Tag Archive | "Africa"

Media Manipulation – Ebola and Beyond


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From David Anthony Hohol…

The Media will always have us focused on what it declares to be the biggest stories when they are often little more than that which gets us watching, reading and turning on the news, which in turn pays their sponsors, which in turn makes them money. Case in Point – the leading causes of death on the African Continent as seen in the image below. The 2014 toll for Ebola might not be where you expect it. 

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And don’t kid yourself, media manipulation currently shapes most everything you read, hear and watch – online and beyond.

Today the media, driven by blogs and online resources in general, comes at us from all sides and is propelled by the reality of the economics behind their business, corrupted sources, quotas on page views, inaccurate information, the demands of the audience, and the greed of publishers.  It simply doesn’t matter whether you’re a small blog, the New York Times, or CNBC – the incentives are very real. In the end, they corrupt, to one degree or another, nearly everything we read or watch.

What was once our most trusted source of information, the Media’s manipulation of information exploits the line between perception and reality. Today, however, all that made it reliable has broken down and left it a heaping mound of orchestrated perspective. Despite an ongoing shift in public opinion, many still hang on to the old perception of the Media and that is to the detriment of the truth.  If some arbitrary and unreliable blog and the CBC both run the same news piece, but the CBC’s version is fact checked and edited by multiple people, there no longer seems to be a benefit.  That being because the aforementioned blog often gets twice as much coverage on their more extravagant version of the story and those who produce news take notice.  The reality is if enough online buzz is created people will assume there is truth in what is being offered… and thus the unreal becomes real.

These days there is no loyalty, either from the audience or the media, and here is where this writer believes lies the heart of the problem. Most anything one reads or watches online is a one off, passed on and shared around Facebook and Twitter, not paid for in any way, the result being there is no longer any real consequence for manipulated, exaggerated or even falsified information. In fact, in the world of Facebook and Twitter, most readers rarely get much passed a story’s headline, before they’re on to that next awaiting click in their every growing news feed. Therefore, manipulators can mislead journalists, because journalists are not really held responsible for misleading readers – nor are many too concerned about it anymore.  

There is so little accountability left in the Media these days and what’s left is what sells, what gets the most hits, and what creates the most online buzz and little else. I wonder how Walter Cronkite would feel…

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The Invasion of Women


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From Ugandan Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo… 

downloadThe renowned South African anti-apartheid activist and Co-Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, had declared her intentions to jump into South Africa’s elective politics.

Under her newly formed political platform; ‘Agang,’ which is Setswana for ‘Let’s build,’ she’s plotting to metamorphose it into a political party. That means that should she succeed, she will definitely run for a possible future South African Presidency in 2014. And what is telling about this is that she will have become the first black woman in South African to run for presidency since the country returned to democratic rule in 1994. To this, I shall return.

To me, this piece of news wasn’t that surprising at all. I encountered this great woman during a Leadership training at Mont Fluer- Western Cape around April 2012. She had been invited to facilitate a discussion on a topic; ‘Africa in a Competitive and Changing World.’ Mont Fluer, the venue for the famous Mont Fleur Scenarios, had been the place of choice for the ‘Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Programme’ run by the prestigious African Leadership Institute (see www.alinstitute.org). The venerable Desmond Tutu is its patron, and through it, he is building it as an experiment to build a new network of inspirational leaders around the continent, who are together committed to tackling their countries’ most stubborn problems. A living legend for many, Tutu acknowledges that from the economic turmoil in Europe, to the revolutions in the Arab world and to the presidential race in the US, it seems that everywhere leadership is in crisis. The training is often addressed by Africa’s top thought leaders. In the particular case of ‘Class 2012,’ the collection of facilitators included Dr. Ramphele.

4b5dfeb2837bf3a2d89254f069f3f8a6ac769dfaBy the close of her electrifying presentation, I had quickly detected, and quite correctly, that she was up to something very big in future. During her presentation that afternoon of April 25th, I asked her if she was plotting for a South African Presidency. She shyly answered me she was simply a subject on a discovery journey to becoming a ‘citizen’ and creating many more and that the appreciation of the concept of ‘citizen’ was the most critical issue underpinning South African leadership today.

Embedded in her ‘Citizens Movement for Social Change,’ a social movement currently focusing on promoting engaged citizenship and which I highly suspect has given birth to ‘Agang,’ is a drive bring change in the socially fractured South African society, place it on a forward moving journey to real ‘Citizens.’ She gave me a T-shirt with these very words inscribed at the back to take to my country Uganda and help analyse the connection between the rulers and the ruled and find out if the former weren’t actually ‘chiefs’ and the latter, ‘subjects’ instead of ‘citizens.’

I found this to have been a new ground in the African Leadership discourse. Everywhere on the continent, leaders who care about the conditions of their people, are fast running out. They are running out because majority of them treat and drag their citizens alongside their vision as if they were subjects and not shared participants of the very vision that is supposed to transform them. It is for this reason that Dr. Ramphele has severally published books focusing on social-economic issues in South Africa receiving numerous prestigious national and international awards, including honorary doctorates acknowledging her service to community and her leading role in raising development issues and spearheading projects for disadvantaged persons in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.  In a sense, she has been defining a new ground in continental leadership discourse where African leadership needs to cultivate better and practical solutions using such rare values as service to the community, selflessness, courage, morality, being the best among equals, building followers-not subjects, caring, humility and vision.

