Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, November 20, 2009
More than 50,000 people have fled clashes between two ethnic groups in north-western Democratic Republic of Congo in recent weeks, the UN says.
Many of those fleeing are reported to be unaccompanied children, and some people have drowned trying cross a river into Republic of Congo.
The UN says at least 100 people have been killed in clashes between Lobala and Boba people in Equateur province. The violence started last month after a dispute over fishing rights. Local MPs have asked for more security in the region and a small number of UN peacekeepers have been deployed. But most of the UN's force is embroiled in the entrenched conflict in DR Congo's eastern areas - where they support government troops fighting local, Rwandan and Ugandan rebels.
Rufin Mafouta, head of the office of Medecins d'Afrique group which works with the UN, said the number of refugees pouring over the border from DR Congo into the Republic of Congo had risen this week. "There's been a massive influx in the past few days because the fighting has become far more intense," he told AFP news agency. "We have noticed a lot of unaccompanied children who have certainly lost their parents, as well as pregnant women and elderly people." Late last month Lobala and Boba ethnic groups engaged in clashes after they pulled out of a traditional deal over the sharing of fishing rights. More than 100 people were killed, including 47 police officers. Shortly afterwards about 100 men were arrested and the authorities in DR Congo announced that the problem was over. But the BBC's Thomas Fessy, in DR Congo's capital Kinshasa, says Lobala tribesmen have now advanced southwards and are threatening other villages.
In the past three days at least 11 more people have been killed in an isolated area of Equateur. And our correspondent says observers fear the situation could continue to deteriorate.
The number of people in Africa has passed the one billion mark, the UN Population Fund says in a report.
UNPF's Executive Director Thoraya Obeid told the BBC that the annual figures showed the continent's population had doubled in the last 27 years. "Africa countries are all growing fast... because there is large number of women who have no access to planning their families," she said. The populations of Nigeria and Uganda were growing the fastest, she said. "It's an African phenomenon of a large growing population and a large percentage of young people in the population," she told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
In its State of the World Report, the UNPF says the world's population currently stands at about 6.8 billion. Africa's population is estimated to reach 1.9 billion by 2050, it says.
A Swiss court has ordered the seizure of $350m (£212m) in assets from the son of Nigeria's former military ruler, General Sani Abacha.
Abba Abacha was convicted of being a member of a criminal organisation and given a suspended custodial sentence. Switzerland began investigating the Abacha family in 1999 and has so far handed back about $700m to Nigeria. Nigerian state lawyers believe Sani Abacha, who ruled from 1993 until his death in 1998, may have stolen $2.2bn.
The Swiss authorities pursued Abba Abacha for six years before extraditing him from Germany in 2005. "The examining magistrate sentenced him to a suspended jail term, and ordered the confiscation of his assets of $350m," Geneva canton's justice office said in a statement. "[The money] is held by his criminal organisation and seized through international assistance in Luxembourg and the Bahamas."
Correspondents say Abba Abacha can appeal against the judgement.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The 18-year-old had been expected to find out if she was eligible to compete as a woman on Friday.
But the IAAF said it will not discuss the case at its meeting in Monaco.
Irrespective of the results - as BBC Sport reported in September - Semenya will keep the 800m gold medal she won at the World Championships in August.
South Africa's Department of Sport and Recreation confirmed in a statement: "Because Caster has been found to be innocent of any wrong, she will then retain her gold medal, retain her title of 800m world champion, retain her prize money."
Semenya's achievement at the World Championships in Berlin were overshadowed by the gender test revelations.
Depending on the test results, she could be suspended, told to have surgery or cleared to run as a woman.
The IAAF statement read: "The IAAF, the South African ministry of sport and recreation and Caster Semenya's representatives have been and still are in discussions with a view to resolving the issues surrounding Caster Semenya's participation in athletics.
"The IAAF will not comment upon the medical aspects of Caster Semenya's case. The medical testing of the athlete is still to be completed.
"There will be no discussion of Caster Semenya's case at the forthcoming IAAF council meeting to be held in Monaco on 20-21 November 2009. No further comment will be made on this subject until further notice."
BBC Sport understands the tests are likely to reveal Semenya, who is currently training at the University of Pretoria, has an intersex status.
Semenya burst on to the world scene when she ran one minute, 56.72 seconds for the 800m in July, smashing her previous personal best by more than seven seconds.
She also broke Zola Budd's long-standing South African 800m record before arriving in Berlin as the newly crowned African junior champion.
