“Welcome our girls, welcome our sisters”

Boko Haram’s constant terrorist threat in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali has provoked a multitude of deaths and controversies in the last eight years (organization founded in 2002), whose aim is to declare the establishment of the Sharia as in force norm in all the conditions of Nigeria. This organization has provoked 20.000 casualties, the displacement of 1,5 million refugees and a humanitarian crisis without precedents in the North-East of Nigeria in its eight years of insurgency.

During one of the moments of Boko Haram’s maximum territorial expansion, on April 13, 2014, members of this terrorist group were penetrating a center of Chibok’s secondary education, to the Northeast of the country, kidnapping 276 teenagers, between twelve and seventeen years of age. Of the kidnapped girls, 57 could escape of his captors, but the rest disappeared.

Now 82 of the Chibok school girls have been returned in a trade deal between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government. In order to retrieve the girls, five of Boko Haram commanders have now been set free. The Chibok girls gained attention after social media erupted with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, many public figures such as former United States First Lady Michelle Obama came out in support of the movements. As of today, there are still 113 girls held captive by Boko Haram.

For the return of the girls, some parents traveled to the capital to celebrate and to be with their daughters as soon as possible, meanwhile there are still parents worried about the 113 missing girls. Integrating these girls back to society is going to be a tough task as they faced unbelievable psychical pressure and violence without any hope for freedom. Because many of them were Christians they had to convert to Islam.  It followed marriage to their captor and childbirth somewhere in the forest. The others were forced to take part in suicide missions. The UN Special Rapporteurs stressed the necessity for useful measures to address stigma and rejection of women and people associated with Boko Haram by their families and communities.

As the girls return to their homes “the president was delighted to receive them and he promised that all that is needed to be done to reintegrate them into the society will be done,” said Femi Adesina. Their reintegration to the society will be supervised by government officials.

Even though President Muhammadu Buhari promised for his election to make the fight against Boko Haram and the return of the Girls his priorities it is unclear how active the terrorist group is now. Buhari late last year announced Boko Haram had been “crushed”. With the group, still in activity in Northern Nigeria and its surrounding countries Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris says, “A lot of people in Nigeria don’t believe that Boko Haram will simply release those girls after three years in captivity for nothing in return.”. This shows that even after the release of 21 girls last year and 82 now the population remains uncertain about their safety from the group and the power of the government.

Source:CNN

 

East African Community and European Union never ending ratification

With no agreement for the Economic Partnership between the European Union (EU) and the East African Community (EAC) in sight, the biggest question at this time is what is keeping the individual countries from finding common ground and if that could be expected soon.

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Source: Global Risk Insights

The region-to-region comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) seems to be a controversial topic. Even if there is no media coverage on the European continent. The  goals are aimed to strengthen the relationship between the EU and the EAC and drive forward development. The EPA agreement is centered around the trade of goods.

The main objective is to achieve a duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market and to open the EAC market gradually. This means that an equivalent of 82.6% imports from the EU will be liberalized and there will be no changes on the import taxes for the next 25 years.

The EU has been trying to work on a ratification of the EPA since 2007. It seems most countries have a common opinion on the trade and are all ready to contribute to the increasing business relations in East Africa. The further points about economical, health and rural development will all be run with existing EU funds that do not affect the individual countries of the EU directly.

The countries of EAC have made attempts since 2007 to  gain access to the European market. Kenya and Rwanda succeeded first with the EPA consolidating their commercial position. On the other hand, it brought disadvantages. Kenya belongs to middle-income economies so it will be charged by higher taxes if the  EAC does not sign the EPA and it will influence Kenya’s economy negatively.

Tanzania is still considering the pros and cons of signing the deal by running a study first but there are two countries that oppose the request. Without a study Tanzania will not sign the trade deal with the EU,with one of its important European business partner being the United Kingdom.The EPA seems inconvenient after Brexit and the deal could damage relations with China Tanzania’s main Investor.