Screen shot 2013-04-25 at 9.57.11 AMEnabling Africans realize that they need to move from ‘subjects’ to ‘citizens,’ is a new ground. It is also an attempt to make citizens of African take charge of the affairs of the state.

I was glad she echoed this in her speech, emphasizing that African leadership was about the ability to be responsive to the social economic needs of the people.

“Do you remember the dream we embraced to build ours into a great society – a prosperous constitutional democracy united in its diversity? Do you remember our commitment to promote human dignity (Ubuntu) and banish humiliation and disrespect of our apartheid past? Do you remember our vow to promote transparency and accountability in public life? Do you remember that we agreed that our democracy would be known for being responsive to the social and economic needs of all citizens? Do you remember?” she asked her audience.

It is easy to understand her problem with modern South Africa. On one hand, you a ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), fast disconnecting itself from the revolutionary tenets that it stood for, and the National Democratic Party (NDP) on the other hand busy propagating white privilege. In the middle ground is a huge population with no hope. Stories are being told that the only thing holding this loose thread is the shared respect South Africans are still holding for Nelson Mandela. Given the icon’s frail condition, everyone knows this is only temporary and is only cover for a time bomb waiting to explode. Societies like these then, need bridge builders.

“The country of our dreams has unfortunately faded for many of my fellow South Africans. The dream has faded for my sisters and brothers in rural areas who live under the threat of being again made subjects of traditional chiefs and other unelected traditional leaders through proposed acts of our own Parliament. The dream has faded for the many living in poverty and destitution in our increasingly unequal society. And perhaps worst of all, my generation has to confess to the young people of our country: we have failed you. We have failed to build for you an education and training system to prepare you for life in the 21st century. As a result the dream has faded for young people in both urban and rural areas,” Ramphele rightly admits.

And therein lies the subject I left hanging earlier; ‘The Era of the African Woman President.’ Studies show women are most likely less corrupt than men. The typical African woman literary runs the family, prepares the food and feeds the kids while the husband is away busy.  Because they spend most the time with us, they understand issues of selflessness, service and community engagement much better than the men. Renowned world leaders have acknowledged their moms and wives’ strong influence on their leadership careers. They rarely mention their dads. If Africa is being messed up by the men, let’s try women and see! Ask the Malwaians and the Liberians for tips.

Mamphela_Ramphele

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Darling Arusha


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1.1263222293.1_arushaFrom Tanzanian Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano...
I had wanted to write something about our Arusha’s new status, that of its now being crowned a city, notwithstanding its sickening traffic jams; its garbage heaps and rotten drainage systems; its unreliable power and water supply systems; its foul smelling public markets; and its dilapidated public school structures lacking all essentials including desks. And more of the column could have dwelt on the city’s lack of public toilets.For example, the other day my visiting friend from Europe was jogging his way from the city centre to Njiro when he needed to attend to some urgent natural function of peeing. He could not find one single public toilet facility along all the six kilometre stretch to Njiro. He literally stormed into my house and into the washroom to relieve himself.And yet, I am told, the very wise city authorities decided to throw around more than 110 million/- to celebrate the city status. That included some twenty or so millions of shillings for some Bongo-flava artist and comedians from Dar es Salaam. And as if to cap it all that very same evening the whole city got engulfed in darkness. No power!A day or so later when the first rains pounded the Arusha streets there were floods and some rotten mud floating around all over city. The drainage systems were either broken down or inadequate. And this, mind you, is only the beginning of the rainy season.ArushaSE22_1329686281As for the traffic jams, I can only reveal that these days if one wants to make it on time to office in the morning one has to do so before 7:00 am. Otherwise after that it will take one more than an hour for the normal 15 minutes drive from Njiro to town. In the evening it is worse. No wonder most of the pubs in the city centre are these days doing a roaring business on account of the many clients who hang around until around 9:00 pm to outlast the harrowing traffic jams.But as I said at the beginning of this third rate column, today I am not going to talk about our suffering city. Rather, as I am in a celebratory mood following the sweet victory of Obama for his second term as President of the United States, I am just going to wallow in that joyous and feel-good mood.Watching the victory speech by Obama late last year I again got that titillating sensation which somehow makes me want to jump up in joy and tears want to flow from dry eyes; that feeling which makes me seem very light and at the same time very fulfilled.I have had these feeling four times in my life already. The first time was when I watched the live coverage of the South African icon Nelson Mandela emerge from the prison gates a free man on 11 February 2090.

The second time again had to do with Mandela. This was on 10 May 1994 when he was sworn in as President of the Republic of South Africa. As he spoke and as the Inkotsi Sikeleli anthem and the township jazz sounds from Soweto resonated from those powerful pillars of apartheid into the deep blue sky, I could not but let tears of joy flow on my chubby cheeks.