The teenager then left her rivals trailing in Berlin to win by 2.5 seconds from 2007 champion Janeth Jepkosgei in 1.55.45, the fastest time of the year.
Before the race, it was revealed that the IAAF demanded Semenya take a gender test before the World Championships amid fears she might not be able to run as a woman.
Following the findings of initial tests, the IAAF asked South Africa to withdraw her from their team for Germany but Athletics South Africa (ASA) insisted she should run and has since said it is certain she is female, a claim backed up by her family.
Earlier this month, South Africa's Olympic governing body suspended ASA president Leonard Chuene after he admitted that he lied about whether Semenya had been gender tested before Berlin.
The ASA board and its members have also been suspended pending a disciplinary investigation into the matter.
Variety magazine reported Hudson was thrilled about the role and has described Ms Madikizela-Mandela as a "powerful and extraordinary woman". Ms Madikizela-Mandela played a vital role in freeing her husband after 27 years in jail but has since been linked to a murder and convicted of fraud. South African film-maker Darrell Roodt will direct the film. His work also includes world-renowned films Cry, The Beloved Country and Sarafina. Hudson is the second international actor set to play a South African icon in recent months. Hollywood is also preparing to release Invictus, a Clint Eastwood film about Mr Mandela in which US actor Morgan Freeman will play South Africa's first black president.
A judge working for the militant group al-Shabab said she had had an affair with an unmarried 29-year-old man. He said she gave birth to a still-born baby and was found guilty of adultery. Her boyfriend was given 100 lashes. It is thought to be the second time a woman has been stoned to death for adultery by al-Shabab. The group controls large swathes of southern Somalia where they have imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law which has been unpopular with many Somalis.
According to reports from a small village near the town of Wajid, 250 miles (400km) north-west of the capital, Mogadishu, the woman was taken to the public grounds where she was buried up to her waist. She was then stoned to death in front of the crowds on Tuesday afternoon. The judge, Sheikh Ibrahim Abdirahman, said her unmarried boyfriend was given 100 lashes at the same venue. Under al-Shabab's interpretation of Sharia law, anyone who has ever been married - even a divorcee - who has an affair is liable to be found guilty of adultery, punishable by stoning to death. An unmarried person who has sex before marriage is liable to be given 100 lashes.
BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the stoning is at least the fourth for adultery in Somalia over the last year. Earlier this month, a man was stoned to death for adultery in the port town of Merka, south of Mogadishu. His pregnant girlfriend was spared, until she gives birth. A girl was stoned to death for adultery in the southern town of Kismayo last year. Human rights groups said she was 13 years old and had been raped, but the Islamists said she was older and had been married. Last month, two men were stoned to death in Merka after being accused of spying.
President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was sworn in as president after UN-brokered peace talks in January. Although he says he also wants to implement Sharia, al-Shabab says his version of Islamic law would be too lenient. The country has not had a functioning national government for 18 years.
The painful memories haunt her as she worries about providing for her two young children. “We want to see justice being done,” she says, “As far as we are concerned, the future of this country lies in Ocampo’s hands and we want him to know that thousands of people are looking to him for justice and also to ensure that this country does not have a similar experience such as the one that stole our loved ones and our livelihoods!” Talk of the violence evokes gruesome memories for Njeri as politicians worry about the fate of those who masterminded the post-election violence. “What happened cannot be wiped from my mind, and life has been hell for me,” says Njeri quietly. “When we gather in the camp to discuss the issue, our main hope is that Ocampo will not allow politicians to convince him to let them off. We want him to conduct investigations so that the individuals involved can be charged and tried at The Hague, not in Kenya, because we have no confidence in the government.”
Before all hell broke loose in January 2008, Ruth was living in Kericho with her husband and eight-month-old son, Douglas. Her husband owned a thriving shoe business and provided well for the family. “That evening, my husband heard about the looting going on in town and decided to go and check whether his shop had also been broken into,” she recalls. “I had prepared the evening meal and decided to do the laundry as I waited for him. When he came back, he was very shaken. He told me that the shop had been looted, but I told him that since it was happening all around, we should not worry too much because after things calmed down, we would work hard to regain what we had lost.”
