Category Archives: Africa – International

South African shops in Malawi shut in response to xenophobia

BBC

South African shops in Malawi shut in xenophobia boycott

police guard South African shops in Blantyre were under heavy security on Friday
South African shops in Blantyre were under heavy security

South African-owned shops in Malawi have remained closed after calls for a boycott from activists angered at recent xenophobic attacks.

In the commercial capital Blantyre, armed police guarded several leading South African chain stores.

Several hundred Malawians have been evacuated from South Africa after the recent wave of xenophobic violence.

At least seven people have been killed and 5,000 left homeless since the attacks started last month.

Demonstrators in Blantyre on Friday calling for an end to violence against Malwians in South Africa
Malawians showed their anger at a demonstration in Lilongwe

Consumer activist John Kapito, in the capital Lilongwe, said the aim of the boycott was “to send a symbolic message”.

“South Africans cannot chase us from their countries and expect us to help them grow their economy by patronising their shops and goods,” he said.

Media captionSome Malawians have planned boycotts of South African stores

Outlets of the popular South African PEP, Shoprite and Game stores were closed in all major cities across the country, reports the BBC’s Raphael Tenthani from Blantyre.

The Malawian government has faced criticism over its decision to use South African rather than Malawian bus companies to evacuate citizens following the recent violence, our correspondent says.

But Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa defended the move:

“Looking at the urgency of the situation it could have taken a lot of time for Malawian buses to reach South Africa. Besides, the South African buses were cheaper,” he said.

Some 390 Malawians have already been repatriated from South Africa, with a further 500 expected to arrive later.

Media captionThe BBC’s Sophie Ribstein spoke to pupils at a school in Yeoville, Johannesburg


Ethiopia’s jaoled bloggers remain strong and determined

Global Voices

Founding members of Zone9. Left to right: Endalk Chala, Soliana Shimeles, Natnael Feleke, Abel Wabela. Befeqadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kiberet,  Atnaf Berahane.

Founding members of Zone9. Left to right: Endalk Chala, Soliana Shimeles, Natnael Feleke, Abel Wabela. Befeqadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun, Zelalem Kiberet, Atnaf Berahane.

Written by Ellery Roberts Biddle & Ethan Zuckerman

Last April, late on a Friday, an email came over the Global Voices community list with the subject line: “Shocking”. A group of our authors and their fellow bloggers had been arrested earlier that day in Addis Ababa. Six of these men and women had worked with Zone9, a collective blog that covered social and political issues in Ethiopia and promoted human rights and government accountability. We quickly learned that they had been arrested because of their work as bloggers.

The Zone9 bloggers were working to foster political debate and discussion in a country where most media outlets fall under heavy control by government authorities. They wanted to help fellow citizens better understand their rights, as guaranteed by the constitution. They wanted more Ethiopians to have some say in how their country is run.

Horn of Africa. Map by UN, released to public domain.

Horn of Africa. Map by UN, released to public domain.

It’s not easy to talk about these issues in Ethiopia. As Africa’s second most populous country, Ethiopia is the beneficiary of enormous flows of foreign military and humanitarian aid, largely intended to bolster and maintain the nation as a security stronghold in the Horn of Africa, where levels of ethnic tension, corruption and crime are high. The government faces threats from armed militant groups in the country’s northern region and in neighboring Somalia, and it has ample support from Western governments, including the US, to preserve stability in the region. But fear about this precarious situation has bled into critical areas of public life, leaving little room for civil society activity and democratic debate. In recent years, the government has developed a disturbing tendency to label anyone who expresses dissent as a terrorist.

Consider journalist Eskinder Nega. Nega’s crime was to report on the Arab Spring protests and to point out that Ethiopia could face similar protests if the government did not reform and open up. He was charged with “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt” of terrorist acts and is now serving an 18-year prison sentence.

