Pambazuka News 507: Special issue: 5th Anniversary of the AU Women's protocol
The authoritative electronic weekly newsletter and platform for social justice in Africa
Pambazuka News (English edition): ISSN 1753-6839
CONTENTS: 1. Announcements, 2. Features, 3. Advocacy & campaigns, 4. Obituaries, 5. Books & arts, 6. Letters & Opinions, 7. African Writers’ Corner, 8. Cartoons, 9. Zimbabwe update, 10. African Union Monitor, 11. Women & gender, 12. Human rights, 13. Refugees & forced migration, 14. Emerging powers news, 15. Elections & governance, 16. Corruption, 17. Development, 18. Health & HIV/AIDS, 19. Education, 20. LGBTI, 21. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, 22. Racism & xenophobia, 23. Environment, 24. Land & land rights, 25. Media & freedom of expression, 26. Conflict & emergencies, 27. Internet & technology, 28. eNewsletters & mailing lists, 29. Fundraising & useful resources, 30. Courses, seminars, & workshops
Highlights from this issue
This week we celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and a time to reflect on what has been achieved. Part 1 of this week's issue focuses on the protocol. Part 2, which we will send out tomorrow, is the 'usual' Pambazuka News.
We apologise for overloading your inbox this week.
Editors.ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Wikileaks documents describe Mugabe as ‘the crazy old man’/SADC calls for independent election violence report
- AFRICAN UNION MONITOR: Human rights violations denounced at African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) session
- WOMEN & GENDER: Muslim women unite against sexual violence
- HUMAN RIGHTS: Rights violations mar Egyptian election run-up/UN torture commission alarmed at Ethiopian situation
- REFUGEES AND FORCED MIGRATION: Laws in African countries lead to statelessness, says report
EMERGING POWER NEWS: Roundup of stories about India, China and other emerging powers
- ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE: Violence mars Ivorian polls/ Questions over Egyptian election results
- DEVELOPMENT: Africa resists free trade agreements
- HEALTH AND HIV/AIDS: New UN report urges measures to ensure health services for all
- LGBTI: Odinga orders arrest of gay people in Kenya
- 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM: News, press releases and statements about the 16 day campaign
- ENVIRONMENT: Carbon trading a 'dangerous distraction', says Friends of the Earth ahead of Cancun climate meeting
- LAND AND LAND RIGHTS: New study dispels Zimbabwe land reform myths
- MEDIA AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Zimbabwean journalist finally released
- CONFLICT AND EMERGENCIES: Ethiopian PM warns of Nile war
- INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGY: Getting harassment on the map in Egypt
- PLUS: Fundraising & useful resources, Courses, Seminars and Workshops
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - December issue
The newsletter follows recent developments in the interpretation of refugee law; case law precedents from other constituencies; reports and helpful resources for refugee legal aid NGOs; and stories of struggle and success in refugee legal aid work. It welcomes contributions from legal aid providers, refugees and others interested or involved in refugee legal aid.
Looking back, looking forward
Five years of the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
Oxfam Pan Africa Programme
It is five years since the African Union (AU) Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa entered into force on November 25, 2005. To date, over fifty per cent of AU member states (29) have ratified it. That day is significant to women worldwide as it also marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women. The protocol comprehensively enshrines civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the rights to development and peace and reproductive and sexual rights. It provides a legal framework for addressing gender inequality and the underlying aspects that perpetuate women’s subordination.
For the first time in international law, it explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to safe abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother. In another first, the protocol explicitly calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation. It goes further to outline measures to ensure the protection of the rights of widows, girls, women living with HIV/AIDS, elderly women, women with disabilities, refugee women, displaced women and marginalised and poor women, women in detention and pregnant or nursing women. This paper traces the protocol’s impact on women’s rights and movement building in Africa as well challenges that have hampered the full enjoyment by African women of rights enshrined in the protocol. The paper concludes with strategies to ensure implementation in future.
The development of a protocol on women’s rights in Africa was triggered by the outcome of the World Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria, in 1993 that emphasised, ‘The human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of the universal human rights’. Thus the slogan that emerged from Vienna: Women's Rights are Human Rights.
Informed by the realisation that the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted by the OAU in 1981 had not addressed women’s human’s rights adequately, the heads of state and government of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in June 1995 mandated the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to elaborate a protocol on the rights of women in Africa. The African Commission started the process by releasing a first draft in 1997, which was discussed and amended by states and civil society for seven years before it was adopted in 2003.
It took 18 months to enter into force thereby becoming the fastest human rights instrument to enter into force in the history of the OAU/AU, thanks to consistent advocacy by African women’s civil society groups under the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition (SOAWR) working closely with AU member states and the African Union Women Gender and Development Directorate.
WHAT DIFFERENCE HAS THE PROTOCOL MADE IN AFRICA IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS?
The protocol addresses omissions relating to women’s rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter). The charter like other mainstream international human rights instruments defines standards in relation to men's experience and in terms of discrete violations of rights in the public realm whereas most violations of women’s human rights occur in private. Its provisions are not adequate to address the rights of women. For example, Article 18 prohibits discrimination against women only in the context of the family. These omissions are compounded by the fact that the charter places emphasis on traditional African values and traditions without addressing concerns that many customary practices, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and wife inheritance, can be harmful or life threatening to women.
The protocol complements the African charter and international human rights conventions by focusing on concrete actions and goals to grant women rights. It further domesticates the United Nations’ Convention on Elimination of All Form of Violence against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in the African context. For instance, it explicitly calls for the legal prohibition of female genital mutilation. It calls for an end to all forms of violence against women including unwanted or forced sex, whether it takes place in private or in public and outlaws the exploitation and abuse of women in advertising and pornography. It has provided a legal and advocacy framework for African women to demand the promotion and protection of human rights.
The protocol advanced national jurisprudence on women’s rights. In Zambia, a 13 year old girl was raped by her teacher. Through a lawyer, a civil suit was instituted against the teacher, the school, attorney general, and Ministry of Education for failing to protect her from sexual violence while she was in the school. During the trial, the lawyer cited the protocol, given that Zambia is a state party to the protocol. The judge, in his decision, referenced the lawyer’s use of the protocol and quoted Article 4, which states, interalia, that states shall take appropriate and effective measures to enact and enforce laws that prohibit all forms of violence women including unwanted and forced sex whether the violence takes place in private and public (Article 2 (2) (a)).
In addition, the judge ruled in the girl’s favour and awarded her damages. The judge called on the Ministry of Education to institute guidelines in schools to protect students from sexual abuse and on the director of public prosecution to arrest and prosecute the teacher. This is a common law high court judgment that can be used as a precedent in other common law countries when citing instances when the government has been held accountable for the violation of rights provided for in the protocol.
The protocol has expanded the discourse on women’s rights in Africa into areas that were hitherto considered ‘no go zones’, setting new international standards including on sexual, reproductive health and rights, female genital mutilation (FGM) and polygamy. The SOAWR campaign and the protocol’s provisions have provided a framework for collaboration and joint action among organisations at the sub regional level to demand for women’s rights instruments with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) adopting declarations on gender equality as a result of the efforts of the women’s organisations.
The process of advocating for its drafting, adoption and entry culminated in the formation of a formidable coalition at the regional level, Solidarity for African Women’s rights (SOAWR). SOAWR is a movement that has consistently engaged AU member states and held them accountable for the ratification and implementation of the protocol since 2004. The advocacy for the ratification and implementation of the protocol has created strong women’s movements at national level. For example, the Women First Coalition in Uganda and the Gender Action Team in the Gambia have strengthened women’s voices in demanding for the national level ratification and implementation of the protocol. Although gender equality and women’s empowerment is yet to be fully achieved in Africa, with women’s movements like SOAWR and emerging national level coalitions, governments cannot escape the pressure to walk their talk on women’s rights.
In national level planning, the protocol has provided standards for governments to integrate in their national development plans and policies on gender equality. Rwanda is a case in point where it has implemented the protocol across all government sectors and The Gambia has adopted a ‘Women’s Bill’ to implement its commitments on women’s rights entered into at the regional and international level including the protocol.
The protocol is a public education tool on women’ rights at the national and grassroots levels. SOAWR members in The Gambia, Tanzania and Liberia have translated the provisions of the protocol into songs. Other SOAWR members have published simplified versions of the protocol and/or translated the protocol into local languages to facilitate access by women and the public at large. A radio programme, Cross Roads Drama, has been developed in English and French. This has encouraged citizens to demand for the implementation of the protocol provisions. For example, the protocol has been a major boost to the campaign against FGM in Tanzania.
In spite of the gains resulting from the protocol in the last five years outlined above, its full potential to emancipate African women from the shackles of patriarchal domination is yet to be realised. Ratifications have increased from 15 countries in 2005 to 29 countries in 2010. However, few countries have implemented the protocol and put in place laws, policies, institutions and services to promote, protect and advance women’s rights at national level.
AU members states have fallen short of their solemn commitment to ‘sign and ratify the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa by the end of 2004 and to support the launching of public campaigns aimed at ensuring its entry into force by 2005 and usher in an era of domesticating and implementing the Protocol as well as other national, regional and international instruments on gender equality by all States Parties’.
Consequently, the violation of African women’s rights continues unabated due to lack of political will to implement commitments on women’s rights. Political will is required to drive the translation of laws and commitments into concrete well-resourced programmes of action to achieve results. National gender machineries continue to shoulder the responsibility for gender equality as well as for the empowerment of women with minimal capacity. Most national machineries suffer from inadequate funding with the largest percentage of their funding coming from external donors.
Lack of national mechanisms to ensure sector and stakeholder wide implementation of women’s rights commitments and for monitoring and reporting remain a major challenge to gender equality. Most reports measuring country performance still do not include gender equality indicators due to the absence of gender disaggregated data thereby undermining accountability. This is not only happening at the national level but also at the regional level where the AU is yet to come up with mechanisms to hold member states to account on commitments made at the AU level.
We have learnt a lot from the gains and pains of the last five years. We now need to reflect on our strategies and come up with new ways of ensuring that the protocol is fully implemented. The fifth anniversary of the protocol comes right after the launch of the AU Women’s Decade 2010-2020 in Nairobi, where the chairperson of the AU and President of Malawi Hon Dr Bingu wa Mutharika noted that:
‘Many frameworks and commitments have been made in the past but women have still not yet been fully emancipated. The African Women’s Decade should see real positive change in the lives of women, and women should be involved in all decision-making processes.’
The president of Kenya, Hon Mwai Kibaki emphasised who hosted the launch of the decade emphasised that:
‘The African Women’s Decade should mark the beginning of an effective, focussed and re-energised programme of empowering women.’
Good words indeed but they will remain hollow if they are not matched by actions during the African Women’s Decade. To move from ratification to the full implementation of the protocol, the coalitions that advocated for the adoption and ratification of the protocol must now shift to advocacy for implementation and monitoring. This will require the mobilisation of women at the national and local levels by educating them on governments’ commitments on women’s rights outlined in the protocol. This is critical in creating a groundswell of demand for its implementation by African women that could make it impossible for our leaders to continue governing while impunity on women’s rights violated is tolerated. We have to build political capital using the protocol.
‘The only way to solve the problem of women’s subordination is to change people’s mindset and to plant the new idea of gender equality into every mind.’- Qingrong Ma
In our engagement with AU member states on implementation, we have to demand the transformation of the implementation structures at national level. Gender inequalities disempowering women cut across all sectors, from health, economy, labour, agriculture and food security, to education, security and justice. Promoting the realisation of rights and empowerment by women is a national priority in its own right, and because of its importance for the achievement of other national priorities including economic growth and poverty reduction.
We can no longer depend on gender machineries to have the sole responsibility of implementing women’s rights commitments which in fact cut across all sectors of government. What is required is a multi-sectoral approach where each sector of government is held accountable for the implementation of protocol provisions relevant to its mandate. The same approach should be adopted by the African Union itself towards the implementation of its provisions across departments, regional offices and mechanisms such as the Peace and Security Council, the Pan African Parliament etc.
In countries that have ratified the protocol, we need to form strategic partnerships with associations of lawyers and judges to raise their awareness on the protocol. This will encourage them to reference the protocol in cases and judgements and increase public litigation to improve national legal institutions’ jurisprudence on women’s rights. This should also be expanded to the regional level women’s rights jurisprudence. Presenting of communications to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and cases that reveal serious and massive violations of women’s rights to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights should be a priority to enhance implementation. It is imperative to select cases and communications based on their potential value as regional and international precedents.
The African Commission has published guidelines for states on bi-annual reporting on progress made in the implementation of the protocol at national level according to Article 62 of the African Charter. The guidelines should be disseminated widely and used in assessing progress made at national level implementation particularly by states party to the protocol. We also need to identify states reporting in advance and put pressure for inclusion of a section on the protocol. Further, to encourage implementation and reporting on the protocol, a strategic partnership between the special rapporteur on women’s rights of the African Commission and women’s rights organisations is critical. The special rapporteur’s office is a resource for advancing women’s rights that we need to utilise more effectively.
The last five years have seen the advancement in the women’s rights legal frameworks and discourse in Africa. However, it has not contributed to substantial changes in the situation of the African women. The protocol offers us a tool for transforming the unequal power relations between men and women that lie at the heart of gender inequality and women’s oppression. We need to focus on its implementation. We do not need to draw up new protocols, policies and declarations on women’s rights. What we need is an agenda to demand commitment by African leaders to the existing commitments in the protocol and other AU instruments and declarations that they have endorsed. This is not to benefit women only but all African citizens – men and women.
Gender inequality, which remains pervasive worldwide, tends to lower the productivity of labour and the efficiency of labour allocation in households and the economy, intensifying the unequal distribution of resources. It also contributes to the non-monetary aspects of poverty – lack of security, opportunity and empowerment – that lower the quality of life for both men and women. While women and girls bear the largest and most direct costs of these inequalities, the costs cut broadly across society, ultimately hindering development and poverty reduction, by Gender and Development Group – World Bank, from the report ‘Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals’ (2003).
‘Women’s human rights are essential to democratic, equitable and sustainable development on planet Earth.’ – Ayesha Imam
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Mary Wandia is co-founding member of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition that advocates for the implementation of the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. She is a member of the African Feminist Forum Working Group. She appreciates input from Anne Mitaru in developing ideas for this paper.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Seychelles, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
 The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) is a Pan-African coalition consisting of 36 national, regional and international civil society organisations working towards the promotion and protection of Women’s Human Rights in Africa by advocating for the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
 See full text of the protocol at www.africa-union.org/home/Welcome.htm
 African Union. Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa. 20
SOAWR: Lessons we have learned
Faiza Jama Mohamed
As Africa marks the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa on 25 November 2010, several members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) have reflected on lessons learned from the intensive campaigning actions that SOAWR has been engaging since 2004 across the continent.
The campaign kicked off following the realisation that the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa would remain a lifeless instrument unless member states are held accountable and encouraged to take actions to ensure that women and girls enjoy the rights provided therein. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, agreed with this view when she said: ‘The adoption of human rights instruments is clearly not an end in itself, but the beginning. It goes without saying that rights without implementation and enforcement mechanisms are meaningless.’ This article therefore looks into what lessons SOAWR members have picked up and what needs to be done to take advantage of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020).
The decade aims to honour commitments made by member states of the African Union through various continental protocols and policies, as well as through international commitments such as the Beijing Platform for Action and the United Nations Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). SOAWR is eager to follow through the decade with advocacy actions that hopefully will secure results from African governments in favour of the thousands of women marginalised in society because of the discrimination and/or violence inflicted on them.
All efforts made by the 37 members of SOAWR (popularisation of provision of the protocol, pushing for ratification by all member states and urging on its implementation) have been geared at making the protocol a living document. To ensure that countries that are state parties work on implementation, SOAWR members collaborated with the African Union Commission and the United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) liaison office to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to introduce to them a multi-sectoral framework. As Mary Wandia of Oxfam put it: ‘The multi-sectoral approach is critical for the domestication, implementation and monitoring of the Protocol and other international women’s rights commitments. It is a useful tool for aligning the linkages between women’s rights provisions to each sector in government as well as developing partnerships with key stakeholders in implementation including civil society, private sector and development partners.’ It is SOAWR’s hope that member states will take advantage of available tools to realise their commitments to promoting the human rights of African women.
The ultimate goal of the campaign is ensuring that African women and girls, as citizens of the continent, enjoy equal rights and treatment. This includes ensuring that gender sensitive justice prevails; and as the former executive director of the ECA, K.Y. Amoako put it: ‘Fundamentally, we need gender sensitive justice delivered to the girls and women on this continent. It is not that we need to scale up our current systems of ”justice”. We need to reform those systems, adding a lot of service innovations. We need justice systems available throughout our societies, we need them to be cheap and we need them to be quick’.
SOAWR believes that member states can realise this through demonstrated political will backed with concrete actions (reflected in national planning and gender budgeting including adequate resourcing for law enforcement and support for victims of human rights violations, etc.) that take advantage of application of the multi-sectoral framework.
LESSONS FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF THREE COUNTRIES
In this section we look at the experiences of three SOAWR members in three countries (Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda) in respect to popularisation of the protocol, efforts at securing ratification and advocating for domestication and implementation of the Protocol.
INTER AFRICA NETWORK FOR WOMEN, MEDIA, GENDER EQUALITY AND DEVELOPMENT (FAMEDEV) - SENEGAL/GAMBIA.
FAMEDEV has been using media to popularise the Protocol in West Africa and offers below important lessons it has picked up.
‘When we are united we can win battles through our voices and our collective actions!’ - Mrs Amie Joof, executive director
IN UNITY AND NUMBERS LIES STRENGTH
The coalition nature of SOAWR has enabled it to amplify its voice in different countries at different times. The strength of the coalition is that its members belong to organisations that have partnership agreements or working relationships with other organisations. Therefore, the possibility for those organisations to take on board issues pertaining to the ratification and domestication of the protocol in their work and activities is very high and can make an impact. This multi-pronged approach is effective and highly participatory. We therefore need to build more partnerships between different SOAWR members on certain activities.
FAMEDEV, through its online radio (www.radioavg.com), has a partnership agreement with an NGO in The Gambia called Women for Democracy and Development (WODD) to implement the Alternative Voice for Gambians (AVG), which is a project of FAMEDEV. The AVG covers all issues relevant in the public domain which could inform, educate, entertain and acculturate the Gambian population in particular and listeners in general to become the architects of a free and open society which would allow each to enjoy liberty, dignity and prosperity.
The AVG has also facilitated the participation of three WODD board members at a workshop to train trainers on the African Women’s Rights Protocol. WODD has also put two information collectors to the service of AVG. The coverage of training of rural women on the rights of women enables AVG to help expand the impact of such workshops hosted by other institutions.
It should be noted that issues around the protocol form part of the content of radio programmes that are produced by AVG and distributed on cassettes to the WODD study circles. Issues covered include, the different articles of the protocol including free education for girls, rural women and poverty, maternal mortality, HIV and AIDS, representation of women in the media, portrayal of women by the media, women as victims of conflict in Cassamance and as leaders of the peace process and women’s human rights.
WODD has study circles established in different regions in the country and these groups listen to the programmes and provide feedback for broadcast. To date there are 20 study circles/listening groups (civic education groups) with some 5,000 membership in the Gambia that listen to the cassettes and send FAMEDEV feedback. The feedback comes mainly in the form of questions which the AVG team in The Gambia and Senegal refer to the relevant institutions for reactions and or actions.
The AVG has taken the approach of community-based advocacy journalism in reporting what is relevant to the communities with their voluntary participation with a view to promoting their welfare. The reporter and information collectors gather information from communities, associations and individuals who narrate their problems to them. AVG then puts forward these problems to the relevant authorities for their reaction.
This approach of scrutinising public servants and institutions as well as private organisations that offer public services is quite effective in helping villagers to take note of the media’s role as a problem solving institution. The exposure of shortcomings has often led to the adoption of concrete measures to address the problems of communities and associations and deter the perpetration of future wrong doings.
USE EVERY OPPORTUNITY
FAMEDEV utilised every single opportunity to talk about the African Women’s rights protocol; whether it is training for journalists, a launching ceremony of a report, a rural community workshop, radio discussion programmes etc. Each time issues come up that touch on the lives and circumstances of women and girls, relevant sections of the protocol are brought in to the discussion. For example Article 2 Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is used in all issues that deal with discrimination against women like the negative images of women in the media, women’s non occupation of leadership and decision-making positions, absence of gender policies in media institutions and other organisations that deal with development, just to mention a few. Other examples are during the launch of the Global Media Monitoring project (GMMP), the GMMP 2010 findings, training of journalists on HIV/AIDs reporting from a gender and rights perspective, sensitisation of community media workers on gender and media, training on reporting techniques, leadership and management training, sensitisation on violence and social communication etc. This way the protocol is related to the everyday life situations of people especially girls and women. It gives it oxygen!
MAXIMISING ADVOCACY ENGAGEMENT IN VARIOUS CONTINENTAL SPACES
The lobbying and advocacy activities at fora such as the AU should be intensified but similarly need to be extended to sub-regional summits such as those convened by the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Not only is the SOAWR presence necessary and crucial but the representation from different regions is of paramount importance if we want to build up and sustain ownership of the Protocol by African women. We need to expand and build our alliances to encompass small and less endowed women’s human rights organisations.
AKINA MAMA WA AFRIKA (AMWA) – UGANDA
AMWA has convened a national coalition - Women First - that worked hard to secure Uganda’s ratification in July 2010. They shared two important lessons from their experience.
IMPORTANCE OF POWER ANALYSIS AND MAPPING
Much of advocacy efforts by NGOs don’t yield the desired results, take longer to achieve, go along more winded roads than necessary because we have not invested enough time to do power mapping especially of governments. Sometimes we’re too comfortable using the same strategies, knocking on the same doors, working with the same partners without really analysing which is the most important door to open or partner/individual to work with that will lead us to our goal. This was an important lesson for the Uganda campaign where we always hit the same roadblocks with government line ministries in charge of the protocol, particularly the Ministry of Justice. After seven years of the campaign in Uganda, we decided to rethink our strategy, do our power mapping and work with new partners that wielded hidden/invisible power and could make things happen. That was when the domino effect hit off, culminating in the ratification of the protocol by Uganda on 22nd July 2010.
SEIZING THE MOMENT
There are always those historic moments where the winds of change blow in your favour and you need to seize the moment before it passes. This was the case for the Uganda Coalition, ‘Women First’ with the opportunity afforded by the country playing host to the 15th Ordinary African Union Summit in July 2010. The partnership between regional level (SOAWR) and national level (the Uganda Coalition) was critical in taking advantage of this opportunity, which led to the ratification of the protocol by Uganda.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS ALTERNATIVE PROTECTION AND ADVANCEMENT (WRAPA) – NIGERIA
The women’s movement campaign around the ratification and domestication of the protocol in Nigeria has benefitted from many lessons in the areas of organising for synergy, strategy for depth as well as transparency for achieving ownership. Key lessons therefore include:
- APPRECIATING AND SUSTAINING ORGANISED AND EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIPS
Understanding of the effectiveness of organised and sustained partnership between government agencies, parliament, community institutions and civil society groups working together to popularise the protocol. The results in the raised level of awareness and productive dialogue attest to the efficacy of a wide-based platform speaking with the same voice and synergising its activities while also using the bottom-up approach with women leaders in communities being one of the major entry points for sensitisation and advocacy for support towards domestication.
- SIMPLIFYING FOR BETTER COMPREHENSION AND ELIMINATING FEARS
Demystifying the principles and aims of the AU protocol through the simplification of its provisions as well as use of local languages in advocacy, town hall meetings and focus group discussions especially with community stakeholders; significantly helped reduce apprehension and stimulated interest in the potential benefits of implementation of the protocol.
- ENGAGING MEN FOR SUPPORT
The involvement of the men’s constituency using platforms such as household head titles, trade union groups which are male dominated has proved effective in breaking down apprehensions about international or ‘foreign laws’ which are resisted due to deep held negative perceptions of their effect in ‘rocking the boat’ of power relations between men and women.
- USING INCREMENTAL APPROACH
Adoption of incremental progress through integral legislation on non-contentious issues may provide a soft landing as against an all or nothing approach which has the risks of delay and mischief. The incremental approach also achieves the desired results without raising staunch opposition in a polarised context. Lessons of over 25 years of the CEDAW domestication campaign the erroneous stigmatization of the instrument, which has stalled and hampered its wholesome domestication on the basis of some articles. One of the results from the incremental approach in the landmark move of gender change champions in parliament, who presented a bill seeking to amend section 147 (1) and Section 14 (3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The purpose of the amendment is the inclusion of affirmative action clauses into two sections of the 1999 Constitution which is under review. The bill went through its first reading in the fourth week of June 2010.
- BEING STRATEGIC IN PRESENTATION
Productive concessions in nomenclature and title where terminologies are substituted without affecting the principle or target beneficiaries has helped to win support from many quarters. One positive result from the concession approach is the momentum around the passage of the Bill on Violence Against Persons, which is envisaged to be passed before the end of the tenure of the current assembly. This bill had to change title to substitute women with persons. Another major concession being contemplated is the merger of the CEDAW and AU protocol provisions into an Equal Opportunities Bill, thereby and for now achieving the aims of the instruments by downplaying their original titles.
GENERAL LESSONS FROM THE CAMPAIGN
In this section, several lessons shared by SOAWR members that are reflective of national, regional and continental level campaigning experiences are presented.
A key lesson from the campaign is persistence. If you want it badly enough it will happen. However, one has to be persistent. The SOAWR coalition brought together organisations that were fed up of the lack of implementation of human rights instruments and for the past six years persisted to hold governments accountable to guarantee respect for the human rights of women. Sustaining this persistence will eventually lead to all AU member states ratifying the protocol and taking up actions to ensure women and girls are enjoying their rights.
BUILDING EXPANSIVE NETWORKS FOR COLLABORATION
Nothing can be taken for granted. It is necessary to create a wide range of contacts and partners and be supportive of their cause. In this way it becomes possible to heed your call when you require their support.
ENSURING WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE AN INTEGRAL PART OF CONTINENTAL AGENDAS AND DEBATES
The need to engage the African Union Commission (AUC) departments and understanding the process of policy making within the African Union, is crucial in making sure that women’s rights are being incorporated within all policy developments – including engaging in those areas where women traditionally have not been engaging such as finance, science and technology etc. SOAWR’s diverse membership has helped members ensure that women’s rights are always an integral part of the debate. For example rural women farmers engaging with the AU and including these grassroots women in the debate is a key example of how SOAWR has been able to be relevant in all ongoing debates.
DEVELOPING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
Building partnerships with stakeholder’s at all levels to push for the ratification/domestication and implementation of the provisions of the protocol is an important strategy which SOAWR members recognised and successfully applied. A case in point is the partnership with UNIFEM, Abantu for Development, UN Millennium Campaign, IPPF, IPAS and the AUC Social Affairs department, which helped build momentum on the protocol as well as enabled us to ride on existing campaigns on women’s rights, in this case maternal health. This is something SOAWR will need to continue to replicate so that the protocol really becomes a tool for all championing the rights of women.
THE ROLE OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION AND TECHNOLOGY (ICT)
Innovative uses of ICTs like the text message campaign that SOAWR used in 2004 (Text Now 4 Women’s Rights) are not only tools in themselves to mobilise action, but can also be good to attract 'traditional media' attention.
TAKING LEGAL ACTIONS USING THE PROTOCOL
The need to use the protocol in national courts cannot be over-emphasised as this is tantamount to ensuring that the protocol, in addition to all other strategies, becomes a real document. When a case is successful it translates to the protocol’s benefits being enjoyed by women and girls whose rights are violated. This was demonstrated in the case of Zambia where the lawyer used the protocol at the domestic court. The protocol should be a tool also for advocating for legal reform in countries that have ratified. It can be used to challenge existing laws that continue to discriminate against women as well for advocating new laws, in conformity with the protocol’s provisions addressing violence against women.
CRUCIAL ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS AND COLLABORATION WITH GOVERNMENTS
Civil society organisations can play a vital role in partnering with governments across Africa to ensure the implementation of their leaders’ commitments. Using our position as important stakeholders in the society has made SOAWR to be where it is. Leaders do not like 'a confrontational approach'. As stakeholders, we ought to approach others (mostly leaders) as partners. The methods that SOAWR has been using of appreciating the progress that different countries have made and reminding them that they could do better has been a successful model for partnering and collaborating with member states in advancing women’s rights. Additionally, the complementary role played by local, national, regional and international coalition members in support of the campaign at different levels led to successful outcomes in many instances.
GOVERNMENTS PRIORITISE OTHER ISSUES OVER WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Even when the leaders are fully aware of the importance of our advocacy, in this case the ratification of the protocol, other considerations may be more important at any particular time – politically for example. We have had to change strategy for different countries taking into account their peculiar needs or level of development. Women’s Rights are really political and we all need to sharpen our political skills.
MAKING THE CAMPAIGN PERSONAL FOR STAKEHOLDERS
Talking about women and girls meant talking about someone's mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt or friend and so by make the issues personal for many stakeholders SOAWR has managed to show that it is not just a campaign focused on women, but everybody's campaign for the benefit of our communities.
ADVOCACY BEYOND AU SUMMITS
High-level advocacy needs to be ongoing throughout the year and not only focus on the AU summit in order to create impact.
The various lessons shared by SOAWR members provide useful insights for future engagements in this campaign as well as for similar campaigns. Ratifications of the protocol that were secured in several countries (e.g. Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania and Uganda) were indeed realised when activists in the campaign seized opportunities that emerged around the happenings of important events like the hosting of the African Union summits, the launching of the African Women’s Decade and/or the situating of important institutions such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Other strategies that worked well also included the scorecards that SOAWR publicised at different time and in different countries and which named and shamed countries that were lagging behind in honouring their commitment to the human rights of women. Nevertheless, there still remain 24 countries that have not ratified the protocol and who are therefore denying a significant number of African women from using the protocol’s provisions to safeguard against violations of their human rights.
Countries where conflict/war prevails and those that are post-conflict (e.g. Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, Somalia) appear to use this as an excuse to disregard the protocol as an important undertaking. Others (e.g. Algeria, Egypt and Sudan) also seem to use religion as an excuse claiming that certain provisions of the protocol are in contradiction with the Islamic law that is applied in these countries.
Yet several other countries (e.g. The Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia and Libya) who also apply Islamic law have ratified the protocol without reservations. One would also find it surprising that some countries (e.g. Botswana, Tunisia) that are enjoying peace and stability and are considered to have progressive equality laws have failed to ratify the protocol. One wonders what excuse such countries have! It all boils down to one basic fact that has been confirmed in the course of the six years of the SOAWR campaign. Governments don’t prioritise the human rights of women unless women take the initiative to demand it.
This requires a lot of hard work and persistence as was evidenced in the cases of Kenya and Uganda. It requires strategic partnerships with various stakeholders, inside and outside government, and interventions at different levels. Sometimes the cause of delay could be due to minor incidents. In one instance for example the clerk who has custody of the government seal could not be located at the right time and hence extra effort was needed to ensure that the government could deposit its instrument on time. In another instance, the government decision to ratify the protocol was lost and could not be located until three to four years later.
Government officials also change over time and new officials need support to take up the process from where it was left over by previous officers. Hence developing good working relationships with key officials in relevant government ministries is critical to the successes we strive to achieve. SOAWR members have served as institutional memory for many governments.
It is because of commitment and dedication to equality and enjoyment of basic human rights by women and girls, same as men and boys, that SOAWR has engaged in this long battle and believes that in the long run its efforts will pay off well. The lessons reflected upon in this article and others that might still come from other members will come handy as SOAWR continues to strategise on best approaches to win over member states in taking a leadership role in promoting and ensuring respect for the human rights of women and girls in Africa. When we cross that bridge SOAWR will rest its case!
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* Faiza Jama Mohamed is director of Equality Now, Nairobi office.
* Acknowledgement: the following people contributed to this article: Amie Joof (FAMEDEV), Christine Butegwa (AMWA); Saudatu Mahdi (WRAPA), Hakima Abbas and Yves Niyiragira (Fahamu), Mary Wandia (Oxfam), Norah Matovu Winyi (FEMNET) and Caroline Muthoni Muriithi (Equality Now).
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 M. Robinson ‘Foreword’ in D Buss & A Manji (eds) International law: Modern feminist approaches (2005); C Chinkin et al ‘Feminist approaches to international law: Reflections from another century’ in Buss & Manji 17 26 28.
 K.Y. Amoako, Former Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Opening statement during the 7th African Regional Conference on Women Ministerial Conference on the Decade Review of the Implementation of the Dakar and Beijing Platforms for Action Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 12 October 2004
 FAMEDEV is an African organization that focuses on the following areas: · Training and Capacity Building for media practitioners and communicators especially women and young people; Documentation and dissemination of innovative practices using media for development- covering the ‘usually forgotten’ issues and giving a voice to the voiceless and the marginalized · Mentoring and Exchange programmes for young and upcoming media practitioners and students within sub regions and across regions in Africa.
 Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) is a pan-African, non-governmental development organisation whose aim is to provide development services for African women, serves as a resource and research forum on African women's issues, and provides a platform for African women to participate in policy and decision-making. AMwA is an NGO in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
 Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative, (WRAPA) is a registered non-governmental, non-political, non-profit charitable membership organization founded in 1999. Our activities include legal aid and counseling services for women, mobilization and sensitization, skills training and advocacy for legal reforms. In pursuance of our vision for enhancing access to justice for women WRAPA supports litigation for women within the three legal systems in Nigeria.
 Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Sahrawi Arab Dem. Republic, São Tomé and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland and Tunisia.
The next frontier: Legal action and the AU women’s protocol
Corey Calabrese and Caroline Muthoni Muriithi
The coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the protocol) on 25 November 2005 marked a great turning point for women and girls in Africa. It was the day that a bill of rights for women came alive, promising to address violations against women and girls and which called states to take measures to ensure that women live free from discrimination and violence. The anniversary of the protocol is a time to reflect on the continuous struggle for a just and equitable society where women are seen as equal to men and are recognised for their role in the development of their society. The protocol is the first human rights instrument to specifically call for the elimination of female genital mutilation and explicitly provides for sexual and reproductive rights. It prohibits all forms of violence against women, whether perpetuated in private or public. It also provides for the right to a healthy sustainable environment, the right to sustainable development, the right to property and inheritance, equal rights in marriage and divorce and the rights of elderly and disabled women, among other rights. As we commemorate five years of the coming into force of the protocol, women’s organizations must start to fiercely push for its implementation to ensure that women benefit from the rights provided. One way of accelerating its implementation is to use it as a tool to defend the rights of women within existing judicial mechanisms.
This paper shall address itself to using the protocol as a tool for litigating on behalf of women while contributing to the development of positive jurisprudence on women’s rights in Africa. The paper will discuss opportunities available in domestic, regional and sub-regional courts and end with a call to action for women’s rights organisations to breathe life into the protocol.
DOMESTICATION OF THE PROTOCOL AS A NEXT STEP
In most common law countries, once an international instrument is ratified it must be domesticated through enactment of a national law for it to apply at the domestic level. There are several ways to do this: one is the complete importation of the provisions of the protocol into an act of parliament. Alternatively, women’s organisations can piggy-back onto ongoing legal reform processes and inject provisions of the protocol into laws. For example, in Gambia, women’s groups took the opportunity to inject provisions of the protocol during the drafting of the Women’s Act to ensure that most provisions of the protocol were domesticated. In Mozambique, organisations who had been championing for the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act adopted some provisions of the protocol within the act, ensuring partial domestication of the protocol.
In those countries that have clauses in their constitutions which automatically incorporate international treaties into national law, women’s organisations can use the protocol to litigate on behalf of women’s rights in order to build jurisprudence on women’s rights. This is particularly important for common law countries that rely on precedents from other common law jurisdictions to influence decisions in their own national courts. For example, the new Kenyan constitution states in Article 2(6) that ‘any treaty or convention ratified by Kenya shall form part of the law of Kenya under this Constitution.’[i] This has created a great opportunity as Kenya also recently ratified the protocol on 13 October 2010 and is therefore ripe for litigation. With the right public interest case, this clause can be used to incorporate the protocol into Kenyan law and expand on the rights protected within the constitution.
USING THE PROTOCOL IN NATIONAL COURTS
Women’s rights organisations have already begun to think through strategies for litigating on behalf of women using the protocol. One such example is Equality Now’s Adolescent Girls Legal Defence Fund (AGLDF), which seeks to rectify the unique and devastating human rights abuses suffered by adolescent girls in Africa through strategic litigation that utilises the protocol and establishes legal precedents. Under this fund, Equality Now supported a lawyer to litigate on behalf of a 13-year-old girl who was raped by her teacher in Zambia.[ii] The failure by the state to prosecute the teacher led to her lawyer instituting a civil case against the teacher, the school, the attorney general and the Ministry of Education for failing to protect the girl from sexual violence while she was in the school’s custody. The lawyer cited the protocol in his legal arguments and this prompted the judge, in his decision, to reference the lawyer’s use of the protocol and quoted Article 4, which states, inter alia, that state parties should ‘enact and enforce laws that prohibit all forms of violence against women … whether the violence takes place in private or public’.[iii] The honourable Judge Musonda[iv] found in favour of the girl and held the government vicariously liable for her abuse. The judge called for the Ministry of Education to put into place guidelines to protect girls from sexual abuse in schools, and urged the director of public prosecution to arrest and prosecute the perpetrator, stating that the failure to prosecute the teacher was a ‘dereliction of the duty by the police’. He also awarded damages to the girl for the abuse, noting that the healing process after such abuse is ‘long and lonely and the emotional scars may never heal’.
The case was important as it gave the Zambian courts a chance to move the government to strengthen its school policies to protect girls from sexual abuse. This decision is a key example of how the protocol can be used in women’s rights litigation to push the government to follow its obligations under the protocol. In Zambia, there is now legal precedent referencing the protocol, even though Zambia has not domesticated the protocol. The weakness in this case is that the judge merely referenced the protocol but did not rely on it in making his decision, though his recommendations are in line with the provisions of the protocol. In addition, this landmark judgment brought together women’s rights organisations to form a coalition called the Tisunge Athu Ana Akazi coalition – which in English means ‘let’s protect our girl child’ – to end violence against adolescent girls in Zambia. The coalition is utilising this judgment as a tool to lobby the government to put the guidelines in place while enhancing legal, health and counselling services to survivors of sexual abuse.
OPPORTUNITIES AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL
Where national laws and mechanisms fail to offer redress for the violation of women’s rights, organisations may turn to the African Commission. The commission was the first regional mechanism created to hear cases of human rights violations, as provided within the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.[v] Interestingly in its 30 years, the African Commission has barely heard any cases addressing the rights of women, despite the massive violations on the continent. The African Commission was established to promote human and peoples’ rights; ensure their protection; and interpret the provisions of the African Charter. In addition, the commission is empowered to consider inter-state and individual complaints where it is established that the complainant has exhausted all available local remedies.[vi] The commission can issue recommendations and/or findings, although these are non-binding on states. Individuals and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) can lodge complaints with the African Commission for the violation of the rights enshrined in the African Charter and the protocol as a supplement to the African Charter.[vii]
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was created through the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Protocol on the African Court). The court was established in 2004 when the protocol establishing the court came into force and started operations in 2006. The court was created to address the weakness of the African Commission, in particular its inability to pass binding decisions against states. The African court jurisdiction extends to all cases and disputes concerning interpretation of the African Charter and the Protocol on the Rights of Women.[viii] Unlike the African Commission, the African court does not give direct access to individuals and NGOs. Instead it provides that states can make a declaration allowing individuals and NGOs to bring a case before the court.[ix] This creates a barrier for individuals and women’s rights organisations to access the court. One strategy women’s organisations can take is to lobby their governments to make this declaration while still utilising the African Commission to hold states accountable for human rights violations. The harmonised rules of procedure of the African court and the African Commission are being finalised. These will guide litigants in pursuing cases either at the African Commission or the African court. Currently only four African states have signed a declaration allowing individuals and NGOs access to the African court. These are Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi and Tanzania.
OPPORTUNITIES AT THE SUB-REGIONAL LEVEL
There exist other opportunities to litigate on behalf of women at the sub-regional level. There are three sub-regional courts that are open to adjudicating human rights issues: the East African Community Court of Justice (EACJ); the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice (ECCJ); and the Southern African Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal).[x] These three courts have adjudicated human rights cases, though none applying the protocol. Sub-regional courts tend to move faster than the African Commission and can be more accessible for individuals and NGOs, unlike the African court. Individuals can take cases straight to the ECCJ and EACJ, without having to exhaust local remedies, which is a requirement for the African Commission and the SADC Tribunal. Sub-regional courts may also be physically closer than the African Commission, which is based in Banjul, Gambia, and which is costly to travel to; this is especially true for countries in east, central and southern Africa. One disadvantage to using the sub-regional courts as human rights courts can be potential political backlash. These courts, while having the capacity to hear human rights cases, were established to litigate regional economic disputes and facilitate commerce between the participating states.[xi] Therefore, there is resistance to these sub-regional courts being used as human rights courts. This was evidenced at the SADC Tribunal in Mike Campbell (PVT) Limited and Another v. the Republic of Zimbabwe. The SADC Tribunal was suspended for six months after ruling against the government of Zimbabwe on 18 August 2010 for its racially implemented land reclamation programme. This was clearly a political response to the tribunal’s decision as the Zimbabwe government ‘fiercely objected to the presence of a regional tribunal and its ability to review their domestic human rights record’.[xii] Moving forward, human rights organisations must be careful to avoid politicised decisions when using these sub-regional courts as human rights courts. Women’s organisation should therefore be strategic in selecting a forum to hold states accountable.
EAST AFRICAN COURT OF JUSTICE
The EACJ is yet to be fully developed as a human rights court, even though the East Africa Community is founded on the principle of protecting human rights.[xiii] Under article 7(2) of the East African Treaty, ‘The Partner States undertake to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights.’[xiv] Further, article 27(2) gives authority to the East African Council to expand the jurisdiction of the EACJ to include human rights. Yet the council has not developed guidelines to expand the jurisdiction of the EACJ, and as a result the EACJ has been very reluctant to hear human rights cases.[xv]
Once the court has this jurisdiction, it could be a very effective mechanism for advancing women’s rights through the protocol because of the EAC’s adherence to regional human rights instruments. Article 6(d) of the treaty states that ‘the fundamental principles that shall govern the achievement of the objectives of the Community by the Partner States shall include … promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.’ The EACJ could therefore hold states accountable to the protocol as a supplement to the African Charter. In addition, last year the East African Legislative Assembly, which is the legislative organ of the EAC, adopted a resolution which applauded the states that ratified the protocol and shamed those states that had not, demonstrating the importance of the protocol to the EAC.[xvi]
The EACJ is also a very accessible court as individuals and NGOs from East Africa can bring a case directly to it under article 30 of the treaty.[xvii] Therefore, women’s rights organisations should put pressure on the council to expand the jurisdiction of the court to include human rights as it would be an effective method of advancing the protocol.
ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES COMMUNITY COURT OF JUSTICE (ECCJ)
The ECCJ is the sub-regional judicial mechanism that has most openly embraced adjudicating human rights. In the ECOWAS Treaty, state parties ‘affirm and declare their adherence to … [the] recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.’[xviii] ECOWAS state parties further agree to ‘co-operate for the purpose of realizing the objectives’ of the African Charter in article 56(2).[xix] This language, which was non-existent in the original ECOWAS treaty, ‘mainstreamed human rights in the agenda of ECOWAS’.[xx] However, the strength of the ECCJ’s mandate comes from a supplementary protocol that empowers the ECCJ to receive and determine human rights cases adopted by the ECOWAS authority heads of state and government.[xxi] The ECCJ has decided several human rights cases and has openly interpreted provisions of the African Charter through its expanded mandate.[xxii]
There are other advantages to the ECCJ apart from its express mandate to adjudicate human rights cases. In Hadijatou Mani Koraou v. the Republic of Niger the ECCJ, relying on article 10(d) (ii) of the supplementary protocol determined that individuals are able to directly access the court. The ECCJ further decided that exhaustion of local remedies was not required before it could adjudicate a case.[xxiii] The court went so far as to say that pursuant to article 4(g) of the ECOWAS Treaty, it could adjudicate on the African charter without following the procedures of the African Commission.[xxiv] The court in this case and in subsequent cases referred to multiple international human rights treaties along with the African Charter.[xxv] Again, as the protocol is a supplement to the charter, a case could be taken to ECOWAS which challenges the court to adjudicate on the protocol. The court is the best situated of the sub-regional mechanisms to hear and try a human rights case while referring to the protocol.
SOUTH AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY TRIBUNAL (SADC TRIBUNAL)
The SADC Tribunal has adjudicated several human rights cases even though its competence to hear these cases is not linked to the African charter or other international human rights instruments in the SADC Treaty.[xxvi] Instead, the Treaty states in article 4(c) that member states ‘shall act in accordance with … human rights, democracy and the rule of law’.[xxvii] SADC also has several of its own human rights instruments, including a Protocol on Gender and Development. This has not prevented the tribunal from referencing the African charter and other human rights instruments when making its decisions. However, the tribunal does not interpret these instruments, but uses them as guidance in determining whether there has been a human rights abuse in violation of article 4(c) of the SADC Treaty.[xxviii]
The SADC Tribunal is also very limited in the cases that are able to come before it. While individuals can bring cases before the tribunal, the tribunal determined that NGOs cannot take cases to the tribunal on behalf of individuals. Instead, aggrieved parties themselves must be a party to the case.[xxix] Parties must also exhaust local remedies before coming to the tribunal,[xxx] although the tribunal has found a case admissible where domestic judicial remedies were unavailable.[xxxi] As discussed supra, the tribunal may be suspended from hearing human rights cases as a result of the Mike Campbell (PVT) Limited and Another v. the Republic of Zimbabwe decision. If not, women’s rights organisations should attempt to utilise the tribunal. Even if the tribunal will not directly interpret the protocol, it is probably likely that it will reference it in a decision. At the very least, it is a step in the right direction.
Under international law, once a state ratifies the protocol it is legally bound to respect, protect and to fulfil human rights enshrined within the protocol. As we venture into using litigation to accelerate the implementation of the protocol, let us never forget that state parties to the protocol have the primary responsibility to ensure that it is implemented. Women’s organisations are called to be vigilant and take up opportunities to hold governments accountable for failure to protect the rights of women in Africa. Fortunately there are multiple avenues to do so; they only need to be strategic in selecting the most effective judicial mechanism (whether national, sub-regional or regional courts) for protecting their rights. African women also have the opportunity to shape the international discourse on women’s rights by invoking the progressive provisions in courts to contribute to the global human rights jurisprudence. In the next five years, let us flood the courts with claims on behalf of women and contribute to creating an environment free from violence and discrimination.
‘Human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings; their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.’ (Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action, 1993)
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* Corey Calabrese is a 2010 graduate of Fordham Law School and is currently working for Equality Now as a James E. Tonal human rights fellow.
* Caroline Muthoni Muriithi is a human rights lawyer from Kenya, currently working as a programme officer at Equality Now, Africa Regional Office.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
[i] Constitution, Art. 2 (2010) (Kenya).
[ii] See R.M. v. Edward Hakasenke, Attorney General (2006) HP 0327 (Zambia).
[iii] See Article 4 (2) (a) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of women
[iv] Judge of the High Court of Zambia
[v] Article 45 of African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states the mandate of the African Commission, Article 46 provides the rules for state communication and article 55 provides for NGO’s and individual to bring a communications to the African Commission
[vi] See Article 56 (5) of the African Charter
[vii] Article 66 provides that special protocols or agreements may if necessary supplement the provisions of the African Charter therefore the Protocol can be used to supplement the provisions within the protocol to demonstrate violations against women and girls
[viii] See article 3 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights read together with Article 27 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women
[ix] See Article 34 (6) of the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
[x] See Solomon T. Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2009, 10 Afr. Hum. Rts. L.J. 233, 233-34 (2010).
[xi] See Solomon T. Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2008, 9 Afr. Hum. Rts. L.J. 312, 312-13 (2009).
[xii] Frederick Cowell, The suspension of the South African Development Community Tribunal: A threat to human rights, Consultancy Africa Intelligence, Oct. 17, 2010, http://www.consultancyafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=583:the-suspension-of-the-southern-african-development-community-tribunal-a-threat-to-human-rights&catid=91:rights-in-focus&Itemid=296
[xiii] The EACJ has decided a few cases that implicate human rights, but these human rights were specifically outlined in the East African Treaty. In East African Law Society and 3 Others v Attorney-General of Kenya and 3 Others, Reference 3 of 2007, the EACJ adjudicated a case that invoked the right to popular participation in amendments to the East African Community Treaty.
[xiv] Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community art. 7(2) (amended Dec. 14, 2006 and Aug. 20, 2007), Nov. 30, 1999.
[xv] See Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2009, supra note 10 at 240.
[xvi] See id. at 236. The resolution is entitled ‘Resolution of the Assembly urging the East African Community and partner states to take urgent and concerted action to end violence against women in the EAC region and particularly in the partner states.’
[xvii] See Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, supra note 14, art. 30.
[xviii] Economic Community of West African States Revised Treaty art. 4(g), Jul. 24, 1993.
[xix] Id. at art. 56(2).
[xx] See Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2008, supra note 11 at 318.
[xxi] See Economic Community of West African States, Supplementary Protocol A/SP 1/01/05 Amending Protocol A/P 1/7/91 relating to the Community Court of Justice adopted in 2005, art. 9(4).
[xxii] See Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2008, supra note 11 at 318.
[xxiii] See Hadijatou Mani Koraou v. Republic of Niger, Judgment No. ECW/CCJ/JUD/06/08 (2008), para. 49.
[xxiv] See id. at para. 42.
[xxv] See Ebobrah, Human rights developments in African sub-regional economic communities during 2009, supra note 10 at 252-58.
[xxvi] See id. at 259.
[xxvii] The Treaty of the Southern African Development Community art. 4(c), Aug. 17, 1992 (amended 2001).
[xxviii] See Mike Campbell (PVT) Limited and Another v The Republic of Zimbabwe, SADC (T) Case No. 2/2007, 30-33 & 41.
[xxix] See Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum v Zimbabwe (NGO Forum case), SADC (T) 05/2008.
[xxx] See Treaty of the Southern African Development Community, Protocol on Tribunal and Rules of Procedure Thereof art. 15 (2).
[xxxi] See Mike Campbell (PVT) Limited and Another v The Republic of Zimbabwe, supra note 28 at 19-22.
African Women’s Decade: Strategic opportunities
The African Women’s Decade 2010–20 (AWD) is a remarkable event for African women and a commendation to the African Union for the recognition of the needs, concerns and agency of women in Africa. The goal of the AWD is to ensure greater attention to the implementation of all commitments towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa. With the declaration of 2010–20 as the African Women’s Decade, women’s human rights organisations have to key into the strategies for the implementation of commitments related to gender equity and women’s empowerment. The existence of the African Women’s Decade is a clear indication that women’s issues are now placed on board worldwide and that we have started reaping the benefits of our liberation struggles. It will be inappropriate to dissect the global context of women’s human rights from the context of the AWD when determining opportunities for African women.
CONTEXT OF AFRICAN WOMEN’S DECADE IN RELATION TO WOMEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS
The concept of the women’s decade was born in 1975 by the United Nations at the first World Conference on Women in Mexico City. From then on women have continued to be involved and participated in consultations on women’s rights and gender equality. Globally, women’s human rights are traceable to the International Bill of Rights upon which the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW or the Women’s Convention) is hinged. Aside from the existence of the Women’s Convention, in the dawn of a new millennium the United Nations developed a 15-year anti-poverty strategic plan focusing on eight development goals for member states known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Included in these goals are the concerns for women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Within the African Union, the adoption and subsequent entry into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2005 was a step in a purposeful direction for women’s rights in Africa. It is instructive to note that both the Women’s Convention and the African women’s protocol provide the legal framework for women’s human rights globally and on the African continent. The emergence of the African Women’s Decade only consolidates and sustains the recognition given to women’s demand for inclusion and accountability from African leaders.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGEMENT ON THE PLATFORM OF THE AFRICAN WOMEN’S DECADE
A critical examination of the AWD in the context of the thematic areas reveals that women’s rights organisations on the continent are already working on these concerns. The replication of the themes is an indication of the need for reinforcing our collective efforts to push for political will on the part of African leaders in ensuring these concerns are addressed. In the light of these developments, what opportunities exist for African women to effectively engage and feed into the AWD?
Existing international and regional normative framework on the rights and development of women
The international human rights instrument in its entirety adequately provided a platform for the promotion and protection of women’s human rights. Starting from the International Bill of Rights to ‘The Women’s Convention’, the Beijing Platform of Action, the Dakar Declaration and the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies, women have continually engaged on these platforms to demand for gender equality and freedom from discrimination and violence. Alongside these instruments are the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA), while Article 4 (l) of the Constitutive Act affirms the ‘promotion of gender equality’ as one of the AU guiding principles and the African women’s protocol specifically developed for Africans by Africans. The above instruments provided the normative framework for women to demand commitments such as ratification, domestication and implementation from their leaders, especially in light of the goals of the AWD.
Emergence of United Nations women
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. This is another feat for the women’s movement towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. Remarkably the coincidental mandate for both the AWD and the UN Women only reinforces the opportunities that can be capitalised on for Africa. In addition, the presence of 10 Africans constituting the 41-member executive board provides a platform for African women’s engagement on both the international and regional levels, hence the need for a back-and-forth strategy from global to local, and vice versa.
UN Millennium Development Goals
A critical examination of the goal of the AWD hinges on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, specifically MDG 3 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is the overarching concept describing the work constituted by women’s organising, and as a result becomes hydra-headed social, economic, political and cultural issues cutting across the thematic areas of focus of the AWD. The MDGs have marked their 10th anniversary and only have until 2015 to achieve their global vision. Observing that the AWD revolves around the MDGs and the first review of the AWD will occur simultaneously in 2015 with the first review on the gains of the decade, women must feed into the actualising of the MDGs. The attainment of one is tantamount to the global vision being actualised.
Increasing women’s political participation and leadership
All across the globe, electorates in different countries are beginning to recognise the possible role of women in politics and as a result, 2010 marks another remarkable increase in the number of female presidents in the world. With the emergence of the first female president in Brazil, women in Africa must recognise the gradual paradigm shift and continue in advocacy and in support of the increase in the political role of women in politics and decision-making. The existence of the first female African president in Liberia and the dominance of women in the Rwandan political sphere is a springboard for women.
Gender-responsive African Union
The composition of the AU, as opposed to the former OAU (Organisation of African Unity), is a remarkable reflection of the continent’s commitment to gender parity and respect for women’s rights. Presently, five of the 10 AU commissioners are women, including seven of 15 directors in the AU Commission. No other regional or international organisation has achieved this level of gender balance within the top echelons of leadership.
African year of peace
The African Union (AU) has declared the year 2010 the African year of peace, reiterating its commitment to further push the peace process in Africa, where millions of people are killed and displaced due to civil strife. Women bear the brunt of civil strife and are subjected to gender-based violence, especially through the use of rape as a weapon of war in most of the crisis-torn African regions. Relying on the commitment of the AU and the appeal to all stakeholders to intensify efforts in the area of peace and security, women must take advantage of the year of peace and security. Women will continue organising and advocating for more involvement of women in the post-conflict reconstruction and peace process all aimed at nation rebuilding.
African feminist movement
The emergence of the African feminist movement in 2006 is another strategic point of engagement. African feminists are also part of a global feminist movement against patriarchal oppression in all its manifestations. The African feminist experiences are linked to those of women all over Africa and have shared solidarity and support over the years. In the course of movement building over the years, and the attempt at institutionalising the movement, feminists have been able to network and build strategic alliances across the continent. In addition, the feminist movement work towards closing intergenerational gaps and mentoring young feminists to consolidate and sustain the struggle is commendable. The already existing platform for young women engaging serves as a means to an end and covers the AWD thematic concern over young women’s movement building.
ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS AND THE SOLIDARITY FOR AFRICAN WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN AFRICA (SOAWR) COALITION
The present decade provides an opportunity for civil society organisations and the SOAWR Coalition to pilot the affairs of women’s empowerment and gender equality. How far we will go is determined by our strategic direction and positioning as partners and stakeholders.
ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
Popularising and demystifying the AWD
Civil society organisations well-informed about the AWD have a responsibility of sensitising the continent on the importance of the decade and its significance in causing a paradigm shift in the societal perception on women. Most importantly, the 10 thematic areas should be simplified in an abridged form for grassroots engagement.
Aligning our programmes to AWD’s vision
The thematic focus of the AWD presently revolves around the concerns of women and as a result, civil society should align its programmes, projects and organising to reflect any of the 10 themes of the AWD based on its areas of expertise and in solidarity for the celebration of the decade.
Pressurising the political will of African leaders
Advocacy on a renewed commitment to all women’s human rights and gender policies and laws must continue. African leaders are quick to sign international instruments and adopt gender policies for the progress of the continent. However, trado-cultural obstacles influence the ratification or domestication of such international or regional instruments. Domestication is key to strategising and ensuring the implementation of governments’ commitment to women’s human rights. We only fail to hold the government accountable in the absence of a domestic law against women’s discrimination and oppression. The actualising of the AWD will not build a foundation on anything in the absence of a legal framework for the implementation process.
Organising via thematic clusters
The formation of thematic clusters by interested individuals and organisations having expertise on each thematic area of focus is necessary to enable a simultaneous engagement of issues on the side of the CSOs (civil society organisations) rather than the mere celebration of a thematic focus yearly till the end of the decade.
Role of SOAWR Coalition
Coordinating the AWD civil society network
The coalition should organise and coordinate a common front of all interested African networkers – both individuals and organisations – for the AWD to liaise with the AU and other stakeholders like the relevant UN systems and the working committees at the regional, national and local levels. This will provide a platform where the voice of other non-visible organisations or interested women’s activists will feed into the process.
Documenting and sharing best practices in Africa
The coalition can act as a resource base in documenting successful strategies from across Africa, which it can disseminate to AWD networkers. This will provide a clearinghouse of strategies for replication or a scaling-up in different thematic areas for engagement.
AWD peer review mechanism
The coalition can undertake to organise a peer review mechanism once every two years to monitor the progress of the AU on a continental basis. Such a mechanism in place will fill in the gaps caused by the absence of any African commission on the status of women to embark on a periodic report on the rights of women in Africa.
This article has briefly examined the importance of the African Women’s Decade 2010–20 for women’s human rights and empowerment. The analysis of the decade provides a platform for a more critical engagement from both the global to the national levels and as a result this is a life opportunity for women to speak with one voice and be united in their struggles. The identified strategies only provide an in-road into how the best women’s collective can engage and reap a remarkable outcome and impact from the decade. Finally, a matrix is clearly established connecting international human rights, developmental efforts and Africa’s attempt to integrate women’s concerns into Africa’s politics. As a result it will not serve in the continental interest to dissect African women’s interest from the global outlook due to the interrelatedness of women’s concerns and agencies.
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* Monica Ighorodje is a programme officer at BAOBAB.
* BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights is a not-for-profit, non-governmental women's human rights organisation which focuses on women's legal rights issues under the three systems of law – customary, statutory and religious – in Nigeria. BAOBAB works and advocates to promote women's human rights, principally via improving knowledge and the exercise and development of rights.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 http://bit.ly/fI53TK, last visited on November 10th 2010
 http://tinyurl.com/2waoh59, last visited on November 10th 2010
 Concept Note on the Planning Meeting on the African Women’s Decade (AWD) at the margin of the 54th Session of the CSW, 2010, AU Office New York, USA
 The 10 themes of the AWD includes: Fighting Poverty and Economic empowerment of women and Entrepreneurship, Agriculture and Food security, Health, HIV/AIDS and Maternal Mortality, Education, Science and Technology, Environment and Sustainable development, Peace and Security, Governance and Legal Protection, Finance Gender and Budgeting, Women in Decision making Position and Energizing African Women’s movement and mentoring young women movement
 http://tinyurl.com/346elzy, Gender equity policies in the AU by Adams, Melinda, last visited on November 10th 2010
 http://tinyurl.com/32fwbay last visited on November 10th 2010
 http://tinyurl.com/23lb2z9 - UN Women Executive Board Elected: On 10 November 2010, Member States took the next step in enabling UN Women, the UN Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, to begin its work by electing countries to serve on its Executive Board. The 41 board members were selected on the following basis: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, 4 from Eastern Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 5 from Western Europe and 6 from contributing countries., last visited on November 10th 2010
 Brazil President – Elect Roussef Dilma pledges gender equality, Daily Trust newspaper, Tuesday November 2nd, 2010
 http://tinyurl.com/346elzy, Gender equity policies in the AU by Adams, Melinda, last visited on November 10th 2010
Advocating for women’s rights in Africa: Any new insights?
Norah Matovu Winyi
On 25 November 2010 members of the Solidarity for Women’s Rights in Africa Coalition (SOAWR Coalition) in collaboration with the African Union (AU) will commemorate five years since the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the protocol).
It has indeed been a long journey since the protocol was conceptualised, adopted in 2003 and finally came into force in November 2005 after the 15th country had deposited its instrument of ratification with the Africa Union. As we prepare ourselves for the five-year celebration, it is important to name 28 countries in Africa that have ratified the protocol. This is more than half the total number of countries in Africa and it is a very big achievement when compared to the status of several other human rights instruments and protocols that have been adopted by the AU in the last 10 years of its existence.
When the Protocol was adopted in 2003, many countries signed on to it as an indication that they were in agreement with its provisions. By the January 2005 AU summit, 21 countries had signed and only seven countries had ratified. By the end of the first three years after the adoption of the protocol, 26 countries had ratified the protocol. However, the process slowed down considerably and in 2009 not a single country of those that had not ratified took the required steps to complete the process.
The members of the SOAWR Coalition, together with their partners, continued to lobby consistently the member states to ratify the protocol at the January and June 2009 summits held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Sirte, Libya, respectively. We became familiar faces to the members of the Permanent Representatives Council (the ambassadors resident in Addis Ababa) and to most of the ministers of foreign affairs. They knew what we were to say before we said it and were in agreement with us that their respective countries should ratify the protocol. It seemed like we were talking to the already converted. However, the reality was that upon return to their respective countries nothing had happened by the end of 2009. It was evident that it was time for the coalition to change strategy and tactics, to change the focus from using the AU summit as the main site for engagement to strengthening linkages with the key stakeholders at the national level. We also narrowed down the countries to target in 2010 to four, including Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia.
It is gratifying to note that as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the protocol, two more countries have ratified. The change of strategy by the coalition yielded concrete results. Uganda and Kenya ratified the protocol on 25 July and 13 of October 2010 respectively. However, the emerging issue of great concern to SOAWR coalition members is that the two ratifications in 2010 come with reservations on Article 14 of the protocol, among others, which provides for women’s sexual and reproductive health. We need to interrogate and understand what the root causes are of this development.
In 2008 the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) published a book titled ‘Advocating for Women’s Rights: Experiences from Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition’. In the book the SOAWR Coalition members trace the origins of the campaign and their experiences that led to the protocol being the first African Union human rights instrument to come into force only after a period of two years. There was definitely goodwill and commitment on the part of African leaders and member states of the African Union to usher in a new regime for the protection and promotion of women’s rights in Africa as part of the accelerated development agenda for the region. Using different strategies like the naming and shaming cards, high-level delegations to the Africa Union summits and the use of peer pressure, the protocol came into force on 25 November 2005.
The members of the coalition reviewed their strategies and agreed that there was a need for more work to be done at the national level. This is exactly what the SOAWR Coalition members focused on in 2010, and it is a cause of a big celebration. We intensified our lobbying and improved our engagement with the key ministries and officers concerned at the national level.
There are a number of lessons that the members of the coalition have drawn from the experiences of 2010. Why did the process of ratification take five years in Uganda and Kenya to be completed? Uganda is a progressive country with a radical constitution that guarantees women’s rights and prohibits all cultures and practices that hinder the advancement of women and girls. It outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex. Uganda is one of the first countries in Africa that attained the 30 per cent representation of women in parliament and at all the other levels of local government, right to the community level. The Ugandan constitution is in line with the provisions of the protocol. Why then the five-year delay?
With hindsight it is obvious that we have a lot of work to do to popularise and democratise information about human rights, and entrench the concept of equality of men and women in people’s minds. Though the principle of equality and non-discrimination underlay all the rights guaranteed by the constitution, many technocrats within public service are not fully aware of the implications of the constitutional order that was ushered in by the 1995 Constitution of Uganda. Their personal beliefs, socialisation and religious inclinations make it difficult for them to take the right and appropriate decisions to ensure that the state as a secular organ meets its obligations of protecting, enforcing and fulfilling the rights of every person.
Therefore, the need for human rights education and consciousness-raising at all levels cannot be over-emphasised. The government must show commitment to train its cadres so that they ably act on its behalf in the interest of the people. Women’s rights have for a long time been politicised and this must change. African women should not longer be denied their human rights. This is the main purpose for having global and regional standard-setting governance bodies that can adopt human rights instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol on Women’s Rights in Africa.
We are aware that the Catholic bishops in Uganda categorically stated that they cannot support the ratification of the protocol in 2007. Other religious groupings also denounced the protocol, mainly because of its provisions on women’s right to health, including sexual and reproductive health. This article recognises the agency of a woman, her right to make choices about her own body as a sexual being and her unique role of bringing life into this world. A woman’s right to health includes among others making choices about whether to get married or not; to choose a partner; to have children or not, when to have them and at what intervals; make choices about sexuality and protecting herself from infections; and to access safe abortion services where her life or health is in danger.
Though there are no provisions in the laws of Uganda that contravene the provisions of the protocol, under this article the protocol was ratified with reservation on Article 14 (1) (a) and (c) and 14 (2) (c). This was done despite efforts to draw the attention of those concerned in the relevant ministries that there is nothing in the laws of Uganda today that contradicts the provisions of the protocol. Education and understanding the concept of human rights are required, as well as constantly being aware that the state is a secular organ that provides for the protection and fulfilment of the rights for all irrespective of their sex, ethnic origins and cultures, religious beliefs and social or economic status.
Therefore, a political commitment to take bold steps on issues of human rights is important. There have to be well-informed and sensitised public officers willing to follow up on the commitments made by the government on behalf of its people. The rights advocates must also be willing to follow through with the processes and provide technical support and advice where it is required.
Moving on to Kenya, it has also been five years since the country signed on to the protocol. There has been a lot of feet-dragging, politicisation of the issues and failure of those concerned to follow through with the process to ensure that the head of state pronouncements on the promotion of gender equality are fully implemented. In the case of Kenya, the cabinet had made a decision that Kenya would ratify the protocol. However, it took two and a half years for Kenya to complete the ratification process, with a number of reservations, including one on Article 14 on women’s right to health.
In both cases the SOAWR Coalition members worked closely with the national-level lobbies to ensure that the ratification process was completed. We called upon our leaders to account to the women of Uganda and Kenya as the hosts of two very important AU events, the 15th Ordinary Session of the AU summit of heads of states and government, held in July 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, and the continental launch of the African Women’s Decade, hosted by Kenya in Nairobi over 10 to 15 October 2010. The two events provided the opportunity to the AU and member states to put pressure on the two governments to complete the ratification process before hosting the events.
The July 2010 AU summit focused on maternal and child health in Africa. It was therefore necessary that Uganda, as the host of the summit, demonstrate leadership by recognising the AU as the main regional governance body and its role as a standard-setting organ. One way to do so was by ratifying the protocol that guarantees the rights of women in Africa, including the right to sexual and reproductive health. The leaders in Uganda completed the process and deposited the instrument of ratification on 25 July 2010, two days prior to the opening of the AU summit.
Having a clear focus as a coalition made it possible for the regional actors to work strategically with the national coalition members and their allies to lobby consistently for the ratification of the protocol in Uganda and Kenya. The cooperation of the responsible officers in the Ministry of Gender, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in both countries was instrumental to complete the ratification. It remains a challenge for all of us though to work hard to ensure that Uganda and Kenya remove the reservations in the shortest time possible. The right to life and health are fundamental to the realisation of all the other rights articulated in the protocol. As part of the domestication process of the protocol, it is important the Kenya and Uganda review their laws on the right to health so that this matter can be put to rest once for all.
In terms of new insights as we move forward, we need to remain focused on a few countries and work with them diligently to complete the process. Secondly, we have to work with all the key ministries concerned and identify the allies who are able to navigate the bureaucracy within government. Thirdly, we need to use opportune moments to raise awareness about the responsibilities of government to its citizens to enjoy and fulfil their rights. The other insight is that we must be fully aware of the procedures and systems so that if need be we provide the technical support that the public officers may need. Last but not least, we must remain relentless in the pursuit of rights for all.
The Africa Women’s Decade (2010–20) (AWD) provides the greatest opportunity to ensure that the 24 countries that have not ratified the protocol do so in the first three years of the decade. Our target is to achieve universal ratification with no reservations by 2013. We appeal to the African Union Commission (AUC) to popularise this message and work towards the achievement of this target.
As the head of the Gender, Women and Development Directorate at the AUC said at the NGO forum held on 10 October 2010 during the week-long launch of the AWD, the focus of the decade is action, action and more action. The frameworks are already in place and it is time to implement them in full so that African women can enjoy and have their rights fulfilled. Therefore, for the 26 countries that have already ratified the protocol, the focus should be on domestication and full implementation.
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* Norah Matovu Winyi is the executive director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). She is a passionate leader who has work on issues of human rights and women’s advancement for a long time.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Learning lessons from Kenya’s ratification process
In early 2003, Equality Now hosted a conference of women’s groups to organise a campaign to lobby the African Union (AU) to adopt a protocol on women’s rights. The lobbying was successful and the finished document (The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa) was officially adopted by the AU on 11 July 2003 in Maputo.
On 25 November 2005, having been ratified by the required 15 member nations of the AU, the protocol entered into force. Of the other 53 member countries in the AU, the heads of states of 45 countries signed the protocol. As of December 2009, 27 countries had ratified and deposited the protocol. Kenya was among the countries that had signed, but not ratified the protocol.
In May 2007, during the 41st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights held in Accra, Ghana, the Kenyan government reported that it had ratified the protocol. The exact words of the minister for justice and constitutional affairs at the time were: ‘I can confidently say that the instrument will be deposited by the end of June.’ Nothing came of the minister’s pronouncement.
The State Law Office did confirm that the protocol was debated and received cabinet approval for its ratification. The approval, however, was said to be subject to reservations - particularly regarding article 14 on the issue of reproductive health rights. (The Protocol explicitly sets forth the reproductive right of women to medical abortion when pregnancy results from rape or incest or when the continuation of pregnancy endangers the health or life of the mother).
The office of the secretary of cabinet and head of civil service also confirmed that there was a cabinet approval and that it was communicated to the foreign affairs ministry back in May 2006. The latter was expected to prepare and deposit the instrument for ratification. It was frustrating that the legal office in the ministry had been giving contradictory information, with claims that the approval had been communicated but got ‘lost’, yet other sources claiming no such approval had been received.
In Kenya, while strides have been made towards protection of women’s rights, violations still remain rampant. In particular, violence against women continues to be trivialised and does not receive priority in government policies.
Reproductive health continues to defer to societal values. Funding to address women’s issues is constrained by conditionalities and power dynamics. A number of policies and laws have sought to protect the rights of women, but many of these remain only in draft form: the Marriage Bill, the Matrimonial Property Bill and Family Health and Reproductive Bill all contain provisions for stronger protection of women’s rights. The Gender Policy, The Children’s Act, The Employment Act; The Land Policy; The National Human Rights Policy; The Sexual Offences Act and the Education Act all have provisions that seek to enhance women’s rights.
On the road to implementing the protocol, numerous lessons were learnt. Top of the list was the need for there to be a clear roadmap on the ratification process. There was no clarity on this process. This allowed various stakeholders to avoid taking responsibility for the implementation process and instead engage in a blame game.
Another lesson learnt was the need for synergy, since different institutions had different areas of expertise, as well as different contact points, which together could have given an effective push for the ratification of the protocol. The SOAWR network, spearheaded by The Coalition on Violence Against Women was an effective lobby group, which exerted the necessary pressure on the government to ratify the protocol.
The third lesson learnt was about the new and innovative ways in which pressure could be exerted on government to ratify the protocol. Previously, short of engaging the relevant ministries in the process, organisations were at a loss as to how to force ratification. Methods such as analysing already domesticated laws that add weight to such strategies were used to bargain for a more favourable outlook.
Fourth, popularisation of the protocol came in handy. FEMNET had radio shows on a local media station in the national language, Kiswahili. The Crossroads drama had six episodes and was part of the popularisation of the protocol. Each episode ran for 20 minutes and highlighted key women’s rights issues contained in the provisions of the protocol. The discussants were SOAWR members who highlighted the key messages after each episode and also answered questions.
Timing was of the essence and this is the fifth lesson. Kenya was hosting the African Women’s Decade. The use of this platform allowed pressure to be exerted on the government to ratify the protocol. The lesson here was in learning to take advantage of opportune meetings as a way of building international pressure on the government.
The protocol is fairly holistic in its approach to women’s rights. It will act as a catalyst for fast tracking change as it gives women an avenue to make claims. Its African focus offers an opportunity to take an indigenous perspective on gender. Since it has a reporting requirement, this will improve accountability. As a recommendation for the rights enshrined in the protocol to be realised, national action plans supported by budgetary allocation and human resource capacity are necessary for effective implementation.
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* Regina Mwanza is programme officer (regional advocacy) for The Coalition on Violence Against Women-Kenya (COVAW-K)
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
State reporting key to implementation of women’s protocol
Five years after the entry into force of the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Women’s Protocol), it is time for the 29 state parties to take stock of their success, or lack thereof, in fulfilling their obligations under the regional treaty. The most effective means through which to undertake such an exercise is by engaging constructively with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights through the process of state reporting in accordance with article 26 of the Women’s protocol which states:
‘States Parties shall ensure the implementation of this Protocol at national level, and in their periodic reports submitted in accordance with article 62 of the African Charter, indicate the legislative and other measures undertaken for the full realisation of the rights herein recognised.’
In the absence of such an exercise, as is the case with the current status quo, what indication is there that the momentum towards the realisation of women’s rights in Africa did not end with state parties upon ratification? What legislative, administrative, institutional, and other measures have been taken at the national level subsequent to ratifying the protocol that have brought state parties closer to compliance with their respective treaty obligations? What are the challenges confronted by states with respect to implementing the provisions of the protocol? What actions need to be taken? How are states monitoring implementation of the protocol – or are they? How do we know that ratification, on their part, of the women’s rights protocol was truly indicative of a commitment to improve the lives of women in their countries? Without the drafting, submission, and consideration of state reports, the answers to such questions are elusive.
In the absence of more effective ‘enforcement’ mechanisms in the regional human rights system, the state reporting process, is the means through which states account for the women’s rights situation in their countries measured against guarantees enshrined in the protocol. If it is utilised as intended, that is, as a tool for national reflection and ‘stock-taking’ of measures to promote and protect women’s rights at the national level – and as instrument to stimulate dialogue between the State Party, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, from which actions can be identified for advancing women’s rights at the national level – then the mechanism is indeed of great value with respect to the advancement of women’s rights on the continent. However, unfortunately to date, it has been under-prioritised with respect to the African Charter, and overlooked entirely since the protocol entered into force and the initial states parties became due to report.
With the assistance of recently adopted guidelines, it is hoped that this obligation will be taken more seriously by states parties, not only as an indication of commitment to implementing the protocol’s provisions, but as a sincere attempt to promote and protect the rights of women. The guidelines for state reporting under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa were recently adopted by the African Commission. It is envisioned that these guidelines will facilitate –and inspire – compliance with the reporting procedure. The guidelines were developed by a regional working group of experts, including the special rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa, which was initiated and coordinated by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, after an identified need to articulate clear guidance on the content of state reports under the protocol. After a survey of reports submitted under the charter by states parties to the protocol, indicating a failure on the part of states to elaborate measures undertaken towards the realisation of the rights in the protocol, a clear need for explicit guidance for states in this respect was identified.
The guidelines outline specifically, what information should be included in the state party’s initial report and periodic reports thereafter, which are somewhat less cumbersome as they build on the initial report and focus on progress since the last report. The guidelines group the provisions of the protocol into eight themes: Equality and non-discrimination; protection of women from violence; marriage; health and reproductive rights; economic, social and cultural rights; right to peace; protection of women in armed conflict; and rights of specially protected women’s groups. With respect to each theme, states should explain the legislative, administrative, institutional, programmatic, educational, and other measures taken to implement the respective provisions as well as provide information on available remedies. Furthermore, they must indicate the extent to which the rights are accessible to all women. Challenges experienced with respect to implementation should be included in the report and importantly, disaggregated statistics should be provided.
Human rights advocates on the continent are well aware that reporting under the African Charter to date has been less than enthusiastic, whereby despite the requirement to submit a report every two years on the measures taken to realise the rights in the charter, states parties, in general, fail to submit timely reports and several states neglect this obligation altogether. Women’s rights have been addressed generally, and only in relation to article 18(3) of the charter on non-discrimination, and limited to legislative and institutional measures without analysis of their impact towards substantive equality.
While human and financial resources may constrain states from fulfilling their obligation to submit their reports, it is more a problem of political will and a misunderstanding of the nature of the process. State reporting provides an opportunity to reflect on progress and impediments towards guaranteeing human rights under the charter – and more specifically, women’s rights, under the Women’s Protocol, and to engage in a constructive dialogue with regional human rights experts, namely, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, despite this, it is too often rather perceived as an unnecessary burden. Moreover, the relationship between the commission and the state party is viewed by the latter as adversarial rather than cooperative. The commission however, does not act as a jury during the constructive dialogue, but rather as advisors, who ultimately draft and issue recommendations that if heeded, can bring about positive change at the national level. However, in order for the recommendations to be as concrete and actionable as possible to stimulate such change at the national level, they must be based on sufficient information from the state party report – and NGO shadow reports. In other words, the more that the commission receives, the more advice and guidance it can provide. State reporting is not an end in itself, but rather in integral part of a cycle whereby: 1) a report is submitted; 2) the report (and all supplementary information) is considered by the commission; 3) actions are identified towards strengthened compliance with state obligations and included in the concluding observations of the commission; and 4) the cycle begins again only this time from the starting point of the end of the previous cycle, namely with a focus on measures taken since the last report including actions taken to follow up on the commission’s recommendations.
Evidence of this cyclical process working at the UN level exists. Sierra Leone, for example, enacted three laws in 2007 – the Registration of Customary Marriages and Divorces Act, the Devolution of Estates Act, and the Domestic Violence Act – after the CEDAW Committee, in their concluding observations earlier the same year, noted the absence of such legislation based on information gleaned from Sierra Leone’s report to the committee. They recommended that the country ‘place the highest priority’ on addressing this legislative gap, which stimulated legislative reform at the national level towards the advancement of gender equality. The African Commission is equally mandated and qualified to direct states towards legislative reform and other necessary measures towards the advancement of women’s rights as guaranteed in the women’s protocol.
With respect to civil society advocacy, it is time, five years after the protocol entered into force, and after 29 ratifications, to increase efforts towards strengthening the process of engagement between State Parties and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights through the reporting process. The guidelines must be disseminated amongst relevant stakeholders and States must be held accountable to fulfilling their reporting obligations. Civil society should use entry points for its own engagement in this important process, such as through the submission of shadow reports, and monitoring follow-up of the commission’s concluding recommendations. The potential of this mechanism is far from tapped on the continent and invigorating it may be the key to moving, slowly, from ratification to implementation of the protocol.
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* Karen Stefiszyn is head of the Gender Unit at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Reporting rights, protecting rights
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted in 2003, entered into force in 2005, and has to date been ratified by 29 African states. Provided States fulfill their obligations under the protocol, it has the potential to play a key role within the human rights framework designed to address gender inequality and advance women’s rights in Africa.
When working towards the realisation of African women’s rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has an important role to play in monitoring state compliance with the protocol through consideration of state reports. When submitting their periodic reports to the ACHPR on implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), state parties to the women’s protocol are obliged to include reference to the legislative and other measures undertaken for the full realisation of the rights recognised therein.
THE NEED FOR REPORTING GUIDELINES
Pursuant to article 26 of the women’s protocol, read together with article 62 of the African Charter, each State party to the protocol has agreed to submit every two years, from the day the protocol entered into force, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures taken with a view to ensure full realisation of the rights and freedoms contained in the protocol.
However, a recent review of state reports revealed that most state parties that have submitted their reports in compliance with provisions of the African Charter, have failed to provide detailed information on their compliance with the protocol and efforts to realise the rights in that treaty. Such failure may, in part, be attributed to the absence of guidelines on state reporting under the women’s protocol, apart from the existing guidelines on state reporting under the African Charter. Accordingly, the University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights last year identified the need to support the ACHPR in the development of such guidelines in order to promote strengthened state reporting and facilitate subsequent meaningful engagement between state parties and the ACHPR on issues of women’s rights.
The Centre for Human Rights collaborated with the ACHPR to convene a gender expert meeting in Pretoria from 6-7 August 2009. During the course of this meeting, invited experts and members of the ACHPR drafted reporting guidelines for the women’s protocol. These draft guidelines were subsequently submitted to the ACHPR for its approval and adoption.
The ACHPR adopted the reporting guidelines at its 46th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, the Gambia from 11-25 November 2010.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE REPORTING GUIDELINES
The guidelines provide that a State party to the African Charter and the women’s protocol must submit its report in two parts: Part A, dealing with the rights in the African Charter, and Part B, dealing with the rights in the protocol. The following guidelines are applicable in the preparation of Part B:
When reporting for the first time under the protocol, states must provide information regarding the following:
i. Process of preparation:
To what extent was civil society involved in the preparation of the report?
ii. Background information:
A brief description of the state’s overall legal framework as it relates to women’s rights.
- Is the women’s protocol directly applicable before national courts or does it have to be incorporated into domestic law? In practice, have the provisions of the protocol been invoked before national courts and tribunals?
- If a state has entered any reservations to the protocol, it should explain the effect of the reservations (if any) on the enjoyment of the rights protected by the protocol. In addition, such a state should indicate how much time is needed before reservations may be lifted.
- A brief description of state institutions, if any, relevant to the protocol and information on their budgetary allocation.
-General information on gender budgeting, gender mainstreaming and any relevant gender audit of laws or law reform efforts.
iii. Specific provisions of the protocol:
In respect of each of the provisions of the protocol (which have been thematically structured), states should explain the measures of implementation that they have undertaken with regard to the following:
- Legislation (What legislative measures has the state taken to give effect to the particular rights guaranteed in the protocol?)
- Administrative measures (What administrative measures, including budgetary allocations, has the state taken to give effect to the particular rights guaranteed in the protocol?)
- Institutions (What institutional mechanisms are in place to ensure that the particular rights guaranteed in the protocol are given effect?)
- Policies and programmes (What policies and programmes has the state adopted in order to give effect to the rights in question?)
- Public education (What public education and awareness-raising activities has the state undertaken with respect to the rights in question?)
- Any other measures (What other general measures, which are not covered in the points above, has the state adopted to ensure the protection of the particular rights in question?)
- Remedies (What are the available avenues for redress in the event of a breach of the particular rights provided in the protocol? Have any cases been decided in respect to each of the rights; and if so, have these decisions been implemented?)
- Challenges experienced (What are the challenges that the state has faced in the implementation of the particular rights, and what steps have been taken to overcome these challenges?)
- Accessibility (Are the particular rights accessible to all women, especially rural/impoverished women?)
- Disaggregated statistics (Where relevant, the state should provide relevant data and statistics disaggregated by gender in so far as the right in question is concerned.)
iv. With reference to the measures of implementation above, states must report on all the provisions of the protocol, preferably as grouped under the following eight themes:
2. Protection of women from violence
3. Rights relating to marriage
4. Health and reproductive rights
5. Economic, social and cultural rights
6. Right to peace
7. Protection of women in armed conflicts
8. Rights of specially protected women’s groups
Subsequent reports should cover the following:
- Measures taken to implement recommendations in the concluding observations of the commission emanating from the examination of the previous report.
- Measures taken to publicise and disseminate the concluding observations adopted after the examination of the previous report.
- Progress made in the implementation of the protocol since the last report.
- The challenges faced in the implementation of the protocol since the last report, and steps taken to address these challenges.
- Future plans in regard to the implementation of the protocol.
- Measures that have been taken to implement recommendations made during country visits by the special mechanism on women’s rights.
STATE REPORTING – BURDEN OR OPPORTUNITY?
States may view reporting obligations as a formality - a necessary, but sometimes unpleasant, burden. This would be particularly true when elements of reporting fatigue set in. Reporting fatigue is likely to arise when states are faced with a multitude of reporting obligations flowing from a wide range of international and regional legal and policy frameworks. States may find that there is too little technical capacity and too few human and financial resources to ensure that adequate attention is devoted to the preparation and submission of each and every report.
OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED BY STATE REPORTING
Negative perceptions of reporting obligations may change when States recognise the process of satisfying a state’s international reporting obligations as an occasion for achieving a variety of objectives. When regarded as an integral part of an ongoing process designed to promote and enhance respect for human rights rather than an isolated event merely intended to comply with the requirements of an international treaty, valuable opportunities arise.
So, for instance, states may regard this as an opportunity to:
- Reaffirm its commitment to respect the human rights of its own citizens and to reassert that commitment in the domestic political forum;
- Take stock of the current domestic situation, with the assistance of civil society and other stakeholders as appropriate;
- Adopt necessary measures aimed at remedying any shortcomings that may have been identified; and
- Proclaim to the international community its seriousness about human rights standards.
