The Woyingi Blog

Woyingi Links of the Week: August 1 2012 to August 7 2012

What the Woyingi Blogger stumbled upon this week


Police Raid on Historic Ugandan Pride Event

Ugandan GLBTTQ rights activists in Entebbe organized a historic weekend of Pride events, including a private beach party and march. Unfortunately, the party was raided by police and several activists were arrested, although they were eventually released without charge. The fact that charges were not laid is not surprising as the bill to make the “promotion of homosexuality” illegal has not been passed in parliament yet. The beach party and march was organized as a private event, in order to avoid police attention, however, it appears that the police were notified somehow. Jamaican GLBTTQ rights activist Maurice Tomlinson was the Grand Marshall of Uganda Beach Pride March, which took place on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens on the banks of Lake Victoria. He was also arrested during the raid. Tomlinson, who was the first winner of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award, in honour of murdered Ugandan GLBTTQ Rights activist David Kato, had this to say about the experience, quoted in an article by Dan Littauer in Gay Star News:

After a very confusing and utterly disgraceful performance at the station by the police (including the officers insisting we all sit on the bare floor until we were processed, one officer pushing a young female to the floor and another verbally abusing the 60-year-old female anthropologist from Makerere University) we were all released without charges or an explanation.

Prominent Ugandan GLBTTQ rights activists Frank Mugisha, winner of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Kasha Nabagesera, founder of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), a Lesbian rights organization, and winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, were also arrested and eventually released without charge. After the arrests, FARUG published a press release condemning the police raid and calling for activists to not be deterred from continuing with further pride-related events.

Comparing Conflict Resolution in Bosnia and Uganda

A Bosnian colleague of mine, Jasmin Mujanović, forwarded me this article by Ugandan activists Richard Obedi. The article is entitled “Bosnia – identity should go hand-in-hand with reconciliation“. Obedi, based on his experience working on conflict resolution in Uganda, shares his reflection on possible solutions to the Bosnian situation. I found this really refreshing because I really want to see more exchanges like this between activists from different countries where there has been violent conflict because they are in a far better position to understand each other’s situations and offer advice than people who have not lived through violent conflict. Obedi describes the current situation in Uganda:

Ever since Uganda attained its independence, the country’s youth have been confronted with social economic and political problems, whose root causes have not been effectively addressed. There is increasing ethnic tensions, acute land pressures, widening economic divides, deepening socio-political cleavages and corruption. Ethnicity, politics and economy intersect to shape Ugandan society across the whole country. Country-wide, Ugandans identify more closely with their respective tribal identities than with the broader Ugandan national identity. Other problems include civil conflicts, land conflicts, corruption, ineffective and inappropriate education systems, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, rapid population growth and abject poverty.

However, Obedi concludes his article on a hopeful note, offering possible routes out of conflict for both Ugandan and Bosnian society:

Reconciliation is important in conflict prevention, co-existence and nation building. It is an over-arching process which includes the search for truth, justice, forgiveness and healing. It involves finding a way to live alongside former enemies; not necessarily to love them, or forgive them, or forget the past in any way, but to foster sense of co-existence and co-operation that lays the basis for a better life together. BiH urgently needs to pursue a comprehensive process of national reconciliation. And of course, this should be executed in good faith and in a manner that achieves sustainable peace and development, whilst building a dynamic and harmonious society.

Richard Obedi, a graduate of Makerere University’s Population Studies Program, is the founder of The Populace Foundation-Uganda. The humanitarian organization promotes reconciliation and peace-building among conflict-affected communities. The organization is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan and focuses on the particular needs of vulnerable communities such as women, children, and the elderly. The Foundation has worked on resolving conflicts between the Acholi and Karamojong peoples of Northern Uganda.


Luanda-The Most Expensive City in the World

British journalist Barbara Jones with the Daily Mail visited Luanda, which she considers to be the most expensive city in the world. In this article, she notes the staggering prices of many items in Luanda. She writes:

A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs £7,500 a month to rent. A pizza is £16, tomatoes sell for £7.33 per pound and gym membership will set them back a staggering £5,000 a year. Only the guns are cheap. An AK-47 costs just £19.

Luanda’s is so expensive because everyone wants a piece of it, as Angola is not the second-largest African oil exporter after Nigeria, there is money to be made here. Jones writes:

But this is an oil-rich country that looks forward to a predicted 12 per cent growth in its economy this year. While major powers lick their wounds over collapsing markets, Angola strides forward at breakneck speed, confident of double-digit growth for years to come.

Shiny new shopping malls and satellite cities of condominiums and bungalows are springing up to hasten Luanda into the 21st Century.

Expats are attracted by generous salary packages, free private education for their children, a driver and 4×4 and two business-class trips home each year. No wonder Mercer, a leading firm of financial analysts, has put Luanda at the top of its annual expat cost-of-living survey more than once, as has the respected ECA International ranking system.

Politicians hanging on to power, super-rich businessmen with government connections, Chinese construction companies and expat oil executives – everyone wants a piece of the opulence that is today’s Luanda.

Even Angola’s former colonizer, Portugal, is coming to look for a piece of the action, as Jones writes:

Two weeks ago, Portugal’s Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho came with his begging bowl. Formerly the colonial master of Angola, Portugal is now broke and in debt, its economy shrinking by almost three per cent this year.

Passos Coelho manfully announced that ‘this is a good time to strengthen our bilateral relations’ and Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos somehow managed to keep a straight face. ‘We are aware of Portugal’s difficulties and we are open and available to help,’ was his careful reply.

There won’t be bailouts from Angola, but massive and canny investment. Angola is effectively buying Portugal, a supreme irony.

The country that plundered the African state for more than 300 years for its slaves and its natural resources now watches helplessly as Angolans buy up prime real estate in Lisbon and develop luxury housing where its politicians, its army generals and its businessmen smugly install themselves for long holidays.

But this wealth is only being enjoyed by a fraction of the population. Jones writes:

Two-thirds of Luanda’s five million residents live in shanty-town squalor. Sheltering beneath little more than cardboard and planks of wood, families cook over open fires, scavenging through rubbish on the street.

Billions would need to be spent to make Luanda an attractive destination. Venturing up to the eighth-floor cocktail bar of the Hotel Baia overlooking the South Atlantic, it is disturbing to look out of a picture window and into the pitiful lives of shack-dwellers who have set up home on a dirty mudbank.

Small children and mongrel dogs play with plastic rubbish in the filth, wading into a putrid-smelling lagoon that serves as their lavatory. There is no electricity, no running water. Along with two-thirds of the country’s population, these people live on less than £1.28 a day.

During Angola’s civil war between the Russian and Cuban-supported People’s Movement For The Liberation Of Angola (MPLA) and the American and South African-supported National Union For The Total Independence Of Angola (UNITA) guerrilla forces – the last knockings of the Cold War – millions of families fled the countryside for the comparative safety of Luanda city.

Here they have lived the life of refugees ever since. Their rural areas are strewn with land mines, agriculture and industry was destroyed. There is nothing to return to.

A lot of this poverty will continue due to government corruption. Tranparency International ranks Angola 168 out of 183 on its corruption perception index in 2011.

Exploited Zimbabwean Migrants Working in Angola

I found a story about exploited Zimbabwean migrant workers in Angola on the Transparency International website. According to Transparency  International:

Eager to find work, Leeroy told us how he had responded to an advert calling for professionals in the electrical, plumbing and carpentry field to work in Angola. He said that the recruitment company – a foreign owned firm – helped process the visas for him, and five of his colleagues, enabling them to emigrate to Angola.

After working in Angola for a month, Leeroy says he and his colleagues were suddenly informed by their employer that they had not been issued working visas, but humanitarian ones. Apparently the recruitment firm had told Leeroy that Zimbabweans are poor and would work for free food and accommodation instead of a salary.

Far away from home and without an income, it is easy to see how many people could become trapped in a cycle of dependency – becoming homeless and jobless if you refuse. In fact, Leeroy and his colleagues only managed to come back home after the intervention of the Zimbabwean embassy in Angola.

On their return to Zimbabwe they came to Transparency International – Zimbabwe’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, told us their story and asked how to lodge a complaint against the recruitment company.


The Sterilization of HIV-Positive Women in Namibia

The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized. The women filed the case back in 2009 and were supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). It all started when the women came to public hospitals and requested caesarean sections in order to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to their newborns. They were told that they could only have the procedure done if they agreed to be sterilized at the same time. This judgement allows the women to pursue damages against the government. However, it is a bittersweet victory because the court dismissed the claim that the women were discriminated against because they were HIV-positive. According to the article about the case in IRIN:

“We were not very happy with the judge’s decision on discrimination – maybe it’s the way we presented the case, focusing more on informed consent than on discrimination – we will talk to our lawyers and strategize on whether to appeal or accept the judgment,” said Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet, executive director of the Namibian Women’s Health Network, which assisted in bringing the case to court.


Nigerian Gets International Dentistry Award

Prof. Emmanuel Adekeye, the first professor of dental surgery, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, received a Lifetime Achievement award for his work on maxillofacial deformities.  He received the award at the 2012 Biennial World Cleft Lip and Palate Congress, which took place in Mahe in Seychelles. According to Chidi Okoye writing in the Daily Times:

Adekeye, a University of Edinburgh alumnus, pioneered oral and maxillofacial surgery in the northern part of the country, and played a foremost role in the conception and establishment of the surgery department of the ABU Teaching Hospital.

During his 30 years of active service, the professor had over 70 publications both in local and international journals. He also trained more than 16 Nigerians and Ghanaians as residents in oral and maxillofacial surgery, up to consultant status.


First Gay Kenyan to Run for Political Office

Daniel Kuria, founder of the Kuria Foundation for Social Enterprise,  is running for a Senate seat in Kiambu County, Kenya. Why this is news-worthy is because he is the first openly gay Kenyan to run for political office. In an interview with Identity Kenya, The Kenya Sexual and Gender Minorities News Service, discussed his campaign:

I think the issue of sexual orientation may come up. I do not think it has any bearings on my capacity for leadership, and I will certainly be urging listeners and Kiambu voters in particular to look at the leadership qualities.

One of the things that we shall also address is ethnic entrepreneurship, where we the people have become commoditised on the basis of our ethnic origins. So the ethnic kingpins ‘own’ us and trade among themselves into coalitions – on the basis of the size of the people they ‘own.’ This is neo-slavery and the saddest part of it is that most of us are willingly taken ourselves into this form of slavery.


Haiti’s Gold Rush

Jane Regan, coordinator of Haiti Grassroots Watch, was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, about Hait Grassroots Watch’s report “Gold Rush in Haiti!: Who Will Get Rich?” The shortened version of report was published in The Guardian and also in Haïti Liberté. The investigation was made possible in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and discusses the activities of two mining companies in Haiti, Eurasian Minerals and Newmont Mining Corporation. In her interview, Ragan explains that she found about about this situation from a Haitian farmer and community radio journalist. According to Regan:

This story was brought to the attention of me and my students, who are all Haitian investigative journalism students, by a guy who’s probably about 65 years old. And it was a—he had a letter in his hand that said that Eurasian Minerals has the right to explore in 16 communities. And he said, “We’re worried because we heard that gold mining can sometimes pollute the water, and we’re farmers.”

Regan dismisses the argument that these companies will bring jobs to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere:

Well, hundreds of jobs in a country of 10 million people, and you’re taking out how many acres or hectares of agricultural land? And also, these are very low pay—they’re low-wage jobs. Haiti has been through these mining booms before. Reynolds was in there exploiting bauxite. There was a Canadian company in there that took away a lot of copper. I think at the boom period, there were 900 people working for a couple of bucks a day. So, that’s not really the way to develop Haiti or help the country fill its state coffers.

The most important thing is for Haiti to look around the hemisphere at countries who are doing a good job of trying to protect the interests of their country and of the environment at the same time as they take advantage of what’s under the soil. So, for instance, Cuba, where nickel is—the nickel mining is owned mostly by the government; or Peru, where they’ve now started to push back against the very company, Newmont Mining; Bolivia—Morales government says, “Yeah, we have lithium. We’ll exploit the lithium. Thank you very much. If we need your help, we’ll call on you.”