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August 28 2011

Central African Republic: Violence Marks Lead Up to Elections

The Central African Republic (CAR) is set to hold partial parliamentary elections on September 4, 2011. Tensions have arisen recently after an opposition party rally was marred with violence, as young supporters of President Bozizé's KNK party disturbed the scheduled meeting.

The country is still recovering from violent conflicts that started in the late 1990s during the regime of Ange-Félix Patassé. On 12 June, 2008, the Central African Republic became the fourth country to be placed on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission.

Opposition rally thwarted by violence. Image by centrafrique-presse blog

Opposition rally thwarted by violence. Image by centrafrique-presse blog

The rally was held to encourage a boycott of the elections; the opposition does not recognize the current electoral monitoring committee and demands a new one. Blog centrafrique-presse describes the violence at the rally [fr] as follows:

à l’arrivée sur les lieux vers 15h 30 heure de Bangui des organisateurs, des jeunes venant de Boy-Rabé soudoyés et rendus ivres morts par le KNK se sont infiltrés sur la place Marabéna et ont jeté des sachets incendiaires en plastique remplis d'essence, et comme nous avons éteint l'incendie, ils se sont mis à renverser le podium où devaient se tenir les dirigeants de l’opposition. Les forces de l'ordre pourtant présentes aux alentours ont refusé d'intervenir [..] le Secrétaire général du MLPC Samuel Stanislas ZOUMBETI a été blessé à la tête et aux pieds par jets de pierre ainsi que son adjoint Etienne MALEKOUDOU à la tête et à la mâchoire.

when they arrived at the rally site around 15:30 in Bangui, the organizers found youngsters from Boy-Rabe, bribed and rendered drunk by the KNK, had infiltrated Marabéna square. They threw lit plastic bottles filled with gasoline at the stage. When we extinguished the fire, they began to turn over the stage where the opposition leaders were supposed to speak. Policemen were present but refused to intervene […] the Secretary General of the MLPC ZOUMBETI, Stanislas Samuel, had wounds to his head and feet, and his deputy Stephen MALEKOUDOU was hurt by a stone thrown at his head and jaw.

The blog afreekelections confirms that the opposition party MLPC called for a boycott [fr] of the parliamentary elections on September 4.

Radio Ndeke Luka on Journal de Bangui blog writes that there is a sad, empty feeling to the pre-elections period, because political campaigning activities are acutely lacking [fr]:

A Bangui, dans les arrondissements et quartiers concernés par le scrutin partiel du 4 septembre prochain, c’est l’indifférence totale de la part des électeurs. Du côté des candidats, on dit bien prévoir des meetings, mais rien pour le moment. Cette ambiance morose est aussi constatée à Bossangoa (nord-ouest).

In Bangui, there is a total indifference from the voters in the district and boroughs concerned by the elections. On the candidates' side, we are told that there will be meetings held but so far, we have seen nothing. This morose atmosphere is also felt in Bossangoa (Northwest region).

Blogger Juliette Abandokwe asks a question that is often heard during elections on the African continent: “How much can we trust the results of these upcoming elections ?” [fr]

Personne ne s’attend à ce que François Bozizé ne quitte le pouvoir librement et démocratiquement. Les moyens à disposition sont multiples et bien connus de tous, et sont régulièrement utilisés lors d’élections en Afrique en tout cas.
« Comment peut-on organiser des élections, y participer et les perdre en Afrique ? » disait Omar Bongo.
Les petits moyens locaux viennent en tête de la parade en vue de la fraude électorale massive que nous connaissons dans les pays de la Françafrique, et qui se répète à chaque échéance électorale.
Le premier petit moyen est la manipulation du nombre des personnes qui auront le droit de déposer leur bulletin de vote. En République centrafricaine, Bozizé a décrété publiquement et devant les médias internationaux, que le recensement du corps électoral est un petit problème et qu’il peut se faire en un mois. Or, ce n’est que des fabrications de listes électorales qui peuvent être produites en si peu de temps[..] Les Centrafricains sont en droit de s’attendre à un recensement électoral fait ouvertement et dans les règles, par la voie officielle, et surtout sur toute l’étendue du territoire national, effectué par une commission électorale indépendante

Nobody expects Francois Bozize to relinquish power freely and democratically. The means available to stay in power are plenty and well known to everyone , and they are regularly utilized during elections in Africa anyway.
“How can we hold elections and lose them in Africa? ” asked Omar Bongo. Small local tricks are leading the parade for the massive electoral fraud that we all know too well in the francophone African countries and those tricks are reoccuring at every election cycle.
The first trick is the manipulation of the number of people who have the right to cast their ballot. In the Central African Republic, Bozize declared publicly before the international media that dressing the voters lists is a minor issue that can be achieved within a month. However, only manufactured voters lists can be produced in such a short time […] The Central Africans have a right to expect that voter registrations are conducted in a transparent manner, within the official rules, throughout the national territory and by an independent electoral commission

Juliette Abandokwe also shines a light on the many arbitrary arrests that occur in the capital Bangui. She lists at least 11 people [fr]currently detained in Ngaragba prison.

Despite the unrest, the peace process is still in progress. A dissident branch of one of the opposition party (CPJP), has recently decided to join the peace building process [fr]. The leader of the branch, Mahamat Sallé, used to lead a group of 500 heavily armed men.

Radio Ndeke Luka writes that Sallé confided soon after signing the accord that the reason his group decided to take arms was to protect his ethnic group [fr]:

« la vraie raison qui a poussé à la création de son mouvement a été de défendre les intérêts de son ethnie en proie aux représailles de plusieurs groupes rebelles du pays ». Il interpelle le gouvernement sur cette question et lui demande de « veiller à la protection de ces êtres humains ».

“The reason why we created the movement was to defend the interests of my ethnic group that were being harassed by several rebel groups.” He asks that the government “ensures that his people stay out of harm's way”.

Fleury Korsany also adds that a mediation is underway to resolve another conflict at the border with Chad. A Chadian rebel group led by Baba Ladde is said to have crossed into the CAR [fr] and held quarters there for the past three years. The interplay between Chadian and CAR rebels has always had a major role in the political stability of the CAR.

Considering president Bozize's uncertain health, it appears increasingly important that the elections in the CAR proceed in a stable environment and with a credible monitoring process.  The UN Mission in Central Africa (BONUCA) representative M. Abou Moussa  states that it is imperative that the UN reinforces their effort to promote political dialogue [fr]  in the region.

July 11 2011

Senegal-Chad: Is Habré Extradition a Political Diversion by Wade?

Commenting former Chad president Hissene Habré's extradition to his homeland, makaila.over-blog observes [fr]: “Many Senegalese analysts are already questionning whether this is just a diversion by the Senegalese embattled president. The opposition and civil society organizations were planning for a  massive gathering on July 9th”.  The rally was ultimately banned by the authorities.

Senegal-Chad: Hissène Habré won't be expelled anymore

In a post published on July 11th, leboytownshow.com blog states the following [fr] :”Senegalese authorities finally announced that they suspend the deportation order against Hissène Habré (editor's note:  Chad former president) “.

May 21 2011

Chad: How Communities Are Rebuilding Lives

Paul O'Brien discusses his trip to Chad and how communities are rebuilding their lives: “The biggest challenge facing mothers in Chad is to feed their children and keep them healthy. The country has one of the highest rates of child deaths in the world. In the villages in which Concern is working in Goré, I interviewed members of a mothers’ self-help group. One mother tells me that she had nine children, but only four survived.”

April 30 2011

Chad: White Gold Opens Income Stream For Women

Franseca writes about white gold in Chad: “Shea nuts are indigenous to southern Chad, and have been traditionally pressed into a black oil to add to foods. While nutritious, it has an odor that many find unpleasant. Processing the Shea nuts into a white butter gives it all kinds of household and commercial applications, opening up new income streams for local women.”

March 11 2011

Libya: Sub-Saharan Africans in Serious Danger

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Mairi Mcgivern · View original post [fr]

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

The crisis in Libya since the uprisings against Colonel Mouammar Gaddafi has not only had dramatic consequences for Libyans, but also for Sub-Saharan African citizens residing in Libya. Thousands of refugees are exposed to terrible conditions on journeys to the nearest borders, and numerous black Africans currently do not dare to leave their homes, not even to find something to eat. Why is this?