In 2013, fearful that they might suffer the same fate, the Zone9ers let their blog go dark for over a year. But last spring, they decided they could not remain silent any longer. On April 25, 2014, the government responded by arresting six members of the blogging team, along with three journalists the government saw as “affiliated” with the bloggers.

Natnael Feleke with John Kerry, 2013.

Natnael Feleke with John Kerry, 2013.

Though they have yet to be brought to trial, the bloggers have been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. This provides a sense of what the Ethiopian government is fighting: dissent, not terror. Much of the charge sheet focuses on accusations that the bloggers received training in encrypting their communications, specifically through using Security in a Box, a digital security toolkit intended to help human rights groups protect themselves from surveillance, widely available online. The Ethiopian government accuses the Zone9 bloggers of using these tools in an attempt to “overthrow, modify or suspend the Federal or State Constitution; or by violence, threats, or conspiracy.” In fact, the bloggers were using such tools to coordinate their reporting work, hoping to avoid detection and arrest by a paranoid government.

We are humbled by the degree to which these bloggers have remained strong, determined, and vocal since their imprisonment. In August of 2014, Befeqadu Hailu, a founding member of Zone9 and Global Voices author, wrote a detailed account of his experiencesbehind bars, a text that was smuggled out of the prison and published on our site. His words have left our community both inspired and haunted ever since. “No matter what,” he wrote, “boundaries exist in this country. People who write about Ethiopia’s political reality will face the threat of incarceration as long as they live here.”

Read: Journal from an Ethiopian Prison: Testimony of Befeqadu Hailu

More recently, friends were able to smuggle out a letter from Natnael Feleke, a founding member of the Zone9 blogging collective who studied economics before his arrest. Natnael’s letter is addressed to US Secretary of State John Kerry. Natnael spoke with Kerry at a public event at Addis Ababa University in 2013, a meeting that has now become part of the case against him. In the letter, Natnael asks the US government to reconsider its support for the Ethiopian government. He writes:

…[the amount of] time I will be spending in prison is not the most pressing issue on my mind right now. Rather, I am worried about the amount of additional sacrifice required until the international community, specifically your government, will assume a firm pragmatic stance in demanding fundamental progress in the democratization process of the country against the billions of dollars pouring the regime’s way.

I don’t want you to get me wrong here. It is not that I don’t appreciate the earnest assistance being forwarded to the development process in my country. It is just that I strongly believe effective monitoring of such assistance can only be employed where there is a government accountable to its people. It is ironic that the world’s top recipient of development assistance is without effective monitoring and accountability.

[…]

In his book the Audacity of Hope, President Obama states that the true test of what we really value is where we invest the time, energy and money that we have. I understand the difficulty you face in striking a balance between maintaining security and stability and promoting democratization in your foreign policy. But sustainable stability can only be achieved through a democratically elected government and a state institution trusted by the people. As US national interests are built on core values of liberty and democracy, I have hope and confidence that you will adopt a new stance that forges a clearer relationship between any form of assistance and the democratization process.

The letter does not only make a political argument. Natnael also talks about his own experience in prison, describing torture, poor conditions, and the criminal investigation that the bloggers have undergone, which he calls “ridiculous.”

Read: A Letter to John Kerry from Kilinto Prison, Ethiopia

It is eery the degree to which the bloggers seemed to anticipate their current fate. The Zone9ers in fact take their name from Kality, a prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, where Eskinder Nega has lived since 2011. Kality is divided into eight different zones, the last of which — Zone Eight — is dedicated to journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. Endalk, one of the three Zone9ers who remains free today, explained that when the group formed, “we decided to create a blog for the proverbial prison in which all Ethiopians live: this is Zone Nine.”

The Zone9 bloggers are expected to face trial late this spring. If convicted, they will find themselves in the company of at least eighteen other journalists who have suffered the same fate.

New hope for malaria vaccine

BBC

Child malaria vaccine: Final trials bring hope

Family affected by malaria in Tanzania
There is no licensed vaccine against malaria anywhere in the world at present

Final clinical trials of a malaria vaccine – the first to reach this stage – suggest it could help protect millions of children against malaria.

