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

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

 

Interviewing Auxi Reula Arasanz, AMREF Spain.

AMREF Flying Doctors motto-logo

For this interview on the sub-Saharan topic, I focus my attention in one of the main aspects of relation between western countries and Africa: the cooperation. At this point in our blog on this thrilling region we saw most of issues related with conflicts, civil wars, health diseases, natural disaster and so all. But not all is bad news, and no whole Africa is a country.

Is actually one of the most developing areas of the world, and where we can see many progress in the democratic institutionalization of some countries. It’s true that some colonizing links still existing and these connections are, in some cases, holding up the correct evolution of a society which is demand for this progress.

In a more Eurocentric vision of the Sub-Saharan issue, the questions are about what we can do, and how we can help for the long awaited African progress, without a neocolonial attitude and without interfering on the natural evolutionary process of societies. There is two main ways: the institutional way in which the European governments should help in the building of a correct and democratic politic society (democratic institutionalism) and the other way is the one in which the NGO’s must work for the health, and the social issues, that will contribute in the composition of a strong social tissue; building with that a social society, which is essential in a truly and freedom democracy. These two concepts are in the Gramsci idea of the “superstructure” of any government, for our (their) purpose: democratic states.

Eduardo and Auxi at the AMREF office in Madrid.

With Mrs. Auxi Reula at the AMREF office in Madrid.

For this purpose, I had the chance to interview Mrs. Auxi Reula, current Project Manger of AMREF Flying Doctors Spain, and AMREF Spain is associated with AMREF international. As she explained, the organization has here a different juridical situation, but with the same objectives and principles. 

Obviously, my first question was about the organization, the work they do, and what kind of projects they are implementing. She told me that the African Medical and Research Foundation, Flying Doctors, was created in 1957 by three surgeons: Sir Archibald McIndoe, Sir Michael Wood and Tom Rees. These doctors start doing their work in East Africa driving a plane over this region, trying to reach the remotest corners. This project is now the most important African NGO, in which the 93% of the people working are from Africa. And to do a better work, AMREF international (headquartered in Nairobi –Kenya-) has created an international network of the organization to optimize and improve their work. In Spain, AMREF flying doctors establish three main acting points:

  1. Fundraising and membership recruitment (in Spain).
  2. Networking with civil society (mainly medical staff) and governments (in Africa).
  3. Advocacy of medical interests (a kind of lobbying for the medical interests of African states).

And they base their work and projects following six lines of preferential action:

Main actuation countries of AMREF Spain (Red)

  • AIDS, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Malaria.
  • Family health,child health, women’s health.
  • Waterand purification systems.
  • Training local health workers and editing medical manuals.
  • Medical services and training to remote rural populations through the Flying Doctors 

With this, and to be more effective, they scoop their projects in seven countries:

  • South-Africa (to focus on Austral Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Senegal (west-africa)
  • Ethiopia
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Kenya (headquarter)

At this point my impression of this organization was very positive. Their work is objective and pragmatic, and focuses on structural problems, and not only in the juncture of single or critical situation. By creating a solid relationship between the local governments and training the native population in medical matters, they contribute tobuilda stable network of medical care. As the saying goes: Teach them to fish, and you will not have to give them fish every day”.

In the second part of the interview she told me about the work of AMREF Spain, and the projects carried. In their work, it’s very important the fundraising and the communication with the local administrations. It’s mainly technical and administrative work which will materialize in concrete actions in the place. AMREF Spain is so an organization serving AMREF international and have to respond the needs and acting plans required from the headquarters in Africa. They are also getting more involved in digital communication as an inexpensive way to publicize their activities, in places where they are not yet known, as in Spain. An example of that, is the  Twitter account they started for Spain, in the last November:

But the main part of their work in Spain is the fundraising, and in terms of this, the most interesting data is the proportion of donations between the public and the private, which is now in 75% and 25%, respectively. As she could tell me, the situation of the public administrations in Spain is very bad at these moments (because the “crisis”), when they have always been the major donors of the AMREF programs. The current situation has significantly increased the percentage of private contributions, but without falling into the trap: the corporate solidarity of Spanish companies still not rooted as social action (in contrast to countries like USA, where is widespread).

We ended the interview talking about the major project being carry out by AMREF, and in which is also working AMREF Spain. The project is calling “Stand Up For African Mothers”. As starts the song: “in sub-Saharan Africa, 1/39 mothers are at risk of dying during pregnancy and child-birth. No woman should die giving life…” The message seems clear; the situation of mothers is very vulnerable before infections or illness occurring in the pregnancy, and many of them end up dying. In one of the main AMREF actuation countries, South Sudan, the rate is 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births (assuming that the fertility rate is 4.6 children per woman, results that nearly 10% die because of pregnancy).  That’s an unaffordable statistic, not only for the excessive human loss; but also for the social damage. As Mrs. Auxi points, apart from the human lives, the social value of the women in the African communities is enormous; both for the development, and for a family care lacking the minimum government social assistance. Therefore, this campaign aims to combat the problem; launching mechanisms for the training of midwives and medical staff to help in pregnancies. In this way, the most symbolic initiative of this campaign was to purpose the figure of the midwife (“accoucheuse”), for the Peace Nobel Prize.

We thought, along with Mrs. Auxi, that the best way to end this interview was providing a donation pathway for this campaign (Stand Up For African Mothers); and therefore anyone could participate, which in my opinion, is one of the best NGOs in Africa (if not the best, for all that was mentioned above).

Colabora con AMREF

Supports AMREF

Eduardo García Canal, UEM.