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GHANA ALLOWS VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR AFRICANS IN STEP TOWARDS CONTINENTAL PASSPORT
July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

BY *

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghanaian President John Mahama

Ghana has begun offering visas upon arrival to all African nationals, a step towards creating a continent-wide zone of free movement.

The West African country rolled out the policy on Friday, allowing citizens of African Union (AU) member states to get visas for up to 30 days upon arriving in the country. Fifty-four African countries are members of the AU—the only country not in the bloc is Morocco, which resigned its membership in 1984 due to a row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Ghana already allows visa-free travel for citizens of countries belonging to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)—a regional economic bloc consisting of 15 countries including Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. ECOWAS citizens will not be affected by the new policy.

It marks a step towards the vision outlined by the AU in its Agenda 2063 policy document, which includes the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all the continent’s countries by 2018. The AU is also introducing an African passport at a summit in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July, which will initially be available only to heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of member countries at the AU. The AU eventually wants to roll the passport out among all African citizens.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama announced the policy in his state of the nation address in February, saying that the measure would “stimulate air trade, investment and tourism.” The decision was commended by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said that she was convinced “many other African countries will follow suit, in the interest of achieving an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.”

But while welcoming the measure as potentially leading to increased air traffic into Ghana, airline operator Gloria Wilkinson warned that the country would have to ensure its security measures were tight to prevent possible abuse of the system. Wilkinson, the country manager of South African Airways, told Ghana’s Citi Business News that she was “confident that [the] government has considered the security aspect of such an initiative.” A leaked memo from Ghana’s Immigration Service suggested that Ghana and Togo were the next targets for militants following attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast since November 2015.

*Newsweek

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Mario Balotelli defends Ghana snub
July 5, 2016 | 0 Comments
Balotelli

Balotelli

Italy striker Mario Balotelli has no regrets over his decision to commit his international future to the four-time world champions ahead of Ghana.

 Born to Ghanaian immigrants in Palermo, the frontman had courted interest from both countries, but opted to stay with Italy, having represented them at various youth levels.

The 25-year-old has, however, been frozen out of the Azzurri set-up since the 2014 Fifa World Cup for an uninspiring club form.

“Ghana wanted me to play for them, but that was never going to happen,” Balotelli told Corriere della Sera.

“At the same time, none of this chaos would’ve happened either. I know it seems rough to say this, but if that moment of crisis had arrived when I had to make my decision, I don’t know if I would’ve chosen to play for Italy.

“Two years ago, I reached the point of calling my agent and telling him I didn’t want to play for Italy anymore.

“It’s not right. I was born in Italy, grew up in Italy, I’ve never even been to Ghana – even if I will go – so for the law, it’s only right that I am Italian.

“In order to get that certificate, which I hung up in my front hall, I spent hours queuing up at the authorities every year. Sometimes I’d like those who insult me by saying there are no black Italians to remember that.”

Balotelli has 33 caps and 13 goals for Italy.

*Goal/Yahoo

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The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Anne Frugé*

AFRICAN_LEADERS_MUST_BE_BORN_AGAIN_0.26188900_1434106807__thumbOn June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

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Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Obi Anyadike*

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 - Obi Anyadike/IRIN

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 – Obi Anyadike/IRIN

The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.

Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.

But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.

The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.

What happens now?

The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.

Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces

But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.

AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.

Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.

Who pays the piper

The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”

The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.

Ugandan soldier AMISOM
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Ugandan soldier AMISOM

At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.

“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”

Tricky two-step

According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.

First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.

The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.

Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.

Burden-sharing

The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.

Ugandan AMISOM APCs Mogadishu
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
AMISOM staging area, Mogadishu

“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.

Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.

In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.

The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.

It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.

But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”

Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.

*IRIN NEWS

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A Trip to Nairobi Inspired This One-of-a-Kind Company
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

I majored in biology in college and thought I’d become a doctor. But I also wanted to travel. So as a way to do both, I spent years with international humanitarian organizations. The work was satisfying, but the social life was challenging: My colleagues would go back to their hotel at night — in part because they were almost all older than me, but also because they were fearful of the potentially unsafe, unfamiliar cities we were in. I didn’t want to be this far from home and not experience a place fully, so I often went out. And I discovered amazing things.

From a rooftop party at an advertising agency to road-tripping across the country for a DJ set, I was exposed to a side of Africa I’d never seen before. These were cosmopolitan movers and shakers, but distinctly African. In 2011, I met up with a photographer in Johannesburg; through her lens, I met entertainers, artists and other influencers. A year later, I connected with a sorority sister in Nairobi, Kenya, who was working on MTV’s African youth culture series Shuga. The show’s producer, fashion designer and filmmaker took me out to restaurants and nightclubs, and I had the time of my life.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. People weren’t exposed to this Africa, and I wanted to connect visitors to it — not just by talking about these amazing things, but by directing people to them.

