Mali: Paris and Africa want to go fast, Washington remains Skeptic

France and African countries are eager to receive soon the green light from the UN for of an international internvention force in northern Mali that is under total control  of Islamist insurgents.   However, this urgent call is facing skepticism from Washington, which is questioning  the capacity of Bamako and its neighbors to complete the operation, according to diplomats.

“The United States are not satisfied with preparations for the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African) for this mission, they have no confidence in the ability of African troops and the Malian army to  do the job, “said a Western diplomat.

“Washington” he added, “would like to move forward with two different missions: one to support the Malian army and to facilitate political dialogue  the other is to fight terrorist groups” like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which took the control of northern Mali.

Bamako and ECOWAS have submitted to the UN plans for an international force of 3,300 men and ask the Security Council to allow rapid deployment. The Council shall decide on the basis of a resolution prepared by France, who hopes to see its adoption before Christmas.

For the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, who testified Wednesday before a Senate committee, ECOWAS plans “do not meet several essential questions mainly the abilities of Malian and international forces to achieve the objectives of the mission “and its funding.

During closed consultations Wednesday to the Council, France and the African countries, including South Africa, have led to rapid adoption of the resolution.

The text, which must be submitted by its 14 partners in Paris shall authorize force in Bamako, called International Mission Support for Mali (Misma).

European instructors will endeavor to rebuild the Malian army, rundown, in anticipation of a reconquest of the north that can not begin until the fall of 2013, according to the head of operations peacekeeping Herve Ladsous.

“Poker

Meanwhile, the resolution called for a national dialogue to Bamako and reconciliation between the Malian government and Tuareg secessionist North.

Washington treats the crisis as “a problem of terrorism,” says one diplomat,   everyone agrees on the threat posed by the presence in northern Mali of terrorist groups like AQIM.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has published a report that highlights plenty risks of the operation, especially in terms of violations of human rights, which angered Africans.

Under these conditions, the negotiations on the resolution may be difficult although a Western diplomat said there was “no fundamental objection to the French approach, outside the United States.”

In the end, another diplomat said, “there will be a resolution authorizing force, but it will be complicated.” “This is a poker game, the Americans will not veto,” he adds.

UK and Germany, are in favor of the authorization as a precaution with priority given to the reconciliation policy on the military side, and Russia and China should not oppose it.

Questions arise, however, on the transition from training to the reconquest of the north, or the financing of an operation that would cost at least 200 million euros. Paris asked the General Secretariat of the UN estimating a possible UN logistical support to the operation, which is also funded by the European Union, the United States and France.
Said Temsamani

Political Analyst

Zimbabwe: 2013 elections in danger over election observers

HARARE – Sharp differences among the main parties over whether or not to invite western election observers have set GNU partners on a collision course.

The squabbles are set to place more potholes on the road towards elections as the process of making a new constitution, a condition for the next polls, is moving at a snail’s pace.

Zanu (PF) has, once again, decided to play hardball and dismissed the possibility of entertaining western observers, whom it accuses of seeking the removal of President Robert Mugabe and his party from power.

The 2008 elections were held with the participation of only African and Asian observers carefully chosen by Zanu (PF), at Mugabe’s insistence. MDC-T has threatened to boycott the 2013 polls if international observers are not invited.

Nelson Chamisa, MP for Kuwadzana, told a recent rally of party supporters: “No international observers, no elections for MDC. We will not be party to elections which are not observed by the international community. MDC wants to participate in truly free and fair elections, whose outcome will be credible and acceptable by all parties involved.”

In a follow up interview, Chamisa stood by his position, saying: “If Zanu (PF) can invite countries of its choice to observe the election, why can’t MDC as well enjoy the privilege to invite its friends? The election situation resembles that of a wedding. Both wedding couples are free to invite guests of their choice.”

He said the issue of election observers was clearly spelt out in the GPA. But Zanu (PF) is adamant on the issue.

“Western countries will not be invited to observe our elections. As Zanu (PF), we will not allow them anywhere near our national affairs,” party spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, said.

