Africa News in Brief: April 17-23 edition

| April 17, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Few South African tears for departed ‘Iron Lady’

(GIN)—While the public service record of Baroness Margaret Thatcher is praised to the skies in most western news accounts, the former U.K. prime minister was recalled more critically among many South Africans.

For starters, the British prime minister, known as the Iron Lady, was a warm friend of South African dictator P.W. Botha who was welcomed at No.10 Downing Street in 1984. With this, Botha became the first leader of the apartheid regime accorded the privilege of a state visit to the UK since 1961—the year South Africa left the Commonwealth over their refusal to end white minority rule.

That same Margaret Thatcher labeled Nelson Mandela and those opposed to white minority rule “terrorists.”

Thatcher’s rule began in 1979 and encompassed critical years before Mandela’s release and the collapse of the racist apartheid regime. While she claimed to oppose apartheid, many faulted her government’s efforts as not enough.

Years later, David Cameron, the current British prime minister, apologized for Thatcher’s policies on apartheid when he visited South Africa in 2006. Cameron said his Conservative party had made “mistakes” by failing to introduce sanctions against South Africa, and that Thatcher was wrong to have called the ANC “terrorists.”

Thatcher, the Conservative Party leader, died on April 8, following a stroke. She was 87.

Lesiba Seshoka, spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers, described her reign in Britain as the most difficult time for labor and for trade unions in Britain.

“She will be remembered as one of the harshest leaders the trade unions in Britain had to face, and many more in the formal colonial countries faced the wrath of her reign of terror,” he said.

Political commentator Susan Booysen, said Thatcher was one of the people who helped prop up the National Party at the time.

“The apartheid government thrived in her presence,” she said. “That type of international support really gave the National Party government a few extra years of life… I think she also felt a type of brotherhood with very conservative elements in international politics.”

“We are aware that she had not been well for a long time so on that personal empathy level one can empathize with that,” Booysen said. “It’s the end of an era. Her type of politics has long ended. It’s an exit for a person whose time has long passed.”

According to journalist Alistair Sparks,  Thatcher had allowed a series of underground meetings that led to secret meetings between the South African intelligence service and Mandela in prison.

“I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the role [of the group], but it did start a process,” he said.

“All of that, I must add, was never in Margaret Thatcher’s mind. I think it was an unintended byproduct of what she had intended—avoiding a campaign of sanctions in South Africa.”

Former minister Pallo Jordan was less forgiving.

“I say good riddance. She was part of the rightwing alliance with Ronald Reagan that led to a lot of avoidable deaths. In the end, she knew she had no choice. Although she called us a terrorist organization, she had to shake hands with a terrorist and sit down with a terrorist. So who won?” asked Jordan.

Among those with kinder words was former South African President F.W. de Klerk, the country’s last white leader and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, a rival of the ANC, who posthumously praised his “dear friend” Thatcher as a voice of reason during apartheid.

But, Dali Tambo (son of late ANC leader, Oliver Tambo) disagreed.

“I don’t think she ever got it that every day she opposed sanctions, more people were dying, and that the best thing for the assets she wanted to protect was democracy,” said Dali Tambo.

 

Angola evicts poor from ‘millionaires’ row’

(GIN)—One of Africa’s wealthiest nations, the home of Africa’s first woman billionaire, turned its bulldozers on the homes of some 5,000 people in a recent early morning raid close to the capital, Luanda, Angola, in an action fiercely condemned by international rights organizations.

Rapid intervention police, private security and helicopters surrounded the squatter neighborhood of Maoimbe at about 5 a.m. without notice, reported Amnesty International in an Urgent Action report. Some of the residents accepted a government relocation offer but according to a press interview, the new area has no services, water or  electricity and a recent rain flooded their meager shacks.

Last year, 50,000 poor people were similarly evicted from the Chicala neighborhood overlooking the port city and rich people’s homes.

On March 30, police arrested several human rights defenders, protest organizers and demonstrators, shortly before the scheduled start of a demonstration in the capital Luanda, in solidarity with two human rights defenders who disappeared in 2012.

While the action against the Moimbe neighborhood took place in February, reports are just now filtering out of the Portuguese-speaking country through Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and local Angolan groups. International law and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, signed by Angola, prohibits the government from evicting people by force, during bad weather, at night or without prior consent, and requires that no one be made homeless as a result of the evictions.

Angola has enriched itself through the extraction of valuable minerals. The south central African nation is the fifth-largest source of diamonds worldwide. Its oil wells produce 1.9 million barrels a day; and could soon overtake Nigeria to become Africa’s largest producer. Roads and railways destroyed during the civil war have been rebuilt.

A book, “Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola,” written by the Angolan journalist Rafael Marques, exposes the problem of theft of the country’s natural resources.

