux, il y a cinquante, soixante ans. Les gens se font insulter dans la rue. Souvent, quand les Noirs entrent dans les bus, les gens se bouchent le nez, bloquent les places à côté d’eux, ouvrent les fenêtres, pestent : “Ah ! Mais on n’a pas besoin de tous ces Noirs !”

Dans les autres pays, les gens sont gênés par leurs pensées racistes. Ils ne les disent pas en public. Là, non. C’est un racisme assuré, et dont les gens sont fiers. “

When we address this issue together, American journalist David Sheen weighs his words and talks slowly: 

“The current level of racism in Israel can be compared to what has been experienced in other Western countries 50, 60 years ago. People are insulted in the streets. Often when blacks board buses, people would plug their noses and block the seats near them, opening the windows while ranting ‘Ah! But we don't need all these blacks!' 

In other countries, people are embarrassed by their racist thoughts. They do not divulge them in public. Here, not quite. They are confident and proud on their racism.”

These anti-black sentiments can be observed even from the comments published on blogs and online media such as  lemonde.frseneweb.com and tempsreel.nouvelobs.com.  

These types of comments frequently arouse passions on both sides of the issue. An article by Jack Guez on Yahoo News has received 2,410 comments, and many of these comments have in turn attracted plenty of “likes”. The comment below has received 82 favourable opinions

People criticize Israel but no one says a thing about Saudi Arabia, why? 

Saudi Arabia expelled 200,000 Africans a few weeks ago!

The death of Ariel Sharon brought the protests and strike to a temporary halt for a few days. However, the struggle of the undocumented migrants in Israel continues. After marching outside the offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as other foreign embassies in Tel-Aviv, protesters have held demonstrations in front of The Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the government continues to herald sluggish proposals.

January 25 2014

Things I Love About South Sudan

Despite the human misery and the hardships the South Sudanese people have to face as fighting continues in the world's newest nation, South Sudanese and friends of South Sudan have taken to Twitter to share their love of the country with the hashtag #ThingILoveaboutSouthSudan.

South Sudan has been at war since December 16, 2013 after an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar.

A South Sudanese girl at independence festivities

A South Sudanese girl at independence festivities
Public domain image – original by Jonathan Morgenstein/USAID on flickr

Here is what people love about South Sudan:

January 24 2014

What is Happening in South Sudan?

Rachel Hamada asks, “What is happening in South Sudan?”:

Much blood has been spilt across South Sudan in the last weeks. But no ink has been spilt yet in Addis Ababa. Talks are still taking place amongst South Sudan’s proxy powerbrokers and officials, who have moved around the city as discussions have dragged on with no concrete resolution, just a supposed agreement with no signatures.

She also discusses why the voices of South Sudanese journalists are not heard:

In the meantime, it’s important to look at WHY South Sudanese journalists’ voices are not getting out there.

Imagine you’re a South Sudanese journalist. Due to historic events and capacity, formal journalism training is still relatively rare. So you’re playing catch-up on that front. Next up, resources. Foreign journalists have expenses, they have transport, they have good equipment. Local journalists often don’t have access to all of these resources.

January 19 2014

President: Ugandan Soldiers Killed Fighting in South Sudan

Ugandan troops are fighting alongside South Sudan's President Salva Kiir's troops in the ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces, in what Uganda says is an attempt to protect its many citizens doing business in the the world's newest nation.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni revealed the troops’ involvement as well as that a few Ugandan soldiers have been injured and others killed on 15 January, 2014 while speaking at the 5th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region [ICGLR] on Peace and Security in Luanda, Angola. Rumors had circulated of Uganda's presence in South Sudan, but this was the first time the government had confirmed it. 

The following day, Uganda's two most read newspapers, the government-owned New Vision and the independent Daily Monitor, covered the news on their front pages, but with very different headlines. New Vision's read, “UPDF [Ugandan People's Defence Force] Hit South Sudan Rebels”, while the Daily Monitor printed, “Machar's Fighters Kill UPDF Soldiers”.

Two competing headlines sharing the news of Ugandan troops' involvement in the fighting in South Sudan. Shared on Facebook by Ugandan media personality MC Kats.

Two competing headlines sharing the news of Ugandan troops’ involvement in the fighting in South Sudan. Shared on Facebook by Ugandan media personality MC Kats.

Social media users quickly reacted to the story.

Benjamin Rukwengye wrote on Twitter that the New Vision headline meant to show that victory is more of a priority than the soldiers dying:

Winnie Byanyima, the wife of Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye, tweeted:

On Facebook, Charlotte Kemigyisha wrote:

About 48 hours ago, the Army spokesperson was denying any deaths of UPDF soldiers in Sudan. 24 hours later his Boss H.E. acknowledges death having been suffered on both sides during a cross fire. Question is; next time round, who will I believe?

Readers on both newspapers’ websites also commented on the news.

Peter asked for proof concerning the deaths and injuries on what the president said:

Where is the proof? Just because M7 [Presient Yoweri Museveni] said so does not mean so. Not surprising, this is the quality of today's journalists, particularly NV [New Vision newspaper] being mouth piece of Ug government

Elgon58 asked the president:

It started with the UPDF evacuating ugandans ,then UPDF prividing a safe corridor for ugandans to go home then UPDF guarding important installations in juba and finally UPDF fighting alongside the SPLA..Mr president why didn´t you tell us from the beginning that the UPDF was rushing to give support to the SPLA.Who is going to foot the bill?Why were the kenyans and ethiopians not involved in supporting the SPLA?