Njeri’s husband then went on to reveal that he had received a phone call from a friend in Londiani, where his parents lived. “He said he had been told that both his parents had been killed and buried in a mass grave,” she says, “I could see that even as he spoke, he didn’t believe what he was saying. He also told me that he had seen hundreds of youths wearing white T-shirts and red shorts being brought to the town in a lorry. When the phone rang again, I answered it, and what he had told me was confirmed. We were advised to go into hiding as soon as possible to save our lives.” Still in a daze, Njeri left her husband watching the evening news while holding their son and went outside to hang the washing. Out of nowhere, an arrow landed next to her foot and then she heard a strange sound. She looked up to see the low walls of the compound surrounded by painted faces. “They were howling like dogs and were dressed in white T-shirts and red shorts,” she recalls. “I stood rooted to the ground with fear, knowing that these were the men my husband had referred to earlier.
About seven of the men entered the compound and began kicking and pushing me into the house while the rest went away.” Once inside the house, they took the little boy from Njeri’s husband and flung him against the wall. They then attacked her husband. “They were prepared and well-armed,” recalls Njeri. “They had machetes, rungus, arrows and whips. I cried for mercy, then pleaded, but they would not listen. I ran to the bedroom and got them Sh40,000. I begged them to take the money and leave us but they just laughed. "One of them snatched the money from me, smelt it and threw it in my face. He reached into his pockets and pulled out many Sh1,000 notes, ‘We don’t need your money, we have been paid well to do our job,’” he said. “My husband cried out, telling me to look after our son — if we survived.
I felt helpless as I watched them beat him ruthlessly,” recalls Njeri, tears welling up in her eyes. One of the men came and brandished a panga in her face before using it to slash her husband’s neck. “They laughed. One of them picked my son from the floor, held him by his feet and then dropped him head first.” But they weren’t done yet. Next, the men dragged Ruth into the next room, kicking and slapping her. “One cut me slowly and deliberating above my knee while another, who was smoking, burnt my thighs with a cigarette butt several times,” she says, lifting her skirt to reveal the scars. Njeri was barely conscious when they began raping her in turns. But she remembers that each one would finish with her then help himself to some of the food she had cooked. Her last memory of that night is of the men pouring hot water on her naked body before leaving her for dead. Nearly three days later, Njeri regained consciousness in hospital but had no idea how she got there. After recovering a little, she joined the hundreds of displaced people at the local district officer’s compound, where she was reunited with her son, who had miraculously survived. Over the next few days, they were transported in lorries to the Nakuru Showground, where they would receive food and shelter. “At the showground I met several women who had also lost everything,” she says. “But that didn’t make my loss any easier to bear.
However, we all agreed that our politicians had turned the elections into a battle for power and used tribal tensions to disturb the peace in the country and the safety of the very people they claimed to speak for. It was the ultimate betrayal.” Unknown to Njeri, the attack would continue to haunt her in other ways. A couple of months after the incident, she reported to the health clinic within the camp that she has missed her period. She was tested, but the medical staff were evasive about the results although they continued counselling her. After six months, Njeri wanted to terminate the pregnancy but was not allowed to. “I wondered how I could have a child whose father I did not even know, and who would be a constant reminder of my humiliation,” she offers. “I tried to convince the authorities to let me have an abortion but they said it was too late. They told me not to hate the child because it was part of me, and that it was innocent.” Due to the damage to her body after the gang-rape, Njeri couldn’t give birth normally. Apart from special counselling, she also received clothing, food and medical aid before the baby was delivered through a Caesarian section. “I couldn’t bring myself to look at the baby or hold her,” she recalls. “Several of my companions and the nurses tried to convince me but I was angry, bitter and helpless. I wondered why this had to happen to me.
I knew many other women who had been raped during the violence, but why was I so ill-fated as to fall pregnant with a rapist’s child?” “It is God’s will, breastfeed your child and your love for her will flow,” Njeri repeats the words of an old woman at the hospital who understood what she was going through. “On the third day I breastfed the baby, Miracle Wanjiru, for the first time, and the bond of love broke the regret of how she had been conceived.” Miracle is now an active 14-month-old baby. Although the government is trying to resettle the displaced people, thousands like Njeri are still languishing in camps. Food and water are scarce, medical help is inadequate and diseases like cholera, typhoid, pneumonia and malnutrition continue to take their toll. Worst affected are young children and the elderly. Njeri and her children have been admitted to public wards at the local hospital several times for various infections. “We know that some people have already been resettled on the plots promised by the government, but we wish they would speed things up and provide the compensation money quickly.” Njeri has made no attempt to go back to Kericho because she feels there is nothing left to go back to. She works as a casual labourer on farms near the camp to pay for food for her family. Sometimes they sleep hungry because there is no food or no fuel to cook with. Their tent is leaking and when it rains, everything gets soaked.
