Thursday, December 17, 2009

Man chews tenant’s 'balls'

A resident of Somanya in the Eastern Region, Kwame Wayo Acheampong, has found himself in the grips of the law after pouncing on his tenant and chewing part of his scrotum in a fierce fight last Thursday.

Kwame Wayo, 45, went straight for the genitals of 37-year-old Sani Sulley, a tenant in his house, and took a ginormous bite at this important “property”, tearing half of it and leaving his victim in a pool of blood. The wife of Sulley was so mad about the attack she told DAILY GUIDE she was very determined to see to it that Kwame Acheampong was punished for what she described as ‘cannibalistic behaviour’. Both Sulley Sani and Kwame Wayo Acheampong were butchers at Somanya but Wayo was a landlord to Sulley.

DAILY GUIDE sources disclosed that the friends-turned-enemies had lived in the same house for the past two years but in the last three or four months, Acheampong had been insisting that Sulley left the house because he was giving him problems. Sulley was said to have reacted by saying that he would leave the house only if his landlord refunded a balance of GH¢600 as part of the total cost of GH¢900 he incurred in making the house habitable.

When DAILY GUIDE contacted the victim, he readily offered to tell his side of the story. According to him, he rented a chamber and hall apartment in Acheampong's house because both of them were working at the same slaughter house; but at the time of moving into the house, it was not fully complete, so he had to hire some artisans to plaster a greater part of the house including his room, install ceilings and extend electricity to the house which cost him GH¢900.

He indicated that the agreement was that he would pay a rent of GH¢10 a month to offset the cost incurred. Sulley told the paper that all of a sudden, Kwame Wayo decided to eject him from the house after he had stayed there for only two years. “What I told him was that if he is asking me to leave the house, then he should pay my balance of GH¢600 Ghana before I leave but this has become a problem for him”. He explained that because of the condition given him, the landlord decided to use 'rough tactics' to frustrate or force him out of the house.

He told DAILY GUIDE that things came to a head on Thursday December 11 after his wife, Rukaya, had finished preparing ‘fufu’ for the family. According to him, the wife of the landlord, Agnes Wayo, though unprovoked, went to where the food had been prepared and swept dust and sand into it. The victim said they then reported the matter to the police, with the food as exhibit. “After we came home, my landlord told me that that was the beginning of greater punishment for us and that he had instructed the wife that next time she should ease herself into our food and also in front of my room”. According to Sulley, around 8.00pm in the night, he asked his nine-year-old son to remove his school uniform from the drying line in the veranda, but before he could do that, he had to step on a little wall that served as a break to rain water in the house.

He narrated that just as his son stepped on the wall, the landlord came from nowhere and gave him a hefty slap for ‘standing on his wall’. “This action by the landlord infuriated me so much that I immediately confronted him as to why he should slap such a little boy”, adding that before he could say jack, the landlord grabbed his “balls” and took a ‘mighty’ bite.

He disclosed that the landlord had said he was going to kill him. “I felt terrible pains and I had to scream for help. I was wearing P.E. shorts and everything turned bloody. I was rushed to the Atua Government Hospital and sent straight to the theatre for some stitches and immediate attention. “As I speak to you, I feel serious pain in my abdomen and I am very weak”.

Wayo is expected to be put before the Odumase-Krobo Circuit Court Wednesday after he was arrested and charged with the offence of causing harm. He told the police that he slapped the little boy because the boy crossed his path while he bit Sulley's “balls” in defence because Sulley attacked him and held him by the neck.

Source: Daily Guide/Ghana

Millions at risk as East Africa rains fail, Oxfam says

Aid agency Oxfam warns that a failure of rains across swathes of East Africa is putting millions of lives at risk.

This is the sixth successive season of failed rains in an area already hit by its worst drought in 20 years. Some 20 million people face starvation in vast areas of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the UN has already warned. Oxfam says November rainfall was less than 5% of normal in much of Turkana in northern Kenya, all of Somaliland and Ethiopia's Central Highlands. In Turkana, one of the worst affected areas, nearly one person in three is malnourished.

The crisis is most severe in parts of Somalia, where worsening conflict and the drought have left 3.6 million people - a third of the country's population - in need of aid. "The rains were many people's last hope, but they have failed again, said Oxfam's deputy humanitarian director Jeremy Loveless, who just visited Somaliland. He said more must be done to help communities cope with the dry years through long-term rural development and investing in national agriculture. "But in the short-term lives are at stake and emergency aid is needed now," Mr Loveless said. The aid group said 1.5 million cattle, goats and sheep - on which many rely - have already died. The cattle that survive are being sold off at rock bottom prices. To make matters worse, farmers are leaving the land to search for a living in cities already suffering from high unemployment.

Fears of constitutional crisis with sick Nigerian leader

Senior lawyers in Nigeria are warning that a power vacuum in government is creating a constitutional crisis.

Nigeria's president is ill in hospital in Saudi Arabia - without him, there is no-one to swear in the country's Chief Justice. ''Follow the rules. Don't mess around with what has been laid down,'' warns Festus Adebisi Ajayi, firmly. He is eighty-four years old. In his youth, he helped draft Nigeria's first constitution. Fifty years on, and stooping slightly, he worries. ''Any gerrymandering always leads to trouble,'' he frowns.

Three weeks ago Nigeria's constitution suddenly became important, as President Umaru Yar'Adua was rushed to hospital in Saudi Arabia. He is still being treated for heart problems, which come on top of a long-standing kidney complaint. There is no sign of his return - and Nigerians have not been told who is running the country. “ It is a nightmare scenario ” Charles Musa, Lagos barrister, Meanwhile, a deadline is approaching.

The retirement of the chief justice on 31 December is posing a question: Who will swear in the new head of the Supreme Court? ''It is something I wouldn't like to imagine,'' says Charles Musa, a Lagos barrister. ''We need a president to appoint the chief justice by January 1st. If that does not happen, we have a constitutional crisis. The judiciary arm of government will be without its head.'' The idea of a headless executive - alongside a headless judiciary - troubles him. ''It is a nightmare scenario,'' he says. ''People will argue that without leadership from two branches of the government, it is not really a democracy.''

For some, it raises the prospect of flying the new Chief Justice, Justice Katsina-Alu, to take his oath in Saudi Arabia - inside the Nigerian embassy.

Why no handover?

Under Section 145 of the constitution, the president should have written a letter, formally handing power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan. Section 145 says the letter should go to the leaders of both chambers of parliament. It was never sent. ''When you bypass laid-down rules to do something, you are experimenting with trouble,'' says Mr Ajayi, quietly.

High stakes

Convention dictates that power rotates between north and south every two terms in office in Nigeria. Vice-President Jonathan is a southerner - and few from the north like the idea of him shortening their "turn" in office. “ For goodness sake, don't let us take a wrong turning ” Festus Ajavi They fear once in the presidential villa, he might find life too comfortable. But the failure to hand over to the vice-president has created a power vacuum.

There have been repeated calls from individuals and the political opposition for the president to stand aside on health grounds. Outwardly, officials from the ruling People's Democratic Party are stamping on the very suggestion. But inside and outside the country, the post-Yar'Adua era is being designed.

One version of the future has Vice-President Jonathan, stepping into the top job temporarily, until elections in 2011. Meanwhile, a new deputy would be appointed. At the polls, Mr Jonathan would step aside, and his deputy would run for the top job. The strength of the PDP makes that candidate likely to win. At least four names whispered in Abuja are considered front-runners. Nigeria's vast oil reserves mean the stakes are high, and the prize enormous.