The third time was on 20 January 2009 when Obama was sworn-in as President of the United States. As this son of a former student from Kenya and a scholarly American lady Durhan spoke he ushered in a new era of a liberated America. The horrors and the tragedy of slavery were finally being interred. The same tears again ran on my now not so chubby cheeks this Wednesday morning as I listed to Obama’s victory speech from his Chicago head office.

My main worry though is I may not live long enough to shed such tears for an event in my own country. I wonder why?

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The Art Of Trash


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From South African Corespondent Hassan Isilow…

Many people consider old newspapers and magazines as trash, but this is gold for a young migrant artist. Benon Lutaaya, 26, from Uganda is making a name for himself in the South African art circles by using recycled papers to paint. “I specialize mostly in collage, where I recycle papers to paint,” the young award winning artist related.
Most of his paintings convey an emotional story, illustrating the fragility of life from his own personal experiences. “My subjects are mostly young people living on the fringes of the mainstream society,” he explained. This is clearly visible in Lutaaya’s paintings, which reflects faces of young children both trapped in war, abused, uncertain of the future, or those orphaned by Aids and currently live in child-headed households.

The migrant artist paints with a depth and intensity that few artists employ, tackling issues that most people would choose to avoid. The abstract imagery in his works represents the act of survival while the text, often obscure, stresses questions of identity. From this mixture comes a release of energy, imbued with life and raw simplicity.
“I enjoy coming up with something new and unique. I love to surprise myself. When people see my work, I would like them to enjoy each piece for its colour harmony, pleasing visual appeal and the ability to connect and communicate,” he said with a huge smile on his face. Lutaaya holds a Bachelors degree in Fine Art and Education, from Uganda’s Makerere University.
His currently a full time artist based at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in Newtown, Johannesburg. Last September he won the Ithuba Arts Fund grant, he was selected for a residency in Vermont, USA, and he is also a feature artist of the MultiChoice Africa Calender for 2012. He was part of the Thupelo International artist’s workshop 2012 in Johannesburg.
Lutaaya is involved in a variety of young artists’ initiative in the City of Johannesburg. He has also worked with vulnerable children both in Uganda and Alexandra Township in South Africa. Although he is primarily a paper collage artist, he recently started experimenting with acrylic painting. The artist said his major exhibition at Ithuba Arts fund grantee in November 2011 was a total sell-out on the opening night. “My paintings are present in a variety of private collections both in South Africa, Europe and North America,” he related.

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Celebration


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From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

John, a friend of mine came by public transport on Monday this week from Dar es Salaam. He is from the United States of America. Actually he has been on the road all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa beginning mid-March. His, he says, is a journey of discovery.

This is the first time he has been to Africa. John is of Irish descent. His great grandfather migrated from Ireland to the US almost a century ago. We got acquainted in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early 1990s when I was attending some management course at one of the many colleges in that Peach City. Following my lengthy talk on Africa and its unique and amazing flora and fauna, John promised me he would one day make a point traversing through the length and width of the continent.

It was still a bit of a shock when I few weeks ago I got his message, through my e-mail – that indeed he had already landed in Africa, South Africa to be more precise, and was going to travel northwards to Tanzania, and meet me in Arusha.

I am saying his message took me by surprise because we had not been in contact for more than 20 years. But thanks to the wonders of the modern global information technology, he simply ‘googled’ my name and, voila there was my full contact.

Naturally, John has had some amazing and unique experiences in the various countries he has traversed through in his sojourn. These include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and now Tanzania. From his tales, I would not be surprised to receive a copy of a travel book on the same a year or so from now.

Naturally, I could not resist asking him of his lasting impression on the whole trip. To my surprise, he said it was the experience along the Moshi – Arusha stretch of the road which clinched the trophy.

John, said on arrival in Moshi town, he was very impressed by the city’s cleanliness and its greenery and gardens. However, he was also curious as to why the whole city, and in particular the Kiboroloni area, was swarming with thousands of red-blue-black flags. He says all motorcycles and public transport vehicles were zooming by and pedestrians running around spotting and holding aloft the unique flags.

The scenery became more clogged by the flags as the bus sped towards Arusha. Actually from a few kilometres after the KIA Airport, there was an unprecedented road traffic jam with more joyous people, all honking their motorcycles and vehicles and all spotting the flags.

Thousands of people were swarming in and around the road. To give way the driver had to flash a two finger salute at which the masses would roar back to some slogan “Peoples – Power!”

Reaching somewhere, which according to his description, should be Usa River, he found thousands more people swarming and hovering around all drinking joints and open spaces as they guzzled beer after beer in celebratory mood.

At one joint he was shocked to see two of these people in the crowd, who had bought several crates of beer, washing their saloon cars using the beer from the many bottles they had.

It was at this juncture that my friend John could not resist the urge to enquire as to what was going on. He was simply told that all these people were celebrating their party candidate winning the local parliamentary seat. Wow! What a celebration!


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The Umushyikirano Factor


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From Uganda Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

I spent the last three days of the passing week in Rwanda at the invitation of the Office of the President of Rwanda, H.E Paul Kagame.

The purpose of the invitation was that the president wanted me to see for myself how Rwandans run their affairs and report objectively.

