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December 30 2012

New GV e-book: African Voices of Hope and Change

Here is a perfect gift to salute the new year: our new e-book dedicated to Africa's Sub-Saharan region. “African Voices of Hope and Change,”  gives you an intimate perspective into the stories and people of Sub-Saharan Africa through our best English-language posts from 2012. From a total of about 800 posts produced over the year from the region, we hand-picked 13 posts to feature from Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kenya, Angola and other countries.

African Voices of Hope & ChangeYou are welcome to download it here. You can even send a copy (in PDF, ePub or Mobipocket format) to your relatives or friends across the world, maybe as a present for their donation to GV. Most important, please spread the word in your global circles, social networks and anywhere you deem fit!

African Voices of Hope and Change is more evidence of the power of we‘, a collective effort focusing on places and people too often ‘forgotten' by mainstream media worldwide, despite Africa’s diverse but promising growth in the upcoming years. As stated in the ebook introduction, “At the start of the new millennium, it felt as though the African continent was essentially written off by the international community… [but] recent statistics suggest that nine of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

And while many experts actually believe that new technology's most lasting influence will be on a broadening field of education, “also important is the potential for leveraging technology towards a more general transparency and accountability, as shown by initiatives based on social and citizen media for monitoring local elections or making government data available on the Internet.”

Aimed at providing a larger context and fostering the Global Voices mission, this collection of 2012 posts will try to parse out such complex framework and open up the horizon for the upcoming year. These voices tell us about moving forward in hope and change, their accounts reveal a path infused with struggle and collaboration.

Thanks to Mohamed Adel for technical support and to those who variously contributed to articles selected for this new e-book: Afef Abrougui, Ahmed Jedou, Anna Gueye, Eleanor Staniforth, Endalk, James Propa, Kofi Yeboah, Lova Rakotomalala, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Richard Wanjohi, Sara Gold, Sara Moreira, and Ndesanjo Macha.

December 20 2012

Zambian President Orders Killing of “Rebels” No One Can Find

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

President Michael Sata

President Michael Sata, Zambia's Commander-in-Chief. Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog.

It remains difficult to confirm the existence of the Barotse Liberation Army, the supposed paramilitary wing of various groups calling for the secession of Zambia’s Western Province. However, if President Michael Sata’s order to the army to kill the rebel activists is anything to go by, the organization is nevertheless considered a serious threat to Zambia’s national security.

The November 30, 2012 order came after it was reported that the rebels were recruiting former soldiers and policemen to serve in the Barotse Liberation Army. Speaking at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional Defence Command Staff College graduation ceremony, Sata said:

In Lukulu (Western Province) people have formed a group called Barotse Liberation Army, they are recruiting people. As of today, I am aware that they have recruited 276 people. They are recruiting former army officers, police officers and former poachers they want to rise against us and we have to be prepared… And you the Army Commander I have told you before that I need troop career planes because how can I transport troops to Lukuku?

In a veiled criticism of the army’s lack of preparedness and alleged toleration for unrest in the region, Sata said:

Our soldiers are graduating but some of them, they have never fired a gun since they joined the army until they retire… because it is different to train and to go and do the action. You need to be well trained in order to defend this country.

On a Facebook group, Zambian Voice, Isikanda Wamulwange expressed concern at President Sata’s call:

If military force will be used on the so called “rebels” in the Western province, might this not lead to civil war, is there no better way to resolve this issue.

Chileshe Tayali responded on the same thread:

Surely the President's outburst is not the best way to sort out BRE [Barotse Royal Establishment] conflict. He is declaring war in public. I find his directives very careless.

A local online publication, the Barotse Post, reported that the soldiers sent to the area pulled out after failing to find rebels:

The Zambian troops began their disgraced pull out from Lukulu on Sunday, 2nd December 2012, after failing to find the imagined Barotse Liberation Army activists. Four helicopters were seen flying out with some of the special forces who were sent on what has proved to be a wild goose chase. In order to save face, the disappointed and ashamed Minister of Defense has pleaded for information on BLA from the locals. This only shows how panicky the Zambian Government gets to be whenever it comes to the Barotseland issue.

The same publication accused the Zambian government of allegedly fabricating lies against against Barotse people:

Not so long ago the Zambian people were fed on a lie that the Barotseland Freedom Movement in Kaoma was recruiting retired military personnel. This claim was recently followed by another malicious one, in the wake of Mr Clement Sinyinda's resignation as Ngambela [Prime Minister] of Barotseland, that some Lozi people in Senanga and Sesheke were organizing to dethrone the Litunga [king].

Calls for the secession of Western Province have heated up in the last few years over allegations that successive Zambian governments have ignored the Batrotseland Agreement of 1964 which united the region with the rest of Zambia at independence in 1964.

As an opposition leader, Sata promised restoration of the agreement within 90 days of assuming office but, surprisingly, he has now taken a belligerent stance against it and it seems dialogue is not yet on the horizon.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

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December 18 2012

Football: Who Holds the Record, Argentina's Messi or Zambia's Chitalu?

Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi has broken most football records including the number of goals scored in a season, or has he?

An unlikely challenger to Messi, who is a marvel to watch when he turns up for his Spanish la Liga team FC Barcelona, has emerged in Zambia - in the form of a footballer who died nearly 20 years ago.

Godfrey Chitalu was with 30 other team members and administrators when a plane carrying the Zambia National Team to a World Cup outing in Senegal crashed in Gabon on April 28, 1993.

Godfrey Chitalu was well known by his moniker Ucar, and at the time of his death was National team coach. Ucar which almost became like his middle name - originated from his boundless energy on the pitch like the battery UCAR (made by Union Carbide) which powered the two-band radio sets people listened to football commentaries on.

One website, the Bleacher Report, noted of Chitalu who is reputed to have scored 107 goals in the 1972 season:

Don't rewrite that record book just yet—unless the name Godfrey Chitalu is going in.

On Twitter, the name Godfrey Chitalu went viral after western media reported Messi’s supposed record breaking goal-scoaring.

@Oluwashina Dear Messi, yes you've surpassed Gerd Muller's record but not Godfrey Chitalu's 107 goals in a calendar year 1972. *In MJ's voice - Beat it*

One tweep disputing Messi’s record and seemingly accusing western media of biasness, wrote:

@bishopskid14 @world_dream that goal record is held by godfrey chitalu another example of clear bias

UKZambians, a citizen media website based in the UK, quoted a Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) official:

Even as the world has been looking at Lionel Messi’s record, breaking Gerd Muller’s, the debate and discussion back here has been why Godfrey’s goals are not being recognized. What we are doing is, we have commissioned an independent team locally to go back into the archives and record minute-by-minute each of those goals. The team that we have put together is going to calculate all of those goals, recording which ever game or tournament they were scored in.

We will then send that to CAF [Confederation of African Football] and FIFA so that we can show that, while Messi’s record is there, while Muller’s record is there, the actual record holder in terms of goals per calendar year is actually an African. It’s actually Godfrey Chitalu.

 

Arguably, Zambia’s football at that time was not as professional as it is today, but football-loving Zambians can only hope that at least their record keeping improves from this story.

 

December 15 2012

Fatal Wage Dispute Sparks Revenge Attacks Against Zambia's Somali Residents

The shooting of a Zambian worker allegedly by his Somali employer after a wage dispute, on 13 December, 2012, has triggered a series of revenge attacks against Somali residents in Ndola, Zambia’s third largest city, 400 km north of the capital Lusaka.

Reporting on the riots, Zambian Reports wrote:

Ndola residents have taken to the streets damaging property, particularly those belonging to Somali nations following the shooting of a Zambian in a wage dispute.

Somali nationals are also being targeted for beatings as a sign of revenge.

The riots started early this morning in Northrise forcing Copperbelt riot police to descend on the city to quell the volatile situation. The situation was particularly worse in Masala and Ndeke township where majority of Somalians reside in Ndola.

The Zambian Eye also reported:

Zambians are rioting in Ndola the provincial capital of the Copperbelt.

The riot started this morning and by press time 9:30 am local time the residents were still rioting looting a shop of a Somalian in the Second Class area in the Central district. Zambian Eye reporter at the scene says there was no presence of the police yet.

Goods wealth millions of kwacha has been rooted [sic].

“The situation is tense here right now people are looting the shop grabbing assorted groceries such as sugar and cooking oil, Zambian Eye reporters said.

The riot follows the shooting of a Zambian who is reported to have been demanding for his money on Thursday by a Somalian

The story was also picked up by Somali news website, Hiiraan Online.

On Twitter Temwani Nkhata wrote:

@NkhataTemwani: @ caesarcognac yeah we good people bt nw its gettin outa hand…u knw nw they hv become disrespectful and arrogant to us as a peole,enuf!  [yeah, we are good people but now it is getting out of hand… you know now they have become disrespectiful and arrogant to us people, enough!]