The digital portal for the civil society of Maghreb e-Joussour.net explains in an article [fr] published on March 2:

De peur d'être pris pour des mercenaires à la solde du pouvoir de Mouammar Kadhafi, les migrants subsahariens vivant en Libye se cachent depuis le début de la répression sanglante, au risque de se retrouver oubliés dans ce pays qu'ils veulent quitter.

For fear of being mistaken for mercenaries working to uphold the powerful regime of Mouammar Gaddafi, Sub-Saharan migrants living in Libya have been forced to hide themselves ever since the onslaught of the bloody repression began. Yet they run the risk of finding themselves forgotten in a county they wish to leave.

Hundreds of thousands have migrated to Libya from all over the African continent, notably from the countries within close proximity, such as approximately 300,000 from Chad, 50,000 from Nigeria and 10,000 from Mauritania. In an article on Mediapart [fr] (subscription required), Carine Fouteau remarks:

“Regrouped according to nationality in certain areas of the larger cities, they call for help without being heard. ‘The Sub-Saharan Africans are afraid. After the information we received from the Malians, they gather together as much as possible, up to 10, 20 or 30 at a time. They cannot get out, they live underground.  Anyone with black skin is in hiding due to certain individuals who have supported the violence’ reports Alassane Dicko, one of the co-ordinators/leaders of the Malian Association of Deportation (AME), situated in Bamako.”

Global Voices previously shared citizen videos related to the African mercenary question.

Al Jazeera English shares a video report on the dangers faced by black Africans in Libya.

In a report of Malian testimonies on the website Bamanet.net, Abdou Karim Maiga recounts the experience of certain individuals [fr] who are refusing to flee.

“Mamadou Diakite, who is around thirty and works as a civil servant, recounts that “since the beginning of the conflict, we have been persecuted and especially since the press began to speak of the implication that many blacks are mercenaries working closely with Gaddafi. We state here that our president should support Gaddafi and as a result we are considered as traitors.”

Another Malian, Chaka Sidibe, arrived in Libya just four months ago. He affirms that for several nights he and his friends have not slept and adds that [fr]:

“We have been abandoned by our Chinese bosses who have been evacuated by their country and their villagers have asked us to leave as quickly as possible. We grouped ourselves together and crossed the Egyptian boarder by foot.”

The website Relief Web reports real life stories of people who have attempted to save their own lives:

“Fearing for their lives, given the targeting of Sub-Saharan Africans, and desperate to leave Libya, they had paid a human trafficker to take them to Egypt in a sealed and refrigerated truck”

The information agency of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Irin News, reports the experience of some Somalis [fr].

Their food reserves are almost totally exhausted, he explained, “The landlord did the shopping for us but we are missing a lot. We had a little bit of money when the troubles first erupted, but we are labourers and it has now been 12 days since we last worked.

Additionally, it is the women who have paid the heaviest price during this conflict, Shamso Mohammed, a Somali refugee, told IRIN in the same article:

The Somali women are particularly worried about what might happen. “I arrived here almost a year and a half ago in order to try to get myself to Europe, but so far I have not succeeded and now I find myself in the exact same situation I was trying to escape from by fleeing Somalia.”

Maryan Ali, who lives under the same roof as Shamso, has said that she fears they may come and attack them in their homes. “The residencies of several Somalians would have been, in effect, the target of attackers”, she added.

Three of her friends disappeared five days ago, she revealed. “We called them for work and they went; the last news we have of them is that they were taken by a car driven and accompanied by armoured men. We have no idea what the men have done to them and we have no one to turn to for help.”

Boukary Daou wrote in an article published on Maliweb.net:

“On this Wednesday, (2nd March), there are around 134 migrants, who have trampled the soil of home. But this is just a small fraction of our compatriots living in Libya.

According to the last administrative census carried out by the vocational electorate of the civil State, (Ravec) there are more than 9000 Malians still to be accounted for.”

The site Podcast Journal signaled other sources of worry for the HCR and the OIM:

‘Melissa Fleming, spokesperson of the HCR, made known to the HCR some concerns over the destiny of a ‘large number of refugees of Sub-Saharan African origin who are not yet authorised to enter into Tunisian territory.’ This is an issue equally signalled as a concern by the spokesperson of the International Migration Organisation (OMI), Jemini Pandya, who also works to help with the evacuation process of non-Libyan nationals.’

In another article by Carine Fouteau on Mediapart (reproduced on Centrafrique Presse), Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, spokesman of International Organisation of Migration (IOM), explains:

“Those who do not have any official papers are literally restricted over there. What’s more is that there are copious levels of people in this situation; from Mali, Guinea, Nigeria, Niger, Toga, Benin, Burkina Faso etc. Without a passport it is improbable that they would be authorised to leave the country. Their situation is a particularly pressing issue.”

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

February 23 2011

Chad: Contested Parliamentary Elections, Protesters in the Streets

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Rhita Boufelliga · View original post [fr]

On February 16th 2011, Makaila published [Fr]: “many opposition militants gathered in multiple districts around the  city of Moundou to protest against the results of the parliamentary elections [on February 13th].”

August 17 2010

Chad: Ten places to visit in Chad

By Ndesanjo Macha

There are ten places one should visit in Chad: “Chad is one of the countries of the Saharan Africa. Chad is also a country that boasts of some wonderful places to visit, and here are some of them.”

August 07 2010

The Voices of Young African Leaders Heard Loud and Clear at The President's Forum

By Lova Rakotomalala

When the President of the United States Barack Obama opened his remarks at the White House Town Hall meeting by telling the Ghanaian delegates that “they will see each other” again for a rematch at the 2014 World Cup, the delegates gladly accepted the challenge. They also accepted a more significant challenge, that the development of their nation and as a matter of fact, of the continent as a whole rested primarily on the shoulders of African youth. The three-days-long get together in Washington DC was remarkable because of the dynamism and fearlessness of the young African delegates. The meeting were filled with passionate pleas for more collaboration between African nations, calls for holding political leaderships more accountable, boosting innovation, promoting tolerance towards diverging political or religious point of views and the role of internet in making their goals achievable.

delegates from Madagascar, Mali and Niger- Under CC license 3.0 share alike

All the delegates were well-versed in the intricacies of information technology but many of them expressed the worries that most of their compatriots still did not have access to internet and were therefore shunned from the exchange of ideas that take place online.
Halilatou Issoufou Mamane is a Graduate student from the University of Niamey Abdou Moumouni who also completed a degree in international relations/economics from Wellesley College. She is a member of Harambe Endeavor Alliance, a group of African students and young professionals who strives to push the African Intellectual pool worldwide to reinvest into the economic development of Africa. She states in the following video her hopes for her country, the changes she would like to make happen to remedy the status quo and her disappointment at the incomplete portrayal of Niger in international media and [Fr]:

“C’est vrai que l’on a la famine et que les retombées de l’uranium ne sont pas distribuées equitablement. Mais il y a tellement de gens qui essayent de faire bouger des montagnes au Niger mais on en parle pas parce que soit ils sont dans des regions éloignées, mais aussi parce que les medias ne sont intéressé que par le sensationel. [..] Nous avons besoin que les histoires positives sont mieux connues pour ne pas sombrer dans le pessimisme. Je pense que grace aux resources naturelles, le Niger peut-être un des tigres de l’Afrique dans 20 ans et que l’on parlera du miracle nigérien. “

“it is true that we have famine and that the benefits of Uranium are not equitably redistributed. Still, there are so many people who are trying to move mountains in Niger but we don’t hear about them because either they are located in remote regions or because media is just interested in the sensational news [..] We need positive stories to come out so that we don’t dwell into pessimism. I think that thanks to our many natural resources, Niger could very well be the next Tiger of Africa and that we will be speaking of the Nigerien miracle in 20 years”.

