The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today has vigorously condemned the clamp down on the media in Uganda. According to the Uganda Journalists Union (UJU), police on 20 May, besieged two privately owned newspapers and cut off two radio stations from the air in the capital city, Kampala.
"This is a real affront on media freedom. Uganda is definitely becoming a country where press freedom abuses and violations are widely perpetrated by the police with total impunity. This must stop immediately," said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director.
According to the UJU, heavily armed policemen on 20 May surrounded the "Daily Monitor" newspaper offices in Kampala, which is owned by Monitor Publications and besieged the premises allowing no one to enter or come out. No official reasons were given for this act but UJU said quoting sources that the police were looking for evidence against an army general who recently questioned President Yoweri Museveni's alleged plan to have his son succeed him.
On the same day, police ordered for the switching off of two radio stations namely KFM and Dembe FM, both also owned by Monitor Publications. According to the UJU, as the "Daily Monitor" was being overrun by the Police another raid was being carried out on the premises of "Red Pepper" another independent newspaper.
"The raid on the newspaper is aimed at intimidating and suppressing the Press from reporting issues independently, objectively and responsibly. If there is any crime against the journalists then aggrieved parties should seek legal redress," said UJU President, Lucy Anyango Ekadu.
The IFJ is deeply concerned about the continued degradation of press freedom and freedom of expression in Uganda and calls on the Government of President Yoweri Museveni to ensure that the safety of journalists is guaranteed while executing their duties.
The Government of Uganda must be able to create the enabling environment for the media to flourish in relation to its obligations on the international instruments that it has signed and ratified guaranteeing the freedom of expression. It could be recalled that two weeks ago, the IFJ condemned the arrest of James Kasirivu of Endigito Radio who is detained incommunicado without any charges against him.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 221 33 867 95 86/87
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries
Source: International Federation of Journalists
African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirmed on Sunday that civil society organizations, partners and delegations will, for the first time, be denied access to the AU conference centre during a summit this week, Business Day has reported.
The gathering will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, the AU's predecessor.
"This has not come from the commission, this has come from the member states themselves.... We are implementing what we have been asked, which is very reasonable in our view," Ms Dlamini-Zuma said during a press conference in Addis Ababa.
Konjit Sinegiorgis, Ethiopian ambassador to the AU and chairman of the AU Council of Permanent Representatives, confirmed that the decision had been taken at the extraordinary session of the council of ministers at the beginning of April, as first reported by Business Day last week.
"Closed sessions are closed sessions. We decide which ones are closed. And if you are not going to be participating in the discussion, why be here?" Ms Dlamini-Zuma asked, adding that she did not understand why it had become an issue.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are concerned about being locked out when critical discussions on Vision 2063 -- a blueprint for the continent's development over the next 50 years -- are due to take place.
"Civil society should have as much access as possible to the discussions of our political leaders on the future of our continent," Winnie Byanyima, the new executive director of Oxfam International, told Business Day. "Doing otherwise will send a wrong signal, symbolically, that the African Union is closing space to civil society. That is not a signal that I think the member states want to send to African people."
A number of civil society organisations are organising a press conference, scheduled for Wednesday, to express their worries and frustration about their exclusion from this important meeting.
Some foreign diplomats, many of whose governments provide critical financial and other support to the AU, are also unhappy about being shut out of the AU's premises during the summit, which usually provides an occasion for important bilateral meetings between the continent's leaders and high-level officials from non-African states.
Ms Dlamini Zuma told Business Day that the decision to exclude civil society and non-AU observers was intended to put an end to fringe meetings which it is felt distract leaders and ministers from the summit agenda. "We have to be allowed to do our work in an efficient way," she said, citing the European Union, which does not allow any observers at its meetings, in defence of the AU's new policy.
Source: Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency
A team of international experts has drawn up the Soil Atlas of Africa - the first such book mapping this key natural resource - to help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil and the need to manage it through sustainable use.
They say that despite soil's importance, most people in Africa lack knowledge about it, partly because information about it tends to be confined to academic publications read only by scientists.
"There was an existing database on soil that had not been updated by soil science experts from Africa, so we asked them to provide us with new information, which we translated into a form understandable to key stakeholders," says Arwyn Jones, a member of the soil team at the Land Resource Management Unit of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, which produced the atlas.
The project began four years ago, and involved experts from the European Commission, the African Union and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
The atlas was released at the meeting of the African Union and European Union commissions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month (25-26 April).
Robert Zougmoré, regional programme manager for West Africa at the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, says the atlas displays the diversity of African soil for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes.
"We documented all the different types of soils and mapped them so that our decision-makers at national and regional levels can use the maps to decide where to invest in terms of food production and urbanisation," he says.
"For example, using the atlas, we can identify regions such as central Africa, some parts of west Africa, and southern Africa where a type of fertile soil called vertisol - which maximises crop yields - can be found in greater quantities."
Zougmoré tells SciDev.Net that most African countries have national soil bureaus that are inadequately resourced, making it difficult to generate new soil information. He is now calling for more support from African governments.
Peter Okoth, a Nairobi-based natural resources consultant, says: "Regional users [of the atlas] have the opportunity to know about trends, problem hotspots and patterns of soil distribution".
But he cautions that unless users are properly trained, they may find using the atlas challenging.
The atlas is currently only available as a set of PDF documents for download, or as a printed copy that can be ordered from the European Union's publication office.
Pedro Sanchez, project director of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS), and a soil expert at the US-based Earth Institute, Columbia University, welcomes the atlas as an "important tool".
But he points out that because the atlas is not interactive, users may find it difficult to determine relationships between soil properties and their impacts.
"We are also working on another interactive, web-accessible digital soil map that covers all the non-desert areas of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Sanchez, adding that AfSIS hopes to complete this project by the end of the year.
Source: SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk
This week marks five years since tensions between foreigners and South Africans living in impoverished communities across the country erupted in xenophobic violence, leaving more than 60 people dead and tens of thousands displaced, their homes and businesses robbed and abandoned.
Since May 2008, various initiatives have been established to detect early warning signs of future xenophobic attacks and to improve responses. But while no further outbreaks have occurred on the scale of the violence five years ago, attacks on foreign nationals have continued. On average, one person was killed every week in 2011, according to the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA).
The looting and victimization of foreigners has also remained a feature of the frequent service delivery protests that have rocked South African townships in recent years, as has the near impunity of perpetrators.
In a statement released on 13 May, CoRMSA concluded that “much more still needs to be done to promote peaceful communities”.
Philippi Township, 25km southeast of Cape Town, has been a hotspot for xenophobic violence in Western Cape Province post-2008. In an area where nearly 60 percent of residents are unemployed, according to census data, Ward Counsellor Thobile Gqola, estimated that foreign nationals run more than half of businesses.
“Generally, people are happy to live side-by-side; the problem starts when it comes to business,” he told IRIN.
Most of the violence has been directed at Somali refugees who run many of the small grocery stores known as ‘spaza’ shops in the township. Like many other Somali traders in Philippi, Abdullahi Wehliye, 28, opened a shop there after losing his shop in neighbouring Khayelitsha Township during the 2008 xenophobic violence.
“I lost everything; I had to start over,” he told IRIN as he served customers through a metal grill, a security precaution that has done little to protect him from crime.
Wehliye said his shop had been robbed seven times since it opened in 2010. During one incident in 2012, his brother was shot and killed. Although he reported all of the robberies, no arrests have been made. Of 60 Somali shopkeepers in the area, who have formed an association that Wehliye chairs, all have had their shops robbed and the vast majority have experienced shootings, Wehliye said.
A 2012 study by Vanya Gastrow and Roni Amit, of the African Centre for Migration and Society at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, found that Somali-run shops suffered disproportionately from crime, including attacks orchestrated by competing South African traders. Their vulnerability to such attacks was found to be partly the result of their lack of access to informal justice mechanisms and community structures.
In township settings, noted the researchers, leaders of local street committees, most of which fall under the authority of the South African National Civic Association (SANCO), often play a more important role in responding to crime than the formal justice system.
“People in townships still respect their ‘chiefs’,” said Charles Mutabazi, director of the Agency for Refugee Education, Skills, Training and Advocacy (ARESTA), a Cape Town-based NGO.
Peace monitoring, community building
ARESTA partnered with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to start a project in Philippi in 2012 that identified 20 community leaders in each of the townships’ five wards and trained them to be “peace monitors”. The three-day training included mediation and conflict-resolution skills as well as information about the rights of migrants and refugees.
“There’s a lot of conflict here,” said Vra Mdledle, a SANCO member and secretary to a ward counsellor who went through the training last year. “When you’re in SANCO, they don’t give you training, they just nominate you. ARESTA gave us skills we could use in our communities.”
She gave the example of a Somali shopkeeper in her area who had recently experienced an arson attack. Following a similar attack last year, he alleged that local police had pressured him to drop the case.
“I called all the peace monitors, and we decided to accompany him to the police station,” said Mdledle. “We asked to see the station commissioner and demanded that the previous case be reopened. I saw the police are not really doing their job.”
Although the focus of the project is to promote diversity and quell xenophobic tensions, the peace monitors do not limit themselves to advocating for foreign nationals. Locals also suffer as a result of police negligence, said Mdledle, and there are many situations that demand conflict-resolution skills in this densely populated township.
Voyiseka Nzuzo, 24, who went through the ARESTA training in February, said peace monitors in her area had recently intervened after the family of a nine-year-old rape victim beat and stabbed a man they believed to be the perpetrator. “We found that the child had pointed out five different people. We went to the police station and tried to convince the case investigator they had the wrong suspect,” she told IRIN.
As the owner of a barber shop with foreign customers and the founder of a local business association that includes South Africans and migrants, Lefefe Mdunyelwa said he already had friends from other countries before he became a peace monitor, but that he still learned a lot from the training. “I learned that each and every person is just living for themselves; nobody’s trying to steal your business,” he told IRIN.
Noticing that the foreign members of his association were often discriminated against when it came to the issuing of business permits and the charging of rent by municipal officials, he said his association is now advocating for equal treatment.
Although ARESTA has made efforts to include members of Philippi’s Somali community in the peace monitor training and quarterly peace marches, Mutabazi said participation had been disappointing.
Wehliye, who is one of eight Somalis to have gone through the training, said language remained a barrier, and Gqola, the ward councillor, said foreign nationals often stayed away from meetings aimed at facilitating dialogue between local and foreign business owners because they felt intimidated.
Wehliye said he signed up for the training because “after we’d been robbed so many times, I wanted to know what rights I had. I learned I had the same rights [to justice] as local people. I feel empowered.”
Becoming a peace monitor has also brought him into contact with local leaders whom he works with to resolve conflicts. “I now feel like a member of the community,” he told IRIN.
Mutabazi said the success of the peace monitor project lay in its emphasis on changing the mindset of influential community leaders. Whether it will be rolled out in other townships will depend on funding, but Mutabazi is convinced that the value of the training has been tested.
“It’s empowering [participants] to be better community leaders. If we’re leaving that kind of legacy behind, it’s very good for promoting social cohesion.”
Source: Irin News
‘Publish or perish’ runs the mantra of the research industry, putting its harried worker bees under constant pressure to issue material. The development industry is similarly quick on the draw, with Morten Jerven recalling how World Bank staffers have published GDP figures on African economies despite having little or no source data, on the basis that it was better to have some data rather than none.
But as any hypochondriac scanning the internet will tell you, a little information is a dangerous thing. And so it proves with the new China-Africa aid database, AidData. The resource, which took 18 months to compile, sought to find and classify all Chinese development finance to Africa from 2001 to 2011, using a media-based data collection methodology.
But soon after it was published, the human encyclopaedia of all things Sino-African - Deborah Brautigam - slammed it, saying the numbers were 'way off' and riddled with ‘mega errors’. She warned of the dangers of rushing to publish China information gleaned from public sources, and without clear verification processes: “Data-driven researchers won't wait around to have someone clean the data. They'll start using it and publishing with it and setting these numbers into stone.”
Fanning the flames
Although the AidData researchers included notice of the limitations of the data set and its constantly-evolving nature, the media seized upon top-line figures like hungry jackals. Yahoo News announced that $75 billion of ‘previously secret’ Chinese aid had now been revealed (the ‘secrecy’ was played up in many other media headlines about the story). But that figure is dubious, since nearly half the cases in the dataset had only one source, with no ‘triangulation’ or verification of data against other sources. And obviously, none of this aid was ‘secret’ since it was all based on media reports.
The debate over AidData is similar to that surrounding the Land Matrix database launched last year. Responding to fears of ‘land grabs’ - especially in Africa - the coalition of researchers aimed to document over a thousand land deals since 2000, spanning 58million hectares of land.
While it was based on the output of dozens of research bodies and NGOs, it was littered with errors and flawed data - some of which was, again, based on single media reports - overstating the extent of Chinese land investment in Africa, which in turn fed the flames of the ‘China is colonising Africa’ narrative.
Chinese ownership was ascribed simply because Chinese contractors were involved. Some deals were characterised as ‘Chinese’ in origin when they were coalitions of countries – for example, an Ethiopian biofuels project was described as a Sino investment was actually a collaboration between China, South Africa and Ethiopia, while a rice project in Mali was Libyan-owned with a Chinese contractor. An irrigated maize project in Zimbabwe was a construction contract granted to a Chinese company, rather than a Chinese investment, and the land did not even get developed.
A dangerous method
In reality, outside of Zambia, where Chinese companies have been investing since the 1990s, and a handful of former state-farm aid projects, now privatised with Chinese involvement, “there is very little Chinese farming investment in Africa” claims Brautigam.
Those launching the Land Matrix acknowledged problems with the data but felt it was better to offer it to the global ‘hive-mind’ which would - Wikipedia-style - chisel it towards truth. Michael Taylor from the International Land Coalition, a participating institution, told This is Africa: “As most deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, it is notoriously difficult to get accurate information and to verify each deal beyond doubt. We therefore confirmed the source for each deal, but we cannot in most cases verify that the information is therefore correct.”
Putting data into the public realm even though it likely contained errors “is a deliberate strategy,” he said. “We see the Land Matrix as a tool that enables wide public participation by researchers, affected community members, governments, companies and so on, in the continual improvement of the information in the database. It is therefore not a one-off publication of information that we believe to be correct, but a contribution to an open, ongoing and long-term discussion in which all with specialist knowledge in particular areas can be a part of the updating.”
There is, of course, a romantic appeal to the idea of open, evolving public data venues and information crowdsourcing. But in the rush to share information, the slow, tedious process of verification, cross-checking and interpretation is often neglected.
Those with agendas - be they activists looking to raise alarms, researchers scoping for a punchy idea or journalists on a copy deadline, could take a quick scan and publish. Like a virus, these bytes of information multiply online. Before you know it, they have become facts through use, rather than truth. Following the movements for ‘slow food’ and ‘slow science’, the time may be right for ‘slow data’.
By Adam Robert Green
Source: Think Africa Press
Unemployment, poverty and political marginalization are contributing to the Islamic radicalization of Kenya's youth, a situation experts say must be addressed through economic empowerment and inclusive policies.
Youth unemployment is extremely high, as are levels of political disenchantment. An estimated 75 percent of out-of-school youths are unemployed, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
"The unemployment crisis is a ticking bomb. Over 60 percent of the population is under 25. You cannot ignore that," said Yusuf Hassan, the Member of Parliament for Nairobi’s Kamukunji Constituency, which has a large Muslim population. "A huge and significant population is restless. And the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider."
"When access to resources is based on ethnic, cultural or religious characteristics or there is a growing divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots' in countries and communities, economic conditions further contribute to instability," says a new report by the Institute for Security Studies in Africa (ISS). "Countries confronted by large differences between 'haves' and 'have nots' are additionally vulnerable to conflict, which may include resorting to acts of terrorism."
Marginalized and radicalized
A string of grenade attacks - some allegedly by Somali Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabab or their sympathizers - have occurred in the Kenyan towns of Garissa, Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi, since Kenya began its military incursion in Somalia in October 2011.
But Islamic radicalization is not new to Kenya. Kenyans were involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and the Tanzania city of Dar es Salaam; the coordinated attacks, which killed more than 220 people, were Africa's first suicide bombings by Al-Qaeda's East Africa cell. In a 2002 dual car-bomb and suicide attack on a hotel and plane in Mombasa, at least one of the suspects was Kenyan.
Muslims make up an estimated 11 percent of Kenya’s population; large Muslim communities can be found in the country’s northeast and in the coastal region. Traditionally, Kenya’s Muslims are moderate, with the community peacefully seeking participation in politics. But ISS pointed to the historical political marginalization of Muslims - right from negotiations for Kenya’s independence, in which ethnic Somalis, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, were not represented - as a contributor to the radicalization of young people.
“Although Kenya is a secular state, it is essentially a Christian country because of the dominant Christian population… There is the perception that Islam is ‘alien’, despite the fact that it came to Kenya before Christianity,” the report notes.
The report also found that some young Kenyan Muslims have been influenced by radical preaching, which leads them to believe that wars being fought against Muslims abroad - for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq - are part of “a global campaign against Islam”.
According to a 2011 report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, non-Somali Kenyan nationals constituted the largest and most organized non-Somali group within Al-Shabab.
Taking advantage of vulnerable youth
"We've already seen the rumblings of 'Pwani si Kenya' [Coast is not Kenya, the slogan of a separatist group in Kenya’s Coast Province] - radicalized, marginalized, poverty-stricken young people are saying, ‘we don't belong to Kenya’," said Hassan, who was seriously injured in a 2012 grenade attack in his constituency.
The ISS report found that Islamist militants were exploiting sub-standard socioeconomic conditions, and the government's inability to provide basic services, by positioning themselves as providers of assistance. "Creating or infiltrating bona fide charity organizations... is a sure way to win the general support of ordinary people," the report said.