Kipunpung'it noted:

Only fools can claim they didn't know UPDF was involved in combat operations in S. Sudan

Bishanga thinks the UPDF soldiers dying in South Sudan are actually being killed by the President indirectly:

Why President Museveni should be actively fighting rebels led by Riek Machar in South Sudan fully knowing that two clans are involved in the figting.Is Museveni fighting the Rebels to create peace or fuel the fighting President Museveni must know that the UPDF Soldiers dying in the War of South Sudan are being killed by him indirectly because he did this to kill soldiers he does not want in the UPDF because I the first instance Museveni deployed these dead soldiers to South Sudan before getting blessing from the Parliament of Uganda.

December 21 2013

My Tribe is South Sudan Therefore I Choose Peace

Following the crisis that has engulfed the world's newest nation, South Sudan, since December 16, 2013, South Sudanese and friends of the South Sudanese people have created the hashtags #MyTribeIsSouthSudan and #iChoosePeace to call for peace and unity in the country.

South Sudan became independent on July 9, 2011 after a referendum, which was held to determine whether South Sudan should declare independence from Sudan.

A South Sudanese girl at independence festivities

A South Sudanese girl at independence festivities
Public domain image – original by Jonathan Morgenstein/USAID on flickr

Below are some of Twitter messages in support of peace and national unity:

South Sudan's Vice-President Riek Machar is seated in his office, June 30, 2012

South Sudan's former Vice-President Riek Machar is accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Public domain image – Voice of America

December 20 2013

Coup Attempt? Ethnic Conflict? Figuring Out the Crisis in South Sudan

Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, the world's newest nation, said on December 16, 2013 that an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar had been put down. Riek Machar has refuted the allegations, saying that the fighting was a result of a conflict between members of the presidential guard.

Machar was the African country's first vice-president before president Kiir fired him July 2013.

About 500 civilians are reported to have been killed since the crisis began.

Was there a coup on December 16? Is the crisis in the country an ethnic conflict?

President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit outside the Security Council chamber, at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo released under the GNU Free Documentation License  by Jenny Rockett.

President of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit outside the Security Council chamber, at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo released under the GNU Free Documentation License by Jenny Rockett.

What would be the reasons for president Kiir's attempt to blame his former vice president? Lesley Anne Warner, an African security analyst, explains:

Political tensions had been on the rise since President Kiir sacked his entire cabinet in July, especially his VP Riek Machar, whose location at the moment, is unconfirmed. (I’m trying to get the #WhereIsRiek hashtag started, but sadly it hasn’t gained traction.) Salva was quick to point the finger at Riek to blame him for the recent unrest, but my initial sense is that Riek has spent years trying to rehabilitate his reputation from the 1991 Nasir coup attempt and would be more likely to exhaust his options in the political sphere before resorting to armed violence. The key issue to consider is who stands to gain from casting Riek in a negative light and reminding South Sudan, and the international community, of his past? The answer is, President Kiir, who needs to bolster his own image as South Sudan’s leader in light of the cabinet reshuffle, and in the run-up to elections in 2015. Notice how President Kiir has donned his military apparel, which he hasn’t worn in years for the press conference he gave on yesterday’s events instead of his trademark cowboy hat.

Is the crisis a power struggle between two ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer? President Kiir comes from the majority Dinka people and Machar from the Nuer. South Sudanese bloggger PaanLuel Wël does not think so:

Deadly shoot-outs among the presidential guards in Juba is being portrayed as a war pitting the Dinka (among whom President Kiir is from) against the Nuer, the tribe of Dr. Riek Machar, South Sudan former Vice President. Yet, the senior SPLM officials being arrested are overwhelmingly Dinkas – both from Bor and Bahr el Ghazal. And even Equatorians and Shilluks. So, what is the what? South Sudanese should sort out the mess among the Presidential Guards and must leave out these two–tribalization of the unfortunate incident and victimization of innocent political opponents.

Wël also imagines possible end scenarios to the crisis:

Barring the tragedy of the situation, it is amusing how the government is conducting the aftermath of the mutiny – making it appear as a resounding victory rather than the beginning of a tragedy awaiting the nation.

One thing is clear: there is no end to this crisis other than some kind of mediated compromise between President Kiir and Riek Machar. Riek Machar will come back to Juba as the 1st Vice President of South Sudan, and possibly with a clause making him unfirable by Kiir. If that is the case, then won’t it make more sense to initiate the dialogue and peaceful end to the crisis RIGHT NOW rather than waiting for more precious lives to be lost on both sides before the two camps settle for what it is that it is.

Martin Garang thinks the crisis was either a coup or mishandling reassignments on the part of security forces:

Civilians have so far become the underdogs caught in the crossfire, targeted for no reason or locked in their homes without food or water in Juba. Reports have hinted that the Jonglee capital of Bor had come under heavy gunfire with several deaths reported.