Observers noted that if Zanu (PF) was serious about convincing the international community that the elections would be free and fair, it should invite the sceptics to prove to them that it has nothing to hide. “They can get a clean bill of health from their friends, but why are they afraid of others in the international community – especially those who regularly conduct their own free and fair elections?” asked one political analyst.

Chris Mutsvangwa, considered a hardliner in the party, confirmed the position, saying Zimbabwe was not legally obliged to ensure the presence of foreign observers during elections.

“MDC should take a close look at the constitution, which stipulates that Zimbabwe is obliged to hold elections only under supervision of the international community. As a country we must grow up and run our own affairs without outside assistance or supervision,” Mutsvangwa told The Zimbabwean.

He accused the MDC of pandering to the interests of the West, and poured scorn on the MDC-T election boycott threat.

“MDC is free not to participate in the elections, since our constitution does not force any political party to be part of the plebiscite against its will. The MDC position on observers serves to confirm that some political parties are beholden to some outside countries,” said Mutsvangwa.

Zanu (PF) MP for Tsholotsho, Jonathan Moyo, weighed into the debate, saying: “Chamisa should know that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state. We will invite organisations of our choice to monitor and observe coming elections. Naturally, western countries are not among our preferences.”

Zapu spokesperson, Mark Mbayiwa said election observers were necessary foran acceptable outcome. “We want both regional and international observers … since we want a clean and credible election. Observers can be invited from anywhere,” he said.

Nhlanhla Dube from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube said there was need to speed up the constitution-making process first.

Political analyst John Makumbe agreed. “If elections are conducted under a new constitution, only the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will have authority to invite observers, not political parties. If the elections are conducted under the Lancaster House constitution, government will invite observers and since the GNU is made up of three political parties each party will invite whoever it wishes,” he said.

Even though Mugabe and his party recently urged speed in coming up with a new constitution so as to pave way for elections, their sincerity is in doubt, as there is a strong clique in Zanu (PF) that is opposed to a new supreme law.

Mugabe has flouted the GPA on several occasions and acted unilaterally, leaving the possibility that he can still do the same with the decision on western observers.

The international community and civil society have called on the government to ensure foreign observers are included in the electoral process. In a recent interview with The Zimbabwean, British Ambassador to Harare, Deborah Bonnet, said: “We want to see a free and fair election and the involvement of international observers will give Zimbabwe credit.” – The Zimbabwean

Why Malawi can’t just legalise homosexuality

By Sitinga Kachipande

Two men kissing. File picture. Image by: BRUNO DOMINGOS / Reuters

Two men kissing. File picture. Image by: BRUNO DOMINGOS / Reuters

The heated debate on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Malawi has resurfaced, which is not surprising as one can’t simply legalize homosexuality and then expect a nation to conform. On November 5 the Malawian government suspended all laws that criminalised homosexuality. Ralph Kasambara, Attorney General and Justice Minister, ordered police to not arrest LGBT individuals until parliament reviewed the laws, then backtracked three days later after criticism from Malawian civil society groups. Attempts to legislate change in support of LGBT rights without engaging the population are simply are not popular or sustainable. Greater efforts are needed to assess and address the social environment in Malawi which is complicating the sustainable decriminalization of anti-gay laws.

RELIGION, I PRESUME?

Like in much of Africa, Malawi’s leaders argue that homosexuality is alien to its cultural, traditional and religious values. The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and Christian conservatives are at the forefront of the country’s anti-gay sentiments, and Christianity is central to Malawian history and society. The famous Scottish explorer David Livingstone is credited for introducing the religion to Malawi as he paved the way for colonial expansion. By the end of the 1900s, there were several Christian missions across the Lake Nyasa region. Today Malawi is 83 percent Christian and 13 percent Muslim; the remaining 1.9 percent, follow other beliefs, including indigenous religions. Both Islam and Christianity traditionally reject homosexuality.