I spent the next year or so developing Tastemakers Africa, a company to book epic experiences, with epic people, in every African city. In February 2014, I went to Lagos for Social Media Week to show off my early-stage mockup. My session was packed, which confirmed that I was really onto something. I was working for another NGO at the time but quit and joined MediKidz, a VC-backed healthcare startup, to learn more about building a company. The cofounder, Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, was a sales genius. She was super-transparent with me about her funding process, and I saw a lot of her documents and pitch decks, and heard about the screwups. But the biggest thing I learned from Kim was to work harder than hard. Things need to get done in the NGO world, but there isn’t a sense of urgency; Kim always had a sense of urgency.

simien-mountians-e1461450685817By that summer, I had fleshed out a prototype. As a proof of concept, we promoted a “Tastemakers Tour of Ghana” on my Facebook page, and it sold out in weeks. I still wasn’t ready to make it my full-time job, but then MediKidz was bought and I was laid off — so I slammed the gas on the startup. My boyfriend and I closed out our 401(k)s, and I entered an accelerator that gave us $20,000 and then raised another $100,000 from angel investors. I also won first place in a Lagos competition called She Leads Africa, which got me $10,000 and a mentoring network.

We launched our website in December 2014 and ended 2015 with more than $200,000 in experience and concierge bookings. Our app, Tstmkrs, launched in beta in December of last year, and we did $100,000 in Q1 bookings for 2016. We’re still figuring out who and where our audience is and what they’re willing to pay, but we’re learning and growing fast. In five years, we expect to be in at least 40 countries on the continent. We will be the brand, and our connections, support and infrastructure will make us important to many others who come here as well. We’ve already built partnerships with Uber, South African Airways and Radisson Blu (that one’s for a pan-African travel contest in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), and have gotten interest in an acquisition from a large hospitality company. But no matter what happens, I know we’ll have played a huge role in not just how people think about traveling in Africa, but what people think of Africa itself.

*Fox

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Communism and Africa: A long flirtation
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Thomas Page*

Photos: Africa's communist legacy The African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal, stands 164 feet high -- 13 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Inaugurated in 2010, it depicts a man, woman and child in the socialist realism style

Photos: Africa’s communist legacy
The African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal, stands 164 feet high — 13 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Inaugurated in 2010, it depicts a man, woman and child in the socialist realism style

A mural of an African proletariat breaking the chains of capitalism in Angola; an imposing, North Korean-built monument in Addis Ababa. Cold War relics dot the African continent from Ethiopia to Burkina Faso. One organization has now decided to take a closer look at the decades-old relationship between Africa and communism.

“Red Africa”, a season of events and exhibitions looking at communism’s effect on the continent took place earlier this year at Calvert 22, London. Curated by Mark Nash, the project’s findings have been collated into an upcoming book, with Nash taking the reigns as editor.

Requited love

The flirtation between Africa and communism went two ways. Many African artists and filmmakers were encouraged to study in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc under free education schemes, and they brought their ideas back home.
Soviet artists, in turn, used the image of Africans and African-Americans in countless propaganda posters, to represent the Communist party’s supposedly more enlightened perspective on race and other social issues.
“Red Africa” features many of these posters, some of which were modeled by African-American actor Wayland Rudd, who moved to the Soviet Union in 1932, and ultimately became a subject for propaganda painters.

The Tigrachin monument, built in 1984, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photograph: Che Onejoon).

There’s examples of the impact of communism on architecture too. The Tiglachin Monument in Addis Ababa was designed by an Ethiopian sculptor with input from North Korean advisers, built to mark the 10th anniversary of Ethiopia’s 1974 revolution. Photographed by South Korean artist Che Onejoon, the desaturated colors look like a scene from the Eastern Bloc, not the Horn of Africa.
The structures are tokens of what Nash describes as a “socialist friendship.”
“There was a complex web of relationships between the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries and those African countries recently independent or struggling to achieve independence,” he says.

Jo Ractliffe, "Mausoléu de Agostinho Neto" (2007).

“We were interested in tracing what’s left of that, and I’d say there’s not much,” he adds.
He cites a photograph by Jo Ractliffe as an example: a man casually mowing the lawn in front of a monument to former Angolan president Agostinho Neto, featuring a mural of a man breaking the chains of bondage.
“I’m sure if you talk to someone in downtown Rwanda they might not even know anything about that period — or might not want to know.”

Imports from Pyongyang

The continent’s flirtation with communism may be all but over, but in terms of architecture, its specter remains — and from one outlet, continues to grow.
North Korea’s government-run Mansudae Art Studio has been receiving commissions for statues throughout Africa, exporting the socialist realism aesthetic direct from Pyongyang.
Onejoon replicated three of these in miniature form for “Red Africa”: Botswana’s Three Dikgosi Monument (“The Three Chiefs”), the African Renaissance Monument in Senegal and an unknown soldier in Namibia (who some have argued bears an uncanny resemblance to former president Sam Nujoma).
Nash says Mansudae has worked on a statue of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, with reports that there are two in waiting, ready to commemorate his death.
Critics are divided on the monuments, but, says Nash, “financially it’s quite a successful project.”
*Source CNN
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Silver Anniversary Andrew Young Africa Lecture Featuring Special Guest Speaker Ambassador Andrew Youn
June 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

98244-fullWASHINGTON, D.C., June 23, 2016—The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Ghana, will host Ambassador Andrew Young, as the special guest speaker for the first talk of the 2016 Andrew Young Africa Lecture Series, which is named in his honor. This program will take place on:

Thursday, June 23, 2016   

 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m.