Retired military leaders and elder statesmen - including former heads of state Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida - are taking a keen interest, positioning their favoured candidates. Nigerians remember the brutality of military rule, and no-one wants it back. ''For goodness' sake, don't let us take a wrong turning,'' says Mr Ajayi. ''The constitution we had at independence... all of a sudden, it was kicked aside. Kicked aside, and we had a military regime. Because politics was messed up.'' ''I sincerely hope that will not happen again.''

By Caroline Duffield

BBC News Lagos.

South Africa HIV-row minister Tshabalala-Msimang dies

South African ex-Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, criticised for questioning whether HIV causes Aids, has died aged 69 from liver disease.

Her critics dubbed her "Dr Beetroot" for her advocacy of healthy eating rather than drugs to fight HIV. As health minister between 1999 and 2008 she maintained that anti-retroviral drugs were too expensive and had possible harmful side-effects. She was removed from the post when ex-President Thabo Mbeki stepped down. But a study last year claimed that more than 300,000 people had died prematurely because of the delay in rolling out the drugs to people with HIV between 2000 and 2005. Some 5.2m South Africans have HIV - the highest number of people living with the virus in one country in the world.

Potato remedy

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says Dr Tshabalala-Msimang remained popular among many South Africans for her liberation credentials. She was a member of the African National Congress during its days of struggle in exile against the apartheid government. Dr Tshabalala-Msimang recommended olive oil, lemon, beetroot and the African potato as elements of a healthy diet that could treat the symptoms associated with Aids. Her doctor told the South African Press Association that she had died from complications related to her liver transplant in 2007.

Earlier this month, current President Jacob Zuma announced an overhaul of the government's HIV policy. He said drugs would be available more widely to children and pregnant women instead of just those whose immunity levels have been significantly reduced by HIV, as has recently been the case.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sierra Leone woman barred from becoming chief

Members of a Sierra Leone traditional group have besieged a woman's house and stopped her from going home after she launched a legal bid to become a chief.

Elizabeth Simbiwa Sogbo-Tortu was barred from an election to the chiefdom because she was a woman. She lost an initial appeal against the ban - a ruling condemned by women's rights groups who are vowing to take her case to the Supreme Court. A BBC correspondent says politicians are afraid of angering traditionalists. The BBC's Umaru Fofana in Freetown says the politicians also do not want to antagonise women - making them afraid of the whole issue. Women are barred from becoming chiefs in the Northern Province and most of the east but they are allowed in southern Sierra Leone.

'Unlawful and wrong'

Ms Sogbo-Tortu was protected by armed police, UN officials and women's rights campaigners when she tried to return to her home in the eastern Kono district on Monday. But our reporter says the convoy had to turn around after they learnt that her house had been besieged and her supporters targeted.

Members of the Poro secret society then threw stones at the convoy in the town of Sewase 40km (25 miles) from the district capital Koidu despite the presence of the security forces. Ms Sogbo-Tortu is from a family of chiefs and after her disqualification, her nephew was chosen to be the new chief of Niminyama. "Ten of us were in the race including my nephews, and I was the only one denied the right to stand, despite being the eldest and coming from a ruling house," Ms Sogbo-Tortu told the BBC. "I want the courts to rule that it is my right as a woman to become paramount chief in my home district. And this is not just about me. It is about all women all over the country." She has now returned to the capital, Freetown.

Yasmine Jusu-Sheriff, vice-chair of the Human Rights Commission told the BBC that she would take the case to the Supreme Court. "We think [the disqualification] is illegal and unlawful and wrong."

Our reporter says that the position of paramount chief remains extremely powerful in Sierra Leone. He says they command huge respect and are able to mobilise large numbers of votes during elections. The chiefs are elected by local councillors.

Tackling Africa's deadly sleeping sickness

By Nik Wood
BBc News, Bugala

It has been a long trek for Nassebawanga Fausta, and her 14-month-old baby girl, Nakirangwa, from the island of Bugala on Lake Victoria, where they live, to a sleeping sickness centre on the mainland Uganda.

"My child fell sick two weeks ago so I took her first to the local clinic but they were unable to diagnose her problem," said Mrs Nassebawanga. "Then I was sent to a district hospital far away from home and I had to pay for treatment for 10 days before they identified sleeping sickness as the cause of her problem." Despite a 10-hour boat trip and an uncomfortable bus ride to the hospital in Kampala, the pair now face another marathon journey - to Uganda's main sleeping sickness treatment centre at Namungalwe where, it is hoped, the child can successfully be treated for the disease. Trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, has similar symptoms to malaria, making it difficult to diagnose. Untreated it moves to the spinal column and brain resulting in mental confusion and eventual death.

Chemical treatment

Several hundred kilometres to the north, in the village of Aburawak, young vet Patrick Opondo is overseeing a cattle spraying programme. Scores of local farmers have brought their animals to be treated for ticks and tsetse flies. It is a chaotic scene as noisy beasts are funnelled into a narrow passageway of fences known as a "crush", while their lower quarters are sprayed with chemicals to kill the flies.

The project is part of a new animal health programme that is helping to eradicate the deadly strain of sleeping sickness which is threatening the life of young Nakirangwa. Research carried out at Makerere University in Kampala and the University of Edinburgh, Britain, has identified cattle as the main source of the parasite that causes trypansomiasis. Tsetse flies feed on the cattle's blood and then bite humans, infecting them with the parasite.

The research has now proved a clear link between the movement of cattle in Uganda and the spread of the acute form of the disease.

Mr Opondo is one of a new breed of vets who are setting up in private businesses. They sell the chemicals for the spraying and spread the word among farmers that - by getting rid of the tsetse flies and ticks - they will protect the animals and their own families from infection.Cattle are also being "block"-treated with drugs to prevent the spread of the parasite.

'Ivory tower'

"When my cattle are sprayed they grow fat and very healthy, and when the animal is healthy the value is also healthy," says farmer Rose Amuge who lives in Aburawak. "After the spraying, the flies that cause the disease sometimes die or go out of the area of the villages, so that helps the people because they do not become infected and, actually, people are no longer attacked by them."

Mr Opondo trained at Makerere University but, like many young vets in Uganda, found it hard to get employment. "Setting up in private business is good for me because I am dealing in cash and not waiting for a salary," he said. "At first farmers were reluctant to take part but now they can see the benefits, the business is growing and we are also helping to fight a terrible disease."

The curriculum at his old university has now been changed to include this new, community-based approach to animal treatment, in the curriculum."We are transforming the curriculum for student vets from being an 'ivory tower' curriculum - where you turn out students to the street to look for jobs - to students who can now go to communities and solve problems so they are being trained directly to deal with the challenges," said Professor John David Kabasa, dean of the university's vet school.

Funds from the UK's Department for International Development are now to be used to expand the programme in Uganda. And the possibility of introducing similar networks of private, community-based vets throughout the areas of Africa affected by sleeping sickness is being considered. Meanwhile, for Mrs Nassebawanga and her daughter, the journey to seek help is finally at an end. Treatment for sleeping sickness is free in Uganda and they have reached Namungalwe Hospital, where the girl is responding to the drugs she has been given.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ecowas mulls Guinea intervention force

West African bloc Ecowas has proposed sending an "intervention force" to Guinea, whose military leader was shot and wounded earlier this month.

Ecowas official Abdel Fatau Musah told the BBC he wanted to ensure Guinea's problems did not affect its neighbours. But junta spokesman Col Moussa Keita called the idea an "assault on the authority of the state". Junta leader Capt Moussa Dadis Camara is still in hospital after the botched assassination attempt on 3 December.