Malawi identifies itself as a Christian nation and with no religious conflict. Citizens proudly see themselves as ‘peaceful’ and ‘non-violent’. However, these identities are at times at odds with attitudes towards LGBT individuals. Although Malawi has fewer reported violent crimes against the LGBT community than countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Cameroon, and Nigeria, Malawians typically stop short of violence towards LGBT individuals. Malawi is mostly a socially conservative country that is intolerant to a homosexual lifestyle. Being a homosexual in Malawi comes with a hefty sentence of between 5-14 years in jail, with hard labour. Two Malawian men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, received this harsh sentence after holding a traditional marriage ceremony as recently as 2010. But the late President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them following intense international pressure. Homophobic sentiments in Malawi are due to the dominance of the Christianity.

Homophobic attitudes in Malawi derive from the teachings in the country’s largely conservative Christian churches; therefore, any attempts to redress anti-gay legislation need to involve the church. The dominance of the Christianity and Judeo-Christian conservative values in Malawi makes it difficult to address homosexuality simply as a legal issue. Albeit being an independent, secular state, the Malawian state willingly operates under conservative colonial Christian ideologies: in practice, the state and church are not always separate. Public officials and private citizens often refer to themselves first and foremost as Christian and to the nation as “God fearing”. Religious culture is therefore inextricably intertwined with traditional western Judeo-Christian attitudes towards homosexuality and Malawi’s legal framework.

Arguments against homosexuality are less likely to engage legal obligations of the state and more likely to be presented as Biblical, moral arguments. The moral guide used in Malawian law stems from homophobic Western sentiments that were legislated by its former colonial governments and sustained by President Kamuzu Banda. Contemporary Malawian and Western Christian evangelicals also continue to influence legislation. Western evangelicals in particular are known to be powerful anti-gay legislation lobbyists in Africa. There is a need to engage Malawi’s Christian leaders and the MCC at religious levels – fight the Bible with the Bible. Even though objections to homosexuality are based on Biblical interpretations, the Bible is ambiguous about homosexuality and gay marriage.

Engaging the church community religiously in support of legislation against inequality can work and has worked. Malawian churches proactively supported democracy and human rights during the transition from dictatorial rule. It was a pastoral letter that helped galvanize the public to support Chakufwa Chihana, force Kamuzu Banda’s resignation and usher in democracy. However, the church community is largely unwilling to engage in the same ideals over the LGBT debate. Many Malawian churches are against a law that decriminalizes homosexuality, even if the current law suppresses sexual minorities. Religious justifications are, for the most part, used to repress Malawian LGBT citizens instead of liberate them.

Incidentally, similar Christian ideologies were used to justify the oppression of Black Africans. Africans were regarded as heathens because of the way they danced, dressed, or copulated — if the popular anecdotes state that the term “missionary position” originates from Christian missionaries’ teachings that this position was the appropriate way to engage in sexual intercourse is to be believed—and were deemed ‘ungodly’. These religious sentiments often influenced colonial laws towards Africans. Many traditional dances were banned by colonialists who deemed them as inappropriate and unchristian. Similarly, traditional marriages (non-Christian) or polygamous ones were not recognized as legitimate.

This repression gave rise to Malawi’s Black liberation theology and movements, which was spearheaded by the country’s national hero Reverend John Chilembwe. The theology adapted colonial Christian ideology and made it relevant to the African colonial experience. It used the liberating and inclusive tenets of the Bible to liberate African Malawians from oppressive social hierarchies. Conservative Christian Malawians seem to have well forgotten this in the LGBT debate. Malawi’s debate over LGBT rights should engage Biblical interpretations about homosexuality, leaders in religious theology. This should involve faith-based civic society and NGOs that support dialogue on Biblical teachings. Consistent with Chilembwe’s ideologies, Christianity in Malawi should be used to teach about justice, tolerance, equality and inclusivity. It should promote democracy and human rights for the whole society.

SOCIETY, I PRESUME?

Another common claim is that homosexuality is foreign, un-African and not a part of Malawian traditional culture. Homosexuality, some argue, is Western and its acceptance is a condition for development aid. However, historical data indicates that homosexuality did occur in pre-colonial Africa in countries like Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and South Africa. A large portion of ethnic groups that settled in Malawi migrated from these areas. Pre-colonial attitudes to homosexuality were either negative (since it was not widely practiced) or neutral (it was seen as a normal gender ascription). Gender roles, as in the majority of Africa, were more fluid in pre-colonial than in contemporary Malawi. What foreigners brought to Africa was an increase in the rigidity of gender roles and homophobia. Similar to the altered attitudes towards African dress and dance, colonial practices influenced perceptions towards relationships by using religion. Attitudes towards African models of relationships such as polygamy, non-Christian traditional marriages and same partner relationships changed. Penal codes, such as those that criminalized homosexual relationships, preserved the changed attitudes.

