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Archive for August 2nd, 2009

Zuma needs some late education

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2009

South African President Jacob Zuma gestures during a news conference in Pretoria, July 29, 2009.

South African President Jacob Zuma gestures during a news conference in Pretoria, July 29, 2009. REUTERS

South African President Jacob Zuma enjoys singing, Bring me my machine gun. He needs a new one, of ideas not bullets.

Hopefully, Mr Zuma is also getting a late education: trade marks like stomping Zulu-warrior style, womanising, and rattling sweet promises adds no dividend to a nations wellbeing.

If they did, his political honeymoon would have lasted longer. Additionally, he wouldnt be talking as African leaders of yore did when discontented citizens hit the streets.

I feel it is important that they should be arrested because they are interfering with the rights of innocent citizens who are walking around. He was referring to protesters who want the government to deliver on its promises.

South Africas parliament elected Mr Zuma, aka Gedleyihlekisa, president and he took office on May 9. His African National Congress, the ANC, had comfortably won the elections, obviously with Mr Nelson Mandela inspiring the cheerleaders.

Mr Zumas victory followed a two-year struggle against former President Thabo Mbeki. Myriads of other problems beset Mr Zuma then. They included corruption allegations and a rape charge.

In some ways, Mr Zuma, a man of minuscule formal education, has, in the South Africas context, more appealing credentials than Mr Mbeki did. During the struggle, the latter lectured politicians and diplomats on evils of apartheid.

That doesnt stir souls.

Mr Zuma wielded the ANCs weapons that kept racist former State President Pieter W. Botha sleepless. To the oppressed, that excited. Memories of the times still exhilarate. Mr Zuma stokes that exhilaration. On the campaign trail, he inflamed the exhilaration with promises. He cleverly disassociated himself from ANCs failure to reciprocate that exhilaration for 15 years.

Labour disputes are usual in South Africa mid-year. Workers and employers renegotiate contracts. Snow might not blanket the land during the winter, but the wind cuts through the bone. Tempers flare.

First doctors went on strike for two weeks. Some of their demands remain unmet. Then paper, chemical, pharmaceutical, paper, and a section of communication workers followed. So far, gold mineworkers strike seems avoidable. Council workers strike, in full swing last week, ended on Saturday.

Live in shacks

Luckily, for Mr Zuma and employers, workers in the above organisations are organised, have representatives to negotiate with and, albeit grumpily, accept settlements. That is not the case for millions who live in shacks, without running water, sanitation, and jobs.

In one week last month, protesters took to the streets in 20 cities, demanding basic services water, electricity, sanitation, and security. Urbanites drew most attention. Add the rural folks, often bypassed by hi-tech culture and politics and an estimated 20 million people, a third of the population, live below poverty line.

Like in most African countries, peaceful protests are aliens. Protesters degenerated into looters and became even xenophobic.

They attacked properties owned by foreigners like Ethiopians, Somalis, Chinese, and Pakistanis. Police were busy. On one occasion, a mayor attempted to appease protesters while in an armoured police vehicle. Mr Botha might as well have smiled in his grave.

Public till

In all fairness, the ANC-led government has tried. It has built houses, improved education for Africans, created a black middle class and a filthy rich leisure one. At the same time, the government has become wasteful. Fingers are busy in the public till.

Ms Baleka Mbete, the ANCs chairperson, has raised the fundamental question: is the ANC leading? All Mr Zuma needs do is look at the fate of Africas parties of independence. Nearly all have joined the dodo. Thats because they wallowed in bring me my machine gun, long jammed, instead of inventing a new one.

Cmbitiru@hotmail.com
source.nation.ke
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In South Sudan, bitterness endures long after war

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2009

Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir (right) meets Ms Rebecca Garang during the second death anniversary of Dr John Garang, Juba, Southern Sudan in this 2007 picture. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir (right) meets Ms Rebecca Garang during the second death anniversary of Dr John Garang, Juba, Southern Sudan in this 2007 picture. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

ByBADRU MULUMBA, NATION CorrespondentPostedSunday, August 22009at19:23

JUBA, Sunday

At the end of July, a throng of people file out at the John Garang Memorial Grounds for what is now an annual pilgrimage.

It started in 2006 as a celebration of an anniversary of Garangs demise on July 29, 2005, but in 2007 the Government of Southern Sudan formally decreed the day as one to remember all the people who perished while fighting for a dream of a free nation.

Its in respect of the memory of the man who founded a rebel force that would root its way into power 26 years later, but also is fast becoming an opportunity for some to vent exasperation as lifes reality for many shortfalls of expectations.

