Category Archives: Poverty

Statement from the Wits University on Anti-Homosexuality Legislation in Africa




The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.

While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.

Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.

The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.

It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups. South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold.

Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”. The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love. We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.

Storm [Poem by Mia Nikasimo]


The tremors vibrate through
This isn’t a storm. No wind.
Nothing just the door slam
Six door slams and I wonder

Why, why, why this thunder?
“You are not a woman,” as if
Your mess was all there was.
Why is my heart in my throat?

Six door slammed one after the
Other… Slam, slam, slam. And
More… slam, slam, slam like a
Bloody oversized metronom

Even the walls trembles each
Time the door is slammed then
A sudden pause followed by a
Slam, slam, slam. A headache

Emerges. my heart pounds mad
That’s what hatred causes aloud?
Then I remembered your words
“Get noise blocking headphones.

No one can handle such abuse…
The most foolhardy collapse…
You are no different. We all hurt.
You are no different, gorgeous… ”

Mia Nikasimo (c) December 2013

Who is Michel Martelly and why is the Haitian grassroots movement protesting against him?

Today [anniversary of the Battle of Vertieres , 1803 in the war for independence] marks the second of a series of  planned street protests against the government of Michel Martelly.  The protest are organized by Fòs Patriotik ou Respè Konstitsyon [FOPARK] a coalition of pro Lavalas supporters, students, lawyers and  human rights activists.

The first march was November 7th march and ended in Petion-Ville, a bourgeois enclave in the capital Port-au-Prince.  Internataional media reported the protest ‘turned violent’ but they failed to explain the violence was initiated by pro-Martelly, macoute thugs who attacked protestors with the sole purpose of causing violence. Protesters reported at least three people were shot and taken to hospital.   On Friday 15th November at around  1pm, Inorel Delbrun, the attache and cameraman to outspoken critic and president of the senate, Dieuseul Simon Desras,   was assassinated whilst getting out of his car.

Assassinations, death by poisoning, arrests and threats to  human rights lawyers, harassment of activists are common place  actions as a desperate Michel Martelly unleashes his macoute thugs on the popular masses and human rights activists.  To consolidate his brutal repression of Haitians, Martelly is attempting to bring back the army  which was dismantled by President Aristide.   The capital is awash with private security guards many run by former military men and macoutes.   Many  carry  unregistered weapons, and in an industry without any regulation.   Full combat police roam the streets in armoured trucks along with the UN occupying force.  Pro Lavalas supporters are regularly and repeatedly threatened with violence .   Only yesterday three people were murdered in Bel Air.

On Sunday the 17th November,  the government of Martelly distributed food to people in Camp Acra and in Cap Haitian, an act typical  which is reminiscent of the Duvalier regimes when people became restive, throw them some coins or food.

And yet American liberal politicians, journalists and celebrities such as  Sean Penn, continue to give vocal support to the Martelly government.   Predators under the guise of ‘humanitarians’, filmmakers, photographers, missionaries  continue to feed off the misery of the poor.

Today’s  protests are planned in cities across Haiti.

Below Charlie Hinton of the Haiti Action Committee provides a detailed background and analysis as to why people are dissatisfied with Michel Martelly’s government.  Corruption, return to Duvalierism, rewriting and undermining Haiti’s Constitution,  nepotism, corrupting the judiciary, reactionary economic policies.

Haiti Action Committee calls for solidarity with the Haitian people and to start by seeking out the truth of the Martelly government.


1. Who is Michel Martelly? Martelly grew up during the 27-year dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son, Jean Claude “Baby Doc.” He joined the Duvalierist death squad, the Tonton Macoutes, at the age of 15 and later attended Haiti’s military academy. Under Baby Doc, Martelly, a popular musician, ran the Garage, a nightclub patronized by army officers and members of Haiti’s tiny ruling class.

As another way to signal their opposition to Martelly, the Haitian masses march with red cards, which, when given to a player by a football (soccer) referee, mean he’s out for that match and the next. The people are telling Martelly to get out. [Haiti Action Committee]
As another way to signal their opposition to Martelly, the Haitian masses march with red cards, which, when given to a player by a football (soccer) referee, mean he’s out for that match and the next. The people are telling Martelly to get out. [Haiti Action Committee]

After Baby Doc’s fall in February 1986, a mass democratic movement, long repressed by the Duvaliers, burst forth and became known as Lavalas (“flood”), from which emerged Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a popular liberation theology Catholic priest, who was elected president in 1990 with 67 percent of the vote in the first free and fair election in Haiti’s history.

Martelly quickly became a bitter opponent of Lavalas, attacking the popular movement in his songs played widely on Haitian radio.

Martelly “was closely identified with sympathizers of the 1991 military coup that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,” the Miami Herald observed in 1996, and ran with members of the vicious FRAPH death squad from that period, infamous for gang rapes and killing with impunity.

On the day of Aristide’s return to Haiti in 2011, after eight years of forced exile in South Africa and two days before the “run-off” election, Martelly was caught in a video on YouTube insulting Aristide and Lavalas: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you, Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”

Down with Martelly graffiti in Port-au-Prince [Haiti Action]
Down with Martelly graffiti in Port-au-Prince [Haiti Action]
2. The fraudulent presidential election of 2010-2011: In the presidential election cycle of 2010-2011, the Electoral Council ruled that Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party could not participate, which de-legitimized the whole corrupt process. Voter turnout was less than 25 percent in the primaries and less than 20 percent in the “run-off.”

The top two candidates announced after the primaries were the wife of a former pro-Duvalier president and the son-in-law of Rene Preval, the president at the time. Martelly was declared third, but his supporters demonstrated violently, and an OAS “investigation” of the elections ruled that, in fact, Martelly had finished second.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton flew to Port-au-Prince in January 2011, at the height of the Egyptian revolution, to reinforce this decision. Martelly received $6 million from an anonymous donor in Florida to hire a PR firm that had worked on the campaigns of Felipe Calderón in Mexico and John McCain in the U.S.

3. Corruption: Corruption scandals have followed Martelly since he refused to divulge who funded his campaign for president.

  • Bribes – Award-winning Dominican Republic journalist Nuria Piera broke the story in April 2012 (later reported in Time) that Martelly was alleged to have accepted $2.6 million in bribes during and after the 2010 election to ensure that a Dominican construction company would receive contracts under his presidency. In addition, the vote to make Laurent Lamothe the prime minister is known in Haiti as the “tout moun jwenn vote” (“everyone got their cut” vote).
  • Surcharge on international calls and money transfers for “education” – Questionable new taxes have also fed controversy. A $1.50 tax on money transfers and a 5 cent per minute tax on phone calls to Haiti are alleged by Martelly to support education, but the poor majority continue to face unaffordable school fees, and critics say no money from this tax has gone to schools. Moreover, Haitian teachers have been marching to demand back pay. Martelly’s new taxes were not ratified by or presented to Haiti’s Parliament, making them illegal.
  • Travel expenses – When traveling, which he does often, Martelly’s entourage receives an outrageous per diem from the Haitian government. According to Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, Martelly gets $20,000 a day, his wife $10,000 a day, his children $7,500, and others in his inner circle get $4,000 daily.
  • A plan to establish an illegal parallel customs system to circumvent legislative control – This allegedly involved the selling of a membership card and gun to anyone who wanted to be part of the Martelly gang. The membership privileges included tax-exempt status at customs. The program had to be scratched when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration complained about members facilitating drug transport on the strength of their membership.
Photo by Sokari Ekine
Photo by Sokari Ekine

4. Rewriting and undermining Haiti’s Constitution: The overthrow of Baby Doc in 1986 led to the creation of a new democratic Constitution in 1987, ratified in a referendum by an overwhelming majority of Haitians. It recognized Haitian Kreyol as an official language, along with French, and legalized Vodun, the spiritual practice of the majority of Haitians. It provided for grassroots participation in national decision-making, decentralized the nation’s finances and political structure, and provided for protection of human rights.