The EU imposed trade sanctions against Burundi that caused civil unrest and unwillingness to make a deal. The latest country be involved in the intergenerational process was  South Sudan.

Uganda is also preparing to sign however prefers to wait for all countries of the EAC. Permanent Secretary, ministry of Trade, Amb. Julius Onen, said: “We are not going to allow EPA to disfranchise EAC. What is happening now is that this issue (EPA) is being blown out of proportion by a group of people.” it is not the end of the world for the EAC region. “Uganda does not want to see a weakened EAC, this is why as a country we are trying to see that we are all pulling from the same direction.”

Regarding the signing of the trade treaty between the EU and the EAC, the UN think tank has warned the EAC not to sign the deal. This is because they have made studies to look up how the deal would favor the East African countries nonetheless this deal would not have a positive impact in the trade of this countries. “UNECA says the removal of taxes on capital goods from Europe will cause the EAC accumulated revenue losses of $1.15 billion per year.”

To conclude, several countries of the EAC are still examining the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of the trade. Some of them,  disagree due to higher taxes and stronger competition from the EU, it is a complex agreement that will still be negotiated for several years.

Source: CTGN AFrica

A moment with the consul of Burkina Faso

Interviewee : Karidia K. Friggit, Burkina Faso Honorary Consul in Madrid
This interview was held in French, because it is our common mothertong both to the consul and me. Therefore here it is a translation from French to English.
«Me: What did you do before becoming consul ?
Karidia K. Friggit: Well, I have a master of English. Then I moved to London with my husband, and because of my children, I did not want to work. But I was working voluntarily in an association. The association was called London Detained Support Group. I heard difficult stories so I took psychology lessons, to understand people and put distance between them and I . Simultaneously, I made a degree of interpret, which allowed me to be more independent when I had meeting with lawyer and refugees. So we stayed 7 years in London and after we moved to Madrid. We created a foundation to build primary schools and high schools in Burkina Faso. It was notably to help girls who usually who drop out of school early. Then we were searching for a consulate in Madrid, for the foundation, but there was not any in Madrid. I began to help the Embassy to find a consul, then they ask me to assume it. So now I am honorary consul.

What is an honorary consul ? What is the difference with a general consul ?
Honorary means that I am not paid, like volunteerism. It is a honorary title for the good actions I make and to represent the government abroad. Many countries create honorary consuls because it costs nothing to the government, unlike an Embassy or a general consulate. There is an Embassy of Burkina Faso in Paris, and I represent it here in Spain. At the beginning I had my office at home. Fastly the work became important, so we decided to buy rooms in 2014. Since 2012 I am accredited, it means that I am working as a consul. I am leading the foundation and a master in Sciences Po Paris at the same time.
What does the job of consul consist in?
I make visas, I take care of Burkina people’s passports : I receive their file and I send them.
I am a listening ear for Burkina people’s personal problems. But I am not here to give solutions, I am here to listen them and to let themselves finding solutions. When they have administrative problems, I redirect them to lawyers.
I make also conferences about the situation in Burkina Faso. But it is quite difficult because we do not have all the information here, when there was the attacks, or the coup d’état for instance. We organize manifestations, such as one on the 8th March, for women, or cine debates. However, I don’t do anything when I receive eviction notices of undocumented people. But if an undocumented person from Burkina Faso come here, I will redirect him to a lawyer.
Is Burkina Faso’s community important in Spain?
I would say that we are almost 300 people from Burkina Faso in Madrid and almost 3 000 in Spain.

And must they all come to Madrid when they need help from the consulate ?
I forgot to say that there are four consulates in Spain. I am in Madrid, there is another in Valencia, another in Andalucia, Almeria, and in Barcelone. They were created according to the needs, because Spain is wide. Before it was the French embassy who was treating the visas, now it is me. So we create the consulates in the cities where there are many people from Burkina Faso and in the cities where there are people who wants to go to Burkina Faso, where there is an interest for the country, with a lot of associations related to for instance.