Either it was a coup d'état or security forces mishandling reassignments in their quarters, The SPLM has tarnished its reputation by putting innocent lives at risk. Whatever the truth in the recent government rhetoric, the rhyme and whine over state power from the leaders carry the blame for the current state of affairs in Juba.

South Sudan has a history of rebellions which had been made excessively ethnical during the decades of war of independence. It is a reality that can be seen in all aspects of life in the country. It’s therefore the responsibility of the SPLM leadership to have acquainted itself with this reality by urging leaders to refrain from using ethnic cards in their power manipulations.

Writing on African Arguments, Jairo Munive, a post-doctoral researcher at the Peace, Risk and Violence Unit- Danish Institute for International Studies, points out that what happened in South Sudan is probably not a coup:

But are we witnessing a coup in South Sudan? Probably not. First, one should forget, or at least treat with caution, the wording employed by the actors involved the crisis. President Kiir has spoken of a “coup attempt” and “criminal actions” whilst Machar refers to the “manufacturing of a coup plot to launch a crackdown against the opposition…the country is to be united and cannot tolerate one man’s rule or it cannot tolerate dictatorship”.

It is more fruitful instead to think about the apparent collapse in cohesion of SPLA. The real issue at this juncture, as the head of the United Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Hilda Johnson expressed, is the discipline, command and control in the security forces. To come to terms with recent events we have to understand the SPLA – its politics, tensions and drama surrounding it.

South Sudanese politics is interwoven with low intensity warfare, inter-ethnic violence and norms of authority grounded in violence. This violence is designed to generate loyalty, fear and legitimacy within a region or an ethnic group vis-à-vis those in power. The army in South Sudan has a tremendous importance in two ways: both as a space for politics and as a ‘welfare provider’ within the nascent state. Furthermore, the make-up of the army reflects the divided politics of the country.

The political environment in South Sudan, as the events of this week testify, remains vulnerable to the mobilisation of armed force. Internal factionalism and defections have marked the SPLA in recent years. Commanders, particularly those from other armed groups integrated into the SPLA (particularly from the SSDF), have reacted to a perceived lack of integration and authority, power and military command.

On Twitter, users employing the hashtag #SouthSudan had this to say:

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

February 06 2013

Where Are the Colonial Maps of the South Sudan-Sudan Border?

Joseph Edward discusses the issue of missing colonial-era maps of South Sudan border> “Debate has flared up about maps allegedly taken by the British after Sudan became independent in 1956. While some believe the historic documents could ease ongoing border disputes, researchers doubt they exist at all.”

July 23 2012

South Sudanese Marathoner to Compete Under Olympic Flag

This post is part of our special coverage London Olympics 2012.

Guor Marial, an athlete from South Sudan, will be participating in the London 2012 Olympics, but not under his country's flag. Marial will be competing in the longest race of the Games – the men’s marathon – as an independent.

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. It formally declared independence on 9 July, 2011 and has not been recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as yet.

Martina Nicolls wrote about Guor on Feast or Famine blog:

“Guor Marial will run as an independent athlete in clothing without a country flag or identification. He will race under the Olympic flag. The 28-year old will compete in the marathon which takes place on August 12. Marial’s country of birth South Sudan, gained independence a year ago and is yet to form a national Olympic committee. His country of current destination is (United States of ) America. Marial, a permanent resident in America, is in the process of gaining American citizenship. However he is not yet a US citizen and cannot therefore run under the United States flag.”

Guor Marial will be in London for the men's marathon. Image courtesy of www.RunBlogRun.com

The IOC initially urged Marial to compete on behalf of Sudan, but Marial refused to represent the country he fled when he was 15 years old. Rajib Sen wrote:

Guor Marial was born in Southern Sudan at the start of the long-drawn conflict in that country which resulted in the creation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan, only last year. Thus, it has not yet established a National Olympic Committee, so it cannot send a team to the Games which open (this) week, which leaves Marial unable to represent his own country. The IOC has suggested that he runs for Sudan, which has invited him to join their team but Marial who lost 28 members of his family in the war has refused. “I lost my family and relatives and in South Sudan two million people died,” he said by telephone from Flagstaff, Arizona, USA where he lives. “For me to just go and represent Sudan is a betrayal of my country first of all and is disrespecting my people who died for freedom.

There are two other athletes who will compete under the Olympic flag:

As many as 204 countries will be participating at the London Olympic Games opening next week. But Philipine van Aanhotl and Reginald de Windt will not be part of any of their contingents. They will compete (as) Independent Olympic participants only because they will represent no nation. They were citizens of the Netherlands Antilles of the Caribbean Islands, a country that was dissolved on 10th October 2010. Accordingly, the Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee withdrew its membership of the IOC. That’s how two Olympic-standard athletes were left stranded without a country to represent.

Nick Weldon of Runner’s World blog interviewed Marial:

If I get permission, all I can do is go there and be open-minded. You never know. But right now it’s important for me to just be there, to show the world and South Sudanese people. I am here. You are here. You are a country. You are here. Which means, next time, 2016, it’s not going to be me there alone. There are a couple of kids, when they see me this year; it’s going to motivate them. It’s going to make me happy if I can see that kind of thing happen.

This post is part of our special coverage London Olympics 2012.