In the post-colonial era, Malawi’s government did little to change these laws. Kamuzu Banda made efforts to change some of the unpopular tenets of colonialism but he largely continued oppressing Malawians to consolidate his own power. The routine suppression of groups like LGBT or Jehovah’s Witness’ was common in Banda’s autocratic Malawi. After the Banda era, most Malawians knew LGBT individuals could be found in the country but did not discuss the issue publicly. For example, the presence of ‘beach boy’ culture— young males who work on the beach as tour guides or organizers of entertainment that also engage in homosexual sex with tourists —on Malawian beaches supports the tourism industry but is rarely discussed by tourism or health authorities. Rather than deny its existence or focus on blaming foreigners, Malawians should be conscious of their own historical reality with LGBT community. This relationship is hard to define because foreign governments use the lifting of anti-gay legislation as a condition for aid. Doing so presents homosexuality as foreign and blames the LGBT community for funding and fiscal limitations. It also diminishes support for President Joyce Banda who is often accused of being too heavily influenced by foreigners because she supports LGBT rights as human rights.

OR DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT?

Equally important is the legal process: Malawians seem to desire upholding the law, albeit some motivated by homophobia. If Malawian homosexuality legislation is changed, citizens want it done legally and constitutionally. Malawians already saw their constitution flouted during former President Mutharika’s second term. The country had become increasingly dictatorial because Mutharika enacted new laws that limited freedom and civil rights. When Mutharika suddenly died in early 2012, democracy was threatened during an attempted constitutional coup: staunch Mutharika supporters made efforts to circumventing the constitution. Malawians celebrated when the constitution was upheld and Joyce Banda became president in what was considered a victory for constitutional process.

Consequently, there is general low tolerance in Malawi for those that do not follow legal processes and protocol. Part of the new president’s agenda is to realize human rights for all Malawians. When Malawians heard that the Banda administration suspended anti-gay laws without due process there was resistance. Even those who would otherwise have supported decriminalizing homosexuality sided with the constitution. The Malawi Law Society (MLS) stood alongside the MCC in the debate due to their commitment to upholding the constitution. They argued against the suspension on legal grounds, stating that ministers had no right to freely suspend laws and that doing so set a dangerous precedent.

Although international human rights groups tout the suspension as a victory for human rights and LGBT rights, supporting the undemocratic methods that brought it about contradicts the democratic process. This only heightens anti-gay sentiments and weakens credibility. Realizing Malawian LGBT rights won’t be popular or possible if due legal process is circumvented. The fight and argument needs to be tackled in parliament with input from those who have support and backing from constituents. This means the debate has to be strategically taken to Malawian people and one cannot simply decriminalize homosexuality before changing social attitudes Social and religious concerns must be addressed with a public that also needs to be sensitized on the issues of concern. Additionally, there should be an introspective look at Malawi’s religious and pre-colonial history. Further, Malawians should be familiarized with democracy and the role of government – this was never adequately done during the transition to multi-party rule and former President Muluzi’s rule.

Government and civil society need to guide the debate. The government needs to clearly define what they want to achieve for the country by decriminalizing homosexuality and communicate that the state is mandated to protect all citizens, not just straight ones. Social marketing campaigns and public service announcements that aim to change attitudes towards homosexuality and the LGBT community should be developed. Some Malawians still debate over the differences between calls to ‘decriminalize homosexuality’ versus calls to ‘legalize gay marriage’ and a sizeable number believe is it the same issue. Biased media reporting on the issue is common. Success and sustainable change can only come from and be measured by a change in public perceptions as well as the law.

