Africa News in Brief: July 3 edition

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Will ANC leaders keep Mandela’s promise or drift?

(GIN)—Amid the torrent of nostalgic news features about South Africa’s first black president, now ailing in the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, it has become impossible not to hear the anxieties of ordinary South Africans who fear the country’s new leaders will abandon the Mandela promise for economic prosperity derived from a racially equal society.

“Nelson Mandela wanted everyone to be equal. He was about employment, eradicating poverty,” said Fuzile Moyake, a 25-year-old, speaking at a vigil at Mandela’s hospital. “But, the current government, that’s not what they’re striving for. They’re striving for ‘me, myself and I.’”

Mandela was unlike other African leaders, several said.

“If every other African leader behaved in the manner he behaved, then Africa would have gone very far,” said Wesley Matlala, a 39-year-old civil servant in a press interview.

Others say the ANC has given up on many of the values that Mandela stood for.

“I think that corruption and crime (are) the biggest disappointment to Mandela’s struggle and what he fought for,” said Kavisha Pillay, 21. “They let the dream down.”

Even former ANC stalwart, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seemed ready to jump ship, from the ruling African National Congress party to the newly-formed Agang party led by a businesswoman, struggle veteran and former partner of black consciousness founder Steve Biko.

“I welcome Dr. (Mamphela) Ramphele’s arrival on the political landscape,” he said. “Hers is a voice worth hearing, and I look forward to the contribution she will make towards building the society we know we can become.”

National elections are slated for 2014.

Disturbing reports aside of a growing millionaire class leaving behind legions of the nation’s poor, the ANC leadership still finds much to applaud.

“South Africa is a much better place than it was in 1994 and the last five years has pushed that change forward,” said President Jacob Zuma, crediting the party’s achievements since they began governing, but acknowledging there was still some way to go.

“Dealing with the massive task of rebuilding our country could not happen all at once,” he said. “There are still communities we must reach.”

All types of crime, with the exception of white-collar crime, had been reduced in the past 19 years, he said.

“We also admit that the public service must still perform much better than it is doing now, to speed up services.”

Zuma said the government was looking forward to the official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama on June 28.“This is a significant visit as the US is a major trade, investment, tourism and technology partner for South Africa,” he said.

The U.S. had about 600 companies operating within the South African economy, he said.

The above articles originally appeared in the July 3 print edition.

Technical glitch saves one from gallows death in Nigeria

(GIN)—To the dismay of human rights groups, Nigeria resumed its execution of death row prisoners, hanging four at Benin City Prison. A fifth prisoner survived his execution by a “gallows glitch” but remains at “imminent risk” of death, said Amnesty International.

Chino Obiagwu of the national lawyers’ rights group Lepad said the men were hanged despite pending suits at the appeal court and had been on death row for 16 years. He said two were his clients, convicted of murder, but he did not know the crimes of the other sentenced men.

“Under Nigerian laws, an appeal and application for stay of execution should restrain further action. By executing the prisoners, Nigeria’s government has demonstrated a gross disregard to the rule of law and respect for the judicial process,” he said.

Obiagwu said a court dismissed his organization’s appeal challenging the state’s signing of execution warrants and a motion to stop executions. That was around 3 p.m., the day of the scheduled execution.

“They [authorities] had already started preparing for the executions, they turned us away from the prison and by 6.15 p.m. we heard from clients [in the prison] that they had been executed,” he said.

He said traumatized inmates called him to describe “terrible sounds” like a drum rolling, shackles scratching and the screams of those condemned begging for mercy.

Capital punishment is rarely used in Africa today. In 2012, only five African countries carried out executions, and 22 imposed death sentences.

Angela Uwandu, head of the Lawyers without Borders Abuja office, decried the killings: “The system we have is completely flawed—from the point of arrest to investigation. A system that cannot guarantee fairness should not result into the death penalty, which is too absolute. So we want the federal government to exercise due caution.

“Let due process be adhered to. As long as convictions are based on confessions which are coerced or denied; trials going on for five years or more, where witnesses would have forgotten facts in the case; sometimes we have missing case files; we cannot claim that we have had a fair judgment and a perfect system and life is sacred while death penalty is too absolute. “

More than 1,000 people are reportedly on death row in Nigeria, a country of about 160-million people.


African good will towards Obama in decline

(GIN)—Although the image of a black president in the United States still thrills many people worldwide, his absence from Africa has eroded some of the good will he once enjoyed.