The Red Pepper has had very serious technical and moral issues with Rwanda for the last ten years. It is the only newspaper in the region that faces a ten year old ban on the streets of Kigali and other towns. The ban still stands to this date. Only about five copies are allowed in Rwanda and sent directly to the President’s office and other functionary bodies for ‘monitoring.’  Our paper was banned on account of what the Rwandan establishment felt is around 2001 was our negative editorial policy towards them. The thinking has since then been that we never take time to take stock of what Rwanda has achieved alongside our ‘negativity.’ In fact, everywhere I visited, I met people who were both uncomfortable but elated by my presence. But this is for another day.

Back to Umushyikirano. During a press conference that President Kagame addressed at the Commonwealth Resort- Munyonyo on Monday last week, he asked me to attend what has since become Rwanda’s most popular and annual participatory conversation about its targets and progress. This conversation is called ‘Umushyikirano’ a kind of national dialogue involving representatives from every nook and corner of Rwanda. It takes place every year at the country’s parliamentary buildings. The one I was invited to was dubbed ‘The 9th National Dialogue’ which drew together leaders from the presidency to the lower levels-the equivalent of Uganda’s LC3. The other participants were drawn from the diplomatic corps, the private sector, civil society, the media and Rwandans in the Diaspora. The two-day dialogue was a cocktail of frank discussion about Rwanda’s progress but most importantly, leaders at all levels were put to task to explain what they have done throughout the year and account to the population on the extent they delivered on their target. If for instance a Roads and Works Minister promised at the previous dialogue that he would build road x, this is the time he must come before the population and explain his progress. The two day event that is held every end of year is streamed live on the internet, on social media platforms such as twitter and facebook, SMS and a toll free line. It is also featured live on National TV.

So, what do I find this dialogue uniquely special? I discovered that this dialogue is a very unique ‘parliament’ in which Rwandan leaders debate their targets and performances with their subjects. It is that time of the year when the concept of parliamentary democracy is shifted beyond mere representation to direct accountability to the population. Thus, peasants and the elite debate freely in an open atmosphere anchored by their president.

The dialogue struck me further from a Pan Africanist point of view. It seems to be modeled on the African traditions of open democratic participation in which the community and its elders met to discuss how to progress their village and also hold their leaders to account. In Buganda, this is what was referred to as ‘Ekimeeza.’ In Nkore, it was known as ‘Eishaazi.’ In Swahili, I think it was known as ‘Baraza.’ This is the truest African Parliament. The western mode of parliamentary democracy is not representative at all. Once a Member of Parliament is elected, the people bequeath their interests and rights to him or her and that’s where it stops. It is very difficult to hold them to account till the next election. But the philosophy behind ‘Umushyikirano,’ ‘Ekimeeza,’ ‘Eishaazi,’ and ‘Baraza’ is a truly popular and participatory democracy.

That is why at this time of the year, Rwandan ministers, mayors and local leaders go into panic mode, trying every bit of their energy to prove they have delivered and they have something to show to the public when the dialogue kicks off. If you have nothing to show, the population exposes you there and then, leaving you at the mercy of the appointing authority.

This is what used to happen in Traditional Africa and probably, African countries need to blend this tradition with modernity to forge the best form of democracy that fits our situation as a unique continent that has unique problems which require unique solutions. Rwanda seems to have mustered this already. Their leaders have embraced technology and deliver their reports by IT means to the population who in turn question them in an open and frank manner. Representatives to parliament once elected, become national representatives. Thus, when Minister X is negotiating a budget allocation, they don’t think about their constituencies first. It is embedded within their political and service delivery psyche that ‘nation’ comes first before ‘constituency.’ As such, it was established at this dialogue that 98% of the resolutions made at the previous dialogue had been achieved. This is because in traditional Africa, work was communal. Service delivery was communal. It was never for family, tribe or religion. Because the community in Rwanda participates in service delivery and holding leaders to account, they had to register this figure on last year’s targets.

During the cocktail in the evening, I asked President Kagame about this. He said: “I think the Western brand of democracy is not only bad for Africa. It is bad for the West. It gives a sense of representation where it doesn’t exist. In it, you find that the elite have captured all platforms of democracy which they use to control the minds if the people. The African brand of democracy is an improvement of the western one. It brings the two (leaders and subjects) in one open forum such as ours,” he says.

And I agree. Because unlike the West, the African conversation is inherently an open forum. Democracy is about openness. It is for this reason that African states such as Rwanda are busy modeling their political platforms based on African values. Africa needs to start from where it belongs- remodeling its beautiful systems of democratic participation.

In Rwanda, they have stuff like ‘Gacaca’ a traditional restorative justice that has achieved what the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha has failed to do in 17 years- RECONCILIATION. The people of Acholi in Uganda have popularized ‘Mato Put’ which looks like ‘Gacaca.’ In Rwanda, a communal entrepreneurial scheme known as ‘Obudehe,’ is about how people in the village come together to craft communal ways of generating income. They also have modernized a communal cleaning system known as ‘Omuganda,’ which has placed Kigali in the top clean cities in the world. We will return to this in the coming weeks!!

