LATEST SUB-SAHARAN AFRICAN NEWS, COMMENT AND OPINION FROM THE AFRICA CENTRE, 9/6/2013

 

Dear readers,

 

Warmest greetings from north London. We apologise for the delay in sending out today’s sub-Saharan African news, comment and opinion, but the chief editor, Mr Jim Bodgener, was away on an excursion up to Cambridge yesterday.

 

Without more ado, therefore:

 

News Contents:

 

 

Nigeria: Emergency rule: Army debunks New York Times report

South Africa: Nelson Mandela update: No news is good news; Mandela in “serious” condition in hospital (also see comment and opinion)
South Sudan: South Sudan’s cabinet holding an emergency meeting on oil shutdown

Comment and Opinion Contents:


South Africa: NELSON MANDELA: THE LAST GREAT AFRICAN KING RECEIVES AN EARLY BIRTHDAY PRESENT
Africa: Voluntary HIV testing targets five million workers by 2015
Uganda: The triumph of press freedom
Nigeria: Corruption: I’ll testify against Obasanjo, says varsity don
Kenya: ‘Mad woman’ who rattled the British

 

 

 

   

 

 

POSTED ON SUNDAY, JUNE 9TH, 2013

 

By Stella Odueme-Omona

 

Snr. Correspondent, Abuja

 

Defence Headquarters has described the report published in the New York Times with the title “In Nigeria, Killing People Without Asking Who they Are” as false reflection of the situation on ground.

 

It stressed that the New York Times report, dwelling on what it described as “atrocities being committed by the Nigerian military against innocent civilians”, only sought to create in the minds of its readers an imaginary refugee situation in the area.

 

Director Defence Information (DDI), Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, said in Abuja at the weekend that the report which quoted non-existent people, painted a picture of an army that cannot distinguish between the enemy and unarmed civilians; an army that turns its guns against the same people it is out to protect.

 

“This is certainly not the Nigerian Armed Forces, and there is no killing of civilians in the on-going operation as New York Times desperately sought to portray.

 

“Imbued with half- truths, unsubstantiated claims and outright misrepresentations, the report, as in some others carried by their fellows in the certain media, strived in futility to demonise the ongoing operation in the North East, all with the intention of bringing to disrepute the character and professionalism of the Nigerian military and security agencies,” Olukolade maintained.

 

He stated that apart from the reference to the series of usually faceless sources, there has not been so far reasonable evidence of the allegations so zealously presented by the paper. From the Daily Independent.

 

Emergency… Niger hosts fleeing Nigerians

 

Posted by: New York Times on June 7, 2013

 

For the soldiers, the young men’s long, flowing robes — the traditional garb of Muslim West Africa — were enough to establish guilt, the refugees said.

 

“As soon as they see you with clothing like this, they shoot,” said Abukar Ari, a Koranic teacher in a long robe who said he had fled across the border from Nigeria two weeks before. “They don’t ask any questions. I’ve seen them shoot people. Yes, I’ve seen them shoot.”

 

Other refugees in the registration lines of thousands who had fled Nigeria’s combat zone echoed these assertions, saying civilians were being killed there by soldiers unconcerned with the distinction between militants and innocents. Friends and neighbors were being shot, they said; young men were being rounded up at night; and citizens with the vertical ethnic scarring of the Kanuri, a group dominant in the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, were being taken away.

 

“They are killing people without asking who they are,” said Laminou Lawan, a student who said he had fled here 10 days before. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot. They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

 

Laminou Lawan, a student, said Nigerian soldiers had been attacking young men just because they wore traditional robes.

 

Nearly three weeks ago, Nigeria launched what it depicted as an all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency, using thousands of troops, vehicles and even fighter jets and helicopter gunships just over the border from here, where Nigerian officials say the insurgents have their stronghold.

 

The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, suggesting that he was fed up with the four-year uprising by Boko Haram, announced “extraordinary measures” in his country’s north and placed a large part of it under a state of emergency, ordering troops to “take all necessary action” to end an insurgency that he said was now threatening the country’s foundations.