What about the relations between Spain and Burkina Faso ?
They are complicated. Before, Burkina Faso’s government had private relations with the Spanish government. Now the new Burkina Faso’s government, in power since last December, try to implement new relations. At the consulate, we try to organize meeting to welcome Burkina Faso’s leaders. But it is difficult for them to understand that now there is not a government in Spain. They do not understand either that they could more cultivate ties with the Communidades, which are strongly independent, such as Navarre, which is two times Burkina Faso’s GDP. They prefer to wait for the new Spanish government. Moreover there are many Spanish NGOs in Burkina Faso, they are really involved, such as Caritas, Manos Unidas, which work with my Foundation on a project over a school, los Amigos de Rimquieta, who are taking care of more than 300 children who are
living in Ouagadougou streets. That’s why, we have to work more on the cooperation between Spain and Burkina. There is also a bilateral cooperation between the two countries over the renewable energies, notably the solar energy, over the agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry. For instance for emergency medication, the notices are in Spanish so we try to cooperate to translate
them in French or English at least.»
Thanks to Karidia K. Friggit for answering my questions and to you Alana Moceri, to allow me to meet her.

Written by Ludivine Mouly

A lasting change of perspective

In February 2014 begun the second last cultural exchange between the two Tanzanian secondary schools Mkwakwani and Usugara, and the Norwegian high school Greveskogen VGS, in which six Norwegian students travel to Tanzania during the winter, followed by four Tanzanian students traveling to Norway in the month of May.

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James Magoma, Tanzania

James Magoma from Tanga, Tanzania and Mikkel M. Møystad from Nøtterøy, Norway, were two of the students who took part in the exchange project, funded by Vennskap Nord-Sør (Friendship North-South). In two separate interviews I got to hear some of the experiences Møystad and Magoma had from the exchange, as well as how they benefit from the experience 2 years after the exchange.

Before traveling to Tanzania, Møystad had very little knowledge about the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. He had some basic understandings of the situations regarding corruption and the generally lower standard of living, “I was surprised of how little I did know about the region” he said, going on to talk about how welcoming the people there were. He was surprised that the people of Tanzania was willing to give so much from themselves, when they didn’t necessarily have so much themselves.  

When asked about his expectations Magoma said he was looking forward to meeting new people, gaining new friends, being confronted with new cultures and finishing by saying, “none-the least enjoy myself”.

The project, arranged by the three schools involved is focusing on cultural exchange, friendship and demeanor towards cultures. Møystad and Magoma are both convinced that projects like this can be largely beneficial to the countries taking part in them. Møystad believes that he got to see a very honest side of Tanzania. In Western media we have a tendency to learn about the African continent as one place where people are poor and need our help. This project though, showed him both negative and positive sides of Tanzania. “I’m happy that I experienced Tanzania through a cultural exchange, because that makes me more capable to contribute with anything if I were to do a charity project later on”, he said. He also believes that the students from Tanzania got to see an honest version of Norway as well,

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Mikkel M. Møystad, Norway

showing them that Norway has faults, and that Norway can learn a lot from Tanzanian culture.

Magoma seemed to have the same view as Møystad, though he is also convinced that regular aid with regard to health and education is just as important. He believes that the project is very beneficial, not only to him, because, as he said it; “I normally share the experience I had in Norway with my colleagues. I might express to them how things are done there, and there are a lot of things that I see changing, through me.” James is also playing a leading role in student communities at his university, as well as his country, which is giving him the opportunity to share his experience with many people. He also experienced that the teachers that took part in the exchange changed as well: “Our teacher changed their perspectives. The way they face their students, the way they would associate with their colleagues and the way they teach. They improve.”