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Last Call


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From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

I was sipping my lager at this joint in downtown Nairobi. It is a famous joint, formerly Kengeles, but has since been taken over by new management. The joint is such that you can easily watch those strolling along Koinange street from the bar counter. This is in view of the fact that the shutters separating the two are pulled up when the joint is opened.

I was attracted to the many people from literally all walks of life that were passing by when out of the blue in walked my two young brothers, Nicodemus Ikonko and Sukdev Chatbar – the two Arusha-based ‘paparazzi’. It was a very pleasant surprise.

I was later to learn that each had come separately from Arusha and found themselves together in Nairobi. We set together ordered some more drinks and bites as we sampled the Nairobi life.

Talk soon veered to the vibrant politics of Kenya. The widening rift between Raila Odinga and his former colleague William Ruto in the ODM party, and the Kenyan MPs outcry over recently announced taxation of their hefty pay.

It was as if there would soon be fresh war in that country. But then Kenyans are smart, in the midst of all these bickering they make sure their country’s economy is not derailed.

We noted the elaborate road flyovers which are fast being laid down in downtown Nairobi, the vibrant press, the many new investments coming up in the travel trade industry and the new real estate developments taking place alongside all major highways off Nairobi.

There is no doubt for example that in just a few years from now we will see new urban structures all the way from Nairobi to Namanga, on the border with Tanzania.

This is in deep contrast with the land after Namanga into Tanzania. On this part there is stagnation. Nothing major is happening.

But by contrast, on the Tanzania side, bars and other drinking joints open soon after people wake up at 7:00 am or 8:00 am. These joints are teeming with drinkers as early as 10:00 am.

On the Kenyan side however, no public drinking is permitted until 5:00 pm. And this can last until 11:00 pm. only. On the Tanzanian side normally the boozing spree will last until the last customer crawls out.

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Origins


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From Tanzania Corespondent Lute Wa Lutengano…

The other day I received a long distance call. It was from New York. Now who would be calling me from that land of Obama at this odd hour of the night? It was 3:00 a.m. Then it occurred to me that at that hour it was early evening the previous day in that city of cities.

The culprit who called me was a good schoolmate and friend of mine who now calls himself a Foreign Service Officer. This is a profession of people who, as part of their duties, basically put on their best suits every day and engage in small talk every evening on what are called diplomatic cocktail circuits. If you want to know what they talk about go to Wikileaks.

My colleague informed me that he was going to be in that apple city for the coming three months. Reason: Unga. That is the short form for the most powerful gathering of all mankind every year, the United Nations General Assembly, where heads of states and governments from all over the world troop there to vent off their obtuse views of our global world in the name of their peoples.

My friend, who for reasons of potential Wikileaks leaks I will not reveal, asked me what I wanted from his well paid sojourn to this city of lights. Drowsily, in my sleep, I muttered; “Just come back with a bloody red silk tie for me.” I had no reason for this specific request. For among other apparel, I do have more than 100 ties, and perhaps more than ten of them are very red.

But then, I think I do look forward to this very red tie from my friend. It will be my ultimate Christmas present.

I do recall many years ago, in my previous undertakings, I used to belong to this exclusive and famous Unga delegation. Then in Tanzania, there was literally nothing worth buying. Actually the shops were all very empty.

No wonder the delegations which saw me off at the Dar es Salaam airport were to say the least mammoth in size. All relatives; uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters as well as in-laws, would cut short their early morning sleep to escort me to the airport. Paramount in their minds was the basically clothing and footwear gifts I would come back with. No wonder each one of the 50 plus members of the escort group would surreptitiously hand me a chit of paper on which was scribbled one’s name and sizes of clothing and footwear.

It goes without saying that once in New York, in order to accommodate this massive purchase order, I had to necessarily find the cheapest accommodation available which was also near the UN headquarters. Now that was almost an impossible mission. I remember on one occasion, it was winter time, I had to do with a still-under-repair room on the 20th floor of a hotel located between the 1st and 2nd Avenue on 49th Street. I almost froze to death. Among other problems, the room heater was still under repair. But it was costing me a mere US$ 20. This was in contrast to the other room in the hotel whose rates ranged between US$ 150 to US$ 2000.

The room was so uninviting that I had to spend many hours inside the across the street pub. It was in here that I first experienced the American approach to alcohol. On my maiden visit I ordered the fist beer: Drank it. The second; Drank it. The third; Drank it. The fourth….and the Barman approached me wondering whether I had some problem which I wanted to share with him. No! I protested vehemently. I was just having a good time, I told him.

On my sixth beer, the Barman remonstrated that he would no longer serve me as I seemed to be on a mission of suicide. He did not want to go down with me. He was by law the guardian angel of all patrons in that pub. If they drank and committed any offence including dying he would be legally responsible. It was only after he learnt that I was from Africa, and Tanzania in particular, that he relented that I could go on drinking. “You should have told me earlier about your origins,” he complained as I drained my eighth beer bottle perplexed as to whether I should be proud or ashamed of this reputation.