The report points to the growing influence of the Muslim Youth Centre (MYC), a Kenyan group whose objectives include promoting community health and social welfare, but which also advocates "an extreme interpretation of Islam and prepares members to travel to Somalia for 'jihad' [holy war], thus attracting the attention of security agencies in Kenya and abroad." According to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, Al-Shabab announced a merger with MYC in 2012.
Hassan Sheikh, a cleric in the northeastern town of Garissa, said extremist groups have taken control of many mosques and Islamic schools, setup orphanages, and employed teachers and imams.
"North Kenya is a hub for mercenaries. You can easily get [attract] them - it’s out of poverty,” said Khalif Aabdulla, a civil rights activist from Wajir, also northeastern Kenya.
NGOs and government officials in Kenya acknowledge an urgent need to develop a counter-radicalization policy to prevent young people from turning to violent groups, and some say Kenya’s newly elected government may be an opportunity to tackle the issue. NGOs say the government must do more than promote economic empowerment among marginalized communities; it must also foster a sense of belonging.
"There are some efforts to use the Council of Imams or Islamic Preachers' Association to talk to the youths," said Mwalimu Mati, CEO of governance watchdog Mars Group Kenya. "The moderates are trying to assist the government, but I can't say it's a complete success."
"The problem is exacerbated by counter-terrorism programmes by the Kenya police who carry out mass raids rather than targeted arrests. It keeps the youths feeling repressed generally. They then identify that as oppression based on religion," Mati said. He says the problem is primarily in North Eastern District, Eastleigh and Coast Province.
The ISS report describes the current approach as "collective punishment based on perceptions".
"Most perceptions are completely wrong, especially that Somali nationals are responsible for attacks in Kenya or that Kenya is an innocent bystander when acts of terrorism are committed on its soil," it stated.
Following attacks in Nairobi, ethnic Somalis - both Kenyan and foreign nationals - said they experienced xenophobia and lived in constant fear of arrest.
Under the government of former president Mwai Kibaki, both the Ministry for Peace-building and Conflict Management and the Ministry for Education told IRIN that they had no programmes to address radicalization.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport said they ran "empowerment programmes" in conjunction with the formal education system. But as Leah Rotitch, a director in the education ministry, said, "The people Al-Shabab target are normally young people who are out of school."
The persecution felt by ethnic Somalis and other Muslim communities has only increased in recent years, with police allegedly engaging in extrajudicial use of force and even killings of terror suspects; the police deny these claims.
"Since the passing of the new anti-terror bill, we have seen a huge spike in extrajudicial killings. And terrorism has become an easy label," said Horn of Africa analyst Abdullahi Halakhe. "Such efforts only succeed in alienating the local population, who usually have critical human intelligence. They are turning the Islamic radicalization of young people into a matter of national security, making those young people their enemies, thus making it worse."
The ISS report calls for "introspection on the part of the police officer stopping and searching a person because he looks Somali".
Reaching the young
Tom Mboya, who established the Inuka Kenya Trust in response to the role young people played in perpetrating the post-election violence of 2007-2008, says now is an opportunity to engage the youth. "They're what should be the engine of this country," he told IRIN.
"Devolution is positive," he says, referring to the process of decentralizing power from Nairobi, which was set in motion by Kenya's new constitution. Mboya believes this process will create opportunities for young people. But, he says, "in parts of the country more prone to violent extremism, there needs to be policy in place. The leadership will have to be more alive to that problem".
A focus on young people formed a key part of new President Uhuru Kenyatta's election campaign - his government will now have to work out an acceptable and effective approach in tackling the issue of violent extremism.
Mars Group's Mati says using moderate imams to neutralize potentially radical youths does not work because young people no longer regard them as credible. "It's a generation gap - control over youths has somehow become difficult. In the old days, what an imam said went. The radical preachers are young," he said.
Hadley Muchela, programmes manager for Kenyan rights group Independent Medico-legal Unit, says targeting violent extremism will require sensitivity because, thanks to the way the issue has been handled in the past, it is often seen as an indictment against all of Islam. "You find very few Kenyans willing to go into it," he said.
Abdikadir Sheikh, who works with the Sustainable Support and Advocacy Programme, a local NGO, said the group has set up a pilot project to dissuade youth in the northeastern towns of Dadaab and Garissa from joining extremist groups.
"We are very careful or [we could] lose our lives; you can’t confront radicalization directly - you need different approaches," he told IRIN. "We have established a strong team of more than 600 youths… some have so far joined colleges. We plan to work with the county governments.”
The ISS report warns that "there is no quick fix for the level of radicalization seen in Kenya".
"The biggest threat to stability in Kenya will be if extremists succeed in dividing Kenya between Muslim and non-Muslim," the report said.
Source: Irin News