On June 12, 2012, Martelly announced new amendments, which concentrate executive power and herald the return of Duvalier-style dictatorship. The new illegally amended Constitution, written by non-legislators and never seen nor voted on by the Parliament prior to its publication, creates a top down method of choosing a Permanent Electoral Council to run elections, undermining grassroots participation and centralizing control from above.

It allows the president to appoint the prime minister after merely “consulting” the heads of the two chambers of Parliament instead of requiring Parliamentary ratification. In cases of “presidential vacancy,” the new amendments make the prime minister the provisional president, so presidents can resign, appoint the prime minister to succeed them, and thereby maintain perpetual control.

New amendments provide that a “general budget” and a “general expenditures report” can replace line item annual budgets, thus limiting parliamentary oversight of the budget.

New amendments return Duvalier era and other retrograde laws, including:

  • A 1935 law on “superstitious beliefs,” which would ban Vodun once again.
  • A 1977 law establishing the Court of State Security to increase state surveillance and repression.
  • A 1969 law that condemns all “imported doctrines,” thereby attacking freedom of thought and freedom of association. Violation of this new law can result in the DEATH PENALTY. The 1987 Haitian Constitution had eliminated the death penalty.

5. Restoring the army: In one of the most popular moves of his administration, President Aristide disbanded the hated Haitian army in 1995. Since the coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time in 2004, U.N. troops and police, currently numbering 8,754 uniformed personnel, have occupied Haiti. One of Martelly’s campaign promises was to restore the Haitian Army, and now new Haitian troops are being trained by Ecuador and Brazil. In addition, well-armed former military and paramilitary personnel have occupied militia camps since early 2012, supported by Martelly.


Photo by Sokari Ekine
Photo by Sokari Ekine

Sen. John Joel Joseph has identified senators that he claims are marked for assassination. He identified the people who have been paying the “hit squads” on behalf of Martelly. He denounced one of the men as an escaped criminal who had been caught red handed with a “near death” victim behind his vehicle. Said victim sent the police to a house where two more victims could be found.

Sen. Joseph identified the leader of the death squad and his vehicle, denouncing the group as the one which recently assassinated a grassroots militant. He accused the president and his wife of pressuring the chief of police to remove the senators’ security detail, in order to facilitate their assassinations. He denounced a previous instance when Martelly tried to pressure former police chief Mario Andresol to integrate a hit-man into the police to assassinate Sen. Moise Jean Charles.

7. Death of a judge: Martelly set up his wife and son as head of governmental projects, but with no parliamentary oversight. A Haitian citizen, Enold Florestal, filed suit with attorney Andre Michel before Judge Jean Serge Joseph, maintaining that the Martellys were siphoning off large amounts of state monies, which the Haitian Senate has no jurisdiction over.

Judge Joseph moved the case to the next judicial level, which required depositions from the Martellys and various governmental ministers. Enraged, Martelly and Prime Minister Lamothe called two meetings with the judge – which they deny took place – to demand he kill the case, the second on July 11. The judge drank a beverage offered him at that meeting.

On July 12 Judge Joseph became violently ill and died on July 13. Haitian police arrested Florestal on Aug. 16 after viciously beating him, and Haitian authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of attorney Michel, who has gone into hiding. A commission of the Haitian Parliament is now calling for the impeachment of Martelly based on illegal meetings with the judge, interference in legal matters and threats to those involved in the case.

8. Corrupting the judiciary and Parliament: The Martelly regime is working to establish executive control over the judicial system through the use of “controlled” prosecutors and judges. In violation of the Constitution, he appointed as Supreme Court chief justice, Anel Alexis Joseph, who is 72. Haitian law says a judge must be 65 or under to be named to this position.

The chief justice also leads the commission that regulates the entire judicial system, so Judge Anel Alexis Joseph is using his power to block an investigation into the death of Judge Jean Serge Joseph and to protect Martelly and his henchmen from all legal challenges, thereby granting impunity.

Martelly has also corrupted the legislative branch that could bring charges against members of the executive. He ordered the arrest of Deputy Arnel Belizaire in spite of parliamentary immunity and his legal counsel’s advice.

He has so far failed to call elections for 10 senate seats in January and is trying to force the 10 senators whose terms he says are up – they say in 2015, not 2014 – to leave office. Since elections have still not been held for 10 additional seats, if these new 10 seats are vacated, it would leave the 30 member Senate without a quorum, allowing Martelly to dissolve the Parliament and rule by decree.

9. Reactionary economic policy: Martelly enforces the Clinton-Bush plan for economic “development” of Haiti through sweatshops, tourism, and the selling of oil and mining rights to transnational corporations. Under this plan, money donated for earthquake relief has been used to build a duty free export manufacturing zone in the north of Haiti, which was not affected by the earthquake, and several luxury hotels in Port-au-Prince. The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund made a $2 million equity investment in a hotel called the Royal Oasis to give foreign tourists and investors an “oasis” to escape the miserable conditions under which the majority of Haitians live.

At the same time, the Martelly regime viciously represses the economic activities of the poor super majority. The phone and money transfer taxes cut into their incomes. Taxes have been arbitrarily increased on imports, affecting small merchants. Thugs wearing masks have burnt markets in different cities, causing merchants to lose capital they had been accumulating for years, forcing them to raise new capital through usury loans. Street vendors are harassed and removed forcefully, then, after hours, their stands are looted.

10. Duvalierism returns to Haiti: Martelly warmly welcomed the January 2011 return to Haiti of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century, after his decades of luxurious exile in France. Duvalier still has many supporters in Haiti, some of whom are armed and have a history of killing political opponents.

Martelly’s government is filled with Duvalierists: Hardline former Haitian army officer David Bazile is now interior minister. Magalie Racine, daughter of notorious former Tonton Macoute militia chief Madame Max Adolphe, is Martelly’s youth and sports minister. Public Works Secretary of State Philippe Cinéas is the son of longtime Duvalierist figure Alix Cinéas, who was a member of the original neo-Duvalierist National Council of Government (CNG), which succeeded Duvalier after his fall in 1986. In addition, Duvalier’s son, Francois Nicolas Jean Claude Duvalier, is a close advisor to Martelly.

Conclusion: A major objective of the Duvalier dynasty was to institutionalize dictatorship through death squad brutality, supported by the United States and other powers. Martelly is an example of their policies having come to fruition. He’s restoring a government of impunity per the Duvalier era, building an administration of right wing ideologues who believe in dictatorship and who collaborate to sidestep all legislative and judicial controls.

His goal is to implement extreme neo-liberal economic policies on behalf of Haiti’s less than 1 percent with control over all natural resources. The people will be at their mercy for factory work and other “subservient” positions, under the boot of a U.N. occupation force of 8,754 army and police personnel, the beginnings of a restored army, paramilitary training camps, death squads, gangs and mafias that use the cover of the corrupted executive and judicial systems to operate.