During the first two anniversaries of Garangs death, Heroes Day was synonymous with the widow and the family of the former President airing out largely family grievances.

At the 2007 event, Rebecca Nyandeng, widow of Garang, caused quite a scene, going against protocol when she stood to dance alongside a childrens choir singing in praise of her late husband. Hundreds of other people stood to dance with her and the occasion nearly disintegrated into chaos. And when Garangs son took the stage, it was to air grievances from a family that felt slighted in many ways.

Vision of New Sudan

Four years after his death, the personification of Garang on the day has receded as more names of rebel leaders long forgotten are resurrected.

We chose this day of 30th July as the special day for the commemoration of all our sacrifices during the long struggle of our people for freedom, peace and justice, First Vice President of Sudan, and President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, told the mourners. There is no better day to remember our sacrifices and to reaffirm our vision of New Sudan than the day when we lost our Great Leader, Dr John Garang de Mabior.

But as the celebration has grown from a one-family celebration to an entire community that lost loved ones, so has the grumbling become more widespread as families of those who died in war, were disabled in war, come to the fore to voice worry over failed expectations.

At this years Heroes Day cerebration, Ms Nyandeng told people her husbands vision equality, development of the rural areas was lost. This, she said, is killing her slowly.

Death is endless, she said, [but] can one imagine dying for a liberation cause and [ones] family, widow and orphans live the life widows and orphans [live] today?

Such are the disappointments of victory. For many here the promise, the ideal world for which they fought was, apparently, patched way up the ladder, and much removed from reality. The war is over. And hope and dreams, apparently, were the easier part.

The end of what was at the time Africas longest-running civil war promised dividends to the population.

A north-south peace agreement in Naivasha, Kenya, signed in 2005, was supposed to sea a flourishing region, getting half of the money remitted from the sales of the oil in the region.

But a devastated economy, a lack of structures and institutions, and a lack of skills, both technical and management, have combined to deny the people opportunity of taking charge, leaving a trail of shattered hopes.

At the Southern Sudan Commission for the War Disabled, Orphans and Widows, people line the reception, pleading one case or another. Inside the commission, Deng Dau Deng, the chairperson, walks with a limp as he backs away from behind his arc-shaped mahogany desk.

Walking with the support of an artificial limb, Deng epitomises the sacrifices people made in war, with many with decapitated, widowed and orphaned.

Some estimated 2.5 million died, including from war-related factors, and displaced more than a million people.

And, hes working to ensure that orphans, widows, the disabled live a normal life, just like him, for which their families fought.

In here, Deng speaks with a passion for what many here call a good fight, reminiscing over colleagues lost, and rolling out a list of activities planned.

In 1986, Deng commanded an anti-aircraft brigade on the eastern flank of Southern Sudan where the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army rebels marauded from Upper Nile through Unity, Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states.

Then, one day, he lost his leg to a fuselage of shots, and was flown to Cuba for an emergency operation.

Yet, even after he returned six months later through Angola, Deng, in fact, wanted to return to combat.

In Ethiopia where he met Garang at the headquarters of SPLA, Deng requested, Kiir and William Nyoun, the second in command to Garang who died in war to take him back to combat.

My spirit is okay, he recalls saying. I want to go back to fighting.

No, Garang said. War is very complicated. People run. People get killed if they cant. Youll be useful taking care of refugees.
Garang placed Deng in charge of logistics at Itang Refugee Camp, Ethiopia, from where he transferred to the office of the war wounded heroes.

Later, as the war intensified, Deng moved to Kakuma to become chairman of the refugees and of unaccompanied lost boys, many of whom were flown to the US.

As war intensified, at one time Dengs canoe capsized. He lost his artificial limb in the water. Someone found the limb and put it by the river side.

It was like a revolutionary situation; we felt it was our duty to go to war; we didnt even think of the situation, Deng says.

Some of us, every year we would say the war is coming to an end the next year.

source.nation.ke

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Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2009

ByCHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

You will have heard or read about the study released last week that suggested that evolution is making women more beautiful.

We men, on the other hand, are still stuck in the Stone Age in terms of attractiveness, as The Sunday Times (London) put it.

The study by Markus Jokela, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, using data gathered in the USA, demonstrated that beautiful women had more children than their less beautiful counterparts. The other striking thing is that a higher proportion of those children were female.

The children also tended to be attractive and go on to repeat the pattern of having more female children once they became adults, according to the study.

The study found attractive women had 16 per cent more children, and very attractive women had 6 per cent more children than their less attractive counterparts.

But the study found that the opposite is true for men, with handsome ones being no more successful than others in terms of number of children.