But tests on 16,000 children from seven African countries found that booster doses were of limited use and vaccines in young babies were not effective.

After children aged 5-17 months were given three doses of the vaccine, the immunisation was only 46% effective.

But experts say getting the vaccine this far is a scientific milestone.

Data from the trial published in The Lancet showed that the success rate fell to even lower levels in younger infants.

Scientists have been working on the vaccine for more than 20 years, but observers believe there is still a long way to go.

RTS,S/AS01 is the first malaria vaccine to reach advanced trials and show any sign of working in young children.

There is currently no licensed vaccine against malaria anywhere in the world.

With around 1,300 children dying in sub-Saharan Africa from malaria every day, scientists say they are delighted to have got to this stage in developing a vaccine against a very clever parasite.

‘Disappointed’

Prof Brian Greenwood, study author and professor of clinical tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he was “a little disappointed” by the results of the clinical trials.

“I hoped the vaccine would be more effective, but we were never going to end up with the success seen in measles vaccines with 97% efficacy.”

That is because the malaria parasite has a complicated life cycle and it has learnt how to evade the immune system over hundreds of years.

The vaccinations took place at 11 sites across Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Mosquitoes can spread diseases such as dengue and malaria
The malaria parasite present in mosquitoes is clever and complicated, scientists say

The trials found the vaccine’s ability to protect children gradually waned over time.

Scientists tried to bolster this with a booster, but protection never reached the level provided by initial doses.

The clinical trials also found that meningitis occurred more frequently in children given the vaccine.

However, Prof Greenwood said the data was very robust and the vaccine could still reduce attacks of malaria by around 30%.

‘Milestone’

The European Medicines Agency will now review the data and, if it is satisfied, the vaccine could be licensed.

And the World Health Organization could then recommend its use in October this year.

Prof Adrian Hill, at the University of Oxford, said although the study was “a milestone”, he had concerns.

“Because the vaccine’s efficacy is so short-lived, as expected a booster dose is shown to be of some value – but it was not as effective at the initial doses.

“More worrying is the new evidence of a rebound in malaria susceptibility: after 20 months, vaccinated children who were not boosted showed an increased risk of severe malaria over the next 27 months compared to non-vaccinated controls.”

Overall, he said the vaccine’s potential public health benefits were not yet clear.

“It should be possible to make the vaccine more effective in some settings, but that will probably increase delivery costs substantially.”

‘Important tool’

Prof Mike Turner, head of infection at the Wellcome Trust, said it had taken two decades to get to this point.

“While the levels of protection the vaccine offers against clinical malaria may seem relatively low, they are better than any other potential vaccine we currently have.

“The findings are not only important in their own right but also in signposting a road to developing better vaccines in the future.”

James Whiting, from the charity Malaria No More UK, said it was a huge achievement to get the vaccine this far.

“There are still a number of considerations and approval processes to be undertaken, but it has the potential to be an important additional tool to fight malaria and save lives from a disease that kills a child every minute.”

Other experts warned that funding for a vaccine should not be redirected away from insect nets and other malaria control measures.

Kenya – spy row at Ruto and Sang ICC trial

The Hague Trials Kenya/allAfrica

Kenya: ICC – Lawyer of Ruto Witness Shocked By Deportation of ‘Spy’

The lawyer of the last known prosecution witness in the ICC case against Ruto and Sang is shocked by the deportation of a Kenyan “spy” from Dutch soil.

“This is shocking. It raises more concerns about the Kenyan cases. All kinds of things are happening in Kenya, and now they are happening in the Netherlands as well,” says Goran Sluiter, lawyer of Witness 727.