FUNCTIONS OF STATE REPORTING
State reporting serves a variety of functions, among which are the following:
State reporting provides a useful process and forum where governments are required to answer to their responsibilities. Ideally, it presents an avenue for constructive dialogue. Arguably, the main purpose of state reporting is to establish a framework for constructive dialogue between the state concerned and the monitoring body. As such, state reporting should not be construed as a confrontational process between the state and the monitoring body concerned. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity for the state and the monitoring body to constructively explore avenues whereby the state can better implement a particular treaty.
In terms of its monitoring function, reporting enables the monitoring of a state’s compliance with its human rights obligations under a specific treaty. Ideally, the preparation of a state report should go beyond a description of the legal formalities in order to properly articulate the situation in practice. Reports should aim at striking a balance between the situation in theory and that in practice.
State reporting strengthens and supports public scrutiny of a state’s performance with regard to its human rights obligations. The preparation of a state report must thus be seen not only as intended for an international forum but also the domestic audience. This is because most human rights instruments seek to promote and enhance both the international and domestic accountability of a state.
As such, reporting may provide a forum whereby groups within countries may monitor the progress of their governments and question this progress. Often opportunities to do so are not readily available through local processes. In this regard, reporting also serves to emphasise the importance of thorough investigation of overt and covert violations of the rights provided for in a particular treaty.
State parties to particular treaties are required to not only report on the progress that they have made, but also problems that they may face. Thus, an opportunity is created for acknowledging concerns and challenges. States should provide a frank assessment of factors that hinder the implementation of rights within their jurisdiction.
The adoption of the reporting guidelines heralds an exciting new phase in the life of the women’s protocol. The foundation has been laid and it now remains for states, civil society and the ACHPR to ensure that state reporting in terms of the protocol becomes a framework for ongoing and constructive dialogue.
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* Elize Delport is a South African gender activist, human rights lawyer and member of SOAWR. She is an extraordinary lecturer at the University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights and teaches the human rights component of the Masters Programme in Women’s Law hosted by the University of Zimbabwe. She is a member of the governing council of the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies in Banjul, the Gambia.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
For a detailed and current list of ratifications, see http://bit.ly/dV2ONO
 See, in general, concept note prepared by the Centre for Human Rights for Gender Expert meeting. This concept note may be found at: http://www.chr.up.ac.za/index.php/gender-documents.html
 See, in general, http://bit.ly/gTJYwY
 The full text of the Reporting Guidelines (in English and French) may be found at http://bit.ly/gSURXC
 See the full text of the Guidelines for more details regarding the provisions grouped under these eight themes.
 In terms of legislative, policy and political frameworks relevant to women in Africa, most countries would (also) have to prepare reports with regard to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality. Should it enter into force, the SADC Gender and Development has the potential to create yet another reporting obligation.
 See, in general, http://www.iwraw-ap.org/committee/reporting.htm
 For a general discussion on State reporting, see http://bit.ly/hVAYPI
Assessing women’s rights in Nigeria
The Protocol to the Africa Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa is a unique piece of legislation because it takes into consideration the provisions of other international instruments on human rights that touch on women’s rights, the need for equality and freedom from discrimination. It also takes into consideration the peculiar circumstances of women in Africa and their vital role in development. The protocol certainly could have been the key to a new dawn for Nigerian women, but the sad thing is that the reality seems a far cry away. You can only stare and wonder if some hearts thought before they signed.
This paper seeks to appraise the unique provisions contained in the protocol, assess the current situation of women in Nigeria and ask, ‘How far has the protocol helped the situation of women’s rights in Nigeria? What needs to be strengthened and what are the glaring gaps in implementation?’
The protocol was adopted on 11 July 2003 by the AU to strengthen the promotion and protection of women’s rights. The preamble highlights several considerations necessitating the protocol. These considerations include a recognition of Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which enshrines the principle of non-discrimination. It includes Article 18, which calls on all states to eliminate discrimination against women. It also includes provisions which recognise women’s essential role in development, the principle of promoting gender equality as enshrined in the Consultative Act of the AU as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. The considerations also take into account other relevant declarations, resolutions and decisions which underline the commitment of African states to ensure the full participation of African women as equal partners in Africa’s development.
By virtue of the protocol, Nigerian women are guaranteed the right to dignity; the right to life, integrity and security of persons; freedom from harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women; equal rights in marriage; equal rights in cases of separation, divorce and annulment; the right to equal protection and benefit of the law;the right to participate in political and decision making process; the right to a peaceful existence and participation in the promotion and maintenance of peace; the right to education and training; equal opportunity in work and career advancement; the right to health, including sexual and reproductive rights; the right to food security; the right to adequate housing; the right to a positive cultural context; the right to a healthy and sustainable environment; the right to sustainable development; widow’s rights; the right to equitable share in inheritance; the right of elderly women to special protection and freedom from violence; the right of women with disabilities to special protection and freedom from violence; the right of women in distress to special protection; and a right of remedy to any woman whose right or freedom has been violated.
The obligation of the Nigerian government under the protocol includes ensuring that women enjoy the rights mentioned above through the following actions:
(a) Enactment of appropriate legislation to combat all forms of discrimination, and specifically to prohibit all forms of violence against women; to ensure prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women; to prohibit and punish all forms of genital mutilation; to guarantee that no marriage takes place without free will and between consenting adults; to ensure that men and women have the same right during separation, divorce and annulment of marriage; and to guarantee equal opportunity in work and career advancement.
(b) Appropriate and effective education, administration, prohibition, protection, promotion, institutional, implementation and regulatory measures.
(c) Integrating a gender perspective in policy decision.
(d) Modifying social and cultural patterns of conduct of women and men through public education, information and communication.
(e) Positive action to promote participation of women in politics and decision-making.
(f) Provision of effective remedies.
(g) Ensuring full implementation at the national level.
(h) Providing budgetary and other resources necessary for full and effective implementation.
So far, some of the positive actions taken by the Nigeria government are:
- Adoption of a gender policy in 2007;
- Establishment of science schools for girls;
- Establishment of women development centres in 36 states;
- Adoption of the Trafficking in Person’s (Prohibition) Law Enforcement and Administration Act;
- Establishment of a national agency for the prohibition of trafficking in persons;
- Adoption of a national policy on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and female genital mutilation.
Aspects hindering the rights of women include:
- The patriarchal structure of Nigerian society;
- Failure of the National Assembly to pass the Abolition Of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women In Nigeria And Other Related Matters Bill and failure to pass a national bill prohibiting violence against women.
- Failure of the government to domesticate the protocol or enact appropriate legislation necessary for bringing to pass its obligations and undertakings under the protocol is worrying.
The questions that come to mind are: Why did the Nigerian government sign the protocol? Did the government sign as a mere formality, knowing that the protocol could be frustrated by non-domestication by virtue of Section 12 of the Constitution? Or is there just a divorce between the arm of government that signs international instrument and the arm that domesticates these agreements? Or do we align our thinking with Richard Falk, who says: ‘For various reasons associated with public opinion and prides, governments are quite ready to endorse (even formerly) standards of human rights despite their unwillingness to uphold these standards in practice.’
THE NIGERIAN REALITY
Despite the provisions of the protocol recognising and guaranteeing rights and the obligation of the Nigeria government, the lives of Nigerian women is yet to attain a commensurate level of improvement. Women rank lower than men in all indices of development in the country.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL WELFARE RIGHTS
Paul Ogunyomi, writing on the typologies of discriminative practices in the Nigerian workplace, identified sex discrimination as being prevalent in Nigeria. This takes the form of a woman being treated less favourably than a man on the grounds of sex, or indirectly by conditions applied equally to men and women which are detrimental to women.
Research reveals that adequate maternity leave is important to enable the women’s body to recover after delivery. A study of the Nigerian workplace has revealed that ‘…gap is identified between law and practice with wide patterns of protection resulting in some women enjoying good benefits, while others are wholly or partly unprotected within the Nigeria workplace…’
Women still have a higher unemployment rate than men. Those employed are concentrated in the informal sectors like agriculture, petty trading and services. Home-making is still not recognised or compensated.
HEALTH AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS
With a maternal mortality ratio of 704 to 1,000 per 100,000 live births, Nigeria continues to have one of the highest levels of maternal mortality. Incidences of gender-based violence have health consequences and result in health complications including miscarriages, long term disabilities, unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Access to education is still low, especially in the northern parts of the country where withdrawal of girls for the purposes of marriage or for care giving is still practiced. According to ActionAid, ‘…educational developments in northern Nigeria is lagging behind other parts of the country on practically every indicator, number of facilities, transition rates, girls enrolment, number of teachers…The girls are hawking wares or doing household chores…Low girls enrolment is bound to aggravate gender imbalances that skews present and future opportunities against women.’ Nation wide, gender gaps still exist at the higher levels of education.
RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL AND DECISION MAKING PROCESSES
Significant advances have been made  in the area of women’s participation in governance, yet the political participation of women in Nigeria remains one of the lowest in the world. Women’s participation in government is still below the 35 per cent stipulated in the gender policy.
MARRIAGE, SEPARATION, DIVORCE AND WOMEN’S PROPERTY RIGHTS
Although Article 7 of the protocol provides for both parties of a marriage to enjoy equal rights within and after the marriage, in issues of custody and access to an equitable share of the joint property deriving from the marriage, this is not the case. Three forms of marriages are recognized in Nigeria - customary, islamic and legislative marriage. The reality of women married under customary and Islamic law has not yet been affected by the protocol. A woman married under customary law is entitled to be provided with a home by her husband as long as the marriage lasts. She is also entitled to use her husband’s property, but cannot dispose of it as her own. The right to be provided with a house by her husband terminates upon divorce. Upon divorce, a woman married under customary law has no claim over a house jointly owned by her husband. Her position is not helped by the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act in respect of maintenance and settlement of property, which expressly excludes the application of its provisions to marriages under customary and Islamic law. However in the case of women married under law, where she is able to produce documents showing she made a contribution to the property, she is entitled to the part of the property commensurate to her contribution. Many women are denied custody and access to their children. Among those under Islamic law, child marriage is still prevalent. According to BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, ‘…girls are often married between the ages of 9-14. The occurrence of child marriage is common.’
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The protocol guarantees women freedom from violence. In reality, there is a prevalence of violence against women in our society. Violence takes several forms, including domestic violence, early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, widow torture and inheritance related violence. There are also direct forms of violence against women in Nigeria. For instance, in discussing the impact of the activities of militias, cults and security forces on women in the Niger Delta, Emem Okon states, ‘…When a culture of armed gang violence takes root in a society that does not recognise and respect women’s rights, the result is a higher level of gender-based violence against women. In this case, the proliferation of guns in the Niger Delta has increased the risk that girls and women will be targets of sexual assault.’ In another section of the same article, she stated that, ‘The consequence has been disastrous, as women have suffered massive massacre, rape, sexual abuse, social psychological trauma…aggravated poverty, unemployment, hunger, anger, low self esteem, bitterness, frustration, desperation, fear, tension and more conflicts.’
Some violence is performed by law enforcement agents. This can be direct or indirect. Direct assault by security officers is becoming prevalent. For instance, a case was brought before the Gwagwalada High Court in Abuja in which a police man raped two girls. In the Odioma community of Brass Local Government in the Niger Delta, Amnesty International reported a case where a rape victim described how she was raped alongside her mother by security officers. Two-months pregnant at the time, she lost her baby.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW
The Constitution and certain laws in Nigeria still contain discriminatory aspects. For instance, Section 26(2) of the Constitution does not allow a Nigerian woman to transmit her nationality to her husband if he is a foreigner. Section 55 of the Penal Code applicable in northern Nigeria permits wife battery as chastisement, as long as grievous harm is not afflicted. Section 55 of the Labour Act prohibits women from working in the night.
ELIMINATION OF HARMFUL PRACTICES, CULTURE AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
In some parts of Nigeria, women are still regarded as part of the husband’s property and as such she cannot inherit her husband’s property, but must be inherited alongside his other property by another male of the family. Also ‘a lot of customs still continue unabated…that infringe greatly on the human rights of women’. 
According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), challenges to the promotion and protection of women’s rights still include harmful tradition practices such as female genital mutilation, widowhood rites, child marriage and violence against women.
RIGHT TO INHERITANCE
In most parts of Nigeria, female children are still discriminated against on issues of inheritance. With the decision in Mojekwu v Mojekwu, in which the Court of Appeal declared the ‘oli-ekpe’ custom of Nnewi - which permits the son or the brother of a deceased person to inherit his property to the exclusion of his female children - discriminatory, it was expected that discrimination against women and the girl child on the issue of inheritance would end. This is definitely not the reality, probably because the decision has not gained nationwide popularity and poverty prevents women from going to court to assert their rights.
POVERTY AND THE RIGHT TO DIGNITY, FOOD SECURITY AND ADEQUATE HOUSING
One major hindrance to the right to dignity, food security and adequate housing in Nigeria is poverty. Although Nigeria is richly endowed with both human and material resources, the Nigerian government, Nigerian civil society and the UNDP all state that approximately 70 per cent of Nigerians as poor. The majority of the poor are women. Also, Nigeria does not have a social security plan for providing food and housing to the poor. This makes the situation of women precarious and exposes them to the sex trade and destitution.
THE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Every woman in Nigeria has a right to a healthy environment that is favourable to their development. In reality, the environment in Nigeria has not been favourable to the development of women.
According to Abiola and Iyare, ‘Since oil struck four decades ago, the ecological and environmental hazards from indiscriminate exploration have constituted an affront on the community and the survival of its people…the effects of oil exploration has produced debilitating effects on the peoples traditional occupation - fishing and farming…’.
When the environment is degraded, as is the current situation in Nigeria, women are most affected because of their culturally and socially defined roles and responsibilities, because their adaptive capacity is low due to poverty and because their livelihoods are tied to the environment. In sum, any damage to the environment is damage to women as it affects their potential and their productivity.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The rich provisions of the protocol recognising and guaranteeing women’s human rights in Nigeria promises a beautiful future for women - if the government fulfills its obligations.
In light of the current realities, government should redeem its image and show its commitment by:
- Domesticating the protocol;
- Passing the bill on violence against women;
- Reviewing laws on women’s property rights and all other laws discriminating against women;
- Adequate budgetary allocations to issues that promote women’s rights and bridge gender gaps;
- Integrating women’s right issues and gender education into the school curriculum.
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* Omoyemen Odigie-Emmanuel is a Nigerian lawyer, researcher and gender advocate. She specialises in issues of human rights, gender mainstreaming and climate change. She is one of the founders of the Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research and has just accepted a lecturing position at the Nigeria Law School. Prior to this she ran Lucia Emmanuel Consult, a research and training firm, and has also worked with Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 United Nations Plans of Actions on the Environment and Development in 1992, on Human Rights in 1993, on Population and Development in 1994 and on Social Development in 1995
 Article 3 of the Protocol
 Article 4 of the Protocol
 Article 5 of the Protocol
 Article 6 of the Protocol
 Article 7 of the Protocol
 Article 8 of the Protocol
 Article 9 of the Protocol
 Article 10 of the Protocol
 Article 12 of the Protocol
 Article 13 of the Protocol
 Article 14 of the Protocol
 Article 15 of the Protocol
 Article 16 of the protocol
 Article 17 of the protocol
 Article 18 of the protocol
 Article 19 of the protocol
 Article 20 of the protocol
 Article 21 of the protocol
 Article 22 of the protocol
 Article 23 of the protocol
 Article 24 of the protocol
 Article 25 of the protocol
 Article 2(1) of the Protocol
 Article 4(2) (a) of the Protocol
 Article 4(2)(b) of the Protocol
 Article 6 (a) (b) of the Protocol
 Article 13 of the Protocol
 Article 25 of the Protocol
 Article 26(1) of the Protocol
 Article 26(2) of the Protocol
 National Human Rights Commission, 'The State of Human Rights in Nigeria' (Abuja (2007) p.96
 Section 12 is to the effect that no international treaty comes into operation in Nigeria except if it is passed into law by the National Assembly (paraphrased)
 Richard Falk, 'Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights' in 'Human Rights in the World Community: Issues and Action' (Ed) Richard Pierre Claude and Burns Weston (Pennyslivania: University of Pennyslivania Press) p. 29
 National Human Rights Commission, 'The State of Human Rights in Nigeria' (Abuja (2008) p 51
Paul Ogunyomi, 'Equal opportunity in the Nigeria Work Place: Myth or Realty' in Workers Rights and Labour standards in Nigeria (Ed) Funmi Adewumi & Sola Fajana (Lagos: Department of Industrial Relations UNILAG & Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Nigeria) p. 58
Sola Fajana & Adejoke Ige, 'Maternity and work: The Nigeria experience' in Workers Rights and Labour standards in Nigeria (Ed). Funmi Adewumi & Sola Fajana (Lagos: Department of Industrial Relations UNILAG & Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Nigeria) p. 95
 National Human Rights Commission, 'The State of Human Rights in Nigeria' (Abuja (2008) p.53
 ActionAid Nigeria, 'Repositioning Education in Northern Nigeria', Abuja 2008
 National Human Rights Commission, 'The State of Human Rights in Nigeria' (Abuja (2008) p. 52
 Obi, S. Modern Family Law in Awhefeada Ufuoma, 'The Rights of a Married Woman in the Matrimonial Home over Jointly Aquired Property'. Unpublished seminar paper 2004
 NHRC p 53
 Obi, S. Modern Family Law in Awhefeada Ufuoma, 'The Rights of a Married Woman in the Matrimonial Home over Jointly Aquired Property'. Unpublished seminar paper 2004
 BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Women’s rights in Muslim Laws
 Emem Okon, 'The Gender Implications of Violent Conflict: A Case of Women in the Niger Delta' Unpublished Paper from a Round table by Environmental Rights Action
 Section55(1) provides that 'Nothing is an offence which does not amount to infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife, such husband and wife being subject to native law and custom in which such correction is recognised as lawful.'
 Tribunals on violations of Human Rights in Nigeria 2002, CIRDOC Public education series No 12, Enugu, Fourth Dimension, 40-41
 Oyelade, O. 'Women’s Right in Africa: Myth or reality' in University of Benin Law Journal (Benin: 2006) 9 (1) UBLJ p.100
 According to Dr. (Mrs) Ihenyen in 'Violence Against Women and Genital Mutilation', female genital mutilation, commonly called female circumcision, is still prevalent in Nigeria.
 Nigeria: National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS(2004) online @www.nigeria.gov.ng/egovernment/needs
 Abiola Akinyode and Tony Iyare, The 11-Day Siege: 'Gains and Challenges of Women’s Non Violent Struggles in the Niger-Delta' (Lagos; Women’s Advocates Research and Documentation Centre(2005) p.9
Why Ethiopia should ratify the Maputo Protocol
Fana Hagos Berhane
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, was adopted by the African Union in the form of a protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique and entered into force in 2005. This protocol, like the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which has been ratified by almost all African States, provides a legal framework of reference for ensuring respect for women's human rights: Elimination of discrimination and harmful practices; right to life and to physical integrity; equality in the domain of the family and civil rights; access to justice; right to participate in the political process; protection in armed conflicts; economic rights and social protection; right to health and food security, etc.
The Maputo Protocol has now been ratified by the majority of African states which have thus committed themselves to ‘ensure[ing] that the rights of women are promoted, realised and protected’. However, Ethiopia is one of the few countries that have not yet ratified the protocol. This article discusses reasons why Ethiopia as a member of the African Union needs to consider ratifying the protocol.
RATIFICATION OF THE PROTOCOL IS CONSISTENT WITH THE ETHIOPIAN POLICY
Ratification of the Maputo Protocol is consistent with both the foreign and domestic policy of Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a good track record of ratifying international and regional human rights treaties. Among those treaties are the International Convention on Civil and Political rights (1993), the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1993), the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1981) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1998).
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution provides under its article 9(4) that all international treaties ratified by the country are integral parts of the law of the land. It further states that the fundamental rights and freedoms it has recognised shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the international instruments ratified by Ethiopia. This is an important provision that provides significant opportunity to interpret the rights in light of the human rights instruments which have been extensively interpreted and benefit from a large body of jurisprudence that has been built-up over the years. Although Ethiopia ratified all the above-mentioned and many more important human rights instruments, the Ethiopian government has not yet ratified the Maputo Protocol. Hence ratification of the Maputo Protocol will not only enable Ethiopia to maintain its good track of ratification of international and regional human rights instruments but also contribute to its view as a strong record of support for human rights in general and women’s right in particular.
ETHIOPIA’S RATIFICATION OF THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL WOULD INCREASE ITS CREDIBILITY AND INFLUENCE IN AFRICA
Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country. Ethiopia, the second-most populous nation in Africa, is also one of the founding members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was established on 25 May 1963 and replaced by African Union (AU) in 2002. The headquarters of the AU is based in Addis Ababa. Today Ethiopia has the biggest economy in East Africa (by GDP); its economy is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the country is becoming regional powerhouse in the Horn and east Africa.
This article argues that if Ethiopia ratified the Maputo Protocol it could exercise greater political and moral leadership on human rights in Africa. Ratification of the protocol by Ethiopia will give greater credence and regional support to its principles and will give a needed boost to the enforcement of women’s right in Africa. Ratification will commit the Ethiopian government and other African states to better protection and promotion of women’s rights. Ethiopia has an important opportunity to reposition itself and play a very important leadership role in human rights. One means towards that goal is to sign and ratify core international and regional human rights treaties. Chief among these regional human right instruments is the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
This protocol that Ethiopia has yet to ratify protects women, the most vulnerable people in African populations. Hence this failure of the Ethiopian government to ratify the protocol is a regional embarrassment and an obstacle to effective foreign policy of the country. Furthermore, in refusing to ratify the Maputo Protocol, the Ethiopian government has relinquished the opportunity to influence further development of women’s human rights in Africa.
THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL IS CONSISTENT WITH ETHIOPIAN CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLES
The Maputo Protocol is consistent with the Ethiopian constitutional principles opposing discrimination based on any grounds including sex. The FDRE constitution has incorporated both specific and general provisions on the rights of women. It provides for the right to equality, which entitles both men and women to benefit from the catalogue of rights it prescribes. Specifically, Article 35 of the constitution is devoted to the rights of women and contains several provisions covering important rights of women. These include equal protection of the law, equality in marital affairs, entitlement to affirmative measures, protection from harmful traditional practices (HTPs), maternity rights in employment, the right to consultation, property rights, employment rights and access to family planning information and services.
Like wise, the Maputo Protocol guarantees a wide range of women's civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, thus reaffirming the universality, indivisibility and interdependency of all internationally recognised human rights of women. These rights include the right to life, integrity and security of person; protection from harmful traditional practices; prohibition of discrimination and the protection of women in armed conflict. Moreover, the protocol guarantees the right to health and reproductive rights of women; access to justice; equal protection before the law and prohibits exploitation or degradation of women. In sum, the protocol obligates states parties to integrate a gender perspective in their policy decisions, legislation, development plans and to ensure the overall wellbeing of women. The protocol espouse non-discrimination and other core values and principles that most Ethiopians unquestionably support and also largely consistent with core human right principles enshrined in the FDRE constitution.
DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST IN ETHIOPIA
The last two decades have witnessed significant legislative reform in relation to protection of the rights of women in Ethiopia. In addition to the FDRE constitution with several provisions relevant to women’s rights, many other laws have been enacted and the existing ones have been revised in a particularly gender-sensitive manner. Despite the vast progress that has been made in advancing women's rights in those decades, discrimination and violence against women persist in a wide range of forms in Ethiopia.
The Revised Family Law has brought what may be considered a revolutionary change to the parts of the Civil Code dealing with marriage and has abolished most of the discriminatory provisions of the Civil Code in relation to marriage. However, the practice of early marriage is still common in Ethiopia, particularly in rural areas. Even if the minimum age of marriage has now been fixed at 18 years both for boys and girls, forcing girl child into a marriage is a widespread practice throughout the country. In Ethiopia 19 per cent of girls were married by the age of 15 and in some regions such as Amhara the number goes as high as 50 per cent. A study revealed that 13 per cent of marriages end in divorce or separation. Many divorced girls return to their families but, if turned away, they often migrate to a city to seek employment as housemaids or commercial sex workers. The constitution requires the consent of both parties for a dispute to be submitted to the jurisdiction of a Sharia court in the field of marital, personal and family rights; in practice, however, women often accept settlement of their dispute before such court due to social pressure.
Domestic violence and sexual violence against women is the reality. Domestic violence is highly prevalent in Ethiopia and widely socially condoned. A study conducted by the World Health Organization in July 2005 concluded that 88 per cent of rural women and 69 per cent of urban women believed their husbands had the right to beat them.
Abduction of women, although a criminal offence, is still considered as a legitimate way of procuring a bride (especially in southern Ethiopia). Nearly eight per cent of currently married women were abducted and forced into marriage – a custom, prohibited by law but not enforced until recently, that vividly illustrates the enormity of male dominance in Ethiopian tradition. Technically, the girl is abducted by a group of young men, and then raped by the man who wants to marry her – either someone she knows, or a total stranger. Elders from the man's village then ask the family of the girl to agree to the marriage; the family often consents because a girl who has lost her virginity would be socially unacceptable for marriage to another man. Sometimes the abductor keeps the girl in a hiding place until she is pregnant, at which time the family again feels has no option but to agree to the marriage.
Even though the constitution as well as the criminal code condemn harmful traditional practices, female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widely practised in Ethiopia. It is estimated that more than 74 per cent of Ethiopian women of all ages have been subjected to female genital mutilation, a practice centuries old. Health risks associated with FGM are considerable. No criminal prosecutions have ever been brought against perpetrators of FGM.
The health of Ethiopian women is most at risk. Ethiopian women have limited access to prenatal and postnatal care and family planning services. It is estimated that only six per cent of Ethiopian births were attended by skilled birth attendants. According to reports from the Ministry of Health (MoH), the maternal mortality ratios estimated at 673 per 100,000 live births, are of the magnitude observed in Europe about a century ago and they are at least fifty times higher than the present rates in developed countries signifying that mother’s are still at risk for high maternal morbidity and mortality. An early pregnancy has serious consequences on the health of young girls, including obstetrical fistulae. These high rates can also be explained by the lack of access to information on women’s reproductive health and rights, FGM, early marriage and non-medically supervised abortions. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has also remained high among women. Although Ethiopia implemented affirmative action policy to reduce gender imbalances in governance and politics, hence bringing the proportion of women in parliament to 31 per cent, there remains a problem. Politically, women in Ethiopia are still under-represented.
Generally, socio-cultural factors are not only discriminatory but also major obstacles to women’s advancement. Custom, culture, tradition and religion have continued to relegate women in Africa, and evidently in Ethiopia, to an inferior position of virtually no status thereby limiting their right to equality and freedom from discrimination. So in the light of all the above situation of most women in Ethiopia leaves a lot to be desired. Ratification of the Maputo Protocol will implicates a clear demonstration that the government of Ethiopia is still committed to the realisation of women’s rights. The Maputo Protocol enshrines civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; the rights to development and peace and reproductive and sexual rights. It provides a legal framework for addressing gender inequality and the underlying aspects that perpetuate women’s subordination.
To conclude, the Ethiopian government should now consider ratifying the Maputo Protocol and to be used as a legal framework for the advancement of women’s rights. The brief analysis of legal, political and social factors above suggests that a window of opportunity has arrived for the Ethiopian government to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and women’s rights by ratifying the Maputo Protocol. The Maputo Protocol is the strongest and most relevant instrument to advocate for women's human rights in Ethiopia and tool that could be used by Ethiopian women to effectively bring about change in their conditions. The protocol could also be used as an invaluable tool in opposing the effects of discrimination and violence that continue to be inflicted against Ethiopian women.
As mentioned above the principles espoused in the protocol for the rights of women are consistent with those existing Ethiopian laws and with the country's foreign and domestic policy objectives. The protocol would nonetheless help efforts to enhance Ethiopian laws with respect to discrimination and violence against women, access to legal protections, and other human rights of women. The hesitance of Ethiopian government to ratify the Maputo Protocol serves as a disincentive for governments to end the persistent discrimination and violence against the Ethiopian women.
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The promise of the women’s rights protocol
What is right with Africa
L. Amede Obiora and Crystal Whalen
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Women’s Rights in Africa, otherwise known as the Maputo Protocol, is widely celebrated as the most progressive international treaty on women’s rights. The protocol, which exemplifies an Africa-focused and driven framework for comprehensive human rights, clearly demonstrates Africa’s capacity to self-determine, innovate and lead. Deferring to commentators who may prefer to chronicle a litany of shortfalls that thwart the effectiveness of the protocol, we opt to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the instrument’s entry into force as an august opportunity to illuminate how it is emblematic of what is right with Africa. We posit that objective conditions which enabled the emergence and growing embrace of the protocol augur well to steadily, even if slowly, engender the necessary resources, processes and institutions to substantiate the logic, mechanics and impact of deploying African solutions for African problems. Reflecting on the genesis, opportunities and challenges of the protocol, we analyse the generative gains of demonstrating what is right with Africa in the pursuit of gender justice.
2010 marks the jubilee of 1960 – the so-called ‘Decade of Africa’ – the year that 17 African countries attained independence from colonial subjugation. The euphoria that attended independence was soon eclipsed by a deluge of structural and cultural violence that left the continent haemorrhaging for decades and precipitated a development industry beholden to Afro-pessimism. Within this context, Africa was manipulated as the quintessential laboratory for crusading experiments that privilege so-called experts to champion and arbitrarily test prescriptions across the gamut. Increasingly, the steep learning curves of Africa’s harsh realities have proven fertile to incubate the fundamentals to invigorate Africa’s self-renewal. Seasoned observers celebrate this present time as Africa’s moment. Resounding narratives about Africa’s emerging competitiveness in the global economy and commendations of the underlying conditions for the transition temper conventional Afro-pessimistic perspectives and discourses. World-class analysts, including the McKinsey Global Institute and the Boston Consulting Group, spotlight patterns, sources and strong prospects about Africa’s widespread awakening and growth acceleration. After discounting for lagging individual countries, the dominant sentiment is that Africa – with 20 per cent of the world’s land and 15 per cent of its population – recorded at least 4.9 per cent in annual GDP (gross domestic product) growth and continued to outperform global indexes in the recent economic downturn. Objective evidence of deepening economic growth and macroeconomic reforms, improved governance and correlative rule of law, and positive social indicators stimulate productivity and validate many African countries as attractive destinations for global capital.
Consensus on the critical role of women for Africa’s revitalisation is not lacking. Abiding features of the contemporary epoch, which enabled the incubation of innovations such as the protocol, further point to the end of the interregnum and foreground an auspicious environment to systematically orchestrate a renaissance sensitive to gender equity as a catalyst to optimise Africa’s control of the full expanse of its resource potential and augment demographic dividends. For African women, there is no time like the present, especially owing to the proliferation of data and intelligence that continue to underscore their invaluable contributions and vindicate the multiplier intergenerational benefits of gender empowerment as the linchpin to galvanise the growth that counts at the ground-level. Notwithstanding that women have been in the frontline of, and are often the hardest hit by, perennial struggles over resources, they are invariably credited with saving the day by shouldering Herculean burdens to spell the difference in the lives of their families.
Five years after the Maputo Protocol came into force, 29 of the 53 countries in the African Union have ratified it. While this pace is not slow in comparison with ratification precedents and trends across the globe, key stakeholders are anxious to expedite the process to attain universal ratification and implementation. The significance of universal ratification is without question, although modest assessments of footprints attributable to the protocol among member countries demonstrate the limits of universality, independent of actual implementation. The noteworthy lesson is that there is a need to balance campaigning for ratification with a corresponding focus on impactful strategies for domestication and implementation. Ratification is just a stat, albeit an indispensable first step.
In principle, governments are quick to simulate or approximate political will and endorse progressive platforms for gender inclusion. However, the principle is not often matched by meaningful action to transform gender realities on the ground. Sovereign African states imbued with responsibility for implementing, monitoring and evaluating the Maputo Protocol relegate the obligation to national gender machineries, which are notoriously constrained and marginalised in the body politic. In the past few years, several ratifying states have taken significant steps to domesticate the protocol by promulgating laws to substantiate it locally, even though some legislation has engendered considerable controversy as subtexts for regressive agendas. By the same token, considerable effort has been devoted to securing the enshrinement of salient provisions into national constitutions. However, assumptions about the effectiveness of some form of incorporation into the constitution are not necessarily consistent with the experiences of countries where gender equality is a constitutional principle. In the final analysis, the lacklustre impact of supreme constitutional guarantees speaks volumes of the political economy for meaningful transformation.
The protocol’s popular support and home-grown provenance has not inoculated it against ritualised banalities that culminate in the politics of ratification. The profile of non-ratifying states, most of which are embroiled in or transitioning from conflict or upheaval, is telling of some degree of correlation between elected government or relative accountability and political will to guarantee women’s human rights. However, a democracy audit fails to explain the deplorable scores of Mauritius and Botswana, which rank among Africa’s oldest and stable democracies. While Mauritius signed the Maputo Protocol in 2005, it has not ratified it to date. More curiously, Botswana, which is a stable democracy and flourishing economy, neither signed nor ratified the protocol, despite several innovations for which the protocol is celebrated, including its status as the first international human rights treaty to explicitly address and incorporate a tool to fight HIV/AIDS, the incidence of which is disproportionately high in Botswana. Equally striking is the failure of Ethiopia, which is the seat of both the AU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, to ratify the protocol.
Historical resistance to imperialism, which fuelled popular aversions to other-defined agendas, reinforced the appetite for the mystification and cooptation of culture, broadly construed to encompass religion, as a shield against human rights. Nonetheless, the adoption of the protocol right from the start by some states like Libya, with predominantly Muslim populations, suggests that concerns about putative incompatibility with religious tenets is less of an insurmountable problem than the lack of political will which coincides with the inclination to politicise or pander to religious fundamentalism. Indeed, some of the countries that have invoked religious constraints to justify their reluctance to endorse the protocol have ratified both the CEDAW (Convention on Elimination of All Form of Violence against Women) and its Optional Protocol, undeterred by the threat of intrusiveness that inheres in the fact that the Optional Protocol is the first gender-specific international complaints mechanism.
Of the countries that have signed but failed to ratify the Maputo Protocol – Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome & Principe, Swaziland, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia and Sudan – all but the last three have signed and/or ratified the CEDAW and its Optional Protocol. Building up to and shortly after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, most of the countries that are yet to sign and/or ratify the Maputo Protocol ratified CEDAW without reservation. All of the four countries – namely Botswana, Tunisia, Egypt and Eritrea – that have reneged on either signing or ratifying the Maputo Protocol ratified the CEDAW. With the exception of Egypt, none of the ratifications by the countries in this category were accompanied by any reservation. In fact, Botswana proceeded to ratify the Optional Protocol in February 2007 and Tunisia followed suit as recently as September 2008. Paradoxically, such ambivalence recuperates grounds for a proposition that, all things considered, Africa’s dominant orientation in favour of human rights amounts to an affirmative culture which further signifies what is right with Africa.
A cursory comparison Africa’s ratification history with experiences in so-called advanced economies and mature democracies with highly sophisticated rule of law systems buttresses the perspective to appreciate the premium placed on the human rights regime in Africa. In the United States, for example, it bears reiteration that the Equal Rights Amendment which was first proposed in 1923 has yet to see the light of day and the CEDAW which the US signed as far back as 1980 has stalled in Congress, incessantly awaiting ratification. Apologists for American exceptionalism are quick to extol the wisdom of compliance without ratification as opposed to ratification without compliance. However, such rationalisations neglect the strong empirical correlation between ratification and result. To the extent that much of the traction that accounts for purported ‘compliance without ratification’ in the US largely tends to be a function of social justice activism, it stands to reason that civil society entities would be infinitely more energised to transcend resistance, broker reform and produce effective results if armed with ratifications, instead of agitating for change in an atmosphere more prone to be hostile to ratification.
The scarcity of copious reservations that marks the Maputo Protocol is in stark contrast to the CEDAW, which is presumably the human rights instrument with the highest number of reservations. Notwithstanding Art 28(2) of CEDAW, which prohibits reservations incompatible with the object and purpose the convention, it is impaired by the exceptionally high number of reservations that several state parties opposed as threatening the integrity of the human rights regime in general. Apparently, only two countries, South Africa and Gambia, originally entered reservations qualifying their ratification of the protocol. Gambia subsequently rescinded its reservation and much of South Africa’s reservations formalistically aimed to preclude the risk of compromising favourable national laws that were perceived as superior affirmations of the protocol’s ideals. Again, if the incidence and nature of reservations is a measure of favourable human rights bias, we proffer that African states generally exhibit patterns that intimate a friendly predisposition towards human rights. Incidentally, only a few African states ratified the CEDAW with reservations and the number of reservations entered against the Maputo Protocol is even more negligible; as of 2007, only South Africa’s ratification was encumbered with reservations. It is conceivable that the low occurrence of reservation in the Maputo Protocol may be seen as signalling heightened conscientiousness and deliberative adoption in a manner that may actually offer partial explanation for a gap in ratification.
A hallmark of the protocol is the platform that it has provided for the unparalleled mobilisation of women across the African continent for tireless consultations, debates, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation. Indeed, the protocol is a testament to the resilience of gender activism and a tribute to the courage of indefatigable women who stood their ground against grave odds in fierce contestations for Africa’s destiny in general and gender equity in particular. Vigorous gender activism has not merely been a recipe to stimulate a hospitable environment to enlist support, consolidate gains and facilitate compliance with political commitments; it has been an engine of change in its own right and intrinsically an infrastructure for promoting gender justice. The success of gender forums, coalitions and networks is further indication of political will for human rights and their trajectory is instructive on frameworks that can effectively advance both broader participation in and implementation of relevant instruments. Individuals and groups of divergent stripes who coalesced around shared visions of gender equality and persevered through tedious processes of iteration and grinding challenges to build confidence, commitment and critical networks to midwife the adoption and ratifications of the protocol remain pivotal to drive and sustain the successes of implementation. Much of the credit for the celebration of the protocol as an innovation in the human rights regime inures to these cohesive networks which foster awareness and sensitisation, enrich relevant knowledge, improve understanding, nurture confidence and build capacity among critical stakeholders to actively engage salient issues. The interventions of these networks at once increase opportunities for constructive dialogue about home-grown solutions, help leverage resources more efficiently and promote strategic collaborations with better coordination to design, manage, and focus efforts to implement programmes that ultimately pipeline a culture of gender equity that consistently maintains the momentum of progress for women’s human rights.
The astute gender entrepreneur whose tenaciousness, sweat and equity have thus far facilitated the birth and progress of the protocol were neither oblivious of nor naïve about the obstacles to domestication and compliance when they set out to enliven the dialogue and dissent that ultimately culminated in the protocol’s promulgation. On the contrary, they went to great lengths to campaign for the adoption of the instrument precisely to create entitlements that would offer a rally point to further incentivise and spur stakeholders across the spectrum of society to action that would help mediate the discrepancies of statecraft. Indeed, the promulgation is an objective measure of the bandwidth of gender activists to influence the democratic process and state institutions. The journey so far is encouraging and provides inspiration for the considerable undertakings ahead. The activism that endowed the world with the gift of the normative protocol boasts the dexterity to stay the course and help foster critical macro- and micro-level changes in respective countries. The initiative, enterprise, skill sets and competencies it required to formulate, nurture and sustain the protocol’s paradigmatic relevance to date parallel those necessary to reconcile compliance with commitment and align behaviour with normative standards. However, planning is integral to progress and advancement on the unfinished business. In material respects, core experiences with the protocol bear out the insights of development experts who contend that plans exemplified by pronouncements such as the protocol are nothing, while insisting that planning is everything and that a failure to plan is tantamount to a plan to fail. From inception to implementation, the history of the protocol reflects proactive strategies that suggest ample opportunities to turn the table against African political elites who ordinarily tend to be adept at adopting frameworks that they fail to implement.
Juxtaposing a deficit-based critique of the role of the protocol that emphasises the challenges of signing, ratification and implementation against an asset-attuned standpoint, we have deliberately elected to privilege the gains of the protocol over its gaps. Part of the enthusiasm for the protocol derives from its promise as an instrument for Africa’s self-determination specifically drawn and driven by Africans. A fine example of African agency on gender matters which has found expression in other respects, the protocol evinces a pedigree that demonstrates the resonance of gender parity and/or an equity ideal. As alluded to earlier, constitutional guarantees of equality abound in Africa where the CEDAW has been adopted by almost all and the protocol, which was signed by all but seven African countries, has been ratified by 29 countries within less than five years of coming into force. It is one thing to secure the far-reaching protocol; it is another to organise, dedicate and invest the quality of resources imperative to ensure that the instrument matures into a compelling tool to enrich women’s capabilities and functioning. Granted, the enormous potential of the instrument as a formidable tool for gender empowerment has not readily translated into qualitative transformations of gender realities to date. Nevertheless, it behoves critical stakeholders to come to terms with the reality that individual feminists and gender networks have their work cut out for them.
Just as the protocol was a hard-won gain, its forceful implementation and impact will not been conceded on a platter of gold, so to say. The good news is that just as the interventions of non-state actors turned the tide to generate the critically acclaimed protocol, the same actors are equipped with the advantage of hindsight to embrace the enforcement challenges as an apt opportunity for creativity and to harness steep learning curves and build on the discernible footprint as a cornerstone to provide fresh thinking to tool up, map out, execute and calibrate a robust plan to systematically leverage the resources necessary to give adequate teeth to the instrument to bring about and routinise measurable change vis-à-vis women’s human rights. Consistent with women’s invaluable, even if typically discounted contributions, the reinforced efforts of gender advocacy networks are poised to enhance what is right with Africa in ways that ameliorates human rights strategies that are of global applicability.
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* Leslye Obiora is professor of law at the University of Arizona. She recently served as Nigeria’s minister of mines and steel.
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Sudanese women struggle to ratify Maputo Protocol
Forty-six African governments have signed the Maputo Protocol, properly known as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Women in Africa.
The Maputo Protocol guarantees a host of rights to the continent’s women, including equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender; protection from harmful cultural practices and domestic violence; equal pay and spousal benefits; recognition of the value of women's work in the home; and paid maternity leave.
90 million women across Africa are survivors of harmful and illegal cultural practises such as female genital mutilation. In Gambia, one of the focus countries, at least one in two Gambian women have experienced this practice. Across Africa, most poor and marginalised women are subjected daily to psychological, physical or structural violence in their places of work, homes and even among the public. In Uganda, 41 per cent of women surveyed in selected districts shared experiences of abuse and violence by their spouses, male friends or relatives. Under these conditions, a disproportionate number of women (57 per cent) are affected by HIV/AIDS, many of them young women. According to the African Union, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis collectively erase 1–2 per cent of economic growth annually and reduce life expectancy by 25 per cent. These conditions are exacerbated by unsafe abortion and poor reproductive health services claiming 250,000 deaths per year. Whereas one in 5,000 British women have a lifetime risk of dying in childbirth, one in 25 women in many African countries will die each year.