Flying home some weeks later, I was forced to pay a total of US$ 879 for my excess luggage. I should have told them of my origins.

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Britain’s Double Standard


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From Ugandan Corespondent Arinaitwe Rugyendo…

Why is the African Union silent on the pro-democracy demonstrators in London who are being referred to as hoodlums? The AU should call on the United Kingdom to respect the rights of the British people to exercise their right to demonstrate and freely express themselves. Those arrested should be subject to a just and due process of the law. The Met Police should stop using teargas and rubber bullets and or violently stopping the peaceful demonstrators. The UK is quick to preach democracy to African nations. It is now their turn to preach to the west some tenets of democracy and respect for human rights.

And On this one, I want to quote  the news agencies-verbatim on the reactions from across the globe.

The riots in London have sparked shock around the world, with some countries issuing travel advisories for Britain and China blaming the UK’s “human rights violations”. Here is a round up of international reaction:

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe: “Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire which is now blazing all over, and leave us alone

China

Riot-swept Britain is tasting the “bitter fruit” of its failure to introduce Chinese-style controls on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, Chinese state media crowed on Tuesday, while raising questions over whether London could be trusted to stage a safe 2012 Olympic Games.

“The West have been talking about supporting internet freedom, and oppose other countries’ government to control this kind of websites, now we can say they are tasting the bitter fruit [of their complacency] and they can’t complain about it,” wrote one commentator in official Communist Party mouthpiece, People’s Daily.

Iran

The conservative Resalat newspaper, in a commentary headlined “unrest spreads from Tottenham to Brixton”, called the protests the “worst possible news for David Cameron’s coalition government” and blamed “human rights abuses”.

“The violence and continued chaos in the UK are the result of factors like human rights violations in the country, prejudice against immigrants and coloured people, incidents like the Murdoch scandals and the country’s critical economic conditions,” the newspaper concluded.

The hardline Iranian newspaper claimed that the violence was carried out by students who were forced to drop out of university because of the rise in university tuition fees.

Germany

Germany issued a travel advisory for Britain, posting on the foreign ministry’s website: “Travelers are advised to be especially careful and to pull out at the first signs of riots, and follow instructions of security forces.”

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe: “Britain I understand is on fire, London especially and we hope they can extinguish their fire, pay attention to their internal problems and to that fire which is now blazing all over, and leave us alone.

“We do not have any fire here and we do not want them to continue to create unnecessary problems in our country. We want peace, and the people of Zimbabwe want peace.”

United States

The (obviously measured)US reacted with shock to Monday’s late-night scenes in London, which due to the time difference took place just in time for prime time television and early evening news bulletins. On Tuesday, the country’s biggest newspapers carried prominent coverage of the riots for a third consecutive day.

In a front-page story headlined “London unrest escalates, spreads”, the Washington Post wrote: “In the worst bout of urban violence to hit Britain in more than two decades, parts of London morphed into lawless no man’s lands. Most of a block in the Croydon neighbourhood erupted Monday night into an inferno that incinerated the 140-year-old Reeves furniture store, a south London landmark. After midnight Tuesday, an even larger fire tore through a Sony distribution centre on the other side of the city, in Enfield.

On its own front page, under the headline “Rioting widens in London on 3rd night of unrest”, The New York Times told its readers: “For Mr Cameron’s government – indeed for Britain – the rapidly worsening situation presented a profound challenge on several fronts. For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.”

Australia

Julia Gillard, the Australian prime minister: “I, like many other Australians, have been very, very disturbed to see the images coming out of London,” she said.

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence we’re seeing on our TV screens.”

Spain

The troubles in London make the frontages of many of Spain’s national newspapers again on Tuesday. El Pais shows a photo taken in Hackney of riot police facing rioters as cars burn with the headline “The battle for London”. It states that “no part of London is safe from the violence” sparked by killing of Mark Duggen by police and recalls other cases such as Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson. In an editorial the newspaper said the coalition government had been “slow to react to the social and racial violence” spreading across London and that David Cameron’s credibility has faced a setback because of it.

Portugal

In Portugal the London riots are also front page news. Jornal de Noticias carries a scene of riot police and burning vehicles in Hackney with the headline: “Violence spreads in London”.

Afghanistan

A report on Afghan state TV said: “Massive demonstrations in London, the capital of Britain, and spread to three other cities. The biggest demonstrations were last night and the police have arrested more than 200 people. Thirty five police have been injured. It began when a young man was killed by the police. People have started burning cars and buildings and stealing from supermarkets. David Cameron has returned to London halfway through his summer holiday to solve this problem.”

Pakistan

The riots in London yesterday knocked violence in Karachi, where seven people were killed overnight, from the top slot on television bulletins in Pakistan, where suicide bombings, gang violence and political turfwars are a mainstay of the 24-hour news channels.

An editorial in the Express Tribune newspaper wondered how a killing could erupt into riots, when previous examples of police brutality have not. “The answer may be found in the austerity measures taken by the Cameron government,” it said.