The nights are cold and several times her few belongings have been stolen by other desperate people. Njeri finds herself swinging between depression and the will to rebuild her life. “At times I look at our condition and wonder whether it will ever end, or what kind of punishment this is,” she cries. “Then I look at others who are worse off… for women who were raped and contracted Aids, it is a sure death sentence. Then I count my blessings and console myself that although I lost my husband and my property, I still have the son of the man I loved, and I consider Wanjiru a blessing and another reason for me to live.” Njeri is eager to receive her parcel of land and compensation money because it will help her rebuild her life. She also needs money to seek treatment for her back and pelvis, which were injured when she was assaulted. Her son also suffered an injury in his private parts that needs to be corrected surgically.
“Nothing can wipe out our suffering and no amount of money can compensate what we have lost, that is why we want justice, not vengeance,” asserts Njeri, wiping away her tears. “We want the perpetrators of these heinous crimes brought to justice, and the only way that can be done is through the ICC. We don’t want the politicians linked to these crimes to get off scot-free. We have seen criminals in high places walk away free when tried locally. We cannot allow them to continue living in luxury while thousands of innocent wananchi continue to live in squalid camps. These people have to answer to us and to the world for the crimes they committed. Aren’t we all human beings at the end of the day? If Kenya is to be saved from the crimes of these power-hungry politicians who can go to any length for personal gain, the government has to set a precedent and allow the ICC to do its work to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again here, or anywhere else,” she says passionately.
Submitted by Rahab Njeri
Friday, November 13, 2009
Seven schoolchildren are among the dead and more people are missing, local officials said. Rescuers are digging out bodies in the village of Goha, Kilimanjaro province, which was swamped when the side of a mountain collapsed on Tuesday night. Until the four days of rain came, eastern Africa has been battling a drought for the past two years. "A landslide with a big chunk of mountain collapsed... and came down and fell on about seven houses," regional commissioner Monica Mbega told the Reuters news agency.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aware was killed outside a mosque in Bossaso, capital of the semi-autonomous region, where many pirates are based. Mr Aware had recently sent to jail four members of the Islamist al-Shabab group, which is fighting Somalia's UN-backed government. Bossaso is also a hub for smuggling people from the region to Yemen.
The high court judge was shot several times in the head and chest by two masked men, an eyewitness said. Three suspects have been arrested, said Puntland Security Minister Mohamed Said Samatar. Mr Aware was also a member of Puntland's Supreme Judicial Council which supervises the judiciary and nominates senior judicial officials. "He sentenced hundreds of pirates, people-smugglers and members of al-Shabab during his work in Bossaso," said a cousin, Abdulahi Jama. "These gangs hate him for his justice. We suspect one of them may have something to do with his assassination."
Also on Wednesday evening masked gunmen killed a Puntland lawmaker as he was heading to his house.
On the day I visit the Family Support Trust Clinic he is with a 10-year-old girl who was abused by a neighbour last month. She had been at home alone when she was molested, as her parents had left the country in search of work. His next patient is 12-year-old Lewis (not his real name), who was gang-raped in a Harare township last month. "Four men waylaid me on my way from school," he says. "I was taken to a shop where they showed me pornographic material." He says he was then drugged and sodomised for more than a week. After examining the traumatised boy, Dr Choto confirms the abuse - to the horror of Lewis' father. "This is unbearable, all I want is justice for now," he says.
A medical report is prepared by the clinic for the police to investigate. Tests show Lewis is HIV negative. He is lucky and relieved. Dr Choto helped set up the clinic, part of the main referral hospital in Harare. During the past 10 years, it has become a centre of hope and help for tens of thousands of people. The clinic's statistics show an alarming rise in the abuse of children. "In the last four years we have seen over 29,000 cases, and in the last 10 years we have more than 70,000 at this clinic alone," he says. "It's a tip of the iceberg - the problem is enormous. We need drugs and any assistance we can get."
Dr Choto believes many hundreds of thousands of cases are going unreported because of the fear of stigmatisation, and because many parents are unaware of the free treatment and counselling clinics available. Despite this, he faces an increasing number of these cases every day. "It's horrifying. It rattles me so much so I don't know what to do. "All kinds of thoughts cross my mind, I want to be violent against the perpetrator, but the profession tempers you - you are helping the victim, the abuse, the survivor."