Read the earlier tweet:

@caesarcognac @blistic_1 @ NkhataTemwani: @Kush_411 we tolerate so much  as Zambians these ppl  is [are] taking us for granted. Why do we give [th]em so much power?

On Facebook, netizens disagreed with someone who blamed the entire Somali community for the incident. Richard Banda Lcgi Meiz wrote:

A Zambian was shot dead yesterday by a Somalian national and it has sparked riots /looting in Ndola. The issue is that Zambia is going to be in trouble not many years or decades from now following the influx of Somalians. These are guys who are coming from a war-torn or failed state and came in Zambia without anything. They are bearing children who are sarcastically claiming to be Zambians and so they are considering the provisions of our citizenship clause.

[…] We must have control on the influx of Somalians in this country otherwise our great-grand children will curse us while we will be in our graves for the current failures to set things straight.

The Somalians have their own buses and schools and we dont know whether they are teaching those children of theirs hate for the non-Muslims or not.

Banda was criticized by Emmanuel Mulenga:

Damn you stereotypes! Just because one Somalian commits a crime, you condemn everyone of Somalian decent? Learn to embrace equality and diversity! Deal case by case not this rubbish racism you are posting!

There was no official statement from the police at the time of writing on whether there has been any arrests among looters apart from an earlier statement attributed to provincial police commissioner Mary Tembo on the arrest of the Somali suspected killer.

In July 2012, the Zambian Police thwarted a xenophobic attack on a national who was burnt to death in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. A number of Somali nationals are settled in and around Ndola where they run businesses ranging from transportation to supermarkets.

December 14 2012

A Timeline of 50 Years of Conflict in the D.R. of Congo

The current conflict between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army cannot be completely understood without recollecting the history of the genesis of conflicts in this region of great lakes. Here is a detailed chronology of the last 50 years of confrontations in this region.

On Congo Forum, Jacques Mbokani wrote [fr]:

Depuis son accession à l’indépendance la R.D.C. a toujours été en proie à des conflits de tous ordres. … L’exposé consiste essentiellement à identifier les causes des conflits en RDC. … Les causes des conflits en R.D.C. peuvent être regroupées en deux catégories majeures. … les causes externes … et d’autre part, les causes internes.

Since the DRC became independent , it has been prey to all kinds of conflicts. … … The presentation is mainly focused on identifying the causes of the conflicts in the DRC. …The causes of the conflicts in the DRC can be grouped into two main categories. …external causes … and, on the other hand, internal causes.

The Congo was declared independent on June 30, 1963, and renamed Congo-Leopoldville. Power was shared between the head of state Joseph Kasa-Vubu and the Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. On November 25, 1965, supported by governments of Belgium and the United States, General Joseph Desire Mobutu deposed President Kasa-Vubu, removing him from power and naming himself president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He would remain in power for 30 years. The country was renamed Zaire between 1971 and 1997.

This video covers the history of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba [fr]:

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

Another video tells of the coming to power of Mobutu, King of Zaïre, Conquest of Power [fr]:

Important economic issues at stake

Jacques Mbokani continued [fr]:

Dans le film intitulé : « Blood Diamond » (le diamant du sang) un vieil homme soupirait en ces termes : « j’espère qu’ils ne vont pas trouver du pétrole… alors nous serons réellement en danger… ». Les propos de ce vieil homme, révèlent en réalité la question des ressources naturelles comme sources des conflits.

In the film entitled “Blood Diamond”, an old man sighs in these terms: “I hope that they’re not going to find oil… then we really will be in danger…”. The words of the old man reveal the real question about natural resources as sources of conflict.

On the website Maps of the DRC [fr], we learn that :

Qualifié de scandale géologique, le sous-sol de la RD du Congo regorge de plusieurs minerais et d'énormes réserves énergétiques. Les ressources minières les plus connues sont celles des groupes de l'Etain, du Nobium et du Cuivre, auxquels on peut ajouter le manganèse, l'or et le diamant. Concernant les richesses énergétiques, on peut citer le pétrole off-shore de l'Atlantique et d'importants gisements du nord-est, lesquels aiguisent déjà, beaucoup d'appétits de tous les milieux mafieux aussi bien congolais qu'internationaux, au mépris des populations locales. De même, l'uranium dans le sud-est pays, ainsi que le gaz méthane du lac Kivu, font partie des ressources énergétiques dont le pays ne semble pas maitriser la gestion présente ou future. Ce manque d'autorité et de contrôle de ses propres richesses, se traduit par un trafic sans précédent à l'EST du pays, opéré par des bandes armées avec, malheureusement souvent, la complicité des congolais eux-mêmes au détriment de leur propre pays.

Often called a “geological scandal”, the subsoil of DRC is bursting with various minerals and enormous reserves of energy. The most well-know mining resources are those of clusters of tin, nobium and copper, to which we can also add manganese, gold and diamonds. As for energy wealth, we can point to the oil off-shore in the Atlantic, and to major deposits in the north east, which have already stimulated many appetites within the Mafia-like underworld, as much Congolese as international, to the disgust of local people. Also, uranium from the south east of the country, as well as methane gas from Lake Kivu, make up part of the energy resources that the country cannot seem to manage properly right now or in the future. This lack of authority and control of its own wealth, betrayed by unprecedented trafficking operations in the east of the country, controlled by armed gangs with, unhappily often, the complicity of the Congolese themselves to the detriment of their own country.

The causes of the internal conflicts within the DRC date from the dictatorship of Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, who remained in power until 1997:

La raison du plus fort était la meilleure, … médiocrité de la classe politique, … l’effondrement et le manque d’indépendance de l’appareil judiciaire …inexistence des services publics tant administratifs que sociaux. … Le recrutement des militaires que ce soit par le processus normal ou dans le cadre du brassage ou mixage, ce recrutement se fait sans tenir compte de la citoyenneté, de l’âge, de la moralité ou du passé judiciaire

The strongest reason was the best, … mediocrity of the political class, … the collapse and the lack of independence of the judiciary …non-existence of public services, both administrative and social. … The recruitment of soldiers, be it by the standard process or within the framework of brewing or mixing, this recruitment is done without taking account of the citizens, of the times, of morality or of the judicial past

The following video shows the hold that Mobutu had over the DRC during this period: Mobutu, King of Zaïre 2, Master of the Game [fr]:

Website Konexinfo [fr] traced how several countries found themselves implicated in this conflict:

La situation actuelle en RDC, dans la région du Kivu, découle de plusieurs conflits qui ont eu lieu depuis une vingtaine d’années dans la région des grands lacs africains. Ces multiples conflits sont liés les uns aux autres. De nouveaux seigneurs de la guerre prennent la relève de ceux qui accèdent au pouvoir.

The current situation in the DRC, in the Kivu region follows from several conflicts which took place over twenty or so years in the African great lakes region. These many conflicts are all linked to one another. New warlords take over from those who have acceded to power.

Seven countries at war on Congolese soil

Meeting between Kabila, Bush, Kagame and Annan at NYC in 2002 by Eric Draper - public domain

Meeting between Kabila, Bush, Kagame and Annan at NYC in 2002 by Eric Draper - public domain

The Ugandan Yoweri Museveni recruited and organised an army of 6,000 men at the frontiers of Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda and overthrew the elected president of his country, Milton Obote in 1986.

In Rwanda between 1990 and 1993 the FPR with Paul Kagamé at its head fought against the regime of the sole party of the president, Juvénal Habyarimana.

In 1994, the genocide in Rwanda, which has a common border with the DRC, forced around 2 million people to migrate to Eastern DRC.

From Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo [fr] and to the current chaos, website la documentation francaise gave a detailed chronology [fr] of events in the DRC:

In 1996, in South Kivu, the Banyamulenge rebellion started, involving Congolese Tutsi of Rwandan origin (who had migrated to the region from 1959 to flee the violence in Rwanda), with the military support of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. With others opposing the president of Zaire, Marshall Mobutu, they regrouped as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire, ADFL, led by Laurent Desire Kabila.

After 30 years of power, President Mobutu left in exile before the rebels’ victory. Laurent Desire Kabila named himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the new name for Zaire. The rebels took control of capital Kinshasa on May 17, 1997.

Dismantling the camps of Rwandan refugees infiltrated by former Rwandan armed forces and extremist Hutu militia - the Interahamwe - responsible for the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda.

Kabila then broke his alliances with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

In 1998, a new Tutsi rebellion, among the Banyamulenge broke out in Kivu against Kabila’s government troops, supported by his ex-allies Rwanda and Uganda. A new political-military coalition was formed - the Congolese Assembly for Democracy (RCD) - led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.

Seven countries at war on Congolese soil, with Congolese rebels supported by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi….capturing Kisangani, capital of the Eastern province and the country’s third city. They would be stopped in their advance towards Kinshasa by the intervention of troops from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

This resulted in the partitioning of the country, with North and South Kivu falling under the control of the RDC and the West remaining under the control of Kabila and his allies Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Also in 1998, another rebellion, this one led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, in the province of Equator, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), took control of the region. With the support of Uganda, they took the city of Kindu and the mining regions of Kasai and Katanga.

