Africa News in Brief: Aug. 21 edition

| August 20, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Luxury living in Lagos built with World Bank funds set for poor

(GIN)—Local officials in Lagos, Nigeria, who accepted a $200 million loan from the World Bank to “increase sustainable access to basic urban services,” are instead creating an unaffordable complex of 1,000 luxury units on the grounds where poor and working people recently lived, say critics.

According to a new report from Amnesty International, partnering with the Nigerian Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC), tens of thousands of Lagosians who lived in the Badia East area which fronts the scenic Gulf of Guinea, have been homeless since their devastating evictions in February on short notice. Self-built homes were bulldozed and the one-time residents were forced to sleep out in the open or under a bridge.

“The effects of February’s forced eviction have been devastating,” said Amnesty’s Oluwatosin Popoola.

It wasn’t the first time the Lagos government diverted money intended to improve life for the large riverine community. Since the early 1990s, grants from World Bank money for “slum clearance” were instead the motive for the mass eviction of area residents without resettlement. In 1997, more evictions were ordered for some 2,000 residents who were chased off by armed guards from even salvaging their own possessions.

A new round of demolitions began in 2003 following a 48-hour notice, but was stopped midway by non-violent resistance. After a short interlude, the evictions resumed again in October 2003. Some 3,000 residents of Oke Ilu-Eri were left without compensation or replacement homes. Again in March 2013, hundreds of homes were demolished by the “Kick Against Indiscipline” brigade.

In an interview with the New York Times, the Lagos state commissioner for housing, Adedeji Olatubosun Jeje, provided a different version of events.

“It’s a regeneration of a slum,” he said. “We gave enough notification. The government intends to develop 1,008 housing units. What we removed was just shanties. Nobody was even living in those shanties. Maybe we had a couple of squatters living there.”

The Lagos state attorney general claimed they were merely clearing empty land. “It was just a rubbish dump,” he maintained.

As for the new housing, “there’s not a chance they can afford it,” Felix Morka, SERAC’s executive director told the Times. Badia residents earn under $100 a month on average.

“The Lagos state government has failed to comply with national and international law. It is high time that the Lagos state government and the Nigerian government stop forced evictions and enact legal safeguards that apply to all evictions,” said Amnesty’s Popoola.

Amnesty and SERAC are calling on the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, to publicly commit to stopping forced evictions, and on the World Bank to put safeguards in place to ensure it does not support any activities which may result in forced evictions in the future.

 

Namibia restores an African name to historic Caprivi Strip

(GIN)—In a move to restore African names erased by its German colonizers, Namibia officially renamed the historic and touristic Caprivi Strip. The new name is the Zambezi Region.

Namibia was occupied by the German Empire from 1884 to 1919. After a deal struck with England, Caprivi was annexed to German South-West Africa to give Germany a route to Africa’s east coast. The strip was named after the German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi.

After Germany, Namibia was administered by apartheid South Africa until 1990. There are some 30,000 Namibians of German descent living in the country.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba also changed “Lüderitz”—named for a German merchant—to Naminus, which means “embrace” in the local Khoisan language. The village of Schuckmannsburg was changed back to its original name, Lohonono.

Over the years, the Strip had political-strategic military importance. From the Rhodesian Bush War (1970–1979), African National Congress operations against the South African government (1965–1994) and the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), the Strip saw multiple incursions by various armed forces using the Strip as a corridor to other territories.

In 2004, Germany apologized for the colonial-era genocide that killed 65,000 Herero people through starvation and slave labor in concentration camps. The Nama, a smaller ethnic group, lost half their population. The camps—with their “bureaucratization of killing”—allegedly influenced the Nazis in the second world war.

In 2011, Germany sent back 20 Herero and Nama skulls that had been transported there for racial experiments.

Today, there is still anger among indigenous communities who live in poverty and demand reparations from Germany, their shanty town homes contrasting with vast German-owned farms. South African author Patricia Glyn observed: “Changing a couple of names doesn’t really crack it. It’s very little and very late.…

“The Nama people are still living in a ghetto,” she pointed out. Further, “not one of the German concentration camps has so much as a sign and you can still go out in a buggy and find yourself driving over the bones of those who died. I don’t think the Namibian government is doing one-eighth of what it should to honor the dead.”

The above articles originally appeared in the Aug. 14 print edition.

 

Rita Marley—‘philanthropist and patriot’—tapped as ‘honorary Ghanaian’

(GIN)—Rita Marley, wife of reggae artist Bob Marley and founder of the Rita Marley Foundation, has received a Ghanaian passport in recognition of her contributions to Ghana.

Dr. Erieka Bennett, head of mission for the African Union’s Diaspora Africa Forum, said, “We are thrilled to see the Ghana Government recognizing the tremendous contribution Nana Rita has made to Ghana socially, as well as economically. This is a historical day for those of us from the diaspora.”

Nana Rita Marley, born in Cuba and raised in Trenchtown, Jamaica, began her musical career in the early sixties as a vocalist with the all-female group The Soulettes who appeared with the Four Tops, Johnny Nash and other stars of the day.

She repatriated to Ghana more than a decade ago and lives at Konkonduru, a village near Aburi. Among her projects, as detailed on the website “It’s About Time,” has been the adoption of the Methodist Local Primary and J.S.S, both schools in her community. Apart from rehabilitating old school blocks and building new ones, she also supports the children by providing lunches for primary school children to supplement their nutrition, and through scholarships.

Mrs. Marley supported the funding and distribution of the five-in-one vaccine for children of the eastern region. Other projects include improving the main road for the Konkonnuru community, and bringing water to the village by drilling a 40-meter deep borehole.

In 2004, Rita Marley and the women in her community began a plantation of cassava and other vegetables. Mrs. Marley has also opened a library stocked with the musical works of Bob Marley and herself at her Tuff Gong Studio at Aburi on the Akwapem ridge.

On her official website she notes, “Reggae is the heartbeat of a person. It’s the people’s music. Everywhere you go, you get the same response from both black and white.”

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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.