May 31 2012

South Sudan: Blogging the Newest Country in the World

South Sudan declared its independence on 9 July 2011 to become the world's newest country.

South Sudan held a referendum on January 9, 2011, on whether or not it should remain a part of Sudan as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Below is a list of blogs with regular reports, analyses and opinions relating to South Sudan. They cover a variety of subjects such as politics, language, health, humanitarian work and gender.

1. African Arguments: Making Sense of Sudan:

Making Sense of Sudan [and South Sudan] is the leading site for critical online debate and discussion about Sudan. Started by Alex de Waal in 2007, MSS has become an institution for those wishing to understand the country and the many issues raised by its politics, humanitarian crises and international engagement. Including cutting edge debate, book reviews and commentaries on current issues, the blog seeks to place Sudan in a wider context, and to highlight many of the internationally important issues identifiable by seasoned observer and occasional watcher alike.

Children at South Sudan independence celebrations. Photo courtesy of Matata Safi.

2. PaanLuel Wël: A South Sudanese blogger and a newspaper columnist based in Washington DC, USA.

A blog by South Sudanese bloggers for, and about, South Sudan

3. Sudan Reeves:

Eric Reeves is Professor of English Language and Literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. He has spent the past thirteen years working full-time as a Sudan researcher and analyst, publishing extensively both in the US and internationally.

He is also at work on a longer-range project surveying the international response to ongoing war and human destruction over the past 25 years (”Sudan – Suffering a Long Way Off”). The project will survey not only the history of Darfur, and the world's failure to halt the first genocide of the 21st century, but the substitution — for over two decades — of humanitarian aid for diplomatic resolve to end conflict in South Sudan and the transitional areas along the North/South border.

4. David Majok:

This is David Majok. My blog will be totally devoted to the cause of peace and advancing new thinking in the political discourse in South Sudan. This blog will attempt to look at political, economic, social and philosophical discourse in South Sudan by sharing my insights, objectively and frankly about the way forward. I will try to engage the world to look at South Sudan and the potential it presents for the people of the region in making and remaking what was lost through the years of struggle.

5. Enough Project: South Sudan:

The Enough Project fights to end genocide and crimes against humanity, focused on areas where some of the world’s worst atrocities occur. We get the facts on the ground, use rigorous analysis to determine the most sustainable solutions, influence political leaders to adopt our proposals, and mobilize the American public to demand change.

6. South Sudan Medical Journal:

The South Sudan Medical Journal (SSMJ) was started in February 2008, as the Southern Sudan Medical Bulletin (SSMB), a joint venture between Southern Sudanese and British doctors who wanted to make a free, accessible journal for all branches of healthcare in South Sudan. It published regular quarterly journals that were distributed and read by healthcare staff in government and non-government organisations (NGO’s) throughout the region.

On the 16th April 2009 the SSMB became a charity and was renamed the Southern Sudan Medical Journal.

In line with South Sudan’s independence in July 2011 the charity was renamed South Sudan Medical Journal. This is the charity’s official blog where you will be able to find interesting and relevant news relating to health matters in South Sudan.

7. John Akec:

I am an academic from South Sudan. Currently, I am vice chancellor of a newly instituted university of Northern Bahr El Ghazal in Sudan. I hold degrees in engineering including a doctorate in mechanical and manufacturing engineering. I have also received postgraduate training in environmental sciences and entrepreneurship. My teaching and research interests span mechanical design, robotics, control engineering, artificial intelligence, web development, multimedia systems, environmental impact assessment (EIA), and e-governance.

8. Free South Sudan Media Center:

The Free South Sudan Media Center is an information resource for media and non-governmental organizations, to provide access to country reports, analysis and experts on the January 2011 South Sudan referendum for independence. It is a project of the U.S. Task Force on South Sudan, a coalition of NGOs, academics, reporters and individual Sudanese citizens.

9. Oh Yeah, Sudan!:

Oh yeah, SUDAN! brings you more of the Africa they never show you by highlighting the positives of the Sudan and South Sudan that they never show you. If you are looking for more negativity, there is plenty elsewhere. Otherwise, welcome and enjoy all things Sudan, all the time! *If you have any images, articles, or media to share please submit them at ohyeahsudan.tumblr.com/submit! *Disclaimer: This Tumblr does not own most media posted, but references are always included whenever possible.

10. Sudan Decides:

Sudan Decides is a blog run by Tom Law an independent freelance journalist covering Sudan, South Sudan and East Africa. Tom is also Associate Editor of Sudan Tribune, an online newspaper based in Paris.

Sudan Decides was initially set up to cover Sudan’s 2010 elections and South Sudan’s referendum on independence in January 2011.

The blog attempts to focus on Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the three areas which had special status under the peace deal that led to South Sudan’s independence.

11.Martin Garang:

Articles on this blog are arrays of opinions aimed at various vantage points of socio-political and cultural paradigms and their objectivity can be debated.

12. Learn Dinka blog:

Kudualduɔ̈n Muɔnyjäŋ në pinynhom ageer! Welcome to the Dinka blog, the only one of its kind on the World Wide Web!

I hope you will join me në yïknhialde Thuɔŋjäŋic!! Comment, participate, criticize, advise, object, argue, and above all, JOIN me as either an author, contributor or a follower!!!!!!