While the required 15 member states ratified it, the coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in November 2005 has seen only 29 of the continent's 53 states complete ratification to date, presenting additional opportunities. The protocol’s 21 provisions comprehensively address discrimination against women, freedom from harmful cultural practices and rights to fully participate in economic, political and social spheres. It is a ‘home grown instrument’ adopted by African governments at the highest levels following eight years of consultations.
WHY SUDAN SHOULD RATIFY THE PROTOCOL?
In Sudan, a broad spectrum of government and civil society actors are opposed to sections of the protocol.
Sudan should ratify the protocol because this protocol on the rights of women is considered to be a strong and advanced legal protection framework in comparison with existing protocols and conventions. In fact, it comprises detailed and innovative provisions on women’s rights to participate in political and decision-making processes without discrimination and be represented on an equal basis with men in all electoral processes. The protocol enacts state parties, among others, to ensure women’s rights to health and reproductive rights, including the control of fertility and access to justice and equal protection before the law. All of the above-mentioned issues are very important for Sudanese women at present, and the ratification and domestication of the provisions of the protocol will help eliminate discriminatory laws based on a person’s sex, will help protect the rights of women in Sudan and will enable Sudan to demonstrate a lead in protecting women’s rights, improved maternal health services and a reduction in early marriages, harmful traditional practices and female school drop-outs.
WHY THE DELAY IN RATIFYING IT?
Some provisions of the protocol such as the issue of equality, equality before the law and in inheritance, and control of fertility are still debatable among legislators, religious leaders and policy makers. Even some women groups have some reservations. Equality per se is even seen by some religious fundamentalists as oppositional to Islam, though Islam has given women lots of rights which were not given before and do not contradict living in dignity and enjoying their rights.
HOW DOES THE DELAY AFFECT THE STATUS OF WOMEN?
The delay will affect the progress achieved by Sudanese women organisations working to promote women’s rights and protecting gains realised in terms of reproductive health rights, ending legal discrimination and violence against women.
WHAT IS NEEDED?
What is needed?:
- To reach out to various stakeholders and mobilise their support for the ratification of the protocol and forge linkages with efforts in other African countries
- To coordinate plans for government-based activities to secure commitment for ratification and sustain dialogue with government officials
- A compilation of information on progress, outcomes and challenges being experienced in other countries for the promotion and protection of African women’s rights
- Advocacy actions geared at influencing government to speed up the ratification of the women’s protocol
- Through direct communications with head of state and key officials, place emphasis on domestication
- Increasing the number of women organisations using the AU protocol as a framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of poor and marginalised women
- Facilitation for national members to participate in the ongoing continental advocacy campaign
- Participation in country-level events bringing continental advocacy actions down to the country level
- For the purposes of wider coverage, the dissemination and sharing of the work of the national campaigns at the continental level and internationally.
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* Sidiga Washi is a professor of family and consumer sciences/community nutrition, currently working as a professor of community nutrition at the Department of Nutrition and Health, College of Food and Agriculture, United Arab Emirates University.
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Burkina Faso: Evolution des droits de la femme
Post l’adoption du Protocole de Maputo
Zombré L.W. Pascal
Le Burkina Faso est un pays situé au cœur de l’Afrique occidentale. Le pays a renoué avec la démocratie en 1991 avec l’adoption d’une constitution qui marque la naissance de la quatrième république. Cette constitution souscrit à la déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme et aux instruments internationaux traitant des problèmes économiques, politiques, sociaux et culturels, réaffirme solennellement l’engagement du pays vis-à-vis de la charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples de 1981, consacre des droits fondamentaux au profit des burkinabés ainsi que la séparation des pouvoirs entre l’exécutif, le législatif et le judiciaire.
Le Burkina Faso compte plus de 14 millions d’habitants dont 48% d’hommes et 52% de femmes. Malheureusement, cette majorité des femmes contraste avec la sous représentation de celle-ci dans les sphères de décision politiques et par conséquent par une non prise en compte de leur besoin en tant que femme dans l’élaboration des politiques économiques et sociale tant sur le plan local et national.
La population des femmes au Burkina Faso est sous scolarisée avec 90% qui n’ont aucun niveau d’instruction contre 78% chez les hommes. 1% des femmes font des études supérieures contre 3% chez les hommes.
Au regard de la contribution des femmes dans l’histoire sociopolitique du Burkina Faso passé et récent, elles méritent autant de considération que les hommes.
CONTRIBUTION DES FEMMES DANS L’HISTOIRE DU BF
Dans l’histoire du Burkina Faso, des femmes se sont distingué par leur bravoure et leur leadership. Le royaume Mossi qui comprend l’ethnie majoritaire actuellement au Burkina Faso a été fondé par une femme YENEGA, intrépide guerrière venue de Gambaga (l’actuel Ghana). Sa descendance formait jadis le royaume mossi qui forme actuellement le centre, le centre est, le plateau central, le centre nord et le centre ouest du Burkina.
GUIBI Ouattara est une autre amazone qui a défendu son peuple contre la pénétration coloniale dans la région ouest et sud ouest de l’actuel Burkina Faso. C’est dire que les femmes ont grandement contribué à la naissance et à l’essor socio politique de l’actuel Burkina Faso. Cela n’a pas toujours été reconnu à sa juste valeur car le statut socio politique voir même économique de la femme vont se dégrader. C’est ce combat que mènent certains leaders de la société civil burkinabé parmi lesquels des femmes se sont illustrées positivement et ont ainsi contribué grandement à révolutionner les mentalités et les comportements. L’État moderne, sous la pression et le lobbying de ces organisations féminines, va procéder régulièrement à la ratification des conventions et à l’adoption de lois en vue de leur reconnaître des droits.
ETAT DES DROITS DES FEMMES ET EVOLUTIONS AU BF
Le Burkina Faso est partie à plusieurs conventions universelles et régionales qui consacrent des droits civils et politiques à sa population. Nous pouvons citer pour l’essentiel, le pacte international sur les droits civil et politiques ainsi que la charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples. Il a aussi ratifié des conventions spécifiques aux femmes comme la convention pour l’élimination de toutes les formes de discrimination à l’égard de la femme ainsi que le protocole à la charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples relatif aux droits de la femme. Cette dernière convention régionale est spécifique à l’Afrique et peut être considérée comme celle qui résume l’ensemble des préoccupations des femmes africaines, relativement à leur éducation, santé, leur bien-être social, économique et politique. Celle-ci a été ratifiée le 06 septembre 2006. Mais bien avant cette date, le combat pour l’émancipation des femmes avait déjà commencé. La période révolutionnaire a été celle qui a le plus contribuée à l’émergence d’une conscience collective vis-à-vis de la condition de la femme. Sous l’impulsion du défunt président du CNR, le Capitaine thomas SANKARA des mesures seront prises pour réhabiliter les femmes victimes des discriminations et des stéréotypes sociaux. Un ministère de l’action féminine sera crée ainsi que l’union nationale des femmes du Burkina Faso. On assistera à une entrée timide mais remarquable de plusieurs femmes dans le gouvernement. Désormais les burkinabés dans leur ensemble ont eu la certitude que plus rien ne devrait se faire sans les femmes et sans tenir compte d’elles.
Malheureusement, la période révolutionnaire, malgré son mérité était une période d’exception et si la volonté politique d’aider les femmes à s’émanciper existait en acte, le droit cependant leur faisait défaut.
La constitution du 02 juin 1992 marque l’avènement de la quatrième république et le retour à l’état de droit ; cette constitution dans son préambule réaffirme l’attachement du Burkina Faso aux valeurs universelles des droits de l’homme.
Les gouvernements successifs vont manifester une volonté politique de prendre en compte les femmes dans la gestion des affaires publiques par une augmentation progressive du nombre de femme dans le gouvernement, la nomination des femmes à de haute fonction. Le gouvernement a poursuivi ses efforts à travers l’adoption d’une loi spécifique contre les mutilations génitales féminine en 1996, l’adoption d’une politique nationale genre en 2009 et l’adoption de la loi sur le quota genre en 2010.
Si sur le plan législatif l’ensemble des acteurs de la société civile et politique burkinabé sont unanimes à reconnaître qu’il y a des progrès réels, l’effectivité de ces lois reste encore à être éprouvée sur le terrain. Ce qui est certain, c’est qu’il n’y a pas de candidature féminine à l’élection présidentielle du 21 novembre 2010. Il faut attendre peut-être les législatives et les élections locales de 2012 pour commencer à mesurer l’effectivité de ces textes de lois.
Au delà de cette embellie juridique, il subsiste encore au Burkina Faso des inégalités et des comportements qui heurtent la conscience humaine et qui constituent des handicapes majeures au progrès socio-économique et politiques avec les femmes dans une totale égalité.
Au Burkina Faso, les hommes concentrent dans leur main la plus grande partie des revenus. Ce constat contraste avec le dynamisme des femmes sur le terrain économique. Le secteur informel est occupé essentiellement par les femmes avec les petits commerces de fruits et de légumes. Les hommes, quant à eux, sont hyper majoritaires dans le secteur secondaire et tertiaire ; cependant on assiste à une émergence par ci, par là, de quelques femmes leaders dans le secteur des grandes entreprises et le secteur industriel.
Au-delà de l’aspect répartition des revenus, des violences faites aux femmes subsistent et souvent de façon pernicieuse.
Si le taux d’excision a fortement baissé à cause de l’effet conjugué de la loi et des campagnes de sensibilisation de masse, la pratique demeure et continue de faire des victimes chez les jeunes filles.
En outre, la pratique de l’exclusion sociale dans certaines régions du Burkina Faso, vient assombrir le tableau des acquis en matière de lutte contre les violences et les discriminations à l’égard des femmes. En effet, il existe au Burkina Faso, la pratique de détection de sorcières qui se solde la plupart du temps par la maltraitance et l’exclusion sociale de ces pauvres victimes au regard et au su de tout le monde. L’église catholique a crée des centres dont le plus célèbre est le cendre DENWENDE de Ouagadougou pour accueil ces femmes qui ont été bannies de leur communauté d’origine. Pour nous, ces centres doivent disparaître et les femmes réintégrées de gré ou de force dans leur communauté d’origine. L’État doit réagir, car au nom de coutumes aux origines parfois douteuses on ne peut continuer à stigmatiser une partie de la population à cause de son sexe.
Si la justice, lorsqu’elle est saisie de ces cas de violences, arrive à condamner les auteurs, il reste néanmoins que la volonté politique de faire face à ce phénomène tarde à se manifester. L’état du Burkina Faso en ratifiant le protocole de Maputo, s’est engagé à prendre de mesures adéquates pour ne pas favoriser des discriminations à l’égard des femmes et lutter pour les éradiquer. Il doit respecter ses engagements en adoptant une loi spécifique contre l’exclusion sociale des femmes, surtout celles qui sont âgées.
Y a-t-il un espoir pour les femmes du Burkina Faso de voir leurs droits respecter dans un pays plus sensible aux problèmes auxquels elles sont confrontées?
Il est hasardeux de répondre à cette question ! Cependant l’évolution de la condition de la femme burkinabé au cour de la décennie 2010 qui s’achève permet d’espérer en de lendemain meilleures à condition que tous les acteurs femmes et hommes, acteurs politiques ou de la société civile, ne baissent pas les bras.
L’évolution en termes de droit politique est encourageante. Maintenant, il reste au femme de s’emparer des sphères de décision pour faire valoir leur droit et élaborer des politiques sensibles aux genres dans l’optique de faire avancer la lutte en vue une société plus égalitaire. La démocratie et l’État de droit sont une aubaine à saisir pour révolutionner nos sociétés africaines. Au Burkina Faso, les femmes sont majoritaires et se doivent par conséquent d’avoir la majorité partout !
* Zombré L.W. Pascal est magistrat avec ONG voix de femme, Burkina Faso.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 Constitution consacrant la naissance de la quatrième république adoptée par le peuple le 02 juin 1991
 Cf. Constitution du Burkina Faso du 02 juin 1992, p.1
Le Protocole de Maputo cinq ans apres son adoption
Cas du Mali
Le Protocole de Maputo est venu combler une insuffisance dans la promotion et la protection des droits des femmes africaines.
Il faut préciser que le Protocole est le fruit d’une collaboration soutenue entre la Commission Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples et les Organisations de la société civile africaine.
PROCESSUS DE RATIFICATION
Le processus de ratification du Protocole a fait l’objet d’un véritable plaidoyer des sociétés civiles africaines et aussi a été dans beaucoup de pays un processus long et laborieux. Il faut reconnaître aujourd’hui grâce aux différents plaidoyers et à la détermination des femmes africaines , que plus de la moitié des Etats Africains l’ont ratifié (29 ratification dont le Mali)
Au nombre de ces Sociétés Civiles Africaines, l’Association des Juristes Maliennes a joué un rôle majeur au Mali tant en ce qui concerne la ratification, la diffusion et la mise en œuvre du Protocole de Maputo.
L’Association des Juristes Maliennes connue sous le sigle ‘AJM’ est une association féminine professionnelle composée de Femmes Magistrats, Avocates, Notaires, Huissiers de Justice, Juristes d’Entreprises et Commissaires Priseurs. Elle œuvre pour la défense et la promotion des droits de la Femme et de l’Enfant.
L’A.J.M est membre de l’Alliance pour la Justice et le Développement en faveur des Femmes (A.J.D.F), de la Fédération Internationale des Femmes de Carrières Juridiques (F.I.F.C.J), de la Fédération des Juristes Africaines (F.J.A) du Wildaf (Women In Law and Develpment in Africa), du Groupe Pivot Droit et Citoyenneté des Femmes (GP /A.C.F), du Réseau FEMNET (African Women’s Develpment and Communication Network) du Réseau Malien sur les Mutilations Génitales Féminines, du Réseau SOAWR (Solidarity for African Women’s Rights ).
ACTIVITES MENEES DANS LE CADRE DE LA PROMOTION DU PROTOCOLE DE MAPUTO
Au nombre des activités menées par l’A.J.M dans le cadre de la diffusion au Protocole, il y a lieu de noter entre autres:
- La formation des membres de l’A.J.M pour une mise à niveau des membres de l’Association ,
- Les séminaires de formation à l’endroit des professionnels du droit (Magistrats, Avocats, Notaires, Huissiers, Officiers de Police Judicaire, Greffiers etc. …. .)
- Les séances de formation et d’information à l’endroit des acteurs de la Société Civile (Association de Femmes, Communicateurs traditionnels, religieux, organes de communications (presse écrite et parlée).
- Des causeries-débats ont été organisées dans les six (6) communes urbaines de Bamako à l’attention des populations en général et des femmes en particulier.
- Des causeries débats avec des séances de démonstration ont été organisées dans les communes rurales de Kambila, de Téné, de Ouezzinbougou, du Mandé.
- Un séminaire de formation a été organisé dans la commune rurale du Mandé à l’intention des élu (es) municipaux et des femmes leaders de la localité.
Il faut souligner que toutes ces activités ont été menées grâce à l’appui dynamique precieux et constant de SOAWR à l’endroit de l’A.J.M.
L’A.J.M est en négociation avec le Ministère en charge de la Promotion de la Femme, de l’Enfant et de la Famille en vue de la signature d’un partenariat pour la promotion, la diffusion et la vulgarisation du Protocole de Maputo à travers le Mali .
Malgré toutes ces actions ci-dessus menées par l’A.J.M, il faut reconnaitre que des défis majeurs sont à relever.
Au nombre de ces défis, il faut noter:
- Le non adéquation de certains textes juridiques internes avec le Protocole.
- Le Protocole est en conflit avec le droit religieux musulman, le droit coutumier relativement aux règles qui régissent les questions de droits humains des femmes : mariage, divorce, répudiation, succession, accès à la terre, mutilations génitales féminines et autres pratiques néfastes.
- L’analphabétisme et la pauvreté des femmes constituent un handicap majeur à leur accès au service public de la justice.
- L’insuffisance des ressources financières limite l’impact des campagnes de sensibilisation des O.N.G féminines qui travaillent au niveau local et national.
La faiblesse de la capacité des femmes à influencer les décideurs et à négocier leurs propres intérêts.
Les Avocats n’invoquent pas ou peu les dispositions du Protocole de Maputo devant les tribunaux au niveau national du fait de l’insuffisance de la formation et de la sensibilisation des praticiens du droit sur les textes relatifs aux droits des femmes.
La non intégration du Protocole de Maputo dans le droit interne des Etats.
Les cinq prochaines années seront décisives dans la promotion et la protection des droits des femmes à travers le Protocole en Afrique en général et au Mali en particulier.
Le Protocole de Maputo constitue a n’en pas douter un instrument juridique précieux pouvant rendre à la femme africaine l’effectivité de tous ses droits.
Au Mali, le projet du Code des Personnes et de la Famille qui avait été voté par l’Assemblée Nationale et renvoyé de nouveau par le Président de la République devant cette même institution pour une seconde lecture pourrait constituer pour les femmes maliennes une source d’espoir. Il faut noter que le projet initial était en phase avec l’esprit du Protocole de Maputo.
Il est à espérer que le combat des femmes triomphera de toutes les forces conservatrices traditionnelles ou religieuses.
Le combat des femmes doit être au cœur de toutes les actions, de toutes les politiques de nos Etats. Il y va de leur avenir voire de l’avenir de l’humanité.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Maître Saran Keita–Diakite est vice-présidente de l’Association des Juristes Maliennes
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Which way Sudan?
A Pan-African reflection
WHAT IS A SOFT BORDER?
On Tuesday 23 November 2010, the 16th Extra-Ordinary Session of the Inter Government Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of States and Government on the Sudan was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The communiqué from this extra-ordinary session (attended by both the presidents of the Sudan and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) announced that an agreement had been reached between North and South Sudan to establish a ‘soft border’ between the two areas ahead of a referendum on southern independence due on 8 January 2011. Under this deal there would be the free movement of trade and nomads between their territories should the South vote for secession. Sudanese citizens would also be allowed to choose to live in either north or south Sudan.
In this communiqué the leaders of IGAD acknowledged the ‘smooth’ process of the referendum as a significant milestone in the implementation of the CPA between the government of the Sudan and the SPLM, negotiated and agreed under the auspices of IGAD in January 2005. The challenge for peoples all over the world, especially for Pan-Africanists will be to interrogate if this concept of a ‘soft border’ is another recipe for war in Africa?
The very process that brought about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 had demonstrated expediency and opportunism from all sides. Very soon after the peace accord, John Garang, the one leader who had a clear vision of a new Sudan, died in a helicopter crash. This helicopter belonged to President Yoweri Museveni, who had been the chair of the IGAD process at the time of the signing of the CPA in 2005. The death of Garang robbed the Pan-African world of one of the leaders who had a clear understanding of how the Sudan was central to a secular society that could heal itself from the long history of conquest and religious militarism.
When Garang died, Tajudeen Abdul Raheem mused on who the forces were that could benefit from his passing. Tajudeen said in his Pan-African Postcard that ‘both militarily and politically the hegemonists shook at what would happen to their rule were Garang to have the opportunity to reshape the country because Garang could be no one’s errand boy. For Sudanese democrats he was a bridge of hope with the potential of turning the country into a genuinely democratic environment where Sudanese might, in the Martin Luther King hope, “be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. The enemies of hope had to act and act quickly before goodness broke out in a country that has been in conflict for most of its post independence (1956) existence.’
This week we seek to underline the challenge of how to rekindle this bridge of hope in a context where all of the elements of the negotiations over the 9 January 2011 referendum point to the planning for war. Such a bridge of hope requires concrete engagement and understanding of the crosscutting issues of exploitation, domination, Arabisation, Islamisation, patriarchy and religious intolerance that have plagued the peoples of the Sudan since the waves of plunderers and slave raiders after the 7th century.
Briefly, it is important to assert that while the international media has focused on the technical questions of divergences over the Abyei referendum and post referendum outstanding issues of security, citizenship, oil and water resources, currency matters, assets and liabilities and international treaties and agreements, the referendum itself opens deep conceptual issues relating to self determination, history, slavery and the future of Africa in the 21st century. The referendum touches on some of the most sensitive and emotive questions for Pan-Africanists; it thus requires a level of serious engagement by all, but especially Pan-Africanists.
Only last week, the African Union High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki reported to the UN Security Council that the AUHLIP was confident that there was a framework for the settlement of the outstanding issues of the CPA and a clear path for the negotiation of post-referendum arrangement, including the question of achieving a just and lasting peace in Darfur. From the wording of the report to the UN on the referendum process, the recommendation reads as if the outcome was already known. Pan-African persons who love peace, justice, and who stand for African unity should be concerned that negotiations are going on behind the back of the people.
It has always been the position of the progressive Pan-Africanist that freedom and emancipation of Africa are tied to the unification of the peoples of Africa. This position had been clearly outlined by Kwame Nkrumah in the book, ‘Africa Must Unite’. It is even clearer 50 years later in the midst of a changed world economy that the peoples of Africa need unity in order to transform the inherited structures of exploitation. These structures have been reinforced by the plunder of Africa’s resources, and by the attempt to change Africa’s agricultural practices through the intellectual property rights regime of the advanced capitalist countries. Sudan stands at the crossroads of the Africa of conquest and enslavement and a future of peace and reconstruction. There is no doubt that the complex historical legacies, especially the history of slavery, Arabisation and Islamisation weighs heavily on the peoples of all parts of the Sudan, especially the peoples from the South. While the peoples of the East, West and South suffered from the arrogance of the rulers around Khartoum, it was in the South where there was a clear Pan-African articulation of the struggles for respect and dignity. This Pan-African articulation fed into a section of the Pan-African movement that was keen to debate the question as to: Who is an African?
It is against this background that progressive Pan-Africanists are calling for a more rigorous discussion on the questions that will arise from the outcome of the referendum. We want to state clearly that having gone down this road of a referendum in the CPA agreement, it is the right of the Sudanese to make their own decision about how they want to be governed; but we assert that that the questions of peace, social justice, and transformation for all the people of the Sudan should not be separated from the referendum. Ending the oppression of women, checking religious chauvinism, providing equitable access to resources, cleaning up the environment, the free movement of peoples and creating opportunities for economic transformation are issues for the Sudan as well as her neighbors. These are issues that extend beyond the referendum. Pan-Africanists would want to put forward the question of peace and justice as primary concerns.
BACKGROUND TO THE REFERENDUM
With a landmass that is larger than Western Europe put together, Sudan is the tenth largest country in the world, and the largest in Africa. The country is endowed with diverse peoples and vast natural resources, including petroleum, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold, and hydropower. From the period of the Middle Ages, external forces were attracted to this vast wealth of this area. The waters of the Nile that unite the differing peoples of Africa and the peoples of the Nile basin region is one of the most valuable resources of this part of Africa and provided the basis for Meroitic and Pharaonic civilisations. Stories of the greatness of the Kush and Nubian epochs attest to a region that contributed significantly to human transformations long before other regions of the planet earth. It was this glory and wealth that for centuries attracted invaders into a region that precipitated resource wars.
One group of people who were attracted were those from Arabia who migrated to this region and participated in slavery and in the enslavement of Africans. This history of enslavement and Arabisation are profound questions that call out for the kind of historical rendering that will cleanse former slave dealers from arrogant attitudes of perceived superiority. The present borders of Sudan were carved out during the infamous scramble for Africa when peoples from different regions, cultures, languages, ethnicities, nationalities, and different religions were thrown together into this space called the Sudan. Sudan carried a long anti-colonial and anti-imperialist tradition because it was one of the societies that inflicted military blows on the British. Thus, when Sudan became the first African country to attain independence in 1956, the Sudanese society had well-developed political movements with trade unionists, religious groups, community groups, women’s groups, and the Sudanese Communist Party – which became one of the strongest communist parties in Africa.
It was the fear of this party that led Western powers to support the conservative Islamists against the popular forces. Militarism and conservatism drove the country to war soon after independence when the southern soldiers mutinied at Torit against northern chauvinism. This mutiny deteriorated into war in the absence of forces that could negotiate a future for an independent Sudan that recognised the peoples of the East, West, South and North as equals to the confirmed Arabists. This war, called the First Civil War of the South, ended in 1972 with the Addis Ababa Agreement. During this war, the binary images of the Arab Muslim North against the Christianised Southern African became part of Western political discourse. These binary representations of Arabs and Africans, Muslims and Christians concealed a more complex tapestry of patriarchy and militarism seeking to obliterate African religious traditions as well as the matrilineal vestiges of kinship networks that resisted conquest and enslavement. One of the limitations of the old communist formations in the Sudan could be found in the inability to grasp the complexities of a society that represented nationalism in religious forms. This inability of the Communists to creatively grasp the history of the Sudan provided an opening that was exploited by the anti-people and anti-communist forces during the cold war. Thus, although the anti-imperialism of the Islamists was clothed in religious language, the West supported the Islamists in the Sudan as a counter to the communist and trade union forces, especially after the Ethiopian revolution of 1974 that promised to spread a new brand of radicalism across the Horn of Africa. Both the issues of access to oil in the Middle East and the future of Palestine combined to ensure that the issues of peace and justice in the Sudan could not be divorced from peace and change in both Africa and the Middle East.
ISLAMISTS IN POWER AFTER 1985
The end of the Cold War brought about a divorce between the Islamists and the West. In the book, ‘Sudan: The Elusive Quest for Peace’, the authors spelt out in great detail the history of Arabisation and Islamisation in the Sudan and the relationship between the Islamists and the western powers. This love-hate relationship had been marked by the deep anti-imperialist traditions that emanated from the fact that Islamic religious leaders provided intellectual and political leadership at the time of the imperial scramble. Among the ruling class of the Islamist forces who dominated the economy of the Sudan from the region around Khartoum, there was no contradiction in opposing European colonialism while celebrating an Arab identity based on the history of enslaving Africans. In this book the authors defined both Arabisation and Islamisation in the Sudan:
‘Although Arabisation preceded Islamisation, the latter became the justification for the establishment of the hegemony of Arabism over that of Islamism or the unifying concept of Sudanism. Arabism can be defined as the ideology of ethnocultural superiority that manifested itself in Sudan following the rule of the Ottomans in 1821, while Islamism provided the ideological and economic justification for the continued subjugation of unbelievers. Sudanism is territorially centered nationalist formulation that rejects both the racialization of Arabism and the sectarianism of Islamism. The flexible formulation of a multinational Sudanic state- with equality and dignity for all its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion- carries the promise of a peaceful resolution in the twenty-first century.” (p 20)
During the Cold War, the West, and especially the USA, turned away from the promise of society with dignity and equality for all and supported the ideology of Arabism and ethnocultural superiority as an anticommunist force in North Africa and the Middle East. This support increased after the overthrow of Haile Selassie in Ethiopia in 1974 and the rise of the Mengistu regime in Addis Ababa. During this period, the USA drew from the resources of Saudi Arabia to support the ideological and political ambitions of the Islamists who were promoting Arabism in the Sudan. Osama Bin Laden became a crucial link in this alliance between the USA and the Arabists and it was from Sudan that the USA recruited hundreds of fighters to confront the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Once the Soviets were expelled, the US and the Islamists fell out. By this time the oppression of the peoples of Sudan was intensified by the imposition of Sharia law. It was during this period that conservative Christian groups within the US latched on to the war in Sudan and sought to re-present it as a simple one between Muslims and Christians, and between Arabs and Africans.
Oversimplified answers to complex issues were compounded by the discovery of oil in the Sudan. During the Clinton administration the rhetoric against Sudan increased and after the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center, Sudan was listed as a state supporting terrorism. The bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan in 1998 exposed the distance that the USA had moved from its earlier alliance with the Islamists. The bombing increased the legitimacy of the Islamists who had already imposed Sharia law. Sudan became identified with the anti-imperialist camp even while fighting a war to oppress the peoples of all regions. It was the war led by the SPLM that promised a new direction for the society in so far as the SPLM under Garang represented itself as fighting for a new Sudan and fighting for all the peoples of the Sudan, not just the southerners.
After the events of 11 September 2001, the Bush administration moved to cooperate with the leaders in Khartoum and carried out back channel negotiations with this government. Although in the West the public rhetoric against Sudan had intensified when the Sudanese government took away the oil contracts from US and Canadian companies and sought to diversify its partners in Asia, the US hostility towards Sudan was mediated by the long-term plan of the Bush-Cheney oil forces to patch up relations with the Islamists. It was the position of the US foreign policy establishment that that they did not want to see the break up of the Sudan. Former Senator John Danforth was dispatched as a special representative to work with African leaders to broker the peace agreement that eventually was signed on 9 January 2005 as the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement). Space and time does not allow for an elaboration of the twist and turns of this twelve-year negotiating effort under IGAD (1993-2005). What is important to note is that the leader of Libya sought to undermine the efforts of IGAD while mouthing slogans about African unity and the importance of the African Union. What was equally important was the reality that there was nothing comprehensive about the agreement because the question of Darfur showed that peace between the North and the South did not fully cover the issues of domination and exploitation in all parts of Sudan. In the midst of the negotiations over the long twenty-year war, the eruption of the mass killings in the Darfur region brought one other region into the spotlight.
The Bush administration sought to work with the sensationalisation of the Darfur question by the US media stating that the killings represented genocide even while the CIA was cooperating with the Islamist leaders in Khartoum. Both Alex de Waal and Mahmood Mamdani have written extensively on the duplicitous activities of the US forces in the Sudan. What was emerging was the fact of how the presence of vast oil resources in the Sudan and the rise of China as a force in Africa complicated the forward planning of the Western powers in the Sudan and Africa.
CHANGED US POLICY IN THE SUDAN
The CPA established the consensus to have a referendum on 9 January 2011, where the people of Southern Sudan would decide if they want a separate state. After John Garang, who had been working assiduously for both the referendum and a united Sudan, was killed in a plane crash six months after the CPA, the Pan-African world was robbed of an advocate for Pan-African unity and consolidation of African independence. The recursive processes of war, militarisation, insecurity, and plunder formed a loop with new forms of oppression in Darfur, the western part of the Sudan. The polarised debate about Darfur in the midst of the Global War on Terror supported the very simplistic conceptions of the Sudan that fed into the neo-conservative resurgence under George W. Bush. The emotive appeals of the Save Darfur Campaign were seized upon by the conservative religious groups who believed in the idea of a second crusade against Islam. It was in this era of conservatism and militarism that the neoconservatives hijacked the US foreign policy direction on the Sudan. It had been the explicit position of the US since 1963 that it was not in the interest of African states that the continent be further balkanised. Hence, the foreign policy establishment opposed the independence of Biafra during the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970. Secondly, during the war over Ogaden, the US government opposed the secessionists who were fighting for a greater Somalia. This was despite the fact that the so-called Marxist government in Addis Ababa was seen as an enemy. The principles of keeping African states united had been so powerful that the US agreed with Soviet Union and Cuba over the question of Ogaden.
WHAT HAS CHANGED
Last week, at the conference of the African Studies Association in California, the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs signalled the willingness for the US to recognise an independent Southern Sudan if this was the vote after 9 January 2011 . He gave two examples of US government’s recognition of independent states: That of Cape Verde breaking away from Guinea Bissau and Eritrea breaking away from Ethiopia.
Progressive Pan-Africanists had supported the independence of Eritrea, despite the clear Nkrumaist position that the future of Africa was to be in the unity of the peoples across borders and the artificial states imposed at Berlin. It was the argument of the Pan-African movement at that time that the peoples of a society should not be coerced into a political entity that denied their dignity and humanity. After fighting for 30 years, Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia and became a member of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). But very soon after this independence the militarism and masculinists’ ideas that had shaped the independence process broke out over outstanding border issues. This led to a series of wars between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The independence of Eritrea did not in essence bring peace to the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. In fact, the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia are now dominated by repressive dictators who at one time sounded the progressive rhetoric about the right to self-determination. It is this memory of the border wars between Ethiopia and Eritrea that made the statement about the establishment of ‘soft borders’ sound like a recipe for future wars in the Sudan.
OPPRESSION OF WOMEN IN THE SUDAN
It is this experience of the Eritrean process that calls for rigorous Pan-African engagement with the referendum process in the Sudan. We must reassert that it is the right of the Southern Sudan people to vote and decide how they should be governed; we agree completely that all Sudanese do not want Sharia law. Most of the Sudanese people want peace. This yearning for peace has been expressed clearly in the meetings that brought together all the peoples of the Sudan, not just the leaders of the North and the South. One such meeting was held in Kampala, Uganda, 17-20 July 2000. This meeting was arranged under the auspices of the Global Pan African Movement and Tajudeen Abdul Raheem had brought together Sudanese from the North, from the South, from the Nuba mountains and from all of the varying groups in the Sudan that opposed Arabism and Islamisation. This Pan-African meeting demonstrated the reality that the struggles for dignity and freedom in the Sudan was not confined to the South but involved all of the peoples of the Sudan. The Second Kampala Declaration on Human Rights, Democracy and Development in Sudan affirmed ‘that Sudan is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country and that it is vitally important to ensure equality and respect for all nationalities, cultures and religions in the country. Participants in the Conference, who hailed from every corner of Sudan, stressed the importance of the devolution of power to the regions in a genuine federal system or comparable arrangement that empowers the disparate peoples of Sudan, to enable them to protect their traditions and cultures.
This conference had a very strong representation of women from all parts of the Sudan who argued that the Sharia laws and Arabism oppressed all women in the Sudan. The conference benefited from strong and vigorous contributions from women participants, from both political parties and civil society. This was reflected in the communiqué that stated:
‘The Conference noted the suffering of women in Sudan, South, East, West and North, on account of war, dictatorship and discriminatory, extremist laws and policies. The Conference reaffirmed the resolutions of Kampala 1 with regard to the importance of women’s rights. In particular, the Conference resolved that:
‘A future transitional government should cancel any laws and policies that are incompatible with the rights of women as enshrined in international human rights conventions.
‘All political parties should ensure adequate representation of women at all levels including the highest.
‘There should be a National Women’s Convention to address all issues of concern to Sudanese women in 2001.
‘Cultural exchange between Sudanese women and with regional and international women’s organisations should be encouraged.’
The events of 11 September 2001 intervened to short circuit this independent organisation of women. One issue that has not been on the agenda in the negotiations of IGAD or the African Union High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan is the issue of the rights of women in the South after the referendum. At the time of the African Union Summit in Kampala in July 2010, Wangari Maathai raised the question of the centrality of the women of the Sudan in the context of the referendum. She had written that:
‘Achieving lasting peace and security in Sudan is not possible without women's full inclusion and especially within decision-making processes. Yet, up to now, women are almost invisible.’
I would agree with the observation that ‘an integral part of the responsibility to be inclusive is ensuring that those most affected by the referendum have a voice –namely, Sudanese women.’
WHICH WAY SUDAN?
During the period of decolonisation, it was the mantra of all liberation leaders to state that the freedom and independence of Africa was linked to the emancipation of women. All over Africa the increased exploitation of women ensures that peace agreements and accords that do not deal with the multiple oppressions of women will lead to increased insecurity for all. Thus while the leaders of the South are working hard for the end of ethnocultural arrogance and Arabism, it is equally imperative that the forces for justice in the Sudan work just as hard for the end to all forms of oppression against women. We must remember that one important element of conquest in Sudan was the overthrow of vestiges of egalitarianism and the importance of female deities in the communities.
The politics of god merged with the politics of patriarchy and these forces became enmeshed in the international and regional politics of the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Islamic fundamentalism represented itself as an anti-imperialist force while internalising the culture of capital. The Global War on Terror made the Sudan a field for opportunistic alliances. The existence of vast oil deposits in all parts of the Sudan brought the Sudan into the centre of international geo-politics.
The urgency of the post-referendum matter also emanates from the fact that most of the neighbours of Sudan would like a weakened and divided Sudan. It is not yet time to call names of countries with outstanding claims based on contested colonial borders and the resources therein. Whether it is in the east or the west, the issues of oil and water have lent special importance to Sudan. While the US government has been critical of oppression in the Sudan, the same government has been supporting an equally repressive government in Chad. The political leader of Libya has opportunistically sought to ingratiate himself with Islamist and other oppressors while seeking to carve out a leadership place in the African Union. In the past two months, this leader apologised for Arab participation in the slave trade in North Africa. This apology could have been meaningful if the leader had mobilised resources to sensitise Arabists all over North Africa of the need for healing from the distortions engendered by a consciousness of ethno-cultural superiority. Such healing is part of defusing this polarised and binary conception of Arabs and Africans in the Sudan and societies such as Algeria, Morocco, Chad, Egypt, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya. This healing is part of the repair necessary to transcend the dangerous mix of religion, war, water and petroleum products in that region of Africa.
Oil in the Sudan has become central to international geopolitics. The Chinese presence in the Sudan has provided enough fodder for the neoconservative forces in the US to push for war. No less a person than Lt. Col. Karen Kwaitkowski had outlined in 2005 the intentions of forward military planners in the Pentagon to make Sudan a battleground. The ascendancy of the militarists in the planning of the US policy for Africa was manifest when the Obama administration appointed Major General Scott Gration as the special envoy to the Sudan.
It is against this background and the increased emphasis on US military engagement with Africa through the US Africa Command that Pan-Africanists need to pay close attention to the proposal of the Obama administration for the negotiation of the Southern Sudan solution with the Sudanese government. For the past 20 years, Sudan, especially the southern part, has been the playground for international NGOs and conservatives in the humanitarian industry. It has also been the scene of using Africans as guinea pigs for Western medicine. A fictional account of these drug trials were outlined by John Le Carré in ‘The Constant Gardener’. We learnt that the truth was even more outrageous than the fictional representations of the crimes of the NGO and international pharmaceuticals. Southern Sudan became a playground for western missionaries and NGO organisations. A culture of dependence and impotence was nurtured with the concept of the ‘Lost Boys’ of the Sudan gaining cultural power in the West.
Southern Sudan has also been drawn into the geopolitics of the Palestinian question and the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. It is known that the forward planners of the US Africa Command and the private military contractors see the Sudan as a thriving business opportunity. The US and members of the UN Security Council are known to have frustrated a vigorous Pan-African peace keeping mission that could have worked closely with the UNMIS (UN Mission in Sudan).
WE MISS JOHN GARANG
John Garang was an independent African leader who represented the kind of leadership that could have secured the support of the people in the North and the South. His death was convenient for war makers in Africa. Progressive Pan-Africanists must now be vigilant and be engaged with this referendum process to ensure that those who are interested in oil and war do not dominate the future of Sudan. It is the engagement of the progressive forces that will ensure that the negotiations over the referendum do not provide room for militarists. It is necessary to remember that the first negotiation that led to the Addis Ababa Agreement failed because of the partial nature of the agreement. In this context it is alarming to read from Thabo Mbeki that, ‘Darfur will remain a concern as an ongoing part of this process.'
The issue of Darfur cannot be a side issue in any effort to strengthen what was considered a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We are calling on Pan-Africanists to be engaged with the work of Thabo Mbeki; we agree with Mahmood Mamdani that there should be a negotiated solution to the issue of the Sudan. New forces on the international scene such as Russia, India, Brazil, Vietnam, and China should work with the UN to ensure that there is peace in the Sudan after the referendum. In particular, the Chinese political leadership must work closely with the forces for peace in the Sudan in both the north and the south to prevent a repeat of Eritrea/Ethiopia debacle. China cannot depend on the intellectual resources of the West to inform its engagement with the referendum. Neither can China allow short-term greed in relation to oil cloud the understanding of the need for peace.
The National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) do not represent the totality of the Sudanese polity. We agree with the Sudanisation message of John Garang: ‘with its composite vision of the “new Sudan” where all Sudanese would participate as equals.’
African unity is needed now more than ever to guarantee peace. We seek the kind of unity that recognises that that there are many different languages, religions, cultures, and histories in Africa. We want to reiterate that the Pan-Africanist position on Sudan and Africa is for peace, reconstruction, repair, healing, and transformation. These are what we desire for a post-referendum Sudan.
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* Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. His latest book is 'Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA', published by Pluto Press.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Global currency wars and US imperialism
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: There has been much publicity about the so-called 'currency war' arising from the discussions at the recent G20 meeting. Can you explain what is meant by currency war?
SAMIR AMIN: The discourse, the rhetoric, on the currency war is very superficial and even misleading. As everybody knows, what is being said is that the Chinese Yuan is undervalued and that is bad for the global equilibrium. It is as if China is mainly and exclusively responsible for what is bad in the system. Everyone keeps saying that the Yuan is undervalued. Now this is not the real problem. The real problem is the imbalance between the power of the US - that is of the US dollar - and the non-power of the other so-called partners (and therefore are really non-partners) in the integrated global monetary and financial system and market as it presently exists.
The real question is that imbalance. That is obvious when you hear the US establishment speaking. They say, and they repeat it with arrogance: the dollar is our money and your problem. That is, the US keeps in its own hands the tools for managing its own currency according to its own needs and targets, good or bad. That is indeed what the US Federal Reserve does, which is its central bank - state - ruled by the treasury. The US Federal Reserve has the tools in hand for running its monetary policy as it considers it should be, with no regard to anyone else.
So, the Federal Reserve fixes the rate of interest; it is not the banking system that does that. Whether they fix it high or low in order to serve their targets, whether this is effective or not, they have this right, and they keep hold of that right. And they keep also the right of the Federal Reserve to buy treasury bonds that is to cover, eventually, a budget deficit of the US by inflation, by printing money.
These are the normal rights of a sovereign state, and they keep those rights. Whatever they decide freely and independently has of course effects upon the other partners. It can be damaging, in many cases, on the others. But they don't care. They say, well this is our money. If you have difficulties with it, this is your problem and you should deal with your own problems.
If this principle is acceptable for the US, then it has to be acceptable for all other countries. There is a basic and fundamental principle of international law which is equal sovereignty of states. That is, if the US keeps for itself those rights, then the same holds for other countries. And that is exactly what China is doing. China behaves exactly like the US, it has kept hold of the tools to manage its monetary policy according to its own targets and needs. It is the central bank of China, which is state controlled, which decides the rate of interest in China and which decides also - which it is allowed by law to do - to buy Chinese treasury bonds that is to cover by inflation an eventual deficit of the Chinese state budget.
There is no deficit at the moment, but the point is that they keep that right. China is not doing anything different from the US. It is doing exactly the same. It has kept all its sovereign rights, just as the US has also kept its sovereign rights.
So the Chinese would be absolutely right to say to the Americans: if the dollar is your currency and our problem, so equally the Yuan is our currency and your problem! So, you (the US) have to solve your problem, and not to put the blame on us.
Additionally the problems of the US are not the result of China's doing, they are the result of the failures of the US in many areas related to the governance of corporations, education and R and D, financial management etc. And therefore there is no reason why China should accept the dictates of Washington, and frankly it is not accepting them. But the propaganda continues incessantly - it is China, it is China, it is China.