Addressing the religious and social attitudes, as well as legal concerns, is central to Malawi’s LGBT debate. Although homosexuality is a contentious issue in the county, part of the population does support the community. Many—liberal Christians, heterosexuals, those interested social justice for all, and other Malawians—support its decriminalization. Tiwonge Chimbalanga was often sympathetically referred to as ‘Aunt Tiwo’. The threat of undermining the constitution is too real for Malawi so supporting change that circumvents the law is bound to backfire. LGBT rights activists need to be more strategic and focus on protecting all rights for all citizens.

  Sitinga Kachipande is a Pan-African Studies student and blogger, currently a research and communication intern at TransAfrica. Views expressed are her own.

REFERENCES

Blessing-Miles, T., 2010. African Myths About Homosexuality. The Guardian, 23 March.
Central Intelligence Agency, 2012. CIA World Factbook – Malawi. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mi.html
[Accessed 29 11 2012].
Frazer, P., 2009. How Malawian Boys are Being Sexually Exploited. African News, 30 September, p. 22.
Kaoma, K. J., 2012. Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, Somerville: Political Research Assocaites.
Mitchell, M., 2002. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. “Living Our Faith:” The Lenten Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of Malawi and the Shift to Multiparty Democracy, 1992-1993, 41(1), pp. 5-18.
Monroe, I., 2012. Malawi’s LGBTQ Community’s Short-Lived Freedom. Huffington Post: Gay Voices, 15 11.
Reuters, 2012. Churches Force Malawi to Change Tune on Anti-Gay Law. Reuters, 8 11.
Rotberg, R. I., 2005. Brief Life of an Anti-colonial rebel: 1871?-1915. Harvard Magazine, March-April, Volume March-April, pp. 36-37.
Rukweza, J., 2006. Is Homosexuality Really “UnAfrican”. Pambazuka News, 23 March.
Segueda, E., 2012. Little Support by African Churches for Gay Rights. Deutsche Welle, 27 11, p. 1.
Smith, D. & Mapondera, G., 2012. Malawi lawyers’ group questions legality of suspending anti-gay laws. The Guardian UK, 8 11.
Stewart, C., 2012. Malawi is Homophobic, but is Learning About Gays. [Online]
Available at: http://76crimes.com/2012/11/05/malawi/
[Accessed 29 11 2012].
Tenthani, R., 2012. Malawis Anti-Gay Laws Under Review, May be Suspended. Huffington Post, 8 11.

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Despite disputes over an election result, Ghana is still a success story

A RUNDOWN booth in Accra, Ghana’s capital, houses the Kwame Nkrumah bookshop, where Cubist pictures of the country’s first president lean against a dusty window pane. A photograph of Nkrumah’s socialist and pan-African books stands on an otherwise empty shelf. The sad state of the bookshop, the only publisher and distributor of the former president’s books in Africa, underlines the irrelevance today of the ideological divisions of Ghana’s past.

In Ghana’s presidential and parliamentary elections, decided on December 7th, the arguments were not about ideas but about the results. The incumbent, John Mahama, won by a whisker, with 50.7% of the vote. His opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, claims that technical glitches which prolonged voting allowed the ruling National Democratic Congress to tamper with the votes. Mr Akufo-Addo says he will contest Mr Mahama’s victory in court. His party has urged its supporters to take to the streets. In the elections in 2008 he lost by less than one percentage point but accepted the result.

Mr Mahama’s victory was surprising. Neither candidate was expected to get more than 50% of the vote, the threshold for an outright win. But observers from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, the most influential regional club, said the result was fair.

Ghana’s economy is forecast to grow by just over 8% this year, and its democracy is widely praised. Mr Mahama was sworn in as president in July after the death of his predecessor, John Atta Mills, in an impressively smooth transition. If the current dispute can be settled in court and does not spill into the streets, the opposition’s challenge will pose little threat to the country’s democratic credentials. “Ghana must demonstrate its political maturity by going through the legal process,” says George Ayittey, an economist in Accra.

Assuming the result is upheld, Mr Mahama will now have to get on with governing. He has promised to fight corruption, tackle youth unemployment and use Ghana’s oil wealth to develop infrastructure and industry. One measure of Ghana’s success is that his opponent would have pledged just the same.