On May 17, 1999, Wamba’s RCD split into two movements: RCD-Goma, led by Emile Ilunga Kalambo and supported by Rwanda, and RCD-Kisangani, which remained under Wamba’s control, and was supported by Uganda. Uganda were also still supporting Bemba’s MLC.

Kabila’s government no longer controlled the western half of the country.

The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement (Zambia), signed in July 1999, changed nothing with respect to the massacres. The Rwandan army occupied one part of the Eastern province, North and South Kivu as well as North Katanga. The Ugandan army controlled the north parts of Equator and Eastern provinces. Despite the agreements, fighting and massacres continued. Both countries disputed control of the city of Kisangani, global hub of the diamond market, leading to the death of two hundred citizens.

In 2001, following the assassination of President Laurent Desire Kabila, his son Joseph Kabila was named head of state, on January 17.

 

Countries directly or indirectly involved in Congolese Conflicts

Countries directly or indirectly involved in Congolese Conflicts by Jaro7788 - Public Domain

 

Since then, United Nations resolutions and peace agreements between aggressors and attempts at democracy have periodically punctuated the repeated massacres and rapes as a weapon of war. The cyclical conflicts have allowed foreign powers and companies to access the precious minerals [fr] so vital to mobile phones worldwide.

Jacques Mbokani concluded [fr]:

En résumé, la cause centrale réside dans la faillite de l’Etat congolais qu’il faut reconstruire. C’est parce que l’Etat n’existe plus que les Etats voisins pillent, violent et font ce qu’ils font. C’est parce que l’Etat n’existe plus qu’il y a la prolifération des seigneurs de guerre et la prolifération des armes légères.

In summary, the central cause resides in the failure of the Congolese state which must be rebuilt. It is because the state no longer exists that neighbouring states steal, rape and do whatever they want. It’s because the state no longer exists that there has been a proliferation of warlords and of heavy weapons.

December 02 2012

Voting for the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa

An annual competition has been launched for the public to vote for the seven best natural wonders of Africa, with the voting currently underway. The competition is organized by global grassroots endeavor Seven Natural Wonders and at this point includes 12 sites from across the African continent.

Discover the shortlist and other suggested contenders which didn't make the cut this year.

The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Hippos bathing in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, the world's largest inland delta by John on Wikipedia CC-license-by

The Okavango Delta is the world's largest inland delta, created from the rains that fill the Okavango River. The Namibian government has plans to build a hydropower station which would regulate the Okavango's flow, but environmentalists fear that this project could destroy most of the fauna and flora in the Delta.

The Red Sea Reef, Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. Its Reef stretches over 1,240 miles along the coast of Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea and contains more than 1,100 species of fish.

Anthia goldfish in the Red Sea from Wikimedia commons. Image in the public domain.

Anthia goldfish in the Red Sea from Wikimedia commons. Image in the public domain.

Mount Kenya, Kenya 

Mount Kenya wall

Mount Kenya wall by Radu vatcu CC license-BY-3.0

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. It was covered by an ice cap for thousands of years. The Mount Kenya ecosystem provides water directly for over two million people. The park receives over 16,000 visitors per year.

The Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Local people on the Avenue of the Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar. Image on Wikimedia commons, in public domain.

Local people on the Avenue of the Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar. Image on Wikimedia commons, in public domain.

The Avenue of the Baobabs is located between Morondava and Belon'i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar. Baobab trees, up to 800 years old, stand about 30 meters in height and this particular species is endemic to Madagascar. The site was present in the news recently because it was victim of a wild fire that burnt down newly planted trees around the giant trees.

 The Stone Forest of Bamaraha, Madagascar

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve in Madagascar. Image on Wikipedia (CC-license-BY-3.0).

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve in Madagascar. Image on Wikipedia (CC-license-BY-3.0).

Tsingy de Bemaraha is a nature reserve located near the western coast of Madagascar in the Melaky Region. This National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the main attraction is the stone forest that is composed of limestone needles originating from erosion patterns from groundwater and winds.

Zuma Rock, Nigeria

Zuma Rock near Abuja by Jeff Attaway on FlickR license (CC-BY-2.0).

Zuma Rock near Abuja by Jeff Attaway on FlickR license (CC-BY-2.0).

Zuma Rock is a 725 meter high monolith found in Nigeria on the road out of Abuja. Its nickname ‘Gateway to Abuja' is derived from this road.

The Peak of Furnace, Réunion Island

Eruption at the Peak, April 2007 on FlickR by zatiqs (CC license-BY-NC-SA).

Eruption at the Peak, April 2007 on FlickR by zatiqs (CC license-BY-NC-SA).

Le Piton de la Fournaise (The Peak of Furnace) is a shield volcano on the eastern side of Réunion island in the Indian Ocean. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

The Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

Aldabra Island, Seychelles on FlickR by Johny Shaw (CC-BY-2.0).

Aldabra Island, Seychelles on FlickR by Johny Shaw (CC-BY-2.0).

Aldabra is the world's second largest coral atoll and forms part of the Seychelles. Aldabra is almost entirely free of human interference and is home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 

Kibo on Mt Kilimanjaro by Chris 73 (CC-NC-BY).

Kibo on Mt Kilimanjaro by Chris 73 (CC-NC-BY).

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world at 5,895 meters. The current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice field is similar to other glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe. At the current rate, Kilimanjaro is expected to become ice-free some time between 2022 and 2033.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

A young male lion at the hunt in Ngorongoro Crater by Brocken Inaglory on Wikimedia (CC-BY-3.0).

A young male lion at the hunt in Ngorongoro Crater by Brocken Inaglory on Wikimedia (CC-BY-3.0).

The Ngorongoro Crater is a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera located in the west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The crater plays host to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater.

The Serengeti Migration, Tanzania

Wildebeest crossing the river by Stefan Swanepoel in Wikipedia (CC-BY-3.0).

Wildebeest crossing the river by Stefan Swanepoel in Wikipedia (CC-BY-3.0).

The Serengeti migration is the longest and largest overland migration in the world. Each year, the great wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro area of the southern Serengeti of Tanzania in January to March, when the calving season begins; some 750,000 zebra precede the migration of 1.2 million wildebeest.

The Sahara Desert

Camels in Guelta d'Archei, Ennedi, north-east Chad. Image on Wikipedia (CC-BY-2.0).

Camels in Guelta d'Archei, Ennedi, north-east Chad. Image on Wikipedia (CC-BY-2.0).

The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world. The desert encompasses, at least in part, the countries of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan, and Tunisia. The southern border of the Sahara is marked by a band of semi-arid savanna called the Sahel.

Bloggers' suggestions

A number of natural wonders were omitted from the shortlist, so a few bloggers have added their own suggestions via their blogs. A slight controversy was the fact that a few countries were featured several times while others were not mentioned at all, despite having worthy candidates.

The Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe is already selected as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Swimming at the edge of Victoria Falls in a naturally formed safe pool, accessed via Livingstone Island. Image on wikimedia commons, released into public domain by Ian Restall.

Swimming at the edge of Victoria Falls in a naturally formed safe pool, accessed via Livingstone Island. Image on wikimedia commons, released into public domain by Ian Restall.

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa 

The Blyde River Canyon is located in Mpumalanga and forms the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 16 miles (26 kilometers) in length and is on average around 2,500 feet (762 meters) deep. The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone.

The Weeping Face of Nature located in Blyde River Canyon. Image by Ptosio on Wikipedia (CC-BY-3.0).

The Weeping Face of Nature located in Blyde River Canyon. Image by Ptosio on Wikipedia (CC-BY-3.0).

Feel free to add any sites that you feel were omitted in the selection process in the comments section below.

November 30 2012

Zambia: “SIM Registration is For Security Reasons”

The Zambia Information and Communication Technology Agency (ZICTA), a body which regulates communications and related services, recently admitted that the mandatory registration of SIM cards was being done to create a security data base for users.

A ZICTA official, Ngabo Nankonde, dispelled the misconception by most people who had shunned the exercise allegedly because it was meant to monitor opposition members and government critics especially on online news websites, saying it was meant to track criminals.

Nankonde further said the registration was essential in tracking criminals who used cell phones for illegal activities, tracing stolen phones, nuisance text messages, fraud, threats and inciting violence, among other things.

She said ZICTA drew its mandate from the Information Communications Technologies (ICT) Act No. 15 of 2009 and the Statutory Instrument on the Registration of Electronic Communications Apparatus No. 65 of 2011 to ensure that all mobile phone service providers registered their subscribers’ SIM cards

The ZICTA explained that the personal information collected in the exercise which started in September 2012, such as national registration card, passport, driver’s license or voter’s card would be kept confidential by the respective mobile phone operators in a secure data base.