Mamame adds that her relative who sells tomatoes in Southern Niger does not have access to internet. He sells his tomatoes to larger corporations who take advantage of the fact that he is not aware of the latest market price for his goods and results in substantial loss of income.
In Chad, Jareth Beain is the Head of Program on Public Resource Management, Group for Alternative Research and Monitoring of the Chad-Cameroon Petrol Project. He argues that African inventors would gain to be more supported and recognized outside of their country. He explains the principle of an invention by his colleague Djerassem Bemadjiel in Ndjamena that aims to provide enough electrical power for a village with just one liter of gas [fr]:

“The idea is to combine a foraging device to drill a wellbore for water with a fluid pumping system that will create a pressure gradient that will feed the generator in energy.”

The invention is currently under examination for patent and the details of the invention can be found here. Djerassem Bemadjiel hopes that better internet access will facilitate the sharing of their local inventions and collaboration with other engineers.

Eric Nopklim Kaglan, head of English Desk of Savoir News

Real time and fact-based news about Togo are the main goals of Eric Nopklim Kaglan and his agency Savoir News. He argues that press freedom and a reasonable conversation cannot take place if there is no consensus on the basic facts. He is reassured by the fact that all sides of the Togolese political scene as well as the international community have approved of the integrity of their journalistic work. He is also proud of the fact that his agency is the only private online news provider in Togo, it maintains its sustainability by providing rapid fact-checked information to subscribers for a fee.

For Ivorian Journalist Assale Tiemoko Antoine, governance, transparency and freedom of the press are the key to development in Africa. Assale knows this from personal experience. Not unlike his colleagues from Le Nouveau Courier a few weeks ago, Assale spent 12 months behind bars from December 2007 to December 2008 for his reporting on government corruption. He promotes transparency through his association SOS Justice Côte d’Ivoire and his blog. Other activists for press freedom in Africa are highlighted in this article by Mohamed Keita for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Finally, Aminatou Daouda Hainikoye is adamant that the women’s rights movement in Niger needs to take into account both the important cultural specificity of her country but also embrace the basic principles recommended by international human rights organizations [fr]:

She argues that an exchange of point of views between religious leaders, defenders of Nigerien’s identity and human rights activists must continue on a regular basis for women’s rights to make progress in Niger. Being an advocate of both her faith-based community and women’s rights organization, Aminatou Daouda Hainikoye hopes to be the bridge between the two communities.

Statement by Young African Delegates at Newseum read by Marie Tamoifo Nkom from Cameroon ,Nadja Gomes from Mozambique, Najma Ahmed Abdi from Somalia

The forum appropriately concluded with a statement read by three women delegates in English, French and Portuguese in which they reasserted that they are ready to lead and change the narrative about the African continent [Pt]:

Many delegates also  made it clear that they saw the United States as a partner but not as a savior in their task of taking their regions through the next 50 years of their independence.  A group of delegates spontaneously came together in a song to put the final touch on a busy but hopeful trip.

July 12 2010

Niger: The Silent Famine

By Lova Rakotomalala

The largely underreported food crisis in Sahel has taken worrisome proportions as about 2.5 millions of  people in Niger  are currently affected by food shortage. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has decided to scale up emergency operations to protect the population at risk. Bloggers in Niger reflect on yet another food crisis after the one in 2005,  a food crisis this year  that is the result of shortage of rainfall last year.

Men Facing Sahel Desert by Nawal_ Under CC license on Flickr

D. Evariste Ouédraogo wrote the following about they way politicians always try to spin food crises in Niger in a way that would put them in a more favorable light [fr]:

En 2005, les autorités avaient toujours tenté de convaincre l’opinion que la menace de famine était une simple rumeur malveillante, déshonorante. [..] Quelques jours après, son Premier ministre (PM), dans des propos non moins fallacieux, appelait pourtant à l’aide, la Communauté mondiale, pour cause de …famine [..] Aujourd’hui, la vérité est toute nue : dix jours seulement après le changement de régime au Niger, on apprend, dans une déclaration télévisée du chef de la junte au pouvoir, que la famine “menace l’existence de millions de Nigériens dans quasiment toutes les régions”. Le déficit en vivres est alors estimé à 400 000 tonnes. Tout le contraire donc des péroraisons de Mamadou Tandja, qui était allergique à l’idée de risques de pénurie alimentaire.

In 2005, the authority tried to convince the opinion that the threat of famine was only a shameful rumor [..] A few days later, the prime minister, in no less fallacious terms, still asked for help the international community because of…famine. in 2010, the truth comes out again: 10 days after the change of regime in Niger, we learn from the chief of the military junta on television that famine threatens millions of Nigeriens from all over the regions. The shortage of food was estimated at 400 000 tons. Total opposite of the statement by Mamadou Tandja who was allergic to the idea of food crisis.

Grioo.com asks out loud the tough but conspicuous question that many Nigeriens wonder about: “where did the cash influx from the Uranium trade go?” [fr]:

Qu’on se rappelle les tiraillements entre l’ex-chef de l’Etat du Niger et les premiers responsables d’AREVA à propos du renouvellement des contrats d’exploitation de l’uranium. [..] On ne dénoncera jamais assez ces slaloms qui permettent à des délinquants à col blanc d’extorquer impunément les fonds publics qui devraient servir à sauver de nombreux concitoyens en manque de nourriture, d’eau et de soins de base. Les masses d’argent tirées des ressources minières ne profitent généralement pas à la majorité silencieuse. Un paradoxe africain qui n’étonne guère. Mais aussi un scandale qui doit prendre fin en ce début de millénaire. A croire que les ressources minières n’apportent que misère aux populations africaines. Et il en sera tojours ainsi tant qu’elles ne seront pas utilisées à développer les cultures céréalières.

Let's remember the tension between former heads of state in Niger and the leaders of Areva about the renewal of uranium exploitation contracts [..] We will never denounce sufficiently all these slaloms that allow white collar delinquents to embezzle public funds that should contribute to helping citizens who lack food, water and basic health care. The amount of money from mining resources never benefit the silent majority. An African paradox that does not surprise anymore. However, this scandal must end now at the beginning of the millennium. It's almost as if mining riches only brings misery to African population. It will always be the case until the resources are not used to develop grain fields.

Kathryn Richards at Care shares a few thoughts and testimonies on the “hungry season” as the rural population finds itself in dire needs of animals to herd:

Niger is a country of contrasts. Rich in newly found uranium and oil but its people crushingly poor. [..] Food is readily available in the market – but at an inflated price few can afford. Families are selling off their livestock at reduced prices to buy food. Mohammed Gusnam was one of these people: “It is difficult. As herders we were like princes, proud. Now the pasture land is disappearing and we are stuck in the village. The village is like a prison to me.”

The current response to the food crisis, however, seems to be speedier than in 2005. Cyprien Fabre, head of the regional bureau of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) offers the following assessment [fr]:

Des mécanismes d’alerte précoce et d’intervention sont en place dans la plupart des pays touchés, et des fonds ont été alloués rapidement. Les opérations sont en bonne voie au Niger, au Burkina Faso et au Mali. Le Tchad a besoin de plus d’acteurs pour une intervention efficace.

Many alert and intervention systems are in place for most affected countries and funds were allocated accordingly. Operations are well underway in Niger, Burkina-Faso and Mali. Chad needs more agents for an efficient intervention.

Still many organisations believe that the resources are still too slow to arrive. They identify two reasons for the delay: 1) making sure that donors are coming through with funding and 2) the challenges of reaching the population in the most remote areas. Many think that cash disbursement might be faster and more effective for the short run than sending food [fr]:

Au cours de discussions avec les membres des communautés, davantage de personnes ont dit préférer les espèces aux semences. Les communautés ayant accusé les pertes de récoltes les plus importantes ou qui vivent plus loin des marchés tendent à opter pour les semences ; celles qui ont accès aux marchés, ont accusé des pertes de récoltes moins graves, ou ont un accès limité aux terres tendent au contraire à privilégier le cash.

During conversations with the members of the communities, more people said that they'd rather have cash than seeds. The communities that had lost the most crops or those who live the farthest from markets tend to choose seeds; those who have access to markets have not lost as much or those who have limited farming lands tend to favor having cash.