The Haitian majority does not accept this return to the bad old days, however, and has been actively and massively protesting this repression for the past year. They deserve the support and solidarity of freedom loving people everywhere.


For more information on the Haitian Grassroots Movement see:  Haiti Action Committee  action.haiti AT

Charlie Hinton may be reached at ch_lifewish  AT



Westgate: Dying in Violence

On Sunday morning I scrolled my Twitter timeline for comments from Kenyans such as Keguro Macharia, Shailja Patel and Kenne Mwika, like many trying to understand, to once again process mass death.  That weekend the killing spree crossed 4 countries, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq.  These were described as ‘terror’ killings as if the killings in Syria, the DRC, Central African Republic and other zones of violence are not also full of terror!

I like many many others became increasingly disturbed, filled with deep sadness and frustration at the violence surrounding us all – just knowing it could happen, is part of the terror.     @Kweligee [Bring me the African guy] had written a blog post on dying, “the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve had” which though written before Nairobi was wrenched with death, seemed  appropriate. I replied with a question  “How are you dying? In fear, in hiding, in violence? or in peace?”

No one died in peace in Westgate and the only dreams to be had would be nightmares. “Dying in violence” as @Kweligee wrote.  Poetry has been a solace and we have to thank the poets who helped us in this way, people like Keguro Macharia and Shailja Patel who refused to fall into the trap of easy rhetoric and the usual nationalistic narrative which hide the truth.

Let it be known that some of us are of more value than others, some of us will die and no one at the Guardian or New York Times will write the story, some of us will be killed by AK47s and hand grenades, others will die from computerized guns in the sky. We are dying in violence and some of those responsible don’t own up!

I never intended to write anything on Westgate but I received these two poems from Shailja Patel….Westgate Blow Back – two poems.


Via The New Inquiry
Via The New Inquiry


Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayo and Afmadhow will be under attack continuously. The Kenya Defence Forces urges anyone with relatives and friends in the ten towns to advise them accordingly. We are doing well on the battle front, continue praying for us.

– Major E. Chirchir, Kenya Military Spokesman, Operation Linda Nchi, November 2011

I touch walls and sweaters and keyboards
as if they bruise easily
I do not want to be touched
in these charred and sizzling days
when all flesh
is frangible

killing killing killing killing
repeated enough it’s almost

If there? They are
enemy. The innocent
were warned. No old,
no infirm, no children, no sick,
disabled, starving, pregnant
in our war.

al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab al-shabaab
repeated enough it’s almost

Where do you run
when borders are closed
when sky rains death
when all paths lead
to conflagration?

crush them crush them crush them crush them
repeated enough it’s almost

Under continuous attack
clear the land
leave nothing
to claim, nothing
to return to.

Leave no one alive
to tell.

attack attack attack attack
repeated enough it’s almost

I give you
ten towns. Take
Athi River, Machakos, Ongata Rongai
Ngong, Kikuyu, Mombasa
Take Naivasha, Thika, Kisumu

Kijabe they will be under attack
continuously advise
your relatives and friends there

linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi linda nchi
repeated enough it’s almost

The ones still there
are enemy. All who die
are enemy. We are doing well
we guarantee success
pray for us.

pray for us pray for us pray for us pray for us
repeated enough it’s almost



On civilian deaths, Kenya should first be asked why they bombed innocent Somali civilians in refugee camps, why they bombed innocent people in Gedo and Jubba regions. If they don’t withdraw, attacks like this will become common in Kenya.

– Al-Shabaab spokesperson, Al-Jazeera, September 22, 2013

we will not
our grief

our grief may not
be branded for profit

an eight-year old is an eight-year old is an eight-year old
Wagalla is Waziristan is Westgate

a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman is a pregnant woman
Garissa is Kismayo is Nairobi

blood is blood is blood is blood is blood
the stupid, the venal, the cruel inherit the earth

we withhold our grief
from the merchants of death

our grief will not be harnessed
to engines of war

take everything else
this is ours

our grief
is not
open for business


Via The New Inquiry 

Battle Between the Stone & the Tree: Sharia & Women in Nigeria

From Women’s E News, an excerpt from  “Your Fatwa Doesn’t Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism by Karima Bennoune.  In this excerpt Bennoune explains how externally imposed economic policies  have fueled fundamentalism and the use of Sharia law which is often applied selectively in gendered and class inequalities.

Ayesha Imam and the women she worked with for years in the Nigerian organization BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights possess those very traits. The group, founded in 1996, fights to protect women’s rights in the maze of the Nigerian legal system, with its overlapping religious, secular and customary laws and courts.


Imam tells me they use tools from whichever system can “recuperate rights,” believing it is often possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue,” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”

With her colleagues, she tried to “deconstruct what is Sharia (Muslim laws). How does it get to be Sharia? Is it divine or is it merely religious?” In the ’80s and early ’90s, some of the Sharia courts in Nigeria had come up with “what we may call progressive” interpretations, “as opposed to following somebody’s idea of how it should have worked in 13th-century Arabia.” Imam’s efforts to support women living under these Muslim laws brought her, inevitably, to work on fundamentalism.

“Fundamentalism hit us in Nigeria so it was absolutely necessary, because otherwise fundamentalism was going to close us all down, close all the dreams down, close all the hope down,” she says.

The backdrop for this, a resurgence of communalism, was sparked in part by the harsh impact of structural adjustment and ensuing battles for resources. Structural adjustment–economic reforms imposed on Nigeria by international financial institutions–also meant there were many unemployed, uneducated young men looking for something to do. For them, “this was an opportunity to have power and assert themselves,” as Imam sees it. “They told women in taxis and buses that they had to sit in the back seats.” There was “general intimidation.”

Mixed Response

This in turn led to greater emphasis on Sharia in Muslim majority segments of the population in the late ’90s in the north of Nigeria, and then to enactment of new legislation in the early 2000s. “The reaction among the Muslim community was really mixed. Human rights workers and those who identify strongly as democrats argued that we need secular law. The laws being brought in under the guise of Muslim laws are conservative, and detract from human rights.” Even some religious conservatives opposed Sharianization, Imam recalls, on the grounds that you could not have Sharia before you have economic development so that people can actually live good lives.

According to their worldview, “You can’t cut off people’s hands for theft if they have no other means of gaining a livelihood.”

Any such opponents, however, became targets of “vigilante responses.” Death threats, beatings, threats of being burned. In one state where the governor delayed enacting a Sharia Act and set up a committee to study the matter, there were even threats to his family. Imam recalls attending a meeting in Abuja with the governor who started Sharianization. Young men throughout the hall were telling women where they could and could not sit. “Every time a woman got up to speak, they were yelling and drowning her out. It didn’t matter if you were wearing a hijab or not.” This was new, Imam underlines. When she was a younger feminist, “You didn’t get shouted down. You were not in fear of being physically attacked, or being burned or harassed. You’d go to public meetings and people would get up and argue with you and they might laugh.”