 

Russia

In Russia, which has close business, financial and educational ties to London, the riots are rapidly moving up the news agenda. Most Russian commentators chose to see the trouble through the prism of what they said was Britain’s failed immigration policy. The state-owned Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper published a picture on its front page of a policeman walking past two burned out cars with the headline “Gangs have surrounded London”. It said that the worst affected areas were home to immigrants from the poorest countries in Africa and the Caribbean. The trouble was a repeat of rioting in Paris in 2006 and 2007, it added.

Tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda ran a comment piece from Sergei Markov, a prominent Russian MP from Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia Party. Mr Markov suggested that the riots were emblematic of Britain’s failed immigration policy. He wrote: “As well as maximum police strength, Britain needs consolidated political will. The authorities need to say clearly: if you want to live in England – get a job and become English. Otherwise go away.

South Africa

The South African owner of a looted London restaurant yesterday described Britain’s capital as a war zone.

In an interview with the country’s City Press newspaper Odile Ham told how hooded thugs raided her Wimpy franchise during riots in Clapham on Monday night.

“It’s like a war,” she told the newspaper, adding: “When we drove to the restaurant to see what is going on we were faced people on the rampage in the street.”

Headlines in other newspapers and websites were also heavily dominated by Britain’s crisis. A report on Johannesburg’s 702 radio station described the Metropolitan police as ‘powerless’ to halt the civil disobedience. “Shock and disbelief are the order of the day in the capital, with rising anger about what has happened in the city since Saturday,” the station reported.

Zambia

Zambia’s Post newspaper featured a report about the latest disorder illustrated by an image of a blazing London shop and headlined ‘PM to hold crisis talks on riots, clean up starts’.

Mauritius

Even newspapers on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius reported extensively on the riots. The country’s French-language Le Mauritian newspaper ran a striking image of a Metropolitan riot squad officer standing helpless by a burning car.

Reporting on how the unrest had spread outside the capital, its headline read: ‘Great Britain: After London, violence spreads to Liverpool and Birmingham’.

Abu Dhabi

The National in Abu Dhabi reports that British politicians have condemned the riots in London, but notes that they are not as violent as recent protests in Athens.

Dubai

Dubai’s Gulf News carries a brief comment piece which condemns the violence in London but concludes that it is the fault of the British authorities for marginalizing immigrant communities and calls for improved economic development and social integration policies in poorer areas.

Israel

Most Israeli newspapers do not cover the protests -of course they wouldn’t-(emphasis mine), but the Hebrew-language Maariv carries a story on its front page headlined “London in Flames” and notes that 450 people have been arrested.

Libya

Libyan state-run Al-Jamahiriyah TV showed a programme called “Homeland’s Desire”. The presenter, Yusuf Shakir, midway into the programme, began to address the British people in English, urging them to “defeat this British regime” which “killed their brothers”.

He said the Libyan people and their leader supported “black power in America and Britain” and always defended blacks who “suffered racial discrimination” in the UK.

He said blacks and the poor took to the streets in London to demonstrate against the British “fascist” government. He added that Libyans would hold demonstrations holding up pictures of Mark Duggan, the man shot by police in Tottenham. Source: BBC Monitoring

Social networking in Middle East

The London riots were followed in great detail by many Arab users of Twitter, the social network that played a very important role in the Arab Spring.

Many note the difference between the dignified and largely peaceful protesters who protected banks and shops from looters during the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere, contrasting them with the behaviour of those on the rampage in London.

“Protesters in these countries actually protected property of others & prevented looting despite huge numbers,” wrote one Twitter user going by the name of LibyaNewMedia.

Hisham Almiraat, a Moroccan doctor, had a different take, writing: “London rioters despicable, if only because they are stealing media attention away from where it really matters

My Postscript:

The silent African Union should denounce the violence in Britain and call on authorities to respect the rights of PEACEFUL demonstrators!

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Medicine Man


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From African Corespondent Hassan Isilow…

INVESTIGATIVE FEATURE: In South Africa, the word sangoma refers to a person who practices herbal medicine or has supernatural healing powers. This week Africa witness went undercover to investigate the activities of a growing number of foreign sangoma’s (traditional healers) that operate within Cape Town and its environs.

Under Cover

It is 9:30am on Wednesday morning and I’m sitting in a queue with four other clients waiting for the services of a sangoma in a well furnished office in Loop Street, Cape Town. Just like any other organised business, the traditional healer has a receptionist sitting at the front desk with a computer. She asks for R70 which she says is consultation fees for seeing the “doctor”. Being on a special assignment, I oblige and pay the money. A fellow “patient” waiting with me in the queue is an elderly Muslim woman who tells me her youngest son has “bad luck” and cannot stay on a job for long. So she wants the sangoma to give him herbs for good luck .I silently wonder if this is possible.
At exactly 10am, I’m led into the traditional healer’s office by the young female receptionist. It is a very dark and smelly room. I cannot see anything, but hear voices of so-called “ancestors”. The sangoma who calls himself “Dr” Mutalemwa Yusuf, asks me to tell him my problems.
I lie to him, saying that I cannot find a bride and I urgently need one. The healer then tells me to make sacrifice by buying two goats, a white African hen and food stuffs to appease my ancestors, who he claims are unhappy with me. In a twist of events, he also tells me that a close family friend has bewitched me and I will need to pay R12, 000 ($2,000) to be cleansed by the sangoma.

