During 2006 the number of blogs by Africans at home and in the Diaspora more than doubled. However, they are still the least applied of all the emerging technologies (email, listserves, forums and IM) largely due to cost, slow internet speeds and a general unawareness of the medium. Despite this, African blogs have been able to challenge governments on issues such as corruption, human rights, economic policy and social justice in their respective countries (often anonymously) in ways that could not have been possible without risking arrest or harassment in the past.
Sites such as the ‘Kenyan Mzalendo’ site which was set up to monitor the activities of the Kenyan parliament; ‘Kenyan Unlimited’, a Kenyan community of blogs; and the ‘African Women’s Blogs’ created as a collaborative site for African women bloggers are all examples of innovative uses of blogging technology. Many of the personal blogs have become sites of expertise on technology in Africa (White African), human rights and social justice (Black Looks and This is Zimbabwe), African literature (Wordsbody), political commentary (Chippla’s Weblog and Kameelah Writes); chronicles of the daily activities and lives of HIV/AIDS patients and carers (Nata Village Blog) and many more.
This year’s first roundup kicks off with some commentary on the recent execution of Saddam Hussein as viewed by African bloggers.
Gambian blog, 'Home of the Mandimories' - Barbarity, () is scathing in his criticism of the execution and the reasons behind the war in Iraq and the cost in lives (thousands and thousands of Iraqis and 3000 US soldiers and money ($3trillion to date).
“We invaded Iraq to convict Saddam Hussein, so we could execute him by tying a nose around his neck. What a barbaric act. But hey, it makes for cool television and the ratings are sky rocketing…The lives lost and the dollars spent to get us there? They were totally worth it, weren't they? I mean, s***, even if we don't get another darn thing out of being stuck in this God-forsaken hellhole, we got to see Saddam swingin' from the end of a rope, brother. Woo-HOO. That is what our boy king wanted all along. What a sad act.”
Kenyan blogger, 'Thinkers Room' - (http://www.thinkersroom.com/blog/2006/12/they-shouldnt-have-hanged-saddam/)also disagrees with the hanging but for different reasons:
“Most importantly, Saddam did very many unspeakable things in his long and un-illustrious rule. The only person who knows all the grisly things Saddam Hussein did in great detail is Saddam Hussein. And now that he is dead, all that information is lost as well. There are things that Saddam did that we will now never know. As Saint Peter looks over his books Saddam must be thinking Who’s laughing now?’”
Both points of view are valid, in my opinion, but I would add that the crime Saddam was tried and hanged for was one of the few that did not implicate the US and other Western governments – he should have been tried for the mass murder of 5000 Kurds or his murderous activities during the Iran/Iraq war; he should have been tried in the International Court and not in Iraq. Furthermore, the trial was a sham and the execution disgusting. Thankfully because of the illegal phone video we all got to see what really happened at the moment of death – and who comes out looking like the decent guy in all of this? Saddam who until the end was dignified and somehow the barbarism that surrounded his death made HIM seem the human one! Ironic.
For 'Egyptian Chronicles' - Is This Islamic Ethics (http://egyptianchronicles.blogspot.com/2007/01/is-this-from-islamic-ethics.html) the abuse of Saddam Hussein during and after the execution is an:
“…ironically those brain heads made from him a hero and also enforced the division between Sunni and Shiites not only in Iraq but in the Arab world…Brain heads!”
Another major story over the New Year was the invasion by Ethiopia of Somalia to remove the Union of Islamic Courts.
Somali blogger, 'The Voice of Somaliland' - (http://waridaad.blogspot.com/2007/01/by-its-ill-judged-invasion-of-somalia.html) accuses Ethiopia of being an accomplice in Bush’s War on Terror. He believes the invasion is ill-advised and ill-fated and will be resisted by the Somali people and will draw in other countries in the region such as Eritrea.
“The danger this time is that the resistance will draw in other countries. Eritrea, which fought its own costly war with Ethiopia, does not need an invitation to help its enemy's enemy. The UIC is also said to be receiving financial assistance from rich leaders of sympathetic Islamic sects, drawn from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Gulf sheikhdoms. And the most explosive fuel will be the involvement of the US on the side of Ethiopia. General John Abizaid, commander for the US central command, is reported to have visited Ethiopia last month, after which Ethiopia moved from providing the Somali government with ‘military advice’ to open armed intervention.”