As fundamentalism began to transform Nigerian lives, Imam and BAOBAB became involved in the cases of women who were facing sentences of stoning. One of the first, that of Fatima Usman, ensued when the woman’s father took the man who fathered her baby to court to get child support. “He had no idea he was going to set up his own daughter for the possibility of being stoned to death.” (Today Usman remains technically out on bail, as the case has never been finally resolved. Nor, thankfully, has the sentence been carried out.) Most such cases began with vigilante groups forcing the police to prosecute and ended in “lots of people convicted of Zina [unlawful sexual relations] and whipped because they were not married.” If people do not appeal, they are taken out and whipped right away, Imam laments. “It was really important to establish the principle that you can appeal. It’s your right.

“It’s not anti-God to appeal.”

Continue reading “Fighting Back” on Women’s E News


Haiti: Occasional Musings, 17 -evictions, hunger, continued persecutions & one victory!



Last Wednesday residents of Camp Bristou in Peguy Ville were forcefully evicted by agents of the state and local police.  Bristou is overlooked by Mojub school which is part of SOPUDEP community and many of the women, men and children who attend the school and literacy classes lived in the camp and the surrounding area.

In nearby Delmas, the residents at Camp Acra & Adoquin continue to live in fear of another fire or worse a complete eviction.  In addition to Esther Pierre and Elie Jean-Louis, another Chanjem Leson member, Augustin Dieudonne who lived close to the murdered man,  has also begun to receive threatening phone calls sometimes 3/4 in a day.     Last Thursday 7 plain clothes agents entered the camp at 11.45 pm asking for his whereabouts. Fortunately he was warned and was able to leave.  His family have now left for their own safely.  He is fearful as he believes the police have fixated on the three activists and will not stop until they are dead.   People in the camp are afraid and many of them are hungry and sick.

Bristou camp is the third forced eviction in Petion-Ville this year.  Along with the destruction of the camps is the daily harassment of street vendors and market women.  The attacks are vicious as police and other security bulldoze, ransack and sometimes burn down the public spaces.  Every few days agents of the mayor, young men wearing yellow  or green t-shirts and armed with sticks drive up in trucks and proceed to destroy stalls, scatter food and chase the vendors up and down the streets.   Many of the women from the FASA micro-credit which provides small loans to street vendors working in Petion-Ville, have lost their goods and much of their trade as they now have to hide on side streets with small baskets in case they need to run.  On Saturday I learned that all vendors and kiosks selling on the only Jalouzi street would have to leave as the government planned to rebuild the steep hillside road.   No one is arguing against the building of the road  even though most Jalouzi residents do not have cars and the road is way to narrow for tap taps.  But this development should not be at the expense of poor women who have no other way to earn a living other than to sell on the streets or kiosks.


Flaurantine Enise who has a small kiosk selling non-prescription drugs is one of the women who will loose her trade.  As I sat with her,  her faced taught with the strain at this latest act of violence she explained how the kiosk supports the whole family, 4 adults, 2 teenagers and her granddaughter.  Her two sons cannot go to college because they can hardly afford to feed themselves let alone pay school fees. Occasionally they find work for 50/100 gdes [$1/2]    Her youngest daughter has a heart condition and much of the family’s income goes on her medical expenses.   And people ARE hungry.  Many people who do not eat from one day to the next. People who get sick from burning in their stomachs because they have no food to eat.   A  man who knows my host, walked across the city to our house to ask if he could take some breadfruit for himself and his family.  He said they had not eaten properly for days.   Another young man sent me a text saying he was ill with a fever.  I went to meet him and he could hardly stand.  He eventually admitted he had not eaten for days.  People are hungry everywhere and for many children, death is a real possibility.  This report from  Belle Anse in southern Haiti states two out of three people have insufficient and irregular food.

6.7 million, or a staggering 67 percent of the population that goes without food some days, can’t afford a balanced diet or has limited access to food, according to surveys by the government’s National Coordination of Food Security. As many as 1.5 million of those face malnutrition and other hunger-related problems.

I don’t doubt these figures but the report completely ignores UN and US complicity Haiti’s present situation.  For example it makes no mention of  the devastation caused by cholera.  It  fails to adequately explain the US’s role in destroying Haitian rice and the livelihood of many farmers.   It mentions the low wages but fails to make the connection with corporate exploitation being pushed by the US and Haitian elite to use Haiti as a factory outpost of cheap labour.   For example many of the people who sold their land to accommodate the Caracol Industrial park have spent the money but now have no land to farm and therefore feed themselves.   Others in the city want to return home to the country where at least they can grow their own food but they are stuck in a cycle of debt and very often the need  for healthcare access,  however limited this may be in the capital, it is far more than in rural areas.

Hunger is not unique to Haiti but  set against the billions of dollars to fund an ever increasing militarization – the  UN / US occupation, a newly formed para-military presence on the streets,  private armed security and macoute like state thugs who terrorize market vendors and people on the streets.  Everywhere there are men with pistols,  automatic rifles, batons, sticks and AK 47s patrolling the streets of the central city parameters, in full combat gear, weapons at the ready.   In the US surveillance is carried out through the back door collecting data on everything we do.   In Haiti, surveillance of the popular masses is carried out in the open through guns and government thugs.   The UN continue to deny  criminal negligence in introducing cholera and NGOs, though heavily reduced in numbers, continue to plough the streets with little apparent benefit to anyone but themselves.    But worst of all Haiti’s poor have been swept to the margins, their livelihoods  often dependent on an assortment of religious missionaries, evangelicals and charities leaving them with very little agency or a sustainable future.

After months of promising myself, I finally started reading Jacques Roumain’s “Masters of the Dew“. I am still on the introduction which is quite long, where I came across this paragraph.   Before coming to a depressing conclusion it should be noted that ‘Masters of the Dew’ could also translate into ‘master of ones destiny – of imposing one’s will on the world’ in which case being fed up with poverty may well lead to taking action to end it – personally and or politically.

They were fed up with poverty.  They were worn out. The most reasonable among them were loosing their senses.   The strongest were wavering.  As for the weak, they had given up.  “Whats the use?” they said. One could see them stretched out, sad and silent, on pallets before their huts, thinking about their hard luck, stripped of all their will power.   Others were spending their last pennies on clarin at Florentine’s the wife of the rural policeman, or else they were buying it on credit, which would sooner or later catch up with them.

Fonds Rouge [the village setting] was falling  away into debris  and the debris consisted of these good peasants, these earnest hardworking Negroes of the land. Wasn’t it a pity, after all? [P.104]

Recently Place Boye,  which up till a year ago housed a large IDP camp in Petion-Ville was opened as a new park including a basketball court.  [Back story was each family was given $500 to leave, just enough for one room rent for a year.  Now the year is over many are facing a second eviction from the rentals. ]     On the day of the opening by President Martelly a group of women from Le Phare in Jalouzi came down and demanded they be given the job of taking care of the park.   This was agreed and now there are 10 women and two youths with the responsibility of keeping the park clean and tidy.    They insisted I came to see them and everyone was smiling with double kisses.  A wonderful victory  as a group of women decided to seize the opportunity and took action to end their misery.




Haiti – Feminist Series 4, In conversation with Flaurantin Marie Enise

Looking up into Jalouzi

Jalouzi is a hillside neighborhood of about 200,000 people overlooking lower Petion-Ville.  It is accessible from two roads, one at the top and one below.  The view from the top is stunning. From here you can see  Port-au-Prince looking east to the sea and north to the mountains.  The only way to travel is by foot through a series of alley ways and narrow paths of gravel, stones or the occasional step, and for those like myself who are challenged by gravel and stones on sloppy paths, difficult to negotiate. Flaurantin lives midway where in addition to her home she has a small meeting room and clinic for dispensing over the counter medication.  She also runs a small kiosk on the lower Jalouzi road.  The following are excerpts from conversations over the past 6 weeks between myself and Flaurantin and which are published with her permission.   Originally from Jacmel she began her community work in 1990.