What is very curious in the present state of affairs is that, unfortunately, no other country other than China retains those rights. No other major partner (of the G20) has fully retained those rights, although some of the emerging countries such as India and Brazil have done something to that effect. Instead, they have generally accepted the dictates of the US.
Indeed, ‘Euroland’ has castrated itself by the Maestricht and Lisbon agreements. It has adopted for itself curious rules for the running of its so-called European Central Bank - which in effect is not a Central Bank (since there is no European state which has the responsibility to run it). It is not allowed to lend to the state, whereas the US Federal Reserve and Treasury is indeed allowed to lend to the state, just as the Chinese central bank is allowed to lend to the state.
The reason for that unbelievable attitude, again, is that there is no European State and that the Union does not trust the National European States. The decision not to lend to the States therefore proceeds from the curious belief that the exclusive role of the Central Bank is to prevent at any cost any dose of inflation! The rule of ‘no inflation’ has been made an absolute principle - which is absolutely silly.
Prodi, the former chair of the European Union, said this was idiotic. And indeed it is. Similarly, the European Central Bank does not decide on the interest rate. It leaves it to the so-called ‘market’. Effectively this means leaving it to the major banks, which are the European as well as American, and even Japanese banks operating in Europe. Thus the European Central Bank has in effect castrated itself. So, the Europeans are not in a position to tell the Chinese that it is their fault. It was not the Chinese who set the rules of the European Central Bank! If the rules are silly, idiotic, that is the fault of the Europeans.
As for the other partners, that is Great Britain and Japan, they have accepted, and continue to accept, to align themselves behind the US, and to leave to the US the management of the global integrated monetary and financial system. In other words, they have accepted the fundamental imbalance in favour of the US. This is also their problem: if they have decided to follow the dictates of the US, why should they complain that China does not! The Europeans and Japanese have the right to manage their own currency just as the US and China do. But they have made a political decision to align themselves with the US. Therefore any consequences of this choice of theirs is not the responsibility of China.
It is important to understand that this is the central problem. The problem is the global integrated monetary and financial system, ruled as it is by the dollar, that is ruled by the exclusive prerogative of the US Treasury and Federal Reserve, of the US state. This is not acceptable. That is the problem. The problem is not the exchange rate of the Yuan or that of the Rupee or any other currency. Absolutely not.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: So what are the solutions possible?
SAMIR AMIN: There are three sets of possible answers to the real problem - not the false problem of the exchange rates of currencies - but the real problem of the global integrated monetary and financial system.
First, for those who assume that the system is not so bad, and who accept that the US dollar should continue to be effectively the major, if not absolutely the exclusive international currency, the idea would be to restore the system as it was before the 2008 financial breakdown along with, perhaps, some minor regulatory reforms (most of which are essentially more cosmetic and rhetorical than real).
This is exactly what the Stieglitz Commission and the Stieglitz report aim at. It accepts that the US dollar should remain the almost exclusive international currency (with some minor concessions). But it also accepts the right of the US government to manage the currency exclusively and on its own. As for everyone else, they have to adjust to the US dictates. This is, of course, not acceptable, especially for the South.
If the Europeans, the British, the Japanese accept it that is their business. But I don't see why the Asians, the Latin Americans, the Africans should accept it. And it is not accepted, certainly not by China and some of the emerging states - India and Brazil in particular. Although it is not accepted morally by African states, in practice they have completely accepted to submit to its consequences - they have done nothing to respond to the challenge.
So, that is the Stieglitz style solution. And it has completely failed. Nobody pays attention to the Stieglitz report, which has been dropped in the waste-basket, and nobody really cares about it. It has not convinced the partners, especially from the South. Even the North does not give any consideration to the recommendations of Stieglitz.
The second set of solutions is theoretically ideal. This would involve establishing a new, integrated global monetary and financial system not ruled - as it is at the moment - by the US dollar and under the control of Washington. A different system should be imagined instead. That would mean inventing or creating a new international currency unit which would, of course, be clearly defined by a basket of major currencies - the dollar, the Euro, the Sterling, the Yen, the Yuan, and possibly some other currencies.
The proportions for each component would be that which corresponds to the contribution of each State or group of States to the global trade. That is, close to the SDR (Special Drawing Rights) and even closer to the ‘bancor’ that Keynes imagined in 1945. That would be a realistic international currency, that of course would need to be properly managed. New rules would have to be invented to that effect.
Among those rules needed, a relation to gold cannot be avoided. That is to say, the system cannot be stabilised if there is not a fixed stabiliser. The new international currency unit has to be defined as equivalent to a precise quantity of gold. The gold exchange standard is needed, but not the gold standard as it has been in the Bretton Woods period, that is from 1945 until 1971, when the convertibility of the dollar into gold was suppressed by unilateral decision of the US. During these 30 or so years, in effect it was correct to say that the dollar was as good as gold. But since the 1970s, this is no longer the case.
This of course would be the ‘ideal’. But this ideal is impossible. It is impossible because it is rejected by the US and by its subordinate allies - Europe and Japan. In other words, it is rejected by the Triad. They don't want it. And if they don't want it, there is no global consensus possible. And if there is no global consensus, there can be no ideal solution. So running after an ideal solution would mean writing endless papers with almost no effect. It is politically rejected from the very start by the US, Europe and Japan.
Thus, there is only the third alternative. We - that is, the countries of the South, emerging as well as the others - should seek to establish arrangements between ourselves. It would be nice if we can achieve an arrangement across the global South, but this is difficult for the time being. But we could construct regional arrangements independently from the rules governing the global system. We leave the global system as it is, we leave it to the Americans to complain with the Europeans - we don't care about their problems. The idea of such a regional arrangement has already been initiated but actual achievements in keeping with that idea are still extremely limited.
This is what the Chinese had in mind when they established the Organisation of Cooperation known as the Shanghai group, as well as the initiatives that China took in the area of financial and monetary arrangements with some of the countries of the ASEAN region in South-East Asia. This is also what some of the Latin American countries have imagined when they established the ALBA project and the ‘Sucre’ currency unit.
Much more needs to be done and must be done. This is the solution and the only viable solution. These various arrangements in different parts of the South could eventually be inter-related at the level of a global South. We have to move independently.
We have to accept that since no global consensus is possible, we in the South have to act independently and as far as possible together. The last meeting of the G20 has proved once more that there is no possible global consensus. The attempt of the G7 to co-opt first the Russians into the G8, and then some of the emerging countries -China, Brazil, India and some others - into the G20 has essentially failed. We are polite. Our governments go to these G20 meetings, but there is no consensus produced out of its meetings. So, we have to take independent initiatives.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: What are the dangers for Africa of the current influx of capital?
SAMIR AMIN: The dangers are enormous. What we see is the plunder of our resources, just as we saw with the financial crisis of Asia in 1997/8 and as we now see it in the current financial crisis.
Our response to this challenge should be effective, and to that effect we have to re-establish national control of the financial flows, just as the Chinese are doing - they are controlling the flows of finance to China. So, depending on what we think is important in order to meet our needs, we may accept foreign direct investment (perhaps with reservations and conditions for which it is up to each country to decide) - but we must reject speculative financial flows. There is no reason why we should accept in Senegal, in Indonesia, in Kenya that foreign banks are allowed to throw in money, finance a financial bubble, plunder our resources and then run away. We should reestablish exchange control of capital flows. That is the only answer to the challenge.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: So what is the possibility of an African currency being developed?
SAMIR AMIN: We are in a miserable position. No country in Africa seems to have the means to act. We have accepted the full range of structural adjustment programmes. We have completely opened our economies. We are the weakest economies, yet we are the most open. We are open to any plunder, not only of our natural resources, but also the plunder of our savings by foreign banks. There is only one solution, and that is to establish national control over transfers. They say that if we do so, foreign capital will not come. But the reality is that it is not coming. It is coming only to plunder natural resources. If we had control over foreign flows, we would be in a position to negotiate the conditions for the access to our resources, which they need.
PAMBAZUKA NEWS: Many people say that Chavez in Venezuela has been able to negotiate and drive certain reforms because he has a strategic natural resource - namely oil. But in Africa, we too have huge natural resources. So why is it that we have not been able to do what Venezuela has?
SAMIR AMIN: The difference is essentially political. The progressive social forces in Latin America have been able to grow and they have grown large. They have developed programmes which are essentially nationalist - and I consider that as positive - along with progressive social content. This has led to political changes of a variety of types. That political change has created favourable conditions for another pattern of management of their natural resources such as oil.
The problem in Africa is that the struggle of the peoples for social progress associated with the reinforcement of national independence, which was the programme of the movements for national liberation, has been discontinued, and that consequently our ruling classes have turned comprador. These ruling classes are benefiting from the system as it is, while social movements remain fragmented and exclusively on defensive positions. They have democratic and socially legitimate demands, but they have to integrate in their programmes national policies, political alternatives which take care of the need to control capital flows.
At the forthcoming World Social Forum in Dakar in February 2011, the World Forum for Alternatives will be actively engaged to connect with the social movements with a view to have them including into their programmes political targets. In that frame the issues related to the management of macro policies, the issue of management of the national and regional financial systems will be raised. We will also be raising the issue of the military as well as other international issues which are obviously related.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Interviewed by Firoze Manji, 18 November 2010.
* Samir Amin is director of the Third World Forum and chair of the World Forum for Alternatives.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Western Sahara: The forgotten conflict
The Western Sahara conflict with Morocco is one of those almost forgotten conflicts. It is one that is an unbelievable 35 years old – and still the Moroccan government remains intransigent. A Moroccan About a World around him reports on recent uprising in one of the camps in Laayoune the main city in occupied Western Sahara. Prior to this King Mohammed VI had accused Algeria of human rights violations against Saharawis in Tindouf camps ignoring his country’s central part in why they are there in the first place.
‘The violence was triggered when a battalion-size security force descended on the camp in the early hours of Monday in an attempt to raze it and disperse its residents using tear gas and water cannons. The protests seeped into Laayoune and resulted in substantial material damage and loss of life as a group of the camp’s residents that an official Ministry of Interior statement described as wanted criminals and subversive agents clashed with the security forces. Black smoke bellowed over the city and debris littered its arteries. The number of people injured and killed could not yet be confirmed. According to the BBC, about seventy people have been injured and over ten have died.’
According to media reports, Morocco blamed the uprisings on Algeria and the Saharawi liberation movement, the Polisario Front. However according to the blogger, none of the media – Moroccan, Algerian or Spanish – were objective in their reporting. There are a number of ironies in this post – Morocco accusing Algeria of human rights violations in the camps and then militarising the camps in the occupied region. And Spain’s criticism of Morocco’s treatment of Saharawis, whilst at the same time reaching an agreement with the Moroccan government to act as a proxy immigration control, and its silence on the treatment of migrants trying to reach Spain.
This month’s Talk Morocco them is ‘The State and Reglion’.
‘Freedom of religion is considered by many to be a fundamental human right. Though the Moroccan Constitution provides for the freedom to practice one's given religion, Islam is the official state religion and conversion from it and proselytizing to its practitioners are strictly forbidden. This month we are asking: What role should the state have in defining Islam in Morocco, or should this be a matter left entirely to individual conscience? What about Moroccans who don't consider themselves Muslim, or who want to be free to interpret their faith in a unique way?’
Free Kareem was set up by the Committee to Protect Bloggers as a campaign site for Egyptian blogger Kareeem Amer who was arrested and imprisoned for four years. Kareem’s crime was to criticise religious leaders in his writings on political repression and religious extremism in Egypt. Kareem was released on 15 November after serving 1,470 days in prison. He is yet to speak of his case and his ordeal.
Staying with the theme of freedom of speech, Abbay Media and a number of other Ethiopian blogs report on journalist Sisay Agena who was awarded the ‘Freedom to Write’ award by PEN USA. Agena has been arrested and imprisoned many times by the Ethiopian government including spending time in solitary confinement. He was unable to accept the award in person as the US refused to give him a visa. Abbay publishes the full text of his speech delivered on his behalf.
‘In Ethiopia, the freedom to write has been shrunk to a license to write given as a privilege by the government. Perhaps not even that. It is a permit that is given and taken at a moment’s notice.
‘I believe the freedom to write for a journalist is the freedom to write about what is wrong and what is right in his or her society. President John Kennedy was right when he said, the role of the press is to “to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mo[u]ld, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
‘I, and my other colleagues in Ethiopia, have been denied licenses to publish our newspapers for the past three years, even though the Ethiopian Constitution says that in the exercise of press freedom, “censorship in any form is prohibited.”
‘Could there be a more severe form of press censorship than requiring a license to publish newspapers?
‘Some people say, “Freedom isn’t free.” In Ethiopia, the freedom to write is not free. It comes at a very high price: loss of peace of mind resulting from a constant campaign of harassment and intimidation; loss of professional practice by being prevented to do what one is trained and passionate to do; and the daily struggle to survive under the cloud of fear and enforced silence.’
South African blogger, Julie Reid, author of The Big Media Debate writes about the state of the media in South Africa. First the Public Service Broadcasting Bill has been put on hold. Second, ANC MP, Pallo Jordan who was formerly in favour of a Media Appeals tribunal has now changed his mind and jumped ship on the issue leaving Ms Reid to conclude:
‘The two developments of today make me think that perhaps, all the discussions, workshops, debates, conferences and colloquia are starting to pay off. Perhaps the Department of Communications and the ANC were always more open to listening to the various arguments presented to them by academics and civil society than some of us assumed them to be. Perhaps this is a first step to working together at finding reasonable solutions to fixing the things that are 'broken' in the South A[f]rican media.’
I’m going to round up with two posts which have only very slight connections to freedom of speech but which I feel are important. One of them provides an interesting reflection on blogging, which is what this column is all about, while the other Daraja, is a communication tool for a small rural NGO working in Tanzania.
Loudrastrass by Pumla Gqola has an excellent post on the issue of African languages being spoken and taught in South African schools and ‘the need to change the sorry state of education in SA’.
‘South African children should be able to speak various languages in their country – more than their parents can, even when their parents are polyglots. The school system should play a leading role in this. But it does not. This is a topic that has come up in various conversations with other parents in my own life. I was aghast, when my partner and I started looking at possible schools for our child, to learn that most schools we would have preferred – many with ‘progressive credentials’ – teach English and Afrikaans at first language level, and all other official languages at third language level until the end of primary school. I have various friends who did Xhosa third language at school. Many of them did so for twelve years. None of them can speak Xhosa beyond tentative understanding and elementary small talk. Learning a language at third year level does not teach you how to speak it no matter what your grades say. The fact that languages are taught at third language level at all is an insult.’
A year in the history of a blog - Blog.Daraja – explains their entry to social media first with a blog, then facebook page and finally a twitter profile. According to Google Analytics, during the year, 1,153 people have visited the blog in 2,086 sessions.
‘Daraja is a recently-formed organisation, working in rural Tanzania, aiming to make local government more responsive to the communities they serve. We believe in bringing government closer to the people, and are committed to making democratic local government work for the poor.’
They know who the readers are, how they arrive at the blog and which posts are the most read.
‘There's no doubt that the blog has helped Daraja stay in the loop of donor, civil society, media and activist circles in Dar es Salaam. Through the blog we have a presence there, despite being based 10 hours away in Njombe. This acts as something of an replacement for coffee-break networking on the meeting circuit, but with the advantage of not having to sit through the meetings themselves.’
‘Similarly, the blog has developed into Daraja's foremost internet presence and communications mechanism to those beyond Tanzania's borders. That includes existing supporters as well as, potential partners and donors, many of whom have commented to us that the blog helps them feel in touch with our work, to understand it on a practical level and to get a sense of the context Daraja's working in. For a young NGO based in a relatively remote part of Tanzania, this connection is very valuable.’
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Sokari Ekine blogs at Black Looks.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Western Sahara and Morocco’s physical and symbolic violence
The last two weeks’ events in Western Sahara have drawn an international glare of publicity and anger towards Morocco’s territorial and human rights violations in its illegal occupation of the Western Sahara. These recent events shed illuminating insights into Morocco’s illegal occupation. As beautiful as a peacock’s shimmering feather display, Morocco’s shrill screeching and undignified clawing provide extensive material for research and analysis across the academic disciplines of human rights, international law, anthropology and political science. This article first provides an update on current news about Morocco’s excessive physical violence in the Western Sahara, followed by an introductory précis to some of the analytical aspects of the symbolic violence.
On Monday 8 November, Morocco commenced a heavily militarised dawn attack on the Sahrawi encampment of Gdeim Izik, near the capital city of Layouune. Videos and photos, widely available on the internet, show the camp residents awaking in shock to the excessive Moroccan military assault. In the ensuing chaos and panic, youths in the camp defensively began fighting back with sticks, stones, small gas canisters and knives in a self-protective reaction to both hold back Moroccan soldiers beginning to run into the camp and to shield women, children and the elderly to give them time to flee.
Within hours of the Gdeim Izik raid, the capital city Layounne erupted into a week of violent street clashes, between Sahrawi human rights activists (comprising all sections of Sahrawi civil society (including youth, boys and girls, as well as mothers, all of whom predominantly shape and participate in Sahrawi civil society’s human rights campaigning) and the disproportionate military strength of Morocco’s armed and auxiliary forces.
This week, although Layouune is described as quiet, the city is in fact on ‘lock-down’ by the Moroccan authorities, as is the entire region, under heavy military surveillance and blockades. International media and foreign observers are being denied access to the area. At time of writing, only Peter Boukcaert from Human Rights Watch has been able to briefly break through Morocco’s restrictions and meet with senior Sahrawi human rights activists. Despite this, the Sahrawi themselves have been actively sending messages, videos and photographs via mobile phone to the outside world. These sources indicate that during the violence, Moroccan armed forces began aggressive house-to-house searches, arrests and prolonged detentions, and the first formal witness statements are emerging describing a range of human rights abuses experienced during the period. Some videos suggest possible looting and ransacking of Sahrawi homes and business by what is said to be both Moroccan settlers and military forces. Sahrawi messages have described their fear of leaving their own homes, even to go to hospital, for fear of intimidation and further arrests. Many families are reporting they are unable to locate missing relatives in the various detention centres, police stations and courts, fuelling fears of yet more ‘disappearances’.
Over the protracted 35-year conflict, Morocco has been quietly and systematically rewriting its own human and physical ‘imagined geography’ onto the Western Sahara, in an attempt to authenticate and legitimise its illegal territorial occupation of a neighbouring nation-state.
Morocco’s use of maps and vocabulary provide one example of how it attempts to delineate a new historiography onto its territorial aspirations. There are three changes Morocco has made which attempt to write a new foundational truth on a newly severed map. Firstly, Morocco often uses maps which depict the Western Sahara as part of Morocco, the latter losing its rightful label ‘Western Sahara’. Secondly, official maps of the United Nation’s MINURSO force show the thick buffer line of Morocco’s infamous berm – a heavily militarised, fortified and land-mined sand wall built to protect its stolen land from the native Sahrawi population. This berm is Morocco’s second cartographic change – a powerfully physical change that creates a new colonial border over the original colonial contour. Yet not only does the berm split the visual cartography and physical geography, but it also divides the human population of Sahrawi into two, who are separated from each other on either side of the uncrossable berm.
A third element of this cartographic rewrite is Morocco’s references to the ‘Moroccan Sahara’ and ‘Southern Provinces’, a linguistic change to history. This also extends to the human body, with the emergence of the new term ‘Moroccan Sahrawi’. These ‘new’ people are Moroccan settlers from the north, who have been given incentives to migrate south, forming another of Morocco’s strategies to socio-economically implant itself into Western Sahara.
These visual and linguistic practices are intended to gradually percolate through a process of recitation and repetition to construct a new reality and redesign historical facts, to resonate with the imagined geography.
This physical and symbolic rewriting, or ‘Moroccanisation’ of Western Sahara’s geography, history and human body, runs parallel to the 35 years of protracted irresolution, enabling Morocco to dig itself deeper into the occupied territory. During this time, it has built infrastructure, expanded towns and cultivated its exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources in illegal, lucrative commercial deals.
Each of these acts of symbolic violence enables Morocco, over time and with subtlety, to authenticate its occupation and portray the impression of political, economic and socio-cultural legitimacy to the outside world.
And yet all these acts are illegitimate and unauthorised. They are not recognised as occurring within a legal framework, nor do they occur on Morocco’s own sovereign soil, but on that of a neighbouring nation-state. So too are they unauthorised – the native Sahrawi civil society actively objects to the misappropriation of their sovereign soil, but they are subjected to human rights violations which are intended to silence and therefore eliminate their voices. This is best exemplified by the arrest and beating of a human rights defender, Mr Anama Asfari, in 2009 for carrying a two-inch key ring with the national flag of Western Sahara.
The Western Sahara conflict is a geopolitical drama comprising competing superpower dynamics, contests over crucial natural resources, much-needed strategic economic cooperation and regional political security–stability consequences. And Morocco's invasion and continuing illegal occupation of Western Sahara is a story of overt transgression of international law and fundamental human rights. As Zunes and Mundy write: ‘The ongoing Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara is one of the most egregious yet most underchallenged affronts to the international system in existence today’ (2010, p. 260).
In 1975, during the political chaos of the Spanish decolonisation of Western Sahara, the International Court of Justice published its advisory opinion, which rejected Morocco’s claims of territorial expansion into Western Sahara (at the time, Morocco was also audaciously claiming parts of Mauritania, Algeria and Mali). Ignoring this judgement, Morocco immediately launched an invasion and subsequent 35-year occupation of the territory. Despite 16 years of war, and 19 years of a tense ceasefire, this conflict has remained protracted in irresolution due to the failure of the United Nations to uphold and enforce the international conventions it was created to govern. This is attributable to the complicit support of Morocco’s two key allies, the US and France, who exercise their power as United Nations Security Council members to circumvent over 100 UN resolutions on the conflict and sanction Morocco’s ongoing impunity, in order to secure their rival strategic interests. The third party involved is Spain, which has perpetually evaded its responsibility as the de jure administrator given that the original Spanish decolonisation process was never actually concluded.
In our modern political system and its international laws, Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara is unequivocally illegal and violates our accepted legal norms and conventions of both jus ad bellum (use of force) and jus in bellum (war and military occupation). The story of the Western Sahara conflict is one which defies the international order, whereby the inviolable sanctity of a nation-state’s sovereignty is made an exception for Morocco’s territorial ambitions.
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* Konstantina Isidoros is a doctoral researcher in social anthropology at the University of Oxford, specialising on the Sahara desert. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. This document is an original transcript and copyrighted property of the author. Changes to this original transcript are not permitted without prior approval from the author.
* © Konstantina Isidoros 2010
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
 http://saharathawra.com Videos of Gdeim Izik camp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W-eXAQxr14 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LH2ZpZ9qBQ Videos of Moroccan dawn raid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW5O1zt7xmw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GxgANNvxUs Video of the aftermath of the destruction of the camp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek1CzQPjnTY Video showing heavy Moroccan military presence circling the Gdeim Izik camp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL91Dh6TT34 Video from BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11721690 Regarding Morocco's use of force, especially the use of hot water http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/morocco-urged-investigate-deaths-western-sahara-protest-camp-2010-11-11
 Western Sahara Resource Watch is one the most important organisations researching and reporting on the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara's resources under Moroccan occupation: http://www.wsrw.org For expert legal opinions, including Hans Corell ( UN under-secretary general for legal affairs) see http://www.fishelsewhere.eu/index.php?cat=138&art=983
 International Court of Justice. Reports of Judgements, Advisory Opinions and Orders: Western Sahara. Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975. (See also related Oral Reports, Written Statements, Press Releases, and Orders).
 Mundy, J. 'The Question of Sovereignty in the Western Sahara Conflict'. June 2008. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Jurists for Western Sahara. Canary Island.
The following sample publications are highlighted for readers wishing to access balanced analysis of the Western Sahara conflict:
Damis, J. 1983. Conflict in Northwest Africa: The Western Sahara Dispute. Hoover International Press.
Hodges, Tony. 1983. Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War. Westport, Conn:L.Hill.
Shelly, Toby. 2004. Endgame in the Western Sahara: What future for Africa's last colony? New York: Zed.
Pazzanita, Anthony. 2006. Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara. 3rd.ed. Scarecrow Press.
Zunes, S. and Mundy. J. 2010. Western Sahara: Nationalism, Conflict and International Accountability. Syracuse University Press.
Arts, K. & Leite, P.P. International Law and Western Sahara.
Selection of campaign groups on the Western Sahara conflict:
Western Sahara Campaign UK (www.wsahara.org.uk)
Free Western Sahara Network (http://freesahara.ning.com)
Western Sahara Resource Watch (www.wsrw.org)
Australia Western Sahara Association (www.awsa.org.au)
The Western Sahara Association in California (www.calwesternsahara.org)
Spanish Group of pro-Saharawi Associations (www.saharaindependiente.org)
Norwegian Support Committee for the Western Sahara (www.vest-sahara.no)
Illegal EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement (www.fishelsewhere.org/legal.htm)
Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org)
Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org)
Landmine Action de-mining programme in Western Sahara (www.landmineaction.org)
‘The Souls of White Folk’ rediscovered
Bill Fletcher Jr
‘“But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?” Then always, somehow, some way, silently but clearly, I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!’
– W.E.B. Dubois, from ‘The Souls of White Folk’
I am not sure what led me back to it. I had read W.E.B. Dubois’s ‘The Souls of White Folk’ (originally published in Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil , 1920) years ago. At the time I was moved by this often-ignored essay but simply filed it away in the recesses of my memory.
Yet I returned to it. I had been thinking about right-wing populism and white nationalism in the USA and at some point I found myself Googling this piece. There were three things that immediately struck me: (1) by coincidence, it was published exactly 90 years ago, (2) it read, in many respects, as if it had been written yesterday, and (3) it was both passionate and poetic in its style, but equally biting in its critique of white supremacy and imperialism.
‘The Souls of White Folk’ was an essay written in the aftermath of the First World War and the despicable Versailles Treaty of 1919 which formally ended the war. Mainstream historians often focus on the mean-spirited punishment that the Allied Powers brought upon Germany, thereby laying the foundation for the Second World War. Little attention is given, however, to the hypocritical attitude of the Allied Powers with respect to the colonial world, the ‘darker races,’ to borrow from the title of Vijay Prashad’s excellent book. Representatives of the colonial world (including from Black America) gathered in Versailles to ascertain whether the Allied Powers (USA, Britain, France, Italy) would be true to their commitment to support the right of national self-determination. The future leader of the Vietnamese Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, was one such person who made the trek to Versailles, hoping that Vietnam, and the rest of Indochina, would secure self-determination.
Instead of receiving justice, the coloured peoples of the world were ignored. The former colonies of Germany were either handed over outright to other colonial powers or they were placed into a League of Nations trusteeship, but in neither case were they able to secure independence. Dubois observed this first hand, having attended the Versailles conference. He subsequently helped to convene a Pan African Congress in order to address the fact that the African world had been so overlooked.
‘The Souls of White Folk’ takes as its starting point an analysis of the origins of the First World War. Rather than accepting the established notion that it was a war for democracy and self-determination, Dubois embraces the assessment that it was an imperialist war focused on the objective of gaining greater portions of the colonial world for this or that imperialist power. This was an analysis advanced by Russia’s V.I. Lenin at the start of the First World War and for much of the Left it has subsequently become a basic truism.
‘The Souls of White Folk’ would be a powerful document if it simply stopped there, but Dubois goes further and in doing so makes this document one that cannot be read simply as an historical piece, but one that remains critically important today. Dubois turns to the question of race and, in fact, white privilege, and demonstrates the linkages between race and imperialism. Dubois notes, for example: ‘Behold little Belgium and her pitiable plight, but has the world forgotten Congo?’ For those not up on their First World War history (and no criticism is implied), much was made of the German subjugation of Belgium. Yet Dubois asks about the Congo, and this is not simply a throwaway line. Belgium, through King Leopold, controlled the Congo during which time it put to death 10 to 12 million people. Dubois, of course, could not know what was soon to be facing European Jews and the annihilation of six million of them at the hands of the Nazis (who in 1920 were just getting organised), but that Holocaust received international attention, whereas the holocaust inflicted on the Congolese people was all but ignored at the time that it happened, in the aftermath of the First World War, and, indeed, in the aftermath of the Second World War. For Dubois, imperialism was not racially blind.
Dubois situates the matter of race directly with modern imperialism. He makes the point that the degrading of this or that part of humanity has been with us for thousands of years, but that it is with the rise of modern Europe that we see the rise of what he terms ‘the eternal world-wide mark of meanness,--color!’
Race (or racist oppression) becomes a process of dehumanising the targets of colonial oppression, turning them into something less than men and women and thereby making it easier to overlook their suffering. This is what was powerful in his example of Belgium. It was not that Dubois was ignoring the suffering of the people of Belgium. Rather he was focusing on the fact that the so-called civilised world could so easily ignore the suffering and murder of so many millions of people in the Congo and elsewhere, people who happened to be black, brown, yellow and red.
There is another piece to race that Dubois suggests, i.e. that it also dehumanises so-called whites. Over the years this concept has gained greater scholarly attention, though for the ‘darker races’ of the world it was a piece of common sense. We grew up with our parents suggesting ‘…in order to keep someone in the sewer you have to stay there with them…’ and other such aphorisms.
As part of his critique of imperialism and racism, Dubois holds a mirror to the USA and says, much as Dr. M. L. King would say slightly more than forty years later: ‘It is curious to see America, the United States, looking on herself, first, as a sort of natural peacemaker, then as a moral protagonist in this terrible time. No nation is less fitted for this role.’ In reading this I found myself thinking about the role of the USA in the talks between the Israeli government and the Palestine National Authority, claiming to be the honest broker while ignoring Israel’s further aggression, most recently in the form of the expansion of the illegal settlements. But it is more fundamental than that: The actions of the Israelis represent a replication of those taken by US settlers as they expanded West, taking lands from the Native Americans and the Mexicans.
‘The Souls of White Folk’ riveted me because of its continued relevance. At a moment, in the aftermath of the November 2010 elections and the victories (albeit complicated) by the political Right, I found myself thinking about the ‘souls’ that inhabit so many white folk in the USA, souls that have been shaped by a perception of their own alleged superiority and infallibility as white Americans in comparison to the entirety of humanity. These souls, however, resemble ghouls rather than angels as they haunt not only the victims of centuries of white supremacist terror, but also haunt the owners themselves, disfiguring them and, as Dubois so poetically puts it, rendering them less than human.
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* This article first appeared in BlackCommentator.com and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.
* BlackCommentator.com editorial board member, Bill Fletcher Jr, is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of ‘Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice’ (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organised labour in the USA.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Haiti: Reclaiming sovereignty
No major decisions have been made by the Haitian people about their lives or futures since the American invasion of 1915. Our first major problem, therefore, is a total absence of sovereignty. The French Revolution marked the moment in which sovereignty was passed from the king to the majority of the people, but Haitians lost this right when the Americans invaded in 1915. Since that date, nothing has been done in our country that was chosen by the people. A lot of our current problems wouldn’t exist if we had been able to make our own decisions. Our president, René Préval, has been an important figure in the government for the past 20 years. The UN has occupied our country since 1994. Nothing has been managed since this date without the presence of the UN. As president, Préval has never done anything without the UN. The last moment in which we attempted to exercise sovereignty as a people was in 1990 when we elected a president who was thrown out seven months later by the United States.
Our second major problem is degradation of the environment. This situation is currently threatening the continued existence of our territory. We all have worked on these issues before and I won’t go into great detail about it because we know about it. We have rivers that used to flow year round that now dry up for months at a time. If things keep continuing this way we will have to start importing all of our drinking water. Haiti has less that 2 per cent of its original forest cover standing and this has changed all of our seasonal cycles. This is why now a little tropical storm can come and flood us out. This is one of the problems that cannot wait regardless of the crisis because if we don’t do something soon the land that we live on will wash into the sea.
The third fundamental problem, which is linked to the absence of sovereignty, has to do with the fact that 80 per cent of our population is living on less than US$2 a day and 40 per cent of our population is living on less than US$1 per day. They have to eat with that, pay for their healthcare and so on. All of the international organisations recognise that anyone living on less than US$2 per day is poor regardless of what country they are in and that anyone who lives on less than US$1 per day is living in sub-human conditions. 70 per cent of Haitians currently suffer from malnutrition. This means that we can’t get the number of calories that we need. There are probably people right here in this room who have this problem. Nine out of every 10 Haitians are out of work, not engaged in any revenue-generating activity. How many Haitians are working right now? You have a majority of the population living without dignity, begging, so can you really call this a society where you have people who are 60-years-old with children and grandchildren who are still living in their parents’ house? Can we really talk about a state and human rights in this situation?
We have a government that has been in power for 20 years – the same team – and they have never been able to address these issues. It’s the same people who have been in power since 1990 and they’ve done nothing. The consensus is that that this team, along with the international community, has failed. The UN has been here since 1994, so when we say failure we are talking about them as well as the government. What were they doing before the earthquake? They were organising fraudulent elections so that they could stay in power.
These were the conditions before 12 January. We all lived that day intimately and it has destroyed the country, even physically in the proper sense of the word. As we speak today, it’s like the government has never existed. Nobody in the US, the UN or the government has been able to tell us who left the city or the country and how many houses were destroyed. Nobody can tell us scientifically how many people died. Some people are saying 300,000 – others are saying 400,000 – but we don’t know. We know that it destroyed the three biggest institutions in the country, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power. It destroyed the churches and the schools and now there are more than 2 million people in the streets, some in Port-au-Prince in camps and tents and others who left and went back to the countryside.
So we have a situation in which what was already a wound before the earthquake has begun to fester. Now many people are saying this could be an opportunity because finally we will now be able to remove the blinders that were over our eyes that had enabled us to live in the situation in which we were living. It’s not the earthquake that caused the disaster. A 7.3 level earthquake would not kill 300,000 in a normal country. The death toll was related to the way that the physical space in this country has been managed.
In Port-au-Prince you find 10,000 people living on a square kilometre of land without any sense of territorial structuring. You find the only minimal presence of the Haitian state in Port-au-Prince so everyone who has to do anything, even get an ID card, has to come here. It’s linked to a concept of government that was imposed during the American occupation from 1915–34. At this time everything was concentrated in one place because the US wanted to be able to easily control everything.
The current disaster was exacerbated by a concrete policy from the past. We hoped that this disaster would result in different behaviour based on the idea that we can’t keep living this way, but unfortunately nothing has happened so far. People needed to put their heads together to create a national spirit of solidarity so that when the international community arrived they would find a people standing on their feet who knew what they wanted, so that they could support our decisions.
Unfortunately the government didn’t even react. President Préval spent 15 days after the quake without uttering a word. We could have saved 100,000 people if the government had acted but we didn’t have any support. There were young men pulling people out of the wreckage with sledgehammers but they didn’t have the right equipment. The state had rescue equipment in storage but they refused to let us access it. The government didn’t act while the foreigners came in quickly and took over all of our structures. They moved so fast that some people believe it was planned beforehand because we had 60,000 marines show up as if they were just waiting nearby. So they took advantage of the situation and put their hands on the country.
When the government finally started to act everything had already been taken over. When I met a minister two weeks after the quake he couldn’t even tell me how many troops were here. All they knew was that there was a lot of movement. We decided to try to take charge so that we could show the international community what we saw and what we needed. Rather than enabling this to happen the president and his team decided to legalise this invasion without making any kind of appeal for Haitian solidarity. Rather than calling on the strong forces of the nation, this was the first time in our history that this type of thing happened without the standing president calling out to any of the sectors of society for solidarity.
On the other hand he actively received the international community and even travelled during the moment of the crisis to embrace foreign leaders. He ignored the Haitians and pulled in the foreign community. The biggest way he did this was through enacting the National Emergencies Law which clearly states that the government now has unlimited power that will last 18 months with no kind of oversight mechanisms. This means that they can bring in and spend money and take all kinds of decisions with no way for the people to question what they are doing with the money and with no accountability.
After passing the law they introduced the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti, establishing it as an organ that will take over all the initiatives related to the Haitian reconstruction. It is a mixed commission led by a foreigner and, as we all know, he is the ex-president of the United States, Bill Clinton. The way that the law is written means that the commission will have as many foreigners in control as there are countries that give at least US$100 million. Nobody knows who is in it exactly, but it has a lot of foreigners and the Haitians have no decision-making power. The one with the power is Bill Clinton. There was a minority in the Senate that worked to prevent this law from being passed, but unfortunately we lost. So now we are in a situation where Haitians don’t have any right to see what is going on with the reconstruction. We have no instruments to call the minister to understand what is happening. Every month there is a meeting which goes on with the commission and we choose which project will be financed, but we have no way of knowing what the content of these projects is and if they are needed or not.
One month after it was created, the president issued decree articles 12, 13, and 14, which grant the commission the power to reclaim any land in the country, no matter where and for whatever reason. They have the authority to take any land that they want, and the same decree gives the Ministry of Finance the ability to guarantee that whatever Clinton wants in this regard has to be implemented within 15 days. In the constitution of 1987 Haitians took great precaution to guarantee that no foreigners could own land in this country, but today the president has given the power over to the foreigners instead of protecting the sovereignty of our nation. Unfortunately all of the political battles we mounted were unable to stop this. The president’s job is to protect the sovereignty of the country, but he has committed a crime of treason. The parliament has the responsibility to try him for this in the Supreme Court, but they are afraid to do it. Nevertheless, history will judge him for this.
They are trying to rush the elections so that they can perpetuate things the way they are. Everyone is saying that we shouldn’t have elections because of the emergency and that we should focus on putting transitional power together to address the fundamental problems of the country, address the environmental problems and reintegrate the population. Instead of this Préval is focusing on the elections because he is worried about protecting himself from the crime that he committed. He wants to protect himself by organising these fraudulent elections to take over parliament so that he can’t be convicted of treason. We had protests for several months in the streets but we were unable to mobilise people to prevent the elections and they are now going on in a few days, and there are a lot of political forces that are against them for the reasons I just mentioned. The material and political conditions are not conducive because a lot of people who died are still on the voters list. It is clear that these elections will not be democratic, but they are going on anyway.
We are going to try to see how we can prevent this current government from continuing, and that is why some factions of the opposition are participating to prevent the reconstruction from happening the way that it is now. Préval’s team is trying to avoid being judged and continuing with humanitarian aid as a business. Some people have been able to reap huge benefits from this international solidarity – the fraudulent Clinton family who are now able to award no-bid contracts, for example. According to Haitian law any contract over US$2,250 has to be awarded through a bidding process, but the Clintons have overridden that with the emergency law.
There is a foreign company that was given US$400 million through a no-bid contract to remove all of the rubble from Port-au-Prince. The contract was signed and the money was transferred but nobody is removing the rubble. There are a lot of companies that have contracts in their hands from the Clintons and this is the game they are playing to continue, avoiding all of the national institutions. The ministries have had their power stripped due to the law.
There is complacency between Préval and the international community because they have their own personal interests at heart. Three things that raise a lot of money are selling bonds, selling drugs and humanitarian aid and there is an entire mafia in the international community that has positioned itself to eat away at this US$10 billion that was raised. If we don’t start fighting to prevent this nothing will be done in this country, as we see by looking around today.
We are in this cholera situation now and there are other problems coming on the way because the stage has been set. Cholera is a natural indicator of underdevelopment. We don’t have to look at the numbers on this. Even the bourgeoisie in Haiti don’t have drinking water because it doesn’t exist. In Haiti you either have to buy it from a private company or you have to import it. The water sources are all polluted. All water sources are surrounded by shantytowns with open sewage. All of this shows the total failure of the international community and the state. My position is that we have to stop everything so that we can fight the cholera situation because the state is too weak to manage three crises at the same time. We should stop everything to mobilise the nation as a whole. We should find a common understanding. Unfortunately they have forced us to have these elections. This is the situation today.
The international community and the government have ousted us from this country and we no longer know what is even happening. Money is flowing in, money is flowing out and being spent but there is no Haitian who knows what is happening with it. They are saying that 30 per cent of the money that was pledged has come in, but nothing has happened yet. As a people there are 10 million ways that we can ask them to be accountable. We can go in front of the palace. They don’t want transparency because it will stop them from doing what they want. We are living in the territory but in reality we have been ousted from our own country. We have to organise ourselves to see how, little by little, we can rebuild our nation, but this cannot happen without the participation of the population. We are the ones who need to impose this because freedom is never given as a gift.
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* This article comprises a speech made by Haitian social movement activist and senator Jean William Jeanty at a recent ActionAid event in Haiti.
* Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
What banks can do to a nation's spirit
Yesterday it was the mighty USA. Then it was Great Britain.
Financial institutions in these countries, which everyone had assumed were as solid as the oaken doors that keep intruders out of their premises, were suddenly flailing.
The hydra-headed octopus of a financial leviathan, AIG needed a cash transfusion from Uncle Sam. Lehman Brothers folded. The ageless Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were placed under the probation of officials they would probably not have lent money to in the good old times. Royal Bank of Scotland was nationalised. Northern Rock crumbled at the feet of depositors seeking to get their money back – and woke up under the cold, steely eyes of Bank of England husbandry.
What could be happening? You put your money in a bank because you don’t want to place it under your mattress or in a freezer. And yet the trusted banks take such risks with your money and that of millions of people that the danger of your not being able to get it back, is suddenly made real.
And so the governments step in. They throw taxpayers’ money at the banks and call it ‘quantitative easing’. They expect the banks to lend the new largesse to companies and individuals who are feeling the pinch of economic recession. The governments are interested in keeping people in employment, not thrown onto the dole queues.
But the banks don’t take any of the expected, reciprocal actions. Instead, they take even greater risks with the money they’ve got from the US and British governments (estimated at well over a trillion dollars). For they want to be able to repay the governments quickly. That is because the last thing they want is any government supervising the way they do their business, especially, the sort of risky business that brings in huge ‘bonuses’ – dealing in ‘derivatives’ and hawking ‘collateralised debt obligations (CDOs).
Now, so much has been written about all this that you would be justified in thinking that the fright taken by the banks and financial institutions of the United States and Britain would transmit itself to other countries. After all, this is a ‘globalised’ world where if the big financial boys in Wall Street (New York) and the City (London) sneezed, the whole world would catch a cold.
Ha ha ha. The Greeks didn’t seem to have heard of the US-UK near-meltdown. Greece borrowed enormous sums of money to finance the Athens Olympics of 2004, and also to carry out public spending and even award pay increases. This reckless spending widened the Greek budget deficit enormously. And because Greece is a member of both the European Union and the union’s Monetary System, it came under severe pressure from the rest of the EU, which believed that Greece was putting the financial stability of the entire EU at risk.
Greece eventually bowed to the pressure and began to cut down public spending, which led to its laying off many workers. Riots followed this in May 2010, and several people were killed. In the end, Greece went, cap in hand, to the IMF and the European Central Bank to borrow a whopping sum in excess of US$120 billion.