Once again the US uses proxy armies to fight on its behalf. There are areas of criticism to be levelled at the Union of Islamic Courts but at least in the short term they brought peace and stability where there was chaos, violence and fear during the period of control by the warlords who have now been reinstated, courtesy of Ethiopian dictator, Meles Zenawi, friend to the US and British governments. Maybe in 10 years time when he has completed the massacre of his own people they will want to hang him too like Saddam. But it won’t be for the invasion of Somalia – that would show up their dirty little secret deals with a ruthless leader.
'Ethiopian Politics' - (http://ethiopianpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/01/anti-ethiopian-protests-rock-somali.html) comments on the angry response of Somalis to the invasion by Ethiopia on their country.
'Chippla’s Weblog' - (http://chippla.blogspot.com/index.html) discusses the “Interconnected World” in which we live and the interdependency of governments on each other and of course blogs.
“Governments across the world are realizing how heavily dependent they are on one another. For instance, few governments would be glad to see the United States dollar depreciate rapidly. Not even the Chinese government, which silently aspires to superpower status a few decades from now. Holding about one trillion dollars in foreign reserves (a large percentage of which is in United States dollars—exactly how much, remains a state secret), a rapid depreciation of the dollar would hurt China badly. Poland may bark at and prevent the European Union from signing favorable treaties with Russia. But even Poland knows that there is a limit to how loud it can bark. Heavily dependent on Russia for gas, should Gazprom, the mega Russian gas company, decide to close its gas pipes to Poland, a large number of Poles would be forced to freeze out the winter.”
Unfortunately as Chippla points out, this interconnectedness and interdependency does not translate into a better world – a safer place, a more humane place, a more egalitarian place. On the contrary it is leading to a world of the exact opposite where human rights are being eroded and greed is becoming an acceptable form of behaviour.
'African Media' - (http://africamedia.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/01/de_beers_attack.html) reports on the response of De Beers to an article in the Los Angeles Times which provides context to the movie Blood Diamond. Both the LA Times and the New York Times were pressurised by De Beers lawyers to detract on their statements. Such is the power of De Beers and Diamonds! Below is a sample of the criticisms made and De Beers response:
"The article stated that De Beers is exploring for diamonds on land in Botswana that was formerly occupied by the Kalahari Bushmen. That claim is made by Survival International on behalf of the Bushmen, who were relocated by the Botswanan government, which is partnered with De Beers in a diamond company called Debswana. A De Beers spokesman says that while it has explored in the Bushmen's former homeland in the past, it has never mined there and ‘today has no activity of any sort in the region.’”
The film died – De Beers and the Diamond Cartel fought back - and blood diamonds – well it was just another Hollywood film after all!
'Black Looks' - (http://www.blacklooks.org/2007/01/opening_and_closing_the_gates.html) comments on an expose of the “Dirty Little Secrets” behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation by the Los Angeles Times (hopefully the Gates’ wield less power than De Beers and the LA Times will not have to retract it’s investigative report). The Gates’ are busy giving away money to immunize children in Africa and other areas of the majority world and at the same time are investing huge sums of money in companies that operate unethically and irresponsibly in those countries.
“With the right hand, the children of the Niger Delta are being saved from getting polio and measles and with the left hand they are suffering from bronchitis, asthma, eczema, boils and other skin problems as well as cancer due to the continued flaring of 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day in the region by the oil companies, and the pollution of drinking and fishing waters from oil spills and old rotten pipelines that leak oil – both at the expense of the Gates Foundation...
"Oil companies are not the only socially irresponsible organisations associated with the Gates Foundation. Other companies rank high as polluters, as well as the very pharmaceutical companies producing anti-retroviral drugs that are unaffordable to the majority world. Ironic when one of the Foundation’s major donations goes to HIV/AIDS.”
• Sokari Ekine produces the blog Black Looks, www.blacklooks.org