 

Nigeria’s foreign partners, including the United States, which considers the country an important ally in the fight against Islamist militancy, have watched warily, with Secretary of State John Kerry pointedly warning the Nigerian military about what he called “credible allegations” that Nigerian forces had committed “gross human rights violations” in the period before the offensive began.

 

Last month, more than 200 people were killed in what local officials, residents and human rights groups say was a sweeping massacre by Nigerian forces in the nearby village of Baga, in northern Nigeria. Analysts have long questioned whether Nigeria’s heavy-handed counterinsurgency strategy, which has resulted in numerous civilian deaths since 2009, may be having the opposite effect of the one intended, increasing anger at the Nigerian state and driving new recruits to the militants.

 

Thousands of refugees have crossed into Niger, many saying their government’s fight against Islamists makes no distinction between militants and civilians.

 

But Mr. Kerry has not specifically raised the question of human rights abuses during the latest offensive, and for a good reason: it is difficult to get a clear idea of what is happening. Since its start, much of northern Nigeria has been under a communications blackout, as cellphone service has been cut, physical access has been limited and information restricted to a series of military communiqués. They have announced the “capture and destruction” of Boko Haram camps, the deaths of “high-profile” Boko Haram members and other “terrorists,” the “disarray” of militants, the discovery and destruction of weapons caches, and the “securing” of various towns and settlements in the north from Boko Haram.

 

Nigerian military spokesmen have been at pains to deny any misconduct against civilians during the campaign, trying to reassure the country’s allies by announcing that they were pleased soldiers were sticking to what they called “the rules of engagement.” A spokesman did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the refugees’ accounts.

 

But some of the refugees who have massed here in this remote border village at the far eastern edge of Niger — there are at least 5,000 of them, and possibly as many as 10,000 in the area, officials say — described the fighting in terms that varied widely from the military communiqués.

 

Their testimony is among the first independent accounts of the Nigerian military’s offensive, and they spoke of indiscriminate bombing and shooting, unexplained civilian deaths, nighttime roundups of young men by security forces. All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.

 

They had come from multiple villages in Nigeria to one of the poorest nations on earth, overwhelming local officials. But at least here, they said, the soldiers of the Republic of Niger are drowsing under a giant tree at the border, not pointing their guns at the civilians who continue to cross it.

 

“The military just opens fire and kills people, and throws bombs and kills people, for no reason,” said Abubakar Ali, a shoe salesman waiting in one of the registration lines. “That is why you see these people here,” he said, pointing out at the crowd. “That is what is happening now in Nigeria.”

 

Others in the crowd said that friends and neighbors had been shot during the offensive. They could not always identify the source of the shooting, but they could easily identify the victims.

 

“I’ve seen the wounded; these are people I know,” said Muhammad Yacoubu, a farmer.

 

“The military are looking for Boko Haram, but if they don’t find them, they take revenge,” said Moustapha Ali, a shopkeeper.

 

Ousmane Boukari, a herdsman, said, “They bombed on Saturday, and they missed their targets; they’re just firing at random, they don’t even know where the Boko Haram are.”

 

Modu Goni, another refugee, said: “At night you hear the shooting, and in the morning you find the bodies, people from the village. When you see your friends dead, it’s scary.”

 

Others spoke of seizures of young men by security forces, a pattern already established in the insurgents’ stronghold city of Maiduguri, according to residents there.

 

“The soldiers took the young men away, at least 10 of them, at night; it’s at night that they make their raids,” said Sherrif Alhadji Abdu, another refugee. “They band their eyes, and take them away. They took away my friends.”

 

At the edge of this village, some of the refugees have erected crude reed shelters in the sand, or simply posted sticks in the ground and placed rags over them. Abou Boukar, a farmer, had just finished building a reed hut. Anything was better than staying in Nigeria, he said. Boko Haram had built a camp near his village. The next day, he saw a Nigerian air force plane flying overhead.