Meanwhile, next door to Britain, Ireland was happy, enjoying a ‘boom’ that saw it registering GDP growth rates that were phenomenal in European terms – its economy grew from 5.8 per cent in 1994 to a peak of 11.4 per cent in 1997, before falling back to 6.0 in 2007. In nearby UK, the growth rate recorded in 2007 was only 2.6 per cent.
But apparently, the Irish boom was largely a mirage. It was caused by borrowing: Borrowing to build and borrowing to buy the properties built with borrowed money. 100 per cent mortgages were not at all rare and what with a large public sector borrowing requirement also undertaken to fund both current and capital spending, Ireland was, by late 2010, the ‘most indebted country in the world’. Its per capita external debt amounted to over US$535,000.
The Irish debt comprised mainly lending by non-Irish banks to Irish banks, totaling US$170bn, of which British banks had provided US$42bn, German banks US$46bn, US banks US$25bn and French banks US$21bn. By mid-November 2010, it had become obvious that Ireland would have to obtain a new injection of serious money or go under. Its banks, already distrusted by the populace because of scandals, were in danger of having a ‘run’ on their funds by depositors – something that Britons had experienced in 2008, in relation to Northern Rock Bank.
Yet the Irish government pretended that it could ride the storm. Then, the IMF and the European Central Bank descended on it. On 20 November 2010, the bubble burst: The Irish prime minister announced that he had asked the IMF and the European Central Bank to lend Ireland about US$100 billion, with Britain contributing a further US$10 billion.
The way the banks led Ireland down the garden path has once again raised the question of how to control these institutions, which cause so much trouble to governments and yet always stay on top, no matter what happens to the governments that failed to control them. After 2008, it had been hoped that bonuses paid to bank bosses would be pegged to how they ‘performed’ – in other words, what sort of solid business they brought to their banks. But the banks have steadfastly refused to change the criteria they use to judge who is qualified to receive a bonus and if so, how much.
Robert Peston, the well-informed BBC business correspondent, for instance, wonders whether the bankers who lent money to the banks in Ireland would still be paid their bonuses. To which the answer would seem to be a resounding yes. After all, the IMF, the European Central Bank and the British government are all giving money to the Irish government, which the Irish government will share with the banks! So, as far as the banks are concerned, lending money to Ireland hasn’t been anything other than normal business for them: They lend money to get it back with interest. How the money is eventually repaid is none of their business. So why shouldn’t the bank employees who packaged the Irish loans get their bonuses as usual?
Another question posed by Robert Peston is this: Why should Britain, which is itself short of money, be giving Ireland a loan of US$10 billion? Peston says the reason is that many British banks have lent enormous sums of money to Ireland, and so if the Irish economy goes to the wall, it will most probably take a few British – and other nations’ banks – with it.
Which British banks are at risk? asks Peston. His answer: ‘Well, according to new research by Morgan Stanley, total lending to Ireland’s private and public sectors is equivalent to 92.3% of the net assets of Denmark’s Danske Bank, 89.5% of Royal Bank of Scotland’s net assets, 60.2% of Lloyds’ net assets and 15.9% of Barclays’ net assets. Those figures exclude bank-to-bank lending, but they indicate how exposed Britain’s banks are to Ireland’s woes (Royal Bank of Scotland is most exposed, as the owner of a substantial Irish bank, Ulster Bank’.
So everything the Western governments and their financial arms do is essentially in their own self-interest, though that self-interest is often masked. That is why they cannot control the banks, for the banks share their booty with them. Martin Wolf of London’s Financial Times, in a rather ingenious argument, says it is high time to take the bankers on. He thinks ‘it is a gross misallocation of resources to pull the most talented people into a business whose true “value added” is modest, and many of whose activities are zero sum. For the UK it has surely been a catastrophe.’
Martin Wolf adds: ‘The more energetic and “talented” bankers are, the bigger the risks they will take. I no more want bankers to have such characteristics than I want those who run the electricity grid to have these characteristics. The reason even junior bankers make so much money is that they sit on the money flow, which is the result of the licence given by the state to create money.
‘We should not give any support to the ridiculous idea that bankers really do deserve their pay in some objective sense…Special talent really isn’t needed in commercial banking. What is needed is trustworthiness, caution, scrupulousness and organisational ability. Everybody knew this until a couple of decades ago. They were right.’
But, Wolf adds, ‘intervention in the bankers’ pay system has to be subtle: it needs to focus on the structure of incentives and particularly whether there is any tendency to increase risk-taking.’
So if the scions of financial journalism, such as Robert Peston and Martin Wolf, are saying these things about the banks, why do they continue to hold so much power, especially, so much power to do harm to ordinary, hard working people who do not wish to be thrown on the dole queue any more than they want a hole in their heads? The answer is the politicians. They fear the bankers. Throughout history, politicians have sold the people’s interests short in favour of what will please the bankers. Harold Wilson, prime minister of Britain in the early 1970s, was the only one who wasn’t scared of them. He mocked them as ‘the gnomes of Zurich’. They punished him by forcing his chancellor of the exchequer, Denis Healy, to go crawling to the IMF in Washington to bring a deal to save sterling that was as bitter as it was humiliating.
Needles to say, Harold Wilson didn’t last very long in office after that. He resigned suddenly in 1974 for no apparent reason. Other politicians who want to last in office have learnt the lesson: Don’t mess with the banks if you want to last in office. Indeed, the people of Ireland are just finding out exactly what reliance on the banks can do to a nation’s spirit in the long run.
Does what happens in Ireland or Greece matter to us in Africa? Yes it does. The world economy is now so closely interwoven that one can never tell when a local difficulty suffered by a bank in Ireland or Greece might not affect an international bank with which an African country is in negotiations over the financing of projects the African country is trying to implement.
More importantly, the dubious practices which some of the international banks engage in, such as speculating on the prices of African exports like cocoa, tea and coffee, can have a direct effect on the livelihoods of millions of African farmers. In 1972, Ghana managed to obtain evidence linking international banks with suppliers' credits that were fraudulent and had been the result of corrupt deals between Ghanaian politicians and foreign businessmen. So Ghana repudiated the debts it considered ‘tainted’ by corruption. However the ire of the IMF and the World Bank – which consider international debts as sacrosanct – was descended upon Ghana. After it had been squeezed by shortages of petrol, medicine, books and food imports, Ghana caved in. So African countries that walk into the credit vaults of banks must be aware that if the plug can be pulled on Ireland or Greece, it can be pulled on them too. Only, in Africa's case, there will be no European Central Bank or friendly neighbours like Britain, to come to their assistance.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Cameron Duodu is a journalist, writer and commentator.
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Gambia: Case against women's rights defenders postponed
Coalition for Human Rights in the Gambia
The Gambia: The trial of the two women's rights defenders, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho, has been adjourned to 1 December.
State prosecution officer Sainey Joof told the court that the case against GAMCOTRAP was not a civil case but that it was the state that had brought the case against the two senior officers of the organisation.
The court hearing of the trial of Dr. Isatou Touray, the executive director and Amie Bojang-Sissoho, programme coordinator for the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP) failed to proceed 22 November 2010 at the Banjul Magistrates Court before magistrate Emmanuel Nkea. The prosecution applied for an adjournment of the hearing because their witnesses were not present.
Joof said that he was only informed that morning that the witnesses would not be available in court. He told the court that the witnesses were dispersed in different parts of the Upper River Region and the Central River Region of The Gambia and it was expensive and difficult to bring and maintain them in Banjul.
In response to the concern that the main complainant, Yolocamba Solidaridad, was not in court, Joof told the court that the case was not a civil case but it was the state that had brought in the case against the accused.
The defence lawyers, led by Amie Bensouda, did not agree to the adjournment because it was an infringement of the constitutional rights of the accused.
She raised concern that the defence lawyers did not have access to the witnesses’ statements and other relevant documents regarding the case in the custody of the police. She made a formal request to the magistrate for the prosecution officers to provide the documents. Bensouda also raised concern that the main complainant, Yolocamba Solidaridad, had not appeared in court; instead it was poor women who did not complain who were dragged to the court as witnesses. She urged the court to discharge the accused persons or strike out the case for lack of diligent prosecution.
Magistrate Emmanuel Nkea, in his ruling for the day, said he would not strike out the case, but would grant an adjournment to allow the prosecution to bring in their witnesses for the next hearing. Nkea also ordered the prosecution to provide the defence lawyers with the statements of the witnesses and all relevant documents. He finally extended the bail for Dr. Touray and Ms. Bojang-Sissoho until 1 December 2010. The courtroom was packed and the deputy ambassador of the American Embassy in Banjul, Cindy Gregg, and other local dignitaries were amongst the public who witnessed the hearing. The two women will appear in court again on 1 December 2010.
The duo were accused of theft of 30,000 Euros from Yolocamba Solidaridad. The Spanish NGO has never been present in court. It appeared as if it is being represented by the Gambian government. This situation has begun to raise critical issues such as the interest of the Gambian government in a civil matter concerning two NGO’s that signed a project cooperation agreement. Instead of protecting its own citizens the state of the Gambia is in this case representing a Spanish organisation that has no legal status in the country. Moreover, the report of the panel it had earlier set up is at variance with the allegations. Civil society organisations in The Gambia and elsewhere are concerned that the special interest of the state in this case might serve as a disincentive and deterrent to many similar initiatives that other patriotic Gambians are undertaking - especially those working in the area of human rights.
GAMCOTRAP has contributed tremendously to promote women's rights in the Gambia, complementing the state in its responsibility to promote and advance the cause of women. It has made great strides in putting The Gambia on the development agenda of the world by raising funds and reaching out to the most deprived citizens of The Gambia and addressing very critical issues that are inimical to the health and wellbeing of women and children of the Gambia.
Amnesty International Senegal branch,
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ),
Syndicat des Professionnels de l’information et de la Communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS)
Gambia Press Union (GPU)
Organisation Nationale des Droits de l’Homme (ONDH)
Rencontre africaine pour le Défense des droits de l’Homme (RADDHO),
Inter Africa Network for Women, Media, Gender and Development (FAMEDEV),
Réseau Presse et Parlement du Sénégal (REPPAS)
Radio Alternative Voice for Gambians (AVG)
West Africa Journalists Association (WAJA)
South Africa’s vote at the UN undermines its own Constitution
Joint Working Group
23 November 2010
PO Box 93843 Yeoville, 2143 011 403 5566 (t) 011 403 5567 (f)
South Africa’s vote at the UN undermines its own Constitution
South Africa was one of the 79 countries at the United Nations General Assembly who voted in favour of an amendment which removes sexual orientation from an anti-execution resolution. The vast majority of countries who supported the amendment were African and also included Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Rwanda.
The amendment called for the words ‘sexual orientation’ to be replaced by ‘discriminatory reasons on any basis’ and is voted on by the UN General Assembly every two years. For the last ten years sexual orientation was explicitly referred to in the resolution that condemns extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and other killings.
‘The continued treatment of LGBTI(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) people as second class citizens in our countries and on the world stage by our government representatives is shameful and a disgrace. The vote basically means my life is worthless. We will not rest until the full liberation of LGBTI people in South Africa and the world is achieved. We will not rest until there is a South African government in place that recognises the multiple identities and realities of all its citizens. Full citizenship for all,’ says Phumi Mtetwa of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project.
The South African LGBTI organisation, Gay Umbrella, also expressed their concern that the South African Government ‘…does not practice what it preaches’ when it comes to LGBT rights. ‘The recent vote at the UN is a warning sign that LGBT rights in South Africa are not guaranteed and we will do everything in our power to mobilise our members to stand strong to protect their rights,’ they said in a statement released recently.
‘South Africa voted to remove sexual orientation from this resolution, effectively disempowering activists to lobby against laws dealing with hate crimes against gender variant people. This hateful act is a stab in the back by those we trust to lead us!’ said Robert Hamblin, Advocacy Manager and Deputy Director of Gender DynamiX in South Africa.
Cary Alan Johnson of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) also described the vote as a ‘…dangerous and disturbing development’ because it removed the important acknowledgement of the vulnerability faced by LGBT people.
South Africa’s leaders should be acting in a manner that is consistent with South Africa’s constitutional values of non-discrimination, which expressly recognises and names sexual orientation as a ground for specific protection. Members of the Joint Working Group (JWG) demand to know why our leaders and the African National Congress fail to honour their mandate.
For more info please contact:
Natasha Thandiwe Valley at Lesbian and Gay Equality Project firstname.lastname@example.org
011 487- 3810, 082 660 0723
Robert Hamblin at Gender DynamiX
* The JWG comprises of the following organisations:
Behind the Mask
Coalition of African Lesbians
Forum for the Empowerment of Women
Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action
Good Hope MCC
Gay and Lesbian Network (PMB)
Glorious Light MCC
Hope and Unity MCC
Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM)
Intersex South Africa
Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
Out in Africa
Unisa Centre for Applied Psychology
Giving his body for the spirit to grow
Odipo Jacob Odhiambo: An obituary
His serene face of concern, always brightened with a smile, was his signature. His words were always that he could give more. I am going to talk about how he always moved for us, always made greater space.
Something is not going right. Someone has been arrested or some people have been arrested in Nairobi. Or, there is a moment to stand up against corruption and be heard. You blow the whistle. Some people drop everything and turn up.
Odipo arrives early. He does not mind whether he is in front or behind the others, Odipo is there. He is not the kind of person who pushes for space for his body. But you can see his mind is focused. He moves it away for you to sit comfortably. He does not move his mind from you and the topic. I can see him move for me and others in a sitting at Kikwetu Restaurant, for a cup of tea that we need badly. I can see him always shifting for someone else to be happy. Odipo listened deeply and looked broadly. Odipo thought carefully through things. He saw himself as a link within a chain that must not break.
I have to share something deeper with you. Odipo has gone and left us but already he has proved that he has seen we are his living body. I mean it. And that means he is our spirit. I say this because after much anguish, the happy man I heard sing in my dream. He says, ‘I have seen my body.’ I cannot hide that from you. He has seen how you moved as Wabunge as a people, human rights defenders and others.
Philo and Odipo
Odipo had seen and spoken about how important it was for all of us to be connected. I know that many amazing heroes of the Kenyan struggle have a history of remaining backstage, remaining the ones who do not get the accolades and wards and I feel pain. I also see signs that this will not always be so. I know it.
When Odipo was arrested with me, he immediately started taking care of me. He moved for me. He told the police off.
I will go into details here.
On 9 September 2009, just a year and two months and nine days ago, Odipo arrived early outside the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission office. He found Kingwa Kamencu, Khainga O’kwemba and Philo Ikonya outside the offices holding up a poem. We were waiting to read it to the anti-corruption board for we wanted to support them in their bid for Ringera to leave office. The president had tried to hold on to Ringera and Ringera was overstaying his welcome and not working against corruption in a convincing manner. We know the history.
Facing the offices, we had not looked behind us but when we did, there was a policeman, walkie-talkie in the air, striding down the street, the cars having been parked behind our backs. I said to Odipo, ‘Let’s go!’. We did not want to be arrested. Odipo told me, ‘Yes, Philo you are right.’ I heard the policeman say ‘those two’, and he was looking at us. We walked up quietly on the side of former CID headquarters and left the scene. We walked towards Heron Court Hotel and went past. We then came back and noticing a small police van driving slowly near Heron, we hid in some flats higher up the street. We knew the office and we chatted up the secretary nervously. We did not have phones on us and really we had no reason to seriously believe the police were waylaying us for almost half an hour. We left the flats and police cars moved out of the parking fast, and in minutes we were arrested.
I was grabbed first with the words, ‘Get into this car!’ I told them they could arrest me, not beat me and only if there was a woman cop and that he could not touch me. Odipo supported me and asked why they were arresting us.
We also said that if Mr Mugwai – who had beaten me up in February – was in the car, we could not get in.
We were in the vehicle that turned out to be as dark as night, especially since we had come from the light of a bright day. We were told to stay in the middle of the vehicle holding the bar on top. It was uncomfortable. As our pupils dilated and I began to see, I realised the vehicle was filled with helmeted riot police. It was just as well I had not made a dash for the hotel. It had crossed my mind but I had looked at the arresting officer’s own club, unaware that the vehicle was filled with a team.
I could not see Odipo. Suddenly as in the arrest moments someone loses some perspectives; I asked where Odipo was. He answered me he was there in the front of the back part of the van. I realised I still could not see well except for the dark shiny helmets – no faces. He consoled me. He had moved his body right up – and at once we realised this intimidation was too much. We tried to sit down, not realising that there was a person everywhere we could sit, and they threw us up from the bottoms – ‘Simama!’, they shouted. We sang. Odipo started off the tune. It was of the Kenyan national anthem. But the words were ours:
‘Eeh Mungu nguvu yetu,
Ilete Baraka kwetu
Haki yetu iwe ngao na mlinzi.’
The policemen started to taunt us. They asked me if I get a million shillings for wearing a sack. I told them they had done their job – to arrest – and that they could now keep quiet. Odipo went on: We sang three lines and changed to another tune. We sang to ourselves to stand firm and not be shaken.
‘Eeee iyayaya ya weeee!
Philo wetu, weewee,
Simama simama simama imara!’
Odipo was roughed up. He gave up his body whilst his mind looked at me. At Kilimani police station, he told the policemen and the inmates to respect me. He was coughing badly. He got sick. He kept on looking out for me.
I was very surprised by that dream I had the other day. But why should I have been? Odipo always gave up his body for the spirit to grow. I feel he should have lived, but he tells me he wants one body and that he has seen his body. Odipo has not died so that we might be weaker. He has died so that we become stronger.
I feel very challenged. One, it is hard to share dreams in public. It is so easy to be ridiculed when you speak about dreams. But two, they must be shared if they are about us. I draw a lesson: We must continue to dream on and work together. We must heal the divisions that are brought to us.
I know that later that day, I realised Kenya was not so divided, including in civil society in 2007 especially, by chance. We have people who watch us all the time. They work even when they do not arrest us. Today, they will tell you who am I to speak dreams when I am so far away; yesterday they said, do you not see who gets all the attention and even awards, those big guys who speak on TV.
In 2007, they spread to Kenyans that some tribes were this and others that. A village woman spoke to me about communism in a political competitor and her age and all that showed me that this was pure government propaganda. Have you stopped to wonder how even the churches came to be so divided? There is an intelligence that does not like our unity. We have a choice to make. Odipo tells me to insist on the issue of solidarity and not just to say pretty things about dreams. Can we do this together bearing in mind that solidarity is not about uniformity? We must learn to see the wedges, the knives that they run between us and hold on together for real change! I note that Odipo’s great friends had no ethnic code; they were just Kenyans. Let us keep a real Kenya in focus. Let us know our enemies. They know us.
I will not sing a dirge to you
Son of Ramogi,
And of Kenya.
On Mt. Kenya,
Son of Afrika.
My dirge is challenged-
to sing victory
To a child of truth.
To a man of strength,
To a man of commitment.
I come bearing not flowers picked along the road,
But words you spoke and sang.
I come bearing pain too.
Mama Odipo is crying still
The whole clan in tears but blessed.
I want her healing to be Change in Kenya.
I have not come late Comrade,
I come to say you are calling.
You are calling us for greater
Freedom and growth.
I come to say you debated
democracy and rights,
Even on an empty stomach,
in the cells and hospital bed.
I come to say you cared for us.
I come to say your friends were Kenyans,
not tribe. I say too you made my spirit grow.
I feel pain, I do. But you urge me on.
You tell me you have seen your body.
That your body is ours.
I salute you.
Beyond the grave you still challenge us.
Peacefully and with searching glance,
You urge us stand as one!
Bless your tenderly loved ones,
Bless your loved Kenya.
Bless us with growth.
Tell ancestor Ramogi,
And Kenya on Mt. Kenya,
we still stand.
Go well Odipo.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Please send comments to email@example.com or comment online at Pambazuka News.
Dialogue among Civilisations
The art of human rights
The 'Dialogue among Civilisations' project forms the basis for a new initiative by Art for Humanity. It involved collaboration between artists and poets from across Africa. A collection of the art is available for viewing on the website of Art for Humanity.
Funders don’t care about NGO workers in the South
I really enjoyed firstly -- and what grabbed my attention – the title of this piece. It's something I've have given a lot of airspace too in my private discussions. Funding actually serves to prop up capitalism in certain ways -- and yes I very much see how the priorities of funding shape struggle. Community activists with no/poor education are always (if paid at all) on a lower pay scale than the middle classes... even tho IN FACT they may be more knowledgeable about everything to do with the situation they are struggling against. In that way we middle class 'activist'/NGO workers purchase their knowledge CHEAPLY while doing nothing to make funding an equitable venture ... why don't funders equalise pay scales, for example?
Right now there are huge wads of documents in the development sector given over to showing that inequity leads to the worst in human societies -- the development sector knows this beyond a shadow of a doubt -- but it defers the treatment of this to an external system and does not implement changes WITHIN the realms over which it has power.
Similarly, the funding orgs know beyond a shadow of a doubt that contract labour, casual work, etc etc are damaging to workers, to human rights and equality -- and yet in ALL the NGOs i've worked, we all work on contract and have no job security... the funders DO NOT give two hoots about the NGO workers in the south -- they even pay us less.
I have met newby interns in funding organisations that earn more money than me with my 15 years experience... merely because they are in the north (albeit living in the south) while I am in the south.
Funders could do a LOT more to balance their own books and implement changes within their own structures, and not simply defer everything to states.
I believe the reason these debates are not more upfront and out there are because people fear that if they challenge the funders, they won't get funding and they'll be out of work -- given that we are mostly all in contract employment.
I myself feel abused by this system. My township activist friends are even more abused, given even less stability than myself and even shorter term contracts (if getting any contract at all).
Learning from Steve Biko
I have just read an article from you or one of the people that write on your publication (on the internet) which talks about [url=http://pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/55639] why Steve Biko would not vote. Also about the racism which continues in this country from pre-1994 to now.
You mention an interview of Biko in 1972 where he summarises his mode on Socialism and I happened to have read that also just now. What I find interesting in the document is how Biko on page 41 clearly states that the reason the capitalism in this country then was not working is because they had not perfected it where if a middle class of black people were used as a cushion between the system and the general black masses they could perfect the system. The coincidence between the society that Biko talks about in that document and the society that we have right now is uncanny.
I personally believe that the major problem we have as black people is the ‘fantasy’ that even the most liberated amongst us possess. What I mean by that is that we somehow want to keep some of things that white people have, be it material or otherwise because they look attractive to us. And if we want true liberation we must let go of the ‘fantasy’. I’m talking about everything from their education to their religion, from their justice systems to strictly everything that is them. Politics themselves in the form of political parties and ideologies have their origins from white peoples’ culture – that of trying to recruit many people to our ideas so that we can be many and be heard (whether the idea is wrong or right) which is not who we are.
The question then becomes who are we? People need to take themselves back to pre-colonialisation and find themselves. The reason why we do not want to go back is precisely because we do not believe that we had anything prior our colonization by Europeans hence we have to use their education systems, justice systems, religions etc. that do not work for us. The only time we as black people will be truly liberated is when we liberate ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and in unity, unity that is something white people don’t understand that is why they have always won us through divide and rule.
Steve Biko is my true hero and he has done everything he needed to do in his lifetime up to his death. We need to learn from him, take from where he left off and move on.
Haiti is once again…
Ishaq Imruh Bakari
Museveni and oil discovery in Uganda
Pope on the use of condoms
Africa plans to subvert diamond ban
Key African countries are allegedly planning to subvert a ban on sales of Zimbabwe’s controversial Chiadzwa diamonds, as a decision on the country’s trade future remains unclear. South Africa, Angola and Namibia are said to be preparing to pass off Zimbabwe’s diamonds as their own, in an effort to subvert the ban still in place by the trade watchdog, the Kimberly Process (KP). Sources quoted by the Standard newspaper revealed that the African countries, with the support of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India and China are frustrated by the stalemate reached by the KP over whether to allow full exports of Chiadzwa diamonds.
Mugabe ‘the crazy old man’
'The crazy old man' - this apparently is how South Africa’s International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoane Mashabane, branded Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, according to a US embassy cable from Pretoria to Washington. It is part of the first batch of 250,000 US embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks and which were published by major newspapers around the world, including The Guardian in Britain and the New York Times.
SADC says independent violence report needed
The regional SADC bloc says an independent investigation in Zimbabwe, to verify reports of violence and intimidation before a general election can be held, is needed. Civic society leaders from Zimbabwe on Monday met with the SADC executive secretary, Tomaz Salamao, in Gaborone to appraise him and his secretariat on what needs to be done before parties in the Global Political Agreement call for a poll.
Concerns raised at 48th session of ACHPR
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) participated in the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which took place from 10 - 24 November 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia. During that session, OMCT, along with partner organisations, delivered several oral statements denouncing, among other serious violations of human rights, the occurrence of torture and ill-treatment in Africa, the use of the death penalty across the continent, and the lack of adequate cooperation between the African Commission and the NGOs in connection with the Commission’s country missions.
OMCT raises serious human rights concerns at the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights
THE WORLD ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE (OMCT)
OMCT raises serious human rights concerns at the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Geneva, 25 November 2010. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) participated in the 48th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which took place from 10 to 24 November 2010 in Banjul, The Gambia. During that session,OMCT, along with partner organisations, delivered several oral statements denouncing, among other serious violations of human rights, the occurrence of torture and ill-treatment in Africa, the use of the death penalty across the continent, and the lack of adequate cooperation between the African Commission and the NGOs in connection with the Commission’s country missions. OMCT also called attention to the deteriorating situation of human rights defenders, activists and civil society organisations in the past few months in North Africa and Sudan. OMCT and FIDH, within the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, also expressed their extreme concern at the situation of human rights defenders throughout Africa who continue to carry out their work in a hostile and dangerous environment and more and more often at the risk of their own lives.
In a statement delivered by Mr. Oumar Diallo, Member of OMCT’s General Assembly, OMCT expressed deep concern about the continuous practice of torture and ill-treatment in Africa despite its clear and absolute prohibition enshrined in international and regional human rights treaties. OMCT raised its concern that, in many countries, torture and ill-treatment are not outlawed by national law; this is the case, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where a draft bill criminalising torture has been pending since 2007. Adoption of such legislation is not only fundamental to prevent and sanction acts of torture and ill-treatment, but also to enable victims of these violations to obtain redress. OMCT also urged States to guarantee the safety of all persons deprived of their liberty and accordingly, to cease practices such as incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance. OMCT is indeed very much concerned that these practices remain common, for example, in Algeria. OMCT recalled that it considers enforced disappearance as a form of torture.
Finally, OMCT recalled the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture in his study on the phenomena of torture and ill-treatment that stressed that impunity is one of the main reasons why torture is so strongly entrenched; In that connection, OMCT expressed concern that too often impunity persists because the political will is lacking to fully investigate crimes of torture and ill-treatment and to bring perpetrators to justice. OMCT once again called upon the African Commission to undertake all necessary efforts to ensure compliance by the States with their obligations under international and regional instruments regarding the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. OMCT, in particular, called on the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure that freedom from torture, as a non-derogable human right, is enjoyed by each and every individual on the African Continent, irrespective of his or her civil, political, economic, social or cultural status.
In connection with the presentation of the report of the African Commission’s Working Group on the Death Penalty, OMCT along with the Foundation for International Human Rights, the FIACAT, International Harm Reduction Association and Penal Reform International welcomed the African Commission’s commitment to the abolition of the death penalty but raised serious concern notably about the situation in the Gambia and Uganda.
These human rights organisations noted with regret that the Gambian National Assembly has extended the scope of the death penalty to include human trafficking, robbery, rape and drug-related offences, which goes beyond the “most serious crimes” restriction and is in violation of international human rights law and standards. The organisations also noted that the Ugandan Parliament is in the process of adopting a Bill that envisages capital punishment, among other penalties, for certain homosexual acts, and recommended that the Uganda Parliament refrain from adopting this legislation and take steps towards abolition of the death penalty.
These organisations noted, in addition, that the treatment of prisoners on death row often does not comply with international human rights standards and norms, and in some cases can even amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. They called on all African Union States to continue to move towards full abolition of the death penalty.
Finally, OMCT wish to reiterate the deep concern expressed by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in relation to the decision of the Commission to deny observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL). That decision constitutes a serious impediment to the promotion and protection of human rights for all on the continent and puts into question the capacity of the Commission to fulfill its mandate of protection and promotion of human rights in accordance with Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In its statement, the Observatory called on the Commission to reconsider its decision as soon as possible.
Alexandra Kossin, Urgent Campaigns, Tel. +41 22 809 49 39
Seynabou Benga, Human Rights Defenders, Tel +41 22 809 49 39
Egypt: Reproductive health lessons cancelled
Civil society has warned of adverse social and health consequences after the Egyptian government ordered the removal of content related to male and female anatomy, reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) from the school curriculum. 'We know most of this material wasn’t being taught, but removing it from the curriculum is a big step backwards,' says Noha Roushdy, researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
Global: Assessing the legal protection of women
The International Development Law Organisation has carried out research to compile comprehensive, accurate and strategic information on how best to enhance the protection of girls through legal empowerment approaches in four target countries, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Liberia. The research focused on: access to birth registration, access to education, access to property rights, protection from child labour, protection from trafficking, protection from commercial sexual exploitation and protection from underage marriage.
Global: Muslim women unite against sexual violence
Scores of women's organisations from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia joined forces last week for a sensational campaign led by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR). As part of the 'One Day, One Struggle' simultaneous event on 9 November, public demonstrations, film screenings, theatre performances and workshops were held in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Palestine, Sudan, Turkey and Tunisia.
Morocco: Morocco to reduce maternal mortality
The Moroccan government is stepping up efforts to check the rising maternal mortality rate in the country by implementing a variety of measures to help women who give birth without medical supervision, particularly in rural areas. Experts say about 132 deaths per 100,000 live births occur each year. At a meeting organised by Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) - a Moroccan political party founded in 1975 – a number of factors were listed as the main causes of maternal mortality in the North African country.
Zambian lawmakers excuse gender violence
September 2010 cast a dark cloud over Zambia’s chances of ending gender-based violence in the country when two political leaders beat up their wives. Early September, Opposition Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament for Kasama Central and prominent Lusaka businessman, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, beat up his wife after a dispute at their residence in Lusaka. About two weeks later, Livingstone District Commissioner Francis Chika also assaulted his wife after a domestic argument. Both incidents were widely reported in the Zambian media.
September 2010 cast a dark cloud over Zambia’s chances of ending gender-based violence in the country when two political leaders beat up their wives. Early September, Opposition Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament for Kasama Central and prominent Lusaka businessman, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, beat up his wife after a dispute at their residence in Lusaka. About two weeks later, Livingstone District Commissioner Francis Chika also assaulted his wife after a domestic argument.
Both incidents were widely reported in the Zambian media.
According to a medical report, Chika’s wife suffered a swollen nose, bruises on the left cheek and general body injuries.
And a medical report from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka on 6 September found that Mwamba’s wife sustained a cut on the forehead, bruises on the left and right shoulder and bruises on the left eye.
‘Fists are alleged to have been used in the act. Beaten and assaulted by a known person,’ the report read in part.
After the matter was reported in the media, Mwamba confessed beating his wife on a community radio station in his constituency.
In the name of love
Mwamba said he beat his wife because he loved her.
‘If a man and his wife do not fight, then they don’t love each other. I beat my wife because I love her,’ he said.
He went on to say that sometimes his wife beats him, adding that he had problems with his spinal cord due to beatings from his wife.
He said it was a domestic issue. However, what Mwamba and other leaders should know is that they are role models.
No one put it more succinctly than Human Right Commission of Zambia Chairperson Pixie Yangailo: ‘Leaders in particular must take care to show an example to the rest of the population that they are leaders, not only in politics, but also in family life and other areas of society.’
In addition, the Non-governmental Organisation Coordinating Council of Zambia said women were disappointed with Mwamba’s conduct; especially that he was a lawmaker who was supposed to observe high moral standards.
Mutinta Mulenga, a house wife, said she feared for women in the country.
‘These leaders are setting a bad example. Does Mr. Mwamba know that some women have died at the hands of their husbands? What kind of love is this? I think he is living in a different age,’ she said.
Even after being suspended from his position as chairperson for elections in PF, Mwamba has shown no remorse. Soon after his suspension he told constituents that ‘you should know even if I am an MP, so doesn’t an MP fight with a wife?’
PF, the main opposition party in the country, has a lot more work do if it is to be seen as a progressive party that is going to uplift the status of women in the country if elected into office.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development requires that State parties shall by 2015 enact and enforce legislation prohibiting all forms of gender-based violence. How is this realistic if the very MPs meant to enact such legislation are shrugging off gender-based violence in their own homes?
What’s worse, PF has more female MPs than any other party in parliament, but not one of them came out in the open to condemn Mwamba. If it was an MP from the ruling party, these MPs would have shouted the loudest, but since it was one of their own at the centre of the story they decided to keep quiet. It appears that a wrong is only a wrong if committed by an MP from another party.
Tip of an iceberg
Mwamba’s case is symptomatic of what is seriously wrong with the kind of leadership found in the Zambian parliament. Some MPs have no respect for the rights of women. More than a year ago, another MP referred to women as sex objects and, to public dismay, he is still in parliament.
Such acts by male Zambian parliamentarians have prompted United Church of Zambia Bishop Sydney Sichilima to call for better scrutiny of those aspiring for political office.
‘Let’s not vote for political leaders that are in the forefront of destroying the integrity of women in our country. Such people are incapable of running their own homes, how could they run matters of the country?’ Sichiliman said.
Political parties should take Bishop Sichilima’s advice seriously and adopt candidates with clean records as the country heads for elections next year.
Furthermore, there is a serious need to educate Zambian lawmakers on provisions set out in the SADC Protocol to which Zambia is signatory. Such profound ignorance as expressed by Mwamba shows that there is lack of communication between the people that sign treaties and members of parliament.
During the opening of parliament President Rupiah Banda said his government would rather empower women than batter them. But the president will find it hard to empower women when the people expected to review and reform laws pertaining to eliminating gender-based violence are in the forefront of abusing women.
The Zambian parliament must educate its members if the country is to make any meaningful progress in the remaining five years. The country cannot afford to have ignorant lawmakers at a time when other SADC countries are racing towards the targets set out in the Protocol.
* Valentine Chanda is a member of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia. This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For the research quoted in this article and more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to www.genderlinks.org.za
DRC: Bemba goes on trial for killings
Democratic Republic of Congo’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba has gone on trial before the International Criminal Court here on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba is specifically charged with three counts of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity for the alleged atrocities of about 1,500 fighters of his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) between October 2002 and March 2003 in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Egypt: Call for new death in custody case to be investigated
Egyptian authorities must independently investigate, without delay, allegations that a young man was tortured to death at a police station in Alexandria, and guarantee the safety of another young man still in custody there, Amnesty International has said. The family of Ahmed Shaaban, a 19-year-old man, allege that he died after being tortured and physically abused by police officers at Sidi Gaber police station on 7 November.
Egypt: Rights violations mar election run up
The lack of transparency and fair political competition, as well as a recent rise in violence in Egypt left little hope that the results would reflect the will of the Egyptian people, according to Freedom House. In the six months since Egypt renewed its long-standing emergency law, authorities have increasingly cracked down on free speech and association, silenced independent media, restricted text messaging services, and obstructed public events.
Ethiopia: UN torture committee alarmed by human rights situation
In its state report to the recent UN Committee Against Torture review, Ethiopia implies that the relevant legislation on torture is thorough and sufficient. But in its concluding remarks, the Committee against Torture points out 27 topics as subjects of concern and makes recommendations to the state party in the following areas: definition of torture, its widespread use, impunity for the authorities, anti-terrorism measures as false pretence for torture, abductions, human trafficking and other areas of the failures of implementing the existing laws.
Kenya: Democratic policing and respect for international human rights standards
How respect for human rights and effective law enforcement can go hand in hand was the subject of a workshop for 26 officials of the Kenyan Administration Police that took place at the Kenya School of Law in Nairobi from 25 to 29 October 2010. What democratic policing means and its consequences for law enforcement officials including issues of human rights, police deontology and ethics was a key topic that included a discussion of examples from police services in other countries.
WORLD ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE (OMCT)
Democratic Policing and Respect for International Human Rights Standards
Capacity building workshop for Administration Police Officers in Kenya
Geneva, 22 November 2010: How respect for human rights and effective law enforcement can go hand in hand was the subject of a workshop for 26 officials of the Kenyan Administration Police that took place at the Kenya School of Law in Nairobi from 25 to 29 October 2010.
Organised by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in partnership with the Administration Police in Kenya within the framework of a project supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the workshop sought to familiarise the participants with the basic principles of respect for human rights as an integral part of effective police work in a democratic society. This was done within the context of Kenya’s international human rights obligations under United Nations Human Rights Treaties with particular reference to the recommendations made by key United Nations Treaty Bodies with regard to improving respect for human rights in law enforcement in Kenya.
The workshop took place at a crucial time for police reform in Kenya with an increasing emphasis by Government Officials and senior Administration Police Officials on the necessity to respect human rights in law enforcement activities. The new Kenyan Constitution, approved by referendum on 4 August 2010 and promulgated by President Kibaki on 27 August 2010, contains a detailed Bill of Rights along with mechanisms to ensure respect for them, including the possibility for victims of violations to directly address the High Court for purposes of obtaining redress. The Constitution also explicitly provides that Kenyan Police shall “comply with constitutional standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and that police staff shall be trained “to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and dignity”. In addition, an in-depth reform of the police in Kenya is being carried out by the Police Reform Implementation Committee.
The 26 participants in the workshop were law enforcement officers with management responsibilities from all of Kenya’s eight regions and the purpose of the workshop was to build their capacity to understand and act on the principles of democratic policing and respect for human rights in their daily law enforcement activities and to enable them to transmit that knowledge to their colleagues and the officers under their responsibility.
In a plenary presentation the workshop first dealt with Kenya’s legal obligations under international human rights law with particular attention given to selected recommendations of United Nations Treaty Bodies with regard to law enforcement in Kenya. Then, through other plenary presentations and working groups that focused on case studies, the participants considered a number of specific issues related to democratic policing that were approached from the dual perspective of international human rights standards and how those standards can be implemented practically in the daily work of police officers.
What democratic policing means and its consequences for law enforcement officials including issues of human rights, police deontology and ethics was a key topic that included a discussion of examples from police services in other countries. Other important topics dealt with were the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials; respect for human rights in arrest and detention; ensuring respect for human rights in connection with interrogations and with regard to the prevention and detection of crime, in particular respect for human rights in connection with searches and seizures; and maintaining public order while respecting human rights. Throughout the workshop a main underlying theme was that, rather than hindering effective police work, respect for human rights and the dignity of every person is in fact an essential element to make that work successful and to create trust and confidence between the police and the community it serves.
As part of the reform of the Kenya police, an independent policing oversight authority is being prepared to monitor police activities including respect for human rights and thus an important topic of the workshop was ensuring effective accountability of law enforcement officials. This included a discussion of the international rules on accountability for law enforcement personnel and selected practices from other countries. In this connection, there was a detailed presentation of the new Kenyan oversight authority.
In light of the specific recommendations made by United Nations Treaty Bodies concerning the need to protect particularly vulnerable groups in Kenya, a discussion took place on protecting the human rights of women, children and other vulnerable persons in law enforcement activities, in particular in relation to arrest, detention and interrogations. Here, OMCT’s work on the economic, social and cultural root causes of violence provided a framework for the discussion and enabled participants to address the issue of identifying and combating the use in law enforcement of subjective grounds for interventions with regard to vulnerable persons, for example in connection with arrest and detention.
The Way Forward was the topic of the final session of the workshop. In small groups and then in plenary session, the participants made proposals for concrete and practical measures that could be taken to improve democratic policing and respect for human rights in the daily activities of law enforcement officials in Kenya.
Opening and closing sessions
The seminar was opened on behalf of OMCT by Ms. Anna-Lena Svensson-McCarthy, who expressed appreciation to the Administration Police for the opportunity given to OMCT to assist in promoting respect for human rights through democratic policing as well as for the excellent cooperation in preparing the workshop. She then stressed that, through the new Constitution, including its impressive Bill of Rights, the police in Kenya now has an important tool to use, which should not be seen as an additional burden on police activities but as a means of making the police work more effective. Indeed, with the new Constitution, the police in Kenya could, in her view, be considered to be the most prominent human rights defenders. In his subsequent address to the participants, Mr. Fred Mwei, Deputy Commandant and Chief of Planning, Training & Research, transmitted the greetings from the Administration Police Commandant, Mr. Mbugua, and noted that he particularly liked the reference to the police being human rights defenders. Referring to the Bill of Rights, Mr. Mwei pointed out that it is effectively in force and needs no implementing legislation. This meant in particular that police officers violating the rights contained therein, including the right to be free from torture and other forms of ill-treatment can now be taken to court and be given stiff sentences in case of conviction. Consequently, police attitudes and conduct had to change.
At the closing ceremony on 29 October, Mr. Omar Shurie, Senior Deputy Commandant of the Administration Police and Commandant of the Administration Police Training College, delivered a statement on behalf of Mr. K. Mbugua, Administration Police Commandant, in which the Commandant underlined the importance of human rights and, addressing the police officer participants, urged them to familiarise themselves and comply with the new Constitution’s Bill of Rights and in carrying out their mandate to pay particular attention the vulnerable groups and less privileged in society. It was important in returning to their respective stations, that they carry the lessons from the workshop with a lot of seriousness and share their knowledge with workplace colleagues and apply the skills and knowledge gained during the workshop. He also thanked the sponsors and organisers of the workshop, the World Organisation Against Torture, that have become important partners in helping offer better service to the Kenyan people and in assisting the government’s reform efforts.
During the closing ceremony the participants also expressed their thanks for the knowledge and skills gained during the workshop, undertook to apply them in their daily work and to transmit them to their colleagues. It was clear from their enthusiasm that a successful transition had been made from an initial perception of human rights as a hindrance to their police work to an understanding of how respect for human rights can be an essential and positive element in their work.
The presentation and discussion of the international human rights standards with regard to democratic policing and the recommendations of the United Nations Treaty Bodies was provided by Ms. Anna-Lena Svensson-McCarthy who was also responsible for the overall organisation of the seminar. Mr. Klaas Stad, police officer from the Netherlands and an experienced trainer in democratic policing, in particular for the International Committee of the Red Cross, dealt with the seminar’s issues from the point of view of the challenges active police officer face in respecting human rights in their daily activities and provided information on the approach and experiences in other countries. A presentation on human rights from the Kenyan perspective was made by Ms Nanjala Wandibba of the Kenyan National Human Rights and Equality Commission and Mr. Mwinyi Masoud, Senior Superintendent, Administration Police, provided the participants with an in depth analysis of the nature and implications for police officers of the police reform process, including the independent policing oversight authority.
For more information, please contact Ms. Anna-Lena Svensson-McCarthy; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +41 (0) 22 809 49 30 and fax +41 (0) 22 809 49 29.
