Africa News in Brief: July 17 edition

| July 19, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Justice near for Angolan dad ‘unlawfully killed by UK guards

(GIN)—In a surprise ruling, a UK jury said three British security guards “unlawfully killed” an Angolan father held in a stress position prior to his deportation to Angola on British Airways. An earlier hearing had dismissed all charges against the guards.

In the incident with overtones of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, the victim, Jimmy Mubenga, a father of five, was overheard crying out: “Let me up. You’re killing me. You’re killing me,” as the guards restrained him face down for almost an hour.

One of the officers was heard telling him: “Stop struggling. We’ll let you go once we are airborne.” But, the flight never took off. One of the officers described the moment when “suddenly it was as if he just gave up.”

Returning the verdict of unlawful killing, the jury foreman said: “Mr. Mubenga was pushed or held down by one or more of the guards, causing his breathing to be impeded. We find that they used unreasonable force and acted in an unlawful manner. The fact that Mr. Mubenga was pushed or held down, or a combination of the two, was a significant, that is more than minimal, cause of death.

The incident occurred in October 2010 but the latest verdict was announced last week.

The latest verdict, nine jurists to one, may finally bring justice for the tragically killed Mubenga. The decision could re-open the case against the guards of the private security firm G4S who it later emerged exchanged racist jokes and had “very racially offensive material” on their cellphones, according to the coroner.

Initially, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that neither G4S nor the three guards would face manslaughter charges due to “conflicting witness accounts.”

Adrienne Makenda Kambana, Mubenga’s widow, in a statement after last week’s verdict, said: “It’s been a long journey for me and my family.… I thank the jury for a good verdict, the only true verdict.”

The above article originally appeared in the July 17 print edition.

Defying Obama, Senegal, Ivory Coast declare anti-gay stance

(GIN)—Despite a small but visible increase in public tolerance towards the gay community, African leaders continue to press for the criminalization and in a few cases, the death penalty, for those who are openly gay.

Their latest condemnations come in the wake of President Barack Obama’s Africa trip and his praise for the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage.

Senegalese President Macky Sall responded: “You said it, we have different cultures.  We have different religions.  We have different traditions.  And even in countries where this has been decriminalized and homosexual marriage is allowed, people don’t share the same views.

“Senegal is a very tolerant country… but we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. While we have respect for the rights of homosexuals—for the time being, we are still not ready to change the law.”

Last week, a French initiative to fight discrimination against gays in the Ivory Coast, was rebuffed by President Alassane Ouattara.

“We have laws in Cote d’Ivoire,” he said during a visit to the city Korhogo in the north. “We have traditions too; we will stick to them.”

Ivory Coast Minister Gnamiem Konan commented on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage.

“It’s an aberration, it is a radical deviation from our moral and cultural values as a people,” said Konan.

Gay rights organizations can be found all over the continent fighting laws that make their sexual preferences criminal. Under Kenyan law, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Lawmakers in Nigeria and Liberia currently are reviewing bills to make their anti-gay laws even tougher.

In Uganda, a bill proposing the death penalty for homosexuals once again has resurfaced. In Cameroon, two men were sentenced to prison by a judge who said the suspects appeared gay, in part because they ordered Bailey’s Irish Cream at a bar. The sentence was later overturned.

Homosexual acts are a crime in 38 African countries.

Eric Ohena Lembembe, executive director of CAFAIDS, based In Yaounde, Cameroon, said: “Anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.… Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

South Africa, in contrast, was one of the first nations to approve gay marriage in 2006. It is the only country in Africa to have done so, though being openly gay can be challenging in more traditional communities.

On June 30, Duduzile Zozo, a 23-year-old lesbian, was murdered and raped in Thokoza, a township south of Jo’burg. Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane called the act “brutal, senseless and unacceptable.”

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Zozo family. Our prayers are with you,” she said.


Nigerian American author scoops major literary prize

(GIN)—Nigerian American writer Tope Folarin is this year’s winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing—the first such prize to be given to a writer based outside of Africa.

