FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Thursday:  July 24, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Swaziland (4)

Monday
Oct102011

Frustrations Fizzle in Swaziland (NEWS BRIEF)

By Tania Page in Africa 

We were in Swaziland unofficially because we had been warned by other journalists and our contacts in the country that the government can be unfriendly to foreign journalists. 

This put the team a little on-edge. We hoped nobody would ask too many questions.

We met Mario Masuku, a prominent opposition leader whose party has been banned by the country’s absolute ruler, King Mswati, at a secret location. Afterwards, cameraman Chris and producer Gladys left me at our hotel while they drove him to another safe location.

We were all nervous after encountering several police roadblocks during the day, so when a sharp knock came on the door and Chris urgently told me to pack my bags as we had to leave immediately, my head (and heart) went into overdrive. Then came Gladys’ unmistakable giggle - the best pranks are always the most believable.

We were not laughing quite so hard two days later when we met one of the king’s advisors. He rules with emergency powers the opposition leader we had met vehemently opposes.

But Prince Mangaliso Logcogco was sceptical about protests this year calling for the king to relinquish some of his powers, suggesting they were fuelled by social media and exaggerated in the outside world.

The king had effectively turned Swaziland into a welfare state, he said. “What are you going to eat?” if there is democracy he wondered. “You’ll be a hungry slave”.

While protests in Swaziland have been large, they have hardly been on the scale of those seen during theArab Spring.

Masuku, who spent four years in prison accused of sedition and terrorism believes that is only because nearly a whole generation under the age of 40 has been depoliticised, believing they have no say in the political process.

Still, he remains convinced change in Swaziland is possible in his lifetime.

But while monarchies elsewhere in the world have changed with the times, it does not appear as if King Mswati is prepared to take a back seat just yet.

Originally published by Al Jazeera under Creative Commons Licensing

Monday
Mar072011

People Power Has Arrived in Africa (PERSPECTIVE)

By Imraan Buccus

The Zimbabwean Newspaper created an ad campaign featuring huge posters, wall murals, flyers, and even billboards all made out of trillions of Zimbabwean dollars. CREDIT: The Zimbabwean(HN, March 7, 2011) - People's power has arrived in Africa and, as some have recently argued, it's not just Africa north of the Sahara in which the democratic spirit is stirring. The thrilling political earthquake that began in Tunisia, exploded into Egypt and then rippled out to Libya is set to leave lasting changes in its wake.

Its too early to say exactly what those changes will be but one thing is for sure – this is the greatest moment in the global struggle for human freedom since 1989 when the Soviet Union and its dominions across Eastern Europe fell.

When the protest spread from Tunis to Cairo they began as a carnival of freedom. Men and women, Muslims, Christians and secular people, old and young and rich and poor were all united in their excited opposition to dictatorships. It was a beautiful moment which the philosopher Nigel Gibson has likened to the Paris Commune of 1871.

In Tripoli the North African revolution is taking the form of pitched battles against a ruthless and psychopathic dictator. Here there is courage aplenty but no carnival. Irrespective of the ultimate fate of the Libyan Revolution a loud and clear message has been sent to dictators around the world. That message is that while it is possible to oppress a people for a long time, even generations, the people will reach a point at which they decide to rise.

The time will come when the will of the people will be expressed. In our own neighbourhood (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe and Mswati (King of Swaziland) must be watching the revolutions raging across the North of the continent with considerable anxiety. Neither ZANU-PF nor the Swazi monarchy will run their brutal dictatorships for ever and while the rest of us thrill to the winds of change blowing down from North Africa that wind must be chilling to the tyrants in Harare and Mbabane.

Mugabe seems to be especially anxious. Gadaffi has been one of his biggest backers and has used his oil money to turn the African Union (AU) into a new version of the old Organisation for African Unity (OAU), which was rightly disparaged as a dictator's club. Zimbabwean state television has, liked Chinese state television, steadfastly ignored the revolutions in North Africa. And when the International Socialist Organisation, a courageous but tiny Trotskyite organisation, arranged a meeting at which people could watch some footage of the protests in Cairo, Mugabe promptly had all 46 people arrested and charged with treason. This has been followed up by axe wielding mobs attacking MDC meetings. Paranoia is a sign of weakness and this paranoia is even ridiculous by Mugabe's own standards. He must know that the thread by which his authority hangs could snap at any minute.