July 09 2010

African Soldiers on the Champs Elysees on Bastille Day

By Mialy Andriamananjara

RTL Info writes about France's invitation to former colonies to parade on the Champs Elysees on July 14, Bastille Day.
“Des détachements de treize pays africains (Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, République centrafricaine, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Sénégal, Tchad et Togo) défileront aux côtés de l'armée française sur les Champs Elysées. En Belgique, la participation de militaires congolais au défilé de la Fête nationale, le 21 juillet, un moment envisagée, a été annulée à la suite du tollé déclenché par une déclaration faite en mars par le ministre de la Défense, Pieter De Crem.”
“Thirteen african countries (Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, République centrafricaine, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Sénégal, Tchad et Togo) will parade beside the French army on the Champs Elysees. In Belgium, participation of Congolese soldiers at the national day parade, July 21, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Congo's independence, has been cancelled after the vehement protests following the declaration in March of the Belgian Minister of Defence, Pieter De Crem.”
Hubert Falco, secretary of state for veteran affairs, explains :
« Le président de la République a invité nos partenaires africains à ouvrir le défilé », a-t-il déclaré mardi au musée de l’Armée, à l’hôtel des Invalides de Paris. Il inaugurait un cycle d’hommage aux anciens combattants africains intitulé « Force Noire - Tirailleurs 2010 » qui comprendra, outre le défilé, la publication d’un manuel scolaire sur ce thème et des expositions.
« La présence de détachements des forces armées africaines sur les Champs-Élysées, leur défilé devant leurs aînés, anciens combattants de l'armée française, sera une image forte de cette année 2010 », a avancé Hubert Falco. « Pendant cent ans, depuis la création des premiers corps de Tirailleurs sénégalais par Napoléon III en 1857 jusqu'aux années 1960, ils ont servi la France avec loyauté, courage, abnégation », a-t-il ajouté.
La « Force noire » était le surnom donné aux troupes coloniales par le général Charles Mangin. Ces troupes étaient également appelées Tirailleurs sénégalais, bien qu’également originaires de plusieurs pays, aujourd'hui la Mauritanie, le Mali, la Guinée, la Côte-d'Ivoire, le Niger, le Burkina Faso ou encore, entre autres, le Bénin et le Tchad.
“The President has invited our African partners to open the parade.” he announced tuesday at the Museum of the Army, at the Invalides of Paris. He opened a cycle of hommage to former African soldiers entitled “Black Forces - Tirailleurs 2010″, which comprises, the parade, but also publication of a school textbook on the theme and other exhibits. ”The presence of African armies on the Champs Elysees, them parading before their elders, veterans of the French army, will be a strong image of the year 2010″ Hubert Falco supposes. During 100 years, since the creation of the Tirailleurs senegalais by Napoleon III in 1857 until the 1960s, they have served France with loyalty, courage, abnegation”, he added.  The “Black Force” was the nickname given to colonial troops by the general Charles Mangin. These troops were also called Tirailleurs senegalais, even though they came from many countries, nowadays called Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, and among others, Benin and Tchad.
Out of 14 countries to which invitations were issued, only Cote d'Ivoire declined, as reported on Afrik.com :
“Les Forces armées nationales de Côte d’Ivoire ne prendront pas part au défilé militaire prévu le 14 juillet à Paris, avec la participation des troupes des anciennes colonies africaines de la France, lit-on sur Abidjan.net. “Le président Gbagbo a tranché, nos troupes ne participeront pas au défilé du 14 juillet. Elles ont d’autres occupations au moment où la Côte d’Ivoire est en guerre”, a expliqué samedi l’ambassadeur de Côte d’Ivoire à Paris, Pierre Aimé Kipré. Il a également rappelé les contentieux qui opposent les deux pays depuis le début de la rébellion, en septembre 2002, notamment la destruction en 2004 de la flotte aérienne ivoirienne par les forces françaises et la mort en 2005 de plusieurs citoyens ivoiriens fauchés par des balles françaises.”
The Ivorian army will not participate in the military parade organized on July 14 in Paris, with the participation of other former African colonies of France, one reads on Abidjan.net. President Gbagbo has decided, our troups will not participate in the parade of July 14. They are otherwise occuped at this time when Cote d'Ivoire is at war”, has explained Pierre Aime Kipre, ambassador of Cote d'Ivore in Paris. He has also reminded the contentious issues opposing the two countries since the beginning of the rebellion, in september 2002, notably destruction in 2004 of the Ivoirian Air force fleet by French forces, and numerous Ivorian citizens' death in 2005 under French bullets.
On Jeune Afrique, Deb comments:
“Mais pourquoi meme défilé en france.. on dit le cinquantenaire d´independance  des pays africains et non de  l'europe..franchement .Comme si apres 50 ans l´afrique n´est pas capable de feter son anniversaire seule sans impliquations exterieurs.. la CI ny participeras pas, oui j'en suis fiere…”
But why even parade in France… One says this is the Fiftieth anniversaries of African countries, not European ones… Frankly… As if after 50 years Africa is unable to celebrate her anniversary alone, without external interference. Cote d'Ivoire will not take part in this parade and I am proud of it…
For others, this African Bastille Day reflects the ambiguity, the impasse of French politics towards Africa.
On lemonde.fr, one reads:
que fête-t-on ? A l'évidence, le bilan de ce demi-siècle d'indépendance pour les peuples concernés n'est glorieux ni pour la France ni pour les Etats africains. Rend-on hommage aux sacrifices des tirailleurs coloniaux des deux guerres mondiales ? Pas de quoi pavoiser non plus, puisqu'il a fallu la récente décision du Conseil constitutionnel pour que le principe de l'égalité des pensions des anciens soldats africains et français soit enfin reconnue. Quant au défilé sous l'Arc de triomphe d'armées africaines dont certaines ont participé récemment à de sanglantes répressions, il apparaît pour le moins ambigu.”
What is one celebrating? Evidently the results of this half-century of independence for involved people is not glorious for France, nor for the African states. Does one honor the sacrifices of colonial soldiers under the two world wars? Nothing to be proud of either, because the recent decision of the Constitutionnal Council was sorely needed for the recognition of the principle of equality between retirement benefits for African veterans and French veterans. And seeing African armies parade, under the Arc de Triomphe, some of whom have recently participated in bloody repressions is at the very least ambiguous.
The ambiguity is a common theme reprised across African bloggers.
Joachim Vokouma on lefaso.net:
“A vrai dire, de nombreux Africains s’interrogent sur le sens de la participation des troupes africaines au défilé  du 14 juillet. Faut-il rappeler les horreurs, les massacres et les assassinats qui ont jalonné l’occupation coloniale ? Que célèbre t-on ?
La fin du mépris, des humiliations et du paternalisme ? Une Humanité enfin réconciliée ? Que le cinquantenaire des indépendances soit l’occasion, pour ceux dont l’humanité avait été mise entre parenthèse durant l’esclavage et la colonisation, de faire le point sur ce qu’ils ont fait de leur liberté recouvrée est sans doute plus que nécessaire.”
Many Africans wonder about the opportunity of African troops participating at the July 14 parade. Must one recall the horrors, massacres, murders that punctuated colonial occupation? What is one celebrating? The end of contempt, humiliations and paternalism? A finally reconciled Humanity? May the fiftieth anniversary of independances be the opportunity, for those whose humanity was put in between parenthesis during slavery and colonization, to deliberate on what they have done on their recovered freedom.