Arrests and shootings

Mr Musah told the BBC's Network Africa programme that Ecowas and its partners "will not stand by while the situation in Guinea continues to deteriorate and threatens the very stability of neighbouring countries". "If the situation persists, Ecowas will have no alternative to send an intervention force," he said. But he said the force would not be purely military - rather it would include civilian observers and military officials. Col Keita dismissed the proposal, saying: "The sending of any foreign force onto Guinean soil without the government's prior authorisation will be considered as an assault on the authority of the state and on the integrity of the nation."

Last week the military launched a crackdown on anyone they believed could be linked with the plot to kill Capt Camara.The authorities say more than 100 soldiers have been arrested since the shooting. Reports from the capital, Conakry, said soldiers swept through the city rounding up civilians. Eyewitnesses told journalists of people being shot in the streets as they fled from patrols.

Guinea has been in turmoil since the military took over last December just hours after the death of long-time ruler Lansana Conte. Capt Camara initially promised to guide the country back to civilian rule, but soon dropped hints that he would stand for president himself. That led to a large protest in a Conakry sports stadium - which was brutally suppressed by the military with widespread reports of mass killings and rapes carried out by soldiers.

The crackdown was condemned by France, as well as the EU, US, the African Union and Ecowas.

  • 23, 24 December 2008 Strongman President Lansana Conte dies, Capt Camara takes over, promises 2010 election
  • 15 August 2009 Says he may stand for president
  • 28 September Soldiers kill protesters in Conakry, reports of atrocities and rapes
  • October US, EU, African Union and Ecowas impose sanctions on junta
  • 3 December Capt Camara shot in the head in apparent assassination attempt
  • 4 December Flown to Morocco for surgery

  • Tanzania anger at 'diplomatic spat' with Canada

    The Tanzanian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Canadian High Commissioner after a Canadian diplomat allegedly spat at a policeman and a journalist.

    A Tanzanian ministry spokesman condemned the incident, saying that his country is considering whether to expel the diplomat concerned. Reporters say the diplomat, angered by a traffic jam, wound down his window and spat at the policeman on duty. The Canadian High Commission in Dar es Salaam said it was investigating. Tanzania's foreign ministry says the incident was a humiliation not just for the police officer and journalist concerned, but for the entire country. The alleged incident occurred in the Banana district on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. The journalist was allegedly spat at after he went to the police station where the diplomat was taken after being arrested. The diplomat was freed because he had diplomatic immunity.

    Nigerian police 'kill at will'

    9 December 2009

    Amnesty International exposed the shocking level of unlawful police killings in Nigeria in a new report released on Wednesday.

    “The Nigerian police are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings every year,” said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.“Police don’t only kill people by shooting them; they also torture them to death, often while they are in detention. “The majority of the cases go un-investigated and the police officers responsible go unpunished. The families of the victims usually get no justice or redress. Most never even find out what happened to their loved ones.”

    Police frequently claim that the victims of shootings were ‘armed robbers’ killed in ‘shoot-outs’ with the police or while trying to escape custody. These claims are often highly implausible.Fifteen-year-old Emmanuel Egbo was killed by a police officer in Enugu in September 2008. According to witnesses, he was playing with other children in front of his uncle’s house when three police officers came up to them. One officer pulled out a gun and shot the boy, claiming he was an armed robber. He was unarmed. In August 2009, his family discovered his body had disappeared from the mortuary. As of November 2009, the body is still missing.

    Amnesty International said that some police officers see the killings of ‘armed robbers’ in detention as acceptable practice. In June 2009, the organization visited the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) detention centre in Abuja, which is located in a disused abattoir outside the city. Suspects are held in a vast warehouse previously used for slaughtering cattle. Chains are still hanging from the ceiling. When Amnesty International delegates visited the building, about 15 people were held in cells. Amnesty International delegates counted at least 30 empty bullet cases scattered on the ground. Unofficially, a policeman told Amnesty International that many “armed robbers” are taken there and shot.

    Amnesty International said that one of the main problems is ‘Nigeria Police Force Order 237’ under which police officers are allowed to shoot suspects and detainees who attempt to escape or avoid arrest – whether or not they pose a threat to life. “Force Order 237 is so impermissibly broad. It simply gives police officers permission to shoot people. It is against international standards, and is being abused by police officers to commit, justify and cover up illegal killings,” said Erwin van der Borght. “The government must repeal Force Order 237 and publicly announce that the use of lethal force is only allowed when strictly unavoidable to protect life. This simple step could make a big difference to the number of unlawful police killings we are seeing in Nigeria.”

    Enforced disappearances in Nigeria are rife. Typically, in the first days or weeks following arrest, families are allowed to visit their relatives in detention. Later on, police tell them their loved ones have been “transferred to Abuja”. Other times, they simply deny any knowledge of their whereabouts. The Nigerian government says that they do not condone extrajudicial killings. But they are not doing enough to stop them and bring the police perpetrators to justice. Even on the rare occasions when police officers implicated in an unlawful killing are prosecuted, they are often released on bail or escape custody. Some are simply transferred to other states. “Ending unlawful killings and enforced disappearances by the police will require serious legal reform and commitment and support from the Nigerian police force,” said Erwin van der Borght. “The Nigerian Police Force must introduce a new code of conduct throughout its chain of command – from the very top to the bottom. If not, the cycle of violence will simply continue.”

    Culled from
    Submitted by Kemi Bello

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Bernard Kouchner accused over Guinea Camara shooting

    France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was involved in a plot to kill the leader of Guinea's ruling junta, the country's military rulers say.

    Junta spokesman Idrissa Cherif told the BBC that Mr Kouchner had "activated some networks" in order to "change the situation" in the West African country. France's government said the claims were "completely groundless". Junta leader Capt Moussa Dadis Camara is said to be recovering after being shot in the head last week. He was flown out to Morocco for treatment and the soldier suspected of the shooting, Lt Toumba Diakite, is still on the run in Guinea.

    'No polemics'

    Mr Cherif told the BBC's World Today programme he did not believe the shooting was official French government policy. "I wouldn't say that I am accusing France entirely. I said that certain services were used to make this attempt on Mr Camara's life, and the regime ruling the country," he said. "In the event, it's Mr Bernard Kouchner. Mr Kouchner activated some networks in order to change the situation here." French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Christine Farges rejected the allegations. "We don't want to enter into any polemics with anyone in Guinea," she said.

    "The international community... [is] waiting for Guinea to enter into a transition that is democratic and peaceful, and that will lead to free and fair elections as quickly as possible." Tensions between France, the former colonial power, and Guinea have been rising in recent days, culminating on Wednesday with France making an official complaint to the junta. Security staff stopped the French ambassador near Conakry airport and demanded to search his car - which the French said was a deliberate attempt to violate the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.

    City crackdown

    Meanwhile in Guinea, Capt Camara's deputies have moved to squash rumours of a power vacuum and confusion over who is in charge. Interim leader Gen Sekouba Konate appeared on television for the first time since last Thursday's shooting to urge unity. BBC West Africa correspondent Caspar Leighton says there are increasing signs that Capt Camara will not be returning to head the government in the near future. He says one of the junta's leaders, while vouching for the loyalty of Gen Konate, suggested the general would lead this interim period - even if it were to last some years.

    Elections had been due in January 2010.

    Earlier this week the military launched a crackdown on anyone they believed could be linked with Lt Diakite or the plot to kill Capt Camara. The authorities say more than 100 soldiers have been arrested since the shooting. Reports from the capital, Conakry, say soldiers have also been sweeping through the city rounding up civilians. Eyewitnesses have told journalists of people being shot in the streets as they fled from patrols. Guinea has been in turmoil since the military took over last December just hours after the death of long-time ruler Lansana Conte.