I started working in the community in 1990  working with women.  We had a small school and mobile clinic where we would offer support and medicines to families.  Sadly I had to leave to come to Port-au-Prince 15 years ago with my husband and children.  I would love to return to Jacmel and even now there are women waiting for me to return but unfortunately my house was destroyed so it is not possible.  The community of Jalouzi is extremely poor with some of the most vulnerable women and children.  In 1999 I  decided to start the organization Le Phare [meaning Light] so I could participate in my community by  providing support and education to women and children and yes everybody who needs my help.  [FME]

Flaurantin Marie Enise

Le Phare is now part of the SOPUDEP community and the micro-credit project, Fanm SOPUDEP en Aksyon [FASA].   FASA began in March 2010 after the earthquake.  Rea Dol of SOPUDEP had been using donations to buy and distribute food and supplies to women however she saw that this was just not sustainable.  The next money she received she called a meeting with a group of women and explained they had a choice. Buy food with the money or try something more long term and sustainable such as a micro-finance scheme.  Everyone agreed on the latter and FASA cooperative was born.  Le Phare then became part of the  SOPUDEP  and FASA family.  Flaurantin is the Jalouzi sector coordinator which has  75 active members.  It is also in Jalouzi that  FASA recently opened a store for the programme.  They buy food in bulk and each week the women collect supplies to sell in the market.  Recently police have been driving street traders off the streets of Petion-Ville where all of the Jalouzi women sell their market.

More than 20 of our members were affected by these raids. They lost all their market, everything.   If they cannot sell on the streets in Petion-Ville what are they supposed to do?   Now each day the women go on the streets to try and sell but it is hard as they have to hide all the time from the police. It is too much stress but there is no other way to feed themselves.

As well as the micro-credit programme we now have cooking and sewing classes for young women and we hope this will help the women find ways to generate income once they have completed their training. [FME]

Women of FACE

Jalouzi was miraculously not affected by the January 2010 earthquake but nonetheless the residents like in other PAP neighbourhoods, face major challenges such as lack of access to healthcare, food insecurity, unemployment, lack of water and gender based violence.  Although there are some 100 matwons [midwives] in the neighborhood, community leaders like Flaurantin find themselves attending to various health crisis, intervening and supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence and generally helping those living in extreme poverty.

I delivered a baby at the weekend and the mother did not even have anything to cover where she was sleeping, it was terrible.     The women prefer to deliver their babies at home  but there are often problems such as breech birth and  pre-eclampsia is a very big for the women as they cannot attend pre natal clinics so those with high blood pressure end up very ill.  They are the ones who need emergency treatment but the nearest emergency  [free] hospital is the MSF in Delmas 33 which is far from here. There are a lot of women with HIV and recently gonorrhea has become a problem, which if the woman is pregnant can also be passed to the child. [FME]

Whilst many of victims of gender based violence including rape,  in the the post earthquake camps, have benefited from interventions by local and international NGOs, neighbourhoods such as Cite Soleil and Jalouzi seem to be off the NGO radar and as Flaurantin remarked “The NGOs dont come here. We see them driving up and down in their cars but they never stop”.

We try to give the support for women who have been raped or beaten by their husbands but it is not easy as we do not have any resources only ourselves.   There is a lot of domestic violence but rape is not too much. The most difficult thing is getting women to make police reports even where children are the victims and this has happened in our community even recently.    We try to educate and it is important to give support and to participate [in the community] to know what is happening. That is all we can do keep talking about the problem.  Another problem more often than rape is forced sex in marriage and the women end up getting pregnant over and over which, with the poverty leads to women always being sick.   We do advise the women on birth control and there is ‘depo provera’ and one injection lasts for three months.  We also have female condoms but these are more expensive than male condoms. One of the forgotten groups of women is the elderly. Of course many are cared for by their families but many either have no family or their families are too poor to care for them.  These are probably the most vulnerable with street children –  many also live on the streets.  It is important that we include them in our work.   [FME]

The levels of poverty in neighbourhoods like Jalouzi are massive.  The people who live here  the cost and consequences of global capitalism and as Mahmood Mamdani states the actions of brutal regimes all over the global south break the backs of the poor in the interest of their imperial masters and capital.  And it is poor  women who are criminalized, disenfranchised further pushed to the margins of margins having to deal with multiple acts of violences.

Jalouzi sits next to the elite neighbourhood of Petion-Ville but the distance in the reality of lives is a thousand miles.  Whilst we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in all manner of ways,  its worth considering the question:  what we mean by  sisterhood, whether global or local.. what does it really mean?  In Haiti the media have gone, many of  the NGOs and UN agencies are gone and those remaining are scaling down.  For them the crisis is over, earthquakes and cholera, stories from yesterday.  Voices like Flaurantin’s, which speak to the many violences of poverty but also to the frontline work of women activists and their  commitment to movement building,  don’t get heard.

A last word from Flaurantin

The levels of poverty are so great [that] sometimes we cannot see our way out, we just survive.   But what is good about our organizing is though there is much misery, there is solidarity amongst us. [FME]


This article was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

Haiti: Occasional Musings, 11 – International Women’s Day

I have a general wariness around national and international days which are set aside to remind us of a particular issue or celebration such as the Day of the Child, Human Rights Day, Water Day, Day Against Homophobia and International Women’s Day [IWD]. There seems to be something condescending about such designations not least of all because we often have no historical or other context for such days. I had thought to mark IWD 2013 with a profile of four Haitian women activists, three I have known for a number of years and one I just met this January. However after talking with each of them and considering the impact of their work in their communities I felt I needed to bring something deeper to my understanding of the relationship between IWD, feminism and activism in an Haitian context.

I started by reading on the history of IWD which I had always believed to be a post WWII creation along with the various declarations around human rights. Not so. IWD was born within the European and Russian socialist politic of the late 19th century along with May Day, as a celebration and recognition of working class struggles including ‘universal women’s suffrage’. In other words IWD was created out of the the intersection of class and gender and was formalised at the August 1910 at the “International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen”.

“In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade organisations of the proletariat in their respective countries, the socialist women of all nationalities will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully. Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, and other comrades

In her lecture “Wars Against Women” Angela Davis points to the multiple origins of IWD so in addition to the 1910 Socialist International there was the

“ Russian women’s strike for bread and peace in 1917 against the wishes of the revolutionary leadership which [later] helped to bring down the Czar. There was the triangle shirtwaist factory fire in New York in 1911 during which 140 women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants were killed. There was also a 1857 strike on March 8th in New York by women in the garment and textile industry, in which they demanded, better wages, shorter working hours and generally better working conditions.”

The first IWD was in 1911 under the banner of ‘equal rights, protection of working woman and women’s suffrage. The ideology behind the early IWD was driven by a desire to end capitalism which was seen as the barrier to equality, to internationalize the struggle of women and workers and to oppose the impending war in Europe [WWI]. By the 1970s, IWD, which grew out of a socialist workers international was appropriated and incorporated into global capitalism through the institution of the UN, which despite the tensions of the east west cold war period, was always leveraged as an instrument of global capital. The first global recognition of IWD and women’s struggles, was through the UN Commission on the Status of Women which held a series of ‘internationals’ in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

Another interesting  example of the early IWD socialist connection took place  following the first UN  sponsored international in Mexico which designated March 8th as IWD.