Citizen news website, Zambian Watchdog, recently reported that only less than 500,000 out of 8 million subscribers had registered and that the Secret Service was compiling data of the subscribers.

Zambian Watchdog reports:

Only a small fraction of Zambians, about 300,000, have so far submitted details for sim card with all the mobile service providers out of the total subscriber base of eight million in the country.

Sources have told the Watchdog that Zambians are sceptical to register because of the abuse for which their private numbers and personal details the PF [Patriotic Front] government would want to use them.

Last week, the Watchdog revealed that the secret service also known as Office of the President (OP) collects data everyday from the mobile companies and compile it.

A small team of less than ten OP operatives has been assembled to create the database. They only work at night starting at 18 hours when their colleagues have knocked off.

Responding to Nankonde’s statement, readers on the Lusaka Times were divided on the issue. One reader, Beleg, wrote (readers’ comments do not have individual links):

This registration has been suspicious from the beginning, I would urge people NOT to do it if they want to preserve their freedom. Do you really want to be tracked each time you make a call? Do you want to entrust your security in the hands of shady characters like Ukwa [nickname for President Michael Sata]?

There is nothing good you will achieve by registering.

But another reader, Sadakah, had this to say:

Go ahead and do it. After all its done everywhere even here in the Western World. You can never have a sim without providing all your details by way of showing your ID, ie, Passport, Driver’s Licence and/or any necessary document to support yourself. So why are these people scared when they always do the same whenever they visit other countries? Its only in Zambia where the Opposition always sees bad out of good.

But netizens elsewhere lamented about the paper registration process with some service providers running out of the forms. @VusumuziS tweets:

Dear @Airtel_Zambia, why not make the sim registration service available online? I failed to register mine today because forms had run out

One of the service providers, Airtel Zambia, clarified the matter on Twitter:

@Airtel_Zambia: @VusumuziS All customers are required to fill out the form by hand and attached copies of their photographic ID

One netizen observed:

@Mulumba: @VusumuziS therein lies the problem. Whole process should be automated, register & it goes straight to .gov DB [data base] @GNdhlovu @Airtel_Zambia

In a country were opposition parties and their leaders are constantly harassed by the police and citizen online publications on which people freely express their views threatened with closure all the time, it is likely to be an uphill battle to pursuade people about the innocence of the SIM registration exercise.

November 28 2012

Are Zambia's Miners Paying More in Taxes than Mining Companies?

A podcast (Taxcast) by Tax Justice Network titled Zambian miners paying more tax than mining company has been posted online claiming that miners are paying more in income tax than mines are paying in corporation tax.

A Centre for Trade Policy and Development official, Saviour Mwambwa, claims that one mining company cost the Zambian government an equivalent of £50m in unpaid taxes over one period of time, more money than the British government gave the country in aid.

Map of Zambia showing the copper mining area in Zambia. Image released by Wikipedia user Acntx under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Said Mwambwa in the podcast:

The company that we have been following alone, just one company, over a period of two years, we believe not less than £50m (US$80m) was lost by the government of Zambia by that company avoiding to pay taxes… That is more than the British government gave to Zambia in aid over the same period.

Mwambwa reasons:

Most countries including Zambia would not actually need aid if companies were paying the kind of taxes they ought to pay. So it is also in the best interest of European countries and European citizens to make sure that their governments are doing everything possible they can if Europe is serious about its rhetoric against corruption, they should fight things like tax avoidance.

An Action Aid official is quoted in the same podcast as saying:

These are mines owned by major multi-national companies. They are making large amounts of money for shareholders in Switzerland and UK. Because they are able to shift their profits out of Zambia and elsewhere before they get taxed, often benefiting from the secrecy of tax havens as they do it…

Earlier in the podcast, a mining expert and former Zambian government minister, Dr Mathias Mpande, said:

They economist say this [Zambia] is the 10th fastest growing economy but this is the poorest country after Niger… The social indicators in Zambia are very poor. We have to create enough capital which we can invest in public utilities and services. See the amount of wealth that Sweden and Norway have created out of mining? That is where we should be going.

Introducing the podcast, Tax Research UK writes:

Have you heard about the miners in Zambia who pay more tax than the multi-national mining company they work for?

How do these corporations get away with it? And how does it affect life for ordinary Zambians?

This is a special report from the Taxcast, the monthly 15 minute podcast from the Tax Justice Network.

The Tax Justice Network is an independent organisation launched in the British Houses of Parliament in 2003. Their coalition of researchers and activists support transparency and openness around tax issues in developing countries arguing that tax havens cause poverty:

The Tax Justice Network promotes transparency in international finance and opposes secrecy. We support a level playing field on tax and we oppose loopholes and distortions in tax and regulation, and the abuses that flow from them. We promote tax compliance and we oppose tax evasion, tax avoidance, and all the mechanisms that enable owners and controllers of wealth to escape their responsibilities to the societies on which they and their wealth depend. Tax havens, or secrecy jurisdictions as we prefer to call them, lie at the centre of our concerns, and we oppose them.

This podcast comes on the heels of a documentary Zambia: Good Copper, Bad Copper which appeared on YouTube early this year.

November 23 2012

Zambian Phone Apps Gather Country's News in One Place

After an Android phone app that allows Zambians to participate in the on-going constitution writing process was developed this year, a couple of other apps, Zambia News Daily and The Zambian which collate news about the country from a number of online sources, have appeared on the market.

The summary of the Zambia News Daily on the Google Play website reads:

Dear Zambia News Reader! We know how important it is to be aware of the LATEST NEWS about the country. And we want you to be the first person to know these news. That's why our team has created this tool especially for you.

But that's not all. Just in case you are tourist who wants to find out more about the country of Zambia, or local who likes to see pictures of the country you will be able to view PHOTOS of Zambia just by using this application.

Screenshot of Zambia News Daily on a smartphone

A screenshot of Zambia News Daily on a smartphone showing one of the stories that appeared on the Global Voices website.


So why use multiple sources of information while you can access all the info you need with this app? If for some reason you don't like this app, then you can simply uninstall it.

If on the other hand you love the application - simply enjoy and have a good time with it!

This app has been developed by Rangerapps, which has also developed similar apps for a number of countries like Nigeria, Ghana and other countries.

The Zambian, also on Google Play, describes itself in the following words:

The Zambian covers the latest news from Zambia. With our mobile application you can now stay connected with Zambian news on the go. We aim to make our mobile application the only one you'll ever need on Zambia […]

With these apps on their phone, netizens will no longer need to surf a number of news websites to get news about Zambia.

November 17 2012

Zambia's Currency to Get a Makeover

Zambia is set to rebase her currency by removing three zeroes from the Kwacha at the beginning of next year.

Netizens have weighed in on the massive project for which the Bank of Zambia has even proposed 31 December, 2012 to be a holiday to allow for the smooth transition from the currency in use to the new rebased notes and coins that will also be reintroduced.

Rebased Zambian Kwacha

New rebased Zambian Kwacha notes coming into effect on New Year's Day. Picture courtesy of the Zambian Watchdog.

The debate has been intense on the Zambia Economist blog where a number of people are either for or against the exercise. One anonymous contributor on the blog wrote:

The costs of rebasing the Kwacha on businesses are becoming more clear. The benefits will always be less tangible […] Standard Chartered Bank Plc revealed early October that the rebasing will cost it K5 billion [nearly US$1 million] in terms of systems and infrastructure upgrade. Part of the money will also go towards staff training in order to ensure a smooth transition to the new kwacha.  National Savings and Credit Bank (NATSAVE) revealed late October that it has so far spent K1 billion on the initial preparation of the rebasing of the Kwacha. The money has gone on reconfiguration of the IT platform and general implementation of the rebasing preparation in its 27 branches across the country.

The contributor was even more critical of the move by the government:

It is sad that this was a purely political decision. No single economic assessment was done by GRZ!  This of course is largely due to the “blind faith” of ordinary Zambians in the ability of government to think through things. Too many Zambians are content with simply saying, “government has thought through it, so it must be true”. It is 2012, it is shocking posture to hold that can only be explained by the psychological effects of the colonial legacy.

A comment under the blog indicated who would end up bearing the cost of the rebasing:

its simple really.i spend i billion as a business as cost incured in kwacha rebasing,i will have to find a way to recover it and ofcourse i must fined a way of transfering my cost on the consumer”"”??what??did you think i would spend that much for free?it makes no business sence…….

Responding to the blog above in a separate write up, Francis Ilunga dismissed the anonymous writer’s argument, stating that he was an employee of the Bank of Zambia but writing in his personal capacity:

[…] The author has however neglected to mention the costs that most businesses incur in reconfiguring/ customizing standard packages (accounting/audit, etc), that they acquire from time to time. You will appreciate the fact that the packages used in Zambia are developed in jurisdictions where values, at a maximum, tend to be in millions. The present situation in Zambia, where some organizations, especially banks record values in billions or trillions of Kwacha, requires further customization of such packages in order to widen data fields, which tend to be very costly. With the rebasing of the Kwacha, businesses will no longer be spending money on the reconfiguration / customization of newly acquired packages.