Mugabe successfully stole elections in Zimbabwe in 2000, 2002 and 2005. Each time he was assisted with the complicity of various forces in and outside of his country. In South Africa there are factions who remain solidly pro-Mugabe but generally political parties, trade unions, poor people's movements and civil society are united in their opposition to the Mugabe dictatorship.

When we think of Zimbabwe, in the context of the North African revolutions, we are confronted by three urgent questions.

Protests against Mugabe in Zimbabwe have often been met with brutal forceThe first is how we offer solidarity to the Zimbabwean refugees in our country. The periodic attacks on Zimbabweans by ordinary people and the ongoing and harassment of Zimbabwean refugees by our police needs to be urgently opposed. We need to recall the solidarity shown to South African exiles in other African countries and demonstrate basic human decency. Change can come to Zimbabwe soon, and in the potentially uneasy days of a difficult transition from dictatorship, SA will need to offer immense support to Zimbabwean refugees.

The second question that we need to consider is the nature of the flaw in some of our leaders that has allowed them to become complicit with tyranny. The struggle against apartheid was supported by governments, ordinary people and civil society around the world. One would have thought that we would have taken a similarly activist position towards tyranny in other countries. But instead some in SA some have taken the same position towards tyranny in Zimbabwe that Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher took towards apartheid - "constructive engagement" or, in (former South African President) Mbeki's outdated spin, "quiet diplomacy."

The third question we must ponder is the question of what went wrong in Zimbabwe. The argument that Mugabe was a good leader who went rotten holds no water. Revisionist Zimbabwean historians have pointed to ruthless abuses during the liberation struggle. And of course we cannot forget Operation Gukurahundi, the ethnic cleansing of the Ndebele in Matabeleland in the early 1980s which cost more than 20 000 lives. This crime against humanity is enough, on its own, to ensure that Mugabe should be called to account for his crimes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

It is clear that the political culture of Zanu-PF was authoritarian and rapacious long before the fiasco of recent years. Zimbabwe has been governed by ruthless and predatory elite from the beginning. The seeds of the later crimes, the plunder of the Congo, the attacks on shack dwellers and street traders and the ruthless suppression of internal opposition, were planted early on.

What this means is that it is essential to think holistically. Just because a man and a movement opposed one form of tyranny does not mean that they are opposed to tyranny. There is a tremendous difference between using democracy to come to power and being democratic. A democrat is not defined as a person who came to power by democracy. A democrat is defined as a person who, when in power, welcomes debate and dissent. By this definition it is clear that Zimbabwe has never been a democracy.

We should be proud that our Constitution commits our government to welcome dissent and to be aware that in a democracy we need to always protect this. Any signs of Zanufication in any part of our society are a challenge we must all take up. So, as South Africans, when we think of Zimbabwe in the context of what is happening in North Africa, we need to also reflect on the important role that South Africa needs to play in promoting democratic transformation in Zimbabwe.

We are, no doubt, appropriately reminded by the Zimbabwean media entrepreneur, Trevor Ngube, that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have restored the collective faith in peoples' power. The clear signs that Zanu PF has been shaken by the North African revolutions show up that the regime in Harare is not all powerful and that it will go the same way as the dictatorships in North Africa. It is a question of ‘when’ and not 'if'.

Buccus is attached to the School of Politics at UKZN and the Democracy Development Program. This article first appeared on the website of the South African Civil Society Information Service - SACSIS

Wednesday
Nov032010

(PEACEMEAL) `Tackling World Hunger Can Be Confusing. Addressing the Problem with Small Bites Might Make it More Manageable’

--- Commentary by Cynthia Thomet

You may not have heard about an individual named David Beckmann, president of the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Bread for the World, whose focus is to urge decision makers to “end hunger at home and abroad.” I hadn’t, until he was awarded the World Food Prize at the 2010 Laureate Award Ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa.

