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African women won’t wield political influence without cultural change
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Sarah Jackson *

Women elected to African parliaments courtesy of candidate quotas are too often marginalised by a lack of respect once there

The elections taking place across Africa this year present an opportunity for a rising tide of women to take political office. An enouraging precedent was set a few weeks ago, when the proportion of women in Senegal’s parliament swelled from 22% to 43%. But without action to tackle the barriers that keep women out of power, the great wave of equality may amount to no more than a trickle.

Those barriers are many and varied: economic dependency; limited access to education and information; discriminatory cultural and social attitudes, and negative stereotypes; the burden of domestic responsibility; and intimidation, harassment and violence.

Any step change in women’s political representation in the past decade has usually been down to the use of candidate quotas. This made the difference in Senegal, and it has made a difference elsewhere. In 1995, just seven parliaments had reached the “critical mass” of 30% female representation, but in 2010 that figure stood at 44. Tellingly, 20 of the 26 most equal parliaments used electoral quotas or reserved seats. In 2009, almost 50 countries held elections; in those that implemented quotas, women took 27% of the seats on average, compared to 14% in countries that didn’t.

Quotas are an effective way of levelling the playing field. Compensatory rather than discriminatory, they help women overcome structural inequality. It’s also about reaching a tipping point where women’s voices are loud enough to influence decisions and set the agenda, something virtually impossible for a token woman in a male-dominated political system.

“Little drops of water make an ocean,” says Hannah Koroma, national co-ordinator of Woman Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (Waves) in Sierra Leone. Koroma emphasises the practical benefits of critical mass: “Women have been terrified by senior male authorities in some constituencies in past elections, and in the end those women have had to step down for fear of their lives. This new system, if actualised, will ensure women’s security and safety to exercise their franchise.”

Waves and other women’s organisations across Sierra Leone are campaigning to get the government to approve a law that would reserve 30% of seats for women candidates. They feel this is the only way to address the fact that only 13.2% of the seats in the national parliament are held by women. But as Koroma explains, there’s a risk that the gender equality bill won’t be passed in time for November’s elections. In addition, the National Election Commission of Sierra Leone has proposed raising candidate fees from 250,000 leones (approximately £36) in 2007 to 25m leones (about £3,687). The Human Rights Commission has condemned the move, as widespread poverty means many men and women will be excluded from office if these changes go ahead. But women will be hit hardest, since they are less likely to have access to financial resources.

Lowering nomination fees can have an enormous impact on female representation at local and national level. Thanks to advocacy by, among others, Womankind Worldwide‘s partner, Women in Law and Development in Africa (Wildaf), Ghana’s five main political parties have this year reduced nomination fees for women by 50%; the number of women standing in political party elections and primaries has already increased.

Female parliamentarians add vital perspectives to the democratic process, and can stimulate a step change for the advancement of women’s rights, bringing attention to issues affecting women in their constituencies and proving that women are more than qualified to act as decisionmakers.

In some west African cultures and traditions, women have exercised power and even become chiefs. But often their influence has been symbolic and restricted to the upholding of tradition. Traditional female leaders have often not had the same access to education as their male counterparts, making the transition to formal politics more difficult.

And female chiefs are by no means widely accepted. In 2009, Elizabeth Torto stood in a chieftancy election in the Kono district of Sierra Leone. The intimidation and harassment she received from the powerful all-male “poro” society in her village eventually meant she had to be flown to safety in a UN helicopter, which was pelted with stones.

As the backlash against female MPs in Senegal shows, it’s not plain sailing once women have reached parliament. Women in public positions are frequently sidelined and undermined by their own parties and colleagues, subject to misogynist attacks in the press, verbal harassment, and even physical violence.

It’s not enough to push a wave of women into politics, they must be supported by cultural change, and women’s organisations are using innovative approaches to make this happen. As an example, Wildaf in Ghana has found that educating the whole community about representation and accountability has improved openness to what female candidates have to say.

Quotas are just the start. As Koroma says: “A journey begins with a footstep – give women in Sierra Leone a chance to start this journey.”


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“Sierra Leone is recovering from lingering effects of the war and needs help”
September 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Carol Sallymatu Bangura

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Despite the lingering effects of war, there are strong signs the country is on the path to recovery and needs help. This is the assessment of Carol Sallymatu Bangura who not only made the appeal but matched words with actions by making a donation of learning material to several schools and Institutions in the country. Working through the African Center for Education and Sustainability, Inc, (ACES) Ms Bangura says the books she donates are screened for context and condition to ensure proper standards. The initiative is warmly embraced by the people she meets across the country says Bangura who  has  been donating books to Sierra Leone since 2008.. Although she refrained for discussing anything political, Ms Bangura says her focus is solely on education and was willing to answer questions about her recent trip to Sierra Leone and the work of ACES.

PAV: You were recently in Sierra Leone with a donation of books to various institutions, may what inspired this action on your part?

Sallymatu Bangura:I was born in Sierra Leone and wanted to give back to the children there in addition to aiding in the country’s development.

PAV: What criteria did you use in selecting the Institutions that benefitted from your donation?

Sallymatu Bangura: There isn’t a criteria per se as all the schools are in need of learning materials for the children. While I have given books to schools and children outside of Freetown, my focus has been in the Western area of Sierra Leone and I am now expanding to the other 13 constituencies in the country.

PAV: There have often been complains about the obsolete nature of some the books donated to the continent, how relevant or contemporary are the books that you took to Sierra Leone?

Sallymatu Bangura: All the books that I donate are age appropriate and are new or gently used. The books are screened for context and condition. I do not give a child a book that I wouldn’t give to my child.

PAV: Could you also tell us more about the African Center for Education that you lead?

Sallymatu Bangura: The African Center for Education and Sustainability provides education and social programs for African and Caribbean immigrant children. It has expanded to include children from Iraq, Vietnam, and Puerto Rico just to name a few. I still recall how difficult it was for me to acclimate into the American school system.  The curriculum was different and I was teased profoundly because of my accent and dark skin. I founded the Center to assist children in bridging the education gap, improve academic achievement, and social development in children coming from countries with low literacy levels.

PAV: We understand that the Center will be initiating a new project at Goderich in Freetown called “Learning through Play” may we know more about the initiative and when it goes operational?

Sallymatu Bangura: The project was launched July, 2012 through a series of summer school workshops. Its aim is to incorporate play into learning by providing children with academic games. We will continue to offer Learning through Play during the summer months to minimize the brain drain that often occurs during summer breaks.

PAV: What is it you found out about Sierra Leone that the rest of the world should know considering that the country was for long engulfed in a civil war?

Sallymatu Bangura: Sierra Leone is recovering from lingering effect of the war.  It is developing on a continuous basis and anyone that can help, should.

PAV: Did you have the opportunity to interact with political authorities and what was their reaction to the donation from your organization?

Sallymatu Bangura: Everyone that I encountered embraced my work in a positive manner. I have been donating books to Sierra Leone since 2008 so I didn’t just “arrive” on the scene. The social media movement has allowed me to share my work with others on a wider scale.

PAV: Sierra Leone has elections billed for November, how was the political atmosphere and from what you observed were there pointers towards a hitch free elections?

Sallymatu Bangura: I refrain from commenting on anything political. My focus is strictly on providing learning materials for the children of Sierra Leone.

PAV: So what other activities does your Organization has in mind for the rest of the year?

Sallymatu Bangura: I am expanding my program areas and am focusing on more advocacy in terms of programs for African and Caribbean children equal to their Hispanic and Asian counterparts. It’s an exciting time for ACES and I am grateful for the opportunity to answer my calling.