 

“This doesn’t look good,” he recalled saying to himself. And then he fled to Niger. From The Nation/New York Times.

 

 

 

Nelson Mandela update: No news is good news

 

 

 

09 JUN 2013 15:32 STAFF REPORTER

 

 

People around the world are breathing sighs of relief as Nelson Mandela’s condition remains stable while his hospital stay continues.

 

 

Journalists who crowded around Mandela’s home in Houghton on Sunday remained anxious, waiting for news on the former statesman’s health.

 

Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital at about 1.30am on Saturday morning. Mandela suffers from a recurring lung infection. Another update on his health is expected to be released on Sunday afternoon.

 

The last update on the former statesman’s health was issued by the presidency on Saturday morning.

 

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said Mandela was in a serious but stable condition in a Pretoria hospital. He said Mandela was receiving the best care possible and that the media was asked to respect the Mandela family’s privacy.

 

In an interview with eNCA, Maharaj said he was pleased at the way Mandela’s latest hospital stay was being handled by the public across the world. Maharaj said the world had expressed “concern” and that people were understandably anxious about Mandela’s health, but that “false stories” were not being spread.

 

“They are coming to terms with reality,” Maharaj said. He did not respond to further questions on Saturday evening.

 

He added that while Mandela had been a long-time sufferer of lung disease, his age would affect his recovery. Mandela will celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18 this year.

 

Family visits
Meanwhile, family members have reportedly visited Mandela at a hospital. His daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, was seen leaving the hospital in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

 

His wife, Graca Machel, remains at his bedside.

 

Machel had been scheduled to speak at the “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science” summit in London on Saturday.

 

She cancelled her attendance on Thursday, Maharaj said.

 

Maharaj said on Saturday doctors were doing everything they could to make Mandela “better and comfortable”.

 

“What I am told by doctors is that he is breathing on his own and I think that is a positive sign,” he said. “Madiba is a fighter and at his age, as long as he is fighting he will be fine,” Maharaj said.

 

Regular hospital visits
On April 6, Mandela was discharged from hospital after spending nine days receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has suffered lung ailments before and has been in and out of hospital.

 

Early in March, he was admitted to a Pretoria hospital for a scheduled check-up and was discharged the following day.

 

In December last year, Mandela underwent an operation to remove gallstones and treat the recurring lung infection. He was discharged after an 18-day stay.

 

In January, the presidency said Mandela had made a full recovery from surgery and continued to improve. In February last year he was admitted to hospital for a stomach ailment.

 

At the time, the presidency said Mandela underwent a diagnostic procedure to investigate the cause of a long-standing abdominal complaint.

 

Routine tests
In January 2011, Mandela was taken to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for routine tests relating to respiratory problems.

 

Mandela’s last major public appearance was in July 2010 at the final of the World Cup at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

 

Since then he had spent his time between Johannesburg and his village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

 

Mandela stepped down as president in 1999 after one term in office and has been removed from politics for a decade.

 

He appeared in a brief television clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by Zuma.

 

At the time, the ANC assured the public Mandela was “in good shape”, although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair with his head propped against a pillow. – Sapa, Reuters and Staff reporter From  the Mail & Guardian.

 

 

Mandela in “serious” condition in hospital

 

 

 

JOHANNESBURG – Former South African President and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela was in a “serious but stable” condition after being taken to hospital early on Saturday with a recurrence of a lung infection, the government said.

 

The 94-year-old, who became the first black leader of Africa’s biggest economy in 1994 after historic all-race elections, has been in hospital three times since December. He has been battling the infection for several days, a statement said.

 

“This morning at about 1:30 a.m. (7.30 p.m. EDT on Friday) his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital. He remains in a serious but stable condition,” the government said.

 

The wording of the government statement, in particular the use of the word “serious”, is clear cause for concern to South Africa’s 53 million people, for whom Mandela remains a potent symbol of the struggle against decades of white-minority rule.

 

However, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told local television that “doctors have assured us he is comfortable”.

 

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate stepped down as president in 1999 after one term in office and has been removed from politics for a decade.

 

His last appearance in public was at the final of the soccer World Cup in Johannesburg in 2010. He appeared in a brief television clip aired by state television in April during a visit to his home by President Jacob Zuma.

 

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) assured the public Mandela was “in good shape”, although the footage showed a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair with his head propped against a pillow.

 

“TOO MUCH A SAINT”

 

Since his withdrawal from public life, he has divided his time between his plush Johannesburg home and Qunu, the village in the impoverished Eastern Cape where he was born and spent his early years.

 

Mandela spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December with a lung infection and after surgery to remove gallstones.

 

That was his longest stay in hospital since his release from prison in 1990 after serving almost three decades behind bars or on the Robben Island prison camp for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government.

 

His history of lung problems dates back to his years on Robben Island, where he contracted tuberculosis.

 

Although he remains deeply revered, Mandela is not without his detractors both at home and in the rest of Africa. Some of them feel he made too many concessions to the white minority in the post-apartheid settlement.

 

Despite more than 10 years of policies aimed at redressing the balance, whites still control much of the economy and an average white household earns six times more than a black one.

 

“Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks),” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 89, said in a documentary aired on South African television this month.

 

“That’s being too saintly, too good, too much of a saint.” – Reuters The Zimbabwe Herald.

 

South Sudan’s cabinet holding an emergency meeting on oil shutdown

 

June 9, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s cabinet is in an emergency meeting today in response to the recent development on announcement by the Sudan’s president Omer Hassan Al Bashir to close the oil pipeline and shut down the South’s oil transport through its sea port.

 

President Al Bashir on Saturday announced he had ordered his petroleum minister, Awad Al Jaz, to close the oil pipeline and cut off South Sudan’s oil. Bashir accused South Sudan of supporting rebels of the SPLM-N.

 

A reliable source close to the cabinet told Sudan Tribune that the emergency meeting called by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, has been going on for the last two hours discussing the action Juba will take in response to the development.

 

The two countries have signed a matrix and mechanisms for implementing the cooperation agreements including the proposed formation of a high level committee co-chaired by the two countries’ vice presidents, Ali Osman Taha and Riek Machar.

 

However the proposed committees have not been formed, leaving the two sides with no high level forums to resolve the outstanding issues.

 

Sudan Tribune will bring details on the unfolding resolution of the cabinet.

 

(ST) From the Sudan Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here follows the latest sub-Saharan African comment and opinion, taken by the Africa Centre from media websites across the continent, and down to the Cape:

 

 

 

Opinion and Comment Contents:

 

South Africa: NELSON MANDELA: THE LAST GREAT AFRICAN KING RECEIVES AN EARLY BIRTHDAY PRESENT

 

Africa: Voluntary HIV testing targets five million workers by 2015

 

Uganda: The triumph of press freedom

 

 

Kenya: ‘Mad woman’ who rattled the British

 

 

 

NELSON MANDELA: THE LAST GREAT AFRICAN KING RECEIVES AN EARLY BIRTHDAY PRESENT (see News, Mandela stable in hospital)

 

By Humanitas Afrika

 

Johannesburg, South Africa
Global icon Nelson Mandela officially received an early birthday gift: a copy of the concise classic 100 GREATEST AFRICAN KINGS AND QUEENS. He turns 95 on 18 JULY.

 

Receiving the book on his behalf, Dr Makaziwe Mandela (60), the oldest surviving child of Nelson Mandela recounted her lineage and what defined his father.

 

‘The name Mandela originated from our great grandfather Mandela, who was born in 1820. He was the son of King Ngubengcuka, the fourth Monarch of the aba Thembu. Mandela gave birth to Chief Mphakanyisa Henry Gadla Mandela, and he gave birth to our father Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela. It is also so that Nelson Mandela’s development, beliefs and convictions, including his principled stand on inclusivity were derived from sitting at the feet of his elders. It is this African value that has made him the world icon that he is today.’