Ilunga also gave the historical perspective of the decision to rebase the Kwacha, writing:

[…] The idea of rebasing of the Kwacha was conceived in 2003, but couldn’t be implemented because prevailing macroeconomic fundamentals at the time did not permit such. For instance, high levels of inflation, would have meant returning to higher value denominations within a short space of time, as was the case in Zimbabwe. In the recent past, inflation has slowed down and dropped to a single digit. This low level of inflation, coupled with favorable macroeconomic conditions, has provided an opportune time to rebase the Zambian currency. Therefore, the rebasing of the Kwacha has nothing to do with politics as the author alleges.

He explained what the Central Bank has been doing to prepare for the rebasing:

You will be pleased to note that the last 3 zeros on the current K50000 , K20000 , K10000 , K5000 , K1000 notes (in red), are all small and raised, and the reason for this is simple, the BOZ had in mind the idea of rubbing off these small raised zeros at an opportune moment, and that opportune moment is now.

Commenting on Ilunga’s blog, an anonymous contributor wrote:

bravo, you are indeed and economist, we need such express information so that people are not lead to believe that rebasing of the Kwacha is just an acamedic [sic] & costly exercise meant to benefit a few individuals and institutions.

A reader on the Lusaka Times website, Enka Rasha, slammed the changes as cosmetic:

The costs of this artificial dressing up of the kwacha could’ve built a few schools.Afterall countries like Vietnam got an exchange of 1 dollar to 20,000,Bolivia has 1 dollar to 7000 and 1 US dollar =25000 Cuban pesos yet these countries aren’t in a hurry to do cosmetic changes like zambia.Make the economy better with improved earnings and livelyhoods before you rush for cosmetic changes.

Zambians are waiting for the new currency to come into effect which is just a matter of time as the government has already taken the bill to parliament.

November 14 2012

Zambia's Gossip Girl

Do you know who is Zambia's gossip girl? Read Neelika's post on Africa is a Country blog:

We’ve grown to love serious reportage coupled with compromising photographs and cheeky headlines, such as “Kambwili grabs Roan golf club, turns it into grazing field for his cows,” replete with a stock image of the enormously pot-bellied Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili, and a story supplied by ‘concerned citizens’ detailing how he appropriated the Luanshya-based Roan Antelope club to feed his crew of cows and goats.

November 13 2012

Zambia's Intelligence Agency Rates Watchdog Website as “Most Influential”

Citizen news website, Zambian Watchdog, has received “endorsement” from the most unlikely source, the Zambia Security and Intelligence Service better known as the Office of the President (OP) which has described it as the most influential news source in the country.

A story on the Zambian Watchdog website which normally receives tips from a variety of sources, most of which turn to be true, quotes a leaked monthly intelligence report saying that its popularity is due to the critical stance it takes on the current government and the up-to-the-minute latest news coverage found on the website.  The leaked report cannot be verified.

Zambian Watchdog logo

The website, which has been embroiled in a war of words with the Patriotic Front (PF) government, in office since September 2011, was once hacked, allegedly by government agents. The story reads:

The report shows that the Watchdog is usually the first to break news on any event in Zambia and that the news reaches the four corners of the country within minutes of being published on the site due to internet on mobile phones.

The story also says:

MPs are said to be using the Watchdog as a research facility. The MPs sit and read each and every comment passed on the site and some of them use the comments they see on the site to go and debate in parliament. They adopt the comments as their own thoughts. A number of MPs have assigned assistants, in some cases their children to read and summarise the comments on the Watchdog for them.

As to who accesses the website, it says:

The survey further shows that most civil servants and other workers in government offices start their working day by checking what is on the Watchdog. A lot of people are said to be printing articles from the site and giving tho[s]e who have no access to the Internet or those with slow internet, print to go and read at home. The report says that almost every government computer from State House to Luwingu that has internet shows on its browser history that someone was on the Watchdog.

Quoting Google Analytics, a tool that measures website accessibility statistics, the story said:

For example, of the 1,264,690 people who visited the Watchdog in the last five days, 831 478 were browsing from Zambia while 88,430 were from UK, 76,818 from USA, 40,478 from South Africa, 20,317 from Namibia, 18,360 from Israel, 10,963 from Australia, 9,368 from Canada, 8,071 from Botswana. Other statistic are: Germany 6,919, China 6,328, Nigeria 6,248, Russia 5,610, Kenya 5,01, Netherlands 4,051, Denmark 3,566, Italy 3,411, France 3,385, Switzerland 3,291, Tanzania3,181, Norway 3,083, India 3,036, Belgium 2,652, Zimbabwe 2,441, Japan 2,300, Malaysia, 2,244, Ethiopia2,061, United Arab Emirates 1,976 Congo [DRC] 1,921

Readers’ comments varied from praise to ridicule. Pankolobwato had this to say [the site does not have permanent links for individual comments]:

I’m proud of these stats and growing. Guys keep printing these for your relatives. We need our fellow citizens literate or not to KNOW who’s who in the zoo. lastly a suggestion to ZWD, please have atleast three of your leading articles in 3 or 4 languages so my grand mother in the village can also be informed. Viva Watchdog for filling the space left by[the Post owner, Fred] mmembe

A contrary view by a reader calling himself Bronze read:

most useless online publication in the History of Zambia ZWD….Sata has collapsed in Nalolo, Fisher to become [Central Bank] Governor, Zambia will not sell the Euro-Bond because of poor governance record……and many more uselessness. jst ask me i will tell u more. 20% facts…yes yes we do read ZWD every second hour to laugh about your lies and foolishness……

Zambian Watchdog has faced threats of closure from the government. Two government ministers were recently caught on camera browsing the site during an official meeting.

October 18 2012

Zambia: Ministers Caught Browsing ‘Zambia's WikiLeaks'

On October 2 2012, Zambia's Finance Deputy Minister Miles Sampa and Minister in Charge of Chiefs Nkandu Luo were caught on camera during a Lusaka Council meeting browsing the online news website Zambian Watchdog. The online publication, known for its investigative reporting, was this month threatened with de-registration by the Registrar of Societies.

Several high ranking government officials including President Michael Sata, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, Defence Minister Goeffrey Bwalya Mwamba and Foreign Minister Given Lubinda have openly called for it to be taken offline.

Reporting about the incident, Kabwe wrote:

The PF government is relentlessly fighting online media but its top members are key followers of major websites reporting on Zambian politics.

On Tuesday, finance deputy minister Miles Sampa – President Sata’s nephew – and minister in charge of chiefs Nkandu Luo, were caught on camera during a Lusaka council meeting keenly browsing the Zambian Watchdog as deliberations were underway.

This was on Monday during a full council meeting which was also attended by Vice-President Guy Scott who is Lusaka Central MP, Mandevu MP Jean Kapata, Matero MP Miles Sampa, Kabwata MP Given Lubinda and Chawama MP Edgar Lungu.

After watching the video, Zambian netizens reacted as follows [*the site does not have permanent links for individual comments]:

Anonymous said:

In case you are under rating the substance and existance of the watchdog. Some of us we start with the watchdog then proceed to the office read a borrowed post newspaper just to check chocklet’s catoon. I may buy the daily mail [goverment owned daily paper] for adverts. But I don’t forget to re-check the watchdog just incase of any breaking news. Even before going to bed, I check the breaking news. Keep it up ZWD [Zambian Watchdog].

A screenshot from the video showing Zambian Watchdog on Deputy Minister Miles Sampa's tablet during a council meeting.


Socrates asked:

Interesting… If they could read like that in public, what do they do in private at the office?

Rick Bobby supported the ministers:

That’s the way to go Miles. I respect a man who takes his time to know what the critics are saying. And I will defend the rights of those critics to continue saying what they’re saying.

Another reader did not see anything wrong but thought the timing was bad:

Basic rule know who you are up against.cant blem them,only bad timing to surf

Another netizen called the publication “the door of hope”:

Let the pathetic fellow ministers read the ZWD – the door of hope…

Mambamba Musaama loves the “craziness” of Zambian Watchdog:

This site is simply addictive, it carters for both crazy and sane pipo which is the very axis of life. It has given us a fresh breath amidst the boring govt mouth pieces- ZNBC, POST, Times & Daily. Social networking has come to stay, just enjoy it bane, no need to threaten to close these sites coz you also have an opportunity to air your views,it even allows you to insult, I mean where do you get such opportunities to distress apart from ZWD? Viva ZWD, I love the craziness………

A screenshot of the video showing Minister Nkandu Luo and Deputy Minister Miles Sampa during the meeting.