False papers

The Dutch embassy in Nairobi confirms that a Kenyan government official was arrested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport last week. “The man was carrying false papers,” says the first secretary at the Dutch Embassy, Stijn Janssen. He did not enter the Netherlands but was imprisoned, released and sent back to Nairobi. The Kenyan embassy in The Hague refused to comment on the issue.

According to the Daily Nation, the NIS officer in question tried to meet an ICC witness in the Netherlands last week. The ICC security team and Dutch security agents had been closely monitoring the witness and the officer.

Although Dutch lawyer Goran Sluiter says he can’t confirm that the spy tried to contact his client, Witness 727 is probably the last Kenyan ICC prosecution witness who is set to testify. 727 is hiding in the Netherlands. He is refusing to testify following serious intimidation.

Risk of death

According to Sluiter, ICC suspects should be held in detention to prevent witness intimidation. “Suspects of serious crimes are being treated so well, they are not even imprisoned. There is a huge risk of them fleeing. Also there’s a risk of influencing, intimidating and even killing witnesses.”

“It’s clear that ICC has fully underestimated these cases,” Sluiter says. “If the Kenyan trails would have been calm and quiet, it might have been the right treatment. But now the ICC is ruled by fear of Kenya and the African Union. They should step up action against suspects.”

Scared

His sentiments are echoed by Miaina Kiai, the former chairman of Kenya’s National Human Rights Commission during the 2007/8 post-election violence. “It’s not surprising that witnesses have said we don’t want to do this”, Kiai said in an interview with The Hague Trials Kenya.

Many (possible) witnesses are said to have been intimidated in the ICC Kenyan trials against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang. The case against President Uhuru Kenyatta was dropped by the ICC prosecutor because of a lack of evidence.

South Africa – ombudsman looks at issue of images of xenophobic violence

Mail and Guardian

If publishing a shocking image can do something to cut through the smugness, then it is worth some offence and discomfort.

We are forced to be passive observers of a man's most private and desperate moments as he fights for life. (Paul Botes, M&G)

We have been here before. In 2008, during a previous round of xenophobic violence, images of a man burning to death shocked the country.

The Mozambican had been attacked and set alight in Johannesburg’s Alexandra, not far from a group of police officers and journalists. Police tried to put out the fire and save him but he died.

Pictures of his last moments, sitting on the ground in his own funeral pyre, appeared on many front pages.

It didn’t end there. At first, he was nameless, just a symbol of violence. But in follow-up reports, journalists identified him as Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave and told his story, including the return of his body to Mozambique and his burial.

Last Saturday another Mozambican was attacked in Alex. Images of Emmanuel Sithole’s murder ran on the front page of the Sunday Times the next day. The only difference was that this was a stabbing.

Images of such violence are clearly shocking, and editors need to think carefully about publishing them, as well as about where they are placed.

There is a big difference between the front page and pages inside the paper. On the front page, the violence is forced on anybody who simply notices the newspaper in a shop, including children. Placed inside, pictures are only accessible to those actively reading the newspaper.

It is worth trying to understand the different reactions such images draw. The violence is horrifying to see, and the fact that it is real puts it in a completely different category to the fictional violence we are accustomed to seeing on television and in films.

There is something profoundly disturbing about witnessing somebody being killed. We are forced to be passive observers of a man’s most private and desperate moments as he fights for life.

Some people react with a ghoulish fascination, the kind of curiosity that makes people stare at accident scenes. Others dislike being forced into a kind of voyeurism. The violence is unpleasant and it is tough to be dragged into the situation without being able to intervene. Many of us may have some mix of these feelings.

There is always another, much smaller audience that must be borne in mind: friends and family of the victim. For them, the horror is of a completely different order. Imagine your father, sister or child dying publicly on the front page of the newspapers.

And, to add another layer of complexity, there is the issue of race. Many have pointed out that black people are more easily shown in these kinds of images. It’s additional reason for editors to think carefully before using the images.

A decision to publish carries the risk that the newspaper will be criticised on a number of grounds, including being insensitive to the broader audience and the relatives of the victim, appealing to the audience’s base instincts to boost circulation, and for feeding a particular set of stereotypes.