Source: economist.com

Every 30 minutes a woman or girl is raped in Kenya

Every 30 minutes a woman or girl is raped in Kenya.

That’s nearly 50 woman or girls every day, over 300 every week, over 1,200 every month and over 15,000 each year.

While laws exist in Kenya to prevent such atrocities from occurring, unfortunately they are not effectively enforced and more often than not, rapists are not held accountable for their crimes.

Enter the Equality Effect, a charitable organization in Africa that develops creative legal solutions to address the inequality of women and girls in Africa. The organization has launched the 160 Girls Project which aims to seek justice for 160 girls aged 3 to 17-years-old who have been raped.

The stories of these girls are tragic. Often they have been raped by the very people that should protect them like family members, teachers and police. To make matters worse, many men in the country believe that sex with a virgin can cure HIV/AIDS.

Luckily these girls are given temporary shelter for 6 weeks in a rescue center in rural Kenya where they receive treatment. However, after 6 weeks the girls are again vulnerable to being raped again.

To protect the girls from future sexual assaults, the 160 Girls Project is working to secure a court order that would require the enforcement of existing laws that are meant to protect girls from sexual violence. In October the group submitted its claim to the high court against the country’s constitution’s equality provision.

From Somalia to Minnesota: A new life for a woman with hearing loss

By Khadra Abdille, Minnesota Literacy Council

I’m from Somalia in East Africa; I grew up in North Somalia. I was born able to hear, and throughout most of my life I could hear. When I was 14 years old I began to have hearing loss and I don’t know what caused it. I have an auditory neuropathy kind of hearing loss.

I went to many doctors and I didn’t get any help. I dropped all my education because I couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t know any sign language and my whole family can hear and don’t know sign language. I felt isolated and alone everywhere I went. I loved my education and when I became deaf I dropped out. Every few months I would go back to school and pay much money without learning anything because I couldn’t hear and there was no sign language.

For five years I had no communication. I was communicating with gestures and universal sign language. I tried to hear what people were saying but I couldn’t hear. I also tried to lip-read, but people wouldn’t look at me while they talked, so their faces were looking the other way. It was too difficult to live in there. I even went to doctors without communication, with no writing and using sign language just to talk only.

After being depressed for so many years I came to the United Staes in 2008. I went to a deaf school and I started learning sign language and English, but my family still didn’t learn except for my second oldest sister, who is ten years old. She can spell A-Z and knows a little ASL, but my mom communicates with my by writing my native language.

I’m happy in here and love my education; soon I’ll go to college. Thanks to everyone who has supported me to change my life.

Congo Tells of M23 Rebel Abuses

Civilians say the M23 fighters committed horrific crimes during their occupation of Goma. William Lloyd George reports.

On the evening of the M23’s departure from Goma, Congo, the city’s civilians were secretly excited to finally see the rebels leave. “We’re terrified of the M23,” one motorbike-taxi driver told me, as we swerved down a potholed road past U.N. peacekeepers. “They just cause problems. It is time they left.”

A “pro-M23” march, scheduled for the day before the departure, demonstrated the city’s lackluster support for the rebels. In a city of 1 million, only 100 people turned up, most of them street kids. “As you can see, we just want them to leave,” one shop owner whispered timidly as the march went by.

The next day, to the relief of many, M23 soldiers bundled onto trucks, marking the end of an occupancy that started Nov. 20 and lasted more than a week. The M23—named after a peace agreement in March 23, 2009, between leaders of a former rebel group, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), and the Congolese government—started their recent insurgency in April of this year, claiming that the government had not stuck to its original agreement. Although the M23 have not retreated to the agreed 15 miles outside Goma—they are still two and a half miles from the city center—talks with the Congolese government have commenced in neighboring Uganda.