“Cuba marked the occasion by launching it’s attack against the second shift – the shift women do when they get home from work and began to address some of the major issues that confront working women within a feminist framework.” [Angela Davis]

Davis also asks us to recognize the importance of the global in “recognizing the recognition of women’s pivotable role” in creating hope for a better future. I would add that these internationals also led to  the recognition of the ‘pivotable role’ played by women from the global south in the independence movements in the 1930s onwards and of course in post-colonial struggles. It is within this international or global history as well as Haiti’s own revolutionary history that I would like to view the activism of the Haitian women. Each of the four women’s organizing grew out of the struggle of the popular masses against the subjugation and brutality of the 1930s US Occupation, Duvalierism, militarisation and the desire to reclaim the revolutionary narrative which had long since been appropriated by Haitian elites, imperialist forces as well as local patriarchies.

Each of the women prioritise women’s struggles in the context of a broader activism of an inclusive movement of the popular masses.  So water rights, land rights, food insecurity, an end to the UN occupation, an increase in the minimum wage, free accessible education, sit alongside issues of gender discrimination, sexual violence, domestic violence, imprisonment of girls and women for extended periods often with delayed trials or years, access to healthcare,  and adult literacy.

Globalised Women

The clothes we wear the majority of which are made in China or the global south by women are invariably manufactured under extremely exploitative labour conditions. Even in Europe and the US, it is immigrant and often undocumented women’s labour that is used.   The food we eat.  Most of the sugar imported into the US comes from the Dominican Republic where Haitian men, women and children many of whom have been trafficked across the border,  work in slavery conditions on huge plantations.  The conditions are horrendous, there are few schools, clinics or access to alternative employment.  The petrol we use to travel has destroyed the livelihood of women in rural Niger Delta.

At the beginning of this post I said I was wary about the ‘celebration’ of designated international Days though I wasnt sure where or why my ambivalence.  But understanding the history of IWDs particularly learning the socialist history has given IWD a much needed context.

#16Days – African Women in the Age of War

From Open Democracy, Amina Mama on where African women should stand in the age of war.  [This article was first published in September 2011.]


The anniversary of 9/11 has filled the US-dominated media with action replays and detailed excavations of the events surrounding the attacks on the World Trade Centre and two other targets. More critical thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, and Robert Fisk, for example, have problematized the ubiquitous Western rhetoric of ‘terror’. This rhetoric justifies and underpins the massive military spending on a potentially endless global war, executed all over the world in the name of a narrow US-centred security doctrine. US feminist philosopher Iris Young also takes issue with these alarming developments, homing in on the ‘masculine logic of protection’ that provides ideological grist to the militarist mill. How do we, as Africans, make sense of this unprecedented escalation? How is it affecting Africa and African women in particular as we work to end war, re-build societies and economies already ravaged by years of conflict and military rule, and struggle to establish open and inclusive democracies?

Anti-militarist activists around the world have traced the links between militarism and capitalism ever since the highly decorated US Military General Smedley Butler published a powerful anti-war statement ‘War is a Racket’(1935), in which he bitterly acknowledged how his outstanding military service had effectively cleansed the way for private profiteering in the colonised world — Mexico, Dominica, Cuba, Haiti, China, and “half a dozen Central American republics”. Years before Butler, feminist anti-war activists — Virginia Woolf among them — drew links between war and the male domination of political and economic arenas. Woolf may not have been fully aware of it, but she wrote The Three Guineas (1937) at a time when African women were losing sons, fathers, and husbands conscripted and recruited into colonial armies, dispatched around the world to fight for their European masters. Myron Echenberg’s Colonial Conscripts: Les Sénégalais Senegalais in French West Africa records over 175,000 French West African conscripts fought in the First World War, of whom at least 30,000 died in the trenches. In the Second World War too there where huge numbers of French West African conscripts, with as many as 20,000 participating in the allied landing of 1944 alone. The British also utilized large numbers of Africans, as the living memories in many communities confirm. Less well documented is that fact that those who returned did so as militarised men who saw Africa’s future in ways that reflected their training in all-male colonial armies. A detailed excavation leads us to see historical connections between colonial militarism and our post-independence proclivity for coups and civil wars, such that by the mid-1970’s more than half of Africa was under all-male military regimes. These rulers continued the exploitative colonial practices of serving transnational corporations instead of African people, looting national resources and stashing their profits away from public scrutiny in Western banks.

Many wars and several genocidal episodes later, the link between male domination, corporate profiteering, and militarisation holds true on both sides of the Atlantic. Women of the African diaspora in the US (its ranks regularly replenished by refugees from postcolonial conflicts) live the implications of these connections, as public services and social protections are cut, plunging more Black and ethnic minority families into deepening poverty. Their sons have limited options — large numbers facing jail terms or military service.

In early July this year, in the midst of the largest military spend in human history, the Watson Institute at Brown University released their research report on the costs of US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Catherine Lutz and her colleagues reveals the same link between corporate interests and militarism. Among the facts they present:

- US military spending has reached an all-time high, with Iraq Afghanistan and Pakistan alone costing between $2.2-2.8 trillion so far.

- Most of this money has been borrowed, contributing significantly to the US’s larger-that-ever debt burden, and the US financial crisis.

- While the recession has taken its toll, military contractors have profited from significantly more public money, amounting to over 400 billion received in contract in 2008, their highest levels since World War II…Lockheed Martin alone received $29 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2008.

Lockheed Martin’s contracts draw significantly more public funding than the Environmental Protection Agency ($7.5 billion), the Department of Labor ($11.4 billion), or the Department of Transportation ($15.5 billion). This boom in money to private military contractors should not be viewed as separate from the US economic crisis, or the raced and gendered patterns of profit for some, pauperization for others.

Africans on the other side of the Atlantic excavate a different set of memories, not featured on CNN. On the African continent, 9/11 was preceded by the direct bombing of US embassies in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi three years earlier, on 7 August 1998, leaving 258 dead and over 5,000 injured. African memories include the US retaliation — the cruise missile attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan on 20 August 1998, number of casualties unknown. In other words, Africa was included in an escalating US war that respects no sovereignty but its own before 9/11.

Military power in Africa has been re-shaped since, in ways heralded by thelaunch of the US High Command for Africa, aka AFRICOM, Oct 1 2008. AFRICOM was designed to centralise US counter-terrorism operations in Africa, to ensure effective pursuit of US security interests defined to include securing access to African resources, notably oil. African governments and civil society initially responded by raising objections loud enough to keep AFRICOM head office in Stuttgart and force a change in the public relations strategy. AFRICOM has been re-packaged as a more collaborative and diffuse set of ‘joint operations’ that emphasize ‘training peacekeepers’ ‘humanitarian assistance’ and training exercises for African military forces. The dedicated website somewhat incongruously features US military personnel digging wells, offering medical assistance and reading to schoolchildren.

What must women do?

As military assistance looks set to displace old-fashioned development assistance, it behoves us to ask what this means for women. Women in Africa have endured the worst aspects of militarism in a long series of military regimes and conflicts that have wrecked lives, displaced countless families, disrupted livelihoods and left legacies of loss, abuse and violence and gender inequality that are both visible and indelible. Whether one is talking about the so-called ‘blood diamonds’ in Sierra Leone, the curse of ‘black gold’ in the Niger Delta, or the rapacious quest for coltan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the link between conflict and minerals sought after by transnational corporations is clearer than ever, as are the greatest human costs.

