The main story this week has been the alleged blocking of blogs by the Ethiopian government. Several Ethiopian bloggers have reported that they have not been able to access Blogspot blogs (blogger.com) from within and outside the country.
Ethiopian Life, Politics, Culture and Arts (http://seminawork.blogspot.com/2006/05/shutting-down-olfs-website-tplfs....) reports that the Ethiopian government shut down the website of the Oromo Liberation Front following an “alliance for democracy” formed by five opposition groups. He comments:
“Now that the government has discovered how to block websites, it is adding more and more to its blockage business. Yesterday, Ethiomedia Forum was shut down. Then OLF…Too late for stifling free speech on the net!”
Ethiopundit (http://ethiopundit.blogspot.com/2006/05/sign-of-desperation.html) reports that over a two day period all blogspot blogs were blocked in Ethiopia and suggests ways in which Ethiopians in Ethiopia can circumvent the blockages so as to access pro democracy blogs in the Ethiopian Diaspora:
“Those who seek political quips from weichegud or intelligent analysis form other bloggers can't access the sites via the telecom servers. In addition, the government has blocked Ethiopian Review, Cyber Ethiopia, Quatero and Free our Leaders websites…My sources told me this is done with the advise and help of the Chinese. This blog can't be accessed in Ethiopia so the following advise may not reach its intended readers. Other websites like Ethiomedia who hasn't yet been blocked should carry the message to Ethiopian readers.”
Weichegud! ET Politics (http://weichegud.blogspot.com/2006/05/how-do-you-compete-with-this.html) one of Ethiopia's most prolific writers and critics o the Zenawi regime comments on the government's general reaction to the media and free press including the blogging community:
"Has the fact that the Ethiopian government, ranked fourth in countries jailing journalists, petitioning for the censure of American and German journalists, struck anyone in the EPRDF as, mmm, ironic, for example? And just when we all thought the EPRDF could not possibly hand us another gift, it slaps a pretty bow on the biggest one yet…Seminnawerq reported all 'blogspot.com' pages have been blocked in Ethiopia. Let's see. What makes bloggers, a temperamental bunch, from all over the world go into collective convulsions? The stench of a government with close ties to China, a so called 'ally in the war against terrorism', pawing at the Fifth Estate that is the Blogosphere. And whose duty is it to tell all these bloggers what's going on?"
The China link is an interesting one. In addition to their huge investment and purchase of African resources, will they also be providing lessons on how to repress the blogosphere and arrest and detain bloggers?
Grandiose Parlor, writing from the Nigerian Diaspora, (http://grandioseparlor.blogspot.com/2006/05/nigerian-electric-power-sect...) comments on the $9 billion mess that is the Nigerian Electricity sector:
“I read with dismay that after spending about 1.3 trillion Naira (about 9 billion US dollars) on power generation between 1999 and 2005 Nigerians will not enjoy a stable supply of the commodity until 50 years from now! Yes, Nigerians should expect stable electricity by year 2056 if investment in the power sector grows at the same rate as the economy, according to the Nigerian minister for power and steel.”
It is not just a question of a stable supply - huge regions still do not have any electricity supply whatsoever. The latest excuse is that it is the “insurgency in the Niger Delta” that is responsible when in truth electricity provision has never been stable - in fact in Port Harcourt you could go for weeks without any power supply - and that was 20 years ago - and still no changes have taken place.
Gambian blog, Home of the Mandinmories (http://gambian.blogspot.com/2006/05/michigambiapress-offensive.html) comments on an organisation called the Michgambia (The Gambia Association of Michigan) which has collected medical supplies and equipment to send to Gambia.
“These medical supplies and equipment are intended to benefit hospitals in The Gambia including Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, Sulayman Junkung General Hospital in Bwiam, Western Division, AFPRC Hospital in Farafenni, North Bank Division and Bansang Hospital in Central River Division.”
However, Mandinmories points out that the press release credits the Gambian Embassy with the project and he questions why this is so and why it is not Michgambia that has the credit.
The Moor Next Door (http://wahdah.blogspot.com/2006/05/on-arab-americans-and-darfur.html) comments on the Arab-American website and the fact that they recently spoke on Darfur. He questions why Arab-American condemnation was ignored whereas Jewish and African American voices were publicised.
“I think the fact that one of the major leaders in the Arab-American community came out and spoke against it is something worth mentioning. Isn't it Arabs that are in Sudan doing the bulk of the killing and 'ethnic cleansing?' I'm always hearing Americans (whites, blacks, Jews, etc.) telling me that Arabs should look at their history and world objectively (something I totally agree with, as you can see here and elsewhere), yet when Arabs actually do this, these same people are indignant, un-informed, or don't pay attention. Checking out the AAI website once in a while would do these sorts of people some good.”
He goes on to say that it is important for Arab Americans to make their voices heard when it comes to issues such as Darfur and other humanitarian crises in Africa and elsewhere. He is quite critical of Arabs and their leaders need to answer the question “where were the Arabs”.
“But I think this is a valid question on the matter of Darfur. I don't believe in making collective apologies for the actions of others who behave like uncivilized miscreants, and I am not going to advocate doing so here or ever. But Arabs have made their entire region, people and culture look like the scum at the bottom of a coffee pot by ignoring the plight of the people in Darfur - not just the non-Arabs there but also of the Arab civilians killed by non-Arab militias.”
Black Looks (http://www.blacklooks.org/2006/05/ask_no_questions_-_tell_no_lies.html) comments on China's $1billion investment in Nigeria's railway network - not the only transport network it is involved with on the continent along with arms supply and oil.
“China is rapidly consolidating it's hold on Africa's resources through similar deals as the Nigerian one. Angola's railway system is also being rebuilt. Algeria is receiving help with building a highway; military equipment is being sold to Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Sudan so their leaders Mugabe, Obasanjo and Omar Hassan El-Bashir, can use their newly acquired arms against their own citizens.”
In another post (http://www.blacklooks.org/2006/05/lessons_on_censorship.html) she wonders whether lessons in censoring the blogosphere will be included in China's deals with Africa.
“The question is given China's policy on censorship of the blogosphere and it's record of detaining bloggers (Free Hao Wu for example) without charges - will they be including lessons on internet censorship as part of their buy up Africa project? It could be that African governments are only just waking up to the blogosphere as the number of blogs and readers increase exponentially - who will be next on the list?”
* Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks,