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.


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.

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


Al-Shabaab strikes again

During the night of 1 April 2015, four Al-Shabaab members crossed the border from Somalia to Kenya to attack the University in Garissa. The Al-Shabaab fighters  were armed and came into the university at night. They shot the two guards and entered the first building. In this building young (8-14 years) boys and girls were sleeping. During the attack, the attackers separated Muslims from Christians and shot dead those who did not subscribe to the same beliefs as them. One of the gunman was identified as the sun of a governmental official. 148 people died, included the four Al-Shabaab members.


Insurgents terrorizing the WestGate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

This was not the first time Kenya suffers an attack from this terrorist group. Kenya has been a victim of terrorist attacks of Al-Shabaab, for example the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 that took the lives of 67 people. It is been said that the reason Al-Shabaab is targeting Kenya  is because of the government’s decision in 2011. Decisions were made to provide troops to the African Union Mission (AMISOM) in Somalia.

This peacekeeping mission , which acts on three different components, (civilian, military and maritime) is created to establish peace and order. The military component was mainly created to root out Al-Shabaab from its strongholds in south and central Somalia. So far this operation has been very successful and pushed Al-Shabaab out of much of southern Somalia including major towns and cities. But the latest and most gruesome attack of Al-Shabaab was the University attack in Garissa on the second of April which took the lives of 148 people.

In its origins, Al-Shabaab, which is the Arabic translation of “youth”, was founded in 2004 and was a part of the Islamic Court Union until 2006. The ICU was a part of the sharia-courts that wanted to bring peace and order into Somalia by fighting the local warlords. In 2006 the ICU controlled most of Somalia and started fighting Ethiopia for more ground control. They lost this battle, and that is when Al-Shabaab split from the ICU.

The Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahidin, or the faction known today as Al-Shabaab, was founded in 2006 in Mogadishu (Somalia), as a militant, terrorist group which mission is to turn Somalia into an Islamic state. It is estimated that this group contains an amount of members between 7.000 and 9.000 fighters.  This terrorist group is often linked to, and works closely with, the East-African Al Qaida cell which attacked US embassy’s in Tanzania and Kenya. Al-Shabaab is still trying to conquer Somalia and wants to turn this into an Islamic state which is based on the principles of the Koran.



A classroom after in the Garissa University after the attack

On the 6th of April 2015, the Kenyan military launched airstrikes against Islamic extremists group Al-Shabaab in Somalia. This was the first response of Kenya after the attack in Garissa. Several days after this attack Al-Shabaab spread a  message into the media : “Kenyan cities will run red with blood.” The president of Kenya, Kenyatta, gave directly a response : “We will fight terrorism to the end. I guarantee that my administration shall respond in the fiercest way possible.”


 The map of Kenya with it’s borders

After the attack in Garissa, the people of Kenya said they didn’t feel safe anymore in their country. Most of them lost faith in their government. ” Where was the government? They failed to protect their people,” a local high-school student told  Time. The people of Kenya belief that this attack could have been avoided if the government would not be corrupt. During Kenyatta’s speech he told the people that things will and have to change from now on. He doesn’t want to let the nation wait anymore. One of the first things he did to assure the safety of the Kenyans is a visible military presence from sunset to sunrise. He also directed the enrollment of 10 000 police recruits.The people hope that the corruption will stop taking over the higher institutions and that this problem will be solved as soon as possible.

South Africa: From the End – to be continued…

Despite the positive outlook that the region has effortlessly achieved thanks to social development policies, the latest events taking place in the country of Nelson Mandela have put South Africa back in the spotlight, this time for not so categorical reasons: xenophobic attacks towards African immigrants in multiple cities. Hundreds of black immigrants have been forced to flee to their countries of origin in the past weeks due to xenophobic attacks propitiated by South African indignados, deeply concentrated in the city of Durban, where seven were killed on Friday 25th April. Out of the seven dead, three of them were nationals and four kwerekwere, a term used in the country when referring to African immigrants in a derogatory way. The situation has become so critical for African immigrants that the governments of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have initiated the process of repatriation for their nationals. Despite the chaos of these days, South Africa does not face a new current of xenophobia, but it suffers a resurgence of a movement that has barely been propagated. After the apartheid, which was supposed to mean the end of an era where race categorized citizens, peace lasted little as xenophobic attacks intensified. Between 2000 and 2008, over 67 people were killed in similar outbreaks. 2008 was the year of uprisings and the record-breaking period of the twenty-first century, leaving 62 people dead behind. The situation subsides substantially after the issue was tackled by the government through dismantling the pro-xenophobic meetings in different areas of Cape Town. This prevented any incidences from happening during the 2011 World Cup. With this background, it would be easy to consider South Africa the place where racial differences are left aside, however the current economic crisis lashing the country has contributed to the resurgence of the movement. The reason for these attacks is clear and justifiable for the perpetrators: the arrival of African immigrants leaves the South Africans with less job opportunities. Real statistics show surprising results, well known by the South African population. The Migration for Work and Research Consortium (MiWORC) is in charge of examining the effect of South African immigration. Research found that only 4% of the total population aged 15-64 were “international migrants”, which are only 1,2 million out of the more than 33 million people in the country. The racial breakdown of these statistics reveal that 79% of international migrants are African, 17% are considered white and 3% are Indian or Asian. Despite these facts, only 14.86% of international immigrants are unemployed, against a 30% of nationals. This can be due to the lowering of salaries for African migrants and the working conditions. Even so, the results are rather discomforting for South Africans, especially for King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulu tribe, one of the most populous in South Africa, who has been considered by many the responsible for this year’s outrage. Three weeks prior to the attacks, King Zwelithini openly asked in Durban, “[…] those who come from outside to please go back to their countries”. After being accused, he denied such statement arguing, “if it were true that I sparked the xenophobic violence, this country would have been reduced to ashes”, referring to his influence in the country. Being the remedy worse than the disease, this last statement was unanimously criticized by the media as well. As opposed to this wave of xenophobic events, peace marches defending human rights and supporting immigrants have been propagated up and down the country, as not all South Africans feel represented by the perpetrators.

First Radio Sub-Saharan Africa

Radio Sub-Saharan Africa

Radio Sub-Saharan Africa


Due to the recent events that took place in the past months, everyone had finally realised what Ebola is; a threat.

Curiously, we suddenly changed our minds about this infection when it spread to our countries, to our homes. Was Ebola a threat or a matter to take into account before its expansion? Were we really conscious of the situation of the main affected areas? And the most important question: have we done enough to help the citizens affected in those areas? We believe we definitely didn’t. Let´s focus on the sub-Saharan Africa region.

First of all, western countries governments have not send sufficient medical aids, and when they did, almost 18,600 African citizens were infected and other 7,000 had already died.

In fact, not only medicines are needed. To fulfil the treatment against Ebola, basic means such as drinking water are extremely important. The treatment focuses mainly on the blood and water loss and without these means the treatment would be completely useless. The precarious conditions suffered by many African states such as Nigeria makes that treatment impossible to carry out.

Ebola outbreaks in the last years and number of victims. Retrieved from   http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-05/mapping-worlds-ebola-outbreaks

Ebola outbreaks in the last years and number of victims. Retrieved from http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-04-05/mapping-worlds-ebola-outbreaks

It is true that national and international organizations (World Bank, United Nations, and World Health Organization, for instance) are investing and providing financial help to the most affected African countries, but due to the economic crisis suffered by countries like Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leona, that budget is definitely not enough.

More than 1,600 million of dollars are being lost due to the lack of tourism that just makes the situation much more untenable than it was. Also the close of frontiers that has been implemented in Western countries and the reduction of trade is a measure that clearly contradicts itself: investing money to improve the situation and then forgetting about the possible effects of the non-expansion measures. According to the ECA (Economic Commission for Africa), “the decrease of sales in markets and shops, the lack of activity in restaurants and hotels would make the Ebola expansion not just a health issue but an economic one”.

Secondly, the Ebola virus multiplies in West Africa, but this epidemic has killed in western countries only 1,500 people in 35 years. We have to take into account that Ebola is a haemorrhagic fever virus, which is extremely contagious and causes death in 80% of cases.

The fact that nowadays the governments and the international authorities can’t control hurriedly and efficiently a disease like Ebola, reflects some kind hypocrisy very common of well-developed countries.

Actually, a few cases in Europe (Spain, France, the United-Kingdom) and in USA, cause a global alarm whereas thousands of cases per day are diagnosed in Africa. It is surprising that the financial aid sent by Cuba clearly surpasses the one sent by Europe, a region that claims to have a brilliant and solid health system.

Why not sending much more help and financing investigation? Maybe because developing a vaccine costing millions of euros and takes years. As mentioned before, the disease has so far caused 1,500 deaths in 35 years. Definitely, the development of a vaccine would be unprofitable for laboratories as not enough cases affect their areas.

However, when the disease arrives to Europe or even the USA, these countries become to be really aware of the infection and start to take it seriously.

Are we only going to care about a world issue such as Ebola when it could be a threat for us, the members of the developed countries?

Thirdly, since the beginning of the Ebola propagation, many NGO’s plans to eradicate the disease in West Africa estimated the needed around 250 billions of euros. The truth is that a great part of the financial aid came from countries that suffered of the infection. Kenya sent 170 doctors, Ghana became the logistics centre of the UN, Nigeria sent more than 250 medical professionals to three of the most affected areas and provided more than 3,5 millions of dollars to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leona. Also countries such as Ivory Cost and Namibia donated more than a million dollars. According to the Director of Social Affairs of the African Union Olawale Maiyegun,the African response has been tremendous and reflects a huge sense of solidarity because of the lack of resources that these countries possess”.

Meanwhile, the disease continues its expansion in the Africa continent. Surely we often hear and read in the media that there are problems to develop a vaccine or develop a really effective treatment. The truth is that the cases that affected Spain, for instance, have been treated and cured in a 100%, while in Africa the 80% of the cases end up in the death of the patient.

One question can be asked in order to explain this paradox: Did the different organisations invest accurately on the disease’s treatment and cure in Africa?

Just to keep providing some data, according to the Global Burden Disease Compare website created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the illnesses related with contagious infections and communicable diseases in general are the main causes of the 68,46% mortality rate in Africa. On the other hand, in Western Europe, only the 4,24% of mortality is represented by this kind of diseases. Casualty?

In conclusion, there is a need to not only to provide medical aids, but funding to encourage the creation of infrastructure to make African countries strong and able enough to combat diseases by themselves. The global aim should not be only to stop the expansion of Ebola in Africa, but to reaffirm their health system and turn weak countries into solid ones.

It could also help if Western countries start to treat infected citizens as human beings, not only as walking viruses.



Mr Ban Ki Moon, during the meeting of the AU

During the day of the 31h of January, the general secretary of the ONU has taken the decision on the African Union (AU) to create an African regional force to fight against the army of Boko Haram Boko Haram.

The General Secretary of the UN, Mr Ban Ki-moon, on Saturday 7th, had coped with the idea of a regional force from the African Union to fight against the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, which come to conduct further deadly attacks in northern Cameroon. Denouncing the brutality unnamed of the militia Boko Haram, Mr Ban Ki-Moon felt that the situation need a “regional and international cooperation” to fight against the group.

The AU will then request a resolution of the UN Security Council for the deployment of the force, according to Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the organization. The AU also plans to ask the UN to create a fund to finance it.

“Africans are willing to send their troops to the effort, but it is also morally important that the UN and the international community are alongside the Africans for this fight, which is not unique to Africa” according to Chergui. The United Nations could consider participating in this regional force by bringing “advisers and logistical support,” according to a diplomat. Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin had already agreed end of 2014 to establish a force of 3,000 men to fight against Boko Haram, but because of disagreements between Abuja and its neighbours, this force was not still operational.

The soldats deployed against Boko Haram

The soldats deployed against Boko Haram

Since 2009, more than 13000 people died because of the attacks of this world known terrorist group, and more than 1 million of people were displaced. Definitely, the entire globe needs to take into account this worrying situation and little by little international organizations are starting to react and avoid unnecessary deaths.

The strategy that is going to be followed in order to solve this conflict has already being supported by the African Union. The next step is to get the support of the United Nations Security Council so that finally economic help could be achieved in order to start the military mission.

The Commissioner of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, Smail Chergui, informed about the UN intention to create a force composed by 75000 man and woman. This force has the aim to avoid the terrorist group expansion that has caused the declaration of states of emergency regions like Chad, Niger or Cameroon.

According to Ban Ki-Moon, Boko Haram has “committed unspeakable brutalities. These terrorist group should be fought thanks to regional and international cooperation”. Journalists affirmed that during the AU Summit many military experts agreed to debate in deep the possibility of creating a regional armed force in a meeting that took place between the 5th and 7th of February, although no news have been reported.

According to Dlamini-Zuma, the president of the AU Commission, Boko Haram “has already spread beyond the Nigerian borders, so the situation requires a collective, effective and decisive response”.