Mampouya, a Congolese blogger:
“Ce 14 juillet donc, les naïfs spectateurs français s’apprêtent à applaudir ce qu’il faut bien appeler des milices d’Etat (en tout cas au moins pour le Congo Brazzaville) sous couvert d’armées nationales. Prudent, le gouvernement français a pris grand soin d’éviter que les organes de presse “hostiles” rencontrent les membres des détachements militaires invités. Il y aurait-il des choses à cacher ?”
This July 15, the unsuspecting French onlookers are getting ready to applaud what one must call state militias (at least for Congo Brazzaville) masquerading as national armies. The French government has carefully avoided inviting “hostile” media organizations, and they will not meet with military guests. Are they hiding anything?
Joachim Vouakoma again on watching armies with sinister acts parading on the Champs Elysees :

« Verra t-on défiler toutes les armées y compris celles qui ont commis des massacres ? », interroge une journaliste allemande.
Allusion aux massacres de 150 civils commis par l’armée guinéenne fin septembre dernier dans le stade de Conakry. Jacques Toubon qui est tout sauf un néophyte en affaires « françafricaines », feint pourtant l’ignorance, botte en touche et renvoie la question à son auteur : « Pourriez-vous me dire quelles sont les armées qui ont massacré ou qui massacrent ? ». Il finira par révéler que de toute façon, ayant pris son indépendance en 1958 après son refus du référendum de la même année, la Guinée ne faisait pas partie des invités. Au Niger, où un coup d’état a mis fin à la dérive autoritaire de Mamadou Tandja, Paris espère que des élections seront organisées d’ici juillet. Quant au président malgache, c’est en catimini que Jacques Toubon l’a rencontré à Paris et son cas est pour le moins embarrassant.
Will we see armies parading including those who committed massacres, asks a German journalist. Reference to the massacres of 150 civilians committed by the Guinean army end september in the Conakry stadium. Jacques Toubon is all but a newbie in Francafrican business, and feigns ignorance, asks the question back “Can you tell me which armies have massacred or are massacring”. He ends up revealing that after getting its independence in 1958 after having rejected the referendum the same year, Guinea will not be part of the guests. In Niger, where a coup d'etat ended the authoritarian drift of Mamadou Tandja, Paris hopes that elections will be organized by July. As for the Malagasy President, Jacques Toubon met with him in secret in Paris, and his case is at the very least embarrassing.
Alain Rajaonarivony, a Malagasy blogger :
Une quarantaine de militaires de la Grande Ile qui doivent défiler pour le 14 juillet sont depuis hier à Paris. 36 officiers malgaches ont été décorés pour «service rendu à la France». 8 militaires français ont reçu en retour des distinctions, on ne sait trop pourquoi. Roindefo Monja a profité de son séjour hexagonal pour déposer une gerbe au monument des soldats malgaches morts pour la France, au Bois de Vincennes. Et le ministre de l’Education est en train de détricoter complètement les réformes de Marc Ravalomanana pour s’aligner sur le système français. On revient aux trimestres au lieu des bimestres, et au Lycée, on aura désormais les filières S (scientifiques) et L (littéraires) comme en France. Quand on vous dit que tout va bien… !
About forty soldiers of the Great Island who will parade on July 14 have arrived in Paris yesterday. 36 Malagasy officers have been decorated for “rendered services to France”. 8 French soldiers have received in return mentions, one does not really know why. Roindefo Monja (Note of the author : former Prime Minister) has taken advantage of his stay in France to place flowers at the monument of Malagasy soldiers fallen for France, at the Bois de Vincennes. And the minister of Education is busily dismantling Marc Ravalomanana's reform to align the Malagasy educational system with the French one. We are back to trimesters, no more semesters, and  we will have now S (Scientific) and L (Literary) high school diploma fields. When I told you everything is all right…
Others wonder why Black African countries are the only one parading:

sans revenir sur les détails du débat, la question à laquelle la France et ses partisans africains ne peuvent pas répondre, c’est de savoir pourquoi c’est l’Afrique Noire seule qui est invitée à cette cérémonie et non pas le Maroc, la Tunisie, l’Algérie, le Vietnam pour ne citer que certaines anciennes colonies françaises?
Cette cérémonie ne commémore pas notre indépendance mais bel et bien notre dépendance. C’est simplement insultant pour les peuples Africains.

Without rehashing the details of this debate, the question that France and her African partners cannot answer is why is it that only black African countries were invited to this ceremony and not Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Vietnam among the former French colonies? This ceremony is not to commemorate our independence but actually our dependence. This is just plainly insulting for African people.

Senegalese historian Fadel Dia on his blog:

:

“le minimum serait d’exiger que la France fasse auparavant ce qu’elle n’a pas fait en 1960 : solder ses comptes à l’endroit de ses anciens combattants d’Afrique, qui l’avaient servie et s’étaient sacrifiés pour elle. Les soldats que Paris se propose d’inviter en 2010 sont les héritiers de ces combattants oubliés dont ils doivent porter les revendications et auxquels la France peut rendre justice, définitivement et solennellement, pour boucler un demi-siècle d’occasions manquées.
Si les soldats africains doivent défiler à Paris le 14 juillet 2010, alors que ce soit plutôt les éclopés et les survivants de 39-45, d’Indochine et d’Algérie, pour étaler aux yeux des Français leurs illusions perdues et leur détresse de serviteurs mal récompensés. Il est temps, enfin, que la dette du sang que leur doit la France cesse d’être un « contentieux  », pour devenir le « gage d’une histoire commune », que les Tirailleurs Sénégalais ne soient plus, comme le craignait Senghor, des « morts  gratuits », que les Français réalisent qu’il ne s’agit pas ici seulement « d’un devoir de mémoire » mais « d’un devoir d’histoire et de vérité » selon le mot du député socialiste Alain Rousset.”
The minimum would be to demand from France that she does what she did not do in 1960 : to settle her accounts towards the African veterans, who have served her and sacrificed themselves. Veterans that Paris invites in 2010 are the heirs of the forgotten veterans whose demands they should endorse, and to whom France can render justice, definitively and solemnly, to bring an end to this half century of missed opportunities. If African soldiers must parade in Paris on July 14 2010, it must be as survivors and war wounded of 39-45, of Indochina and Algerian wars, to showcase to the French their lost illusions and their distress of ill rewarded services. It is time, at last, that the blood debt owed by France ceases to be a “contentious point”, to become “a token of common history”, that the Tirailleurs Senegalais will not be, as Senghor feared, “gratuitous dead”, that the French realize that this is not only a “duty of memory”, but also “a duty of history and truth”, as told by the socialist parlementarian Alain Rousset.

June 09 2010

June 08 2010

50 years Later, Independence and the Resource Curse in Francophone Africa

By Lova Rakotomalala

Francophone Africa is celebrating 50 years of independence in 2010. In light of this anniversary, a summit Africa-France took place in Nice, France as the oft tumultuous relationship between France and its former colonies was again under the spotlight. Many Africans voices are wondering out loud what is there to celebrate, given the mediocre level of human development achieved in many countries since independence.
The recurrent lament of those many outraged voices is that the African continent is certainly rich in natural resources and yet, it seems that the continent is endlessly plagued with what is known as the resource curse and many believe that those foreign interests are no stranger to sustaining the curse.
From an economic standpoint, Africa has certainly benefited from the boom in commodities in the last decade but not as much as one would predict. A report for Mckinsey Quarterly entitled “What drives Africa's growth?”, the authors state that:

Oil rose from less than $20 a barel in 1999 to more than $145 in 2008. prices for minerals, grain and other raw materials also soared on rising global demand. [..] Yet natural resources generated only 32% of Africa's GDP growth from 2000 to 2008.

So why has Africa not benefited more from its resources? Many Africans would argue that the way international interests are involved and mixed in the exploitation of those resources and the lack of transparency regarding those deals do not help foster development for African states. In a dossier on FranceAfrique for Focus on Africa , Stephen Smith highlights the special ties between France and the continent:

But since he took office, President Sarkozy has perpetuated France's time-honoured tradition of parallel diplomacy in Africa.
One set of advisers presides in public over the official business with Africa, while high-ranking Elysee staff, in tandem with unofficial middlemen, is in charge of the lucrative and highly personalised politics that Mr Sarkozy denounced during his presidential campaign.
The French media regularly expose the broken promises and the new lease on life given to Francafrique.
The elite collusion of Francafrique has become an anachronism, at odds with the stark realities of shrinking French engagement - both government and private - with its former territories south of the Sahara.

The oil curse is the most cited issues in the francophone regions but certainly not the only one. In a recent report for the Africa report, Norbrook wonders who really owns Africa’s oil:

This brave new world for African oil has been driven by price hikes, which make the expensive process of exploring a risk worth taking. The move offshore, enabled by advances in technology, requires deep pockets – hiring the drill boat that discovered oil in Ghana cost about a million dollars a day.
Another important dynamic has been the multiplication of competition, with Chinese and Indian companies joining the European and US array of majors. Where oil production was traditionally controlled by a small elite whose monopoly was seen as unhealthy, new challengers have made it easier for governments to negotiate terms.