    Capt Camara initially promised to guide the country back to civilian rule, but soon dropped hints that he would stand for president himself. That led to a large protest in a Conakry sports stadium - which was brutally suppressed by the military with widespread reports of mass killings and rapes carried out by soldiers. The crackdown has been condemned by France, as well as the EU, US and the African Union.

    Sexual abuse prompts Senegalese legal reforms

    Growing numbers of girls in Senegal are being raped, with abuse often happening while they are at school.

    "I wanted to be a lawyer, that was my dream," says a young Senegalese girl, smiling. But her facial expression suddenly changes: "I couldn't carry on studying because of what they did to me." Another young rape victim interjects: "People ask how I managed to get pregnant so young. I want some medicine to get rid of this pregnancy." Their perpetrators face trial, but these young girls' lives have been shattered. Statistics show a dramatic increase in the incidence of sexual abuse in the predominantly Muslim country, says Adama Sow, of the Group for Research and Action against Child Rape (Grave).

    In 2007 there were 450 reported rapes. By 2008 the figure had shot up to 600. Rape, he says, has another hidden tragic side. He says that seven victims have now contracted Aids. "The youngest is six."

    Prosecute parents

    Most cases of sexual abuse in Senegal take place within the family, and the rest are happening in educational establishments like French or Koranic schools. Faced with a tendency for some Senegalese families to try to keep quiet about the abuse, the government is now trying to ensure that those responsible face justice. "You cannot educate children properly by allowing some to be raped," explains Judge Demba Kandji, director of Criminal Affairs and Pardons in the Justice Ministry. "The state has to get involved."

    The ministry wants to allow state approved associations to bring suits as civil plaintiffs. "This will enable associations campaigning for the protection of the rights of women and children to press on with the process, even if the fathers and mothers of children who have been raped do not file a suit," says Judge Kandji. And that is not the only proposed reform. "In a family when a rape is known to have gone unreported, the fathers and mothers who knew but did not bring it to the attention of the relevant authority will be punished very severely, because the sentence can be up to two years imprisonment," he says. According to the judge, Justice Minister Moustapha Sourang also wants tougher rape sentences. "He has proposed a minimum of 15 years," he says.

    Rape in school

    According to psychologist Serigne Mor Mbaye, rape has always existed in society, but what is shocking is the increasing incidence of it and especially in schools. Fatoumata Sy, president of the Committee Against Violence Against Women, agrees. "Outside the family, it's at school that the greatest amount of sexual abuse against children has been recorded." Mr Sow remembers a case which shocked people in Senegal. "One of the girl victims was watching a television series," he recalls. "During the programme there was an erotic scene. The victim turned to her sister and said: 'That's what the Koranic school teacher does to us.'" "Starting out with that girl, it was discovered that 25 girls had been abused," Mr Sow says.

    Ms Sy points out that "frequently it's people who are supposed to be educating children who are the prime rapists". "Given the growth of Koranic schools, we are seeing more teachers of the Koran who are to blame," she says. According to Mr Sow, school sometimes becomes a trap. "Often the Koranic school teachers live near to where the classes are held, so the teacher's bedroom is always close at hand." "Any girl who fails to master the lesson of the day is sent to the room. When the class is over, after the others have left, the teacher abuses her."

    Cultural complicity

    To make things worse "the victim often stays silent, and if it's an underage victim then the parents often don't talk - to protect the child," says Ms Sy, who has noticed another disturbing trend."If a rape is committed inside the family, then the tendency is to say that marriage is the answer, without taking into account the repercussions." "It is an extension of the rape," she says.

    Dr Mbaye says this is a dangerous development. "The system validates the sexual abuse, by euphemistically calling it 'teenage pregnancy'."

    Victim Support

    Civil society, the judiciary, doctors and women's groups have now joined forces to stop the abuse. New criminal provisions are a step in the right direction, say experts. So too is a greater awareness of the need to protect those who have been raped. The young girl who had aspirations of becoming a lawyer says: "The people who raped me ruined my life. I'll never be a lawyer." But Judge Kandji hopes it is not too late to help. "A fund is being set up to support victims of sexual violence during the trial by taking care of their legal counsel. There will also be therapy sessions," he says. It is hoped that measures like these will help victims to rebuild their lives in the hope that even the girl who wanted to be a lawyer might one day fulfil her dream.

    By Mame Less Camara
    BBC, Dakar

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    S.African actors 'want Hudson out of Mandela film'

    JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African actors want to stop Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson from playing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in anew film on the ex-wife of the nation's first black president, reports said Monday.

    The Creative Workers Union of South Africa said using foreign actors to tell the country's stories undermined efforts to develop the national film industry. "It can't happen that we want to develop our own Hollywood and yet bring in imports," the union's president Mabutho Sithole said in The Citizen newspaper . "This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now," unionsecretary general Oupa Lebogo said in The Times. "If the matter doesn't come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film."

    Hudson, who scooped a best supporting actress Oscar in 2007 for the musical "Dreamgirls", landed the role of Madikizela-Mandela last month.The film will be directed by South African film-maker Darrell J. Roodt, whose films include "Cry, The Beloved Country" and "Sarafina."The criticism comes just days before the opening of the Clint Eastwood film "Invictus", a drama about Nelson Mandela and South Africa's 1995 rugby World Cup victory which united the nation.Morgan Freeman plays the president and Matt Damon is the rugby team captain.

    Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for her husband's release during his 27-year imprisonment in the apartheid era. However, her image was tarnished by a series of scandals including her links to the kidnap and murder of a young activist and a 2003 conviction for fraud.She separated from Nelson Mandela in 1992, two years after his release.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Dadis Camara shot and wounded!

    Guinea's junta chief was shot and wounded in a murder bid by an aide on Thursday, officials said, amid uncertainty over his condition and high tension after a recent massacre of opposition supporters. One government official said on state radio that Captain Moussa Dadis Camara had been "lightly injured" in the incident, while another announced that the aide had been arrested.

    Camara's spokesman said the junta leader was "doing well," but a Senegalese official said his country had sent a medical plane to evacuate Camara to Dakar. "Senegal has sent a medical plane to Conakry to bring Dadis to Dakar," the official said on condition of anonymity. [Why? Why, Abdoulaye Wade? Why try to save a murderer who has brought chaos to his own country? Birds of a feather or lapse in judgement?].

    Witnesses had earlier reported hearing gunfire in the capital of the West African country and seeing soldiers deploying in the streets. The incident occurred with tensions having mounted in Guinea following a massacre of opposition supporters at a stadium rally in September. Idrissa Cherif, the spokesman for Camara, did not give further details on his condition, but warned the aide responsible would face a heavy penalty. "His ex-aide de camp, Toumba Diakite, made an attempt on the life of the head of state, but thanks to God, the president is doing well," Cherif told AFP by phone.

    The murder attempt occurred at Camp Koundara in Conakry's administrative centre, he said. Witnesses had earlier reported hearing the sounds of gunfire coming from the camp. Diakite "has been located, meaning arrested," Cherif said. "When you attack a head of state, you attack state security," he said. "Those who wanted to make an attempt on the life of President Dadis will face a punishment in accordance with the gravity of the act that they wanted to carry out." [And what happens if you kill hundreds of people and publicly rape many women? Will the punishment carry the same gravity as the act?].

