Africa News in Brief from March 20-26 edition

| March 20, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Western opposition to Kenyatta gave him edge

(GIN)—Announced plans by an Amsterdam-based court to prosecute Uhuru Kenyatta for his role in the mayhem that convulsed Kenya in disputed polls in 2007, might have given him the edge to trounce his nearest rival, Raila Odinga, according to locally-based analysts.

Presidential candidate Kenyatta was proclaimed the winner of Kenya’s election with 50.07 percent of the March 4 vote.

Charges against Kenyatta by the International Criminal Court and warnings against his election by Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of state, were widely viewed as interference in national affairs.

“They were the defining narrative” of the election,” opined Aly-Khan Satchu, a local financier.

Also objectionable in the eyes of many Kenyans was the obsessive fixation of western media on outbreaks of violence. A recent piece by Cornell University professor Mukoma Wa Ngugi compared coverage in 2013 to the coverage of the air force-led coup attempt in Kenya in 1982.

At that time, he recalled, “we sat glued to our transistor radio listening to the BBC and Voice of America” The two services were “lifelines through which we learned what was happening in our country.” But in 2013, “I and many other Kenyans saw western media coverage of the elections as a joke, a caricature. Western journalists have been left behind by an Africa moving forward, not in a straight line… but forward nonetheless.”

Wa Ngugi cited descriptives such as “tribal blood-letting,” and “loyalists from rival tribes” (Reuters) and video images of five men playing warriors with homemade guns (CNN).

“Very few Kenyans took it seriously,” he wrote. “Rather, it was slap your knee funny.”

A piece in The Daily Nation satirically titled “Foreign reporters armed and ready to attack Kenya” observed tongue in cheek—“The demand for clichés is outstripping supply.”

Wa Ngugi continued: “Africans are saying that (western) journalists are not representing the complex truth of the continent; that western journalists are not only misrepresenting the truth, but are in spirit working against the continent.

“When it comes to writing about Africa, journalists suddenly have to make a choice between extraordinary violence and ordinary life. It should not be a question of either the extreme violence or quiet happy times, but rather a question of telling the whole story… “

Elsewhere in Kenya, voters chose the country’s first female Maasai MP. Peris Pesi Tobiko was elected from the Maasai community, which is largely patriarchal and where women often struggle to be heard.


New film from Senegal captures top prize at Panafrican fest

(GIN)—Cineastes of all stripes and nationalities brightened this year’s Film and Television Festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso—a biennial event that recognizes the best works of the African continent with major prizes.

Jurors, who viewed 101 entries including shorts, features, documentaries and TV serials, singled out “Tey” (Today, in English) from Senegal for the much-coveted Golden Stallion of Yennenga award. Directed by Alain Gomis, the film tells of a man (acclaimed American actor/poet Saul Williams) who accepting his imminent death, walks through the streets of Senegal, observing the sites of his past as if for the last time.

Unlike the posh affairs in Hollywood and Cannes, at Fespaco, as the festival is called, noted African filmmakers mingled with fans at street diners while the infectious beats of West African rock, jazz and rap and street life cacophony provided ample surround sound.

This year, women presided over all of the juries for the different categories.

“Women have carried African cinema on both sides of the camera,” explained Fespaco organizer Michel Ouedraogo. “We have to give them greater visibility and a bigger role.”

“Tey” will be screened at this year’s African Film Festival in New York, opening April 3 at Lincoln Center. After a one week run, the festival opens at other local venues before traveling to festivals nationwide. Also showing will be “Death for Sale” by Moroccan filmmaker Faouzi Bensaidi, and the 1993 hit, “Guelwaar,” by venerated Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene


No more easy African pickings for UK-Australian firm

(GIN)—A multinational mining group with projects in Mozambique and Guinea is hemorrhaging cash in West Africa and could even lose its largest investment.

Rio Tinto, under investor pressure to cut costs, has been pressuring the government of Guinea to pick up half the tab for a 400 mile railway. 35 bridges and a four-berth wharf offshore—total cost about $10 billion—but President Alpha Conde said it’s a no-go.

“How could a poor west African nation that has recently received debt relief take on obligations of $5 billion—equivalent to Guinea’s annual gross domestic product…?” analysts told The Financial Times newspaper.

Work at the Simandou project may have already been frozen, despite public denials by Sam Walsh, Rio’s new CEO. At a recent meeting with President Conde, Walsh reportedly threatened to cut the Rio Tinto budget by $600 million and cut its staff in Guinea to five people.

But, Guinea might have an escape clause. According to its contract with Rio, Guinea may start “termination proceedings” if production fails to begin by 2015.

Similarly in Mozambique, Rio Tinto is finding an unexpected obstacle in the person of Zoria Macajo, the matriarch of Capanga, a small village above the Zambezi River which sits atop one of the world’s largest untapped coal reserves and stands in the way of company expansion.

The 59-year-old leader is refusing eviction orders until her people are paid adequately for their land. “Our people have rights. The company promised it would compensate us.”

Rio’s offer of houses and land in a new resettlement area, some 25 miles away, is unappealing. Far from the main road and from jobs, residents call the company-provided homes “ruins, not houses.”

Rio Tinto also has a U.S. presence. In the Salt Lake Valley since 1989, they are the parent company to Kennecott Utah Copper, Kennecott Land Company, Kennecott Exploration and eight support functions totaling more than 2,400 Utah employees.


Mali media go dark in government crackdown

(GIN)—Mali’s 40 newspapers were off the stands last week and 16 private FM radio stations were silent or only playing music in response to a government crackdown on media reporting growing discontent among troops fighting Islamist militants in the North.

A soldier’s letter, published by the Le Republicain newspaper, said the armed forces lacked equipment and rations while military top brass were living in comfort in the capital, Bamako.

Le Republicain editor’s Boukary Daou was arrested recently and has yet to be charged.

Communications Minister Manga Dembele said Daou acted irresponsibly and unpatriotically by publishing the soldiers’ open letter to the president, but there has been no official word from the authorities about the case.

Also silenced was Radio Guintan, a station for women, which had all its transmitter towers destroyed.

“There are people in authority who believe that if we’re stopped from denouncing what they’re up to, then they’ll get away with it,” Radio Guintan’s Ramata Dia told the BBC.

Global media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Daou’s arrest was “another example of Malian security agents acting outside the law in trying to harass journalists”.

Meanwhile, the UN’s human rights body said on Tuesday that preliminary investigations show Malian soldiers have been carrying out retaliatory attacks on ethnic groups perceived to have supported rebel groups.

“Thousands have reportedly fled out of fear of reprisal by the Malian army,” the deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, was quoted to say.


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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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