As I leaf through a file detailing countless cases of child molestations, some as young as two years old, another of the clinic's counsellors, Chipo Mukome, says she believes the absence of parents has compounded the problem. "Due to the economic situation where we have seen a lot of parents going to neighbouring countries, like South Africa, in search of greener pastures, they are leaving their children to the care of others - uncles and aunts for example," she says. "These people, in the end, are abusing these children."
Parents of victims are now searching for more community-based programmes to stop the menace - and more counselling services, like that run by Dr Choto, are starting to open countrywide. "Raising awareness of this problem should start immediately," said Lewis' father. Zimbabwe's economic meltdown and political crisis during the past decade has forced millions into the diaspora - and nine months into a unity government, many Zimbabweans still survive on the remittances sent home.
There are also many orphans whose parents have died of HIV/Aids, who are left in the care of the extended family. Gillian Gotora, a sociologist at the University of Zimbabwe, says these issues are a cause for concern. "A family unit is the starting point of socialisation, but when children are left vulnerable, they are exposed - hence these cases of rape and abuse."
And the harsh economic realities in Zimbabwe - unemployment is thought to be about 90% - has also put a strain on families and relationships. Research psychologist Gwatirera Javangwe also tries to explain why the problem was occurring. "People having difficulties in their relationships deal with their inadequacies by pouncing on vulnerable children, who treat every adult like a parent," she says.
His supporters portray him as a relentless pursuer of the thieves in high places who have kept most residents of this oil-rich country mired in poverty. As chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ribadu even sent his own boss - the inspector general of police - to prison. He brought more than 1,000 cases to court, and secured 270 convictions. Before his appointment no company in Nigeria had ever been charged for bribery. However, his critics accused him of being a political hatchet-man. They accused him of only pursuing cases against enemies of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and leaving his friends untouched.
Shortly after Mr Obasanjo left office in 2007, Mr Ribadu was removed from his post and sent on a year's "training course". "I was dismissed," he told the BBC World Service's Outlook programme. "There was a clear signal that no-one should do anything about fighting corruption. That is very sad." He soon fled the country because, he says, two attempts were made on his life - one while he was driving. "Some people were hired, and their responsibility was to get me. "They came quite close. The individual behind the driver brought out his hand and shot three shots at my car. Luckily my car is bulletproof. "When they attempted that, I left the country the next day."
As head of the EFCC, Mr Ribadu found himself in a potentially lucrative position should he succumb to the same corruption that grips the nation. "They'll try everything," he said. "They will attempt to bribe you. If it fails, they will blackmail you and try to make a mess of your name." One extraordinary bribery attempt sticks out in his mind. "One of them gave me $15 million in cash. Raw cash. American dollars. "I got my people to take it to Central Bank of Nigeria and deposit it there. We used it as an exhibit in the trial against the individual. We got him locked for about two or three months in jail while I was office." But James Ibori, a former governor of the oil-rich Delta state and key backer of new President Umara Yar'Adua, was freed on bail and his case has since languished in the courts. Soon after this case Mr Ribadu was removed from his post.
'It's not over'
Since leaving the country, he has found himself at the centre of allegations over his own professional conduct - being accused of not declaring assets. He says he will not return to Nigeria to challenge the allegations. "The reason why they are doing that is simply thinking 'lets get him back in to the country. We'll seize his own documents, possibly get him behind bars.'" "It's as much as saying 'Go and get killed'. And I think that is not right. I love life, I want to live." He did, however, make a brief appearance in Lagos in September for the funeral of human rights activist Gani Fawehinmi, even though the authorities were supposedly desperate to find him. Mr Ribadu does vow to return home to finish his work. "I will certainly go back to Nigeria. It's not over. "This is the sad story of our own country. This is money belonging to the people.
"This is what is supposed to be used to solve the problem that we are facing. Look at how it's being wasted. See what is happening with our people. Today they use the money to fight for their own survival, they give it to lawyers across the world, they buy private jets.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has told Gambian bankers and the Gambia government that Africans must endeavour to strengthen multilateral relations in order to eliminate the scourge of corruption.
The new banking reforms in Nigeria sparked a wave of panic in the country?s banking system, showing a collateral shake-up in the country?s financial sector, leading to the sacking of eight major bank managers after an Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established to look into the country?s banking abnormalities. In September, Sanusi announced unequivocally that he has no regrets over his controversial shake-ups and reform of the country?s banking system, saying his intention was ?to safe the banks? and in doing so, decisive actions had been needed.