All Lies

As I leave the sangoma’s shrine, I meet an old varsity friend from East Africa who asks me what I was doing there. He tells me he was also a sangoma when he first arrived in South Africa, before getting a formal job. My friend said since most “blacks” and a few of the other races believe in superstition and the powers of the ancestors, it created the perfect opportunity for unemployed foreigners and a few local con artists to take advantage.
He said since sangomas are considered to be holy men and women who can bring good luck to their communities and chase away evil spirits (tokoloshes), they hold a certain power in the community. These powers are never questioned, which has made most unemployed or unskilled foreign nationals join the lucrative alternative healing market, promising the highly superstitious “black” and a few others South African races “heaven on earth”.
Interestingly enough, he added, a high number of these “fake” foreign sangomas are from East Africa and they claim to cure all sorts of illnesses that even the most powerful local sangomas dare not treat.

Spill the beans

The former sangoma told me that he had never had any training to become a traditional healer, but when he arrived in South Africa, he couldn’t readily find employment. So he went to visit a friend from his home country who told him about the secret of being a “fake” sangoma. “Just like other sangomas, I claimed to make the poor rich in two days, bring back lost lovers and make men’s private parts bigger and more virile. But after lying to my clients for a long time, I decided to quit the practice, pursue my masters degree and here I’m now,” he related, chatting to me in a restaurant in Loop Street, Cape Town.
The former sangama said he left the “fake” trade because his conscience began to bother him after repeatedly cheating poor people who came to him daily with their problems. “At times I used to cry at night, after telling several lies to people who came to my shrine with various depressing problems. I kept running from city to city in this country, as I was being hunted by some people whom I had promised would see change in their lives. But it never happened,” he said with regret.
I’ve also learnt that most foreign Sangomas promise to protect businesses from thieves, win court cases and the Lotto among others. Because of these claims, the foreign sangomas are considered to be the hottest healers in the witch craft business. “It would have been better if these people could deliver their promises,” a 35 year old South African school teacher who went to a foreign sangoma seeking the return of his lost lover, told me.
Identifying himself only as Rasheed, he confided that he had paid R14, 000($2200) to a sangoma from East Africa who then quietly disappeared. “I lost both my lover and my money to that devil. I promise, I will believe only in God from today onwards,” the wounded man pledged.

Quacks

However, a 65-year-old Ugandan national who operates as a sangoma in Wynberg near Cape Town, disputed the allegations that all foreign sangomas are “fake” and cheats. “Those fake doctors are the young boys who came here recently. Since they did not find jobs, they began to imitate what we do.” The elderly Ugandan sangoma who operates his business in a well-furnished office in Wynberg said he was a genuine traditional healer, bragging that he is even well known among Ugandan communities.
“I have treated all sorts of people – politicians seeking to win elections, scholars, love seekers and the like. They have all become what they are today because of my powers,” he boasted, spreading his arms in a sign of confidence used mostly by healers in East and West Africa. He recalled that when he arrived in Cape Town in 1997, there were only a few foreign traditional healers. That created the space for them to corner the market in their “profession”.
Whenever they returned to Uganda, their neighbors and family members insisted on coming with them to South Africa, which led to an influx of Ugandan healers in South Africa. “On average, I get 10 clients a day and each pays R70 for consultation, besides the fees I charge them for the medicine,” he said.

Why Muslim Names?

Shockingly most of these foreign traditional healers are using Muslim names, even when they are non-Muslims. Out of 10 muti shops I visited today, eight had Muslim names. I picked up nearly 20 different pamphlets advertising the sangomas expertise and in three quarter of them, the healer had a Muslim name.
The foreign sangomas believe when you use a Muslim name in your “practice” you will attract many clients, especially in Cape Town where there is a high Muslim population. These sangomas target Muslim suburbs such as Wynberg, Athlone and Gatesville among others.
According to the chairperson of the South African Traditional Healers Organisation, Phepsile Maseko, bogus practitioners are bringing the healing sector into disrepute. “The practice of traditional healing is genuine, but when bogus people join the uncontrolled business it becomes difficult to distinguish between the real healer and the fake ones,” she said.
Police in Pretoria recently, arrested seven Ugandan herbalists who had been operating in the city for reportedly defrauding their clients. The latest arrest came after a Ugandan herbalist allegedly took R15, 000($2300) from a customer, claiming that his ancestors would turn it into R100 million. When the victim returned to collect his promised millions, the Ugandan herbalist become aggressive and promised to bewitch his victim if he insisted on demanding the money.

According to Gauteng Provisional police spokesperson, Eugene Opperman, they have arrested around five bogus herbalists believed to be Ugandans across the city in just four months. Authorities said these conmen claimed to have the power to make people rich or even cure illnesses, such as HIV/Aids. They often advertise in pamphlets and newspapers so as to woo the gullible.
It is understood that after meeting their victims and promising to make them rich, these conmen would take the money and disappear. In January 2008, 20 Ugandan healers were arrested in Johannesburg for carrying out illegal abortions.

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