Africa Oil Map from Theafricareport.com

Blogger Achille in Antananarivo, Madagascar has been following the political crisis in Madagascar closely, here is how he links the turmoil there and the oil curse (fr):

On a tous cherché la cause de cette crise, mais on oublie que c’est le pétrole qui a lancé les offensives. Tous les autres évènements tels que le pillage des forêts, le banditisme, l’accroissement de la pauvreté ne sont que les conséquences. La Francafrique a commencé à bouger dès qu’on a entendu les premières études positives sur le pétrole sans compter les autres ressources qui attirent d’autres pays. Je viens de me rendre compte qu’on est cerné par les multinationale, les canadiens au sud, les chinois vers Soalala et évidemment Total, le grand ami des pays en développement et des dictateurs de pacotille ! Et nous, on est là comme des cons à regarder le train qui transporte notre pognon loin vers l’horizon ! Quand j’ai vu le chiffre de 100 millions pour une concession pétrolière, je me suis dit qu’enfin la stupidité avait enfin atteint son sommet avec nos dirigeants.

We have all been seeking the cause of this crisis, yet we often forget that oil is what triggered all of the turmoil. All the other events, pillaging the national forest, high crimes, the ever-increasing poverty are only the byproducts of that. Lobbyists for Francafrique only started to make their move when they heard that there was oil to be exploited, not discarding the fact that other resources were also attractive to them and other nations.
In fact, I just realize that we are surrounded by corporations, Canadians in the South, Chinese in Soalala and of course Total, every developing country and wannabe dictators’ best friend. In the meantime, we are just standing here, watching our resources being shipped to far away places ! When I saw that 100 millions were granted for an oil concession, I said to myself that stupidity has finally reached its peak with our leaders.

Back in the 70’s, oil was seen as a passport towards rapid development. That was the case for Algeria, Libya and Irak says Passion-histoire. He explains how quickly that hope has now faded away (fr):

Dans les années 1970, grâce la rente pétrolière, l’Algérie, la Libye et l’Irak paraissaient engagés dans un processus de modernisation accélérée. Le pétrole était la bénédiction qui permettrait à ces États de rattraper leur « retard » économique.
L’Algérie était un « dragon en Méditerranée », la Libye un « émirat » et l’Irak « la puissance militaire montante » du monde arabe. Sur le plan politique, le socialisme progressiste laissait penser que des transformations profondes s’opéraient : émancipation de la femme, urbanisation, scolarisation, augmentation de l’espérance de vie…
Quelques décennies plus tard, la désillusion est cruelle. Le sentiment de richesse a entraîné ces pays dans des expérimentations voire des impasses politiques, économiques et militaires aux conséquences désastreuses dont ils peinent encore à sortir.

In the 1970, thanks to petrol rent, Algeria, Libya and Irak looked like they were engaged in a rapid modernization process. Petrol was the blessing that would allow this states to catch up from an economic standpoint. Algeria was to the “Mediterranean Dragon”, Libya was the “Emirate”, and Irak was “ the rising military power” of the arab world. From a political standpoint, progressive socialism would let many believe that many deep transformational change were in the works, women empowerment, urbanization, schooling, rising life expectancy…
A few decades later, the disillusion cuts deep. The feeling is that those riches led those countries to try out experiments that led to political economical and military dead ends that had disastrous consequences from which they have a devil of a time trying to escape.

Reacting on the celebration of 50 years of independence, Faustine Vincent writes that African nations are reluctant to submit their report card (fr):

Mais, au final, le cinquantenaire embarrasse tout le monde. Côté africain, «les pays auraient dû en profiter pour faire un bilan d’étape. Ce n’est pas le cas, assure Boubacar Boris Diop, écrivain sénégalais. Certainement parce qu’ils n’ont pas lieu d’en être fiers».

In the end, this 50 year anniversary celebration is quite embarrassing for everyone. From the African side, “this was an opportunity to draw conclusions from their journeys so far. However, that is far from the being the case says Boubacar Boris Diop, a Sengalese writer. They certainly don’t have anything to be proud of”.

On the French side, the Sarkozy administration used to express a willingness to do away with the practices of former French administrations. As reported by Sarah Halifa-Legrand, this was expressed in rather crude terms by Alain Joyandet, Secretary of State for French Cooperation (fr):

…[La France] se montrant “prêt à laisser tomber l’Afrique si son pays n’y trouve pas son compte”. Dans la bouche d’Alain Joyandet, cela donne : “Ne pas avoir peur de dire aux Africains qu’on veut les aider, mais qu’on veut aussi que cela nous rapporte”

[France] is ready to “give up on Africa if the country does not find it worthwhile”. From the mouth of Alain Joyandet: “ Not to be afraid to tell Africans that we want to help them but there has got to be something in it for us as well”

In Gabon, Association Survie notes that despite last year’s turmoil in Gabon, the company Total has done quite well for itself in 2010:

Elle a publié un résultat net de 42 millions d’euros au titre du premier trimestre 2010, en hausse de 109% par rapport à la même période en 2009.

Total has reported a net benefit of 42 millions euros in the first trimester of 2010, that is an increase of 109% from the same period in 2009.

Finally, Arimi Choubadé at Quotidien Nokoue in Benin posts a sarcastic note asking us to imagine how better-off France would have been if only France could have “maintained” her privileged ties with countries that have major natural assets (fr):

Imaginez une France partenaire privilégié d’une Côte d’Ivoire forte de son cacao ; d’un Gabon, d’un Congo, d’un Tchad, d’un Cameroun voire d’une Mauritanie dopés par l’exploitation du pétrole ; d’un Mali, d’un Bénin et d’un Burkina Faso en pôle dans la production de coton ; d’un Togo transfiguré par les ristournes du phosphate; et d’un Niger comblé par l’exploitation de l’Uranium. Cela éviterait à Sarkozy sa posture actuelle de puissance mitigée.

Imagine France with a privileged partnership with Ivory Coast and its abundance of cocoa; with Gabon, Congo, Chad, Cameroon even Mauritania boosted with oil; with Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso and their cotton, with Togo transformed by its phosphate and with Niger, and its uranium reserve. It could have helped Sarkozy from having to deal with its position as just a middle-of-the-pack powerhouse.

April 25 2010

ICT for Development in Francophone Africa

Although there is undoubtedly a strong push to grow information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives for development in francophone Africa, the region is still somewhat lagging behind their English-speaking neighbors. The recognition of this lag is discussed by many Francophone bloggers and aggregated at the Franco Techno Gap blog.

The cause of the lag is unclear  but a few reasons are often proposed: 1) broadband internet was made available by governments of English speaking nations such as (South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt) first (fr). Consequently, cost of internet access is on average higher as further explained on l'atelier des medias (RFI) (fr). 2) Related to the previous reason: “English speaking countries seem to be doing better than the French speaking countries” as Miquel points out 3) The English language is still the default language globally when one discusses ICT.

In this post, current grass roots development projects in francophone Africa with an important ICT component will be discussed in further details:

Agriculture

The community blog of the Union des Femmes Rurales Ouest Africaines et du Tchad (UFROAT) ( Union of Rural Women in West Africa and Chad) describes the objectives of the association as follows (fr):

-Promouvoir les échanges entre femmes rurales au niveau national et sous régional,
-Promouvoir la participation et la représentation des femmes rurales dans les instances de décision,
- Promouvoir la commercialisation des produits des femmes rurales

-Promote the exchange between women in rural areas at the national and regional levels.
-Promote women participation and representation in the decision making process
-Promote the commercialization of products generated by rural women.

In the following video, Agnegue Enyo from Togo explains that thanks to a recent workshop on ICT, she learned how to create, format and submit activity reports about her project. She says she used to have to pay someone to scan all the paperwork, archive and send reports for her. Not anymore.

A similar project in Madagascar, Bekoto Paysans, aims to protect the rights of Malagasy farmers, highlights their daily activities and challenges (fr). It is spear headed by renown Malagasy singer Bekoto, a member of the folk group Mahaleo. Bekoto describes why Malagasy bees and the honey they produce have unique properties and in danger of becoming extinct (fr):

L'abeille Malgache possède sa propre spécificité . C'est une espèce endémique considérée comme ” laborieuse et pacifique “. Il fut une époque où Madagascar exportait son miel en Europe et des “tonnes avaient été envoyés à l'extérieur de 1920 à 1940 [..] Depuis les symptômes du Varroa qui frappèrent l'apiculture dans la région d'Analamanga en 2007 , les mêmes signes de maladie avaient été aussi signalés sur la côte Est : ‘ Les essaims s'effondrèrent …les abeilles ne volaient plus et les ruches se vidaient mais des abeilles sauvages résistent

Malagasy bees possess unique properties. It is an endemic species that is described as ” hard working and peaceful”. Madagascar use to export tons of honey to Europe from the 1920's to the 40s [..] Since then, signs that Varroa disease have plagued the region of Analamanga in 2007, and then on the East coast. Swarms are disappearing, bees were not seen as much anymore and hives are empty except for wild bees.