In last Thursday?s meeting, he told Gambian bankers and stakeholders that he is still committed to see that Nigeria?s bank managers who are suspected of banking malpractices are prosecuted and if found guilty, the wrath of the law be applied on them.According to Sanusi, a combination of collapse in Nigeria?s economy puts the government finance in a massive depreciation on the Naira to 25% to the dollar. Before the global financial crises, he said Nigeria?s stock exchange was the best. Once the global financial crises started, he added, FTI?s commenced and a classic case of asset deflation started, which caused liquidity to take over completely from the market. ?Because of the importance of banking to Nigeria?s economy we could not allow ourselves to take any risk,? Sanusi told the gathering.
Sanusi explained that when he became Nigeria?s CB governor in June, he found that there were major sources of the liquidity problem. ?It is a lesson on why we would introduce a banking reform while we can all talk about the strength of our banks,? he said, and added: ?when I came first, we set up a general bank check-up assessment to make sure depositors and creditors are not at risk?.
Governor Sanusi then cleared the air, telling Gambian bankers and stakeholders that Nigeria?s central bank did no encourage any of their banks to come and exploit them. He reminded bankers that in order to win the trust and confidence of their customers, they must play a catalyst role. ?The heads of all the banks we have removed was based on their exploitation of depositors and creditors. We handed over every document related to criminal acts to the EFCC,? he said.
SUBMITTED BY FC MALANG
It will draw together under one umbrella all the existing entities for women in the U.N. - U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Training and Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI).
Civil society organisations have long lobbied for a women's agency, and in 2008 these efforts were combined in the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) campaign involving some 310 organisations.
IPS spoke with Naisola Likimani of the African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) on the opportunities and challenges that the new agency which will be headed by an under secretary general faces. Likimani, based in Nairobi, Kenya, is also the focal point for Africa for the GEAR campaign.
Excerpts from the interview:
IPS: Where should the headquarters of the new U.N. women's agency be located?
NAISOLA LIKIMANI: It should be in Africa, in an easily accessible capital.
Africa is terribly lagging behind in the realisation of women's rights, for instance in maternal and child mortality and morbidity rates; increased poverty rates and the feminisation of poverty in the region; and gender gaps in primary and secondary enrolment, to name only a few.
Housing the new agency in Africa would call global attention to these disparities and hopefully lead to increased prioritisation and more strategic resource allocation.
IPS: What will be the main challenges and opportunities of forming the new agency?
NL: Among the opportunities are that women's issues will benefit from a higher profile, as has been accorded in the past to environmental issues and children's issues.
The new agency will also provide for a more coherent global policy on gender equality, and coherent and strategic resourcing rather than the current fragmented way in which gender equality is handled at the U.N.
Among the challenges are bringing together four bodies to become one - like negotiating a merger. Harmonising the cultures of the four entities into one that facilitates the work of the new entity is both an opportunity and potentially a challenge.
There has to be a political commitment to provide the necessary resources right from the start. It is important that the entity is not dependent on the occasional support from the super powers. It has to maintain its independence in order to respond to the needs of women both in the global north and south.
IPS: What would you recommend the under secretary general's (USG) priorities be in her/his first year of office?
NL: FEMNET feels that it is imperative that the USG be female, particularly at the time of establishing this entity.
During the first year she should establish the office, negotiate and define the mandate of the new entity in relation to the other U.N. bodies, and mobilise ambitious, regularised funding.She must ensure a minimum of one billion U.S. dollar that is allocated to this institution, with plans for growth over a few years.
A priority will also be accelerating implementation of international human rights standards that protect and promote women's human rights.
IPS: There is much happening on gender empowerment between civil society and the U.N., that it seems only right that the agency adopts a bottom-to-top approach taking its cue from civil society. Do you expect any conflict of interest here?
NL: It must be acknowledged that the new agency is a U.N. body and it is established by the member states.
Consultation will be key to its way of work with the member states, other U.N. bodies and civil society. What is most important is that it should not lose touch with the realities of women's lives.
FEMNET anticipates systematic and meaningful participation of civil society in this new agency, particularly in its Executive Board. The campaign to establish this new agency is testament that the U.N. and civil society can work in partnership for the realisation of a greater good.
IPS: What will be the contribution of your organisation (as far as goals and information) to the new women's agency?
As a regional focal point in the GEAR campaign, FEMNET has been very active in promoting the proposal for establishment of the new entity.
As a regional membership-based organisation, FEMNET is also ready to be a key partner in Africa, through providing technical support to the agency and popularising the agency and its initiatives that are key for African women's development.