But pictures can play a role in bringing home an important reality and, if the story is significant, this can outweigh the offence caused.

There’s no question that the outbreak of xenophobic violence is a story of the utmost importance, because it hurts the country in many different ways.

As South Africans, we need to own the ugly truth of it. People living in wealthy suburbs can’t brush away the violence and believe that it belongs elsewhere. It is too easy to take refuge behind the gulf that cuts through our society; to absolve ourselves simply because we didn’t wield the knife that killed Sithole.

The briefest moment of introspection must reveal that poverty and inequality are at least factors in this kind of violence. Xenophobia is our shared story. If publishing a shocking image can do something to cut through the smugness, then it is worth some offence and discomfort.

At a more practical level, the reportage seems to have had some real consequences. It has made Sithole’s name and story a matter of public concern and may have helped to secure the arrest of four men in connection with the killing.

It may well have nudged the authorities into strengthen their response to the events. This has been slow – and marred by attempts to find scapegoats, including foreigners themselves and, as usual, the media – but at least the response has been scaled up.

Apart from issues regarding the use of the pictures of Sithole, the reporters involved have been criticised for not making a greater intervention. James Oatway and Beauregard Tromp have described in interviews an attack that was brief – less than two minutes – ferocious and could easily have turned against them. They encouraged Sithole to flee and took him to hospital in a vain attempt to save him.

Other players might have been able to do something to alter the course of events, including witnesses and the medical staff, whose response seems to have been inadequate.

We should be careful not to judge the reporters too quickly. Who knows with certainty how we would have acted in such a crisis. The real test is what we do next, as a country, to deal with xenophobia, and the factors that fuel it.

The Mail & Guardian‘s ombud provides an independent view of the paper’s journalism. If you have any complaints you would like addressed, email ombud@mg.co.za . You can also phone the paper on 011 250 7300011 250 7300 and leave a message


Somalia – government wants to drive Al Shabab from southern valley strongold

Reuters

World Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:07pm BST

Somalia seeks to drive militants from southern valley bases – PM

(Reuters) – Somali and African forces aim to drive al Shabaab Islamist militants out of one of the last major tracts of territory in southern Somalia that the group still holds and which it uses to launch attacks, the Somali prime minister said on Thursday.

Omar Sharmarke also told Reuters he was pressing Kenya to reopen Somali money transfer firms that are a lifeline to many in Somalia but whose licences Nairobi suspended after al Shabaab raided a north Kenyan university this month killing 148 people.

Al Shabaab has been driven out of major towns and coastal strongholds since an African Union peacekeeping force and the Somali national army launched an offensive last year.

But the group, which wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, still holds rural areas, such as the Juba valley corridor that leads to the strategic southern port of Kismayu, where a Kenyan contingent of AU troops is based.

“There is a corridor they use as a launching pad,” Sharmarke said in an interview. “There are efforts to close down this corridor which they have been using for the last few years.”

He did not give a timeline for any new operation.

To keep militants out of Kenya, Somalia’s southern neighbour is improving border security, including building new observation posts and barriers, often referred to as a “wall”. Sharmarke said rooting out the militants was a better tactic.

“We have to close the vacuums they use as a launching pads rather than put a wall between families and communities,” Sharmarke said in Nairobi after talks with Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed.

The Somali prime minister also said Kenya was working on new regulations so Somali money transfer firms, known as “hawalas”, could be reopened, adding Kenya’s central bank was leading the process. He said temporary measures were being considered while permanent rules were being drawn up, but did not indicate when the transfer firms would be permitted to reopen.

“Millions depend on hawalas and there are now efforts to see whether, in the interim, these hawalas could be opened.”

Kenya’s central bank had no comment on the remarks but referred to an earlier statement that noted concerns about informal remittance firms and “the global challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.”