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South Sudan’s Atong Demach is Miss World Africa!
August 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

The finals of this year’s Miss World beauty pageant have been held in the northeastern Chinese mining city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia, located on the edge of the Gobi desert.

True to pre-event predictions, China’s Wenxia YU, was crowned Miss World 2012 at a thrilling ceremony held on the weekend of Saturday August 18. She takes over from Miss World 2011 Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela.

The post-event debate about whether China truly deserved the crown is to be expected, as it follows the tradition of a global showpiece that has gone through some phases since its inception, but remains the world’s most patronized beauty pageant.

This year marked the 62nd edition, and saw some 116 countries taking part, including the newly independent African nation South Sudan.

Represented at the world stage this year by the ever gorgeous and stunning Atong Demach, South Sudan managed to create history by winning the coveted Miss World Africa prize, also known as the “African Continental Queen of Beauty”, on their first ever shot at the world title.

Demach, who turned 24 this year (16th June, 1988), also won the “Miss World Top Model” prize, a feat that contributed to her gradual progression into the list of top finalists.

At the Dongsheng Fitness Center Stadium venue, Atong mesmerized the wide array of global audience seated, as well as million others who watched through a syndicated worldwide broadcast, with her class-act stage craft, alluring and striking poses, and stunning looks.

After making it into the list of Top 15 countries, which also included contestants from Kenya, Indonesia, Netherlands, USA, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, England, Wales, China, Jamaica, Australia, Mexico, and India, Demach subsequently made it into the Top 7.

The Top 7 also included contestants from Jamaica, India, Australia, Brazil, China PR and Wales. Demach cruised into the finals of what was a night of pure fun for her, with cheeky ease, placing a respectable fourth position, and bringing the world’s attention to the country she represents.

Africa continues to make giant strides at the global event, held every year since its first edition. The continent has and continues to make a strong case at that stage.

South Sudan joins a tall list of other African countries, who have won the Miss World Africa prize. South Africa is the country with the most Miss World Africa titles, winning 11 in all, the most recent being last year when Bokang Montjane who was also in the top 7, won it. Emma Wareus of Botswana won Miss World Africa in 2010.

Other prizes that were up for grabs at the August 18 finals included Designer Award, Beach Fashion, Sports and Fitness, Performing Talent, Multimedia Award and Beauty with a Purpose Award, which Ghana’s Stephanie Karkari jointly won last year.

Demach is a final year student of the Juba University, located in Juba, the capital and largest city of the Republic of South Sudan and which also serves as the capital of Central Equatoria, the smallest of the ten states of South Sudan.

Her future ambition she says is “to be involved in helping all needy children while I also hope to help work towards protecting our precious environment”.

The unassuming but intelligent young lady from Bor, a town located on the River Nile, says she is … “honoured to represent my country for the first time at Miss World and proud to stand for Beauty with a Purpose. All of us, who will compete, stand for the values of humanity, the beauty and strength of women in our world”.

With a little over 8 million people, South Sudan is poised on defining herself away from the Sudan of old, which for a very long time, was stained and bedeviled with attrocities of war crimes against innocent civilians, looting, greed and insensitive corruption.

Blessed with enough natural resources, it is expected that Africa’s new nation will rise and shine. Demach’s winning of the Miss World Africa prize, is just one of several successes the country looks forward to achieving in the coming years.

In its 62nd year, the Miss World beauty pageant was founded by Eric Morley in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. Some 26, young, beautiful ladies took part in the maiden edition.

The event is now being run by Julia Morley, wife of the deceased founder, who died in 2000. The Miss World franchise is available to some 130 countries.

In 2001, Nigeria won the overall Miss World prize, an accomplishment that also saw the African country host the world event the following year, in Abuja.

Considered the world’s most successful beauty pageant, the Miss World event continues to offer hope to young, beautiful and brilliant ladies, who are keen on impacting lives and changing society.

“The first Miss World, Sweden’s Kiki Haakonson, was the first and last winner to be actually crowned in a two-piece swimsuit. During the first decade of the pageant’s success, the outfits of contestants continued to raise eyebrows and grab headlines,” the Miss World organization has said.

“The first Miss World contest of the decade, hosted by the legendary Bob Hope, was marred by feminist protesters”.

“By 1979 the show was topping 500 million viewers world-wide”.

“Miss World reached its half-century in the year 2000 and the contest returned to London, to the Millennium Dome, for the 50th anniversary show.

“A massive television audience of 2.3 billion witnessed India retain the Miss World crown and in the UK alone, more than 8 million people tuned in during the two-hour broadcast on Channel 5”.

The maiden edition in 1951, “welcomed a global audience greater than international events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games”.

 “At its peak, the show claimed an audience of 27.5 million in Britain alone, a figure comparable to that of a royal wedding.

“Fifty years on from the first pageant, Miss World still pulls in the crowds and can boast an annual audience of over a billion”.




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Africa’s Top 20 Young and Powerful Women
August 11, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Obed Boafo*

Women empowerment is an over flogged subject across Africa. It has travelled quiet a journey from the days when the continent’s female gender could barely compete with their male counterparts in any endeavour of life to a point where most women now call the shots, and are able to see their dreams come to life.

Various talk shops including the very famous Beijing Conference really defined the borderlines, and shaped what would later go on to become a reminder to most women that they matter.

Today, across Africa’s 50-something state, there is that general feeling of contentment amongst women that, dreams do come true. So sharp and piercing is the chord that it has defeated theories and projections of hard-lined chauvinists who seek to suppress women and pin them down to play second fiddle.

These days, it is hard to find an African woman who is not making it in one field or the other. The ratio of success is so high that ten out of eleven women are either heading a big corporation or running their own affairs.

Most important is the fact that the successes being chalked are products of young, lively and witty women, who went from nothing to something. And a finer aspect of their successes is that, they wield considerable influence that impacts society positively.

All under the age of 45, we take a look at 20 of Africa’s young and powerful women named by Forbes as shaping the fortunes of the continent in one way or the other.

Yolanda Cuba – South Africa

Arguably one of South Africa’s most respected and highly-revered business heads, Yolanda Cuba perfectly fits the description of a global corporate leader. From very humble beginnings she was able to make a name for herself at a time when most of her compatriots hadn’t thought of what to do with their lives.

An alumnus of the Universities of Cape Town and Kwazulu Natal, Yolanda became one of the youngest Chief Executives in South Africa when she headed the Mvelaphanda Group, a JSE-listed company in her late twenties. Still bubbling with energy, Yolanda continues to be a shining example to Africa’s youth.

Yolanda, who is a member of the Investment and Endowment Committee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, has and continue to serve on a lot of South African companies including SAB Limited, Reunert Limited, Steinhoff International Holdings, Absa Group Limited and Health Strategic Investment Limited.

Funmi Iyanda – Nigeria

Funmi Iyanda

Funmi Iyanda

Born Olufunmilola Aduke Iyanda, she is an Africa Leadership Institute Fellow and also a fellow of the ASPEN Institute’s African Leadership Initiative. Funmi is one of Nigeria’s most popular journalists. She is the CEO of Ignite Media, a content driven media organization.

The 41 year-old has won almost everything journalism in Nigeria and continues to bag in more. She is Hostess of the ever popular Talk with Funmi, a syndicated magazine programme of everyday life in Nigeria, and which engages artists, writers, celebrities and politicians among other members of the Nigerian social basket. She is seen as a powerful force in Nigeria, and wields a considerable amount of influence amongst opinion leaders and decision makers.

Her love for television started when she produced and presented “Good Morning Nigeria”.

With years of practice as a broadcaster, columnist and blogger, Funmi always bring her sense of purpose and direction to bear in her field of endeavour, and this has propelled her to heights other young Nigerians admire.

Elsie S. Kanza – Tanzania

Recently named by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a Young Global Leader, Kanza continues to shine in every sphere of life. Currently, she is Director, Head of Africa at the WEF.

Elsie S KanzaBefore joining the WEF, she was with the Tanzania government as an assistant and economic advisor. She also worked with the Central Bank of Tanzania.

Kanza worked with the Ministry of Finance from 2002 to 2006, where she served as Personal assistant to the Permanent Secretary.

She is credited for being instrumental in the successful preparation of Tanzania’s proposal for the Millennium Challenge Account, as well as in the development of government credit guarantee schemes.

She holds a BSC in international business administration from the U.S International University, a Master of Arts in Development Economics from the Center for Development Economics, Williams College, U.S.A. she also hold a University of Strathclyde MSC Finance certificate.

Kanza is a fellow of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Leadership Fellow and a member, Honorary Committee,

Magette Wade – Senegal

Wade was born in Senegal, spent her early years of education in Germany and France but later found herself on the streets of San Francisco in the United States of America, where the idea to start Adina World Beverages came up. Wade is a proud TED Fellow. In 2011, Forbes listed her as one of Africa’s most powerful young women.

Ignited by the success stories of some Silicon Valley start-ups, which led to the birth of Adina, Wade has seen her dreams come true. Today, Adina World Beverages’ products are sought after across the world.

She speaks the traditional Wollof language of Senegal as well as English and French.

Projections put her company’s value at USD 3.2 million dollars. She is said to be starting a new company, Tiossano, which would be “a contemporary lifestyle products brand that integrates the experiences of all three cultures,” she picked up during her stay in, Dakar, Paris, and San Francisco.

Ory Okolloh – Kenya

Always fighting for the general good of the Kenyan people, Okolloh makes open-government activism in the East African country an interesting case study for the generation yet to come.

She is a lawyer, blogger and writer of repute.

Okolloh co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo (Swahili: ‘Patriot’), in 2006, to increase government accountability by systematically recording bills, speeches, MPs, standing orders. Around the same time in 2006, she was recognized as one of the most influential women in technology, globally.

A graduate of the Havard Law School, Okolloh, is also the founder of Ushahidi, an open source platform for crowd sourcing crisis. She works as a consultant for NGOs and operates her personal blog KenyanPundit.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu – Ethiopia

Famed worldwide for her dust to glory shoemaking story, Ethiopia’s Alemu was last year named a global leader by the World Economic Forum.

In what started as child’s play in the poor community of Zenabwork, in the outskirts of Addis Ababa where she was born, Alemu has become a giant in the shoemaking business.

Her SoleRebels brand, which would soon become the first fair trade green footwear firm fully licensed by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), is one of Ethiopia’s most successful business entities.

Currently, Alemu’s shoes sell in some 55 countries, mostly through retailers, who are helping her to shape what has become a dream well, lived.

The 32 year-old employs some 75 full time employees and also engages the services of over 200 local suppliers. This year Forbes listed her as one of Africa’s Most Successful Women.

She is also a recipient of the 2012 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Dambisa Moyo – Zambia

Respected for her strong stance on “Foreign Aid” to Africa, Moyo is one of the continent’s most heard voices on the very controversial and touchy subject.

She’s been named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”. Moyo’s work regularly appears in publications such as the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

She holds a doctorate in Economics from the Oxford University and a Masters degree from Harvard University. Moyo, who also sits on the boards of some well known global brands, has also completed an undergraduate degree in Chemistry and an MBA in Finance at the American University in Washington D.C.

Saran Kaba Jones – Liberia

Jones is founder of FACE Africa, a non-for-profit organization that provides access to clean, safe and portable drinking water for rural communities in Liberia, using an inventive social enterprise model to fund water projects.

Thousands of Liberians continue to benefit from this project.

Jones’s story is an uplifting one most young Liberians connect to. After fleeing Liberia just before what would later on become a 14-year civil war, she returned in 2008 to make life pretty comfortable for some of the faces she left behind for the United States.

Her first project was in Barnersville, located in a community of about 600 people in Liberia. Working with local organizations, FACE Africa helped to install handpumps and built wells. They also constructed latrines. Currently, the Barnersville project supplies some 20,000 liters of clean drinking water each day to hundreds of homes in the West African country.

Today, she is an inspiration to the Liberian people.

Juliet Ehimuan – Nigeria

Last year, in a much talked-about talked about corporate announcement, global online giant Google named her as Country Manager.

Heading what is widely known as the company’s largest internet community in Africa; Ehimuan represents Google at that level and also handles its business development projects and partnership opportunities.

Her experience in technology spans global markets, mainly in Europe, Middle East, (EMEA) Africa and United States.

She started her career at Shell Petroleum Development Company as Performance Monitoring and Quality Assurance Supervisor, and worked as Program Manager at Microsoft UK for six years, managing Strategic Projects for MSN EMEA.

She later became Business Process Manager for the MSN Global Sales and Marketing Organization.

She left Microsoft in 2005 to start SI Consulting Ltd UK, providing collaborative programs that connect African Business leaders with their global counterparts.

Prior to joining Google, Ehimuan worked as General Manager, Strategic Business Units at Chams Plc.

Ehimuan holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School, and a Bachelors degree in Computer Engineering from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a Post Graduate degree in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge, UK. She is a recipient of the London Business School Global Women’s Scholarship, as well as two scholarly awards – Selwyn College Scholar and Malaysian commonwealth Scholar – Cambridge University. She is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society.

Khanyi Ndhlomo – South Africa

Call her the darling of South African media; Ndhlomo has made a name for herself.

Owner of Ndalo Media, publishers of the very popular Destiny Magazine and Destiny Man, she is what you would ask for in a successful young woman.

Prior to starting Ndalo, she worked as Editor for True Love Magazine for eight years. In 2003, she was named the Most Influential Woman in South African media by the Media Magazine.

Her success also dates back to age 20, when she made history as the first black newscaster for SABC.

Julie Gichuru – Kenya

Largely seen as the face of Kenyan television, Gichuru has almost built a following that is almost becoming religious.

She doubles as an anchor and executive of Citizen TV, one of Kenya’s most popular media establishments.

She is a fellow and trustee member of the African Leadership Initiative, which is part of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum. A recipient of the Martin Luther King Salute to Greatness Award, she’s participated in projects for UNICEF, the Aspen Global Leadership Network and Africa Global Leadership.

Chimamanda Adichie – Nigeria

One of Africa’s most celebrated writers, Adichie’s exploits at home and abroad has conspired to give literature a good standing in Africa.

At 45, she continues to excel in her chosen field. In 2006, her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun, named after the flag of the short-lived nation of Biafra, won the Orange Prize in 2007.

Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was released in 2003. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in 2005.

The Thing Around Your Neck, her third book, is a collection of short stories published in 2009. In 2010 she was listed among The New Yorkers “20 under 40” Fiction Issue; and her story, “Ceiling”, was included in the 2011 edition of The Best American Short Stories.

Olga Kimani-Arara – Kenya

Until recently Google’s local spokesperson in Kenya, Kimani-Arara is an astute corporate woman.

In his home country Kenya, she is well respected by her peers especially in the sectors she’s worked in before.

She left Google this year to pursue other interests. Prior to joining Google, she was a senior executive at Safaricom. “She has vast experience in engineering combined with strong commercial and marketing knowledge with several years experience in marketing and product management gained in the Telecommunications, Retail and IT industries,” its been suggested.

A Microsoft Certified System Engineer, Kimani-Arara holds an MBA in Engineering Business Management from Manchester Business School. She also holds a B.Sc. Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

Phuti Malabie – South Africa

CEO of the black-owned and managed Shanduka Group of South Africa, Malabie was in 2008 named by the Wall Street Journal as one of 50 women in the world to watch.

In 2007, the World Economic Forum chose her as a Global Young Leader, in a list that also saw her rub shoulders with other young achievers across the world.

Before joining the Shanduka Group, Malabie, 41, was head of the Project Finance South Africa unit at the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

In 2009, she was awarded the “Most Influential Woman in Government and Business by Financial Services”. She was Vice President of Fieldstone from 1997 to 2003.

Isis Nyongo – Kenya

The affable and lovely Nyongo is Vice President and Managing Director of the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network, InMobi.

She’s held senior management positions at MTV, Kenya’s leading Job site MyJobsEye, and Google. She is an alumnus of Harvard and Standford.

Ndidi Nwuneli – Nigeria

Founder of LEAP AFRICA, a “leadership training and coaching organization which is committed to empowering, inspiring and equipping a new cadre of leaders in Africa”, Nwuneli is one of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs.

A pioneer executive director of FATE Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes entrepreneurial development among Nigerian youth, she has received numerous honors and awards including one at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2003 and an Excellence Award from the Africa Business Club at Harvard Business School in 2007.

Stella Kilonzo – Kenya

Kilonzo is the immediate past Chief Executive of Capital Markets Authority, Kenya. After a four and a half year sojourn in the USA, Kilonzo returned to Kenya and worked at accounting giant Pricewaterhouse Coopers, as a Senior Associate in the Corporate Finance Advisory Services Department.

Jonitha Gugu Msibi – South Africa

Msibi’s corporate life at Ernst & Young coupled with her impressive leadership strengths, has earned her a lot of respect amongst her peers. She is considered one of South Africa’s most respected young and successful women. She is a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s African Leadership Initiative

June Arunga – Kenya

Arunga is founder and Chief Executive of Open Quest Media LLC, a New York-based multimedia production company. She serves on the advisory boards of Moving Picture Institute and Global Envision as member, and is a fellow at the International Policy Network (London, UK), as well as the Istituto Bruno Leoni (Milan, Italy).

Lisa Kropman – South Africa

Prior to setting up her own firm, Kropman worked as an Associate at Werksmans Attorneys. Currently, she is founder of a group of business support centres that support start-ups operating in Johannesburg, Alexandra, Soweto, Cape Town, Philippi, King Williamstown and Botswana, Swaziland and Rustenburg.

The Business Place, as it is widely known across Southern Africa, is offering hope to new and ready-to-roll businesses.

Since 1997, she has held various positions in Investec Limited including Head, Employment Equity Forum; Head, Corporate Social Investment Division; and Catalyst for the Group developing CIDA City Campus.

She also assisted in operationalizing the black empowerment Entrepreneurship Development Trust.

She holds a Bachelor’s in Social Sciences from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor’s in Law from the University of the Witwatersrand.


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African Union urged to do more for Protocol on rights of Women
July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Protocol on rights of Women – The Working Group on Gender Justice in Africa Tuesday called on the African Union (AU) to encourage member states that are yet to ratify the protocol on the rights of women in Africa to do so.

In a statement made available to PANA, the Working Group said the AU should ensure that states which have ratified the protocol domesticate it and ensure its implementation.

So far, 32 states have ratified the protocol: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, The Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The group also commended the AU and its leaders for the election of the first female Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“The emergence of Dr. Dlamini-Zuma exhibited the commitment of the AU to gender equality within the AU, RECs and member states as provided for in the AU Constitutive Act and in the African Union Gender Policy by ensuring that there is equal representation for men and women in decision making, good governance and politics,” it said.


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Senegal Moves to Solidify Gender Equality
July 31, 2012 | 0 Comments

Nancy Palus*

DAKAR – On July 30, Senegal inaugurates its first national assembly since the passage of a gender parity law two years ago. Experts say much is at stake, both for restoring people’s faith in the much-maligned body and for solidifying gender equality.

The fact that 65 of the 150 newly elected representatives are women is a big step forward, but women are quick to say it is just a first step. Gender experts and activists in Dakar say much is riding on their effectiveness as parliamentarians.

Safiétou Diop, president of the civil society coalition Reseau Siggil Jigeen, or “network to advance women” in the local Wolof language, says there are still pockets of resistance to gender equality in decision-making positions.  But this is no time for backtracking, she says. According to Diop, the women in the new national assembly must safeguard the gains they have made by standing together and being effective representatives.

Just more than half of Senegal’s 12.5 million population is female. The 2010 gender parity law requires political parties to ensure that at least half their candidates in local and national elections are women.

Diop says a critical next step in solidifying this advancement for women is to ensure gender equality in committees within the national assembly.

Standing committees include health and education – areas where women say they are determined to see that government spending translates into real benefits for the general population. Women activists and new parliamentarians say improving people’s living conditions is paramount: better access to health care, better sanitation, and increased youth and female employment.

Historically women in Senegal have known how to collaborate to improve conditions in their communities, Diop says, citing women-led cooperatives that have deep roots in Senegalese society. Female lawmakers bring this women’s perspective, this women’s vision when they study pending legislation or pending government expenditures.

About 36% of eligible voters in Senegal came out for the July 1 legislative election. The low turnout is widely seen as a reflection of people’s disdain for the body; many Senegalese tell VOA members seem to be out for personal or party interests, not there to truly represent the people.

Awa Niang, a newly-elected representative for the department of Pikine, says women are determined to change that, and are well-placed to do so.

“We must represent our communities at the national assembly,” she says, “and we are determined to stand by the people’s side and take into account the realities they live every day.” Niang adds that  “women naturally tend to stand together and we will put the force of this solidarity behind actions that will foster development and better conditions for the people.”

The new national assembly, whose members serve five-year terms, is scheduled to take office on July 30.

*Source VOA


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A new era for the African Union
July 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Jakkie Cilliers and Jide Martyns Okeke*

To many observers, the election victory of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma against the incumbent, Mr Jean Ping, as Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) at the Summit in Addis Ababa on 15 July, came as a surprise.

After several delays to the original starting time for the elections, Dr Dlamini-Zuma secured a simple majority in the first three rounds before clinching the vote in the fourth and final round. Unofficial results indicate the following for Dr Dlamini-Zuma and Mr Ping respectively: 27-24 (first round), 29-22 (second round) and 33-18 (third round). In the confidence vote, during which the candidate with the least number of votes is required to withdraw, Dr Dlamini-Zuma achieved more than two-thirds with a respectable 37 out of 51 votes.

Commentators will continue to debate the reasons that explain something of an unexpected victory after the initial electoral deadlock during the January 2012 Summit of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa. For instance, it has been speculated that Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s victory was an outcome of South Africa’s (and SADC’s) persistent bi-lateral efforts, involving extensive travel by senior officials to various countries across the continent. There has been much speculation that South Africa used ‘economic diplomacy’ to muster support from states that initially supported Mr Ping, especially to gain support from Francophone Central and West Africa, and it is important that these perceptions be laid to rest as rapidly as possible. But eventually it was only necessary for two or three countries that had voted for Mr Ping in January to change their votes to Dr Dlamini-Zuma for her to triumph.

Whereas 53 countries voted then, only 51 were able to vote in July since an additional two countries (Guinea Bissau and Mali) were under sanctions and barred from participating in the elections. In addition, neither Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan nor Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, both opposed to the South African candidate, attended, possibly providing something of a leadership vacuum that eventually turned a potential stalemate to triumph for Dr Dlamini-Zuma. Timing is everything and above all, African leaders provided the best possible outcome for a beleaguered AUC – a clear result that sees a highly capable, hard-working and respected female candidate assume the leadership of the AUC.

The outcome of the election is also positive for the global image of African states as it demonstrated that African countries were able to overcome some of the starker colonially inherited divisions that are often used to characterise the continent – particularly those between so-called Francophones and Anglophones. In the process South Africa was able to assert its role as a dominant voice in Africa, despite much commentary to the contrary.

Heads of State also did not amend or violate the Rules despite the claims that the failure to elect Commissioners following the initial electoral deadlock in January created a lame-duck AUC and strident calls by many to amend the Rules or to resort to a political solution that would have violated the same.

The election of the first female AUC Chairperson is a hugely positive development. It highlights Africa’s commitment to the promotion of gender equality within the AUC and hence will impact nationally, where much work remains to be done in this regard. Eventually the election of two of the remaining Commissioners (Economic Affairs, and Human Resources, Science and Technology) was deferred because of the limited availability of male candidates for these positions and the need to maintain the AU’s gender equality and regional representation.

Beyond these immediate gains, the election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma has set a precedent for the future interests of Africa’s ‘big powers’ in putting forward their own candidates for the top position within the AUC. One such controversy was the unwritten rule that big powers do not seek election for the position of Chairperson of the AUC – a view contested by South Africa. In the wake of the outcome it is possible that influential countries such as Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya and Senegal may nominate candidates for the 10 Commission seats in future elections. Therefore smaller countries may struggle for representation and relevance and have to seek more innovative ways to remain relevant within the AUC and the AU in general. This is a trend to watch in the future.

Accordingly, it appears that the foremost task confronting the newly elected AUC Chairperson is to promote reconciliation with AU member states that did not vote for her. Without doubt, such divisions contributed to the electoral deadlock that characterised the January Summit when South Africa led the anti-Ping alliance and refused to vote for Mr Ping even after he had gained more votes than Dr Dlamini-Zuma in each of the first three rounds. Eventually Mr Ping could only gather 32 votes during the fourth and final ‘confidence round’ – three short of the required 35. These divisions were compounded by allegations of negative campaigning by both camps. Although Dr Dlamini-Zuma received the support of the majority of AU member states, the fourteen countries that failed to endorse her candidacy during the confidence vote constitute a significant minority. This limited support for Dr Dlamini-Zuma contrasted with the full endorsement by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government accorded to Mr Erastus Mwencha in his re-election as Deputy Chairperson of the AUC. Mr Mwencha, a Kenyan, was admittedly the only candidate and held in universal high regard, but his election violated, according to some, a second unwritten rule, namely that either the Chair or the Deputy should be Francophone – although this ‘rule’ has also previously been violated by the mercurial former AUC Chairperson Alpha Omar Konare. The spectre that haunts the AU is that linguistic divisions may be replaced by extreme regionalism.

Ironically one of the most celebrated qualities of Dr Dlamini-Zuma is that she is one of the few survivors from the era of the former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who remains highly regarded in much of Africa. She has managed to connect with the two administrations despite the deep acrimony between the two leaders (President Jacob Zuma and former President Mbeki). Her pedigree as former South African Foreign Minister and the very effective current Home Affairs Minister suggests that she has much to offer in bringing both competent management and far-sighted political leadership to the Commission.

The practical challenge facing Dr Dlamini-Zuma is how to deliver on her reformist agenda that aims at achieving a more effective AU, and improve on the global representivity and voice of Africa. A priority in this respect is to promote the implementation of, and adherence to, the numerous policies formulated by the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) during the last half-century. In 2012, the AU celebrates the first decade of its existence, the OAU having existed for a previous 40 years. In the past ten years, the continental body has made tremendous progress in the formulation of norms geared towards political stability and economic development in Africa. The AU has, however, not been able to effectively see to the implementation of many of its decisions and it remains to be seen if Dr Dlamini-Zuma will be able to improve on this poor record. Specifically, the emphasis of the anticipated AU Strategic Plan for 2014-2017 should focus on achieving the implementation and adherence of previous decisions and policies. Perhaps, as some have remarked, the first decision of the next Summit of the Assembly in January 2013 would be not to take any more decisions until its previous decisions had been implemented.

* Jakkie Cilliers is the Executive Director at the Institute for Security Studies and Jide Martyns Okeke is Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, Pretoria and Addis Ababa.This article was originally published at:

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The real tasks ahead for Dlamini-Zuma
July 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Chika Ezeanya*

The election of South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the chairperson of the African Union has earned high points for the regional body on several indicators.

Before her election, when asked how she will bring about change if elected, Dlamini-Zuma responded, “I don’t think my contribution is about doing different things from the incumbent.” One must excuse the experienced diplomat and medical doctor by classifying that statement as the measured speech of one who wants to maintain the favour of the incumbent and his supporters, prior to the final votes being cast. Now that she has clinched the wheels to steer the ship, Dlamini-Zuma must immediately embark on far-reaching transformation of the regional body to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the over 1 billion inhabitants of the continent.

Since its christening as the African Union, the organization has failed to come up with ideas and strategies that will herald the desperately needed transformation across the continent. Africans now wait on Dr. Dlamini-Zuma to come up with novel ideas in all sectors the African Union is involved in, and to add-on more areas of intervention.

In articulating her strategic action plan, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma, first and foremost, must be cautious of advice and suggestions from outsiders on how to run the African Union. On the heels of her victory, several Euro-American leaders in sending congratulatory messages stated that the greatest threat to Africa is insecurity of lives and property. In apparent agreement, one of Dlamini-Zuma’s first comment after her victory was that a major task of hers would be to “strengthen the AU’s Peace and Security Council so that it [could] deal effectively with conflicts and security matters affecting Africa’s stability.”

Nothing can be more distracting for the chairperson, and farther from the truth about the major needs of the continent. Dlamini-Zuma’s statement can be likened to the Association of South East Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) Chairperson saying that the greatest threat to East Asia’s development is the South China Sea; or President Obama saying that the greatest threat to the United States’ advancement is insecurity, occasioned by the shooting incidents. Conflicts are at an all time low across much of Africa. A United Nations recent report notes that as against 14 African states embroiled in armed conflicts in the end of the 1990s, only four states are currently embattled, and in very limited degrees.

Of course, security is important to the growth of every economy, but by overplaying that singular issue, Dlamini-Zuma will be diverting precious energy that should be focused on building the continent in more strategic areas. Focusing on security when it has long ceased to be an issue plays back to the age-old perception of the African as a barbarian and forever wielding the sword. It was the same perception and rhetoric that fuelled slavery and colonialism and supported the proxy wars fought on the continent during the Cold War.

Ulterior motives cannot also be discounted in this clarion call, especially with the United States determined to establish Africom in Africa. Focusing on security further implies patronizing the west, China, Russia and other countries in purchasing arms for the AU troops.
The areas that call for Dlamini-Zuma’s innovative, in-depth and sustained interest and focus can be grouped under four categories: trade, education, health, and the drive towards a united Africa, in no particular order.

The strengthening of intra-African trade – discouraged by colonial divisions, which favoured asymmetrical trade relationships with the colonial masters – must be strategically embarked upon. The AU should actively support trade missions among African states and establish platforms such as an annual African trade exhibition/fair for made-in-Africa goods and services. More sea ports should be constructed in pre-determined locations across the region and more road networks should be built to connect countries. More efforts should be invested in dismantling the numerous tariff and non-tariff barriers that continue to hinder trade among African nations. Tax rebates for transcontinental airlines should be championed across countries. Kenyan Airways and Precision Air Services of Tanzania are currently negotiating with the IFC for funds, and taking on substantial debt that may cripple their operations. The AU must find ways to build strategic partnership with African-owned companies that operate in core sectors of the continent’s economy. In the airline sector, the AU may want to start by mandating its numerous staff, consultants and all whose air travel are remotely funded by the agency to fly only African owned airlines.

Still on trade, AU should come up with an African trade policy that should guide trade in goods and services between African countries and the rest of the world. Since several African leaders are at their wits end on how to address the continued unequal trade that exists between them and the West, China, India and just about any other country outside Africa, the AU should utilize its expertise and generate a guiding document that should be a novel approach to the form of trade relationship that should exist across Africa. This document will include details of operations in the extractive industry; agriculture with as much emphasis as possible placed on land acquisition, cash crop export and other forms of investment; intellectual property rights; transnational higher education etc.

Related to trade is the issue of aid harmonization. It is mandatory for African countries to wean themselves off dependence on aid, but while that is being seriously implemented, aid harmonization is an urgent task across the continent of Africa. Despite the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008), aid fragmentation is still routine across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The African Union must champion the call for all aid flowing into a country to be channeled through one single body to make for effective distribution. In Rwanda, this has been achieved through the creation of the Aid Coordination Unit; from 85% percent dependence on aid, the country is currently at 45%. Under the auspices of the AU, the rest of Africa should actively pursue this first step towards ending dependence on aid.

In the area of education, it has perplexed the world that despite the number of graduates churned out of the continent annually, most African countries are still lacking in a critical mass of entrepreneurs and required skilled labour. But the perplexity is limited to only those who have not glanced at the curricular of study across African schools and colleges. Subjects and courses, case studies and examples, text books and languages that bear little resemblance to the reality of the African student’s environment are the norm. The effect is that students graduate, still clueless as to how to contribute their knowledge to societal advancement. African education trains students to believe in the west, and not in themselves and their environment. From the kindergarten to the Ph.D. level, and across disciplines, education in Africa in terms of content is lacking in almost all the six basic functions of education; socialization, social control, social placement, transmitting culture, promoting social and political integration and as an agent of home-grown change.

The education that Africans need should, among others, focus on building fiercely independent, critically conscious, innovative and creative minds that look to their environment for inspiration and not to the west. . Paulo Freire would argue that “projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry.” Freire’s abhorred form of education has thrived across Africa since the first missionaries stepped foot on the continent. The particular kind of education needed in Africa should build the self-worth of students, and not shatter it by making them feel like mere recipients in the global generation of knowledge. Informally, formally and non-formally, such education should also aim at promoting the concept of a united Africa by breaking down the numerous superimposed mental barriers to inter-ethnic and inter-state cooperation.

The emphasis on sound curricular is expected to go hand in hand with what has been done for the past 60 years with minimal success – the building of schools, training of teachers and the drive towards higher enrollment figures. The later is still important as a stop-gap measure, but has not, and will not be able to transform the mind of Africans from dependency to creativity and innovation. The AU must immediately start to reverse the foreign laden content of Africa’s education, which is one of the greatest impediments to the continent’s advancement.

Health is wealth. The African Union must take active steps, beyond the provision of primary healthcare, to make Africans a healthy people. In Development as Freedom, Nobel prize winner, Amartya Sen contends that the foundations of development is founded in the removal of such “unfreedoms” as high mortality rate. In other words, the establishment of adequate healthcare to free citizens to pursue their dreams, should be top priority.

One of the surest paths to transforming Africa from a consumer of foreign healthcare products and processes to an industrial giant in healthcare is to begin to take the research into indigenous African medicine seriously. There is no justification as to why African countries should still be importing malarial drug, for instance, from India, China and Europe. Aside from the exorbitant costs, emerging news reports indicate that the continent is increasingly exposed to fake and adulterated medicine from these sources.

Euro-America has contributed much to medical advancement, but it is increasingly failing in several areas. Severe and deadly side-effects, absence of cure for several diseases, treachery of pharmaceutical companies, lack of interest in tropical diseases, greedy and uncaring medical practitioners, to mention few have combined to make “alternative” medicine an imperative field of research.

One of the last bastions of indigenous knowledge and forests still remaining in the world, Africa appears to hold the key to the numerous incurable diseases that now plague humanity. The African Union should actively support and encourage, in fact, should institutionalize the study and dissemination of research findings on indigenous medical knowledge, practices and systems.

Of course, this emphasis on empowering indigenous healthcare research in Africa is not meant to substitute the age-long efforts to make healthcare more accessible, through the construction of more hospitals and clinics, and the training of doctors and nurses and other temporary actions. These actions remain important to save lives in the interim, but can never establish Africa as an industrial giant in the field of medicine. It can only slightly ameliorate symptoms, but will indeed make the continent more dependent on the west, China and India for her healthcare.

On the issue of strengthening African unity, the words of Nelson Mandela, spoken to African leaders in 1998 at the OAU summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso must form Dlamini-Zuma’s policy text: “…we charge you with the responsibility to lead our peoples and Continent into the new world of the next century – which must be an African Century – during which all our people will be freed of the bitterness born of the marginalization and degradation of our proud continent of Africa.” Since its inception as the Organization of African Unity, and after most of the continent obtained its freedom from the colonialists, the AU has paid a little more than lip-service to the active promotion of unity across the continent.

One of the first practical ways to unite Africa is by declaring 18th July a mandatory public holiday across Africa – Mandela Day. On that day, the media should focus on broadcasting the numerous positive aspects of pre-colonial Africa, the evils of colonialism, and discussions and debates should be held – in the villages and cities – on how Africa can indeed become free, mentally, culturally, economically, socially, and yes, even politically.

The AU must champion the promotion of Continental figures as Africans, and not just as Zimbabwean, or Nigerian or Ghanaian. Further, Swahili as the most widely-spoken language in Africa should be promoted by the African Union and advocacy should be made for it to be included as one of the United Nations languages. The AU should also consider the setting up of a platform, like Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corp, where young Africans will be required to spend a mandatory amount of time in another African country in order to advance their career. The above are only some of the numerous ways – apart from routine, costly, ill-devised and low impact conferences and workshops– that the AU can embark upon in order to unite the continent of Africa.

Speaking to the Association of Commonwealth Universities in 1998, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere declared that “decades ago, as President of my country, I told Tanzanians that the choice before them was to change or be changed. I was wrong. There was no choice. They had to change, and would still be changed.” The task of radically transforming the AU is not optional for Dlamini-Zuma. There are several forces already transforming Africa, whether the African Union recognizes it or not. It is to its advantage and continued relevance to identify these centrifugal and centripetal forces of change and act accordingly.

In the words of Joseph Shabala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “the tasks ahead of us can never be greater than the power within us.” The tasks ahead of Dlamini-Zuma must be addressed with a singleness of purpose. She must focus on the more pertinent issues of building a strong and solid foundation for the transformation of Africa, and in advocating for an end to the exploitation of the continent by the rest of the world.

*Source PAMBAZUKA NEWS.  Like Chika on Facebook

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Fatou Bensouda And The Top ICC Post:Africa’s Woman at The Hague
July 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

By By Obed Boafo*

On Friday June 15, 2012, Gambian-born international criminal justice Lawyer Fatou Bensouda rose to the highest position of Chief Prosecutor, at the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, Netherlands.

She becomes the first African to hold the position since the establishment of the ICC some ten years ago. The ICC’s mandate is to prosecute individuals for genocide crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

Bensouda’s accession is, and will for years to come be a significant representation not only for her as a person but for the continent she comes from, and where she learnt the ropes of becoming a good Lawyer – Africa.

Her rise to the position comes at a time when the ICC is facing a lot of pressure from the African Union for what the union feels, is the international court’s lack of even-handedness in dealing with cases from the region, and how the ICC can do a lot to prove its innocence over claims of selective justice perceived by some of member states of the AU.

It is a very difficult subject that puts Bensouda in a very tough and tight corner. Over the next few days at post, a lot of eyes will be on her, ostensibly to gauge how she will respond directly or indirectly to the concerns of the Africa Union, and sections of civil society, on calls for the ICC to be fair in dealing with all subjects.

But the ICC’s critics may also admit that the call for a fair and balanced court at that highest point of international geopolitics go way beyond the doorstep of Bensouda, as it usually takes more than just the effort of one person at the ICC to take such decisions, to be seen as being fair or not.

“Although many Africans consequently feel that the court is an imperialist vehicle, controlled by the West and intent on undermining sovereignty on the continent, there is also a significant body of thought that Africa should be proud to be at the forefront of international criminal justice.

‘Bensouda needs to use her reportedly excellent diplomatic skills to restore confidence in this perspective, to include the African Union in her decision-making, and to rebuild relations after the ‘patronizing’ tone African leaders accuse her predecessor of adopting,’ says Afua Hirsch, West African correspondent for The Guardian.

But on the flipside, Bensouda knows that she can’t completely do away with that threat, as she will have to somehow, live with it – just as her predecessor and former Argentinean boss Luis Moreno-Ocampo who held the position for close to nine years, did.

There are suggestions that she will be a better Chief Prosecutor than Moreno-Ocampo was, and there are even stretched arguments pointing to a ‘new, fair and more improved ICC under her watch’.

Expectations are high for the Gambian woman who before this appointment was deputy chief prosecutor (since 2004) at the ICC.

Already, she has shot down suggestions she is going in to do Africa’s bidding. The ICC is recognized by some 121 countries, meaning over the time that she is going to be at the helm of affairs, she will have to take very critical decisions that may have to, sit well with each signatory to the statute that established the ICC, and not only the AU.

‘As I begin my tenure, moving forward in consolidating current practices, the office will continue to forge ahead with its investigations and prosecutions,’ she’s said.

‘I am an African and I am very proud of that. But I think it is not because I am an African that I was chosen for this position. I think my track record speaks for myself … I have been endorsed by the African Union, but I am a prosecutor for 121 states parties and this is what I intend to be until the end of my mandate’.

She’s promised to make victims of crime her priority, a call most human rights activist have lauded her for, and will be hoping that she does exactly that.

In the next few days, her most immediate task will be to ‘resolve the standoff with Libya, which placed some ICC envoys in ‘preventive detention’ for 45 days during investigations into alleged threats to Libya’s national security by the former North African leader’s son Saif al-islam, and former spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi.

Already, this looks like a task half done for Bensouda due to the backing the ICC has received from Human rights groups, who have strongly condemned Libya.

Other challenges such as getting Arab countries to sign up to the Rome Statue that established the ICC, the prosecution of six prominent Kenyan figures for post-election between 2007 and 2008, presiding over the case of Laurent Gbagbo, as well as violations by forces loyal to the ousted Ivorian leader, among a tall list of cases including that of several African countries, would occupy her mind over the next few days as Chief Prosecutor.

Although the challenge ahead looks daunting, it appears the pressure from a good number of civil society institutions including the Human Rights Watch, for the ICC to purge itself from ‘a very dark past’, will spur her on to rise to the occasion.

‘In Syria and other strife-torn countries over the past 10 years, the ICC has come to symbolize the last, best hope for justice,’ said Richard Dicker, International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch.

‘We look to Bensouda’s leadership to advance cases, build bridges with victims, and push countries to support its impartial application of the law to get the job done,’ he adds.

But close aides to Bensouda have said her reputation for controlling calm and sensitivity will put her in good stead to meet the challenges squarely and head-on.

‘Will she wave a magic wand and cure all the difficulties that exist at the ICC at the moment? No. Can she bring positive disposition over time to transforming the polluted atmosphere in which the institution has been operating in Africa? Absolutely,’ says Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission.

‘Fatou brings a different set of skills and temperament from her predecessor and that is a positive thing …Fatou’s accession gives the ICC an opportunity to redeem relationships with victims’ communities, show them that it is capable of caring – she inherits a situation in which the ability to be deeply nuance is needed and if she has those skills, which she seems to, that will be an asset,’ added Odinkalu.

‘Fatou is someone who is ready to listen and provide answers. You can sense that this is a different regime from the past, that she wants to listen, and to have a dialogue,’ says erudite lawyer Alpa Sesay.Changing the way the ICC operates and is perceived some have said, will also mean Bensouda working very hard to ‘restore transparency to the internal and external practices of the ICC’

Part of the reason why Moreno-Ocampo had a difficult time at the ICC appealing to critics some have said, was his poor human relations, and also leadership style that many thought, wasn’t transparent enough especially in the area of decision making.

It is expected that with Bensouda’s considerable experience in national criminal prosecutions, company management and diplomatic work, she would build a workable and well-oiled prosecutions system for launching investigations and issuing arrest warrants, especially in cases where she acts proprio motu – relying on her personal judgment than anybody else’s.

Born in Banjul in 1961 to a Polygamous family, Fatou Bensouda obtained her Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Ife in Nigeria. She later qualified as Barrister-at-Law (BL) from the Nigeria Law School. She also worked as Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

She became Gambia’s first expert in international maritime law after acquiring a Master of Laws from the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta, and in December 2011, she became the choice to serve as the next prosecutor of the ICC by consensus. She is a former government civil servant, who served as Solicitor-General of Gambia, as well as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, advising both the President and Cabinet of the Gambia.

That task of straightening up ‘things’ in Yahya Jammeh’s Government, was very unpleasant as she had to constantly put up explanations as to why the West African country couldn’t stop the numerous human rights abuses committed by her president.

All that is in the past now, as the 51 year old mother of two, looks to higher heights.



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Malawi’s Joyce Banda discards presidential jet and luxury car fleet
June 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

New president increases popularity with ongoing rejection of predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika’s lavish lifestyle and policies

By David Smith*

Malawi’s new president has made numerous breaks from her autocratic predecessor but few will be this popular: she has dumped his presidential jet and fleet of luxury cars.



Joyce Banda, who came to power in April after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, has barely paused in her drive to overturn his controversial policies and lifestyle.

Her decision to sell or lease the impoverished country’s £8.4m presidential jet and fleet of 60 Mercedes government cars seems likely to cement domestic goodwill – and confirm her as a darling of the west.

Britain, Malawi’s biggest aid donor, announced on Friday that Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, had raised the issue of the Dassault Falcon 900EX jet with Banda at a private meeting with the new government. Mitchell said: “At a time of austerity in both Britain and Malawi, president Banda’s decision to sell or lease the presidential jet and expensive fleet of cars sends an enormously encouraging signal to British taxpayers and the international community about the seriousness President Banda is applying to overturn bad decisions taken under the previous government.

“The proceeds can be used to provide basic services to Malawi’s poorest people who urgently need help following the vital devaluation of the currency.”

Last month Banda was quoted in local media saying the cabinet would discuss the jet’s future, explaining she had no problems “offloading it as I can well use private airliners; I am already used to hitchhiking”.

Mutharika bought the presidential jet in 2009, claiming it was less expensive than leasing a plane every time he travelled. But it came to be seen as a symbol of African kleptocracy and some observers compared him with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Mutharika was also condemned for purchasing a 58-room mansion in his home district and granting a salary to his wife. His regime lashed out at allegations of corruption and cronyism at a time when Malawi was suffering severe shortages of foreign currency and fuel.

The president’s sudden death from a heart attack changed the course of the country’s history. Having thwarted an attempt by his allies to block her, Banda assumed control and has since appointed a new cabinet, sacked his police chief, announced the lifting of a ban on homosexuality and restored the country’s independence-era flag.

The turnaround has been welcomed by western countries such as Britain, whose high commissioner was expelled by Mutharika for branding him “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

During a four-day visit, Mitchell confirmed that the Bank of England will work directly with the Reserve Bank of Malawi to help it cope with the impact of slashing the value of the local currency, the kwacha, by one third earlier this month on the advice of the IMF.

The minister said: “I am also delighted to be in Malawi to relaunch Britain’s development partnership with the new president. Britain is leading the international community by providing urgent balance of payments support and technical assistance to Malawi through the Bank of England.”

In May this year Britain pledged £23m to help stabilise the Malawian economy and £10m for the country’s health system. – The Guardian




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A Safety net for Women In Sierra Leone
February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

-Kono Business makes female Tailors Economically Sustainable.

By Ajong Mbapndah L

It may have started small but it has succeeded in transforming lives of women in Sierra Leone. What Anni Lyngskaer started after discovering firsthand the sufferings of women in a country suffering from the hangover of a civil war has succeeded today in making many empowered. The venture called Kono Business helps the activities of female tailors to become economically sustainable. Anni of Danish origin has rallied other young volunteers from her country to assist her in turning Kono Business into a formidable organization with on the ground results that are there for all to see. In a chat with PAV, Anni sheds more light on the work of her Organization, challenges faced, her observation of developments in Sierra Leone and plans for the future.

PAV: May we know what Kono Business is all about and how did this idea come about?

Anni Lyngskaer: Kono Business is a not-for-profit social enterprise aiming to empower a group of female tailors to become economically sustainable and role models in the local community. This is done through trainings and two annual production cycles. The tailors produce scarves, bags and computer sleeves that we sell in two shops in Denmark and online on
Kono Business is run by 10 Danish volunteers and all profit generated from sales are re-invested in the project. For example, this year we supported the tailors in shining up the shop at the local facility in Sierra Leone to help them gain more local customers. The tailors paid half of the expenses from their shared savings and Kono Business paid the other half from the profit.

We are approved by Fair Trade Denmark, which means we live up to the international standards of fair trade. Co-founder Anni Lyngskaer traveled to Sierra Leone for the first time in January 2008. She went to write a story about girl soldiers for the Danish news paper “Kristeligt Dagblad.”She met a lot of interesting and inspiring people on that trip, and one of them was Arthur Kargbo, who is the Project Manager of the local CBO that Kono Business & Development works with today.

After Anni got back to Denmark she fundraised around 3.500 us dollars to the local CBO. All the money was spent on equipment for the vocational training school the CBO is running.However, this wasn’t enough for Anni, she wanted to do more and one day she had a conversation with founder of Café Retro, Rie Skårhøj.The two young women realized that they had similar ideas. After a little while they raised money to travel to Sierra Leone to start the project that today is Kono Business & Development. The journey took place in January 2009 and Rie and Anni met with the group of female tailors who are still working for Kono Business today.


PAV: What made you settle on the choice of Sierra Leone and what concrete impact would you say Kono business has had on the life of Sierra Leoneans?

Anni Lyngskaer: We work with a rather small group of tailors (14), but we believe in quality and believe even a small effort can create a huge impact. We are empowering the tailors to participate in the community by talking about female issues and take part in discussions. During each production cycle we run a training as well. This past fall we carried out a video workshop encouraging the women to tell their own story through filming. They were able to create their own short documentaries and presented the results at a local film screening in Koidu town. One of the women said “I’m very happy and have realized that women are also valuable in society.” (Hawa Gborie)

PAV: How is the selection done for people that you work with?

Anni Lyngskaer: The selection of tailors was made of our local partner organization who knows the tailors from the school they are running. The tailors now select their own new sisters in the co-op. However, for the moment we have a limit of 15 women. But we hope to be able to expand in the future.

PAV: What are some of the challenges that Kono Business has faced so far?

Anni Lyngskaer: The fact that we are actually running a business. It’s A LOT of work to maintain the sales and marketing activities in Denmark. In the beginning non of us had any business background, but recently we got some new volunteers educated from Copenhagen Business School, which is really necessary.

PAV: Any prospects that the initiative may be expanded to other African countries or you intend to limit it solely to Sierra Leone?

Anni Lyngskaer: Well, we would love to. We would also love to share our experiences, so others can do similar start ups.

PAV: We noticed that you have succeeded in building a dynamic team of young volunteers, what exactly drives them towards Kono Business?

Anni Lyngskaer: That’s a very good question. We are part of a bigger organization specialized in running projects on a voluntarily basis, so we use quite a lot of energy to work on management of volunteers. Our volunteers have different motivation. Some of them do it because they want practical relevant experience while studying. Most of them study African Studies or International Affairs.
Most of our “business volunteers” work full time besides volunteering for Kono, and they do it because they like the idea of sharing their experience and also doing something “good” for others. I think most of us believe that development aid should be changed and focused more on business initiatives and entrepreneurship instead of “just” capacity building or “democracy projects telling them how we like it.”
In Kono we believe that our tailors already have a lot of capacity and knowledge and teach them through storytelling and with a trust in their ability to change their own lives.An example of them taking initiative is that they recently hired a woman to continue to teach them reading and writing. They pay her from their shared savings account.

PAV: You probably have been to Sierra Leone a couple of times, it is a country try to shirk off the hangover of a brutal civil war, what assessment do you make of the situation there today and what potentials do you see for the country?

Anni Lyngskaer: We work in Koidu and unfortunately the signs of the civil war are still very present in the community. We experience a lot of fighter spirit and a drive to move forwards, but a lot of basic needs are still not present in Koidu. There is no power unless you have a generator, no running water, bad roads lack of doctors and qualified teachers. There is a huge potential for the government to cooperate with foreign mining companies about CSR and paying a fair amount of tax to Sierra Leone. As for now the companies make a huge profit the diamond mining industry, while the local people suffer.

We also see an abrupt family structure. Only one of our 14 tailors is married, but 9 of them have kids – most of them with different fathers.

 working with the women is such an honor says Anni

working with the women is such an honor says Anni

They tell us that the young men leave them as soon as they find out the woman are pregnant. Prostitution is a problem as well, and it seems to be the easiest way for young girls to make a bit of money and often the only way to survive. To me this is a very important issue that both NGOs and the government should address in the future. Our tailors always say they encourage their sisters to get off the street, learn a trade and make money that way instead of selling their body.

PAV: You come from a much more developed background and country, what do Danes think of your initiative and what image of Africa do they have?

Anni Lyngskaer: I think most of my friends and family appreciate what I do. Some times I host talks and show pictures and films from our work and that is usually very inspiring for people.
Most of them are curious and ask a lot of questions about Sierra Leone, Africa and of course Kono Business.


PAV: Any other big plans or projects that Kono Business intends to work on down the line?

Anni Lyngskaer: We are working on a new web shop because we experience problem with the current payment system. We hope to expand internationally and start selling in Scandinavia and by time in the rest of Europe and The States as well. We are always open for new ideas and partnerships so you’ll never what happens next. On a more personally level, I’m about to launch my next project called This is my Story, which is also a social enterprise focusing on participatory video workshops as community development.

PAV: Anni Lyngskaer, you are quite a formidable young Lady and PAV is grateful for the interview

Anni Lyngskaer: Thank you.


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