    Asked what the motive was for the murder attempt, Cherif made reference to the stadium massacre. "The president called for transparency with the international commission of inquiry to find out what happened at the stadium," he said. "I am not saying that it is for that reason ... but know that the president has always wanted complete transparency". [Yeah right]. The aide, who had previously been in charge of personal security for the junta chief, has been accused by witnesses of being one of the leaders of the massacre. Asked about dissension within the military, Cherif said "the head of state is today with all the armed forces chiefs of staff. That has nothing to do with a small number of individuals who wanted to make an attempt on (his) life."

    Soldiers had been deployed into the streets of Guinea's capital and helicopters patrolled overhead after gunshots were heard in the city, witnesses said. "The town is plunged in darkness, filled with soldiers. Everything is closed, the service stations, the shops, everything," one resident told AFP.

    One soldier who is a member of a guard close to the aide said the shooting occurred after Camara told him he wanted to denounce him as the ringleader of the stadium massacre.

    But a high-ranking police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, provided a different explanation, saying the government had recently moved to arrest suspects close to the aide as part of anti-drug operations.

    Culled from France 24 website, personal opinions in red.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    COMMIT ACT DEMAND: Freedom of choice for women

    Introduction-MOREMI INITIATIVE

    About Moremi

    Founded in 2003, The Moremi Initiative for Women's Leadership in Africa strives to engage, inspire and equip young women and girls to become the next generation of leading politicians, activists, social entrepreneurs and change agents: Leaders who can transform and change institutions that legitimize and perpetuate discrimination against women. We firmly believe that the full and active participation of women in leadership is a pre-requisite for positive change and development in Africa, and addresses leadership imbalances. Moremi Initiative is headquartered in Ghana with offices in Nigeria and the United States- and works throughout Africa.

    About MILEAD Fellows

    I was honored to be nominated among 25 outstanding young African women leaders. As 2009/2010 MILEAD Fellows. The MILEAD Fellows represent some of Africa’s most extra-ordinary young women leaders with the courage and commitment to lead/effect change in their communities. The Fellows, selected from a pool of more than 500 applicants represent 21 African countries and the Diaspora and include emerging young women leaders engaged in actively leading change on critical issues that range from women’s health and HIV/AIDS, economic justice, community development to political participation and environmental justice. They are between 19 to 25 years but have already demonstrated their commitment to serve and lead society at large. Together, they form a unique community which can dramatically affect the lives of future generations.

    About 16 Day of Activism Against gender Violence 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day against Violence against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
    The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by: raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels strengthening local work around violence against women establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women .
    The theme for this year’s campaign is: Commit ▪ Act ▪ Demand: We CAN End Violence against Women! Therefore, we all have a role to play; we all have a responsibility to end gender-based violence together as women, girls, men, boys, and individuals of all generations, religions, occupations, sexual orientations, abilities, political persuasions, and socio-economic backgrounds. In my capacity as the first and only Gambian to be awarded the MILEAD Fellowship 2009/2010 which enables us, the fellows to cross-examine concepts of leadership in a broad African context, cultivate the skills and experiences women need to occupy and excel in leadership positions and gain knowledge on cutting-edge issues critical to African women and their communities. We are each empowered and supported to create change in our community. Each fellow is leading change on a critical issue of importance to her community, and I am doing my part here in my community.
    My project on early and forced marriage: In my fight against violence against women, I am looking at one of the major courses of domestic violence in my community which is early forced & arranged marriage which today results in profound physical, psychological and emotional consequences for affected girls and most often cut off educational opportunity and chances of personal growth for them. It further results in premature pregnancy and childbearing and potential lifetime of domestic and sexual subservience over which these girls has no control. These phenomena is destroying the lives of too many girls and young women in our community and denying them opportunities and rights that they may never have back. It requires urgent and immediate action Therefore, my project is a small but an important step in this direction- to mobilize and sensitize parents, girls and the community on the negative implications of this practice, promote community dialogue and action on the issue.
    2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ formal recognition of November 25th as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. There are many other landmark dates and documents that are the direct result of ACTION that women’s rights activists and defenders have taken. The anti-violence against women movement provides one of the best illustrations of how local activism can translate into global action. Individuals, organizations, governments, etc. should take action on the commitments they have made to ending Violence against women. Each commitment – be it a personal pledge to speak out, a local or national law, an international convention or resolution, the Beijing Platform for Action – should be seen as a promise that has been made to women. NOW is the time to act on these promises. Every action, no matter how big or small, can make a difference!
    At the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995; women’s organizations from around the world met with government representatives and collaboratively produced the Beijing Platform for Action – one of the most forward-thinking government negotiated documents on women’s rights to date. This ground-breaking document set forth a list of actions, which, if implemented, would significantly reduce incidences of violence against women. 2010 marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women. Therefore, we must all demand implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as other key documents, and demand state accountability for ending impunity, allocating adequate resources, and implementing good laws and national action plans to address Violence against Women. We also call on the UN to take bolder action on the UN Secretary-General’s “Unite to End Violence against Women” Campaign.
    What each and every one can do to end violence against women:
    • Don’t abuse your daughter, wife, mother, girlfriend or any female
    • Speak out against violence against women when you see one
    • Parents must desist from forcing their young and innocent daughters into marriages that they are not ready or prepared for
    • The media should help create awareness about this important issue.
    • Those who want to be part of my campaign or wish to support my campaign can contact me on +220 6206600 or send an email to

    Submitted by Fatou C Malang.

    Nigeria President Umaru Yar'Adua urged to stand down

    More than 50 Nigerian public figures have called on President Umaru Yar'Adua to resign, saying ill health has impaired his judgement.

    Several Nigerian newspapers carried a statement asking him to step down that was signed by senior political figures and democracy activists, among others. But ministers dismissed the statement, saying there was "no basis" for the president to leave office. Mr Yar'Adua is currently being treated in Saudi Arabia for a heart problem.

    In a statement, Information Minister Dora Akunyili said the cabinet had met and had "unanimously resolved" that the president "has not been found incapable of discharging his functions". She said: "Council wishes to inform all Nigerians that all organs of government are functioning and that government will continue to deliver."

    'Leadership vacuum'

    BBC Africa analyst Mary Harper says the statement issued by the group of political figures is blunt and to the point. It says the president's illness "has created a dangerous situation whereby no-one is in charge of the affairs of state".


    “ No journalist worth the description should subscribe to the rumour mill and I try not to, but the Nigerian environment is different ” Nigerian journalist Sola Odunfa The statement talks about "a vacuum of leadership" whereby ministers are "engaged in infighting" and "routinely flout the orders of the president".

    Many of the people who have signed the statement are prominent figures in Nigeria - including Aminu Bello Masari, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Ken Nnamani, a former Senate president. Our correspondent says their words reflect the general mood in the country, where there is real concern that the president's recurring health problems have rendered him frequently unable to do his job. She says the front pages of Nigeria's newspapers regularly print photographs of a man who is obviously in ill health - his face deeply lined and ashen.

    Although he has missed several important events, officials had kept silent on what was wrong with Mr Yar'Adua. Last week they finally confirmed he was suffering from acute pericarditis - an inflammation of the lining of his heart. He is also known to have a kidney problem.

    Nigeria President Umaru Yar'Adua 'has heart problem'

    Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has a heart condition, his spokesman has said, after he flew to Saudi Arabia on Monday for medical treatment.

    Mr Yar'Adua has acute pericarditis, or inflammation of the lining around the heart, his spokesman told the BBC. He said the president, 58, was responding well to treatment. Officials earlier denied rumours that the president was seriously ill. Mr Yar'Adua has had a chronic kidney condition for at least 10 years. He has been unable to perform a number of official duties because of recurring health problems President Yar'Adua has twice been flown to Germany for emergency treatment and it is the second time he has visited hospitals in Saudi Arabia. He has refused to say exactly what condition he suffers from, and has repeatedly said in interviews that his life is "in the hands of God".