Humans-rights groups, though, are concerned that the peace talks could result in the integration of the rebels—whom they accuse of war crimes—into the national Army. “No agreement should lead to the reintegration of M23 commanders who are suspected perpetrators of serious human-rights abuses into the Congolese Army,” says Theo Boutruche, Amnesty International’s Congo researcher. “There is a critical need not to repeat the same mistakes made in the past.” Despite the M23 leaders’ vows to protect civilians, research done by human-rights groups in the region is starting to unearth a very different picture. “The M23’s claim that civilian protection is their priority does not stack up with our findings on the ground,” says Boutruche. Amnesty International documented a range of human-rights abuses supposedly committed by the M23, including unlawful killings of people who refused to collaborate, forced recruitment of children, and rape. Read More

Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe: Change or Continuity?

Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for 32 years running, will 2013 break the chain?

Background

In 1980 Robert Mugabe was voted into power as a hero of the liberation struggle, the war

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addresses 67th UN General Assembly

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe addresses 67th UN General Assembly

campaign which overthrew the white minority government in Zimbabwe. This image however soon became overshadowed by violations of human rights and the rule of law and an electoral process observed as far from free and fair.

President Mugabe has a recorded number of human rights abuses throughout his tenure in power. Mugabe is infamously known for his deployment of state violence, abuse and intimidation against any state opposition and their supporters. In 1982 Mugabe launched operation Gukurahundi, also known as Mugabe’s genocide in Matabeland and the Midlandsa military operation against civilians to force them to relinquish their support of Joshua Nkomo and his party Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), and alternatively show loyalty to Mugabe and his party Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). Following thousands of civilian deaths and endured conflict between ZANU and ZAPU, Mugabe and Nkomo signed a Unity Accord in 1987 merging the two parties into Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF). Since 1987 Mugabe has ruled with his party ZANU-PF, and maintaining power through the deployment of state-violence against opposition has since been a notable trend in the politics of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe and ZANU PF furthermore have a record of defying the rule of law in Zimbabwe. A notable example for this was the seizure of white owned commercial farms by ZANU-PF war- veterans and their associates dictated by Mugabe in February 2000. Even though the supreme court of Zimbabwe ordered an end to the seizure of farms and for the state police to remove the illegal occupiers Mugabe over-ruled the orders of the court and dictated that the seizures continue.

Additionally, Zimbabwe has been referred to as a de-facto one-party state as the same leader and party has remained in power since the 1980’s, through having won every election and a majority of seats in parliament.  Many observers including, the South African Development Community, the European Union and the National Constitutional Assembly comprised of a large array of NGOs, have stated that the election process in Zimbabwe is not free and fair. As opposition parties and their supporter’s campaign in an environment over-run by state violence, fear and intimidation.

Since the millennium Morgan Tsvangirai and his party the Movement for Democratic Change have been credible and threatening opposition. In 2008 The National Constitutional Assembly observed the March 2008 presidential election, reporting that the election had been the most free and fair election in Zimbabwe’s history. In the results Tsvangirai had won more votes than Mugabe but did not garner a 50 percent of the votes plus one needed in order to become president. A run-off presidential election followed in June 2008 which  was observed and reported as a militarized election, characterized by winning votes through the bullet instead of the ballot. In the run up to the election intimidation, violence, torching houses and denying food hand outs were strategies deployed by Mugabe and his party’s security/military sector (Joint Operations Command). These tactics led to Tsvangarai  announcing his withdrawal from the run off but regardless his name remained on the ballot. The results of the presidential election run-off revealed that Mugabe had won 85.5 percent of the votes against Tsvangarai and his mere 9.3 percent. The controversial results left Tsvangarai and Mugabe in dispute and to break the deadlock a power-sharing government was agreed upon in 2009.

Why is this relevant?

Robert Mugabe, now 88 years of age, is preparing with his party ZANU PF to campaign and run for elections in 2013 against Tsvangirai and his party the MDC. President Mugabe verily keen to stop the power-sharing government, is in favour of holding elections as soon as possible. Whilst Prime Minister Tsvangirai urges that a new constitution is convened prior to elections to ensure that they are free and fair, and not of the violent and intimidating nature that has characterized elections throughout Mugabe’s 32 years in power. International observers have likewise stated that a fair vote is not possible without a new constitution and under current laws.