South Africa: Organ trafficking syndicate busted
Prosecutions have gotten underway to put behind bars eight members of an illegal kidney transplant syndicate operating in South Africa. The accused, who were exposed earlier this month after reports of unlawful transplant procedures surfaced, appeared in a Kwazulu Natal court. They face charges of illegally harvesting and selling kidneys between 2001 and 2003 at the St. Augustine's Hospital in Durban.
South Africa: TR Section residents say police shoot at will after 8pm
Although police deny it, residents in the embattled Khayelitsha TR Section that has been ablaze with protests for eight weeks, say an 8pm curfew is being enforced, with police firing rubber bullets at will. Over 50 residents spoken to in TR Section said police in blue SAPS uniforms, but with their faces covered with balaclavas, patrolled the area at night and shot at anyone they saw outdoors after 8pm.
Sudan: Sudan outraged after Libya asks Bashir to skip Africa-EU summit
The Sudanese government on Sunday issued a strongly worded statement after president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir was forced to cancel his attendance at the 3rd Africa-European Union (EU) summit that starts Monday in the Libyan capital. Bashir was indicted in March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in July 2010 on charges of genocide, linked to atrocities committed by Khartoum’s forces in Darfur. Many officials around the world including ones from the EU have avoided appearing with the Sudanese president after the warrants.
Zimbabwe: Miners slam diamond ban
The African Diamond Producers Association (ADPA) has come out in defence of Zimbabwe after the Kimberley Process chairperson, Boaz Hirsch, declared that no trading would be allowed with regard to Zimbabwe's Marenge diamonds. ADPA executive secretary Edgar de Carvalho on Friday held a media briefing stating that the declaration held no water and that the Kimberly Process had no right to bar Zimbabwe from trading in its diamonds.
Africa: Citizenship and law
Laws and practices governing citizenship in too many African countries effectively leave hundreds of thousands of people without a nationality, says a new report. 'These stateless Africans are among the continent’s most vulnerable populations: they can neither vote nor stand for office; they cannot enrol their children in school, travel freely, or own property; they cannot work for the government; they are exposed to human rights abuses. Statelessness exacerbates and underlies intercommunal, interethnic, and interracial tensions in many regions of the continent.' The report, 'Citizenship Law in Africa' was written by Bronwen Manby, of the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP) of the Open Society Foundations, based on a comparative analysis of the citizenship laws of 53 countries.
Angola: Call for justice for Jimmy Mubenga
On 12 November 2010, over 150 people marched from the Angolan Embassy to the Home Office in London in protest at the death of Jimmy Mubenga during a deportation. Campaigners from the Angolan community first delivered a letter to the Angolan Embassy to call on the authorities to intervene. The march, led by the family and friends of Jimmy Mubenga, then marched to the Home Office. Although marchers had only been given permission to use the pavements, the sheer volume of people meant that very soon they took to the roads and were eventually given a police escort on a circuitous route to the Home Office.
Egypt: Israel starts building barrier on Egypt border
Work is beginning in Israel on a barrier along the border with Egypt, aimed at stemming the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. The barrier, including an electric fence and surveillance technology, will run for 250km (155 miles).
Namibia: Refugee professionals serving the community
When Victoire Mpelo fled his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, practising medicine again was probably one of the last things on his mind. Yet, some 10 years later, the doctor is kept busy every day, looking after fellow refugees in Namibia's Osire settlement. Meanwhile, the nearby Osire Secondary School, headed by another refugee, Come Niyongabo from Burundi, is ranked among the top secondary education establishments in the country.
Somalia: Singing about refugees
Born in Mogadishu, Siham and Iman Hashi are the first female Somali artists to sign a record deal with a major American label. After the civil war broke out in Somalia in the 1990s, the girls and their family moved to Canada as refugees. They are currently in Los Angeles recording their first album as 'Sweet Rush' with Universal Motown, while finding time to raise awareness about the continuing suffering in their homeland.
South Africa: Court orders immediate release of Somali refugees from OR Tambo Airport
After more than ten weeks in detention at OR Tambo International Airport, the Supreme Court of Appeal has overturned a decision of the Pretoria High Court and ordered the immediate release of two Somali refugees - who were being deported by Namibia via South Africa to war-torn Somalia. They are being released tomorrow morning. The Supreme Court grilled the Department of Home Affairs on its approach in opposing the application in the High Court and on appeal, stating that if it had not been for Home Affairs’ attitude, it would not have been necessary to be in court.
Lawyers for Human Rights
24 November 2010
SCA orders immediate release of Somali refugees from OR Tambo Airport
After more than ten weeks in detention at OR Tambo International Airport, the Supreme Court of Appeal today overturned a decision of the Pretoria High Court and ordered the immediate release of two Somali refugees - who were being deported by Namibia via South Africa to war-torn Somalia. They are being released tomorrow morning.
The Supreme Court grilled the Department of Home Affairs on its approach in opposing the application in the High Court and on appeal, stating that if it had not been for Home Affairs’ attitude, it would not have been necessary to be in court today. Instead of releasing them on 8 September 2010, they were detained at the private detention facility run by ARM through its contract with ACSA in conditions that do not meet minimum standards of detention, causing them chronic and psychological stress.
According to Gina Snyman at Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), the court emphasized that people held in the international area of the airport do not fall outside of the scope of the Constitution’s protection. Snyman added that “this would include access to medical attention and minimum standards of detention. Instead, Home Affairs obstructed our clients’ access to medical care - despite the health complications that arose during their detention.” She added, “during the last 10 weeks we’ve been forced to threaten urgent legal proceedings against Home Affairs, ACSA and ARM on more than three occasions to ensure our clients were assisted, by private health practitioners brought to the facility at LHR’s expense, and to ensure our own access to the facility to consult with our clients.”
LHR was first alerted to their imminent deportation by Namibian officials by the UNHCR, who had been trying to prevent their deportation to Somalia since their immigration detention in Namibia. UNHCR also sought their re-entry into South Africa, which the government refused.
UNHCR also verified their legal status in South Africa, but Home Affairs opposed the High Court application to halt their deportation and for their re-entry into South Africa on the basis that South Africa could not interfere with Namibia’s deportation order.
The Supreme Court of Appeal, in their questioning of Home Affairs’ counsel, disagreed - confirming the appellants’ submissions that allowing their deportation would be in violation of South Africa’s domestic and international obligations against non-refoulement – the principle that people in need of protection cannot be forcibly removed to a country where they will face persecution or threat to their lives. The Supreme Court made it clear that Home Affairs has a positive obligation to protect their rights against non-refoulement and persecution in their country of origin.
This situation is caused by a growing international trend in using extraordinary detention facilities in order to avoid international obligations. LHR urges the government to uphold its obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees, and to ensure that the operation of private detention facilities in the airport and elsewhere, where detainees are at high risk of abuse of their constitutional rights, operate within the law.
The court indicated that it will give a full judgment at a later date.
For more information contact Gina Snyman at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> / 072 180 7524
Latest Edition: Emerging Powers News Round-Up
In this week's edition of the Emerging Powers News Round-Up, read a comprehensive list of news stories and opinion pieces related to China, India and other emerging powers.
UK warms up to Harare
Britain is increasingly showing strong signs that it wants to improve its relationship with Robert Mugabe as aides on both sides confirmed this week that a new policy of promoting trade between the two countries is taking off. This week a Foreign Office spokesman told this newspaper the UK government has a new focus on what it termed commercial diplomacy and that it is engaging with all sides of the inclusive government, made up of Zanu-PF, the MDC-T and MDC-M.
Anxiety over exploitation mars East Africa trade talks with EU
The fate of the region’s long running search for a binding preferential trade pact with Europe hangs in the balance after the East African Community refrained from providing direction on crucial trade pacts last week. Lack of feedback from the regional body by the end of this month could leave traders open to higher tax levies and lock them out of established markets. The economic partnership agreements (EPAs) are seen as the only recognisable trade instruments through which the region will safeguard its preferential relations with Europe in the years to come as the world shifts away from non-reciprocal trade pacts of yesteryears.
2. China in Africa
Zimbabwean workers protest over treatment by Chinese companies
China's engagement in Africa has come under the spotlight amid claims from Zimbabwean union officials that Chinese companies are engaged in the "gross violation" of labour rules. Chinese firms are said to have underpaid workers, forced them to work overtime for free, and not provided adequate safety clothing, according to the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers' Union. The complaints were made to the Zimbabwean newspaper Newsday. "We would like to warn the Chinese contractors who are operating in Zimbabwe that if they do not follow the laid-down laws, the union is going to take strong action against them," the secretary general of the union, Muchapiwa Mazarura, told Newsday. He said members had complained of the "gross violation of labour laws", and called on Zimbabwean government ministries to make greater efforts to ensure Chinese companies complied with the law.
Chinese companies deny Africa labour abuse
Chinese companies Thursday denied allegations by a Zimbabwe trade union that said Chinese construction firms had violated labor laws there by underpaying and abusing local staff. Ge Yizhong, deputy general manager of Zim Nantong Construction, which is currently operating in Zimbabwe, told the Global Times that local workers his company had hired were satisfied with their working conditions, including salaries. "There is no ill-treatment of workers at my company. We have provided protective clothing to local workers and pay them according to the regulations set out by the local trade union," he said. "We have adjusted working hours to meet workers' demands. We have raised their pay twice since last year to counter the devaluation of the local currency."
Zambia Uneasily Balances Chinese Investment and Workers’ Resentment
Hundreds of angry coal miners pushed toward the locked gate at Shaft 3, shouting and cursing as they neared the mine’s Chinese managers, who understood neither the English nor the Tonga words of the mob. As the workers butted up against the fence, the bosses grew more fearful and finally two fired their shotguns. The Zambian miners scrambled in terror. Bodies pivoted, jounced and stumbled. Boston Munakazela did not know he was hit until he suddenly fell over and saw the blood on his chest and arms. Vincent Chenjele was knocked off his bicycle with a hole ripped in his belly. Wisborn Simutombo, bleeding from his arms, legs and stomach, pleaded with friends to pull him to safety across the coal-dusted road. “We weren’t going to hurt them, but maybe the Chinese didn’t understand that,” Mr. Simutombo, 25, said recently, displaying scars left by the spray of shotgun pellets. “They were quick to shoot us though, and in Zambia the Chinese can get away with anything.”
Zambia: Mine calls back 234 of 807 workers from recess
China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining Luanshya Copper Mine, has recalled 234 of the 807 employees who were sent on forced recess in order to pave way for maintenance works at the mine. Announcing the calling back of the 30 per cent workforce at the newly re-opened copper mine, Labour deputy minister Simon Kachimba says the other 573 workers would be called before the end of the year.
Enterprises need cultural adaptation in Africa
Chinese companies have to rethink the way they adapt to local cultures and better handle labor relations when they extend their businesses into foreign countries. Reoccurring labor disputes, especially in Africa, are reminders that if Chinese enterprises want to settle into local markets and grow into real multinational giants, they have a lot to learn. The latest trouble took place in Zimbabwe, where a local union declared war on Chinese construction companies there, accusing them of providing poor employment conditions and firing the African workers at will. Although Chinese representatives tried their best to defend themselves, the damage was done.
China-Africa trade ties move beyond resources
Energy deals took centre stage during a southern African tour by China's leader-in-waiting, but the growing ties between China and Africa are quickly moving beyond the traditional sectors of energy and infrastructure. Vice President Xi Jinping this week wrapped up a visit to South Africa, Angola and Botswana. Xi, who is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as head of the ruling Communist Party in 2012, witnessed the signing of deals worth millions of dollars to build a power plant and solar panel factory and to increase South African exports to China. Less visible during state visits but increasingly important is trade in sectors besides resources. Chinese consumer goods are making huge inroads in African markets, and more and more Chinese firms are exploring manufacturing deals.
China, S. Africa ink deals on trade, energy
China and South Africa inked a series of energy and trade deals on Wednesday during Vice-President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to the nation with Africa's largest economy. The four inter-governmental agreements were announced during a bilateral trade commission co-chaired by Xi and South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
China, South Africa pledge to enhance military ties
China and South Africa on Thursday pledged to enhance military ties. The pledge came out of the meeting between Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie and South African Secretary of Defence Mpumi Mpofu, who was here for the fourth meeting of China-South Africa defence committee.
S.Africa signs $435 mln solar deal with Yingli
South Africa has signed a deal with Chinese company Yingli Solar to build a $435 million manufacturing plant with a local partner, a senior government official said on Wednesday. Nelisiwe Magubane, director general at South Africa's department of energy, told Reuters on the sidelines of a visit by China's vice president that Yingli would partner with a local company and aimed to start building the plant within 12 months.
Africa’s infrastructure next big move for China companies
The construction of transportation and power infrastructure across Africa could provide the next big opportunity for Chinese firms aiming to invest in the continent, a senior executive with South Africa's Standard Bank told Reuters. Speaking on the sidelines of a mining conference, Andrew King, the bank's Asia chief executive, said the big advantage Chinese developers had over their Western counterparts was the Chinese firms' access to financing from government policy banks.
Chinese vice president calls for stronger FOCAC
Visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Thursday called here for concerted efforts to make the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) stronger and to boost the development of the new type of China- Africa strategic partnership. Addressing a seminar marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of FOCAC, Xi proposed to strengthen strategic planning, practical cooperation and institution building of FOCAC so as to make it a solid base for political mutual trust, a major engine driving common development and an efficient and mature platform for China-Africa cooperation.
China and Botswana sign economic, energy deals
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Sunday signed several economic deals with Botswana, the world's biggest diamond producer, including one offering the southern African country $6 million for development. Xi, touted as China's next president, arrived in Botswana on Saturday, the last stop on his Africa tour, after visiting oil producer Angola, China's biggest African trading partner, and South Africa --Africa's biggest economy. Vice President Mompati Merafhe and Xi signed three cooperation deals, including an Economic and Technical Cooperation agreement, under which China is to provide Botswana with aid worth 40 million RMB, China's Xinhua news agency reported. The two also signed an infrastructure and energy deal between the national utility Botswana Power Corporation and China Development Bank and Golden Concord Group, it said. The other agreement was on financial projects between the Botswana government and the Export-Import Bank of China.
China, Angola establish strategic partnership
China and Angola announced Saturday that they have decided to establish a strategic partnership to continue shoring up bilateral cooperation. The leap forward in China-Angola ties came after visiting Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping met with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and held talks with Vice President Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos. Both sides agreed, they said in a joint communique, that China and Angola are strategic cooperation partners, and that boosting their comprehensive collaboration serves the fundamental and long-term interests of both nations.
Chinese financing to Angola reaches US$ 10 million
The Chinese Vice President, Xi Jinping, Friday in Luanda commended the relationship between his country and Angola, whose financing agreements have now reached US$ 10 million. Jinping disclosed that the commercial exchanges totalled US$ 19.8 billion in the first nine months of 2010, which shows an increase of 80.8 per cent, in comparison to the same period in 2009. He gave these figures at the opening of talks between both countries' ministerial delegations, which was also attended by the Angolan Vice President, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, which is expected to lead to the signing of co-operation agreements in the fields of infrastructure construction, minerals exploration and supply of railways equipment.
China Exim Bank eyes Africa loans, commodity focus
The Export-Import Bank of China sees plenty of opportunity to extend loans in Africa, focussing on raw materials and oil, while commercial banks are steering clear of the risk, its chief executive said on Monday. "There are a lot of areas to operate - particularly in the raw materials and oil sector. Certainly this is the area we will focus on," Exim Bank Chairman Li Ruogu told European and Chinese executives, bankers and officials meeting in Luxembourg. This month European Union trade chief Karel De Gucht rejected what he called China's "cheque book" approach to doing business with Africa, saying the EU would continue demanding good governance and transparent use of funds from its trading partners.
'2010 China-Africa Brightness Action' Launched in Beijing
The launching ceremony for the "2010 China-Africa Brightness Action" was held at Deer Jet's fix base operation (FBO), Beijing Capital International Airport on November 18. The charitable initiative, co-organized by the China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD), the National Committee of Blindness Prevention (NCBP), China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE), HNA Group, Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (Group) and Beijing Tongren Hospital, will give patients with cataracts in Malawi and Zimbabwe, two countries in Southeast Africa, access to free vision rehabilitation surgeries for a week.
Chinese charity to donate sweaters to abandoned African kids
A Chinese charity will donate home-made sweaters to abandoned and disabled children in six African countries - South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF) said 2,010 sweaters weaved by Chinese mothers will be donated to the underprivileged children. 'Everybody who can weave and has spare time can show their love by knitting the sweaters,' He Junyi, an official in charge of the charity programme, was quoted as saying by Xinhua. The sweaters will be specially woven by volunteers, a CCTF spokesperson said.
India in Africa
India holds meeting with African Regional Economic Communities
The first ever meeting between India and the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) was held here this week as part of efforts to further enhance the institutional engagement between India and Africa. The meeting, held from November 14-16, was attended by the Secretary Generals of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC), the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Deputy Executive Secretary of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Adviser in-charge of Political Affairs of Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CENSAD), the Director of Political Affairs of Union of the Arab Maghreb (UMA/AMU) and senior officials from their delegations.
India can help transform Africa through education: AU official
India is poised to set up a string of higher education and training institutions in Africa - in areas ranging from diamond polishing to foreign trade - that differentiate its development-centric approach from that of China, says Jean-Pierre Ezin, a top African Union (AU) official. 'The AU looks to India to set up higher education institutions in Africa. India is doing a lot for the future of the continent and can transform the continent through education,' Ezin, commissioner of the African Union Commission for Human Resource and Science and Technology, told IANS in an interview.
Indian Telecoms: Moving West
Don’t be surprised if again Africa and not Bangalore is making the headlines in 2011 as the main investment destination by Indian telecoms companies. Fifteen years ago there was no private telecoms industry in India. Today not only is there a vibrant domestic industry but many of the larger players such as Bharti, Reliance and Tata are now expanding outside India. One destination in particular – Africa – is proving to be increasingly popular for what we can term both “push” and “pull” factors.
4. In Other Emerging Powers News
China's Brazilian shopping spree
They’ve snapped up iron mines in the south, bought into oil fields off the coast, and they may be trolling for 850,000 acres of farmland, too. While Chinese investors spent the last decade buying up natural resources across Africa, this year they’ve begun an unprecedented shopping spree in Brazil. In less than 12 months, Chinese investment has jumped by orders of magnitude — from a registered $82 million in 2009 to more than $25 billion in planned projects reported so far this year. “It’s the first year where big, big investments — tens of billions of dollars — have been announced,” said Kevin Tang, a director at the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “This decade will be one where we see an investment boom between China and Brazil.” Chinese companies have announced more than $25 billion in Brazilian investment deals to date in 2010, according to a tally of deals tracked by the government and reported in the press. Billions more are reportedly in negotiations.
Building BRICs in Africa
Some eye-catching numbers from Standard Bank out today on the influence of BRICs countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — on Africa. First off, the bank says the global recession and its recovery have been nourishing these so-called South-South ties. But it is all now ready to take off.
ANALYSIS-Partners S.Africa and China battle for Zimbabwe
While South Africa and China have been building on a relationship that will bind them even more tightly for years to come, they have also been increasingly at loggerheads over future influence in Zimbabwe. South Africa this week hosted Vice President Xi Jinping, touted as China's next leader, signing deals with much ceremony to build trade with its biggest bilateral partner, while Beijing aimed to secure resources and investment. But the two have also been quietly jockeying for years for a stake in the untapped wealth in Zimbabwe, once a regional power through its minerals and agriculture until blunders by the government of President Robert Mugabe turned it into a basket case, where inflation reached 500 billion percent in 2008.
Friends of Tibet promise to continue fight for Dalai Lama
Local politicians and lobbyists vowed this weekend to continue their fight for a South African entry visa for the Dalai Lama following meetings with the exiled Tibetan leader in India. Ian Macfarlane, director of the South African Friends of Tibet lobby group, met with the Dalai Lama in India last week. He was part of a group of South African lobbyists who returned home from New Delhi this weekend. They attended the Conference on the Future of Tibet alongside 250 delegates from 56 countries in New Delhi.
South African Coal Price Highest in Two Years on Chinese Demand
Prices for coal shipped from South Africa’s Richards Bay, the continent’s biggest export facility for the fuel, rose to the highest level in more than two years on Chinese demand. A cold wave is sweeping across China from the west, lowering temperatures in northern regions by as much as 18 degrees Celsius today, the National Meteorological Center said. That may spur coal demand. Power-station coal prices at Qinhuangdao port, a Chinese benchmark, rose today to the highest since Jan. 25, data from the China Coal Transport and Distribution Association show. “The bulk of recent imports have been from China,” Amrita Sen, a London-based analyst with Barclays Capital, said by phone today. Buyers have increasingly turned to South Africa for coal because supplies from Indonesia have been hampered by rainfall and Australian shipments face infrastructure bottlenecks, she said.
Rand Merchant asked Zambia to diversify into infrastructure and agriculture development
South African lender, Rand Merchant Bank, a subsidiary of First National Bank asked Zambia to diversify into infrastructure and agriculture development than rely on copper to accelerate economic growth. Mr Theuns De Wet fixed income currency and commodity researcher said that although copper has been Zambia’s mainstay the country buoyed by increased copper production and high metal pricing on the international market, should refocus its vision into infrastructure and agriculture development to increase its economy beyond 6%.
UN Experts Urge South Africa to Strengthen Control Over Private Security Firms
A group of independent United Nations experts today urged South Africa to strengthen oversight and control over private military and security companies exporting their services abroad, saying regulations currently in place face implementation challenges. At the end of a 10-day visit to the country, the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries noted that South Africans have, since the end of apartheid in 1994, been widely employed by private military and security companies operating around the world. As a result, South Africa was one of the first countries to adopt legislation on the provision of foreign military assistance in 1998. "Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the regulatory regime established in South Africa for private military and security companies and individuals operating in different countries has faced challenges in terms of implementation," the Working Group, which visited South Africa at the invitation of the Government, said in a statement.
Unlikely Person at the Heart of India’s Scandal
He was a small-town lawyer from a regional political party in a southern Indian state. By almost any measure, Andimuthu Raja, who had no background in telecommunications or in business, seemed an unlikely candidate to be the government minister presiding over the fastest-growing cellphone market in the world. But he had the only qualification that mattered: the ironclad backing of the political chieftain of his party, a crucial ally of the governing Congress Party. Without his party’s 16 members of the lower house of Parliament, the government cobbled together from squabbling allies would collapse. Mr. Raja is now at the center of what may turn out to be the biggest political corruption scandal in Indian history. He is accused of using his post to sell off valuable mobile telephone spectrum licenses in 2008 at rock-bottom prices. His decisions may have cost the Indian treasury as much as $40 billion, according to a government investigative report released last week.
Brazil commits $13.66 million for Sickle Cell Centre in Ghana
Brazil has committed a grant of $13.66 million to Ghana, for the construction of a Blood and Sickle Cell Centre in Kumasi to facilitate the fight against the disease. The project would include a blood transfusion centre and out-patient clinic for sickle cell and other blood diseases.
5. Blogs, Opinions, Presentations and Publications
China-Africa Trade and Economic Relationship: Annual Report 2010
A report by the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, provides an overview of Sino-Africa trade and economic data for 2009 and provides an outlook for relations in 2010.
[url= ]http://www.fahamu.org/downloads/China-Africa_Trade_and_Economic_Relationship_Annual_Report_2010.pdf] Read More [/url]
Ghana On The Wrong Path With Recent Chinese Loans
Ghana is obviously on the wrong path with the signing of recent billions of dollars in Chinese loans. While some economic observers hailed it as a major financial lifeline to a country on a continent that is unable to attract such a magnitude of financial support from the international financial centers like Washington, London, and Paris, and their Bretton Woods Institutions, Beijing is fast becoming a reliable alternative to the traditional lenders. However, an unimpeachable source, who was a member of the delegation that negotiated the deal, is unhappy with some of the elements of the deal. According to him, China, as a result of its fast-paced development, is seeking ways to dispose some of its rickety old trains, built over three decades ago, to make way for the connection of its fast trains across the entire Chinese mainland. As part of the deal, Ghana is to receive these old coaches and tracks which will amount to unspecified billions of dollars.
India’s Neo-colonialism in Africa
Neo-colonialism is the most dangerous form of colonialism, which is prevalent in the present world. In the past, the most developed countries had direct control on the less developed countries, but most of the colonies got independence after the World War 11. As regards neo-colonialism, in theory a less developed or developing country is free, but in practice, its government and economy are controlled by a developed country indirectly. In these terms, by imitating the other western powers, India has been practising neo-colonialism in Africa. Today, Africa is the hub of natural resources with leading world powers, having eye the continent. Only an average 3% of cultivatable land in Africa is being used now, which is not sufficient to feed the entire population of Africa. The trade and investment in agriculture and agro-infrastructure are inter-linked and need foreign support. In this respect, India persuaded Africa to share Indian experience in this sector. Indian scientific and agricultural research institutions have assisted around 5,000 entrepreneurs for developing their business ideas in the African countries. Today, India’s foreign policy is being questioned as India is being accused of neo-imperialism in Africa, using its agriculture land to cater to the Indian population at home.
New battle over Africa’s dependence on foreign aid
An unexpected struggle developed at a conference in Tunis recently between developed countries and Africa in what was meant to be a cordial meeting between "partners". The dispute was between the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Africa represented by the African Development Bank (ADB), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the Commission of the African Union, and was around the agenda of the World Conference in South Korea next year to review progress on aid effectiveness.
Promoting Smart and Responsible Investment in Africa
As prepared for delivery, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, The World Bank, 2010 China Mining Congress and Expo, Tianjin, China, November 16, 2010
Address by Foreign Secretary at NDC on ‘Challenges in India’s Foreign Policy’
Zuma on BRICs, pardons and his cabinet shake-up
Prepared text of president's answers to questions in parliament, November 18 2010
Burundi: Crackdown on rights following elections
Burundi is cracking down on civil society, media, and opposition parties in the wake of troubled local and national elections from May through September 2010, Human Rights Watch has said in a new report. The 69-page report, 'Closing Doors?: The Narrowing of Democratic Space in Burundi', documents abuses including torture, arbitrary arrests, banning of opposition activities, and harassment of civil society groups.
Cote d'Ivoire: Violence mars Ivorian poll
At least three people have been killed in the Cote d'Ivoire capital Abidjan when police opened fire on a crowd, despite efforts to maintain calm before Sunday's presidential run-off. Phillipe Mangou, the army chief of staff general, said on Saturday that a night-time curfew would take effect from Saturday through to the end of Wednesday, citing scuffles between youths wielding sticks, machetes and guns in and around Abidjan. Ivorians voted on Sunday.
Egypt: Election Questions
There will be little surprise in the results of Egypt's elections today, says the latest edition of the AfricaFocus Bulletin, as the ruling party has taken all the repressive steps necessary to ensure that it will have no problem in winning. But, says Egyptian human rights analyst Bahey Eldin Hassan, there will be four significant battles to watch: the legitimacy battle, the battle to monitor, the media battle, and the extent of violence. Opposition to the regime is widespread and growing, although its expression at the polls will be limited. Judges, bloggers, Facebook groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, and supporters of opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director of the International Atomic Energy Commission all represent stirrings in Egyptian society that will likely be significant for the future, despite their exclusion from political power.
Egypt: Rights groups contest official vote turnout
Rights groups contested on Monday an official turnout of 25 per cent in an Egyptian parliamentary election that was marred by opposition charges of ballot stuffing, bullying and trickery. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) always deals heavy defeats to its opponents but the two-round elections are being watched for the space given to the government's critics and clues to the NDP's strategy in a 2011 presidential vote.
Kenya: Kenyans say local procurement still a mystery
Kenyan citizens feel strongly that they have not been involved in the procurement processes at Local Authorities (LA’s) as per applicable laws, a new survey report commissioned by the Kenyan Alliance of Resident Associations (Kara) and supported by USAID/PactKenya now reveals. A majority (76 per cent) of members of the public in all LA’s sampled had not seen a copy of the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 and Regulations of 2001/2006.
Kenya: Political interests mar implementation of new constitution
The person to head the crucial Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) could be known this week, reports The Standard newspaper. 'This will be the highlight of a hectic week in which crucial decisions for Kenya must be made, both within and outside Parliament, but eyes will also be on Justice Miniser Mutula Kilonzo in whose office the process is domiciled. Worries are growing that implemention of the new laws has been hijacked by the politicians who led Kenya to the brink of civil war in 2007. Heightening these fears is the growing conviction that the process has not been entirely devoid of political interference at the highest level of government.'
Sudan: North accuses south of aiding rebels
Sudan's north said on Wednesday the semi-autonomous south of the country had declared war by supporting anti-government rebels from Darfur, just weeks ahead of a referendum on southern independence. Sudan's north-south civil war ended in 2005 with a peace deal that shared wealth and power, enshrined democratic transformation and allowed southerners to vote in a 9 January plebiscite which most expect to result in secession.
Sudan: UN referenda panel concerned at low voter registration in north
Few people from Southern Sudan who live in the north are turning out to enrol as voters for the referenda on the future of the south, the chairperson of the United Nations-appointed panel monitoring the process said today, citing various reasons for the dismal turnout, including lack of awareness and uncertainty. The people of Southern Sudan are scheduled to vote on 9 January on whether the south should secede from the rest of the country, while the final status of Abyei will be determined in a separate vote on the same day, as set out in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended two decades of war between the north and the south.
Tanzania: New cabinet unveiled
Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete appointed a new cabinet last Wednesday, with most senior ministers retaining their positions from the previous government. Kikwete named his cabinet after winning an October 31 general election overshadowed by a record low turnout and allegations of rigging.
Kenya: US had KACC dossier on banned state officials
The US Government has finally given the names of the four top Government officials and a prominent businessman banned from setting foot in the US over drug trafficking. At the same time, US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger handed over 'crucial information' to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission on the closed Charterhouse Bank. Ranneberger said his government's decision was in response to demands that the names of those banned be disclosed.
Africa: Africa is resisting the threat of Europe’s free trade agreements
The economies of Africa, the world’s poorest region, are under severe threat from free trade agreements that they are under pressure to sign with the European Union, the world’s richest region. Under these economic partnership agreements (EPAs), Europe wants Africa to open up its economies to European goods, services and companies. But the African countries are understandably worried their small industries and service operators will not be able to survive free competition from giant European companies, banks and commercial firms, writes Martin Khor in The China Post.
Africa: Despite setbacks, Africa seen as key player in future
As the international community commemorated Africa Industrialisation Day last week, United Nations officials expressed mixed emotions about a beleaguered continent plagued by a rash of political, economic and military crises. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that a continuing global economic crisis has not only reduced the demand for African exports but also constricted foreign aid and hindered the flow of remittances to the cash-strapped continent.
Africa: The unfinished business of Africa's independence
Africa has huge economic potential: a billion mostly young people; 40 per cent of the world’s hydroelectric power capacity and vast geothermal and solar resources; 60 per cent of the World’s uncultivated arable land and much more, writes Obadias Ndaba, the regional director of the World Youth Alliance Africa. Africa has great potential for long term economic take off. Africa’s leaders and individual citizens need to make fundamental shifts in the way they do business by focussing on productivity and value addition. This will ensure sustainable economic growth and improved living standards, he writes.
Morocco: Economic disparities divide country
Economic activity in Morocco favours certain geographical areas, putting residents of other regions at a significant disadvantage. According to recent figures from the Ministry of Finance's forecasting and research division, a number of challenges are ahead, including deepening imbalances, especially in employment and social exclusion. Sociologist Mohamed Bouchaibi told Magharebia that the situation requires an intervention, as the divide continues to widen between the regions of diverse economies.
Uganda: World Bank report raps new licence fees
Uganda ranks lower than Rwanda and Kenya in putting in place reforms to facilitate doing business, putting the country at risk of losing investments to its neighbours, which would negatively impact employment, the tax base and general economic growth. That is according to the latest Ease of Doing Business Report 2010 released by the World Bank Group in September. The report ranks countries basing on ten parameters, including business procedures, time required, extent of flexibility and financial cost of starting a business. The other parameters are dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and closing a business.
Africa: World has turned the corner, says UNAIDS
The number of new HIV infections is almost one-fifth lower than it was a decade ago, indicating that the world has 'turned the corner in the fight against HIV/AIDS', according to the UNAIDS Global Report on HIV/AIDS. 'The biggest epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa - Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - have either stabilised or are showing signs of decline,' according to the report.
Angola: Government battles polio problem
Polio was on the brink of eradication in Angola at the end of 2004, when the country had experienced three consecutive years without new cases. Then, in 2005, the wild poliovirus reappeared here. Angola now has one of the biggest polio caseloads in Africa.
Global: Anti-HIV drugs prevent HIV infection, trial shows
A randomised controlled trial has found that the HIV infection rate in HIV-negative gay men who were given a daily preventative pill containing two HIV drugs was reduced by 44 per cent, compared with men given a placebo. The efficacy in subjects who, by self-report and pill count, took the drugs more than 90 per cent of the time was 73 per cent. The other big finding of the iPrEx (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Initiative) trial was that while 93 per cent of trial subjects reported taking the pills correctly, on the basis of drug level monitoring in blood tests, only 51 per cent actually did so.
Global: New UN report urges measures to ensure affordable health services for all
The United Nations health agency has mapped out what countries can do, including raising more funds and spending it more efficiently, to ensure that everyone who needs health care can access it despite rising costs. The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that governments worldwide are struggling to pay for health care, which is rising as populations get older, as more people suffer chronic diseases, and as new and more expensive treatments appear.
Malawi: The struggle to address paediatric HIV
There are 91,000 children living with HIV in Malawi. A shortage of resources means that many do not receive proper treatment and care. The most recent AIDS Epidemic Update, published by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation, estimated that there were 2.1 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV worldwide in 2007; 1.8 million were found in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Campaign to End Pediatric AIDS (CEPA) estimates 370,000 African children were newly infected that year.
South Africa: High rates of HIV among farm workers
A survey has found HIV infection rates as high as almost 40 per cent among farm workers in Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Almost 3,000 farm workers from 23 commercial farms in the Malelane, Musina and Tzaneen regions took part in the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) survey conducted over three months. At least 39,5 per cent of farm workers who donated blood anonymously were found to be HIV positive. This was more than twice the national prevalence rate of 18 per cent.
Uganda: Government to employ 1,000 doctors
A total of 1,000 doctors are to be hired to improve the delivery of health services, according to the Health Service Commission. There are about 2,000 doctors employed by the government. But this number is still low, since many health units depend on junior health workers.
Uganda: High cost of Burkitt's lymphoma
High poverty levels and a lack of awareness are among factors preventing parents in parts of northern Uganda from accessing timely care and treatment for their children suffering from a widespread viral cancer, Burkitt’s lymphoma. The disease is a malignant tumour associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that is endemic to central parts of Africa and New Guinea. The EBV virus is linked to lymphomas (immune system cancers) and nasopharyngeal cancers in humans, according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO).
Zambia: Global fund witholds funding to Zambia
Zambia has been named among several countries in Africa that have failed to account for about US$13 million believed to have been misapplied and embezzled under the Global Fund. According to media reports, citing the November 2010 edition of the Global Fund report, Zambia is on the list together with Cameroun, Mauritania and Mali that are said to have misapplied in excess of US$25 million meant for assistance to the health sector.
Angola: Chinese government raises annual scholarships
The Chinese government will provide 60 annual scholarships for Angolans wishing to study in China, the Angolan Ambassador to China, Joao Bernardo, said here Sunday in an interview with the country's News Agency (ANGOP). The diplomat disclosed this while appraising the visit to Angola of China's Vice President, Xi Jinping. According to the ambassador, as part of the agreement signed Friday, China had raised the scholarships from 20 to 60.
Ghana: Reducing school dropouts through inclusive approaches to education
Well-implemented inclusive education should address the learning needs of all children vulnerable to being marginalised and excluded from education. Inclusive approaches often do not take account of children who once had access to education, but have since dropped out of school. This article looks at inclusion in Ghana from the point of view of dropouts. To date, policy on inclusive education in Ghana has focused mainly on girls and/or children with physical disabilities. Yet, drop-out rates can be up to 15 per cent at primary level, and 35 per cent at junior high school level.
Kenya: Odinga orders gays' arrest
Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday ordered for the arrest of gay couples. The PM asserted that the recent census showed there were more women than men and there was no need for same sex relationships.
Uganda: Is American money behind Ugandan tabloid linking gays and terrorism?
Questions have been raised about where the funding for the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone comes from. The tabloid received world publicity for its 'outing' campaign against lesbians and gays.It seems likely that the Rolling Stone’s campaign is designed to increase pressure on the Museveni government, facing a surprisingly strong opposition heading into upcoming elections, to move the Anti-Homosexuality Bill toward passage, says this article.
Day of solidarity: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
This Thursday marks the United Nations recognised International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and in an effort to raise awareness about his important issue, Earthlife Africa will be gathering at the Fountain, St. Georges Mall, Strand Street end in Cape Town, on Saturday, 27 November, between 10am and 1pm, to raise their concerns and spread awareness. 'Little known impacts of nuclear radiation on women and children, especially women that are pregnant, must be brought out into the open,' said Earthlife Africa Cape Town’s Gray Maguire. 'The ongoing threat to the unborn in our country is at a higher level than ever before, given plans to build multiple nuclear power stations across the country..
Day of solidarity: International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Minute of Silence, 12 noon, at the Fountain, St. Georges Mall, Strand Street end, Saturday 27th November
This Thursday marks the United Nations recognised International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and in an effort to raise awareness about his important issue, Earthlife Africa will be gathering at the Fountain, St. Georges Mall, Strand Street end, on Saturday, 27th November, between 10am and 1pm, to raise their concerns and spread awareness.
“Little known impacts of nuclear radiation on women and children, especially women that are pregnant, must be brought out into the open, “said Earthlife Africa Cape Town’s Gray Maguire. “The ongoing threat to the unborn in our country is at a higher level than ever before, given plans to build multiple nuclear power stations across the country.”
The Government’s Draft Integrated Resource Plan 2010, a plan for South Africa’s electricity assessment for the next 20 years, is being fiercely resisted by many organisations, as not only was the plan drawn up by government and key business interests, but also excluded meaningful consultation and involvement by civil society and labour. It proposes at least 6 more nuclear power stations, each double the size of Koeberg.
“If there were no fears about the safety of people around a nuclear power station, then why will NECSA not release data relating to emissions from Koeberg? Also why have no health studies on surrounding populations ever been done?” said Janda McDonald, also of Earthlife Africa.
Members of the public are requested to join Earthlife Africa at the Fountain, St. Georges Mall, Strand Street end, on Saturday 27 November, at 12 noon, for a moment of silence in support of women victims of violence everywhere.
Issued by Earthlife Africa Cape Town
Photo op: 12 noon
For interviews, contact Muna Lakhani on 083-471-7276 – email@example.com
DRC: Drawing attention to women's rights in the DRC
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) calls again the attention of the world to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), theatre of the most deadly conflict of the last 50 years and massively affected by rapes committed on a daily basis by belligerents. The women and men fighting against this scourge in turn become victims of criminals who act with total impunity.
WORLD ORGANISATION AGAINST TORTURE (OMCT)
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Geneva, 25 November 2010. On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) calls again the attention of the world to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), theatre of the most deadly conflict of the last 50 years and massively affected by rapes committed on a daily basis by belligerents. The women and men fighting against this scourge in turn become victims of criminals who act with total impunity. It was to support their action and make it widely known that OMCT carried out a mission of solidarity to the country in February 2010.
Since then, new waves of mass rapes emerged. The extreme high level of sexual violence against women is used as a ‘weapon of war’ in order to control the area with ‘sexual terror’, to break downthe families and communities to whom the women belong. A woman who has been raped in theDRC risks expulsion from her home or community. As a woman explains in OMCT’s film ‘Indifference and Impunity’ on its mission to the country ‘One woman belongs to one man and has a woman been with another man, she loses her value. That’s why it is difficult for a woman who has been raped to reintegrate into her household: people are ashamed of her and the husband rejects her. The women are alone, excluded from their family and community.’ Faced with these consequences, women victims of sexual torture are frequently reluctant to report sexual violence out of fear and shame.
The lack of reporting by women is used by the DRC authorities as an excuse for inaction and the torturers can commit their crimes with impunity. The current climate of impunity is a major factor in the continued systematic practice of rape. As clarified during the mission: ‘Rape has become banal and (… ) is being committed not only by soldiers but also by civilians. As no strong actions against the perpetrators are being taken, men believe that they can commit rape and other acts of torture against women in their custody without incurring any punishment.’ The perpetrators of the rapes return to the place where they committed the crime and the people who denounced them publicly are now the ones afraid for their security. In the movie it is alleged that the government does not cooperate to punish the perpetrated in the name of peace.
The growing acceptance of relativist theories with respect to the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment in particular, under pressure from arguments emphasizing, “public security”, or “culture” or like in the DRC “in the name of peace” is one of the problems nourishing the erosion of the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, which OMCT considers today as the most serious challenge ever in its fight against torture and ill-treatment
In order to raise public awareness of this problem OMCT launched an International Campaign for the Absolute Prohibition of Torture and Ill-Treatment which is online and open for signature.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, OMCT recalls that torture of women is a fundamental violation of human rights and one which is absolutely and unreservedly prohibited under international law. In spite of the international legal prohibitions on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, the torture of women continues to occur in the DRC as well as in many other countries around the world. When women become the targets of torture or ill-treatment, the act often is of a sexual nature. As a result of the determinative impact of gender on the torture, women have been denied equal protection against torture under both international and national law and there is widespread impunity for the perpetrators of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment committed against women.
Anne-Laurence Lacroix, OMCT Deputy Secretary General, Tel. +41 22 809 49 39
Global: 16 days of activism gets going
Sixteen Days of Activism campaign is the period 25 November and 10 December when activists raise heightened awareness around gender violence. The campaign began in 1991 and since then has brought various stakeholders including gender activists, civil society, governments, private sector, Faith Based Organisations, communities and development partners to find lasting strategies to end gender violence. Visit the Gender Links '16 Days of Activism 2010' page for information on this year's campaign focus, resources, events and articles.
Global: Violence against women the single biggest threat to peace, finds new report
A Women for Women International report being released on international Stop Violence Against Women Day (25 November) finds ‘violence against women is the single biggest threat to peace’ and countries are falling strikingly short on UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and UN (SCR) 1325 development and security goals. The report found that at the ten year mark, goals signed up to by UN members to eliminate poverty and empower women, have fallen strikingly short of expectations. While many countries are behind on their promises to meet the MDGs, particularly those goals in which gender is explicit, conflict-affected countries, are further behind.
Women for Women International
No Women, No Peace
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Violence against women the single biggest threat to peace –finds new report, launching 25 November
A Women for Women International report being released on international Stop Violence Against Women Day (25 November) finds ‘violence against women is the single biggest threat to peace’ and countries are falling strikingly short on UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) and UN (SCR) 1325 development and security goals.