As a 501(c)4 organization, Bread for the World is a little different from other nonprofits, because of its ability to devote its time, resources and energy not only to educating decision makers about ending hunger, but also to advocating specific policy change, or directly lobbying policy makers on this issue. Beckmann recently published a book called, Exodus from Hunger: We Are Called to Change the Politics of Hunger.

In one commentary I wrote for PeaceMeal, entitled “Billions Undernourished” was on the eve of World Food Day, and I learned a lot about what world hunger means in a nutshell: nearly one billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger. The 1 Billion Hungry awareness campaign by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations called upon us to tap into our anger over this piece of information and do something to change this sad reality.

One billion people is alot of people.

  

Rick Steves, a well-known travel guide writer and public television travel host, wrote in an inspired blog post about his recent trip—not to Europe, but to the World Food Prize ceremonies: “With all my travel experience, I've gained empathy for the struggles of people in developing nations, but my concern used to be confused and directionless.”

Indeed, humanitarians and world leaders are challenged with suggesting solutions and introducing policy to balance the forces that have wreaked havoc on the earth—from the natural disasters that have emerged as a result of climate change to the laws of capitalism that are still beholden to the cold realities of supply and demand, and the sometimes colder political motivations that tamper with the international trade economy’s so-called “invisible hand”.

Earlier this week, a headline in The Guardian announced, “Scramble to meet shortfall in food aid: Tens of thousands in Swaziland to miss out on food aid as lack of donor funding forces the WFP to cut assistance.”  

Tens of thousands. That’s a lot of people, too.

The article elaborates on some of the elements that complicate delivering food aid in Swaziland:

In one anecdote from Steves’ blog post, he describes a discussion panel about keeping young people interested in farming. When asked about this, Afghanistan’s minister of agriculture, Mohammad Asif Rahimi said, “Remember, in your society one percent of the people are farmers. In Afghanistan, 80 percent of our people are farmers. Encouraging young people to farm is not an issue for us.”

Still, the Guardian spoke with Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture Development who would like to see countries investing in agriculture, making the sector “more attractive to youth and less dependent on rainfall for irrigation.”

It appears that the causes of, and approaches to, addressing world hunger are as numerous as its victims. An approach that would seem reasonable in Afghanistan and Swaziland might seem ludicrous in the United States, or vice versa. But this should not stop you from taking at least one step towards doing good.

Campaigns such as “1 Billion Hungry” have the potential to raise eyebrows, but they also have the potential to overpower and devastate action with crushingly huge numbers that reduce the individual to feelings of helplessness—or directionlessness. As we approach the end of the year, please do not allow your concern to feel directionless. Hopefully, a growing awareness of our global interconnectedness can help us feel obligated to move into a future where undernourishment is just a scientific definition, not a human reality. 

--- The author is Cynthia Thomet, a humanitarian, and co owner and doyenne of the award winning downtown Atlanta, Georgia; US restaurant, Lunacy Black Market.

Saturday
Jul312010

(PERSPECTIVE) “MY STORY”

---By Gertrude Kitongo

My name is Gertrude Kitongo. I am one of the 10% international students at the CIDA (Community and Individual Development Association) City Campus in Johannesburg. I am Kenyan born and raised, but my father is Ugandan. I first heard about CIDA when I visited my aunt in South Africa.

I finished my high school - or what we call form 6 - in 2006. That year my father had lost his job and my mother became really ill from stress related illnesses. They asked me to drop out of school because there was not enough money to send all of us to school, and when I could go, I was constantly being sent back because of school fee debts.

To help raise cash, I decided to do petty jobs like babysitting. I also studied late at night but prayed even more that I could save up enough to be able to register for the final exam. It was all I lived for at the time. Imagine, as a young person being stuck at home, and seeing everyone else leave to go about their business - leaving you in the house to cater to household chores. It broke my heart and I promised never to put myself - or anyone else - in that situation ever again.

Around this time I lost all sense of self confidence: I gave up on myself and left my hair in a mess, and just didn’t care about how I looked. After all, I was now a perfect description of a house girl. Aunty Winnie heard about how miserable I was and she invited me to come visit her for a month. She got a free ticket to come back to Uganda for the holidays but instead sent it to me to visit her.