The costs to women have included loss of livelihoods, disrupted by violence, dislocation and other consequences of militarism. It has also cost women many of their fundamental rights as citizens whose definitions of security extend beyond declared ‘cessation of hostilities. Peace has not yielded the much hoped-for dividends to women. If we listen to African women’sperspectives on security, forged in the cauldron of conflict and military rule, we hear that these include economic and livelihood security as much as security from violence, security in their own homes as much as security from marauding military men.

Feminist activists working against conflict and militarism in Africa bring these together to rethink the meaning of ‘peace’ and ‘conflict’, and to enhance women’s movement capacities for contributing to democratization and social justice. This is the agenda now being pursued by ABANTU for Development, the Mano River Women’s Peace Union and the Women’s Peace and Security Network, and other partners working in an activist research collaboration‘Strengthening Women’s Activism Against Conflict and Militarism’ (SWACM), launched in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria’s Oil Delta a year ago. It is an agenda that women across Africa articulate, inspired as we are by our collective survival through decades of conflict and military rule, and the accumulated experience of mobilizing for peace and equality.

If the US war on terror is the ‘father of all wars’, Africa’s conflicts are his angry and rebellious offspring, sharing the same disrespect for borders and the close connections to private profiteering. Open conflict is only the surface eruption of much deeper-seated contradictions, vivid ulcers on the skin of an unhealthy body politic governed by a militarist mindset. The roots of these eruptions include complicated webs of economic, cultural and political malaise. Militarism is not just about men with guns, or wars, or the blistering legacies of the past. It lays out a future ordained by economic decisions that neglect social development and justice, and perpetuate the stark stratifications and gendered inequalities that militarism at once relies on and perpetuates.

All this gives African women particular cause for concern. It tells us why African women must take a stand in the transnational movement to dismantle militarism. Whether one considers the direct effects of military rule and conflict on women, or the global economic implications of US war-making, militarism threatens to strip away all the 20th century gains in women’s rights, dispossessing us once more. African women have good cause to renew their struggle for peaceful, radical, creative, and ultimately solutions that will bring social justice considerations to the fore once again, and finally understand that security cannot be built without women, without economic and social justice.

More articles from 16 Days here. 



The Outsider – rich beyond their dreams

The Outsider by Caroline Adhiambo Jakob, is published by Authors House

In the film “Living With Illegals”, Sierra Leone / British journalist, Sorious Samura becomes an illegal immigrant traveling from Morocco to Europe with a group of African migrants. Three of the men decide to make the crossing by swimming to the European enclave of Ceuta in Morocco — one makes it three are caught. These  journeys are horrendous and desperate and can often take up to 4 / 5 years, crossing many countries by land and sea.

At first there is a sense of comrade between the men (there are no women in the film) as they struggle for a life of selling battery’s, flowers and DVDs and living in make shift dormitories. But by the time Samura gets to France and realises he has been conned by the smuggler anger takes over. Many of the men admit to begging which is something I never saw during my 4 years in Granada Spain, so maybe this is something new or something which happens in northern Spain and France.

This is a soulless lonely journey towards an often soulless lifetime.  As the men in the film reach Calais, they are met by thousands  of other men and women from across the world all desperate to make the final crossing to Britain.  This is perhaps the most treacherous as they are so near yet still so far away.  Now they must negotiate themselves around border police, more smugglers and the forest.

Crossing borders, migrations to Euroland presented as the land of milk, honey and endless riches. Juxtaposed against this ‘Dreamland’ is Africa,  hunger corruption and endless wars. What does it mean to make the perilous journey from the global south to the west.  To work 6 or 7 days a week, up to 16 plus hours a day for a pittance as domestics where often women are sexually and physically abused; day workers,  fruit pickers or car washers?  To have no social life with the only hope being that ones children will somehow fare better.   What does it mean when the journey is the other way around, from the global north to the south/  How does white privilege manifest itself in contemporary Africa, in neo-coloniality?   The The Outsiders goes some way to answering these questions.   It is the first novel by Kenyan, Caroline Adhiambo Jakob, and follows the lives of two women – Irmtraut, a German high-powered executive, ambitious and single.  And Philister, a victim of sexual abuse living in poverty on the streets of Nairobi.  Philister’s dream is for a better life and that better life exists in Europe.   Irmtraut’s venture to Kenya, on the other hand, is forced upon her by her boss and married lover.    The characters are created around believable stereotypes each embarking on a journey premised by mythical imaginations of life on the other side.   From the south, Philister approaches Europe with much more than hope.  She is convinced she will be rich in record time.  There are no obstacles in her imagination.

“Stories were often told of people who arrived in majuu and suddenly became so rich they had no idea how to spend all their riches” 

Irmtraut on the other hand approaches Kenya with dread and a firm belief that nothing will work and no one can be trusted.  Her search for Africa leaves her with stories of child soldiers and ruthless idiotic dictators.  From the beginning we know for Irmtraut there is no where to go, but up.

To reach Germany, Philister persuades  her abuser and uncle who is the manager of Kenyan National football team, to include her in the team.  She arrives in Germany  where the team loose all their games and promptly they all disappear to begin a life on the margins of society.  Philister story is told through a series of letters to her friend, Tamaa Matano which begin with hope.  Her hopes are very soon squashed at the realization that her life in Germany is even more precarious than in Kenya.  She is challenged by the same problems of housing and employment but these are  exacerbated by racism and the additional vulnerability of being alone and unable to trust anyone.  Eventually she joins the millions of other undocumented Africans and Asians who supply Europe with its lowest ranks of the labour market.  In Living With Illegals, Samura makes the point that it is the illegal people who contribute to the economy. The ones who oil the wheels which keeps Europe turning, doing those jobs Europeans wont do and nothing will stop them from coming.

Irmtraut is the kind of liberal whiteness that insists they are not racist until faced with Blackness and Africa.  Her racism is challenged by her fearful reaction on a train, to the only Black person she has close contact with. Still, she manages to persuade herself that because Will Smith is her favorite actor, she is cannot be racist.  As time passes both women learn the truth about their adopted countries and themselves.   Irmtraut whilst enjoying white privilege in Kenya also faces the fact that it can come at a high cost if carried too far.   Very quickly Kenya chips away at  her ignorance and privilege but never leaves her without choices, something Philister rarely enjoys.

Though there are moments of laughter particularly for Irmtraut, the story of Philister is one of incredible sadness as she faces discrimination after discrimination in a life of emptiness and poverty in Europe.  There is no escape, no way to return.    The irony is that her friend who she left behind in Nairobi has a very different experience.   The Outsiders is an interesting read and is entirely plausible.  Some of the dialogue is awkward and forced but the book achieves what I believe it set out to do, which is expose the myths on which prejudices and discrimination are built. Philister sinks further and further into invisibility till finally she more or less ceases to exist except as an object of pity or hate.  Not altogether dissimilar from her life in Nairobi’s streets. But at least there she has the familiarity of language and people and most importantly her dreams.   In Europe she is stripped of everything.    Irmtraut on the other hand is always visible, her existence always privileged even when she is the victim of a scam or theft.  The question we are left with is which is preferable – a life of poverty in Kenya or a life of loneliness and poverty in Germany?