Accordingly 2013 may mark the end of Mugabe’s 32 years of power and bring to the people of Zimbabwe a constitution that will truly embed the rule of law and protect their will. On the other hand a referendum on the newly drafted constitution can be prolonged furthermore and elections may take the path of the past. The future of Zimbabwe can fall either way; many are hoping to see change and not continuity.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own

Tania Mansour

Tania Mansour studied her degree in International Politics at City University London, and completed her Master’s in International Politics at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has worked in the charity sector, in the donor relations, events and publications departments.

Ethiopia: Court jails two Oromo politicians leaders

By William Davison
Ethiopia’s Federal High Court sentenced two senior Oromo politicians to as much as 13 years in prison after their convictions on charges of inciting a secessionist rebellion.

Bekele Gerba, deputy chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement was sentenced to 8 years in prison and Olbana Lelisa of the Oromo People’s Congress party to 13 years, Judge Kenate Hora said.

“It’s absolute injustice,” Bekele said to reporters outside the courtroom. Bekele and Olbana were accused of being members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front and inciting students to rebel, Kenate said. Seven others were given sentences of between three years and 12 years for getting training in camps in Kenya and being involved in gunfights with Ethiopian soldiers, he said.

The Oromo Liberation Front has been fighting for more autonomy for the Oromo, Ethiopia’s most populous ethnicity, since 1973, according to its website. The group was initially part of a transitional government after helping allied rebels oust the Derg military regime in 1991. The Ethiopian government silences legitimate Oromo opposition by branding them rebels, Amnesty International said in a report in January

Nigeria: Truth & Politics – Don’t Go Together!

Just some quick thoughts – the ‘Rich’ class think and side with the politics of businesswhile poor people are consumed by the business of politics. 

 

The poor unbeknownst to them do so believing in politics religiously while they are left with empty promises , unmet and unfulfilled agenda, leaving them wondering what happened with their vote? Government for the people by the people, is more like ‘Animal Farm’, survival of the fittest: All animals created equal but some more equal than others – get in line. If one can’t, stay to the side and wait for social welfare programs and be glad for what is doled out. When one see politics as business, they behave like the [rich] – benefits and having relationships on and from both sides. It takes possessing the two sides of a coin, to own it. Can one be happy with one side of a coin?

 

Pull back a minute and one can see there is really no difference between the handlers of GOP and Democrats; none of them ever say, ‘I will do the work for minimum wage and move into poor neighborhoods so they live, feel and see what exists there. No, they speak to poor people from posh offices, good homes and appear to solve problems for them from comfort zones – Really! It is fallacy, and we Americans often like lies as the truth as a mantra to set one free, is meant for those with putty brain. There is no truth in the exercise of politics – having the electorate confused, serves the interests of the master.

 

Jump into the stream of history and swim as fast as one can, is a good way to understand earthly life – most do not get to stop lights and knowingly yield to another – They just go – ‘energizer bunny’.

 

In America, we have gotten confused dishing out and using numbers, figures, opinions, stats to explain things that even defy simply logic.  For instance, listen to Bob Woodward, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill Priest, Eliot Spitzer, etc., I often wonder why can’t they just shut up? To make their case, they claim to have inside information but will not disclose such.

 

Can we live transparent life when we do not disclose? Why are journalists accorded this exclusive right of non-disclosure when what they say are not verified, unduly impacting us? What stops the so called purveyors of truth from making things up to beef up books/opinions, claiming that they have insiders and access? It is fallacy at its height. Journalists overwhelm us with information but refuse often to disclose. More like, “trust me, I am here to save you”? Believe this, and one believes anything like James Hadley Chase eloquently stated in many of his novels; ‘suckers are born every second’. Are we suckers in US America?

 

Given our penchant to engage and promote confusing and contradicting views/opinions, we by default seek and pay those who make most noise with sound bites. Most Americans have become fans helping to enrich the loud mouths. To say talk is cheap, is not understanding that talkshow hosts are often millionaires. Talking in America pays, even when what is talked is just pure lies.

 

I don’t know if I have added to your confusion, but politics of giving to Jesus and recognizing Caesar, makes one ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ – friends to all sides. One never go wrong with good friendships but one can and always do with politics.

 

OKPA

Dallas