 

Ama Commey , the 11- year- old daughter of the author Pusch Commey quipped on presenting the book. ‘ That will make Nelson Mandela the last great African King. Number 100. Isn’t that so Daddy?’

 

The first volume covers 10 illustrious Kings and Queens with breathtaking original illustrations. They range from the alluring Cleopatra V11 of Egypt to the richest man who ever lived, Emperor Mansa Musa of Mali. According to Pusch Commey, there are 9 more volumes of 90 Monarchs to come, who like Mandela, were magnificent examples of leadership, as well as great representatives of Africa. The book was written to inspire the continent. It has been adapted as The Glory of African Kings and Queens , for children.

 

HNelson Mandela’s legacy after his reconciliation project was focussed on children. The Nelson Mandela Children’s fund has been active on the educational front. The state -of- the -art Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital is in its completion stage. The man himself spent a great deal of energy during his retirement to persuade captains of industry to build schools for children, and promote non-racialism.

 

‘ The House of Mandela will carry this torch with pride. My career background is that of a social worker. Working with children has been my passion’ said Dr Makaziwe Mandela

 

She added ‘ The greatest service to Tata’s (father) memory is what he sacrificed for , and what was dear to his heart; a better non-racial world for all children, our future. The past is behind us. We learn our lessons from thepast. For many years he celebrated his birthday parties with a host of children at his hometown in Qunu. In his old age he has been surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. ‘

 

As the immense legacy of the icon is pondered, Makaziwe is in no doubt where that legacy is going to be invested.

 

The book 100 Greatest African Kings and Queens is currently available online at http://www.amazon.com and all major online bookshops. Hardcopies are available from Real African Publishers (www.realafricanpublishers.com), who also published the bestselling Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen. Nelson Mandela’s royal book gift launches in Johannesburg in September for distribution to bookshops globally, to be followed by launches in various capitals around the world.  From Modern Ghana.

 

Voluntary HIV testing targets five million workers by 2015

 

About 40 per cent of people living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, don’t know their status and are missing out on accessing treatment, according to a recent statement from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

 

In many countries, this figure is higher than 50 per cent as further stated in a statement that ILO released on Thursday.

 

It’s in this regard, therefore that ILO supported by UNAIDS, has launched a new initiative dubbed the VCT@WORK initiative, (voluntary counselling and testing) to reach five million workers with voluntary and confidential HIV counselling and testing by 2015.

 

This is part of the ILO’s efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goal 6 and the global target of reaching 15 million people living with HIV with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment by 2015.

 

The VCT@WORK initiative is therefore a key component of the ILO’s “Getting to Zero at Work” campaign, which was jointly launched with UNAIDS and WHO on World AIDS Day 2012.

 

This initiative will further ensure that people who test positive are referred to HIV services for care and support, and treatment if needed.

 

Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of UNAIDS called upon workplaces to embrace this new initiative which will help expand access to HIV testing within a healthy, enabling environment and linking to on-going support including treatment.

 

ILO’s Director General, Guy Ryder,   urged all ministries of labour, employers’ and workers’ organisations to join forces and turn this target into reality.

 

Ryder further stated that in order to reach this goal, there is need to work together to ensure that all workplaces are free of stigma and discrimination.

 

“The countdown to 2015 has begun; let us make each day count. We want to use the mobilising power of the ILO to encourage five million working women and men to undertake voluntary HIV testing by 2015,” Ryder said.

 

India has already launched a national VCT@WORK programme while South Africa and Tanzania are expected to do the same in a few months time.

 

HIV/Aids in Rwanda

 

On average, more than two million people in Rwanda go for HIV testing every year according to Doctor Sabin Nsanzimana, the Coordinator of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) care and treatment at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

 

Uptake of HIV testing has also increased, with 37.7 percent of men and 38.6 percent of women having received results of an HIV test within the past 12 months according to the 2010 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS).

 

This is more than triple in comparison with the 11.0 percent of men and 11.6 percent of women testing and receiving results according to the RDHS 2005.

 

HIV prevalence among the general population aged 15-49 years in Rwanda is 3.0 percent; according to the 2010 RDHS. HIV prevalence is higher among women (3.7percent) than men (2.2 percent) and higher in urban areas (7.1 percent) than in rural areas (2.3 percent).

 

According to UNAIDS, it is estimated that seven million people currently eligible for treatment are not accessing it. From The Sunday Times.

 

The triumph of press freedom

 

BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

The closure and reopening of Daily Monitor and Red Pepper exposed the weaknesses, not the strength, of the state

Finally, the government re-opened Daily Monitor and its affiliate radio stations KFM and Dembe on the one hand and the Red Pepper and her sister newspapers Kamunye and Hello Uganda on the other. For many observers, the closure of these newspapers was a blow to press freedom.

This is perhaps true for those concerned with short-term tactical maneuvers. Strategically, the closure of the two daily newspapers and government’s eventual withdraw was a triumph for the cause of a free press.

Since they captured power, President Yoweri Museveni personally and the NRM organisationally have simultaneously facilitated (for the most part) and occasionally suppressed press freedom in Uganda.

 

Museveni and NRM might have won many battles against individual newspapers and journalists but they will certainly lose the war against media freedom. This is because they can close individual newspapers and jail journalists but they can never imprison the idea of freedom of expression – because it lives in the hearts of many.

The foundation of a free press in Uganda is rooted in our nation’s history, from the colonial period to date. So press freedom enjoys a broad consensus in our country. This is not to say, as some commentators present it, that we have an angelic press and a devilish government. I have been in Uganda’s press long enough to know our professional weaknesses and to claim perfection in the media.

Nonetheless, press freedom enjoys greater legitimacy in Uganda than say in Rwanda where it was de-legitimised by the role media and journalists played in the genocide. This legitimacy is the ideological fortress rooted in our nation’s psych that NRM can occasionally assault but never destroy.

Added to this ideological fortress is the fact that Uganda has sustained rapid economic growth for 25 years largely because of a liberal macroeconomic framework. This has facilitated the growth of a large and diversified private sector which has grown in tandem with a large and increasingly more educated middleclass. Yet, although Museveni and NRM have been central to this progressive change, their political behavior has at times remained locked up in the 1980s.

Thus, where the private sector is increasingly attracting the best educated and skilled, the state in Uganda is largely, not entirely, still recruiting mediocre operatives with little sense of how to handle an increasingly sophisticated society in a changing global environment.

This failure was evident in the closure of the Monitor and Red Pepper. For instance, even if we assumed, just for argument’s sake, that government had legitimate grievances against these two media houses, could this justify their closure, albeit temporarily? Secondly, if these grievances were strong, were there no alternative ways to address them other than closing down newspapers? Did anyone in government ask these questions?

I know that Museveni made efforts to open and keep dialogue with the Managing Director of Monitor Publications, Alex Asiimwe, when the David Tinyefuza story broke. He telephoned him a couple of times to express his concerns and share views on the story – the last call being two days before police shut down the Monitor offices.

In all these calls, Museveni seemed understanding. Why did this effort collapse so suddenly? Who were the people within the state who tilted the balance away from the President’s initial approach? Was Museveni a long ranger in his camp?

I got involved in many informal discussions on opening both media houses. I was keen to identify people within government who felt the action was high handed or who, even if they had initially supported it, were open minded enough to listen to alternative views. I was pleased to find many willing and understanding ears.

The lesson I got from this experience is that there are many internal surrogates within the state who can facilitate the cause of media freedom. Therefore, the freedom of the press will be strengthened by battles with the state and dialogue with it.

All too often, the debate about anything in Uganda tends to get polarised around two poles. Those in government accuse their opponents of being subversives and terrorists and use the state to either beat them on the streets or throw then in jail.

Their opponents take a similar stance accusing those in government of being thieves (which they often are anyway) and of being bloodthirsty hounds who should be kicked out of office and killed or jailed. This is not the kind of discourse that builds a democracy.

Having been involved in public debates on democracy in Uganda for nearly 20 years now, I have become more realistic and therefore able to tolerate the delusions of our elites with more patience today than before. I now know that when given any small amount of power, human beings will try to use it arbitrarily – if there are no sanctions for doing so.

This is most pronounced on Facebook, Twitter and on The Independent website. There, Museveni critics have their day to prove their values. Their only weapon is a keyboard and access to internet; their damage is to people’s reputations. There, they indulge in character assassination without fear or restraint.

Clearly, if the same people commanded the police, as Museveni does, they would not hesitate to use it as arbitrarily as him. The difference between them and Museveni is not over values but position: he is in power and they are not. Clearly, when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

As reporters, editors and publishers, we also have power to publish stories which can inflict grievous harm on businesses, individuals, governments etc. Our professional ethics require us to be truthful and accurate, fair and balanced and to provide context. We often fail to uphold these ethics ourselves; and The Independent is a major culprit.

Yet these ethics are not enough. For example, should the only justification for publishing a story or a picture be that it is true and we have the evidence? My view is that if we are to publish a story, especially one that can harm a group, an organisation or endanger national security, it should NOT be justified ONLY by showing that it is true. We also need to show that there was also an overriding right of the public to know. From The Independent.

 

 

 

 

POSTED ON SUNDAY, JUNE 9TH, 2013

 

By Daniel Abia

 

Snr Correspondent P/Harcourt

 

A retired university don, Professor Kimse Okoko says he would not hesitate to volunteer information on the corrupt practices of the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo while he held sway as the country’s president for eight years.

 

Okoko said that he has enough evidence to convince any anti-graft agency that want to probe the former president on his administration’s involvement in several corrupt cases.

 

Speaking in an exclusive interview on his return from medical checks outside the country, the former Professor of Political Science from the University of Port Harcourt said Obasanjo’s government was “mercilessly corrupt”.

 

Reacting to the recent statement made by the Presidency that it was not prepared to probe the past administration, Okoko said that if the presidency says it does not have any evidence against Obasanjo’s excesses, then “they have thrown a challenge to Nigerians”.

 

He urged people to come up with strong evidence and proof against the former president because “Obasanjo’s administration was mercilessly corrupt. If this government says it does not want to probe the past administration, they must have their reason for saying so. In this country, I have never seen at the federal level where a particular government is probing the previous one. It has never happened. It has been a negative precedence.

 

“Those who have any evidence should show up and say yes I have information against this man or this or that government. Government has thrown up a challenge and I am hoping that people will take up that challenge and come up with concrete evidence. And at that point if they still say they don’t have evidence to probe the past administration, then the fight against corruption will not take us anywhere. The fight against corruption must not respect any person at all. Everybody must be treated equally in this process,” Okoko said.

 

The former president of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, said that he would personally testify against the former President if invited to do so.

 

“If they call me as a person, I will give evidence. It is on record that the past administration spent N500billion for road construction across the country. Let them show us how many roads they constructed and at what cost. Those people who were in the system then are still living. There are insiders who have documents also. From the Daily Independent.

 

‘Mad woman’ who rattled the British

 

 

By FRED OLUOCH foluoch@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted  Thursday, June 6   2013 at  05:03

 

IN SUMMARY

 

  • Archival records show that Charles Hobley, who was the Coast provincial commissioner from 1912 to 1919, attributed most of the responsibility for Giriama resistance against colonial labour and taxation policies to “an old blind rascal named Ngonyo” who “instigated a half-mad woman named Katilili to tour the country preaching active opposition to Government.”
  • But the British were not just sitting by. Mekatilili and a male leader of the Giriama resistance, Wanje wa Mwadorikola, were arrested in October 1913 and sentenced to five years detention.
  • Mekatilili was variously described by the British as a “witch” and a “prophetess who gave additional force to the oath in spreading the gospel of violence”.

 

Mekatilili wa Menza may have been in the freedom struggle scene for a short time, but her contribution in raising the African consciousness among the Giriama people of the Coast was immense.

 

Mekatilili was one of the first women in Kenya to rise up against the British in 1913. Her bravery, oratorical power and charisma earned her a huge following and saw her mobilise the Giriama to take oaths and offer sacrifices to restore their sovereignty.

 

Initially, her concern was the breakdown of the Giriama culture amid British influence and she pushed for a return to the traditional Giriama governance system. By extension, it created resistance to the authority of the British and the appointed headmen, the latter whom she accused of betraying the Giriama for rewards.

 

Mekatilili was particularly against the issue of labour recruitment. At the time, the British were putting increasing economic pressure on the Giriama, through taxation, attempts to control trade in palm wine and ivory, and by the recruitment of young men to work on plantations and public works projects.

 

Mekatilili’s anguish was over the growing disintegration of the Giriama, so she called upon her people to save their sons and daughters from getting lost in the British ways.

 

While her rebellion lasted for only one year, from 1913 to 1914, it had considerable impact on the relations between the British and the locals.

 

The British won the war against the Giriama, who were forced into a stringent peace settlement.

 

But, in the long term, the British government removed land restrictions and lightened labour demands.

 

The Giriama achieved the main goals for which they had originally fought in the longer term, but the virtual withdrawal of the colonial administration from the Giriama hinterland may have contributed to its isolation and economic stagnation to date.

 

Born in the 1840s, Mekatilili was the only daughter in a poor family of five children. Historians attribute her strong feelings on the issue of labour to a personal tragedy, in that one of her brothers was captured in front of her eyes by Arab slave traders.

 

She married but was later widowed, which gave her more freedom to move around as a woman leader.

 

“We are not to fear the Europeans,” she thundered in many of her gatherings, which in most cases ended in taking of powerful oaths that effectively prevented all Giriama from co-operating with the colonial administration.

 

Colonial hut tax

 

 

 

Mekatilili opposed forced labour in British-owned rubber and sisal plantations, the colonial hut tax (forcing every family to give money to the British), land seizure evictions from the fertile Sabaki River Valley and restricted consumption of palm wine.

 

To attract the crowds to her meetings, she used to move from one village to another dancing Kifudu, a revered dance that was performed only during funeral ceremonies. The women would follow her, their men in tow.

 

Archival records show that Charles Hobley, who was the Coast provincial commissioner from 1912 to 1919, attributed most of the responsibility for Giriama resistance against colonial labour and taxation policies to “an old blind rascal named Ngonyo” who “instigated a half-mad woman named Katilili to tour the country preaching active opposition to Government.”

 

She was instrumental in the most important meeting held in Kaya Fungo, the ritual centre of the Giriama, in July and August 1913, where she “led the discussions and complained about labour demands and the jurisdiction of the traditional elders being undermined”.

 

She said the wages which headmen received gave the government the belief that they had a right to demand cheap labour.

 

But the British were not just sitting by. Mekatilili and a male leader of the Giriama resistance, Wanje wa Mwadorikola, were arrested in October 1913 and sentenced to five years detention.

 

The two were deported to the far west of Kenya, Mumias, but escaped a few months later and walked back home to continue with the resistance.

 

The British were mesmerised by how she could have walked such a distance through the forest infested with dangerous wild animals. She was again arrested, this time to be sent north to the Somalia border area. Again, she escaped.

 

Gospel of violence

 

 

 

Mekatilili was variously described by the British as a “witch” and a “prophetess who gave additional force to the oath in spreading the gospel of violence”.

 

But her powerful oaths were not to fight the colonialists, but to try to win back those Giriama who had transferred their loyalties to the British.

 

Despite her exploits, Mekatilili, who died in 1925 at the age of 70, was not recognised among Kenyan freedom fighters until October 20, 2010, the first Mashujaa Day, when her statue was unveiled at Uhuru Garden — renamed Mekatilili wa Menza Garden — in her honour.

 

Please put any comment or constructive cricitism that you may have, however trenchant and all welcomed, as to how we can improve this service, into the box provided at the foot of the blog.

 

Endsit, and Bi-Bi.

 

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