“Obama should not expect red-carpet treatment from all South Africans, despite the historic affinity between the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements,” observed Afua Hirsch in Ghana, writing for The Guardian newspaper. “Workers, students and Muslim groups are among those determined to give Obama a bumpy landing when he descends on Africa’s biggest economy.”

Cosatu, South Africa’s major trade union group with more than million members, and the South African Communist Party have called on all workers to join mass protests including a march on the U.S. embassy against “NObama.”

Academics and students say they will boycott the University of Johannesburg’s award of an honorary law doctorate to Obama. The Muslim Lawyers’ Association has called for the president to be arrested as a war criminal.

Bongani Masuku, speaking for Cosatu, said: “Obama is perpetuating American foreign policy. The US is an empire run on behalf of multinational companies and the ruling class of America. US foreign policy is militarizing international relations to sponsor and make their own weapons.

“I’m not disappointed because I didn’t expect anything,” he said. “It’s not about the individual; it’s not about the race he came from. It’s about the class he represents. It’s like he’s the gatekeeper for white monopoly capital. He promised things we knew he wouldn’t be able to do.”

“Cosatu joins the millions of people and workers the world over, particularly on the African continent and in South Africa, who are outraged at the horrifying record of US foreign policy in the world. We are particularly disappointed by the Obama administration’s record in continuing the appalling US foreign policy performance,” the group wrote on its website.

Obama’s three-nation tour, starting in Senegal, is only his second to sub-Saharan Africa as president, and his first solely to the continent, after a fleeting visit to Ghana in 2009. Obama spokesman Ben Rhodes admitted that Africa had been “under-represented” in Obama’s travel to date and said trade and investment would top the agenda.

Michele Obama, however, is highly regarded especially for her sharp sense of fashion including the use of African fabric.

“I know women who have been copying her dresses—one dress in particular that she wore is very much in demand,” said Sophie Ly Sow, a Dakar resident.

The first lady is scheduled to have tea with her Senegalese counterpart, and then visit the Martin Luther King school in Dakar.

Both he and Michelle will go to Gorée island, tour the House of Slaves museum and meet civil society leaders. That night, they will attend a dinner hosted by Senegal President Macky Sall.



Judges tap 30 for new African literary prize

(GIN)—Two Kenyan authors are among 30 shortlisted for the new Kwani Manuscript Prize of 2013. The prize celebrates unpublished fiction from African writers and this year considered 280 qualifying submissions from Africans worldwide of which 30 made the next-to-last cut.

Stanley Gazemba and Timothy Kiprop Kimutai were tapped for their manuscripts Ghetto Boy and The Water Spirits. Other short-listed candidates are Ayobami Adebayo (Nigeria), Ayesha Harruma (Ghana/US), Toni Kan (Nigeria), Jennifer Nansubuga (Uganda/UK) and Saah Milimono (Liberia).

The top three manuscripts will be announced on July 1 and will be awarded $6,000.

Kwani Trust plans to publish three to five of the shortlisted manuscripts by April 2014.

“In reviewing the shortlisted stories, I’m blown away by the potential these manuscripts hold, the different styles, concerns and voices that they bring to new contemporary African literature, and further add to Kwani’s fiction list,” enthused Kwani Trust managing editor Billy Kahora. “We can’t wait to bring them out as novels in the region and partner with publishing houses across the continent to make them available across Africa.”

Judges include Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (Granta magazine), Professor Simon Gikandi (US-based Kenyan scholar), Dr Mbugua wa Mungai (Kenyatta University, Kenya), Irene Staunton (Zimbabwe Weaver Press) and Helon Habila (Nigerian writer).

In a separate development, an appeal is being prepared for Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, better known by his rap name Weld El 15. He was convicted June 13 following a trial in March.

Yaacoub was given a two-year jail term for his song “The Police are Dogs,” a video of which was posted on YouTube.

In the video the singer is heard saying: “Police, magistrates, I’m here to tell you one thing, you dogs; I’ll kill police instead of sheep; Give me a gun I’ll shoot them.”

The severity of the verdict angered his fans, who attended the trial. In clashes that broke out afterwards some of them, as well as several journalists, were badly beaten by the police.

The court ruling was also strongly criticised by Tunisia’s political opposition and by human rights groups as an attack on freedom of speech.


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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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