Scientists said this suggested there was little pressure for mens appearance to evolve. In other words, an ugly man (especially if he is smart and successful), will still get himself a beautiful woman.

From an African perspective, this is interesting for slightly different reasons.

First, one striking thing about Africa, especially if you go to schools where children of middle class parents study, is that these children tend to resemble, and it can be quite frustrating locating your little one in the mad house.

The result is that what you would call the typical tribal look has all but disappeared. This development started when, increasingly, more educated and urbanised parents stopped scarring their children with ethnic ritual marks on the forehead or cheeks.

Thus the school children today have no ethnic marks, or if they do, they are fewer than their parents had. And their parents have fewer than their grandparents.

Then, the rise of the middle class meant, for example, that nearly all their children endured the agonising, but fruitful, years of being forced to drink Cod Liver Oil, and they ate largely the same food that their parents bought from the same super-market.

If the typical tribal look is on its way out, then it is possible that tribal taste which people bring to choosing a partner could also disappear with it, increasing the prospect of cross-cultural marriage and reduction of deadly ethnic politics.

Because Arabs will soon overwhelm Jews inside Israel and the occupied territories due to their very high birth-rate is very high, the former president of the Palestinian Authority, Yassir Arafat, once said: Our ultimate weapon is the womb of the Palestinian woman.

Likewise, you might say, long-suffering Africa will be saved by the wombs of its women, not the wisdom of its leaders.

Talking about long-suffering Africa and the wisdom of leaders, I am extremely grateful to the good Daily Nation reader who sent me a remarkable essay by Herbert J. Gans entitled The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All.

The essay was published all of 38 years ago in the July/August 1971 issue of the journal, Social Policy. This was before the poverty industry grew out of the poverty reduction or poverty alleviation programmes that became fashionable late.

Then, it also provides work for the police, who exist partly to protect the rich from the poor. Gans gives 13 uses of poverty in modern life, including the fact that it produces what he calls poverty warriors (who, he acknowledges, include journalists like himself, World Bank bureaucrats, the NGOs) who make a living supplying information policy on poverty, or relief to the poor .

The poor here include all those who are not well off.

Among the 13 uses of poverty, Gans argues that Pentecostal ministers, faith healers, prostitutes, pawn shops, and the peacetime army, which recruits mainly from among the poor, either need poverty to exist or to thrive .

Two of his cleverest insights are that, first, without the poor, the capitalist system as we know it today would be a very different animal.

The poor buy goods others do not want and thus prolong the economic usefulness of such goods day-old bread, fruit and vegetables that otherwise would have to be thrown out, mitumba (secondhand) clothes, cars and dilapidated buildings.

Secondly, the poor also provide incomes for doctors, lawyers, teachers, and others who are too old, poorly trained or incompetent to attract more affluent clients.

Anyone who is excited by ideas must absolutely read Gans essay.

cobbo@nation.co.ke

source.nation.ke

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Africa expected more from Obama than governance talk

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on health care in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington July 17, 2009. PHOTO/REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on health care in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington July 17, 2009. PHOTO/REUTERS

ByGITAU WARIGI

Kenyas sense of propriety when it comes to Barack Obama was on display from the naked pique in the countrys reaction to Barack Obamas choice of Ghana as the first sub-Saharan African country to visit. From the media commentaries to the political gallery, one could feel it.

Yet in much of Africa, there was a larger sense of disappointment in the much-anticipated policy speech to the continent the US President made before Ghanas Parliament. It was a sharp contrast with his stellar performance in Cairo on June 4 when he made a momentous address to the Muslim world.

Simplistic line

For somebody of Obamas background with African ancestry, many Africans expected him to seek to define the continent in fresh and more creative terms not necessarily laudatory than what past American administrations have tended to do.

Instead, what he said was more of the same old simplistic line: good governance equals prosperity, corruption pervades Africa, and so on.

In his Cairo address, the US President defined a totally fresh embrace of the Muslim world that would have been unthinkable under the regime of George W. Bush. He also signalled his governments respect for religious and cultural differences, even expressing a singular admiration for Islam that brought his audience to its feet.

Paradoxically, Obamas different tune to sub-Saharan Africa is precisely because this place does not constitute the existential threat to US interests America tends to perceive from the Muslim world. If one cancels out puny Somalia, the continent is not the theatre of the much-hyped religious-cultural clash of civilizations feared by the West. Nor does it remotely have anything like a rising geo-political rival to Americas power as China is.

The US knows it can outspokenly sustain the mantra of democracy and human rights and good governance without fear that the usual (official) negative African reactions will cause serious trouble to Pax Americana. Not so with the Middle East, where virulent anti-Americanism has forced Obama to try the reconciliatory approach.