Embassy of the Republic of Ghana

3512 International Drive, NW

Washington, DC 20008

 In his lecture, titled Africa: Yesterday, Today and TomorrowA Perspective, Ambassador Young will take an in-depth look at how the continent has emerged as a center of world markets, trade and investment. While recognizing its great economic potential, he will delve into the increasing necessity to build a stable political and economic relationship with the United States. Among the issues under discussion will be highlighting African nations’ needs and priorities and unlocking opportunities in the face of challenges to fostering the continent’s economic development.

 A civil rights activist, former public servant, and legend to many, Ambassador Andrew Young continues, at 84, to demonstrate his unflagging passion and hope for Africa while working to raise the standard of living of its people, from fighting for equality and economic justice in South Africa to advocating for political and financial self-sufficiency in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and other countries.

“While you look at everything that goes wrong, I see wonderful people in this country who do wonderful things,” Ambassador Young said of South Africa during a recent tribute at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory on March 29, 2016, in Johannesburg.

Mr. Malcolmn D. Pryor Sr., a member of the board of The Africa Society will introduce Ambassador Andrew Young.

The event and its reception preceding will be attended by representatives from governments, civil society, civil rights activists, members of the African Diplomatic Corps, the diaspora, stakeholders, and those interested in U.S.-Africa relations and African affairs.

The June 23rd talk is part of the Ambassador Andrew Young Africa Lecture Series, which features distinguished speakers whose work has advanced the agenda of issues affecting the continent of Africa and U.S. – Africa relations. The series was named in honor of Ambassador Andrew Young, the former chairman of The Africa Society Board.

 

 

 

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Pan Africanism is the road to Africa’s security
June 17, 2016 | 0 Comments

Pan Africanism is anti-nobody. It is pro-Africa. The mammoth task of liberating Africa from the ongoing imperialist exploitation and marginalisation can be achieved only through Pan-African unity. African people must understand that they have a common destiny.

By Motsoko Pheko*

Kwame Nkrumah

Kwame Nkrumah

Programme Director, Distinguished Delegates, Brothers and Sisters at this historic Convention, I SALUTE YOU ALL for your persistence on the Pan African path.

Africa is a beautiful house that has been burning for some time with its children, women and men trapped inside. They are desperately trying to come out. As that Pan Africanist Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe correctly put it, “This Continent [Africa], has had the bad luck to be over-run by [European] soldiers of fortune that had neither [moral] fibre nor humanity. Slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa. Capitalism denuded [Africa] of its wealth. Colonialism deprived Africa of its birthright, and imperialism emasculated its will to live as human being and enjoy its share of bounties of the earth.”

 Africans must control their riches for their people

Africa has immense wealth and resources. There is hardly an agricultural crop that cannot be produced on this great continent. And almost every kind of mineral is found in Africa – vanadium, chrome, uranium, cobalt, tantalum, platinum, gold, diamonds, iron, coal, oil, etc. Africa is blessed with three types of climate: temperate, tropical and Mediterranean.

The paradox is that its African owners are among the poorest people in the world. Africa is actually the size of Europe, America, China and India combined. The Democratic Republic of Congo alone is the size of the following twelve European countries combined: Britain, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Armenia, Albania and Belgium. Congo is 905,355 square miles. Its untapped potential wealth is estimated at twenty four trillion American dollars. This is equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Europe and America put together.

Imperialist countries have made Africa their hunting and looting ground for many years through various forms such as slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Congo became a Belgian colony as a result of the imperialist Berlin General Act of 26 February 1885 through which seven Western European countries stole the whole of Africa, except for Ethiopia.

Boasting about how Belgium stole the riches of the Congo, the Belgian Secretary of Colonies Godding said, “During the War [European World War against Adolf Hitler], the Congo was able to finance all the expenditure of the Belgian government in exile in London, including the diplomatic service as well as the cost of armed forces in Europe and America…the Belgian gold reserve could be left intact.”

To get all these riches from the Congo, how did the Belgian colonialists treat Africans in their own country? The British philosopher Betrand Russell reported about the European colonial treatment of the Congolese Africans under their Belgian colonial rulers. He has written:

“Each village was ordered by [the colonial] authorities to collect and bring a certain amount of rubber as much as the men could bring by neglecting all work for their maintenance. If they failed to bring the required amount, their women were taken away and kept as hostages in the harems of government employees. If this method failed, troops were sent to the village to spread terror, if necessary by killing some of the men. They were ordered to bring one right hand amputated from an African victim for every cartridge used.” (Freedom And Organisation, 1814-1914)

The result of these atrocities, according to Sir Harris H.H. Johnston, was reduction of the African population in the Congo from 20 million to 9 million in fifteen years.

Africans have given more than they have received

Imperialist countries have psychologically conditioned Africans to think that they cannot live without the crumbs from Europe or America or from any other imperialist country in this world. But the American Senator Jesse Helms during Ronald Reagan’s presidency let the cat out of the bag when he warned the Americans about the loss of wealth in South Africa if a Pan-Africanist government came to power.

“South Africa is the source of over 80% American mineral supply and 86% of platinum resources,” he said. “I will not go into details of each vital mineral. It was former Secretary of State Alexander Haig who said the loss of mineral output of South Africa could bring severest consequences to the existing economic and security framework of the free world. South Africa has 90% of the world’s chrome reserve. As you know there is no substitute for chrome in our military and industrial manufacturing.

“Without South Africa’s chrome, no engines for modern jet aircraft, cruise missiles or armaments could be built. The U.S. air force could be grounded. Our military would be unarmed. Without South Africa’s chrome surgical equipment and utensils could not be produced. Our hospitals and doctors would be helpless.”

Imperialist countries have not only behaved as if Africa’s riches belong to them; they further have made Africans believe that they cannot do anything for themselves unless they totally depend on Western countries – in particular their former enslavers and colonisers. African leaders must exorcise this demon of helplessness and inferiority complex. This borders on idolatry where Africans worship the false gods of “superiority and invincibility.”

The Pan-African path leads to life but is no dinner party

The mammoth task of liberating Africa economically and technologically can be brought about only through Pan-African unity in a united Africa. Africans are the only people in the world who fight their common liberation struggles as individuals. Those who enslaved Africa and colonised Africa, however, have always united to achieve their imperialist goals. During the Berlin Conference when they stole the whole of Africa except Ethiopia, they sat at this Conference from 15 November 1884 to 26 February 1885.

They were serious. They were united. They were determined. They wanted to steal all of Africa at gunpoint. Ethiopia was saved only by its glorious Victory of the Battle of Adwa against the Italian colonial invaders of Africa. This was on 1st of March 1886.

Pan Africanism is anti-nobody. It is pro-Africa. It is anti-injustice and continued stealing of Africa’s resources by some foreigners while the children of Africa wallow in the quagmire of poverty, ignorance, short life expectancy and high child mortality.

This creates a situation where Africans are incapable of educating their children for various technical skills and professions so that they can manage their national affairs competently. In a situation like this, Africans become victims of some foreign countries that see ignorant and poor Africans as their ready carcass to devour.

Africa needs the world and the world needs Africa

The world needs Africa and Africa needs the world. Pan-Africanists demand that there must be a new way of interacting with Africa economically and technologically. Africa needs a new breed of foreign investors who see Africa not just as a place to make quick riches, but as an important partner for the continent’s economic development and true liberation of the African people. Investors must get their fair share of profits. But the exploitative relation between investors and Africa must go. It must be buried deep in the colonial grave.

Over 50 years ago the late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana hit the nail on the head when for his country, he declared: “We welcome foreign investors in a spirit of partnership. They can earn their profits here provided they leave us an agreed portion, promoting the welfare and happiness of our people as a whole, as against greedy ambitions of the few. From what we get out of this partnership we hope to expand the health services of our people, to feed and house all, to give them more and better educational institutions and see to it that they have a rising standard of living.”

Billions of dollars stolen from Africa  

Global Financial Integrity has researched and revealed that a cumulative sum of $814.9 billion was swindled from Africa between 2004 and 2013. All African countries have lost large sums of money generated through corruption such as invasion of tax, bribes and cross-border smuggling.

A few examples are: South Africa $209 billion, Nigeria $178 billion, Tanzania $191.77 billion, Senegal $8.03 billion, Uganda $116.76 billion, Tunisia $154.5 billion, Egypt $39.83 billion, Ethiopia $25.83, billion, Lesotho $3.41 billion, Swaziland $5.82 billion, Botswana $13.68 billion, Mauritius $6.09 billion. African countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Mali which not long ago experienced thousands of deaths of their citizens due to the decimating Ebola disease, were also robbed of billions of dollars.

Other research institutions on this illicit flow of money out of Africa such as Christian Aid and Tax Justice Network have quantified the illicit flow of money out of Africa as between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion. This is said to be four times the size of “Africa’s foreign debt.”

The only African country from which there has been no money to steal is Somalia. This is a country that was long destabilised by America until October 1993. The American government withdrew from Somalia only after the Battle of Mogadishu in which 18 American soldiers were killed, 84 wounded, two Hawk helicopters downed by Somali army, three pilots killed and one pilot missing.

The then American President Bill Clinton called this, the “Battle of Rangers” or the “Black Hawk Down.”  When withdrawing the America troops from Somalia, he said, “We had gotten to a point where we kind of thought that we could intervene without getting hurt, without our soldiers getting killed. The incident I call ‘Black Hawk Down’ certainly disabused us of that.” Unfortunately this American mess has badly destroyed Somalia and distabilised East Africa to this day.

Western economic exploitation of Africa goes on unabated. In July 2008 Pope Benedict XVI could not contain himself about this any longer. His Holiness said, “Our Western way of life has stripped Africa’s people of their riches and continues to strip them.”

Corroborating this fact, a Member of the Scottish Parliament Mark Ballad affirmed, “Our [Western European] relationship to Africa is an exploitative one. The West no longer needs standing armies in Africa to strip its resources because it can do so more effectively with multi-national companies.”

Afrophobia undermines Pan-African unity

Let me move to another point that urgently needs the attention of all Pan-Africanists and leaders of the African Union. In some African countries there have been instances of Afrophobia. This is mistakenly called Xenophobia. The English borrowed this word from Greek. It means “fearing or hating a foreigner.”

But in reality this is Afrophobia. It means African brother hating African brother and sister and African sister hating African sister and brother. In the espoused spirit of Botho/UBuntu and Pan-Africanism, there is no African who can be a foreigner in Africa, while non-Africans who live in Africa are not regarded as foreigners. It is a contradiction in terms, to be an African and a “foreigner” at the same time.

On 22 May 2008, I spoke about Afrophobia as a Member in the South African Parliament. I pointed out that “African people have a common destiny. We are in the same ship. If it sails safely across the stormy seas we shall all be safe. If it sinks, we shall all perish. Europe enslaved or colonised us to accumulate their stolen riches from Africa. They did not care whether you were a Nigerian, a Zimbabwean, Azanian, South African or Mozambican. They inflicted their atrocities and genocide on every African whether in Jamaica or America.”

African Union desk at points of entry

One of the beginning steps member states of the African Union must take is to erect sign boards at all ports of entry in Africa for citizens of African states reading,   “ CITIZENS OF AFRICAN UNION.” These citizens must not be checked at the desk marked “FOREIGN PASSPORTS HERE.” This undermines the Pan-African agenda. Africans travelling within Africa must feel welcome in every African country.

Africa Liberation Day so declared in Addis Ababa by African heads of state on 25 May 1963 did not come cheap. Much African blood and tears were shed. It is a shame that many African countries that claim to work for African unity have still not declared May 25 a statutory holiday. It must be a special day on which all Africans reflect about where post-colonial Africa has come from, where Africa is presently and where Africa must be tomorrow; in terms of economic prosperity, progress, security of life and high living standard of Africa’s people; especially with regard to economic control of resources for African people and technological advancement in every sphere of life.

Africa is the epicentre of this planet. She has impeccable credentials to occupy a prominent place in the world as she did before she became the victim of the European Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and colonialism. The 54 member states of the African Union are like rooms in one house. When one catches fire, the fire is likely to spread threatening the safety and security of the whole house. Pan-Africanism is not wishful thinking. It is Africa’s weapon to survive the onslaughts of imperialism. Not a single African country can stand on its own without perishing. Pan-African unity is not a choice. It is an imperative.

There is a subtle imperialist assault on Africa. In June 2016 three American credit rating agencies threatened to give South Africa a “junk status.” Their names are Standard & Poor, Fitch and Moody. They threatened to do the same to Nigeria in 2015.  If Africans do not wake up they will find their sovereign power that was paid with blood and tears lost to the greedy forces of this world. These greedy forces that have no moral fibre, humanity or a sense of justice have a clear a political agenda to recolonise African people and continue to under-develop Africa. That is why they have a new programme for Africa – “junk status.”

Pan Africanists must look seriously at the Western conspiracy of reducing African States to what they call “junk status.” These agencies are very powerful in the world of finance. They have the support of the American government. To prevent new companies that are not approved by the America government from offering similar credit rating services, new terms were put in place called “recognised rating manuals.” They protect and assist only the “Big Three” rating agencies against non-approved companies.

This June 2016, the move by the three American credit rating agencies has been followed by the arrogance of the American ambassador in Pretoria. He has warned of pending “terrorist attack in South Africa” in the media without first bringing this to the attention of the South African government. He ignored prescribed diplomatic channels. He behaved as if Azania (South Africa) is a colony of America.

The South African government has refuted these claims as unfounded. Will some desperate forces anxious to prove their falsehood true, now “manufacture these terrorists” to “prove” that they were right? Whatever the case may finally be, this is a wakeup call to Africans to grow to manhood and womanhood and look after their own interests. This can be done successfully and effectively through Pan-African unity only.

Unity will lead to victory for Africa

The struggle to return Africa to her power politically, economically and technologically is of course not a dinner party or a bed of roses. The enemies of Africa are determined to keep Africa and Africans weak, especially economically, technologically and militarily. Africa, however, has already overcome worse tragedies in her history: the slave trade, colonialism, racism, genocide and the longest holocaust in this world.

The colonial history of Africa demonstrates that when Africa is united on her objectives, goals and aims there has always been resounding achievement and victory for the African people. Where would Africa be today, if there had never been the 5th Pan African Congress in 1945, to plan the destruction of European colonial rule over Africans?

What would be the situation in Africa today, especially with regard to Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and apartheid colonial South Africa if there was never the Organisation of African Unity Liberation Committee to assist  liberation movements such as the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, the African National Congress, MPLA, FRELIMO,SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU and PAIGC? The latter was led in Guinea Bisau and Cape Verde by that brilliant Pan-Africanist Amilcar Cabral.

The past generations of Africa suffered and survived the most barbaric forms of Western slavery and colonialism. Through their matchless resilience driven by sacrifice, selflessness and dedicated service, these older generations paved the way for Africa’s ultimate victory for the total and authentic emancipation of this continent. There are signs that victory is coming to Africa despite the current dark clouds. But this is only if Africa persists on the Pan-African path and chooses her friends carefully. There are wars no nuclear weapons can win.

How would the African liberation struggle against colonialism have progressed if on 6th March 1957, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah established diplomatic relations with South Africa, instead of declaring as he did, that “Ghana’s independence is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa?”

PAC got South Africa expelled UN

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) got South Africa expelled from the United Nations General Assembly. This was made possible because of the Pan African unity of the Organisation of Africa Unity – the predecessor of the African Union.

Commenting on this important victory for PAC and Africa, Prof. Tom Lodge has written, “In November 1974 the Pan Africanist Congress succeeded in obtaining the expulsion of South Africa from the United General Assembly and in July 1975 the Organisation of African Unity adopted as official policy a long document prepared by the PAC arguing for the illegality of South Africa’s status.”

That is how the PAC got the observer status at the United Nations. The ANC also benefited from this victory of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and the Organisation of African Unity.

Indeed, the political situation in Africa today is such that even those among some African leaders who once opposed Pan Africanism and denigrated Pan Africanists as “racists” and “anti-white” are today forced by present circumstances to act Pan Africanly or pretend to do so.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania, was right when he said, “There is no time to waste. We must unite or perish. Political independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle….” Nyerere warned that “African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous and anachronistic, if it is not at the same time Pan Africanism.”

To advance victoriously to rebuilding the broken walls of Africa, Pan Africanism is the key and the most powerful weapon. Carefully planned action and vigilance are urgent in this age. Imperialism is overthrowing many governments it does not like. This has caused unprecedented terrorism in the world. It is now threatening even governments in Africa.

That Pan Africanist visionary Kwame Nkrumah was right when he warned: “If we [African people] are to remain free, if we are to enjoy the full benefits of Africa’s resources we must be united to plan our total defence and full exploitation of our material and human means in the full interest of all our people. To go it alone will limit our expectations and threaten our liberty.”

FORWARD EVER! BACKWARD NEVER!  Thank you

* Pambazuka. Dr Motsoko Pheko deliverd this message of solidarity to the world-wide Pan African Convention held at Orlando, SOWETO, Azania 13 -15 June 2016.Dr. Motsoko Pheko is author of several books such as AFRICA IN THE NEXT 50 YEARS and HOW AFRICA CAN REGAIN HER LOST POWER AND GLORY. He is a former Member of the South African Parliament. During the liberation struggle he represented the victims of apartheid and colonialism at the United Nations in New York and at the UN Commission on Human Rights.

 

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Accra becomes city 467 – next smart African city to offer Uber
June 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Uber is excited to explore the potential of this dynamic city

uberACCRA, Ghana, June 8, 2016/ — Accra has been named as the next city to join Uber’s booming network in Africa  . The economically vibrant hub is the first city in Ghana to receive the service. With a thriving urban population, Accra’s 2.27 million people will have access to efficient transport through the ride-sharing platform.  Uber is excited to explore the potential of this dynamic city.

Uber Accra

Uber has proven popular across the world’s cities for its provision of affordable, safe and reliable transport. Through an easy-to-use platform, it connects drivers with riders in real time, at the touch of a button. With over 4 million people using the streets in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), there is a clear demand for Uber’s services. The World Bank reports that since 2014, mobile phone penetration exceeded 100% in Ghana, compared to 1% in 2000. The people of Ghana also benefit from increasing availability of high-speed Internet, creating the perfect environment for information technology-enabled services such as Uber.

Alon Lits, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa says, “Accra is bustling, connected city that Uber is proud to be launching in. It’s rapid growth and multiple ethnic communities make it an exciting place to introduce our service.”

“At Uber, we bring the world closer together by connecting global citizens to transport in a growing number of cities. We see Accra as a natural fit, because its people are willing to embrace innovation and technology and love products that are cool, exclusive and offer a new experience. We are able to deliver just that, safely, reliably and affordably.”

Get Your Ride

No more street hails or waiting outside to find a ride. You can start the Uber app from anywhere and wait safely for your car to arrive. That means no standing on the street to hail a cab or struggling to find the nearest bus stop late at night.

You can easily identify the driver and car coming to pick you up. When a driver accepts your request, you see his or her first name, photo, and license plate number. You can also check whether others have had a good experience with him or her. In addition, the driver can see your first name and rating.

You can contact the driver—and vice versa— through the app if there is any confusion around pick-up details.

Share Your Ride Details

Share your ETA and location. You can easily share your ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family for extra peace of mind. They’ll receive a link where they can see in real time the name and photo of the driver, their vehicle, and where you are on the map until you arrive at your destination—and they can do all of this without having to download the Uber app themselves.

After the Ride

·         Feedback and ratings after every trip.  After every ride, you and your drivers need to rate each other and provide feedback. Our safety team reviews this information and investigates any issues.

·         24/7 Support. If something happens in a car, whether it’s a traffic accident or altercation between you and your driver, our customer support staff are ready to respond to any issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

·         Rapid Response. We have a dedicated Incident Response Team to answer any more urgent issues. If we receive a report that a driver or rider has acted dangerously or inappropriately, we suspend their account, preventing him or her from accessing the platform while we investigate.

Behind the Scenes

·         Always on the map. Accountability is one of the things that makes riders feel safe in an Uber. We use GPS to keep a record of where a driver goes during the ride, allowing us to verify that the most efficient routes are being used, which creates accountability and a strong incentive for good behavior.

·         Working with law enforcement. In cases where law enforcement provides us with valid legal process, we work to get them the facts, for example by providing trip logs. Again, transparency and accountability are at the heart of the Uber experience.

·         Pre-screening drivers.  All drivers must undergo a screening process before they can use the Uber app.

Lits adds, “Our platform contributes to a broader evolution in global transportation where riders are empowered to access transport on their terms, in a way that is useful to them and sustainable for our cities. We are excited to add a the vibrant, growing economy of Accra to our global network.”