Education

Djénéba Traoré develops the challenges of integrating ICT with education in sub Saharan Africa in five countries (Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and Senegal). He argues the following (fr):

il ne s'agit plus aujourd'hui de prouver que l'intégration des` TIC peut contribuer à l'amélioration de la qualité de l'éducation en Afrique mais de déterminer les voies et moyens pouvant pérenniser l'utilisation pédagogique des TIC à l'école, à toutes les écoles. Elle (l'etude) a aussi confirmé que la formation des enseignants aux nouvelles technologies n’est une priorité ni de l’école ni du gouvernement
et que l’utilisation pédagogique des TIC tant par les enseignants que par les élèves reste
faible en Afrique de l'Ouest et du Centre.

It is not about proving that integrating ICT into the school curriculum contributes to better quality of education in Africa anymore but to identify the means and ways to sustain the use of ICT at school, every schools. It ( the study) also confirms that training teachers in new media is not a priority for either schools or governments and that the use of ICT at school remains minimal in west and central Africa.

Camedevelop further details Traoré' s assessment in the case of Cameroon. He points to the fact that l'école Normale supérieure de Yaoundé has stil not completed the training of experts in this field resulting in lack of teachers, lack of electricity in rural areas and the cumbersome process to get computers into schools as the main causes for the delay in adopting ICT at school (fr).

Boukary Konaté offers more optimistic news on ICT and education in Mali. Konaté attended a workshop on ICT in Bamako (Mali) dedicated to school teachers . The following video shows the substantial interest shown for mastering information technology (fr):

Konaté also describes how young college graduates learned more about magnetic dipoles using a simple Google search (fr). The students also mentioned an additional advantage of adopting ICT tools was the ability to share information with all classmates at once and organizing group meetings easily, thus reducing the costs of calling each other.

The effort by French speaking countries to integrate ICT into development projects  is undeniable and not limited to the themes discussed above. However, ICT development faces the same issue as  other development themes when it comes to scaling up the promising first steps. Sustainability and homogeneous development are hard to achieve when infrastructure are still so unequally distributed, especially between urban and rural areas.

February 20 2010

Coup in Niger: Bloggers sigh in relief at the ousting of President Tandja

A mural of Mamadou Tandja hanging in the office of President (Photo by Jacob Silberberg for Panos Pictures)

A mural of Mamadou Tandja hanging in the office of President (Photo by Jacob Silberberg for Panos Pictures)

On Thursday, February 18th a coup took place in Niger in which President Mamadou Tandja was captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey, led by led by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna (who was was the former aide-de-camp of Niger's previous coup leader Maj. Daouda Mallam Wanke). In a quite unpoplar move, a few months ago Tandja illegally changed the constitution to allow him a third term in what was generally considered a mass fraud referendum (see Jen Brea's roundup on the reactions caused by that decision).

For a few hours, confusion reigned about what was going on. Raffaella Toticchi in Niamey wrote on Thursday afternoon [Es]:

Se han oído también disparos y algunas personas han sido heridas y trasladadas al hospital más cercano, pero de momento no se sabe mucho más.

Gunshots have been heard and some people have been wounded and taken to the nearest hospital, but for the time being we don't know much more than that.

In a televised announcement, spokesman for the plotters Abdoul Karim Goukouyé said Niger's constitution had been suspended and all state institutions dissolved. Instantanés du Niger [Fr], the blog of a French expat in Niamey, reported that the the national TV station ORTN broadcasted military music for most of the evening leading up to the announcement. She also reported that the rest of the evening and the following day were calm.

Blogger Texas in Africa gives some background on the reasons for the coup:

First, about 7.8 million (3/5) of Niger's citizens experience severe or moderate food insecurity. Mass starvation is never a stabilizing force.

Second, and more importantly, President Tandja had angered many Nigeriens in 2009 when he dissolved parliament and enacted constitutional reforms that gave him broad powers with few checks or balances. Tandja was constitutionally required to step down from office in December, as that was the end of his second five-year term in office, but the changes he made to the constitution allowed him to stay in office for three more years. These moves were extremely unpopular; 10,000 protesters came out on Sunday to dispute Tandja's actions.

Clearly, this coup is the result of the ongoing political crisis.

As put by Nigerien commenter Ali Dan-Bouzoua in a discussion list about internet in Niger, unfortuntely there hasn't been much citizen media covering the event:

Tres peu de blogs ou de tweeter, de photo … sur la situation au Niger.

On consomme sur le net mais on ne produit rien. Les guinéens sont tres actifs et tres present sur le net.

Very few blogs or tweets, photos… on the situation in Niger.

We consume online [content] but we produce none. Guineans are very active and present online.

However, Nigeriens have expressed themselves through comments left on news sites such as tamtaminfo.com seemed to approve of the ousting of President Tandja albeit with some reservations for the transitional government:

Ousman Diallo Yacoubou:

Militaires de notre cher pays tout le peuple nigerien vous salut vous avez prouve que vous etes les vrais garants du peuple et de la democratie. Mais il y'a une chose jusqu'a present on ne connait pas la duree de votre transition.

To the military of our dear country, the whole Nigerien people salute you, you have proved that you are the true guards of the people and democracy. But until now there is one thing that we don't know: the length of your transition.

Sabitou Oumarou:

C'est domage que des democrates comme nous applaudisse un coup d”Etat. Mais nous devons savoir qu'il y a deux manière de combattre : l'une avec la raison et l'autre avec la force. La première est propre aux hommes la deuxième nous est commun avec les animaux. Mais quand la première montre c'est limites il faut bien recourir a la deuxième pour remettre l'ordre et fait respecter la loi.

It's a shame that democrats like us are applauding a coup d'Etat. But we have to realize that there are two ways of fighting: one with reason and one with force. The first one is unique to human beings, the second one we have in common with animals. But when the first one shows its limitations, it is necessary to reach to the second one to restore order and respect for the law.

Likewise, a few African bloggers and tweeterers have reacted to the coup, mostly expressing relief or celebrating Tandja's removal due to the illegal constitutional changes he approved last year. Like Ato Kwamena Dadzie from Ghana, who echoed a common sentiment:

tweet by atokd

Awada Ehemir from Chad [Fr] thinks the reactions to the coup are hypocritical:

tweet by dadouar

Coup d'État in Niger… It is inmediately condemned, but next month it will be accepted by everybody. a classic in Africa…

tweet by

And the African Union who pretends to condemn it! At the next meeting, they will roll out the red carpet for their new “friends”!

Tony Cassius Bolamba from the DRC [Fr] shows some understanding for the coup plotters in his blog:

Si je me penche du côté de la raison je condamnerai tout putsch et tout tripatouillage de constitutions en Afrique, mais la compréhension m’oblige de comprendre certains putschistes.

Raison aux pensées de Pascal ? « Ne pouvant justifier la justice, on a justifié la force ».

L’Homme ne récolte ce qu’il sème et t il faut avoir le flair de quitter les choses avant qu’elles ne vous quittent.

Espérant que ce nouveau coup de force au Niger bénéficiera au vrai détenteur du pouvoir: le peuple !

If I have to lean on the side of reason, I condemn all coups and constitutional tampering in Africa, but I'm obliged to feel some understanding for coup leaders.

Was Pascal right? “Not being able to justify justice, we justify force”.

Men reap what they sow and they need to sense when to leave things alone before things leave them.

Hoping that this new coup de force in Niger will benefit the real power holder: the people!