His short story—“Miracle”—is set in an evangelical church of Nigerian expatriates in Texas. Judges called it “utterly compelling” and a “delightful and beautifully paced narrative.”

I’m elated,” Folarin said.

“I’m a writer situated in the Nigerian diaspora, and the Caine prize means a lot—it feels like I’m connected to a long tradition of African writers.

“The Caine prize is broadening its definition and scope. I consider myself Nigerian and American, both identities are integral to who I am. To win… feels like a seal of approval,” he said.

Folarin’s prize-winning work is an extract from his forthcoming novel “The Proximity of Distance.”

Using the image of a Texas church presided over by a blind prophet, Folarin examines “religion and the gullibility of those caught in the deceit that sometimes comes with faith” through the eyes of a young believer.

Folarin was born and raised in the U.S., where he lives and works.

Four other Nigerians and one Sierra Leonean were also shortlisted for the prize. From Nigeria, Abubaka Adam Ibrahim was nominated for The Whispering Trees; Chinelo Okparanta for America, and Elnathan John for Bayan Layi, a story about street children. Pede Hollist, from Sierra Leone, was shortlisted for Foreign Aid, about returning to Sierra Leone after 20 years in the U.S.

Folarin is the recipient of writing fellowships from the Institute for Policy Studies and the journal Callaloo, and he serves on the board of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Besides receiving a $15,000 award, he is invited to become a Writer-in-Residence at Georgetown University, in his current hometown of Washington DC, and given an opportunity to participate in Cape Town’s Open Book Festival which runs Sept. 7 through Sept. 11.


African leaders renege on pledge to support small farmers

(GIN)—Ten years after 53 African Union countries pledged to invest in their farmers and break the cycle of food insecurity, only seven countries have fulfilled their pledge.

At a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, 53 African heads of state agreed in 2003 to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture and livestock by July 2008.  Ten years later, only seven countries—Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Malawi and Ethiopia—have reached that target.

Investment in agriculture is key to breaking the cycle of food insecurity and crisis in West Africa, according to aid organizations.

Many countries, such as Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo, currently devote less than three percent of their national budgets to investment in agriculture.  This is despite the fact that small-scale farmers represent more than 80 percent of their populations.

Meanwhile, a U.S. sponsored initiative—New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition—intended to lift the poor out of poverty is instead leading to land grabs by large corporations, according to critics.

New rules under the initiative require African farmers to buy their seeds—including genetically modified seeds—from multinational grain, seed and fertilizer companies, rather than use the cheaper local varieties they’ve used for years.

“The new alliance prioritizes unprecedented access for multinational companies to resources in Africa,” writes activist Kirtana Chandrasekaran with Friends of the Earth. “To access cash under the initiative, African governments have to make far-reaching changes to their land, seed and farming policies.

“Take a look at the New Alliance’s cooperation frameworks. Mozambique, for example, is committed to ‘systematically ceasing to distribute free and unimproved [non-commercial] seeds to farmers except in emergencies.’ The new alliance will lock poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds—including genetically modified seeds—allow corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds—absolutely key in the fight against hunger.

“Already, under the guise of helping to fight poor nutrition in Africa, genetically engineered bananas and cassava are being tested—despite concern about their impacts, and the existence of better conventional varieties.

“Several countries have been asked to speed up the takeover of land by foreign investors. Ethiopia, for instance, will ‘Refine land law, if necessary, to encourage long-term land leasing’ while companies are already asking for up to 12.35 thousand acres of land in Ivory Coast under this scheme.

Countless studies have shown that large-scale land acquisitions and leases destroy the livelihoods and food security of thousands of communities, and that access to land is essential for the right to food.

Meanwhile, Cameroon appeared to be reconsidering a proposed palm oil plantation by the U.S.-based Herakles Capital which would be 10 times the size of Manhattan. Environmental groups including Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund say the project violates Cameroon’s laws and could endanger wildlife and deprive locals of their livelihoods.

The controversial food programs were also highlighted during Obama’s recent Africa trip. The New Alliance and the Feed the Future program, he said, are helping to promote development and deliver food aid in “new and creative ways.”


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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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