    BBC health reporter Michelle Roberts says most cases of pericarditis clear up with rest and medication within a few weeks, although patients will initially need to be treated in hospital to check for complications. Our reporter says occasionally pericarditis is triggered by cancer, which is something doctors need to check for. Rarely patients may need surgery if the pressure around the heart becomes too great, a complication that could potentially be fatal, she adds.
    Presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said the president felt pains after performing Friday prayers last week. "At about 3pm Friday November 20, after he returned from the Abuja Central Mosque where he performed Muslim prayer, President Yar'Adua complained of a left-sided severe chest pain," he said, reports Reuters. Mr Adeniyi said the initial diagnosis was pericarditis, which has since been confirmed. Officials had earlier been quoted as saying the president intended to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca this week.

    Analysts say his continued ill-health poses a problem for Nigeria's constitution. If he were to step down or die, he would be replaced by Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the country's southern Niger Delta region. But according to the ruling People's Democratic Party's own formula for sharing power among the country's regions, the president must be a northerner.


    •Born in 1951 in the northern Muslim state of Katsina
    •Self-confessed Marxist as an undergraduate
    •Became a chemistry teacher after university
    •Married twice, has nine children
    •Governor of Katsina from 1999 to 2007
    •During his governorship Katsina adopted Sharia law
    •Nickname since becoming president in 2007 - "Baba-go-slow"
    •High point of his presidency so far - the amnesty for oil militants
    •Has suffered from a chronic kidney condition for at least 10 years

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Zambia's celebrity couple reveal wife-beating past

    One of Zambia's most famous singers has revealed how she was badly beaten by her husband. She now hopes to lift the lid on the country's ingrained acceptance of domestic violence.

    "My husband will kill me," giggles Saboi Imboela nervously. "But, yes, he once beat me up so badly I reported him to the police." The 32-year old is one of Zambia's top vocalists. Her husband is a popular actor, Owas Ray Mwape. This is the first time she has spoken publicly about the beating she received at his hands, and she wriggles uncomfortably at the memory. "It was the police who begged me not to take it further," she recalls, revealing some of the engrained attitudes she is now taking on. "They told me: 'We know how you women are. We'll lock him up and in a minute or two, you'll change your mind and want him released.'" Her doctor also dissuaded her from reporting the assault, as did some of her friends.

    'Part of growing up'

    Campaigners believe more than half of Zambian women have suffered domestic abuse but cases rarely come to light because of the stigma attached to speaking out. Young women are taught by their elders to accept punishment from their husbands when they are disobedient. Even cooking a bad meal warrants a smack. "That's how you grow up in Africa," explains Mr Mwape. "To be a man, you need to discipline a woman, give her a slap or two. You know, in our culture, it's OK because that's how we feel we love our women."

    It is a message driven home at boys' initiation ceremonies - chastisement is a sign of affection and a woman never achieves the status of an adult. Like a child she needs to be "trained" to behave well. In some parts of the country tradition allows a man to beat his wife if he survives a crocodile attack. In others, a wife's infidelity is revealed when her newborn baby coughs. She must take the consequences. "Tradition is used as a cover for domestic violence," complains Johnson Tembo. As chairman of the Men's Network, he tries to persuade his peers to alter their behaviour. But he believes women's attitudes need to change too. "Some women are foolish enough to think that if they are not beaten by their husbands, they're not loved," he says.

    Marital-rape clause

    It is a problem recognised by the Zambian government's Gender in Development Division. Director Christine Kalamwina is forthright about the challenges she faces in tackling domestic abuse. "The majority of women enjoy a beating, because they are made to believe it is part of our tradition," she says. She believes the answer is to create awareness that violence against women is discrimination. "Then they can stand up and claim their rights," she says. Those rights are being discussed with the drafting of an anti-domestic violence bill.

    As it stands, the law does not recognise attacks on women as a specific crime. Cases are treated as simple assault. But the bill, which is designed to change that, is already running into difficulties. A clause outlawing marital rape has been dropped because of cultural considerations. And Ms Kalamwina says it is proving hard to reach agreement on where to draw the line between courtship rituals and sexual harassment in a country where women are expected to play hard to get.

    'Partner or doormat?'

    But even if the law is tightened, would it make a difference? The risks of taking a stand against domestic violence are too great for many women. They are often blamed for provoking their husbands and ostracised for exposing them. Divorce may follow, with devastating consequences.
    "Abused women tell us they don't want their relationships to break up because the husband is the bread-winner, and they won't be able to take care of their children," says Hope Kasese Kumalo, the acting national co-ordinator for Woman and Law in Southern Africa. "There's a lot of glorification of marriage in this country," she says. "Some women who are economically independent will not speak out against violence because they want to stay married at all costs. "If you are married you are respected; if you are not, people will think there is something wrong with you." A battered woman who runs to her parents is often sent back to her abusive husband.

    Fortunately, not all cases end badly. At home in Lusaka, Ms Imboela and Mr Mwape snuggle up on the sofa together. "He's a good husband, we've sorted out our differences," smiles Ms Imboela. Mr Mwape counts himself lucky. "I was ready to go jail for what I did; I deserved it. I have stopped hitting my wife for the sake of our boys. I don't want them to become what I became," he says. "I'm pleased Saboi has spoken about this. That's the way to go." Is he worried about his reputation? "No, I don't have concerns that people will think less of me now, because in Zambia, 99.9% of men have committed that crime before," he says.

    Ms Imboela is now working on a song about women's rights, called Yenze Nthawi Yakayena (That Was Then). "Men have always mistreated their wives. But times have changed, and men must too," she sings. She says she hopes abused women will hear her song and "stand up and say: 'This is wrong'. "And that men will look at their situation and say: 'I love my wife and I shouldn't treat her like this. She's my partner, not my doormat'," she says.

    Europe's press says Swiss ban sends wrong signal

    European papers are dismayed by Switzerland's popular vote to ban the building of minarets. Some fear it will backfire, sending the wrong signal to the Muslim world and setting a precedent for other parts of Europe.

    Several papers criticise the type of democracy practised in Switzerland, which allows ordinary people rather than elected representatives to decide on such matters. However, one popular Swiss tabloid defends the ban as a starting point for a debate on tolerance.

    Thomas Kirchner in Germany's SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG
    This referendum is a disaster for Switzerland. Such a ban on construction exists nowhere else in Europe. If those six words - 'the construction of minarets is forbidden' - are in the constitution in the future, they will violate... freedom of religion and the prohibition of discrimination. They also blatantly violate the European Convention of Human Rights.

    Juergen Dunsch in Germany's FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG
    Ultra-democratic, cosmopolitan, tolerant: this is how the Swiss have always liked to see themselves. But, in voting to ban any further building of minarets, the country has now revealed other traits: traits that testify to bigotry, timorousness, and a wish to isolate themselves.

    Mathieu von Rohr in Germany's SPEIGEL ONLINE
    The ban will damage Switzerland's credibility as a mediator in the eyes of Muslim countries, whether it be as a diplomatic representative of the US in Iran or in the conflict between Armenia and Turkey. And finally it will cause massive damage to the relationship between the Swiss and the Muslims living in the country, promoting exactly that isolation from the rest of society which the initiative was supposedly intended to address.

    Editorial in Denmark's POLITIKEN
    The signal has been sent. There is now a European country which openly acknowledges that it does not tolerate the sight of the symbols of a major religion. The fact that the decision will benefit completely the wrong forces in both the Muslim minority in Europe and in the Muslim world is self-evident.