Many of the remittance firms have also been shut down in the United States and other Western nations because of rules aimed at preventing cash reaching al Shabaab.

Sharmarke said he planned to visit Washington in the next few weeks to discuss the issue, while his government planned to push through new Somali anti-money laundering legislation.

Kenya has also announced a three month timetable to close Dadaab, a camp where some 335,000 Somali refugees are housed.

Sharmarke said any action to repatriate the refugees should be done responsibly and only when it was safe. A botched repatriation would help the militants by alienating people, he said.

“We cannot play into the hands of al Shabaab and other terrorists out there. We should not create political discontent out of this repatriation,” he said.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

South Africa – tens ofvthousands march against xenophobia

Mail and Guardian

Thousands of South Africans turned out for the march against xenophobia in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Not in our name: Participants at the march in xenophobia in Johannesburg on Thursday. (Delwyn Varasamy, M&G)

A question: “Who is leading this march?”

“No one,” answers the unionist.

Of course it isn’t true; a wide spectrum of activists, unionists, academics and more have come together to march against xenophobia in Johannesburg on Thursday.

But the answer is instructive: indeed, no one is the clear leader, because the march is led by all its thousands of participants, and not from the front.

Five kilometres of cross-class, cross-nationality, cross-race, foot stomping, through Hillbrow to Newtown, under the banner “People’s March against Xenophobia”.

There are many, many young people. There are many students, but there are many school children, too, grouped together by their school uniforms.

Sweaty construction workers, grey-faced from cement dust, appear on the balcony of a ruined building. One leg on the balcony, one fist in the air, they smile down.

Sello Lerothli from the Democratic Left Front remarks that maybe this will bring happiness to fearful foreigners, “because they can see progress”.

Here comes a cry from a few rows ahead. It echoes back, one hundred, two hundred people away. Antiphonal chanting, from over there, from over here, like a surround sound system and the only chant playing is “Sisonke!” [We are together]

Past the churches, and the healers, and the shops, thousand upon thousand marchers. Schoolgirls holding signs that say “We stand against xenophobia!”; non-governmental organisations, political parties, unions, men in business suits and men in clerical collars; and the unaffiliated but equally outraged.  

A man who says he is from Bangladesh quickly rolls down the metal shutter of his shop, “just in case”. But he needn’t worry; there will be no violence on Jeppe Street today.

All of Hillbrow peers down from the derelict buildings; hundreds of faces appear from the broken windows. They cheer the crowd on. The marchers below look up and cheer back. Together they chant, “We want peace! We want peace!” There are hundreds of hands showing two-fingered peace signs above, and thousands more peace signs below.

It’s a call-and-response ritual, and a quiet acknowledgment between the two parties that many of those on the balconies are foreigners.

“We want peace!”

It builds all through the march, the upward looking marchers and the residents above, until its climax outside the Ethiopian restaurant in Jeppe Street.

There isn’t any space left in the restaurant’s windows for the many more who want a spot to call out to the marchers below.

A number of marchers just below the window stop and the peace signs are exchanged. A roar grows louder and soon there are hundreds looking up at the sea of peace signs.

A question: “Where are you from?”

“Why do you want to know?” is the nervous, defensive answer.

“Sorry.”

There is a man in chains. Quite literally, he is dressed in chains and he walks with a fierce look of defiance. He is noticed, and the photographers draw nearer to see him. An activist, central to the march but irrelevant to this moment, jumps opportunistically in front of the cameras.

The chained man and his comrade don’t linger long. They are from the South African Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights. Miles Golden Bhudu, the project manager, is the chained man’s comrade.

He says, “No mercy for xenophobic criminals.”

At Mary Fitzgerald square, Zwelinzima Vavi joins many others on stage. Irvin Jim, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, religious leaders, activists. They all call for peace.

The MC cries: “Today there is no Nigerian! Today there is no South African! Today we are all African. Mr DJ, can we get something African on the ones and twos?”

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