The government’s budget is about $40 billion, bigger than that of some European countries.

Videos of Angola’s activist movement can be viewed online at http://centralangola7311.net/category/manifestacoes/manifestacao-2-abril/.

 

First novel wins high praise for young Nigerian writer.

(GIN)—Mentored by Toni Morrison and endorsed by Salman Rushdie, young writer Taiye Selasi has produced a new book which is exciting literary circles worldwide.

“Ghana Must Go,” her first novel, moves between West Africa and the east coast of the U.S. Selasi examines both the fragility and durability of family life. In one scene in the book, a young woman who has developed an eating disorder in the pressure-cooker environment of Yale rediscovers her zest for life after dancing on a Ghanaian beach.

Born in London to a Ghanaian mother and Nigerian father, both doctors, Selasi and her twin sister were raised by their mother in the affluent Boston suburb of Brookline. She was by her own description “a championship student” whose training took her from an elite prep school to Yale and then Oxford, where she completed a masters’ degree in international relations before leaving academia to work, briefly, at a hedge fund on Wall Street.

Selasi’s upbringing mirrors that of the characters in “Ghana Must Go,” a family fractured by its many displacements yet burning with genius in every branch. The book is named after the Nigerian phrase directed at incoming Ghanaian refugees during political unrest in the ’80s

Prior to the novel, Selasi published an essay titled Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What Is an Afropolitan?)” in a London magazine that won her a grassroots following.

“I describe myself as Afropolitan to suggest perhaps a more complicated African identity than the ones available to my parents’ generation,” Selasi said in a press interview.

“There are three criteria. Number one, some unbreakable bond to some country or countries in Africa. Number two, a global perspective. And three, a desire to effect change, however that manifests, in Africa for African people—in some way, somehow, at some point.”

Also a photographer and filmmaker, she is currently raising funds for a documentary that will focus on the daily lives of young Africans.

“It just thrills me to no end to think that people will finally be able to see an alternative vision of how young people live in African countries—an alternative to the rather redundant representations of war and famine and chaos and so forth,” she said.

 

Kenyatta’s victor speech penned by Duke University student

(GIN)—Spoken word artist Julie Wang’ombe—a Duke University undergraduate—has been credited as the author of the victory speech read by President-elect Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.

The 22-year-old Kenyan-born poet is a familiar face at SLAM Africa events, open mic nights and other events around Nairobi. She comes from a writer’s family—her father is CEO of Kenya’s Nation Media Group.

The gala inauguration ceremony, which took place April 9, drew presidents from around the continent, including Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni, Goodluck Jonathan, Salva Kiir, and dignitaries, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Long before dawn, buses packed with supporters arrived from central Kenya and the Rift Valley, heartlands of Kenyatta’s Kikuyu people and of his soon to be vice-president William Ruto.

Kenyatta loyalists, dressed in the red colors of his Jubilee Coalition party, waved farewell to outgoing President Mwai Kibaki, 81, retiring after more than a decade in power.

One of Africa’s richest men, Kenyatta, 51, won the March 4 polls by about 8,000 votes over his nearest rival, outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Before the election, the U.S. and Europe sought to persuade Kenyans to reject Kenyatta, who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, charges which will be presented in July. Britain warned it would maintain only essential contact, noted Hadley Muchela, of IMLU, a Kenyan human rights group.

But, the west has since softened its stance, Muchela said.

“Is there honesty in these dealings, or is it always just about our interests in other countries in the world?” asked Muchela.

Diplomats from the UK and the U.S. both attended the swearing-in ceremony.

Meanwhile, Ugandan President Museveni said, “I want to salute the Kenyan voters on… the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court… The usual opinionated and arrogant actors” tried to use the court to “install leaders of their choice in Africa.”

A congratulatory message from President Barack Obama to the Kenyan leaders read: “Now that your election has been confirmed, you have the opportunity to build on the promise of Kenya’s Constitution and solidify its place as a vibrant and prosperous democracy centered on the rule of law.” The message was relayed by the new U.S. Ambassador Robert Codec, who replaces State Department Africa chief Johnnie Carson, who formally retired March 29, ending a 44-year career.

In his inaugural speech Kenyatta promised to abolish all maternity care fees and make government dispensaries and health centers free of charge within 100 days. Funds reserved for an election run-off would be redirected to a new Youth and Women Fund, and within the first 100 days, measures would be taken to ensure that all public school students joining class one next year would receive a laptop.

“We believe that early exposure to technology will inspire future innovation and be a catalyst for growth and prosperity,” he said.

GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media. To find out how you can support their work, visit www.globalinfo.org.

 

These articles originally appeared in our April 17, 2013 issue.

 

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Category: Africa Briefs

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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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