    Editorial in Denmark's BERLINGSKE TIDENDE
    The moment we resort to special bans on religious symbols - including the building of minarets - we have also lost our belief in our own cultural foundation... Self-respect is the first step on the path to mutual respect - religious bans, on the other hand, are the complete opposite: undemocratic, un-Christian and un-Danish.

    Taha Akyol in Turkey's MILLIYET
    This is a sign that when the masses become authoritarian, democracies too can easily become authoritarian.

    Erdal Safak in Turkey's SABAH
    Demands to build minarets have already been refused systematically. That's why only four of 200 [Swiss] mosques have minarets. Despite that, the two extreme rightist parties aimed to legalise the ban, which was actually being applied, by making it a matter of referendum. Their intention was to gather political credit through an enmity against Islam by exploiting the public fear. And they have succeeded.

    Editorial in Spain's EL PAIS
    The danger today is of allowing... legitimate public concern to be monopolised by populist or far-right parties. Their toxic language has little to do with integration and a lot to do with fear.

    Michel Lepinay in France's PARIS-NORMANDIE
    No-one today could guarantee that if asked the same question, the French would have rejected a planned ban on minarets. Who thinks the death penalty would have been abolished if the French had decided in a referendum? In our democracy, the people's elected representatives are there to take decisions on their behalf and to shoulder the unpopularity that may ensue.

    Dominique Garraud in France's LA CHARENTE LIBRE
    The lesson of the Swiss minarets vote is valid for all democracies: its absurdity shows the dangers of referendums known as 'popular initiatives', a blessing and a fearsome weapon for all extremists who know how to surf the irrational fears of public opinion.

    Christoph Wehrli in Switzerland's NEUE ZUERCHER ZEITUNG
    The minaret provided a symbol for the threatened state of our identity, and banning it sent a message about who is in charge. In that respect, the initiators managed to pull off a stroke of genius. 'If it makes no difference, it can do no harm,' many of those voting 'Yes' will have told themselves. However, some harm to the climate of coexistence and to Switzerland's already damaged reputation is inevitable.

    Ralph Grosse-Bley in Switzerland's BLICK
    Should we be ashamed of the 'Yes' vote for a ban on minarets? No, we are not ashamed! The 'Yes' vote was not a 'No' to freedom of religion, not a 'No' to making people feel welcome, and not a 'No' to people of Muslim faith. The decision is an exclamation mark that means: We have to talk! About the causes of the fear of Islamisation. About the fact that tolerance cannot be a one-way street.

    Swiss referendum 'reflects unease with Islam'

    As a Swiss referendum backs a ban on the building of minarets, the BBC's Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy looks at the often uneasy relationship between Islam and Europe.

    It might be argued that Switzerland is a special case without much relevance to the rest of Europe. It is true enough that the country has its own individual form of popular democracy - and that it is home to only 320,000 Muslims, between 4% and 5% of the population. But it is not just in Switzerland that the presence of growing Muslim communities has polarised opinion.

    A series of controversies from the Rushdie affair 20 years ago to the more recent row over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad have reflected the unease that many Europeans feel about this relatively new Muslim presence. This is not confined to a few tabloid newspapers or a few xenophobic right-wing parties. It is an Islamophobia driven by a variety of factors. Since the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, and the bombings in Madrid and London, Muslims have often been regarded as a security threat.

    They are seen as not just resistant to integration, but determined to impose their values on the Christian or post-Christian societies of the West. For governments anxious to maintain social harmony at home and good relations with Muslim governments abroad, this poses a set of difficult dilemmas. And for many of the estimated 15 million Muslims in Western Europe, the Swiss vote will be seen as one more sign that - whatever governments may say - they are simply not welcome.

    Swiss voters back ban on minarets

    Swiss voters have supported a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets, official results show.

    More than 57% of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons - or provinces - voted in favour of the ban. The proposal had been put forward by the Swiss People's Party, (SVP), the largest party in parliament, which says minarets are a sign of Islamisation. The government opposed the ban, saying it would harm Switzerland's image, particularly in the Muslim world. But Martin Baltisser, the SVP's general secretary, told the BBC: "This was a vote against minarets as symbols of Islamic power."

    The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, in Bern, says the surprise result is very bad news for the Swiss government which fears unrest among the Muslim community. Our correspondent says voters worried about rising immigration - and with it the rise of Islam - have ignored the government's advice. In a statement, the government said it accepted the decision. It said: "The Federal Council (government) respects this decision. Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted." Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said: "Concerns [about Islamic fundamentalism] have to be taken seriously. "However, a ban on the construction of new minarets is not a feasible means of countering extremist tendencies." She sought to reassure Swiss Muslims, saying the decision was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture".

    Switzerland is home to some 400,000 Muslims and has just four minarets. After Christianity, Islam is the most widespread religion in Switzerland, but it remains relatively hidden. There are unofficial Muslim prayer rooms, and planning applications for new minarets are almost always refused. Supporters of a ban claimed that allowing minarets would represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system - Sharia law - which are incompatible with Swiss democracy. But others say the referendum campaign incited hatred. On Thursday the Geneva mosque was vandalised for the third time during the campaign, according to local media. Amnesty International said the vote violated freedom of religion and would probably be overturned by the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights.

    'Political symbol'

    The president of Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC: "This will cause major problems because during this campaign mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland. "Islamaphobia has increased intensively." And there was dismay among Switzerland's Muslims upon hearing the result. Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland, said: "The most painful thing for us is not the ban on minarets but the symbol sent by this vote. "Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community." Elham Manea, co-founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, added: "My fear is that the younger generation will feel unwelcome. "It's a message that you are not welcome here as true citizens of this society." Sunday's referendum was held after the SVP collected 100,000 signatures from voters within 18 months calling for a vote.

    In recent years countries across Europe have been debating how best to integrate Muslim populations. France focused on the headscarf, while in Germany there was controversy over plans to build one of Europe's largest mosques.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    World AIDS Day: The AIDS message in pictures

    An audio slideshow of some of the most iconic, captivating, subtle and dramatic posters in the history of the anti-AIDS campaign all over the world. Please click on the sample poster above, on the title of this post or on the link below:

    Spread the message today!

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    Sudanese woman in trouser case defies travel ban

    PARIS, Monday (Reuters) - A Sudanese woman who was punished for breaching decency laws by wearing trousers has defied a travel ban by coming to France to publicise her new book.
    Lubna Hussein was arrested in July and convicted of indecency charges in a case that made headlines worldwide. She was ordered to pay a fine or face a month in jail, but was spared an initial penalty of 40 whip lashes."I was banned from leaving Sudan by air, by land or by sea and I succeeded in getting out ... so I am sure this book will surface in Sudan," she told Reuters in an interview. Her book, "Forty lashes for a pair of trousers", has come out in French and will be translated into English, Arabic, Swahili and other languages. It details Hussein's arrest in July with 12 other women for wearing "indecent" clothing, a pair of green slacks. It also describes her struggle to find a job as a female journalist and upbringing in Sudan before aspects of sharia law were incorporated into the penal code in 1983."This law and practice deform the image of Islam. No one has been able to find a text in the Koran which justifies flogging a woman for the way she is dressed," said Hussein, wearing mauve trousers and jacket. Thousands of women have been convicted of offences similar to Hussein's and sentenced to beatings in recent years under Sudan's Islamic decency regulations. Hussein's supporters say she is the first to defy such treatment.
    Many activists complain Sudan's decency regulations are vague and give individual police officers undue latitude to determine what is acceptable clothing for women. Hussein, a former reporter who was working for the United Nations at the time of her arrest, said she resigned from her job to give up any legal immunity so she could continue with the case, prove her innocence and challenge the decency law. "Thousands of women have gone to prison and been taken to court for the way they are dressed ... and have had no way of defending themselves," Hussein said. The authorities changed her punishment from 40 lashes to a $200 fine, which Hussein refused to pay, preferring to go to jail instead as a means of challenging the law's legitimacy. She was freed in September after the country's journalists' union said it had paid the fine on her behalf.
    Hussein said the group that paid her fine had close ties to the Sudanese government, which wanted to end the case quietly. She said she planned to pursue her campaign through the courts and would ultimately go to the African Court of Justice if necessary. "I have received a lot of threats. Some were outright death threats. But I have faith, and I believe that I will die the day that I am meant to die," she said
    Submitted by Rahab Njeri

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Scholarship for Women Deliver 2010 Conference

    Submitted by Yvonne Laruni.