13. Bored in Post-Conflict:

Bored in Post-Conflict

…..because its better than being terrified in conflict (South Sudan)

*This list is by no means exhaustive. If you know any blogs focused on South Sudan, please let us know: africa (at) globalvoicesonline (dot) org

May 22 2012

South Sudan: South Sudan Theatre Company Online

South Sudan Theatre Company online: “Advised and led by three of South Sudan’s most respected cultural leaders, a group of artists and dramatists have come together to form the South Sudan Theatre Company. Under the shadow of war, southern Sudanese artists experimented with theatrical form and created performances in streets, camps for displaced people, towns and the countryside.”

South Africa: The Spear, Freedom of Speech and Morality

A painting by South African artist Brett Murray depicting South African president's genitals has ignited debate about morality and freedom of speech in the country. The painting tilted “The Spear” is part of Hail to the Thief II exhibition currently being shown at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The South African African National Congress (ANC) wants the High Court to stop the gallery and the artist from displaying the painting on any online or offline platform.

Discussing the painting in light of the 10 principles of free speech, Evidence and Reason says:

Zuma is challenging the limits of free expression on the grounds of morality. I don’t think he has the stronger position, because I think the picture was a political observation rather than an attack on his person.

Offending someone is not a crime, says Simon Gerber:

Offending someone is not a crime, rather it is a valuable tool to kickstart discussion. It should be embraced, especially in a transitional democracy such as ours.

A visitor to the Goodman Gallery posing in front of The Spear. Photo source: kickmugabeout.blogspot.com.

He has one simple advice to the ANC:

ANC, we’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again. Drop this. You’re making yourselves look foolish. You’ve taken a story that would have died in a 24 hour news cycle and made it into something that is dragging on much longer than it needs to. It is not racist. It is not a direct attack on the president, it is commentary on the state of the country.

South African consitutional law expert Pierre De Vos explains why the ANC might lose their case:

The ANC may not be aware of the fact that section 16(1)(c) of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes ”freedom of artistic creativity”. It is true that no right is unlimited but even where the right to free expression is limited an exception is usually made for artistic expression. Our law often distinguishes between real depictions of individuals and art works and hardly ever allows for the censoring of the latter. For example, section 12 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (which prohibits hate speech) explicity makes an exception for a “bona fide engagement in artistic creativity”. Section 3 of the Film and Publications Act contains a similar exception.

The fact that the ANC seems incapable of distinguishing between a work of art and real life will probably ruin their legal case they are planning to launch.

The following discussion ensued on Pierre's blog around issues of decency, respect for elders and African culture:

Ma-K does not find the painting funny:

I must say, I’m truly appalled by how you all seem to find this funny. Would you hold the same sentiments if this was a painting of Nelson Mandela? I might not be one of J Z’s biggest fans, but I was taught to respect my elders…This is a depiction of someone’s father, grandfather, uncle,for God’s Sake! Have you no shame? Would you still laugh it off and call it art if this was a portrait of you or someone close to you? I would also be offended and angered by this so called art work if it portrayed my father or even myself. So, I ask you again, would you feel the same way you do now, would you write what you wrote if this was a painting of Nelson Mandela?

nkhosi believes that there is something wrong with “a young white male depicting an elderly African leader in a very comprised posture”:

Smart artist understand the context of their work and they treat context very carefully. They then present that context in a manner that does not seek ridicule. Take Goya’s “El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid” for instance. No one can doubt the potency of the message in that painting. BUT there is no vulgar or brutality involved.

Stupid, narrow-minded artist on the other hand, irresponsibly, stoke fires in a society that is already bedeviled by mistrust. The fact is that we have a so-called artist who is a young white male depicting an elderly African leader in a very comprised posture. It is clear that some among us, will never stop looking at older black males as merely garden boys who exist for their pleasure. I think Athol Fugard addressed this in “Master Harold…and the Boys”.

This so-called artist and many contributors here is failing to rid himself of this indoctrinated racism. That is why they can’t see the callousness of this so-called ‘work of art’.

Ricky responds to Ma-K's argument saying that there is nothing pornographic about the painting:

Ma-K, if you look at some of the most famous works of art from the Greek sculptures a few thousand years ago through the renaissance (agreed from Western culture, I am not very familiar with art from other parts of the world), they show naked persons, even great heros like Hercules. So I do not think there is anything disgraceful about that (of course, a pornographic picture featuring the President might be viewed differently – but the picture in question is not, in my view, pornographic).

Ma-K disagrees with Ricky's observations:

We are not Greek or in anyway European, we don’t appreciate the same kind of art. As Africans, such Art is disrespectful to us. So a white man’s (not being racist,Greeks are white) art is a black man’s(Zuma is black) insult.

However, Ricky considers fear of the naked body to be un-African:

Ma-K, I find this fear of the naked body somewhat strange. At the traditional dances for the Swazi king, the women are hardly dressed, the bushman / San people wear only a little loin cloth, in many African cultures it is common to make statues of wood depicting naked men, even showing the private parts. So, it is not a uniquely European thing.