In a similar vein, the blog Guinée 50 [Fr] hopes for the coup to restore democracy in Niger:

Ni lui (Tandja) ni les militaires qui l’ont renversé, ne portent le manteau de la légalité constitutionnelle. Il n’est donc pas question pour nous citoyens africains, de juger la manière dont nous en sommes soulagés.
La bonne question n’est pas non plus de d’applaudir aveuglement ces militaires. Mais, d’exiger leur neutralité dans la restauration de la démocratie dans un bref délai.
[…]
Nous sommes optimistes pour la suite, car à force de mal aller, tout ira bien dans le sens voulu par nos peuples qui sont les seuls souverains.

Neither him (Tandja) nor the junta who overthrew him are enjoying a cover of consitutional legality. Therefore, there is no way that we African citizens can judge the way we felt relieved.
It isn't any better to applaud blindly these junta. But to demand their neutrality in the prompt restauration of democracy.
[…]
We are optimistic for what will come next since, when things keep going wrong, then everything will go well in the sense wished by our peoples, who are the only holders of power.

At the citizen media portal Sahara Reporters, many commenters from Nigeria drew parallels between the situation in Niger and the one in their own country. Here are two samples:

OHYN:

This is what happens when civilian and civil institutions are too weak, too cowardly, too much “talk-talk-only,” to defend their own freedom from usurping so-called leaders. This describes Nigeria perfectly: so, Nigeria is next in the coup movement: it is only logical and ripe.

Toyin Ade:

There is no difference b/w what has happened in Niger & Nigeria b/c in Nigeria, we have souless, wicked & unpatriotic cabals holding us to ransom as Tanja did in Niger. If there should be any coup at all in Nigeria, it should be targetted at those useless clowns calling themselves Yar'Adua's kitchen/toilet cabinet that have arrogated to themselves what they don't have.

Daniel Hongramngaye from Chad, also draws a parallel between Niger and his own country at the blog Makaïla [Fr]:

Ce qui se passe sous nos yeux chez nos voisins nigériens doit à plusieurs égards inspirer nos officiers supérieurs, nos militaires, nos dignes soldats s’il en existe encore. […]

La situation politique au Tchad est pourtant plus exécrable que celle du Niger.

En effet, Idriss Deby Itno est identique à Mamadou Tandja si non pire.

What is happening under our eyes in neighboring Niger, in many respects ought to inspire our officers, our military, our worthy soldiers if there are still any left. […]

The political situation in Chad is more execrable than the Niger's.

Indeed, Idriss Deby Itno is identical to Mamadou Tandja if not worse.

February 17 2010

Africa: Colonialism alive and well after 50 years of independence

2010 will mark the fiftieth year of francophone African countries' independence from Belgium and France.  While official celebrations are under way, debate is simmering on blogs in North, Central and Western Africa.

A Moroccan blog, Planète Non Violencelinks the colonial past to the current state of affairs [fr ]:

Le constat de ces 50 ans est accablant. D’abord, pour les anciennes puissances coloniales, elles n’ont fait que reculer pour mieux perpétuer leur domination. Comme l’avait exprimé, autrefois, Ahmed Ben Bella : « le colonialisme est sorti par la porte, pour revenir par la fenêtre ». Pour continuer à garantir des bénéfices juteux à leurs entreprises, les anciennes puissances coloniales nous maintiennent sous tutelle, et soutiennent des régimes anti-démocratiques, pourvu qu’ils soient serviles. Passé sous silence les centaines de milliers de morts et de familles détruites, le pillage en règle des ressources, le renforcement du pouvoir arbitraire de la féodalité au détriment des pouvoirs de la jama’a (communauté) ; oubliée la longue nuit coloniale, dont nous continuons, à ce jour, à en subir les affres.

The findings of these 50 years are appaling. First, for the former colonial powers, they have pulled out only better perpetuate their rule. As Ahmed Ben Bella once said: “Colonialism went out by the door only to come back through the window.” To continue to ensure juicy profits for their companies, the former colonial powers maintain and support autocratic regimes, provided they are servile. Ignoring hundreds of thousands of deaths and destroyed families, the systematic looting of resources, strengthening the arbitrary power of the feudal powers at the expense of the jama'a (community); forget the long colonial night, we continue to this day to suffer its agony.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Freddy Mulongo, in a post titled Anticolonial 50th Anniversary: Belgian Congo, gives an overview of the history of Belgian colonial rule in his country [fr] :

Avec le Congo, la Belgique obtient des matières premières peu chères.

L’Europe est dévastée […], c’est donc les États-unis qui dirigent. Opposés au colonialisme les américains auraient pu donner l’indépendance aux populations congolaises, néanmoins Washington est farouchement opposé à tout régime communiste et sait que la propriété privée n’existe pas dans la culture africaine. Ainsi Washington préfère garder un pouvoir colonial belge, le temps qu’un mouvement africain libéral apparaisse …Suivront l’abolition du fouet, pour le clergé, les gradés de la force publique et les auxiliaires de l’administration…Face à ces mouvements nationalistes l’administration belge commence à comprendre qu’elle va perdre leur colonie.
La Belgique avait ratifié l’article 73 de la Charte des Nations unies, qui prônait l’autodétermination des peuples.

With Congo, Belgium gets natural resources at the cheapest price.
Europe is devastated [… ] therefore the United States administrates Europe and their colonies as well. Opposed to colonialism, Americans could have given independence to the Congolese people, but Washington is adamantly opposed to any Communist regime, knowing that private property does not exist in African traditions. Thus Washington opts for maintaining a Belgium colonial power, waiting for a liberal African movement to appear. … Then comes the abolition of whipping for the clergy, police officers and administration’ auxiliaries. …
Faced with these nationalist movements the Belgian government begins to understand that it is going to lose its colony.
Belgium had ratified article 73 of the UN Charter, which advocated self-determination of peoples…..

Belgium's plan was actually to decolonize over a time frame of… 30 years :

… Le professeur belge Antoine Van Bilsen publia, en 1955, un document intitulé Plan de trente ans pour l’émancipation politique pour l’Afrique belge.

L’indépendance du Congo n’est pas un cadeau des Belges !

Les souverainistes congolais sont clairs, pour le cinquantenaire de l’indépendance du Congo au 30 juin 2010: le discours de Patrice Emery Lumumba ou rien !

… In 1955, Belgian professor Antoine Van Bilsen published a document entitled “Thirty years Plan for the political emancipation of Belgian Africa”.
The independence of Congo is not a gift from the Belgians!
Congolese supporting sovereignty are clear, on the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Congo, on June 30, 2010, we do not want any thing but Patrice Emery Lumumba speech!

Going further, award-wining writer Alain Mabanckou, a French citizen born in the Republic of Congo, links France colonial past to the current and raging debate on “national identity”  in France:

De toute évidence le débat, sans le nommer, ne cesse de tourner aussi … autour du thème de l’immigration (en particulier postcoloniale) et de ses conséquences sur l’« identité nationale », ….

Clearly the debate, without naming it, also revolves … around the theme of immigration (especially postcolonial immigration) and its impact on [French] “national identity”….

Leopold Chendjou from Cameroon nails it in his public letter to French Président Sarkozy (to be continued): 50 years of independence, a Cameroonian writes to Nicolas Sarkozy [Fr]:

… Le racisme au cœur de la République …Tout comme vous, Monsieur le Président, les Noirs de nationalité française sont issus de l’immigration.

… Racism at the heart of the Republic … Just like you, Mr. President, blacks are French citizens born to migrants.

From Chad, Juliette is calling for a boycott of France’s project to have all its former colonies parading the Champs Elysées in Paris during Bastille Day military parade on July 14, 2010 [fr] :

Boycottons le projet francafricain du cinquantenaire des indépendances !…Nous avons donc besoin d'un groupe de personnes opposantes (ou d'organisations), originaires des pays souffrant des méfaits de la Françafrique…

Let’s boycott the francafrican project for the fiftieth anniversary of independence!… We seek a group of opponents (or organizations) from countries suffering from the evils of Françafrique

In Africa, people are also showing their opposition. On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal spoke at the opening ceremony launching several weeks of celebrations ending on April 4th (Independance Day) in an almost empty stadium:

On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal addressed a nearly empty stadium at an independence celebration.

On Saturday, February 13, President Wade of Senegal addressed a nearly empty stadium at an independence celebration / Picture posted by @rignese on Twitter (http://twitpic.com/12zxbe)

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