*IPS is running a series of interviews on the U.N.'s decision to create a new women's agency.
SOURCE: IPS NEWS
Monday, November 9, 2009
I recently discovered a music sensation on RFI's "musique du monde" show. His name, Tony Allen; his genre, afrobeat. With a sound similar to Fela's but with more "Afro-American" influence, Tony Allen's music will take you across continents and fill your ears with the sweet, painful and jazzy sounds of Africa and her diaspora.
Born in Nigeria in 1940 of mixed Nigerian and Ghanaian parentage, Tony Allen is perhaps the most highly-regarded African drum set player to emerge since World War II. Drummers and other musicians of all backgrounds marvel at his uniquely polyrhythmic style. Allen belongs on one hand to a tradition of African drum set playing associated with the Ghanaian drummer Kofi Ghanaba (Guy Warren), and historically rooted in British military drumming, European ballroom dance music, big-band jazz drumming, and indigenous percussion traditions. However, he is also an African exponent of the African-American tradition of modern jazz drumming typified by musicians such as Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Max Roach.
Tony Allen's formative years were spent digesting these influences while apprenticing in various Nigerian bands during the late 1950s, performing the pan-Anglophone West African popular music style then known as highlife. But he came to international prominence in the 1960s as a member of the band of the late Nigerian bandleader Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, with whom he played for 15 years. Fela Kuti is himself recognized as one of the most important and influential African popular musicians/composers of the post-colonial era, and it is widely accepted that Tony Allen was his crucial collaborator in the synthesis of jazz, funk and highlife which resulted in the style known as Afrobeat. Tony Allen’s work with Fela is documented on over 30 recordings and today, he remains the primary exponent of Afrobeat.
Tony Allen's own recordings, made since leaving Fela’s band in 1978, are diverse in style and fascinating fusions of Afrobeat with other styles of world popular music. These works find him in the collaborative company of Nigerian juju musicians such as Fatayi Rolling Dollar, electronica musicians such as Doctor L, American funk musicians such as Michael "Clip" Payne and Gary "Bone" Cooper, and musicians from around Africa and the Caribbean. After playing for years in the shadows of better-known musicians, Tony Allen is now starting to receive the worldwide credit he deserves as one of the most dynamic players of the drum set. His recordings are widely available in Africa, Europe, Japan and America and he also tours regularly throughout these same areas.
So whether you want to unwind with a glass of wine after a long day or you want to shake your behind and wave a handkerchief, Allen's music will enable you capture and express a range of emotions. Please find samples here, enjoy and support an African brother's industry:
Friday, November 6, 2009
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, commentator and National Public Radio correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reflects on her conversations with survivors of a brutal crackdown on opposition supporters in Guinea.
Some reporting assignments stay with you. You just cannot shake them off, even when you think perhaps you have.
That has been the case with Guinea this time round.
The date, 28 September, was repeated by just about everyone I spoke with there - women and men - etched in their memories as if they had been branded. It is etched in mine too - and yet I was not at the main stadium in Conakry on that day. I did not witness the shooting of pro-democracy protesters or the public rape and sexual violence of women in and around the stadium. But I witnessed the fall-out. Rape is surely horrific, but becomes even more so when the images of alleged crimes are recorded on cell phones, because the alleged rapes happened in the middle of the day, in public.
The sometimes grotesque photos are then splashed on the internet, a record of the humiliation and shaming of women, making the violations even more painful. We are told it was mainly the "berets rouges", Guinea's presidential guard - with still unconfirmed reports that they were aided by hired guns, mercenaries from neighbouring Liberia - who committed the atrocities, targeting with their weapons the thousands who had gathered to hear opposition leaders denounce Guinea's military regime. First came the killings - then the brutal sexual assaults. Witnesses and survivors say the troops forced themselves on women of all ages in and around the stadium - students, professionals, market women, opposition campaigners - even grandmothers. Guns, bayonets, knives and other weapons were used to rip off their brightly coloured boubous (traditional West African gowns) - even their trousers. And some of those weapons were used to sexually violate them.
I had a sorrowful and emotional meeting with some of these women who said they had been subjected to all manner of abuse - and others who said they had been forced to witness men and women being shot and assaulted. You would think that the women might have been too frightened to talk in these circumstances, fearing retribution from their tormentors.