Uber is celebrating its launch in Accra by providing free rides. Ghanaians can try out the new service by accessing their complimentary rides on the Uber app (insert dates and times here).

uberX fare prices (Accra)

  • GHS 1.70 Base Fare + GHS 1.30 per kilometer + GHS 0.19 per minute
  • Minimum Fare: GHS 5
  • Cancellation Fee: GHS 5
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Chancè Gatoro from D.R.Congo is Miss Culture USA 2016
June 13, 2016 | 0 Comments

 

Chancè Gatoro

Chancè Gatoro.Photo Ben Bangoura,Allo Conakry.

Congolese born refugee from Goma, the 21 year-old Chancè Gatoro was crowned Saturday night Miss Culture USA pageant produced by Therapeutic Interventions Inc., with Fatmata Koroma.

 
The event was held at the Historic Frazer Mansion in Washington, DC before an enthusiastic crowd, which saw contestants representing 9 countries in Africa.
 
It was a tale of winners as the contenders were at their best in presenting their visions and platforms to make a difference in the community, while displaying multiple facets of the African culture at its finest.
 
A talking drum to display messages from Nigeria, using poetry to share uplifting messages from South Africa, traditional dance moves from Ethiopia, Kenya, Togo and music from South Africa, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.
 
Chancè Gatoro a Congolese who works full time, goes to school full time and runs an NGO, stood out with her brilliant and consistent message on the severe and underestimated dangers posed by child soldiers in Congo.
 
The acclamation to which her victory was received was a vindication of the choice of the jury made up of Howard University Professor Kelly Jibrill, music producer Frank Anderson, Actress Sheri Holder, Managing Editor Ajong Mbapndah of Pan African Visions and Dr. Sheri Sesay Tuffour.
 
 “Juggling a full time job, attending school and attending rehearsals for the pageant were no easy feat”, said a very emotional Chancè Gatoro. In the midst of all these, the biggest issue was trying to tell the story of child soldiers in her country without getting sentimental or tearing up.
 
Chancè Gatoro succeeds Miatta Sandy Miss Sierra Leone 2015. She was crowned after the initial winner, Sandra Lucy Asomugha from Nigeria, was disqualified for  misconduct.
 
The Miss Culture USA beauty pageant, in its second edition this year, lined up nine inspiring contestants from DRC, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Togo, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. The two runners-up,Rebotele Dikolomela and Rejoice Malatji, are both from South Africa.
 
Miss Culture USA 2016, Chancè Gatoro ,with runners up Rebotele Dikolomela and Rejoice Malatji both from South Africa

Miss Culture USA 2016, Chancè Gatoro ,with runners up Rebotele Dikolomela and Rejoice Malatji both from South Africa.Photo Ben Bangoura ,Allo Conakry

Describing all the contestants as winners, Fatmata Koroma, CEO of Therapeutic Interventions Inc., challenged the girls to live up to all the lofty projects presented and expressed the hope that they will all remain role models to society.

 
She lauded the support she has received from the Church of Scientology National Office which has been gracious in allowing Therapeutic Interventions Inc. use the Historic Frazier Mansion to host a number of activities this year.
 
The event, emceed by Sierra Leonese Radio personality David Vandy of VOA, was animated with musical presentations from a number of artists including Joshua Azuka Atuya, Swanza Harris and African Emperor from Sierra Leone.
*Ben Bangoura is the Publisher of Allo Conakry

 

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African woman tricked into Australian servitude
June 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

-A modern-day slave in Australia’s suburbs

"Susan" says her employers came to control every aspect of her life

“Susan” says her employers came to control every aspect of her life

The Global Slavery Index says there could be thousands of people in Australia living in conditions amounting to slavery, but that despite a tightening of laws, prosecutions are rare. The BBC’s Phil Mercer spoke to one woman about her experiences.

Susan’s (not her real name) story began when the family who employed her as a housekeeper moved back to Sydney from east Africa.

She knew the family well and trusted them. They had always been kind and generous, so it was with great anticipation that the mother-of-three travelled with them.

Crucially, there was the promise of wages that would help support her children back home.

It was hot and humid when she arrived, and at the end of an exhausting day there was an ominous sign of what lay ahead when she says she was forced to sleep under a dining room table with the family’s dogs.

“For me that was inhuman, because for them to have put me under the table that was the most disrespectful thing they ever done to my life,” she says.

But in those early days she wasn’t fully aware of the grip the family was gradually exerting on all parts of her life.

‘Suburban prison’

“At first I didn’t realise that I had been trafficked,” she told the BBC at the headquarters of the Salvation Army, the charity that has helped her to slowly repair the damage.

Susan said she was held captive in an ordinary-looking home. It was her suburban prison.

“I wanted to go out and water the plants outside and they were out that day and I tried to open the door. It is locked. The next day the same thing happened,” she explained.

There was further indignity to come when she pressed her employer for the money she was owed for many long hours of labour.

“She starts telling me, ‘You are living in our house, you are having shower in our house, you are eating our food, so there is no pay’,” Susan said.

Her two-month ordeal finally came to an end with a late-night dash to freedom after a confrontation with the family who had allegedly confiscated her passport. Escaping through an unlocked gate, Susan says she ran to a nearby house and pleaded for help.

“Immediately I press the bell for the neighbour. It was midnight. So I pressed the bell quick, quick, because I knew somebody has seen me through the window. Then the neighbour came out and she said, ‘What is it? Can I help?’ I told her to call the police.”