Magoma’s experience is reflected in Møystad’s view of what the students visiting Norway gained, experience-wise. Comparing the school-systems in both countries, one can argue that the Norwegian system works better. Møystad speaks about the Norwegian school system as a more open one, giving the students more freedom without leveraging the efficiency and outcome of the education. The Tanzanian schools suffer from often occurring absence of teachers in classes, and student misbehavior is punished with caning, which might differ in intensity from one school to another. Møystad is convinced that he got to portray a functioning school-system, where punishment of physical nature is unnecessary.

The different way of managing schools is not the only perspective Magoma brought home. In Tanzania there are generalized biases of the western cultures in the same that western cultures generalize Africa. “Many people say that all people in Europe is homosexual. But you learn that that is not true.” Many people also believe that there is no discipline or respect in the family structure. When sharing his experience with his friends and colleagues, Magoma changes their biases about family values and homosexuality.

Due to changes in the national budget in Norway, the project ended after the last group in 2015. The Norwegian government has argued that there is no effective, nor clear, benefit from such programs, a statement which is contradictory to Møystad and Magoma’s experience. Magoma has argued that the project is not efficient enough, but only because there were not more than two students from his school, Mkwakwani and two from Usugara that got to take part in it. He believes that the project could bring greater changes to his school and country if more people got the same experience as he did.

Written by Christer Myklebust.

Has the social , political and economic development of Sub Saharan Africa improved? Or are political efforts merely a “drop in the ocean?”

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Last Friday , I had the pleasure of  speaking with Dionisia Kiragu, former councilor for the small town of Embu , Kenya. I had interviewed Kiragu, to establish  if Sub Saharan Africa  had made any progress in its social and political stance in the world. Kiragu,  who worked for the local government in Embu during the years 1997-2002, gave me insight into her time in politics.  Although , it was clear from the beginning, that Kiragu, believes that her efforts to make change in her local town of Embu only amounted to “a drop in the ocean” .

 

As local councilor,  Kiragu’ s job involved policy making to ensure  the  social , economic and political development of Embu. Some of which included , road and housing construction as well as improving healthcare and “making the city green” by planting trees. However m,w hen asked about directly targeting poverty in Embu. Kiragu emphasised that poverty was “wide concept” and that in ways the local government did help actively in trying to eradicate poverty in that area, by constructing markets in which young men could make small business. Kiragu also mentioned that the local government produced bursaries and scholarship funds for those who could not afford school fees, but that such a high percentage  of the population are poor , not all get to benefit from such stating that it was just a “drop in the ocean”.

Kiragu, who at many times, seemed disheartened in speaking at how little progress had been made to eradicate change, left her political career in Kenya because she found politics  “to be very depressing” and instead moved to  England to pursue other things. However, her family are still very much involved in politics and when speaking of her , in fact her brother Kithinji Kiragu is running for governor of Embu in the next elections due to take place next year. “KK” as he is often referred to , had infact run for governor, last year  and despite winning the majority votes was not declared the winner as the elections had been rigged in order for his opponent to win.

When questioned on the issue of corruption, and how big of an issue it is Africa, Kiragu emphasised that it is a huge problem in Africa adding that , the political systems in many Sub-Saharan African states is very complicated ,due to ethnicity problems as various tribes speak different languages and that whilst the people may prefer a candidate, the President still  has a lot of power in deciding who they want in politics.

Kiragu further mentioned , that the electorial system is not independent and neither are the courts , therefore once someone is declared the winner it will be very hard to overturn that, and whilst you can petition , you waste money and time as cases are never ruled in time.Indeed, poverty and corruption are two major issues , that hinder progress in many Sub-Saharan countries and Kiragu highlights the two’s overlap stating that for “ the 1 or 2 percent that is so rich the money that the money that is supposed to be channelled into the the development  of the country, only half go to the hands of the poor”.