“But certainly the image was not intended as an artistic celebration of the naked human body,” writes ozoneblue:

But certainly the image was not intended as an artistic celebration of the naked human body. It was designed to denigrate the person of Jacob Zuma against the back ground of his sexuality and adherence to traditional Zulu value system as seen through the lens of Eurocentric cultural chauvinism. Then there is also the association of the image with socialism that carries a strong political message. The combination of the two themes i.e. African cultural backwardness and the populist tendency towards socialist rhetoric in Africa is not much different to the attitude of the Apartheid regime towards Africans.

Opinions about the moral, legal and cultural dimensions of the painting are deeply divided on Twitter:

@ShellsPemBroke: Why is everyone freaking out about the Zuma painting so much? I think the artist was more than generous with size.

@steve_hofmeyr: Zuma can kill the Spear-debate by simply purchasing the painting.

@KevinMcCallum: The Zuma painting saga has shown up the belief politicians “deserve” respect. Zuma works for me, not me for him. He's an elected official.

@lwangamwilu: @Bradleychingobe as somebody already argued, Zuma has done more harm to his own image than any painting ever can.

@Vhadiks: Lol..I wonder RT @MashuduBusta: So ANC says Zuma painting is racist, what if it was painted by a black man? would it still be racist?

@MoffatMok: There's art and there's down right cruelty….how is showing Mr Jacob Zuma's jewels in a painting a form of art…paint ur own father rather

@GiftSabby: After Seeing Brett Murruy Painting Of Zuma, I Think People Should See Zuma As A Human Being, A Father And A Person Who Also Get Hurts..

The ANC's legal challenge to have the painting removed from the gallery will be broadcast live when the High Court in Johannesburg hears the case on Thursday.

May 03 2012

Sudan/South Sudan: Voicing Hope for #newSUDANS

In the wake of the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in July 2011 and the recent clashes between the two countries over the oil-rich region of Heglig, citizens of both Sudans found themselves in the middle of an ugly upheaval.

On April 29, 2012, the Twitterverse was filled with an atmosphere of union and solidarity between Twitter users from both countries. Inspired by late Dr. John Garang’s vision for a “New Sudan”, they initiated the hashtag #newSUDANS and voiced their opinions, perceptions and hopes for two new democratic Sudans.

Aguil Lual (@AguilB) called on Sudanese and South Sudanese on Twitter to revive the momentum of Garang’s “New Sudan” speech and join the dialogue, saying:

@AguilB: What are your dreams 4 peaceful co-existence of the Sudans? Thoughts on CPA? What our leaders should do? #join the conversation #newSUDANS

Former South Sudan leader John Garang. Photo source: usaid.gov.

Aguil also called for freedoms and pride:

@AguilB: Freedom to report on politics, politicians, corruption, & rights abuses w/out being detained/beaten/silenced, impoverished #newSUDANS

And added:

@AguilB: Pride in our Sudaness. One day the news reports & int'l com will showcase South Sudan & Sudan as a model 4 peaceful transition #newSUDANS

Ali (@kashiff111) noted his vision for #newSUDANS:

@kashiff111: #newSUDANS powerful with it's individualism, colorful with its diversity, tolerant with it's unity, peaceful with it's faith.

Raian Gibrel (@bro0ownsugar) envisioned women empowerment, recognition of freedoms and an end to corruption:

@bro0ownsugar: empower women in order to get the other half of the society active and productive #newSUDANS

@bro0ownsugar: freedom of speech, religion, political practice #newSUDANS

@bro0ownsugar: “Eliminate corruption and all its resources #newSudans”

Muhanad Rabie (@Neo0rabie) called on peaceful conflict resolution:

@Neo0rabie: #newSUDANS Every one Must put his gun down. lets talk it out. Money you spend in War can be better spend in development, Health & Education

Muhanad also voiced his hope for the return of Sudanese in the Diaspora:

@Neo0rabie: People in #Diaspora have got to come back one day. #newSudans

Asmara Adanis (@AsmaraAdanis) cited good healthcare:

@AsmaraAdanis: Human life is valued. Unjustified death of Sudanese citizens not simply labelled destiny. Existence of #HealthCare #newSUDANS

Omer Abdellatif (@OmerAbdellatif) called against using religion to manipulate people:

@OmerAbdellatif: Do NOT use religion as a tool to manipulate people & laws! Treat people fairly regardless of religious backgrounds! #newSUDANS

On the other hand, Ahmed K (@SkinyTestaverde) preached secularism in #newSUDANS:

@SkinyTestaverde: Were we take advantage of our incredible diversity, eliminate tribalism, and realize that secularism is GOOD for religion #newSUDANS

Moez Ali (@his_moezness) used #newSUDANS to express that Sudanese people from all tribes and ethnicities should be identified as one:

@his_moezness: I'm from Shendi, El Fasher, Juba, El Damazin. I'm a Northerner, a
Southerner, a Nuba, a Zaghawi, a Fur and a Hadandawi #newSUDANS

Muhammad Osman (@Meltilib) promoted the elimination of racism, economic equality and freedom from intellectual materialism:

@Meltilib: #NewSudans where diseases of racism, ethno-centersim & religious bigotry are no more.

@Meltilib: #NewSudans with less economic inequality

@Meltilib: #NewSudans should be free of all forms of intellectual materialism.