Shifting oil dependance

Ever since the end of the Cold War, the US has operated with the certainty that Africa has no choice but to acquiesce to the USs overall hegemony. With no Soviet Union vying for the continents favours, Africa has been left with few, if any, options but to toe the line.

Broadly, US interests in Africa hinge on stability. But the same can be said of the superpowers interests in Europe, Latin America and Asia indeed the world over. What marks out Africa is a conscious US policy, from not too long ago, to shift its dependence on Middle East oil to sub-Saharan sources. It is no coincidence that US oil companies like Chevron are now major players in Nigeria and Angola, the top sub-Saharan petroleum producers. And as Obama was visiting, various reports noted that Ghana will from next year start exporting the commodity following the discovery of large deposits there.

Some years back, a purported CIA analysis of the possibility of Nigerias break-up which the Nigerian government vehemently rejected and whose authenticity the US was forced to deny nonetheless raised the sort of scenario that would be a nightmare for the US in Africa. Nigeria is the top African oil exporter to the US and the sixth biggest in terms of worldwide oil exports to America. Aside from threatening the flow of the oil, a failure of the 140-million-population-plus Nigerian state would swarm West Africa and cause a meltdown in the entire region.

What will surely cause the US to reconsider its placid view of Africa as a pristine backwater which should occasionally be barked at is the entry of China into the competition for the continents awesome natural resources. From East, West, South and Central Africa, China has been striking deals to secure raw materials in return for generous loans and infrastructure projects, a trend the US has been watching with growing trepidation.

Just months ago, the IMF, backed by Western donors, quarrelled with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo over a $9 billion mining and infrastructure package the DRC has signed with the Chinese. No, we will not revisit this contract, ruled President Joseph Kabila emphatically. The Congolese government is making sacrifices to benefit from debt relief, but it also needs to renew its infrastructure. So far, Congo seems to be winning that argument.

Gitau Warigi is a columnist with Sunday Nation

source.nation.ke

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Calibrate This, Mr. President

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2009

Dear Mr. President,
I’m one of those Americans that lives in flyover country. I was treated to your much publicized ‘teaching moment’ last night and felt a response was warranted.

I’d like to say, with all respect, that this American resents the patronizing arrogance you exhibited as you deigned to ‘teach America’ about race. First off, I don’t need lessons on race from you. I take my teachings from the Bible, not a man who sat through 20 years of ‘hate whitey’ sermons. I’d much prefer you bestow your teachable moments on, oh, say terrorists, or enemies of democracy.

Secondly, if you were genuinely interested in promoting racial healing, you might have used that teachable moment last night to address the third rail of race relations: namely, the reluctance of many blacks to look at whites without automatically assuming they are racists.

Last night, you had the perfect teachable moment, but, alas, you let it slip through your grasp. You had a wealthy, influential black man who continues to insist he is still oppressed. Then you had the white police officer who was merely doing his job in the correct manner. And then, we had you, Mr. President, a prime example of the problem. Said problem being the automatic assumption of racism without any facts to back it up.

You might have touched on the fact that many blacks of your generation have been taught that anything bad that happens in their life is a result of white oppression. You could have extrapolated or calibrated the fact that attitudes like that are extremely counterproductive and keep many blacks mired in the false comfort of victimization.

You might have addressed the fact that the only oppression happening these days is by your buddies Castro, Chavez and all the other third world dictators you seem to think are misunderstood men of good will.
Hey, you actually could have lectured your buddy Gates on the proper etiquette when dealing with law enforcement officers. Think of the great message that would have sent to young Americans. Respect for the law. That would have been a good thing to teach. But you let the opportunity pass with nary a word.

I’m sorry you didn’t get a good soundbite or photo op out of this unrelenting media saga. I know you were envisioning a hearty three way handshake that could be flashed around the world, signifying absolutely nothing. But the evening wasn’t a total waste. I actually did learn something.
I learned that you, and Henry Gates and other black men continue to believe that America is a racist country. I learned that you, Mr. President, will never solve any problems of race until you acknowledge your own racism against whites. I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime but I will continue to ‘hope’ for ‘change’.
And just out of curiosity, I was wondering what in the world you, the President of the greatest country in the world, is doing mediating the equivalent of a traffic ticket when our young men are dying in Afghanistan, our economy is in meltdown and Iran is on the brink of nuking Israel. Do you really think that was the best use of your time and political capital?

By Nancy Morgan, a columnist and news editor for RightBias She lives in South Carolina – US

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