From Kiragu’s point of view , corruption stems from “poor leadership” , adding that until the quality of leadership is improved and until there are legitimate people committed to dealing with corruption, Kiragu believes that corruption will still be an issue for many African States.  When asked whether she thought the African Union were helping to improve leadership and how well it has done in achieving its purpose? She stated that, although, she might be biased, from her viewpoint the African Union have done “very little”  in addressing issues of good leadership or even corruption in Africa. Highlighting the case of the Kenyan elections in 2008 in which  the person running for election believed the elections had been rigged and the case had been brought before the International Court of Justice , in which many of the key witnessed had been either killed or bribed by the government, but  the African Union had rallied behind those people, so were not helpful in this situation.

Kiragu argues that in order for the African Union to be helpful in addressing the issues of Sub- Saharan Africa , she believes that  “political education is vital in saving  corruption”. .Adding that it has been achievable, with case of Malawai where their president had managed to solve the issue of food shortages in the country.

Finally ,as it seems  Kiragu is knowledgeable in politics and that needed to be done to make changed. I asked why she left politics.  Kiragu answered,  that the main reason was due to poverty, stating that many of the councilors she worked with were not interested in serving people, only earning money.  She became a councilor in order to make a positive contribution  stating that “people came to me with problems, but there was a limit to how many people I could help”, stating that she couldn’t be in an institution where you were only “accountable to the people elected?” “ As an ordinary voice , you can’t make the difference  you want to make and the efforts you do are merely a drop in the ocean. “

Dionisia Kiragu Interviewed by Gabriella Fernandez

Let’s connect Sub-Saharan Africa

We live in a highly connected world where there are few things that go by without it being spread all over the web. The internet, and the idea of being “connected” have become a major characteristic of our Western culture. On another side of the planet in Sub-Saharan Africa, progress is being made to bring that region into a “connected” culture. Africa is a large continent, with thousands of tribes and different languages. Exposing this region to an “online community” might bring the same unifying effect, we believe, as the language Swahili did in Tanzania.

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Picture retrieved from: Mistbreaker.com

The last annual report by internetsociety.org tells us that nearly half the worlds population is connected to the internet, most of whom are connected through the use mobile devices.This development has brought upon many changes to the way in which we go about our daily lives, bringing broader opportunities. The internet is a platform that is difficult to control. Iran for instance, as the Washington Post reports, continuously fail to keep its population off blocked websites like Facebook. The internet is a great place for likeminded people to meet, and can be an important tool for individuals in countries with restrictions to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as people can easily obtain anonymity and join forums to discuss cultural and political issues. In that sense, the internet can be a more effective tool for improving democracy than economic sanctions  will ever be.

The easy access to internet does of course come with its pitfalls, with issues like online drug markets and child pornography, but these issues aren’t unique to the internet and the online community. What is unique to the internet though, is the possibility to spread a common set of values in what we can call a “online public opinion”. If you go to popular “meme” and forum pages such as 9gag, reddit or imgur, you will see people across borders sharing images, often portraying a common set of values. These values are often in favor of democracy and against inequalities.

Furthermore, If we look at the possibilities regarding democracy, accessibility to internet would be a ground breaking means of educating  citizens and would encourage active political participation. Education, is of course the basis of democracy and indeed, people would then be  able to understand how the world is working and become critical on their own country’s functioning. Moreover, it goes without saying  that the Internet nowadays  can be regarded as the biggest resource of retrieving knowledge, as well as ideas from like minded people. By having access to Internet, literacy rates and knowledge on basic civil rights, health, sexuality, development and so on would rise exceptionally in all of Sub-Saharan Africa. It could perhaps also give citizens the means to  question dictatorships in this region, which are basically based on a form of obscurantism Internet access in this region would then  could then encourage future political participations for the generations to come. For example, Khan Academy is a free learning website where anyone who has access to Internet is then able to “learn anything”. The more , the people can access Internet, the more likelihood of younger generations gaining further education and knowledge to hopefully implement important sustainable changes in the region when they take over power positions.