Ahmad Mohamed (@AhmadMohamed10) tweeted his aspirations for #newSUDANS:

@AhmadMohamed10: I dream of the day when the #newSUDANS form a EU style federation with all the freedoms & economic cooperation that entails.

@AhmadMohamed10: Sudan and South Sudan - living side by side in peace with close economic, cultural & social cooperation/exchange. #NewSUDANS

And finally, Osman Musa (@OsmanBMusa) hoped:

@OsmanBMusa: No more trouble #newSUDANS.

The hashtag #newSUDANS continues.

March 16 2012

Arab World: Hands Off Clooney!

The United States has arrested actor George Clooney and his father Nick at a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington DC. Arab Twitter users register their protest on their arrest on Twitter.

The protest was organised to to draw attention to a looming humanitarian crisis in the Nuba mountains areas, on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is accused of blocking food and aid from reaching the region.

The Big Pharaoh, from Egypt, tweets [Ar]:

اكتب على حيطة الزنزانه حبس كلونى عار وخيانة
@TheBigPharaoh: Write on the prison walls, arresting Clooney is shameful and treacherous

Syrian Save Our Syria reacts:

@freeppl: Actor Clooney arrested outside Sudanese Embassy..I am glad someone from hollywood now know how reality action feels like

#FreeClooney trending worldwide on Twitter


Tunisian Tounsia Hourra (Free Tunisian) jokes [Ar]:

أنادي بجبهة شعبية لتحرير جورج كلوني , يا نساء العالم اتحدن جورج مقبوض عليه في واشنطن ‎‬
@tonsiahourra: I call for a popular movement to free George Clooney. Women of the world unite. George Clooney has been arrested in Washington DC.

Malek, from Egypt, adds [Ar]:

كله الا كلوني يا ولاد الكلب … ماعندكم مايكل مور
@malek: Anyone other than Clooney, you sons of dogs! You have Michael Moore [whom you can arrest]

Egyptian Marwan Qoutb chimes in [Ar]:

جورج كلوني مش بلطجي , الحرية لجورج كلوني
@Qoutb: George Clooney is not a thug! Freedom for George Clooney

While Egyptian Alyaa Gad jokes:

@AlyaaGad: Don't #FreeClooney. Can't stand him. lol

And J Berry draws parallels to some of the atrocities committed against Arab protesters during the Arab revolutions saying [Ar}:

كلوني و قبضوا عليه .. ناقص ايه ؟ .. يخرموا عين توم كروز !! يسحلوا كيم كارديشيان !! يكشفوا عذرية باميلا انديرسون !
@moneloky: Clooney has been arrested… what's left for them to do? Pop Tom Cruise's eyes? Pull Kim Kardashian across the street? Or check Pamela Anderson for her virginity?

For other reactions on Clooney's arrest, check out the Twitter hash tag #FreeClooney, which is now trending worldwide

March 07 2012

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

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

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

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

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

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

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

AB: What are the aims of CPJ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cover of CPJ

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

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

AB: What can we expect from the African Union?

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

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

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

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

 

January 28 2012

South Sudan: Urgent Steps Needed to Counter Inter-Communal Violence

Urgent steps are needed to counter inter-communal violence in South Sudan: “Inter-communal violence in Jonglei and throughout South Sudan, while traditionally cyclical in nature, is not inevitable. The causes of this violence go beyond the retaliatory nature of cattle raiding and touch upon broader issues of accountability, reconciliation, political inclusion, state effectiveness, development, and the proliferation of arms among the civilian population.”

January 09 2012

South Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis in the World's Newest Country

Less than a year since declaring its independence in July 2011 to become the world's newest country, South Sudan continues to face a humanitarian crisis. Civil war between the African South Sudan and the Arabic North, Sudan, had already claimed around 1.5 million lives by that time, and international organizations warn that the troubles are far from over.

At the beginning of this year, for example, South Sudan declared its Jonglei State a disaster zone after as many as 100,000 people were forced to flee from fighting between the rival Lou Nuer and Murle tribes. The United Nations has already launched an emergency operation to supply humanitarian assistance to around 60,000 people.

The Borgen Project Blog provides a comprehensive background to the latest tribal trouble.

It is reported that these clashes began as cattle raids, but have spiraled out of control. Conflicts such as these “cattle vendettas,” as well as other clashes between rival groups, are common in South Sudan. The United Nations says that about 350,000 people were displaced as a result of this kind of violence last year.

Intercommunal violence like this poses a major challenge for the fledgling government in South Sudan. Being a newly independent state, the country is faced with the task of establishing an effective system of governance. Furthermore, South Sudan is one of the world's poorest regions. It has hardly any roads, schools, medical clinics, or other vital infrastructure. The lack of economic development within the country only fuels instability and leads to a higher rate of clashes like these recent ones in Jonglei.

Displaced population caused by cattle raiding in Pibor county, Jonglei State © Liang Zi/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Catholic Relief Services, an international relief organization operating in South Sudan, concurs.

The troubled state of Jonglei has a long history of ethnic tensions, cattle raiding, kidnappings and sometimes violent competition for scarce resources.The most recent attacks were led by the self-proclaimed Nuer White Army, a group of as many as 6,000 armed youth from the Lou Nuer ethnic group. Spokespersons of the armed group stated that their intention was to reclaim stolen cattle and 180 kidnapped children that they say raiders from a neighboring ethnic group, the Murle, had taken from their communities.