When officers arrived, it was the start of another uncertain chapter in a remarkable story.

‘Too scared’

She was eventually taken to Australia’s first safe house for trafficking victims run by the Salvation Army, which says there are many more people like Susan.

“The Global Slavery Index estimates about 3,000 people could be experiencing slavery in Australia,” said Laura Vidal, a project manager at the Freedom Partnership To End Modern Slavery run by the Salvation Army.

“It degrades every element of being a human being. People are reduced to property. It really is people having their vulnerability exploited.”

Proving allegations of slavery is hard and many victims are too scared to speak out. There have been only 17 successful prosecutions for slavery and related offences in Australia since 2004, and most involved women exploited in the sex industry.

New laws covering forced labour and forced marriage were brought in three years ago to help victims in various sectors, including hospitality, agriculture, construction and domestic work.

“The longer that I have worked in the area, the more I appreciate that the effects of these kinds of human rights abuses are long-term and devastating,” said Jennifer Burn, the director of Anti-Slavery Australia and professor of law at the University of Technology Sydney.

“The pattern of slavery and forced labour is clearly changing, and if we look at the statistics provided by the federal police we’ll see that there is a shift over the last couple of years and now there are more cases of forced labour outside the sex industry that are being investigated.”

Australia set up an anti-human-trafficking strategy in 2003. Specialist federal police teams investigate slavery-related cases and there are support programmes and resettlement visas for victims. Officials say Australia has been a destination for people trafficked from Asia, most notably from South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

Following her ordeal, Susan was granted refugee status and now lives in Sydney, although it took several years to be reunited with her children.

“It was like a resurrected kind of life to have…my kids back again,” she said.

“I remember my son shed tears in the airport and that one broke my heart because I left him when he was little and now he’s grown. And my daughter, I left her when she was young and now she’s (a) teenager.”

Her alleged abusers were never charged. Very few are. Australian authorities say slavery is a complex crime and a major violation of human rights.

Campaigners believe that forced labour legislation introduced in 2013, which broadened the scope for investigations into slavery-type offences, should result in more criminal convictions.

*BBC

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Kenyan band takes Afro-pop music worldwide
June 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ilya Gridneff*

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Not many musicians can boast they’ve made U.S. President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes. But Kenya’s Afro-pop band, Sauti Sol, did just that.

Obama, whose father hails from a village in western Kenya, put his heritage on full display at a state dinner in Kenya last July when he boogied down to the traditional Lipala dance that the band revived with their hit song “Sura Yako.”

“Singing and dancing with the world’s most powerful man was incredible,” said Bien-Aime Baraza, a vocalist for the four-man band. “He really was feeling us. It was wonderful for Kenya.”

A savvy mix of catchy tunes, appealing looks and social media promotion has brought success to Sauti Sol, Swahili for voices in the sun. The band has worked to make traditional East African music cool again, said Rand Pearson, who runs Nairobi’s hip monthly, UP Magazine.

“I first remember seeing Sauti Sol in a dingy Nairobi club 10 years ago. My first impression was that finally there it was, a modern pop version of Kenyan music,” he said, crediting the band’s growth internationally to “visionary management, styling and its ever-evolving musical talent.”

Sauti Sol’s have won a number of international awards including the All African Music Awards Best African Group in 2015 and MTV’s Best African Act.

Pop music is big in Africa, where there are more than 200 million in the 15-to-24 year age group. It is also big business. The entertainment and media industries of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya together will grow to be worth $24 billion in 2018, according to a 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The band recently toured Kenya and performed in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.

In November last year Sauti Sol launched their latest album “Live and Die in Afrika” free on their website, the first Kenyan album to be released online. The demand was so high that the site crashed and soon it was offered on the website of Safaricom, East Africa’s biggest mobile-phone operator with more than 25 million subscribers.

“This is testament to the fact that an increasing number of users in this market are using high speed data connectivity to access a whole new world of entertainment,” said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom,

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta booked the band for his inauguration in 2013. “He definitely likes our music. We’ve even played at his last private birthday party,” said Savara Mudigi, drummer, vocalist and producer for the band.

The band, whose members grew up in modest conditions in Nairobi, are now gaining fame across the continent. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama invited Sauti Sol to play at the West African country’s national holiday in March.

Social media is one of the main driving forces propelling Sauti Sol to African and worldwide audiences, according to band manager Marek Fuchs.

“Cheaper handsets and data plans have allowed the fans to be continuously in touch with the group and we strive to give them a dynamic and interactive story to follow every day,” he said.

Sauti Sol has a dedicated social media team who, along with the band members themselves, run campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, competitions on Instagram, instrument tutorials, Q&As and behind-the-scenes snippets on Snapchat and YouTube.

“We also have to adjust our strategy to fit the local context, language and time zones. It is a balancing act between posting for our traditional Kenyan base, our pan-African and worldwide fan base in different time zones,” he said.

Willis Austin Chimano, a vocalist, said this strategy is new for Africa.

“You’ve got to get with the times. More and more Africans are online, on their phones, using social media and that’s where we are,” he said.

Despite their international successes Sauti Sol remain with their feet firmly on Kenyan soil. The band members say their latest album is an ode to loving and loathing the good and bad of Kenya and the continent.

 

*Source AP/Washington Post

 

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