A lucky escape
They all kept saying, "C'est du jamais vu, c'est du jamais vu," meaning: "We've never before in our lives witnessed such a thing in Guinea." Guinean women have a robust reputation and a history of challenging the successive authoritarian regimes and poisonous military governments that have dominated the country's 51 years since independence from France. And the women I met wanted to talk. Some wept openly, wailing even, as they retold their experiences. Others were quietly determined. Without exception, the women all told me that, this time, there must be no impunity; that the soldiers who violated their dignity, so publicly, must be punished.
One woman was so angry, so outraged, so shamed - as she said herself - that her legs began trembling and then her whole body, as she recalled what she called a lucky escape - "by the grace of God". She said she managed to get out of the stadium, but was followed to her hiding place by a group of men in uniform. "At that moment, I said a final prayer," she confessed, "because I believed my last hour had come." But one soldier said, "Forget it, leave her alone," and they took off. She said she was shaking, wearing only an underskirt because her wraparound cloth had been torn off her. She managed to flag down a taxi, but began trembling all over again when she saw a soldier board the same vehicle. She said she prayed that he would not recognise her as having been among those at the stadium. He did not, she said, and hopped down from the taxi before she did. Only then was she able to calm down and take a deep breath and finally made her way home. I felt hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I tried to keep my microphone steady, recording her and other women's ordeals.
It is not the first time I have interviewed survivors of sexual violence, but it has generally been in a war setting or a conflict zone. This time, we were sitting in the heart of Conakry, right in the city, which the Guinean military had turned into a virtual combat zone. Yes, these women could be me, I could be them. It had me thinking that this kind of brutal assault is increasingly becoming a tool of repression, a way to try to keep women silent and submissive. But the women of Guinea will not be silenced.
Tune into the BBC World Service at 0830 GMT in East Africa or 1030 GMT in West Africa on Saturday 7 November 2009 to listen to Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reporting for
Thursday, November 5, 2009
A sustainable energy initiative that will start with a huge solar project in the Sahara desert has been announced by a consortium of 12 European businesses.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative aims to supply Europe with 15% of its energy needs by 2050. Companies who signed up to the $400bn (£240bn) venture include Deutsche Bank, Siemens and the energy provider E.On. The consortium, which will be based in Munich, hopes to start supplying Europe with electricity by 2015. Desertec Industrial Initiative aims to produce solar-generated electricity with a vast network of power plants and transmission grids across North Africa and the Middle East. "The time has come to turn this vision into reality," said the company's chief executive, Paul van Son. "That implies intensive co-operation with many parties and cultures, to create a sound basis for feasible investments into renewable energy technologies and interconnected grids." The first stage will be to build massive solar energy fields across North Africa's Sahara desert, utilising concentrated solar power technology (CPS), which uses parabolic mirrors to focus the Sun's rays on containers of water.
The super-heated water will power steam turbines to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year. The electricity will then be transported great distances to Europe, using hi-tech cables that suffer little conductive loss of power. The move was "pivotal" in the transition of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to sustainable energy supplies, said Mr Van Son. Currently there are some small initiatives across Spain and parts of North Africa, but the scale of the Desertec initiative will surpass any other comparable projects.
The initiative has gained the support of the German government of Angela Merkel, who has already expressed a desire to offset a dependence on Russian gas supplies. A number of North African countries have also expressed a strong desire to join the project, the company says, utilising their main sustainable natural resource - the Sun. Some of the power generated by the Sahara solar energy fields will also be used by domestic African consumers, Desertec is keen to stress. North Africa has a small population relative to the size of its desert terrain, it says. The concept was first announced in 2007 by the Desertec Foundation, with small pilot projects based in North Africa. Prince Hassan of Jordan has previously been mentioned as a big supporter.
Companies signed up to the consortium include ABB, Abengoa Solar, Cevital, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE and Schott Solar.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Marie Ndiaye won France's top literary award, the Prix Goncourt, on Monday, the first woman to do so since 1998.
The 42-year-old won for her novel "Trois Femmes Puissantes" ("Three Powerful Women"), a story about the interweaving lives of three women set in France and Senegal.
"This gives me great pleasure and I am also very happy to be a woman receiving the Goncourt Prize," NDiaye told reporters.
The prize is worth a symbolic 10 euros ($14.80) in cash, but much more in publicity-generated sales.
As it is each year, the winner was announced to a crowd of journalists jammed into the foyer of the Drouant restaurant in central Paris after the jury had made its decision over lunch.
NDiaye was born in 1967 to a Senegalese father who left France when she was one year old and a French mother. The author spent her childhood living in a Parisian suburb where she began to write at the age of 12. She lives in Berlin with her three children.
Taken from Reuters Life!