[…]

“After nearly four decades of working in Sudan and South Sudan, CRS recognises that sustainable development and peace are tightly interwoven,” Boyd says. “To contribute to a lasting improvement in the level of basic services and economic opportunities available to people throughout South Sudan, it is imperative to support communities to find meaningful, concrete ways to resolve their differences and put an end to destructive conflict. Simultaneously, tensions between groups are often exacerbated by the scarcity of basic services like access to water, schools, or health clinics. Development and peace have to happen at the same time.”

Another international organization, Oxfam, also links averting conflict with the provision of essential goods and services.

As South Sudan emerges as a new nation, there may be no more pressing issue for its people, and perhaps for the stability of the nation as a whole, than the investments it makes in its agricultural sector and long term food security.

[…]

The international community has invested a tremendous amount in shepherding Sudan and South Sudan through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and independence. Now, however, the work just begins and donors must double down on their commitments to help South Sudan overcome the challenges of insecurity, displacement, and cyclical droughts and floods.

As it makes this transition to a nation at peace with itself and with its neighbor, South Sudan will require a comprehensive balance of predictable, multi-year development assistance alongside continued support for humanitarian needs focused on strengthening the GoSS emergency preparedness and disaster management capacity

It will also be important to invest in programs of Disaster Risk Reduction and resilience that enable communities to prevent, mitigate and recover quickly from humanitarian crises. Donors should also look to emergent South Sudanese civil society as an important actor in providing humanitarian and development assistance that complements the programs of the state and private sector.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also provides an account from the ground.

“Thousands of people have fled for their lives in Lekongole and Pibor in the last week and are now hiding in the bush, frightened for their lives,” said Parthesarathy Rajendran, MSF head of mission in South Sudan. “They fled in haste and have no food or water, some of them doubtless carrying wounds or injuries, and now they are on their own, hiding, beyond the reach of humanitarian assistance.”

The village of Lekongole has been raised to the ground and an MSF team that assessed the situation in Pibor on 28th December described it as a ghost town, virtually everyone having fled into the surrounding country. While the people are hidden in the bush, we cannot reach them to clean and dress wounds, treat diseases and provide general primary healthcare. The longer they are in the bush, the more serious it will become for people who are injured or sick.

[…]

“There are several crisis situations evolving in different parts of South Sudan right now,” adds Rajendran. “Our medical teams are also currently responding to the crisis of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Sudan. These are staunch reminders that despite independence, acute emergencies are still all too present in South Sudan and the capacity for emergency humanitarian response remains an absolute priority.”

Bill's Space comments.

It only seems a few months ago that we saw the creation of a new nation in Africa, with the arrival of Southern Sudan out of Sudan. But it seems that a new name and new existence does little to change the way things are in that part of the world. I’m seeing reports of more than 3000 people killed in South Sudan last week in ethnic violence, that forced thousands of others to flee – although ‘fleeing’ seems to what the people in part of the original Sudan have been doing for decades - these kind of mass killings or massacres seem able to be perpetuated despite the presence of United Nations personnel, South Sudanese army,. etc With the report that this is the worst outbreak of ethnic violence in the new nation since it split from Sudan in July, seems to be the indication that such violence is an ongoing activity […].

Others are also cynical towards the international community's stated aim of assisting South Sudan, with The Impudent Observer making a satirical post, Death in Sudan, Who Cares?, ridiculing the US in particular.

This intrepid reporter asked prominent American political leaders for a reaction to this massacre of the innocent.

George Bush: ”The key thing is whether there are WMD in South Sudan that pose a threat to the security of America.”

Michele Bachmann: ”South Sudan? Is that near New Orleans?”

Herman Cain: ”I wonder if anyone there would be interested in a fabulous pizza deal.”

Ron Santorum: ”I urge those unfortunate people to pray to God”

Mitt Romney: ”America sends its condolences to all who are persecuted. I will inform Mormon headquarters so they can send some missionaries.”

Newt Gingrich: ”If South Sudan leaders would contact me, I have some interesting ideas that might help them and my organization offers a beginning of year discount.”

Barack Obama: ”We are leaving troubled areas, not going in.”

For more updates on South Sudan, Washington-based PannLuel Wël is providing updates on a blog, PannLuel Wël: South Sudanese Blogger, as well as on Twitter at @PaanLuelWel2011.

January 05 2012

Africa: Recapping Mighty African's 2011

Mighty Africa blogs about his highlights and lowlights in 2011: “After 10 years in the USA, I returned home to Ghana. I abandoned my dream of going home with the US' money, the lure of creating impact in Ghana was too large. And I could make money doing it. The time had come.”

January 04 2012

Africa: Startups in Africa 2011 and Beyond

Erik believes that 2011 was a great year for startups in Africa: “The past few years have been about building an infrastructure that improves the chances of the technology startups in Africa to succeed. Seeing this buildout in action in 2011 was exciting, but it should be recognized for what it really was: a setup for 2012 and beyond.”

December 29 2011

Africa: African Arguments Online

African Arguments Online is “a multi-blogging site that covers both contemporary African events as they unfold, and develops debates on themes we believe are centrally important to an ever-changing continent.”

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