Africa News in Brief: July 10 edition

| July 10, 2013
(Courtesy GIN)

(Courtesy GIN)

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Journalist: Obama visit reveals need for ‘reset’ on Africa reporting

(GIN)—A year into his second term, President Barack Obama gave Americans a fresh look at Africa, but the short upbeat visit may not be enough to change old attitudes on Main Street, in the U.S. press and on Capitol Hill.

“A trickle of articles in the American press has belatedly recognized Africa’s strong economic growth,” remarked U.S. journalist Howard French. “Some of them have touted a new African middle class, which by some measures is larger than that of India.

Others have focused on Africa’s overall economic growth which, reputable forecasters predict, will grow faster than any other continent, including Asia.

French scolded Americans, who “despite their far deeper historical associations with the continent, including 13 percent of the population that traces its ancestry to Africa, cling to deeply engrained attitudes toward this part of the world, as a place of war, of misery, of strife, etc.

“For this reason,” he said, “and because we cannot get over a long-running sense of Africa as a place to be aided, we are ill equipped to see or appreciate the opportunities that Africa offers.”

Formerly a senior writer at the New York Times, French covered Central and West Africa, Haiti, Central America and the Caribbean and lived in West Africa from 1979 to 1986.

“Putting an end to the ghettoization of Africa will require concerted effort at the top,” advised French. “Senior officials must, as Chinese leaders have been doing for years, visit the continent frequently. We must also put an end to the belittling, small ball ritual whereby African leaders are invited to Washington in groups of three or four (as if an African country by definition didn’t merit a one-on-one discussion), offered a quick photo op, a few homilies about democracy and governance and then sent on their way.”

American media, stressed French, are long overdue for a re-set as to how they frame African coverage.

“This should start with a rejection of the way African events are routinely said to take place “in Africa,” or “across Africa” instead of in actual countries or places with real names.

“The eternal pretext is to ‘make it easier’ for the reader, who can’t be bothered with too many unfamiliar names. This kind of factual looseness, though, is not practiced toward any other part of the world, and bespeaks a casual and persistent ghettoization of Africa.”

French is the author of “A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa,” and of the forthcoming “China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa,” to be published by Knopf in May 2014.


Fleeing European austerity, economic migrants look towards Africa

(GIN)—In an about-face of familiar migration trends, Europeans are packing up and moving to Africa as unemployment in their home countries reaches record levels and recession moves into its third year.

Mozambique, the southern African nation enjoying a boom in oil and gas extraction, has become a magnet for newcomers, especially from the former colonial nation of Portugal.

Goncalo Teles Gomes, the Portuguese consul in Maputo, the capital, estimates that 30,000 Portuguese now live in Mozambique, the majority of them in Maputo.

“It is not like it’s an avalanche or an invasion but we have seen an increase in new registrations of between 30 and 35 percent since 2009,” said Goncalo Teles Gomes. “One hundred forty new Portuguese migrants arrive every month in Mozambique and others fly in and out, working in different kinds of businesses.”

Mozambique won its independence from Portugal in 1975 after a bitter struggle. A quarter of a million Portuguese settlers fled the country, leaving the local economy in disarray. In addition, after Independence Day on June 25, 1975, the outbreak of the Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992) destroyed the remaining wealth and left the former Portuguese Overseas Province in a state of absolute disrepair.

The return of the Portuguese is being viewed warily by local Mozambicans who are also watching foreign firms snap up generous tax incentives from the government. Large blocks of potential oil gushers off the country’s long eastern coast are being sold off to Asian and Indian companies.

One area, the Rovuma Area 1 block, is poised to make Mozambique the second largest liquid natural gas (LNG) exporter in the world after Qatar. For the Indian companies seeking the drilling contracts, the block contains 20 times India’s current annual gas consumption and enough to fire 42,000 MW of power plants, more than the total capacity of India’s largest power producer.

The Houston Texas-based company Anadarko also has one of the largest gas extraction wells in the country.

Despite major oil and gas reserves, there is little trickle down to the majority farmers and fishermen. The average life expectancy is only 48 years and about 55.2 percent of the population lives in poverty. About 70 percent of the people live in rural areas.


Weak heart hospitalizes former apartheid-era president

(GIN)—Former South African president F.W. de Klerk is in recovery following the implanting of a cardiac pacemaker. The last white president before the fall of apartheid, he returned from a European trip last weekend complaining of dizzy spells.

“He has had several such spells in recent weeks, and his specialist recommended the immediate installation of a pacemaker,” said a statement from the F.W. de Klerk Foundation.

De Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former President Nelson Mandela in 1993, reportedly asked to be treated in South Africa to be nearer to Mandela, who is 94 and in his third week in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital.

According to the South African Press Association, the country’s current present, Jacob Zuma, sent his good wishes to de Klerk.

“We wish the former president well during this difficult time. Let us keep him and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” Zuma said in a statement.

Meanwhile, members of the Mandela family continue to squabble over the legacy of the independence fighter. Grandson Mandla Mandela faces a court order to return the remains of three of Madiba’s children he reportedly removed from Qunu, Madiba’s intended resting place, to rebury them in Mvezo, where Mandla holds a traditional title.

A suit against Mandla was brought by 16 members of the Mandela family who called his behavior “reprehensible.” A final decision on the suit is expected this week.

Meanwhile, in the first official update on Mandela’s health since the prior  week, the presidency urged people to prepare for the beloved rights activist’s birthday later this month.

“We remind all South Africans to begin planning for Madiba’s birthday on the 18th of July. We must all be able to do something good for humanity on this day, in tribute to our former president,” President Zuma said.

Finally, an exhibit honoring the liberation struggle veteran opened June 30 at the Cape Town Civic Center. Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflected: “Even stricken as he is in hospital, Madiba is uniting the nation again – this time in prayer… “We come here not to lament… but to remember some of our most precious moments. We come here to honor.”

‘Africa’s Pinochet’ arrested after 22-year exile in Senegal

(GIN)—Former president of Chad, Hissene Habre, lost his protective immunity this week when he was arrested in the Senegalese capital and charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture.

The charges against him date from 1982, when Habre came to power in a coup. He was ousted in 1990. Rights groups say 40,000 people were killed under his rule.

After fleeing Chad in 1990, Habre and his wife lived quietly and in relative freedom in Dakar, guarded by two security agents.

The Senegalese authorities and the African Union had for years failed to make a decision on his fate despite pressure from human rights groups.

Mbacke Fall, a local prosecutor, set up a special court to try Habre. If the case proceeds, Habre would be the first African leader to be tried for atrocities in Africa instead of by an international tribunal.

Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, interviewed on the show DemocracyNow, remarked: “There were two breakthroughs in this case. First was the election of Macky Sall as president of Senegal… Second, there was a decision by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that ordered Senegal to prosecute Habré without further delay.”

“This case shows that victims can bring to justice a dictator… We hope that this case will inspire many others.”


These articles originally appeared in the July 10 print edition.

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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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