    Scholarships are available for participants to attend ‘women deliver 2010 conference’ in Washington D.C in June 2010. The conference will be on Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Building Bridges, Networks and Expertise Across Sectors.
    For more information please contact Mr.  Godfrey Mukalazi ,
    Please don't respond on the  mailing list.

    Peace and Collaborative Development Network
    Building Bridges, Networks and Expertise Across Sectors

    Craig Zelizer
    Check out the discussion 'WOMEN DELIVER 2010 CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION, Washington, DC, June 2010'

    Discussion posted by Craig Zelizer:

    WOMEN DELIVER 2010 CONFERENCE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION APPLICATION DEADLINE: December 15, 2009 Women Deliver 2010, a global conference to...

    Discussion link:

    Rising sea levels: A tale of two cities

    When Ana Tembe looks out to sea from her tiny straw shack, she knows she is living on borrowed time.

    She is almost surrounded by water, and at least once a year it seeps through the cracks into her home. Year by year the problem is getting worse, and Ana is worried. "I want my children to be safe," she said. "We really need to relocate somewhere else, but we've got no money and no choice." Mozambique's government is trying to help people like Ana Tembe, who are not only in abject poverty, but are also at risk from floods, rising sea levels and coastal cyclones - all of which are caused or exacerbated by climate change.

    Numerous studies have been commissioned, carefully detailing the problems the country faces, and suggesting ways to combat these problems or adapt to the new reality. Mozambique is widely cited as one of the countries most affected by climate change - and one of the key concerns is rising sea levels. The country has one of the longest coastlines in Africa, stretching 2,700 km (1,650 miles). About 13 million people live in coastal areas, and even more live in river deltas. "Mozambican people are already suffering," said Environment Minister Alcinda Abreu. Climate change will affect "their living conditions and also their dignity", she added.

    Making a start

    Compared with other poor countries, Mozambique is often lauded as a nation that has engaged with the issue of climate change and is trying to do something about it. But while a lot of work has been done on paper, far less has been done on the ground. Of the few projects already under way, one of the most obvious is a large embankment just north of the capital, Maputo, which the government has constructed in order to protect a main road.

    Further down the coast, the oldest and most established slum area, Mafalala, has been equipped with a large drainage channel, preventing annual flooding and the knock-on effects of disease and destitution. "We know how serious climate change is, and we're trying to do our best to find solutions," said Councillor Mario Macaringue, one of the main instigators of these projects. But he admits these interventions are just scratching the surface of the problem. "We're trying lots of different things because we weren't prepared for so many changes in such a short space of time," he said.

    Realistic possibilities

    Some of these solutions have proved far too expensive to sustain. As I walked up the coastal road, for example, I found that the new embankment quickly petered out. "It's made of concrete, and we were paying about $1,000 per metre," Mr Macaringue said. "We need to find a cheaper alternative." If keeping people's homes safe from the rising waters is not an option, another possibility is to move them to higher ground.

    The government has already started relocating people - mainly as a result of the exceptionally large floods in 2000. But to move a family like Ana Tembe's, the government needs to provide more than just a house, the people need a livelihood as well.

    Given that most people fish or farm for a living - and the best place to do that is by a river or the sea - it is hard to find a suitable area which is any less vulnerable as the area they have just left. If people cannot make a living, they become dependent on aid or move back again, leaving their new homes empty - as has already happened in some areas of Mozambique. "Relocating people is difficult, and generally very expensive," said Matthias Spaviolo from UN Habitat, the United Nations agency for human settlements.

    Impossible task?

    All this is a big challenge for a country still recovering from a civil war, the devastating floods of 2000, as well as a series of cyclones and droughts. Professor Antonio Queface, one of the authors of a national report on the impact of climate change, says there are some things Mozambique can do alone. "One of the key things we can do is monitor land use. We can avoid building more dwellings in areas at risk," he said. "The other thing is education, so people know what risks they run." But he added that other solutions would simply not work without substantial investment in infrastructure - something the West would need to help with.

    Ms Abreu agrees. "What we need is more resources - in terms of financial resources, the transference of technologies and building a national capacity to deal with the issues provoked by climate change," she said. Mozambique is going to the Copenhagen climate summit next month to lobby for these things - as part of a united African delegation determined to win compensation for the damage caused by global warming. "Developed countries have responsibilities," said Ms Abreu, "and we expect these countries to assume such responsibilities in Copenhagen." Her opinion is echoed on the streets of Maputo. "The world is like a family," said Atanasio Muchanga, who lives near the sea just north of the capital, and has noticed the changing water levels. "In our culture, those who can do more in a family should contribute more than the others - so it's obvious that other countries should do more to help us."

    For people like Ana Tembe, that help cannot come soon enough.

    Liberia sued by 'vulture funds' over 1978 deb

    Two Caribbean-registered investment funds have launched a legal case in London against Liberia over a debt that dates back to 1978.

    The firms, described as "vulture funds" by critics, are suing for more than $20m (£12m) - some 5% of the Liberian government's total budget this year. Liberia says it has no money to pay the debt back and has accused the firms of profiting from poverty. The country is recovering from a 14-year civil war which ended in 2003.

    The details of the case are still unclear, but it is thought that Liberia borrowed $6.5m from the US-based Chemical Bank in 1978 and that debt may have been resold a number of times. The two funds are requesting that London's High Court grant a summary judgement in the case - making Liberia liable for the debt without the need for a full hearing.

    'Tooth and nail' fight

    In 2002 a New York court ruled that Liberia owed $18m - the current case is an attempt to collect that sum plus interest. At the time of the New York case Liberia was wracked by civil war and did not offer a defence. Liberian Finance Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan told the BBC's Network Africa programme the country could not afford to repay the debt. "We're asking everybody, we are asking even the court not to grant them summary judgement. Let them go through the normal procedure," he said. "Our lawyers are going to work tooth and nail to battle this." He said he hoped that the international community would take action to make sure that "these people that survive on poverty do not thrive". UK activists are lobbying the government to change the law so such cases cannot be heard in UK courts. Nick Dearden, of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: "This case is absolute proof that you can't tackle vultures by voluntary means."Currently these companies don't have to tell us anything about themselves because they're registered in tax havens - they can just turn up in London and sue one of the poorest countries in the world." Very little is known about the funds - Hamsah Investments and Wall Capital.

    Hamsah was awarded more than $11m in a similar action against another poor country, Nicaragua. The BBC's economics correspondent Andrew Walker says vulture funds are controversial - especially when they target nations already receiving debt relief on what they owe to rich countries. Sometimes that debt relief is what frees the resources to pay creditors who take legal action, our correspondent says. The solicitor representing Hamsah has not yet responded to requests for comments on the case.