Zed Patriot told the ministers not to kill the messenger:

Honourables Sampa & Luo, since you read the watchdog I advise you to prevail over you colleagues who are against the publiction to back off. Instead of killing the messenger, use ZWD to help you plan how to fulfill the needs of Zambians.

James did not see anything wrong with the ministers reading it:

What’s wrong with that. As a leader you have to read all papers in order to be in touch with what’s on like it or not.

Another reader who claims to be addicted to the site noted that it updates him constantly:

Zambian watch dog is the best.Its the only web that updates me every day where ever i am.Even at 01hrs when i wake up for a pee;i check the watchdog coz it is always updated with latest news.Am addicted to Watchdog.

Commenting on YouTube, user lightonphiri simply wondered:

ha ha ha… classic! I mean who doesn't read zambianwatchdog?

Zambian Watchdog reported in May this year that its website was the target of a denial of service (DDoS) attack, allegedly by the government.

October 12 2012

Zambian Watchdog Website in Jeopardy

On May 9, 2012, visitors to the citizen media site Zambian Watchdog were met with “page not available.” Zambian Watchdog reported that its website was the target of a denial of service (DDoS) attack, allegedly by the government.

Earlier this year it was reported that the Zambian government had released K5 billion or US$1 million to send police and security staff abroad to learn to hack websites. In April, Zambian Watchdog listed several measures taken by the government to crackdown on Internet users in Zambia.

On October 2, the Zambian Registrar of Societies, Clement Andeleki, gave Zambian Watchdog 48 hours to provide a physical address or face de-registration. An article on Zambian Watchdog explains:

According state owned but PF controlled ZNBC TV2 news for Tuesday 18 hours, Andeleki says the Watchdog should also pay K18 million to his office as statutory obligation.

Andeleki told reporters during a press briefing in his office that the Watchdog was registered in 2002 but did not provide a physical address.

Zambian Watchdog responded to the request for a physical address with a virtual one:

Editor’s response: our address is www.zambianwatchdog.com, our contact detail is editor@zambiawatchdog.com

After receiving the threat of de-registration, the site pointed out that the Zambian Watchdog the government said registered in 2002 without a physical address is a government sponsored fake called “Zambia For Watchdog” but trading as Zambian Watchdog in order to implicate the news website.

Notice from the Registrar of Societies to cancel the “fake” Zambian Watchdog certificate of registration. Image used with permission from zambianwatchdog.com.

Commenting on the 48-hour ultimatum, mtu-wa-mezi said [the site does not have permanent links for individual comments]:

In a country with limited media channels, no community halls, etc one only needs the introduction of more watchdogs. Really there is much that we learn and share we the bloggers.

If the website is blocked in Zambia, those living abroad will use emails to share its articles, said Mpangula:

if u manage to block them in Zambia, us ouside zambia will be posting their articles to e-mails in Zambia. u shall see How these will circulate like HOT Cakes. are u also going to tell us to pay for peddling in the Zambianwatchdog stories.

Bwalya Koni joked about Zambian Watchdog's physical address:

we operate from your servants quaters. WI-FI connection we get from your house.

When some netizens argued that Zambian Watchdog should pay taxes, a reader by the name of New Age asked:

How much tax does zambia get from facebook?

The Zambian President and several government ministers have openly attacked the site on many occasions. Early this year, the Zambian President sued Zambian Watchdog for defamation.

Graph of the distribution of DDoS attacks on Zambian Watchdog. Image source: zambianwatchdog.com.

On Thursday, October 4, Levi Kabwato, the Regional Programme Specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring & Research at the Media Institute of Southern Africa issued a statement in support of free speech online saying:

[…]instead of clamping down on the alleged offenders by either sneaking in laws without much public awareness or using some obscure legislation to target such media, these governments – and indeed those in the rest of the region which have also previously registered discomfort with the Internet – must recognise that the online publishing phenomenon is not only irreversible but, perhaps more importantly, beneficial to the promotion and protection of democracy, fundamental human rights and good governance.

October 10 2012

Zambia: MP Suspended for Criticising President's ‘Jokey' Speech

An opposition MP in Zambia was recently suspended from the House for overly criticising President Michael Sata’s official speech on the opening of the second session of the 11th National Assembly. While addressing parliament, a presidential annual tradition which is supposed to be a solemn occasion, President Sata kept on cracking jokes which made him divert significantly from the prepared speech.

Mwandi MP Michael Kaingu, who is also vice president for the former ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) was immediately ejected from the House by the deputy chairperson committee, who was chairing proceedings at the time, and who said:

It is inappropriate for the member to tear the speech. What he should have done was to express his views in the rightful manner.

National Assembly building, Lusaka. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog

National Assembly building, Lusaka. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog

Another opposition MP, Vincent Mwale, put Kaingu’s actions into perspective when he tweeted the following:

@vincent Mwale: Hon Kaingu tore the presidents speech in parley today saying we cannot debate it becoz [because] its not what the pres[ident] presented, drama unfolding.

The following day, Mwale also tweeted this:

@VincentMwale: Today's parly session promises more drama as the debate whether to debate MCS [President Michael Chilufya Sata] written speech or his verbatim which ar[e] different continues!

Political satirist, Kalaki’s Korner, was quick to pounce on the unfolding drama:

Just then our daughter Kupela came sailing out onto veranda. ‘Everything  working perfectly in Zambia?’ she cackled, spilling some of her gin and tonic onto floor. ‘You’ve come back at the right time! After all these years of peace, a terrible thing has just happened! An unprecedented scandal has shaken the country to its foundations! An opposition MP, Mr Mangle Kayungulu, has just torn up a copy of our Great Leader’s speech to parliament!’

Kaingu’s suspension was received with mixed feelings, with some netizens supporting his act of tearing up the presidential speech and others supporting his suspension.

Phil, reacting to the suspension story, wrote:

Dr. Kaingu you are a man. You vividly stood for your right. Sata’s speech was one of the worst speeches I have ever heard being delivered during the opening of the house. How can you make such jokes like that concerning Fackson Shamenda and Sylvia Masebo. If the president said those words concerning “Facks”, then it was shameful and embarrassing. Only gullible human beings can support such utterances. God warned the children of Israel that when the get to the promised land they should not behave like the people they will find there, but follow the Laws of God who brought them out Egypt.

One reader, Chunza, thought the two weeks suspension was too short:

the time is to[o] short he deserves 3 years and the MMD should also punish him these are the people bringing the party to ruins.sham[e] for a VP and even worse for the poor people he is representing.

The issue also attracted debate on various threads on the Zambian People's Parliament Facebook group. On one thread, Maanka Chipindi asked:

Hon Speaker, the question we must first establish is what is meant by the words “President's Speech”. This is because one of the first acts of a session of parliament after it is opened is to debate this speech. Is the President's speech what he says to parliament or what he hands in on a piece of paper? Is it both? What will parliament record in the minutes? What was said or what was printed? For example, will parliament record the minute of silence for Mama Kaunda and the national anthem sang? If we establish this, then we can decide whether Dr. Kaingu action defiled parliamentary codes. This brings another important question; parliament must agree that both the printed and recorded versions of the presidents speech be tabled because these two go hand in hand. Imagine if the president had verbally abused the MPs during his audio version but not in the printed material, what would that mean?

On another thread on the Zambian People’s Parliament Facebook group page, Wallace Nguluwe asked:

Mr. Speaker I rise on a very serious point of order. I understand that people and members in particular have different ways of expressing their disappointment. Now is the member in order to tear the speech as a way of expressing disgust. if yes, what parliamentary etiquette has he abrogated, and what is the penalty?

The question is, was President Sata's speech one of policy peppered with jokes or was it jokes peppered with policy?

September 28 2012

Zambia's “Imaginary” Terror Plot

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

Zambia recently woke up to a story in state-owned media that a group calling itself Tongas Under Oath had killed two people belonging to President Michael Sata’s ethnic group, and was now in the process of removing settlers from the ethnically Tonga Southern Province.

However, the story did not wash with the citizens who simply viewed it as an attempt by the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government to clamp down on the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). Zambia’s third largest opposition party is led by Hakainde Hichilema, a Tonga who has been very critical of the Sata government. And as is often the case in Zambian politics, Hichilema is the latest in a line of fearless opposition leaders whose increasing popular support is likely to result in electoral success.

Prior to the release of the letter allegedly written by the Tongas Under Oath group, Hichilema was arrested and charged after he claimed that the PF government was planning to send youths to Sudan to train as militias. A few days later, the opposition’s headquarters in the capital, Lusaka, were searched by the police looking for seditious materials.

They did not find any but a few days later a far more sinister letter was sent to President Sata with a date stamp from Mazabuka, a town in Southern Province. Shortly after its arrival, President Sata publicly exhibited Hichilema’s bank statements which showed that he is worth 360 billion ZMK ($64 million USD), making him one of the richest people in Zambia.

Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (in dark glasses) with President Sata (left) and other government officials.

Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (in dark glasses) with President Sata (left) and other government officials. Picture courtesy of Zambian Watchdog

However, a few days later, the defense minister, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, a fierce critic of Hichilema, disclosed that two retired generals had been paid by an unnamed person to assassinate President Sata. Mwamba was quoted by the Lusaka Times as saying:

I have just received an update from our investigative wings and I am talking from facts with an informed point of view that two retired army generals have received K100 million from an opposition party to carry out the assassination plot.

This is a serious development and I have also directed these investigative wings to go deeper and give more information so that we bring to book these people and the opposition party behind this.

One of the many responses to the story is by Mungoma and reads:

It is extremely disappointing that a minister can be talking about such a serious issue in this way! We are talking about the life of the President, for goodness’ sake! If it’s true, why not do a thorough investigation before making announcements?

Mwamba’s disclosure was not the first time he publicly announced an assassination plot against the head of state. After the PF came into power in September 2011, President Sata disclosed a number of allegedly corrupt deals brokered by the former president Rupiah Banda. The president also revealed that Banda had engaged retired senior military officers, among them generals, on extravagant contracts which he terminated with immediate effect.

In November 2011, Mwamba announced to the nation that a group of retired generals were planning to assassinate President Sata and other leaders in response to the government’s tough stance on corruption. Strangely, no one was arrested the first time after the defense minister disclosed an assassination plot, neither has anyone been arrested in the latest disclosure nearly a year later.

Above all, no one has been arrested in the Tongas Under Oath terror plot especially since President Sata himself said that the supposedly incriminating letter was not authored in the Southern Province, but in Lusaka.

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

September 10 2012

Zambia: SIM Card Registration Starts as Community Radio Stations are Restricted

The Zambian government recently restricted the approved radius of the Lusaka-based University of Zambia (UNZA) Radio, a training unit of the Department of Mass Communication, to within the campus grounds. On the same day, the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) ordered mobile phone users to register their SIM cards with service providers.

ZICTA warned that failure to register SIM cards after the deadline would result in SIM deactivation, leaving subscribers unable to communicate. The Copperbelt Province-based Flava FM community radio station initially reported that the actions of ZICTA were in compliance with the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) Act No.15 of 2009 and the Statutory Instrument on the Registration of Electronic Communication Apparatus No. 65 of 2011.

Mobile phones on Facebook group BEMBA NYANJA : MIPONTO SHA CIMBUYA

Mobile phones on Facebook group BEMBA NYANJA : MIPONTO SHA CIMBUYA. Picture via group page

Zambia currently has three mobile service providers: MTN, Airtel, and state-owned CellZ. All three essentially provide pay-as-you-go services, meaning that mobile phone customers can acquire SIM cards anonymously and pay for air time as and when they need it. Many Zambians also rely on their mobile phones to access the Internet. This is critical, given that dial-up and broadband services are not only expensive but poorly distributed throughout the country. The new requirement will also make it much easier for government actors to identify cell phone users, a change that could lead to infringement on user privacy.

A question that the new rule leaves many Zambians facing was put forth by journalist Ndubi Mvula, on his Facebook page:

Now that ZICTA is asking that we register our sim cards, how many should one register. I have seven sim cards from different mobile providers[?].

But the most shocking news of the day was the restriction of the UNZA Radio reception radius which, prior to the restriction, covered greater Lusaka and surrounding areas.

UNZA radio has in the past featured many civic and political leaders including President Michael Sata as an opposition leader in part of the university’s training.

According to the Zambian Watchdog, Information Permanent Secretary Amos Malupenga, who until 2011 was Managing Editor of The Post, a publication that was once independent and critical of previous administrations, warned that the government would start revoking licenses for community radio stations that did not abide by what he termed ‘government regulations.’  Malupenga was appointed into government after the 2011 elections which saw opposition Patriotic Front oust the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy.

Ironically, nine journalists from The Post—nearly the entire staff—have been appointed to government positions by President Sata. Among them is the President's Press and Public Relations aide, George Chellah.

During a recent workshop, Malupenga warned about government clamping down on the media when he ‘taught’ journalists to censor some politicians that he did not want grabbing media headlines.

Commenting on the UNZA Radio story, Susujena wrote [comments do not have individual links]:

PF should avoid digging their grave deeper than it already is. I know of no Government since independence in 1964 that has lost popularity in just under one year in office.

When Michael Sata [was] featured on Phoenix Radio while he was in opposition, he strongly condemned MMD when they almost closed the Radio Station due to licensing problems. He went further to assure all private Radio Stations that once in Power, he will allow any Radio Station that had financial muscle to broadcast throughout the country. But now he has completely turned against the same promise he made.

Another reader, Inspector, scoffed at the PF government claims that the media was free under it:

This government has been telling us that the media is more free after PF came into government than before. What can they say now? Are they able to repeat the same words again? Its a shame to have people who can never stick to one statement. It is a government of flip-flops. Nothing is permanent. Next time they begin asking us to to buy the Post only. I…ts. Malupenga is an i…t. If you want to prove it, check the way he speaks. He is so deceitful.

On the Lusaka Times website, reader Mwaba-Jr wrote:

As this might be good, i hope our CNP-PF [Clueless Hyena-Patriotic Front] dictators will not be tracking our conversations and arrest us from our homes for not being on their side. 

A few days after President Sata took up office after last year’s elections, he instructed his newly appointed Attorney-General, Mumba Malila, to seek ways of controlling online news publications, some of which had been and continue to be critical of him both as an opposition leader and now as President. It now appears that this control is being extended to other media and related information and communication technology areas.

On Twitter, one tweep said it was long overdue:

@muchi2004 Long over due RT @lusakatimes: New posting, ZICTA directs all mobile operators to start SIM card registrations - http://lusakatimes.com/3rw

September 09 2012

Zambia: Tonga Terror Claim - Real or Fake?

An apparent Zambian terror group, ‘Tongas Under Oath' claimed to have killed three Northern Province Bemba people, including a baby. The group, from the predominantly Tonga Southern Province region of Zambia, made their shocking claim in a television news item read on the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) channel, on the evening of September 3, 2012. But the claim soon came under suspicion following newspaper coverage.

The story was carried by two state-owned newspapers, the Zambia Daily Mail and the Times of Zambia. Such stories do not get published without clearance from higher political offices in the land, especially if they are to also appear on national television. This meant that for some, there was no doubt that the Tonga were out to get rid of the Bemba from the province. Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), one of the largest opposition parties, is Tonga.

"Tonga group declares 'war' against Bembas" story in the Times of Zambia

Tonga group declares ‘war' against Bembas, story as it appears in the Times of Zambia. Twitpic image courtesy of @luchi7.

The letter claimed:

We the Tongas under oath are now in serious warfare. Like we promised, this is an update. We wish to inform you that so far we have killed three (3) Bembas – 2 adults and 1 baby in Southern Province […]
Our demand is simple – ‘Take Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi [two districts annexed to Lusaka and Central Provinces, respectively] back to Southern Province’. We gave the 30th of June 2012 as the dealine for all Bembas to leave Southern Province or we be given back our Chirundu and Itezhi Tezhi – you have opted for war-we are going to fight you Bembas effectively and courageously.  

To many others, however, the story was not as convincing as it sounded and these people were vindicated when President Sata stated two days later that the letter was possibly authored from the capital, Lusaka.

Commenting on a story on the Lusaka Times in which the opposition accused the Patriotic Front government of being behind the letter, MUWELEWELE wrote:

It appears PF has embarked on a strategy to see to it that all opposition politics are completely eliminated form this country. Then what is the meaning of democracy. Thye want a one team game with themselves being competitors and referee at the same time.This is proper dictorship in modern age. We know how MMD came up with ZERO OPTION up today it still remains a mystry. Arresting opposition leaders on trumped up charges will just make those opposed to the way PF is running public affairs more polorised.Lets face facts as Zambians and allow divergent views. Its health for democracy.

Writing on the Zambian Watchdog, Roderick Mazuba accused the ruling Patriotic Front  of trying to distract people from its failure to fulfil its election promises:

The Zambian people should open their eyes and see what a desperate PF regime can do to divide its people through acts of desperation in the wake of its declining fortunes. The construction of a Tonga fundamentalist group calling itself ‘Tongas on Oath’ is nothing other than the ruling party’s desperation to distract people’s attention from Michael Sata’s endemic tribalism and nepotism. The desperate attempt to link the UPND to the group is an obvious and well calculated scheme aimed at reversing Hakainde Hichilema’s growing popularity in the wake of PF’s tribalism, nepotism and failures to meet the expectations of the Zambians who voted for the PF.

Mazuba, who linked the terror letter to the former arrest and charging of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (for allegedly publishing false news in which he told the nation that the PF government was in the process of sending youths for militia training in Sudan), a police search of the UPND headquarters and the incensant accusations of tribalism against the opposition leader, further wrote:

Any reasonable person who has been following the recent developments in Zambia need only to link and not isolate the recent events to understand what is going on. All what you need is to link the recent arrest of [UPND President Hakainde] Hichilema , the search at the UPND Secretariat for seditious materials, the unrelentless tribal attacks targeted at Hichilema while [Defence Minister] Geoffrey Mwamba(GBM)’s interview with Mazabuka Community radio where he accused Hichilema of dividing Tongas and Bembas provides a powerful clincher and lead to the whole episode.

Commenting on the story on Zambian Watchdog in which President Sata said the letter was authored in Lusaka, new age wrote [there are no links to individual comments on this site]:

Public media should face the full wrath of the law. I thought they should be the last to perpetulate [perpetuate] genocide in the nation. What has gone wrong to the public media?. Do they have editors? I want to know why that letter was given the massive space. Its only in [Z]ambia where such dirty letters can be published by gvt [government] controlled media without weighing the conseguences [consequences]. Is our security secure? Why did the public media publish that evil? Cage those evil doers.

Blogger, MissBwalya, delivered a damning verdict on the public media:

I was extremely disappointed that the news editors of Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail chose to print a story that was completely single sourced. They didn’t fact check a single aspect of what was contained in that letter. They have followed this up by printing updates from Zambia Police spokesperson who reports “they are making progress” in tracking down the perpetrators. If it wasn’t a sad indictment on the inefficiencies rampant in our public institutions I would laugh and keep moving.

However, when it’s an issue that has the potential to raise the ugly spectre of xenophobia, it’s no laughing matter.

At the time of writing, no one had come out to claim they witnessed the killing of any Bemba in Southern Province, nor did any one claim that they were missing any relative from that part of the country as a result of the reported terror killings. It was probably a terror plot that never was anyway.

This post was sub-edited by Jane Ellis.

China in Africa: The Real Story

Hibiscus is a Global Voices project designed to amplify Sino-Africa conversations taking place online and create dialogue about the relationship between China and Africa, specifically encouraging conversations between bloggers in both regions and those outside the region who write about the China-Africa relationship.

Chinese interest and presence in Africa has increased rapidly in the last few years and the country has become Africa's largest trading partner. “Trade between China and Africa increased by more than 22 percent year-over-year to $80.5 billion in the first five months of 2012,” writes Mike King quoting figures from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

As part of this project, we will regularly feature blogs or any other social media sites that focus on the China-Africa relationship. Today we are introducing to you China in Africa: The Real Story blog, written by Deborah Brautigam, author of The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa.

Banner in Beijing in November 1996, during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Image released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user stephenrwalli

Banner in Beijing in November 1996, during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Image released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user stephenrwalli

Deborah Brautigam is:

Professor and Director, International Development Program, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS; senior research fellow at IFPRI, and author of The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (Oxford U. Press, 2009, 2011). A China scholar, I first went to Africa in 1983 to research Chinese engagement and never stopped.

China in Africa: The Real Story won the Danwei Model Worker Awards 2012, which is a list of the best specialist websites, blogs and online sources of information about China.

Below are some of interesting stories that Deborah Brautigam has written about the Chinese presence in Africa.

Learning Chinese in Zambia‘:

A growing number of students are producing really first rate field research on China in Africa. I recently read the M.A. thesis of Arwen Hoogenbosch, who is finishing his M.A. in Leiden. His thesis, “Made-in-China”: Chinese as a commodity and a socioeconomic resource in Chinese language schools in Zambia” makes fascinating reading.

Arwen spent several months doing “participant observation”, enrolled in a Chinese language school in Zambia (which has both a Confucius Institute and a private-for-profit Chinese language school). He got to know his fellow students, and reports on their varied goals and hopes for learning Chinese.

She continues:

Arwen's analysis of the motives for Zambians to study Chinese is thoughtful. Some thought it would advance their job prospects, although Arwen writes: “it appears that Chinese companies prefer Chinese skilled employees.” I think there is a lot more potential for Africans who speak Chinese than perhaps Arwen does. I'm current in Ethiopia and seeing some fascinating examples of Chinese companies employing Ethiopians at a high management level. One firm's production manager is Ethiopian — he runs the place (the Chinese owner also has factories in Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and several other African countries).

Kenyan Traders Protest Against Chinese Competitors‘:

The proliferation of Chinese traders in African markets is one of the perinneal sore spots in China-Africa relations. This video highlights the recent protests in Nairobi where African traders fear and resent the competition. Consumers generally welcome the expansion of products at lower cost, but frequently complain about the low quality of cheap goods.

On the plus side: cheap Chinese cell phone have allowed Africans at the bottom of the pyramid to communicate in unexpectedly large numbers. On the negative side, counterfeit pharmaceuticals — a regular phenomenon — can exacerbate illness or fail to prevent death. This creates a climate of fear and distrust affecting all Chinese pharmaceutical exports. None of these products need to be sold by Chinese, of course. As I've noted in this blog, thousands of African traders visit Chinese cities and export directly from China to their home markets.

The YouTube video below posted by NTVKenya on August 16, 2012, shows Kenyan traders protesting against Chinese traders:

“Zombie” Chinese Land Grabs in Africa Rise Again in New Database!‘:

Last week, the new Land Matrix “land grab” database was released at a big World Bank conference on land. The Land Matrix project is “an international partnership involving five major European research centres and 40 civil society and research groups from around the world.” On paper, they have a strong methodology and very strict criteria about projects that are to be included. But in practice, they seem to violate their own rules routinely, at least when it comes to Chinese “projects” in Africa.

She goes on to list Chinese “zombie” land grabs in Africa:

Last week, the new Land Matrix “land grab” database was released at a big World Bank conference on land. The Land Matrix project is “an international partnership involving five major European research centres and 40 civil society and research groups from around the world.” On paper, they have a strong methodology and very strict criteria about projects that are to be included. But in practice, they seem to violate their own rules routinely, at least when it comes to Chinese “projects” in Africa.

I understand there is a lot of Chinese land investment in Asia, especially in Cambodia and Laos. I don't know the Asia cases, but when the database was made public, I checked the China-Africa cases in the online database, which supposedly only lists the cases that have passed their “robust” fact-checking process (which apparently involves checking to see if another NGO has published a link to a media report on an alleged case). I was interested to see which “Zombie Chinese projects” (i.e. dead projects, or projects that in fact never had any life to them at all!) are in their database as confirmed. Here is a sample:

(1) ZTE oil palm project 2.8 million hectares in DRC The project was discussed but never finalized, land was never allocated, the project — which was almost certainly a maximum of 100,000 ha — was never this large — and has been dead in the water for years.

(2) ABSA Biofuels 30,200 ha in Ethiopia. Huh? This proposed joint venture is not “Chinese” but South African-Chinese-Ethiopian, and was listed in an Ethiopian database in 2008 as in the “pre-implementation” phase. It has never been implemented.

(5) Zimbabawe 101,170 ha irrigated maize project. I've written about this countless times. It was a construction contract given to a Chinese company by the Zimbabwe government, not a Chinese investment. They were not paid. They went home. The land never ended up being developed. This all happened almost ten years ago, in 2003 for Pete's sake!

Africa's Free Press Problem: Is China Causing It?‘:

On April 15, 2012, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mohamed Keita on Africa's free press problem, arguing that press freedom was getting worse in Africa — because of China.

Keita's piece makes a lot of good points. Investigative reporters have a very tough road in many parts of Africa and there are many examples of courage under impossibly tough conditions.

However, his opinion oversteps his evidence in linking increased Chinese economic activity in Africa with increased repression of the media.

Asking “Why this disturbing trend? (of media repression)” Keita points to (inter alia) “the influence of China, which surpassed the West as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009.”

As an example of this causal linkage, Keita wrote: “The volume of trade between Rwanda and China increased fivefold between 2005 and 2009. During the same period, the government has eviscerated virtually all critical press and opposition and has begun filtering Rwandan dissident news Web sites based abroad.”

She agrees with Keita about Chinese technical and media ties with African government:

Keita actually does make a good point in his observation that with growing trade, “China has been deepening technical and media ties with African governments to counter the kind of critical press coverage that both parties demonize as neocolonialist.”

Rather than training African reporters to be like Xinhua reporters, the Chinese goal in stepping up training and PR activities is to present a different picture of Chinese activities in Africa to counter the negative reporting eminating from “the West”.

The establishment of modern China-Africa relations dates back to the late 1950s when China signed the first official bilateral trade agreement with Algeria, Egypt, Guinea, Somalia, Morocco and Sudan. However, ancient China-Africa relations date back as far as 202 BC and AD 220. Archaeological excavations at Mogadishu, Somalia and Kilwa, Tanzania have recovered many coins from China.

September 03 2012

Africa: Children Film Education and Jobs

Our Africa is a project which lets children across Africa film education and jobs in their countries the way they see them.

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