South Africa, Liberia and Sudan
First published in Pambazuka News 21/6/2012
In the early hours of June 9, 2012, a 23-year-old gay man, Thapelo Makhutle was mutilated and murdered in his home in Kuruman, Northern Cape, South Africa. In the same week, on June 4, 36-year-old Neil Daniels’ body was found burned in Cape Town.
According to the crowdsourcing site, Farmi Tracker, 23 homophobic murders took place in South Africa between April 2010 and February 2012 . A 2011 Human Rights Watch report on South Africa and LGBT Rights found lesbian and transgender men in townships and rural areas faced a life of hyper-discrimination and abuse both from private individuals and the government . Fear of the police was paramount both in terms of protection and reporting crimes and even those which are reported only in one case has sexual orientation been acknowledged as responsible.
“In many instances, interviewees said, police did not respond appropriately when interviewees sought justice, or even compounded the initial abuse. Virtually all of those interviewed who tried to report physical or sexual violence to the police faced ridicule, harassment and secondary victimization by police personnel.”
The question for South Africa is, what is the purpose of a constitutional protection if it is not materialised in people’s everyday lives? It is shameful that neither the South Africa media nor any member of government is outraged by the level of violence unleashed on young black LGBTI people. Yet they hide behind the constitution, which is lauded across the world as being exceptional in its content. For more details on the funeral and memorial service for Thapelo Makhutle see “A dangerous visibility” on Black Looks
Meanwhile in Uganda, blogger Angelo Izama reports on the “moral flux” in the country, referring to the continued attack against LGBTI people and the involvement of the church in politics. The Minister for Ethics and Integrity announced he will “de-register 38 NGOs in the country for supporting homosexuality”. He also said he would be de-registering evangelical churches which unlike traditional churches “only entertained”. I don’t think this is anything to cheer about!
“The Minister was a guest of the Hot Seat on 933 KFM in what was a rather disturbing show yesterday. He had come to explain why his ministry was focusing on breaking up “gay promotion” meetings. Amongst other things when I asked him why he was not as outspoken about the perils of child trafficking, child sex abuse or even the plight of men in Uganda’s prison system where non-consensual sex and congestion are pushing up HIV numbers he retorted that he embraced prostitution because it was a lesser evil. I also asked him what he thought of the idea of a military police mooted by the head of the Uganda Police Force since it would mean the force would be soldiers in uniform? His response off air was that the government was being provoked.”
Further evidence of these attacks against LGBTI people and human rights in general took place on the 18 June when the Ugandan government shut down a workshop organised by the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project. The workshop was aimed at providing human rights defenders with the skills to monitor, document and seek redress for, human rights violations. [AMSHer]
What happens to refugees when the time comes for them to be ‘repatriated’ home? After more than 20 years, Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana is on the verge of closing. At it’s height the camp was home to more than 40,000 refugees from Liberia and a small number from Sierra Leone, including some 25,000 former child soldiers. There are now just 5,000 people left in the camp. Robtel Pailey wonders what will happen to these people and the thousands of other Liberian refugees in the Diaspora when on the 30 June they will be stripped of their refugee status.
Pailey wonders if the people of Buduburam were consulted before rescinding their refugee status. She adds that though the world now has faith in a stable Liberia where there is “rule of law and procedural democracy” and the war against poverty has only just begun. She is also critical of those who frame refugees as helpless, which is certainly not the case in Buduburam. Everything created and built by the refugees will be left behind. Quoting one of the refugees she herself spoke to she writes:
“He accuses UNHCR-Ghana of shirking its responsibilities to the refugees. He says that while the UN agency was responsible for providing basic amenities, Liberians at Buduburam were building their own schools and makeshift houses. The international community’s decision to cease all assistance to Liberians means that the “refugees will be a liability on the Liberian government,” says Jallah. “They are going home the same way they came.” According to Jallah, two thirds of the refugees have no formal education.”
Eritrean blog/online news media Asmarino comments on the deportation of Eritreans from Israel following the government’s despicable behaviour and language on African migrants. [Electronic Intifada] The post is insightful in that it shows how governments make deals between themselves to deport asylum seekers, migrant workers and refugees. Rather than challenge Israel’s racist immigration policy, Eritrea chooses to collude in the deportations of it’s nationals.
The post claims members of the Eritrean government have been in discussion with Israeli officials which compromises ‘Eritrean identity’ by stating they are Sudanese and thereby enabling their deportation. However when it became clear that Eritreans would also be deported the embassy began issuing passports at a cost of $2,000 telling people that their passports would protect them. Accordingly the following discussion took place within the embassy, which led to an agreement to deport all Eritrean nationals.
“The minister made a phone call to Asmara and discussed Eritrean immigrants with General Abraha Kassa (PFDJ head of security). Abraha informed the minister that the Eritrean economy was growing and that the initial cause of migration was not a political problem but the search for better economic opportunities. Abraha Kassa further reiterated that the immigrants had already accumulated a substantial amount of money and even own residential buildings back at home. He assured the minister that Eritrea happily accepts the return of these immigrants and expressed his gratitude to the minister hypocritically as if his government is mindful of its citizens.”
For a brief moment in early 2011 Sudanese students joined other Africans in street protests against their leaders. Although the protests were framed as anti-austerity, it was clear from discussions on forums and Facebook, that students were influenced by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. On January 29, 2011 the Sudan Tribune reported as follows: [http://bit.ly/hkbVhj]
“Sudanese youth have called for a mass demonstration on Sunday, inspired by the thousands of protesters who have defied authorities in Tunisia and Egypt by calling for their leaders to step down.
‘If the Egyptians can break the fear barrier… so can we. WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR!!!’”
In December 2011 another series of student demonstrations took place in the grounds of Khartoum University after armed police were sent to disperse students protesting over the construction of a dam. Now in June 2012 Sudanese students are once again protesting. Is there any reasons to believe these latest protests will be more sustainable than those in 2011? The group blog Muftah believes so as the country’s economic condition has steadily worsened under a regime which has plundered US$ billions. The protests are now in their fourth day [June 20] and spread beyond Khartoum University, including the general population. Even opposition parties have threatened to join protests.
“This latest wave of protests, however, feels different. Motivated by economic shocks, protestors, mostly youth and students, are vowing to continue until the regime is toppled, even in the face of brutal resistance by security forces. A mass protest to do just this has been planned for June 30, 2012, the 23rd anniversary of the National Congress Party’s (NCP) rise to power in the country. Grappling with an annual inflation rate that reached 30.4% in May 2012, the Sudanese can wait no longer for change.”
Egyptian Chronicles has an excellent report on the Sudan protests [including videos] which, she states, “are no less serious than what is taking place in Egypt or Syria”:
“Several activists have been arrested in Khartoum including women activists who have been reportedly mistreated. Just today the authorities arrested former presidential candidate and human rights activists Kamil Idris. Among other activists who have been arrested in the past 24 hours in Khartoum vlogger Naglaa Siyad Ahmed and her husband whom were taken earlier today by the National state security. Naglaa Ahmed already was assaulted by security forces last April while covering a funeral of a university student that was killed by those forces. “You can watch here speaking about her arrest and the assault”
The protestors have announced June 30 as a day of mass protests under the banner of “Girifna”, meaning ‘we are fed up’. To keep up to date with the Sudan protests, she suggests following Salma Elwardany @S_Elwardany.
Finally, Egypt remains in crisis and Tahrir Square is once again filled with thousands of people awaiting Thursday’s announcement on who will be the next President. I love the sense of humour in all the chaos and uncertainty – maybe to laugh is the best option at this moment – the fight will come later. The website created especially to ask the question: Is Mubarak dead?  NO!, not yet. Sarah Carr, Inanities, publishes a spoof letter from Mubarak’s old friend and presidential candidate, Dr Ahmed Shafiq. [http://bit.ly/KModFY] He begins with…..
“Hello, my dears, Dr Ahmed Shafiq here.
“Well, as you know I am on the doorstep of victory. In fact, I am inside the house of victory but I mustn’t say anything about that just yet. That presumptuous upstart terrorist claims that he is in the house of victory, even before official results are out. He entered through the back door and thinks he can make all the furniture face Mecca. Are we not Muslims too??”
and ends with…
“El-Ayyat’s riffraff in Tahrir Square think they are fooling us. They are in for a surprise, Hussein told me yesterday…….My dears, this is the end of my message. I was up all night last night celebrating with my followers and also worrying about Hosny, who had another of his brief turns. But I want to leave you with a piece of advice I read in one of my Sufi spiritualism books…..“If you tried to bring people over to your artificial side today, you might make some elements hate you more, just because they’re not on your side today”.
For a more serious analysis see “Egypt’s Emergent Passive Revolution” on Jadaliyya [http://bit.ly/MjZeb8]
“Egypt’s political community is divided across three sociopolitical camps, namely the old regime (also known as the counter-revolution); the revolutionaries; and the forces of passive revolution. The division between the three camps is defined by their commitment to revolutionary goals (or lack thereof), rather than pure ideological or religious principles. In other words, the role of Islam in the new Egypt is by no means the major question defining the country’s emergent political arena. In fact, all three camps encompass individuals and groups desiring a more Islamic Egypt.”
And on The Arabist [http://bit.ly/Nd5GAU] “No Matter Which Way You Look At It, Trouble Ahead” . Here there are two possibilities but only one outcome…..
“So one real possibility is that Shafiq will be declared president and the MB, having already announced its victory, will go ballistic. Or that Shafiq will lose and his supporters will go ballistic.”