Sub-Saharan Africa , however, still has a long way to go with only 17% of its population online, compared to North America’s 84%. But it’s growth rate is larger than most other regions. Projects to increase the internet access in the region are rare, but they exist. A satellite soon will be launched to provide internet to Africa according to Mark Zuckerberg. This project is held in partnership with the Facebook foundation, internet.org.

According to CNN  said Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org the following in a statement“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.”  The goal is to connect rural African areas to the internet. By this initiative, African people would be able to be interconnected but also connected to the whole world.The foundation also created ‘Free Basics’ which aims to provide basic mobile websites and services to mobile’s owners. Already, 85% of the world’s population lives in areas with existing cellular coverage so this project would be efficient to African people and increase their internet penetration rate. Half of the 40 Free Basics countries are now in Africa and Nigeria is the latest country to get access to its services dedicated to health, education, jobs, and finance. Mark Zuckerberg hopes also that internet connectivity would help to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development goals.

As this article argues, there are many aspects and benefits of the internet that intertwine. Through increasing internet access and exposing underdeveloped countries to the ideas of  “online public opinion”, we believe, it  can become a more effective  means compared to the traditional state-to-state aid. Giving people a platform to communicate is equivalent to making a platform to change. To change a society, people must connect. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from “severe distances”. The internet can virtually eradicate these distances and bring young people together. Rather than demanding the ruling generation to change, let’s give the next one a platform to do so.

 

Mombasa High Court: Kenya to declare anal examinations unconstitutional

Two men who were subjected to anal examinations to see if they had been involved in gay sex, have launched a case before the Mombasa High Court, calling for such tests to be declared unconstitutional.

Allegedly, following their arrest by Kenyan police in February 2015, the two men were also forced to take HIV and hepatitis tests on suspicion of homosexual activity. Like many African nations, homosexual activity is illegal in Kenya and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, although violations are rarely prosecuted.

The two men stated that they  had been inserted with a tube-like object, yet the doctors claim they only had “their private parts observed” while lying down. Neela Ghoshal a senior LGBT researcher spoke of her view of the treatment saying that;

“Anal examinations prove nothing, and they accomplish nothing, other than humiliating and demeaning people who are considered moral outcasts.”

The Independent supports such views, reporting that ,the use of anal examinations to uncover homosexual activity is medically useless.  Moreover, The Human Rights Watch addressed the issue by condemning the treatment as not only degrading, but that it could also amount to torture under international law.

A UN special rapporteur stated in a report this year that “In States where homosexuality is criminalized, men suspected of same-sex conduct are subject to non-consensual anal examinations intended to obtain physical evidence of homosexuality, a practice that is medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment.”

In accordance with international law, the Human Rights Watch report that such treatment violates Human Rights under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Un Convention Against Torture as well as  African Convention on Human and People’s rights. All in which are signed and adopted by the state of Kenya.

Nevertheless, many other Sub-Saharan countries, like Kenya, have also implemented strict policies. For many countries in this region homosexuality is more than just a subject of taboo. In fact, it  is illegal in 37 African countries (see map at the end of the article).

Last year Gambian president Yahya Jammeh declared: “We will fight these vermis called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.” Whilst in 2013, Uganda’s Parliament even passed an anti-homosexuality bill.

This topic seems to touch the entire African continent. Indeed, just last March, The Human Rights Watch claimed that Tunisia had prosecuted seven men for consensual same-sex intercourse and forcing some to undergo anal examinations

One of the seven students confessed: “ I felt like I was an animal, because I felt like I didn’t have any respect. I felt like they were violating me. I feel that even now. It’s very hard for me”.Human Rights Watch have called on the Tunisian parliament to cease using anal examinations as forensic evidence and to urgently decriminalize homosexuality.

Thus , to conclude,  the condemning of such acts  by many officials including the Human Rights Watch, despite the underlying issue of homophobic legislation throughout large parts of Africa, provides a strong case for the Mombasa High Court to declare such acts unconstitutional.

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Image retrieved from Washington Post