Africa News in Brief: May 22-28 edition

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Kenyans angry over ‘piggish’ salary hike

(GIN)—Setting free a sow and a herd of piglets at the steps of Parliament, Kenyan demonstrators sent government an unmistakable symbol of how they viewed outsized salary increases proposed by sitting lawmakers.

The parliamentarians are already some of the best paid on the continent. Kenya’s Salaries and Remuneration Commission has recommended that salaries be pegged at around $6,300 per month. The MPs are demanding $10,000 monthly. The average salary in Kenya is about $1,700 annually.

“We will not allow members of parliament to increase their salaries at will,” declared Okiya Omtatah, one of the protest organizers.

Carrying signs that read “Occupy Parliament!” and “Day of Action on MP’s Salaries and Car Allowances,” demonstrators battled teargas, batons and water cannons during the protest last week, which began at Nairobi’s Freedom Corner. “Don’t like the pay? Quit!” another placard read as demonstrators shouted “thieves.”

Activist Boniface Mwangi, one of the protest organizers, told an AP reporter that he had been arrested with 15 others.

“Even if they arrest us today we will come back. We want a better future for our kids,” said Mwangi.

Members of Parliament are commonly called MPs in Kenya but Mwangi and others refer to them as “MPigs.”

MPs say their current salaries are “demeaning,” and they need more money to help pay constituents’ school and medical expenses.

The brawl over pay forced newly-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta, on a four-day official visit to Cape Town, South Africa, to rush home to settle his first major confrontation. He had been attending the World Economic Forum on Africa whose theme was “Delivering on Africa’s Promise.”

The president urged the public officers to drop their demands. The Salaries Commission also stood firm against the demands, calling them unsustainable, and said they would not back down despite MP threats to dissolve the Commission.

 

Return of child soldiers alarms war-scarred Central African Republic

(GIN)—The rebel-led government in the Central African Republic has another worry on its head—restless child soldiers demobilizing from rebel armies in the country’s volatile north.

Teenagers, coming back jobless and often homeless, are being re-recruited by armed fighters, according to UNICEF. Recently, an angry mob stoned a 17-year-old ex-soldier to death—a reflection of growing hostility towards the rebels who ousted the president and took control of the government in March.

“Action must be taken against those who are recruiting and using children to commit crimes,” said Souleymane Diabate, the country representative for UNICEF.

Thousands of child soldiers were used in some of the heaviest fighting of the battle, which ended with the flight of former President Francois Bozize. The child fighters directly engaged troops from South Africa, leaving some 14 South Africans dead on the battlefield.

The African Union has issued a statement expressing “grave concern about the precarious security and humanitarian situation, especially the repeated attacks against the civilian population…”

After defeating President Bozize, Michael Djotodia, leader of the Seleka rebel army, declared himself president but few regional or international leaders would recognize his self-appointment. The Central Africa regional bloc designated him “transitional head,” barred from re-election.

Meanwhile, a famed World Heritage site in the rainforests of southwestern Central African Republic has been raided by poachers, who already killed some 40 elephants in the Dzanga-Sangha reserve. Bas Huijbregts of the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign against poaching said: “Elephant poaching is on the increase… we are fearing for the worst.”

 

Cervical cancer drug to be discounted for Africa 

(GIN)—A major price cut goes into effect for a vaccine against cervical cancer. But the discount has run into criticism from health activists who say the costs for Africa are still “unjustifiably high.”

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) said the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI), which funds vaccine programs in the world’s poorest countries, had received a bad deal from the makers of Gardasil and Cervarix—Merck and GlaxoSmithKline respectively.

The drugs are used to prevent cervical cancer, of which 85 per cent of 275,000 deaths annually occur in the developing world.

“It will still cost nearly $14 to fully protect a girl with the cancer virus—a price that is too high for the world’s poorest countries,” said Kate Elder, a Philadelphia native and a vaccines policy specialist at MSF.

“Why are the pharmaceutical companies still making profits off the backs of the poorest countries?” Elder asked. ”HPV vaccines were developed with taxpayer money, largely from the National Institutes of Health, and Glaxo and Merck have already reaped billions in profits.”

Seth Berkley of GAVI, however, called the discount “a transformational moment” for the health of women and girls across the world. “By 2020 we hope to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries,” he said. “We thank the manufacturers for working with us to help make this happen.”

The GAVI project will begin “demonstration projects” for girls nine to 13 years of age, starting in Kenya as early as this month. After that, it will begin in Ghana, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.

Gardasil and Cervarix can cost more than $100 in western countries. They’ve been introduced in immunization campaigns in the U.S. and Europe in recent years.

UNICEF will administer the program.

 

The above articles originally appeared in our May 22, 2013 issue.

‘State of emergency’ in Nigeria ramps up ‘terrorist’ war

(GIN)—Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has imposed emergency rule in three northern states, pledging to quell a spate of “terrorist activities” with a muscular military offensive.

In a letter addressed to compatriots, he wrote: “The activities of insurgents and terrorists have been reprehensible, causing fear among our citizens and a near-breakdown of law and order in parts of the country, especially the North…

“Already, parts of Borno state have been taken over by groups whose allegiance is to different flags and ideologies,” in an oblique reference to the Nigeria-based Boko Haram Islamist movement and its growing support network beyond national borders.

“The chief of defense has been directed to immediately deploy more troops to these states to take all necessary action…”

The president has been in an unpleasant spotlight as attacks by insurgents and retaliatory mop-up operations by the military have soared to new levels. Most recently, his own forces were blamed for a massacre in the town of Baga during which some 2,275 homes were set afire and close to 200 citizens shot in cold blood.

The latest incident, in a fishing village in Borno state, saw at least 187 people killed and there are allegations that soldiers are responsible.

But, the announcement of an increased military presence has unsettled many leaders in the Islamic northern states, which is also home turf of Boko Haram.

A letter from 36 governors in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum begs the president to reject the order.

“The ongoing agitation for a state of emergency is made by people who do not wish our country well and are bent on plunging the country into a deeper crisis,” the letter read in part.

Aliyu U. Tilde, in a commentary published by SaharaReporters.com, added: “Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has just bought another state of emergency from his security chiefs. He thinks it will work. I think it will not.

“If despite the resources, the personnel, government has lost 87% of the territory to Boko Haram, I wonder what additional powers to the military would achieve.

“(With) the mass deployment of soldiers to the affected areas (and) the sophistication of Boko Haram, our sons in the military will just be turned into cheap targets. There will be so many of them to aim at easily, more to destroy in a spot.”

 

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. To find out how you can support their work, visit www.globalinfo.org.

 

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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