Women for Women’s Country Director for Nigeria, Ngozi Eze, will be in London on 25 November to launch the Gender, Conflict and MDGs report, based on research with grassroots organisations operating on the frontline .
The Report found that at the ten year mark, goals signed up to by UN members to eliminate poverty and empower women, have fallen strikingly short of expectations. While many countries are behind on their promises to meet the MDGs, particularly those goals in which gender is explicit, conflict-affected countries, are further behind.
“Sadly, in times of war a woman’s burdens only get heavier, her vulnerabilities more pronounced. She remains locked in poverty, often losing the protection of home and husband, coping with fear and suffering devastating rights violations and violence, including torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and mutilation. Despite these grim realities, she brings enormous energy, leadership and resilience to protecting families and rebuilding fractured communities.
Yet, her essential voice remains absent from formal peace negotiations and her needs remain on the margins of reconstruction, development and poverty reduction programmes” Says Kate Nustedt, Executive Director of Women for Women.
To mark the tenth anniversaries of both the MDGs and UNSCR 1325, Women for Women International commissioned the research project to pinpoint steps that are needed to affect real change for women in conflict-affected countries based on their actual experiences.
Report Launch: Nigeria Stronger Women, Stronger Nations Event 25 November, London
The Report is being launched at a joint event organised by Women for Women International and the No Women No Peace Campaign http://www.nowomennopeace.org/ on 25 November 7-9pm, at Amnesty International 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA.
This event will examine violence against women in conflict-affected countries with a particular focus on Nigeria.
At the event, Women for Women’s Nigeria Country Director Ngozi Eze (please see profile below), will be speaking about the current situation for women in Nigeria and the disproportionate impact that violence has on their lives. She will also talk about how economic opportunities are key in providing women with security.
This will be followed by an expert panel discussing the impact of violence including;
• Chinwe Azubuike — contemporary Nigerian poet and campaigner for the rights of widows
• Uju Ofomata Aderemi - Programme Director for One World
• Alice Ukoko - Founder/ CEO of Women of Africa
Tickets are £3 unwaged, £5 waged. To register for a place, please contact email@example.com with "Nigeria: Stronger Women, Stronger Nations" as the email subject. Payment can be made at the door.
• Women for Women’s Country Director Ngozi Eze, UK Executive Director, Kate Nustedt and event speakers are available for interview on request.
• Press passes for the launch event are available on request
• A summary report of the research is available on request
• Women for Women International help women in areas of conflict around the world to rebuild their lives enabling them to move from victim to survivor to active citizen. We do this through a one year programme that includes counselling, access to education, rights awareness training, vocational, jobs and business skills and finance. www.womenforwomen.org . Women for Women have supported over 270.000 women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan.
Gender, Conflict and MDGs Report – Key Findings and Recommendations
A. Development and security agendas are not linked
“It’s important to link the UN 1325 and the MDGs, because we can’t have peace without development, but development without peace will not be possible either,” says Ngozi Eze, Women for Women International Country Director, Nigeria. Monitoring efforts are separate and therefore critical connections between the lack of progress on women’s security and development are missed.
B. Violence against women is the single greatest impediment to development and peace
Sexual and gender-based violence is exacerbated by conflict and prevents women from participating in development, denies them access to education and healthcare, and is a key risk factor for HIV and AIDS. Until women in conflict-affected settings have a basic level of security, protection of rights and access to justice, there can be no progress on gender and MDG commitments. Gross breaches of human rights, which sometimes involve security institutions that are responsible for protecting women, also undermine these commitments.
C. Economic empowerment is key to women’s recovery from conflict
“Income-generation schemes in post-conflict zones have given greater autonomy to women. It allows them to say no to harmful cultural practices practised against widows and to say no to husbands that beat them, because it confers a greater degree of economic independence,” says Sylvia Nassiem from the Central African Republic. The main obstacle to women’s economic empowerment is the lack of security – both inside and outside the home. Other obstacles are the lack of opportunities to market goods, limited movement outside the home due to cultural attitudes and a lack of social protection when work is not possible.
D. Women continue to be left out of formal peace processes
“Women are imprisoned by poverty, because they are not part of peace-building processes, national politics, and their voice is absent from every part of society,” says Elysee Yohali, Women for Peace and Human Rights, DRC. Women’s participation in the 16 peace processes since 2000 has been minimal, and in 5 cases - Somalia (2002), Cote D’Ivoire (2003), Nepal (2006), the Philippines (2007) and the Central African Republic (2008) – no women participated as signatories, mediators, witnesses or negotiators. In spite of their contributions to community reconciliation and peace, women are chronically under-represented in security, justice and public sectors, which all play a key role in peace-building.
E. Work on security, conflict prevention and peace-building needs to be informed by local realities and women’s needs
Whilst women’s participation alone cannot guarantee gender-sensitive approaches, their experience and expertise remain vital because of their ability to drive implementation of peace agreements and their motivation to prevent and end violent conflicts.
1. Strengthen links between development and security
Consultation with local and women’s organisations is needed when national development (MDGs) plans are drawn up. Plans need to address challenges that cripple both agendas, including violence against women, women’s exclusion from decision-making and their lack of access to resources.
At the international level, governments as donors need to increase direct funding to women’s organisations, particularly those working at community level and ensure that women are fully-involved in developing, implementing and monitoring both development and peace-building strategies.
2. Protect women and girls from violence
Better protection of women requires peacekeepers, police and other representatives of the security sector to receive gender training so that they can develop a deeper understanding of the gender dynamics of conflict and the unique threats faced by women and children.
Some perpetrators are in positions of power – in the government, security sector or community – and there needs to be strategies to bring them to justice.
Investment is needed in organisations that are at the frontlines, caring for survivors of violence. National authorities need to ally with NGOs to develop a realistic response to sexual and gender-based violence and provide survivors with better health and psycho-social services. as well as facilitate their access to justice.
3. Invest in women’s economic opportunities
Governments and organisations must prioritise and fund programmes and projects that foster women’s economic empowerment. These include initiatives that equip women with the skills and resources to run businesses and be employed, enable women to own land and access credit, and facilitate saving. Interventions must also challenge conservative, patriarchal attitudes that prevent women from owning land on an equal basis with men, or from working outside the home, by educating traditional, religious and community leaders.
4. Give women a seat at the peace table
Governments and NGOs must ensure increased and meaningful participation in conflict prevention, resolution and formal peace processes. Community initiatives that uncover women’s hidden voices and experiences in formal processes must also be encouraged and supported.
5. Support security and development approaches that are defined by women themselves in their own cultural context
Governments and agencies must consult with communities and women before rebuilding infrastructure or providing services in conflict-affected communities. This local-level approach recognises that marginalised groups play an important role in peace-building and development.
Ngozi Eze, Women for Women International, Nigeria, Country Director
Ngozi Eze has been the Country Director in Nigeria since 2003 and has helped more than 13,000 women forge a future in a country ravaged by corruption and civil unrest. In 2005, Ngozi received the Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award for making a difference in the lives of thousands of survivors of civil conflict in her home country of Nigeria.
Under her leadership, Women for Women International, Nigeria have implemented a programme of direct financial assistance, rights education, vocational skills training and income-generating opportunities.
Ngozi has led on the development of specialised programmes to educate women about HIV/AIDS and the harmful effects of some traditional practices, including female genital cutting and widowhood rituals.
She also pioneered a men’s training programme to sensitise community leaders to women’s rights. In the wake of increased community violence between Christian and Muslim communities in northern Nigeria, Ngozi launched joint training sessions to offer women from both religious backgrounds the opportunity to meet and rebuild their trust.
Ngozi has over 18 years of experience working in both private and public institutions on advancing the status of women and children through international development. Before coming to Women for Women International, she worked in Nigeria with a number of NGOs and private firms, including the Ohio African Trade office based in Lagos.
Women for Women International – Nigeria Country Profile and Programme
Women for Women has been operating in Nigeria since 2000.
Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has experienced decades of corruption, ethnic and religious violence, and political and economic instability.
Women have been the victims of systematic violence and endure indigenous practices of genital cutting, inequitable treatment under religious laws, and the abuse and humiliation of widowhood customs.
Religious and ethnic conflicts continue to threaten stability, most recently occurring in Jos in November of 2008. Much of the population lives in poverty and still struggles to meet their basic survival needs, such as food, adequate shelter, primary education and economic stability.
Since 2000, we have helped 23.000 women in Nigeria to rebuild their lives. We currently have over 5000 women on our one year programme. We have distributed over half a million USD in direct aid.
We help women to rebuild their lives through a one year programme of support which includes rights awareness, health education and vocational training .
We also help women develop business skills, so they can set up their own businesses. To date, 548 co-operatives have been formed.
We also have a Men’s Leadership Programme which helps men understand the impact of gender-based violence. It was first piloted in Nigeria and since then has helped over 500 male leaders become agents for change in their local communities.
Southern Africa: Peace-building, protocols and policy: Women and conflict
This year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign focuses on women and conflict, a timely theme considering we are also reviewing 10 years since the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325. This resolution linked violence against women during conflict and their marginalisation during peace processes with the challenges of maintaining international peace and security. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), this review takes place when many countries in the region have recently emerged from conflict and are in the process of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction.
This year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign focuses on women and conflict, a timely theme considering we are also reviewing 10 years since the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325.
This resolution linked violence against women during conflict and their marginalisation during peace processes with the challenges of maintaining international peace and security.
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), this review takes place when many countries in the region have recently emerged from conflict and are in the process of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction.
The last few decades have seen important shifts in the discourse about women and conflict. Firstly, war and conflict are seen as expressions of deeply gendered long-term dynamics that precede the outbreak of conflict, escalate dramatically during conflict, and persist long after peace. This echoes feminist theory around gender-based violence as the expression of unequal gender dynamics that are far more pervasive than the specific instances of violence. It therefore seeks to address the differential experiences of conflict across groups and genders.
A second shift in the discourse has been about the role of women. We have moved from a situation where war was seen as ‘men’s business’, towards an acknowledgement that conflict has a huge impact on women. The struggles for gender mainstreaming resulted in the role of women increasingly being seen as complex, and that they in fact may be victims, perpetrators, survivors, leaders and participants. Thus, UN resolution 1325 calls for the participation of women in all peacemaking, conflict resolution and peace building as critical to international and national peace and human security.
The discourse has also been informed by struggles against gender-based violence, the acknowledgement that it is rooted in patriarchal relations and impacts at societal, community and individual level. Finally, the women’s movement throughout the twentieth century had a critical role in the peace and disarmament movement, and through their participation in these movements drew attention to gender-based violence.
These shifts in discourse make for a complex understanding of women and conflict, and for more nuanced policy approaches. The literature on women’s roles in conflict therefore lists not less than seven ‘roles’ of women in conflicts: as combatants; victims of (sexual) and other forms of violence; peace activists; participants in ‘formal peace politics’; coping and surviving actors; head of households; and as part of the labour force.
The Southern African region, given its history of colonialism, is no stranger to conflicts and wars. Virtually every country saw a protracted conflict, which intensified during the twentieth century with the growth of national liberation and anti-colonial movements. Whilst colonialism was characterised by systematic violence against indigenous populations, the oppressed populations resisted and in many instances embarked on armed struggles. Most SADC countries won formal independence during the 1960s, followed by Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe during the 70s and 80s and finally Namibia and South Africa in the early 1990s.
Mozambique and Angola shortly after their independence were afflicted by civil wars, which lasted into the 1990’s. In terms of more recent conflicts, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been engulfed in conflicts and war since the fall of Mobutu; Zimbabwe has experienced severe political instability since the early 1990s; so has Swaziland and more recently Madagascar following the disputed elections of 2002 and even more recent coup attempts. There are thus currently four countries experiencing some form of conflict, which means that the nature of challenges facing women differs across the region, with implications for policy.
The struggle for gender equality has been an integrated part of progressive struggles in the region. Following the conclusion of the independence process, the focus on gender equality gained prominence in SADC. After a protracted period of advocacy, SADC adopted the SADC Gender and Development Protocol in August 2008. It allows for concrete, time-bound and legally-binding actions that speed up efforts to achieve gender equality, including many of the issues affecting women in either conflict or post-conflict situations. The general policy approaches include the transformation of unequal gender relations, improving representation and participation of women in political life, transforming security forces and peacekeeping operations to include women and addressing gender-based violence in conflict and non-conflict situations.
Resolution 1325 also commits member states to involve women in all aspects of peace-building at national, regional and international levels and to the inclusion of women in peace-keeping operations and military structures.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) calls wartime sexual violence ‘one of history’s great silences,’ noting that the focus on sexual violence coincided with the greater impact of armed conflicts on civilian populations during the 1990’s. In our region, it is believed that since 1998 more than 200,000 girls and women were raped during the conflicts in the DRC. There is now an acknowledgement by the UN Security Council that armed actors used sexual violence systematically as a tactic of warfare.
The shift in focus from silence to the recognition of the complexities of women in conflict situations is an important process to deal with the underlying gender dimensions of conflict and wars. The emerging policy approaches are therefore wide-ranging. Thus the regional and international protocols not only provide tools to hold public authorities accountable, and for mobilisation of broader society, but also for monitoring progress.
As we mobilise for the 2010 16 Days of Activism we must ensure reflection and action, but also celebration of the progress we’ve made in the region.
* Fébé Potgieter-Gqubule is member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC (South Africa) and a former South African ambassador to Poland. This article is part of a special series on the 16 Days of Activism for the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that offers fresh views on everyday news. For more information on the 16 Days Campaign go to www.genderlinks.org.za
South Africa: Apartheid in post-apartheid South Africa
'On October 24th, I went to Entebbe Airport to catch a South African Airways flight via Johannesburg to Namibia. Airline officials said I needed a transit visa through South Africa...Under the new rules, passengers are required to disembark, enter the transit lounge and re-board the plane. You need a transit visa to do this...However, the new visa requirements do not apply to British, Americans, Irish and other Europeans (or nations of white people); so my colleagues going to the same conference from the United States and Europe faced no problem transiting through that country.'
Africa: The climate loan scam
At the end of next week, delegates from across the world will start arriving in Cancun for the follow-up to Copenhagen. They do so in the shadow of the World Bank’s announcement of $270 million for three countries - Bangladesh, Niger and Tajikistan – to help them cope with the effects of climate change, for instance by protecting coastlines and planting crops more resilient to flooding. These funds will be enhanced by others and ultimately the money comes from developed country governments like that of the UK. The problem is that much of the money will come not in the form of grants but low-interest loans. Why is this a problem? Because it contradicts the main principle which developing countries are fighting for in climate negotiations – that rich countries must not only reduce their emissions substantially but they must pay for poorer countries to clean up.
Africa: UN official confident of progress at Cancún climate change conference
Looking ahead to the United Nations climate change conference beginning in Cancún next week, a senior official with the world body said that talks could yield real results but was cautious to keep expectations realistic. Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning Robert Orr told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York that he did not expect the conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to deliver a 'final answer' on solving climate change but remained positive about the possibilities.
Chad: Just say no to plastic bags
N’djamena is a rarity in the region - the trees lining the Chad capital are not scarred by plastic bags. When Marie Thérèse Mbailemdana became mayor of N’djamena in January 2010, she was determined to apply a 1992 law prohibiting the importation of plastic bags (known by the Arabic word ‘léda’); until then the law had not been strictly enforced. 'This plastic polluted the city – you saw plastic hanging on walls, on trees. And it destroys our environment. Plastic remains in the ground for centuries. No trees or plants will grow where plastic is in the ground,' she told IRIN.
Ethiopia: First carbon finance project spreads green over highland
The Humbo plateau, some 400 kilometres south of Ethiopia's capital, is in the most densely populated part of Ethiopia. It's a dry and dusty district that has experienced frequent drought; average rainfall is 800-900 mm and temperatures routinely rise to 40 degrees. The stripping of trees has made the low-lying areas susceptible to flooding. But a Clean Development Mechanism project initiated by international development organisation World Vision has organised 40,000 people in the worst-affected areas to regenerate and protect 2,700 hectares of forest land.
Ethiopia: The farmers of trees
Home to over half of Ethiopia’s remaining afromontane forest and the centre of origin for the wild coffee arabica, Kafa is a dense tangle of forest, bamboo thickets and wetlands 475 kilometres southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa. Decades of deforestation by smallholder farmers as well as large state and privately-owned farms destroyed 43 per cent of the Kafa rainforest. But the forest is now a model of sustainable forest management.
Global: Carbon trading a 'dangerous distraction'
Friends of the Earth media advisory
Ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Cancún that start on Monday, November 29th, Friends of the Earth International calls on governments to reject the role of carbon markets in international climate agreements. Carbon trading does not lead to real emissions reductions. It is a dangerous distraction from real action to address the structural causes of climate change. Developed countries should radically cut their carbon emissions through real change at home, not by buying offsets from other countries.
Friends of the Earth International
November 26, 2010 - Ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Cancún that start on Monday, November 29th, Friends of the Earth International calls on governments to reject the role of carbon
markets in international climate agreements.
Carbon trading does not lead to real emissions reductions. It is a dangerous distraction from real action to address the structural causes of climate change. Developed countries should radically cut
their carbon emissions through real change at home, not by buying offsets from other countries.
Carbon offsetting has no benefits for the climate or for developing countries – it only benefits private investors and major polluters and allows rich countries to avoid their emission reduction commitments.
Friends of the Earth International chair Nnimmo Bassey said: “We have so little time to make the radical societal changes necessary to tackle climate change and safeguard our planet. Carbon trading
should be immediately swept aside by governments and made history so that we can have a future. We are calling on rich industrialized countries to set us on a just, rapid transition towards decarbonization. Cancún will fail if they do not commit to steep domestic cuts with no offsets, and appropriate public finance which excludes the World Bank.”
Proposals related to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD) are progressing rapidly, but there is a major risk that they will be linked to carbon markets. This would lead to developed countries paying for forest offset projects that essentially privatize developing country forests in order to buy the right to pollute. Forest carbon offset schemes risk taking forest ownership out of the hands of local communities and prevent real action from rich industrialized countries to make their necessary emission cuts at home.
Climate finance – developed countries' financial contributions to developing countries that suffer from climate change – also risks being linked to carbon markets. Friends of the Earth International calls on governments in Cancún to agree on the establishment of a global climate fund under the authority of the UNFCCC, with no role whatsoever for the World Bank.
Note to editors:
1.The 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be meeting in
Cancún, Mexico, from 29 to 10 December 2010.
2.At the talks, Friends of the Earth International is calling for rich
countries to cut their emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020,
without resorting to carbon offsetting, and for them to commit to this
under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the
internationally agreed mechanism for legally-binding emissions
Friends of the Earth International is also calling for public money to
be made available for developing countries to grow sustainably and
adapt to the effects of climate change already causing damage to their
people’s livelihoods and families.
The international campaigning federation is calling for this money to
come from public sources, not carbon markets.
Friends of the Earth International believes that, because the price of
carbon is notoriously unpredictable, this approach would do nothing to
supply developing countries with the reliable sources of finance they
need. Likewise, carbon trading does nothing to actually reduce
In addition, Friends of the Earth International believes the World
Bank should play no part in providing, managing or distributing this
money – its role in tackling climate change has already been
discredited because it is one of the largest lenders for fossil fuel
projects in the world.
Finally, the international, grassroots federation is also calling on
Governments to not resort to finance for monoculture tree plantations
and to end existing forest carbon trading proposals. An approach to
deforestation must safeguard and enforce community rights.
Friends of the Earth International will be present at the United
Nations climate talks in Cancún (COP 16) with a delegation of
observers from member groups all over the world.
For more information please contact:
Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International chair and Head of
the Friends of the Earth International Cancún delegation, Tel: +234 80
37 27 43 95 (Nigerian mobile number) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Marlijn Dingshoff, Friends of the Earth media coordinator in Cancún,
Tel +31-6-51 00 56 30 (Dutch mobile number) or + 521 998 108 02 78 29
(Mexican mobile number) or email email@example.com
If you want to receive our press releases, a copy of our national
spokespeople contact details in Cancún (from November 28-December 12,
2010), our Cancún Media Briefing or our Cancún Events Calendar, please
send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest grassroots
environmental federation with 76 national member groups and more than
2 million individual members and supporters.
Mozambique: Controversial bypass under way at smelter
luminium giant BHP Billiton’s Mozal smelter has begun bypassing its fume treatment centres, emitting potentially dangerous fumes into the air without treating them first – despite a pending court case on the matter. There has been strong opposition from civil society and community groups. A coalition established to fight the bypass, led by local groups Livaningo and Justica Ambiental (Environmental Justice), says that the community has still not been presented with adequate evidence that the bypass will not be harmful to their health.
South Africa: Can a small-scale fisheries policy improve livelihoods?
Fishing communities are organising to demand fishing laws change to include their right to participate in planning, implementing and managing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect marine and coastal biodiversity. But what are the underlying issues and how does policy creation need to shift? One case study in Struisbaai highlights key issues and examines if current small-scale fisher policy processes create an enabling environment for fishers. Indigenous and local communities have many customs and lengthy histories of using South Africa’s well-established network of MPAs, covering 21 per cent of the 3,000km coastline. Fishing in Struisbaai (population: 2,052 in 1,588 households) can be traced to the first nation KhoiSan who used vyfers (fish traps) in the inter-tidal zone to catch elf (Pomatomus saltatrix), harder (Liza richardsonii), kolstert (Diplodus sargus capensis), strepie (Sarpa salpa) and galjoen (Dichistius capensis). Traditionally, clans and families maintain traps; women harvest, gut, cut and cook.
Congo: Fishing community evicted
The Autonomous Port of Pointe-Noire has evicted 8,000 residents of a fishing village to make way for expanded facilities. The move is a blow to the community’s livelihoods, as well as closing down the market that supplied the city’s poor with affordable protein. 'I have fished here since my youth, and I don’t know where we can go,' said Joseph Takpo, an elderly fisherman.
Namibia: Land, a time bomb waiting to explode
Namibia's land redistribution programme has progressed at a snail'space, with farms not changing hands as fast as government would have wanted. White commercial farmers and inflated prices of land have emerged as a bulwark against much vaunted promises for land. Ongoing flare-ups over ancestral land in cases which have been dramatised by direct defiance of court rulings are only a microcosm of a much bigger problem. The plan by government for blacks to own land is flagging, observers and analysts have concluded.
Uganda: Government under pressure to end Madhvani’s park monopoly
The Aga Khan’s bid to build lodges for tourists in Uganda’s national parks has left government unsure of how to deal with a 30-year monopoly agreement it signed with the Madhvani Group while at the same time allow in more investors into this lucrative business. While addressing guests at the opening of Chobe Safari Lodge, President Museveni appeared torn between sticking to the terms of the deal his government signed with the Madhvani Group and opening space for competition in the accommodation business.
Zimbabwe: Land reform ten years on - new study dispels the myths
A major new study published this week asks what has happened in the ten years since large areas of Zimbabwe's commercial farm land were invaded by land-hungry villagers - and it challenges the view that land reform was an unmitigated disaster. 'Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities', by IDS Fellow Ian Scoones together with Zimbabwean colleagues Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene and Chrispen Sukume, presents the findings of the first comprehensive study into the controversial policy and its effects. The book challenges five myths through a detailed examination of field data:
Myth 1 - Land reform has been a total failure
Myth 2 - The beneficiaries have been largely political 'cronies'
Myth 3 - There is no investment in the new resettlements
Myth 4 - Agriculture is in complete ruins creating chronic food insecurity
Myth 5 - The rural economy has collapsed.
Nigeria: Media workers suspend strike
Media workers in the employ of Nigeria's federal government returned to work last Tuesday after they suspended their three day warning strike over the implementation of a new media salary structure. The suspension came following a meeting with key government officials. Members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Radio, Television and Theatre Workers Union (RATTAWU) had on Monday begun a three-day warning strike to force government to implement a new media pay structure for federal media workers who are said to be earning the lowest in the west African sub region.
South Africa: Pallo Jordan opposes media tribunal
ANC veteran Pallo Jordan has criticised his party's media appeals tribunal plans and the Protection of Information Bill at a debate, saying it was a 'fool's errand'. 'How did it [the ANC] paint itself into a corner where it can be portrayed as being opposed to media freedom? All the legislation we now have, including the Protection of Access to Information Act, was developed by the ANC,' said Jordan, according to a report in Business Day newspaper on Tuesday.
South Africa: Wikileaks to show Nelson Mandela slammed the war on Iraq
More secret United States files due to be published on Wikileaks are believed to contain strong criticism of former president Nelson Mandela. Wikileaks has already published over a quarter of a million confidential cables sending shockwaves around the world and angering several governments. The secret documents that have yet to be released are expected to reveal that Mandela suggested US President George W. Bush had ignored calls by the United Nations for restraint on the Iraq war.
Tunisia: Youth express themselves through graffiti
From football rows to images of love and affection, a variety of messages find embodiment on Tunisian walls. People of various ages and social classes dedicate effort and money to turn the walls of Tunis into a random mosaic of letters and figures, understandable only to their peers. 'I find a space where I can move around with my black lines, away from the eyes of censors, to write whatever I want,' said Semer Idoudi, a 20-year-old student.
Zimbabwe: Journalist Nqobani Ndlovu finally released from custody
Standard Newspaper journalist Nqobani Ndlovu was released from Khami Prison in Bulawayo on Friday, after the High Court dismissed an appeal by the state against the granting of bail by a magistrate. Ndlovu, who spent 10 days in custody, was arrested over a story he wrote claiming police had frozen internal promotions this year to accommodate war vets. He alleged the war vets were being recruited to direct operations during next year’s anticipated elections.
Ethiopia: Ethiopia PM warns of Nile war
Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, has told Reuters that Egypt could not win a war with Ethiopia over the Nile river. In an interview on Tuesday, Meles also accused Egypt of trying to destabilise his country by supporting several small rebel groups, but said it was a tactic that would no longer work. In response, Egypt said it was 'amazed' by Ethiopia's suggestion that Cairo might turn to military action in a row over the Nile waters, saying it did not want confrontation and that it was not backing rebels there.
Gambia: Iran claims US pressure after ties severed
A senior Iranian MP accused Gambia on Tuesday of bowing to pressure from the United States after the tiny African country severed ties with Iran, the official IRNA news agency reported. 'This move is seen as a result of American pressure as well as US policies aimed at damaging Iran's relations with different countries, including in Africa,' said Alaeddin Borujerdi, the head of parliament's foreign policy commission.
Kenya: Security zone set up in fight against piracy
Maritime authorities have created a security corridor for ships entering the Port of Mombasa to counter piracy attacks on Kenya’s territorial waters. Vessels will be required to wait at the four identified co-ordinates, which according to the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) is a corridor of 10 by 20 nautical miles from the Port of Mombasa. 'The area is a security zone within which patrols by the Kenyan Navy have been enhanced to provide security for vessels waiting berthing at the port,' KMA director Ms Nancy Karigithu said.
Somalia: 4000 people die in Somalia between 2009/10
The death toll in Somalia's ongoing war has increased during the last two years, local human rights groups told AfricaNews. The increment comes as shelling and fighting between government forces backed by AU peacekeepers and rebels reaches high proportions in the capital Mogadishu. The emergency traffic ambulance service in Mogadishu said that at least 4,260 people were killed in Mogadishu during 2009 and 2010.
Somalia: Somalia’s ethnic and religious minorities forgotten victims of civil war, says –new report
Minorities in Somalia are being subjected to a previously unreported pattern of gross human rights violations including summary executions, reported beheadings and rape, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says in a new report. The report, 'No redress: Somalia'’s forgotten minorities', says the situation for minorities is worse than for other groups in the current conflict because, unlike the majority population, they lack protection from the traditional clan structure.
Somalia’s ethnic and religious minorities forgotten victims of civil war – new MRG report
24 November 2010
Minorities in Somalia are being subjected to a previously unreported pattern of gross human rights violations including summary executions, reported beheadings and rape, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says in a new report.
The report, 'No redress: Somalia’'s forgotten minorities', says the situation for minorities is worse than for other groups in the current conflict because, unlike the majority population, they lack protection from the traditional clan structure.
Majority clans continue to exclude minorities, including the Bantu and Gaboye, from political, economic and social life, deny them human rights and access to justice, and punish couples who inter-marry.
While Somalia frequently makes headlines over the problem of piracy, the plight of the country’s ethnic and religious minorities is shocking and yet little known, the new report says.
‘Tens of thousands of minorities have been displaced from south-central Somalia due to the civil war,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director. ‘Now they are vulnerable to renewed abuse in IDP camps.’
‘There is a well-known saying in Somali: “No-one will weep for you. No-one will avenge you.” That is the reality for the country’s minorities,’ he added.
The report notes that minority women who have been uprooted because of the conflict suffer flagrant abuse, and calls for special measures to protect and promote their rights.
MRG researchers visiting camps for IDPs in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia in 2009, were told of a disturbing and persistent pattern of rape of minority women, perpetrated by majority men and sometimes by members of the Puntland police, army or security service.
Somalia’s majority community is formed of four main clan families: Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Rahanweyn, who traditionally hold social and political power.
The country’s minorities are from ethnic groups including Bantu, Benadiri, Gaboye or occupational groups, and also include religious minorities such as Christians. All have suffered marginalization and exclusion from mainstream life despite, according to the UN, making up at one time a third of the country’s population.
In crisis-stricken south-central Somalia, the armed group al-Shabaab has repeatedly carried out attacks in the past year against minorities, particularly Bantus and Christians, with reports of shootings, beheadings and the imposition of laws restricting religious practices, with harsh consequences for dissent.
The conflict has forced people from the area in their thousands in 2010 alone, the report says.
The report calls for the inclusion in the future new Constitution of Somalia of specific recognition for the country’s minorities and their rights to equality as recognised by international human rights standards. It also recommends that all UN and other international agencies operating in Somalia should ensure that minority concerns are included in their programmes.
Notes to Editors
No redress: Somalia’s forgotten minorities has been launched at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Mark Lattimer, MRG's Executive Director
- Martin Hill, author of the report
- Mohamed H. Daryeel, Chair of Somali Organization for Minority Rights and Aid Forum (SOMRAF)
- Mariam Yassin Hagi Yussuf, Executive Director IIDA Women's Development Organization, IIDA Kenya and researcher for the report
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:
MRG Press Office in Kampala - Mohamed Matovu
T: +256 312266832
M: +256 782748189
MRG Press Office in London - Farah Mihlar
T: +44 207 4224205
M: +44 7870596863
Somalia: UN re-authorises action against piracy
The Security Council has renewed for another 12 months the authorisations granted to states and regional organisations cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government to fight piracy off the country’s coast. As set out in previous resolutions, this includes the authorisation for States and regional organisations to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use 'all necessary means' - such as deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, as well as seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms and related equipment used for piracy.
Sudan: New war would cost billions
A return to civil war in Sudan would cost the country, the region and the international community more than $100bn over 10 years, says a new report. The report, published on Thursday by a coalition of European and African economic and political think-tanks, comes amid fears that an upcoming referendum on southern independence could trigger an escalation of violence.
Uganda: Obama's plan to defeat Ugandan LRA rebels
US President Barack Obama has outlined a plan to disarm one of Africa's most feared rebel militias, the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army. It aims to defuse the spiralling bloodshed in central Africa by removing the LRA's leader, Joseph Kony. LRA fighters will also be encouraged to defect or lay down their arms.
DRC: Documenting HIV/AIDS stigmatisation
With the help of a Micro-grant awarded by Rising Voices, AZUR Development organisation trained communication officers of different AIDS organisations in Congo in digital story telling, podcasting, and the creation of blogs. The goal was that these participants would document the stigma and discrimination of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Congo and use them as an advocacy tools.
Egypt: Getting harassment on the map
Less common but perhaps more useful than the tourist map is the ‘harassment map’ that many Cairo women are beginning to refer to. HarassMap, a private initiative run by volunteer activists, allows women who have been subject to harassment to report the incident anonymously by SMS, e-mail or online social networking sites. The information is compiled into a database that utilises open-source mapping technology to create a digital map of harassment 'hotspots' in Cairo and other Egyptian cities.
Ending gender-based violence against women
November 25 marked the beginning of 16 days of activism for ending gender-based violence against women, and also the Take Back the Tech! (TBTT) campaign. Take Back the Tech! is a collaborative campaign to reclaim information and communication technologies (ICT) to end violence against women.
Tunisia: Five years past WSIS, online activity even more censored
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a coalition of 20 IFEX members, is deeply concerned that five years after hosting the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Tunisia remains one of the most repressive countries for independent journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders. Access to the Internet is heavily censored, independent websites are blocked or hacked, and emails and phone calls are intercepted.
Tunisia: Launch a blog campaign starts
The Tunisian blogosphere has witnessed a period of stagnation since April. Indeed, the month was a black one for Tunisian bloggers as more than 100 blogs have been censored by the authorities, discouraging the rest of the bloggers, who have become reluctant to write on their blogs. Since then, blogger Arabasta, proposed to launch an online campaign to urge Tunisian internet users to create blogs. Some bloggers supported the initiative, which other bloggers have rejected it. Seven months later, the campaign is now being launched under the name ‘7el Blog’ (Tunisian dialect) translated in English as ‘Launch a Blog’.
Uganda: ICT boom not necessarily good for women
The rapid growth of the ICT market in Uganda has been greeted with optimism over its potential to boost the country’s development. But less attention is being paid to the increase in gender based violence due to the use of information and communications technology. The rapid adoption of mobiles has also seen a rise in invasion of privacy through SMS stalking, monitoring and control of partners’ whereabouts.
Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter - December issue
Fahamu’s Refugee Programme is pleased to announce the December issue of the Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter [1.1 MB pdf], a monthly publication that aims to provide a forum for providers of refugee legal aid. With a focus on the global South, it aims to serve the needs of legal aid providers as well as raise awareness of refugee concerns among the wider readership of Pambazuka News.
Engaging men in gender justice
ENGAGINGMEN.NET is a practitioners' portal for people around the world who are interested in engaging boys and men in gender justice, supporting women's empowerment, ending violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS, promoting responsible fatherhood, healthy relationships, and more.
Entries for the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award Africa open
Entries for the UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award Africa are now open. The competition, which is made possible through funding support from the Government of the United States of America, is open to African journalists between 25 and 35 years old, working for African news and media organisations.
UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women issues annual call for proposals
The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) has launched its annual global Call for Proposals for programmes that support country-level efforts to end violence against women and girls. The criteria, eligibility requirements and application guidelines are available at www.unifem.org/untfevaw The deadline for application is 20 January 2011.
Black London’s Film Heritage
Call for Submission
Black London’s Film Heritage invites submissions from any organisation or individual holding film material which depicts an African‐Caribbean presence in London. To be considered for inclusion in this project, submissions for previewing will be accepted on all formats, but if possible preferably digital or VHS tape.
Black London’s Film Heritage
Call for Submission
Black London’s Film Heritage invites submissions from any organisation or individual holding film material which depicts an African‐Caribbean presence in London. To be considered for inclusion in this project, submissions for previewing will be accepted on all formats, but if possible preferably digital or VHS tape.
We welcome films featuring all styles, subjects and occasions that you consider significant to share: family, community, groups and associations; and we are particularly interested in films that feature the earliest pre and post war years.
A compilation programme of archive film material will be produced and will be available for bookings in cinemas, alternative venues, community groups, film societies, and membership organisations across the capital. Supporting materials and information concerning further access to available archival resources will compliment the programme.
This request is for immediate effect as our project runs until 31st March 2011 so if you would like your material to be considered for inclusion please contact the Curators ‐ June Givanni and Imruh Bakari at email@example.com by 17 December 2010.
The Black London’s Film Heritage project is funded by Film London and the UK Film Council’s Digital Archive Fund Supported by the National Lottery.
Femnet update on preparations for status of women summit
The theme of this year's event, to be held between 22 February and 4 March 2011, is 'Access and Participation of women and girls to Education, Training, Science and Technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work. This Femnet update on the event has information about registration, parallel events and advocacy.
Land rights and land value capture course
Land Value Capture is a public revenue policy recommended for national action by consensus of all UN member states in both the UN Habitat II Agenda in 1996 and The Vancouver Action Plan, the 1976 founding document for UN Habitat. Land value capture can provide a substantial and practical means to raise the revenue needed to implement Local Agenda 21 sustainable community plans, meet the Millennium Development Goals, and provide needed community services.
Land Rights and Land Value Capture Course Overview
Land Value Capture is a public revenue policy recommended for national action by consensus of all UN member states in both the UN Habitat II Agenda in 1996 and The Vancouver Action Plan, the 1976 founding document for UN Habitat. Land value capture can provide a substantial and practical means to raise the revenue needed to implement Local Agenda 21 sustainable community plans, meet the Millennium Development Goals, and provide needed community services.
Module One - Land Rights and Poverty - of this online course contains an exploration of the theme of land rights and land ownership.
Module Two - Land Prices and the Law of Rent - introduces the 'law of land rent' - an in-depth analysis of the role of land under economic development as land values increase.
These first two modules gives course participants a heightened understanding of how many social problems are rooted in 'the land problem'. By the end of the second module students will know how the enormous worldwide wealth divide is due in large part to fundamental injustice in the 'people/planet' relationship.
Module Three - Land Value Capture - introduces 'land value capture' as a key public revenue policy based on justice in land rights. Sections in this module describe how this approach to public finance can “hatch many birds out of one egg” by addressing a number of issues including provisioning affordable housing for all, funding infrastructure, helping to secure women’s rights, promoting land reform, and improving the environment.
Module Four - Economics of War and Peace - details the dynamics of how - absent equitable rights to land resources - a war system develops and how land value capture can be an important tool for resolution of conflicts over land and natural resources.
Module Five - Policy Implementation - first gives ideas about ways to mobilize citizen campaigns in support of this policy followed by specific details of policy implementation. Course participants will learn about components of a land value capture system, principles of land valuation, and the use of information technology to promote understanding and transparency in policy implementation.
Students completing 20 out of 24 online course assignments under guidance of a course facilitator receive a paper certificate from Earth Rights Institute and are eligible to work on research and implementation projects.
The course material may also be viewed as 'read only' but no certificate will be issued on this basis.
Enroll in Land Rights and Land Value Capture at http://www.course.earthrights.net/
Short course in the struggle for health
Dakar, Senegal, 30 January to 11 February 2011
Priority will be given to qualified applicants from Senegal, other West African French-speaking countries and Maghreb region.
The International People's Health University (IPHU) of the People's Health Movement (PHM)
Human Action for Integrated Development in Senegal (AHDIS) and Forum des Alternatives Maroc (FMAS)
are pleased to announce
THE STRUGGLE FOR HEALTH
a short course for young health activists, scheduled in Dakar, Senegal
From 30 January to 11 February 2011, including participation in the World Social Forum (WSF) from 6 to 11 Feb. 2011)
The course will be conducted in French and English with simultaneous translation.
A limited number of scholarships for travel and/or accommodation will be available for qualified applicants.
Priority will be given to qualified applicants from Senegal, other West African French-speaking countries and Maghreb region.
Application deadline: 19 December 2010
Online application available
in English at: http://www.iphu.org/en/dakar/application
in French at: http://www.iphu.org/fr/dakar/application
Encourage young health activists to apply now!
Further details at:
‘Development, Geopolitics and Cultural Exchange in the Indian Ocean’
26 to 29 May 2011, Zanzibar
Over the last century the Indian Ocean region has experienced social, political and cultural reconfigurations that are the outcomes of distinct regional circumstances, but also mirror broader global transformations since the colonial era. This workshop aims to explore how systems of power and approaches to development have shaped the societies of the Indian Ocean rim both in the past and the present.
Zanzibar Indian Ocean Research Institute (ZIORI)
Research Network on ‘The Indian Ocean as Visionary Area: Post-Multiculturalist Approaches to the Study of Culture and Globalisation’
Call for abstracts
‘Development, Geopolitics and Cultural Exchange in the Indian Ocean’
Conveners: Abdul Sheriff and Preben Kaarsholm
Venue: ZIORI, Zanzibar
Time: 26 to 29 May 2011
Abstracts of appr. 500 words should be sent together with a one-page CV as e-mail attachments in Word to both conveners at the addresses firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com before 15 January 2011.
Letters of acceptance will be sent out to participants by 31 January 2011.
The deadline for submission of papers accepted for presentation will be 1 May 2011.
Accommodation in Zanzibar will be offered to paper presenters for four nights.
In the majority of cases, workshop participants will be expected to cover their own costs of travel. A limited number of subsidies will be available for paper presenters, who are based in the Indian Ocean region, and are unable to raise their own travel funds.
Applications for a travel subsidy must be submitted together with the abstract by 15 January 2011.
For further information about ZIORI, please see:
For further information about the Indian Ocean network, please see:
Outline of workshop focus
Over the last century the Indian Ocean region has experienced social, political and cultural reconfigurations that are the outcomes of distinct regional circumstances, but also mirror broader global transformations since the colonial era. Regional resources – notably fossil fuels – have positioned the Indian Ocean rim as a critical arena for both the global economy and geopolitics. At the same time, recent scholarship has traced how colonialism, independence and the Cold War engendered novel forms of collaboration across the Indian Ocean region, while evolving communication technologies contributed to new cultural imaginations.
The tensions of decolonization, and the different paths pursued by littoral societies in the context of Cold War rivalry, created postcolonial legal edifices – entailing new definitions of the citizen and the political actor – and systems of governance, that had profound effects on modes of identification, and in some cases spurred foreign intervention. Furthermore, frustration with the lack of rapid economic growth brought about instabilities, which paradoxically contributed both to state fragility and more robust regimes of control.
The restructuring of the world capitalist order in recent decades has created opportunities for new powers to emerge from within the Indian Ocean – most notably China and India – that pose economic and, perhaps in the long run, political challenges to older global powerbrokers. This has established possibilities for the emergence of a more multi-polar world in which economic development and geopolitical alignments in the Indian Ocean are taking centre stage. The heightened US military presence in East Africa, the Persian Gulf, South Asia and on Indian Ocean islands in the context of the ‘global war on terror’ has fueled tensions between local concerns and transnational regimes of control. At the same time a new and more multi-polar power structure may help to bring about new forms of cultural connectivities and agendas for political collaboration and exchange.
These issues have deep historical resonances. Work by historians of the Indian Ocean has shown how questions surrounding piracy, jurisdiction, non-state networks and governance were prominent throughout the region’s history, from the rise of Islam to the age of empires. Just as important, historical reflections have demonstrated how a range of groups contributed to shaping the legal, political and cultural contours of the Indian Ocean region.
This workshop aims to explore how systems of power and approaches to development have shaped the societies of the Indian Ocean rim both in the past and the present. Further, the workshop will address the significance of the combination of economic transformation and changing modes of human connectivity for the region as well as what such developments may mean for the future of the Indian Ocean and the world.
The conveners welcome papers directed at diverse perspectives and time periods. We hope to spark a lively conversation across disciplines and, to this end, encourage the participation of scholars with a background in international relations, history, political science, cultural and religious studies and other relevant fields.
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
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