She so desperately wanted to send me to school or help out in any way - but the financial demon always awoke when I needed to pay for registration. Irregardless of my good grades, there was no way I could be admitted to any place without paying the horrific large amounts of registration fees.

One day, on our way back home, we passed the CIDA CITY CAMPUS (CCC). My aunt asked me to walk in and make some inquiries. I did and luckily enough, the security guard took us in to the 5th floor and we got application forms. We knew this was honestly our last resort.

Two weeks later, a Mr. Gitonga - the campus registrar - called to inform me that I'd been admitted to the campus but I had to do the pre-university work. I did not care about that. All I knew is that I had been given a chance to something I would never have dreamt of. This was and will always be the happiest day of my life because it meant that I had a chance to make something of myself.

CIDA is an amazing place to be. All of us are from previously disadvantaged families and this makes it very easy for us to relate with each other. The spirit of UBUNTU here is so real and even though I haven’t been back home since December 2007 I often forget the pain because of the love and unity shown here. This place is more than I ever bargained for, awesome people, awesome country, and an awesome campus. I intend to graduate in majoring in Marketing and Human resources. My long term vision is to start CIDA East Africa and likewise help people who are academically deserving but their situations do not allow them access to further their education.

CIDA City Campus (CIDA), based in Johannesburg, is the first virtually free higher education institution in South Africa, offering holistic education to historically disadvantaged youth who would not otherwise be able to access higher education. With the cost of higher education in South Africa spiraling out of control, CIDA has emerged as the abiding hope for underprivileged students who have a desire to pursue a university level education. The university is driven to develop the infinite potential of every student regardless of his or her background. Oprah Winfrey and Sir Richard Branson are both major funding supporters of CIDA through the CIDA Foundation and the university has been visited and praised by many luminaries including entrepreneur Russell Simmons, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela.

Please follow the developments at CIDA on their website at: http://www.cida.co.za/

--the author is a student at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, South Africa writing for HUMNEWS.

SCHOOL FEES IN AFRICA: Many African children cannot attend school due to onerous fees (PHOTO: HN, 2010, Michael Bociurkiw)

The elimination of school fees is a perquisite for education systems to become inclusive, equitable and sustainable. However policies across Africa range widely - from zero fees in Lesotho to heavy fees in Swaziland.

“School fees are keeping children out of the classroom, and many of these are the most vulnerable children in our societies,” said Dr. Cream Wright, UNICEF Education Chief. “Fees consume nearly a quarter of a poor family’s income in Sub-Saharan Africa, paying not only for tuition, but also indirect fees such as PTA and community contributions, textbook fees, compulsory uniforms and other charges. The increasing numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS or trapped in domestic labour, makes it imperative to abolish fees.”

UNICEF says eliminating fees leads to a surge in enrollment: In Tanzania in 2001, primary school enrollment grew by 50%, from 4.4 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2003. In Kenya in 2003, enrollment grew from 6 million to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks.

Survey of School Fee Policies in Selected African Countries

Lesotho

The Government of Lesotho introduced Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2000. This policy has been implemented progressively by removing fees in phases from Grade 1 in 2000 to Grade 7 in 2006

Nigeria

Under the National Policy on Education, free basic education - including six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school education - is compulsory.

Rwanda

The Government has implemented a policy of free primary education in which school fees have been abolished and replaced by a capitation grant, which increased to 2,500FRw (USD 4.50) in 2006. Shortfalls in financing at the school level nevertheless persist, with parents typically being asked to contribute to finance this gap. Non-fee barriers remain, such as school uniforms and learning materials, and these affect access to education. Rwanda also provides three years of free post-primary education, where students undertake a common-core syllabus, according to the Ministry of Education.

Swaziland

Universal Primary Education (UPE) is a priority of the Swaziland National Education Policy. Free primary education was to have been instituted last year. In Swaziland 16 percent of children are not receiving an education, according to UNICEF.  School fees range from E2000 a year to E10,000 and often much more (the average daily income in Swaziland is about E6)