Not a pretty picture: A short documentary on Nigeria

Via Sahara Reporters TV

Silent, hidden and prevalent – obstetric fistula

A Walk to Beautiful tells the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity. Rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities, these women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame. They make the choice to take the long and arduous journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in search of a cure and a new life.

Click here to support the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital  featured in the film and watch the trailer here.

Obstetric Fistula is it’s demeaning, it’s painful and wholly preventable and in many cases there is the additional pain of loosing ones child.   FGM and forced child marriages contribute to obstetric  fistula in women and girls for example in Northern Nigeria where it is estimated some 800,000 women are suffering.  MSF produced the video below on the work of a hospital in Jahun, Nigeria which provides free surgery and treatment for women.

MLK Day – Keeping the dream alive

I live in Miami so I decided I should start writing about the city. Martin Luther King Day is a good day to start. On this day as we watch one dictator flee in Tunisia and one return in Haiti  these two quotes by Martin Luther King come to mind!

A riot is the language of the unheard.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

In this video Ms Yvonne Stratford remembers Liberty City the once vibrant neighbourhood back in the day of the Civil Rights Struggle.

“Just dont tear down and don leave nothing. Always leave a print of something that was there”

Gates Foundation holding hands with Monsanto

I have never had faith in what lay behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s charitable works in Africa.  The disclosure that the Foundation has directly invested up to $21 million in the  GM Biotechnology agricultural giant, Monsanto is confirmation to me that all was never well with this pair of billionaires.    While I am not so naive to imagine that such wealth is built without sullying the waters of ethics, there is a choice and they chose to make a bad one.  So what’s wrong with Monsanto – everything and more.

“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well- being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”

I cannot help but think this is not accidental but part of a long term plan.  At what point in this plan did the Gates Foundation decide to make the connection between their funding of agridevelopment and investment in Monsanto?  For someone with so much business astuteness I find it hard to believe that this was not thought of at the beginning.   After all biotechnology is not new in Africa.  In 2005 Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, wrote a piece titled “Conned with Corn” in which he describes the “onslaught of the biotech industry” in Africa as a modern day “scramble for Africa”.

Genetically engineered food has been presented as the ultimate weapon against hunger in Africa and the world. This is also seriously suggested in the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), meaning that this may be the direction efforts will be concentrated in the years to come. African leaders have largely been co-opted into thinking this way because they are warned that since the so-called Green Revolution train left Africa standing at the station they should not miss the gene train. It has been noted that the Green Revolution required extensive chemical and equipment inputs and although food production increased in some areas, small scale farmers were marginalised, the environment took a beating and on the aggregate hunger was boosted in the world.

Zambia is one African country that has refused to accept GM foods or crops.  The case as Bassey states demonstrated that “every country has the sovereign right to determine what type of food to eat irrespective of whether it is purchased in the market or donated as aid”.   (GM foods were banned in 2002 )  In 2005 there were reports claiming that Zambia faced a drought and needed 200,000 tones of maize immediately and the US tried putting pressure on Zambia to import GM foods.   The ban followed research by Zambian scientists and economists conducted in South Africa, Europe and the US as well as  consultations took place with local farmers, women’s groups, politicians, church leaders and NGOs — sounds very democratic!
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Bashing the poor

Raj Patel on Democracy Now “How South Africa has cracked down on the poor and shackdweller movement.”

Comments: Why Africa is poor

25 Comments (This link leads to the original blog post generating the buzz below)


  1. I most heartily agree with all of that, only I missed the point about the number of African countries: surely with all the European-encouraged tribalism a finer division could (not necessarily, of course!) end up in a lot of poorer countries turned entirely upon themselves plus fighting neighbours in wars that would be international rather than civil.
    I tend to think that integration into loose federations with efficient (but not overly interfering) central governments would be the right way; I mean, if Zimbabwe were a state in some huge Southern Africa federation, the government would be able to deal with it. Indeed de facto this is what RSA tries to do with Mbeki shuttling from peace talks to peace talks, and with the relative success of RSA, Botswana and Namibia (plus, hopefully, a revamp of Angola) the SADC could turn into something useful, and this could help smaller countries, indeed like Lesotho.
    Comment by Pavel Iosad – 20 June 2006 @ 7:01 pm
  2. 2.

  3. Yes. The trade situation is quite unfair. In addition to tariffs, there are quotas on some goods and, of course, there are subsidies, which drive prices down and make it harder for African countries to sell agricultural goods (though this helps LDCs in the short term). There is a movement, in the industrialized world, to recognize these unfairnesses and get the system changed. It is slow to take off, however, because 1) it does not benefit the average man in the industrialized world, and 2) it is somewhat complex, economically, to explain.

    It is happening, though.

    I agree with all you have to say. I would really like to see Africa establish a trade pact, possibly including Latin America and parts of Asia. I think that, if targeted the right way, it could be very helpful. Also, it seems to me, the foreign aid money invested in Africa should be allocated more and more toward maintenance. The story appears to me to be all too often the same: plenty of money to build, no money to maintain. What’s the point? Good comments.
    Comment by Matthew – 20 June 2006 @ 11:19 pm


  4. thanks for this information .
    it did help in my assessment.
    thank you ~@
    Comment by haein – 7 August 2007 @ 6:22 am
  5. 4.

  6. Let us not forget that Africans have lived in the same place since humans evolved, yet Europeans had the disadvantage of having to adjust to a new clime. Yet we still have created EVERYTHING that this ungrateful world has. Africans were chucking spears (still are) when Europe had started the Industrial Revolution and had nearly a millenium of civilization behind them!
    Comment by sf – 5 November 2007 @ 5:57 am
  7. Don’t flatter yourself, sf. Do you have anything worthwhile to say, or have you just come here to satisfy your racist views?
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 5 November 2007 @ 7:08 am
  8. 5.

  9. I keep hearing from white africans that they know blacks (Africans) since they are from Africa and that they have the mentality of teen agers. They insist that they are difficult to educate and have hard time understanding basic procedures. They also claim that blacks are irresponsible and won’t do what is necessary for success. They did differentiate somewhat between westernized blacks and not. Many said they thought the west should stop all aid and just pull out and let the continent sort itself out and that it will probably become mainly tribal again. What are your comments on these assertions.
    Comment by JK – 29 December 2007 @ 11:11 am
  10. 6.

  11. Dear JK,
    My response was too long, so I decided to turn it into a post: Melanocytes are why Africa is poor
    Comment by Rethabile – 30 December 2007 @ 8:27 am
  12. 7.

  13. Oh Rethabile, right now I am a mixture of angry and sad. Your wrote an intelligent, informative piece and it was read (though clearly not understood) by a couple of jerks. If only the world had a lot more people like you in it and far fewer of them.
    Comment by Jo – 30 December 2007 @ 4:13 pm
  14. 8.

  15. I agree with your thoughts totally, and i thank you for writing his paper as it gives us all an idea of what Africa is going through. I do hope that people gain more awareness of what is going on in Africa and do something about it.
    Comment by Caroline Sullivan – 9 January 2008 @ 9:05 pm
  16. 9.

  17. A very insightful post, Rethabile. Have you read a book called Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond? I think you’ll like it.
    Comment by Johan de Lange – 6 February 2008 @ 2:17 pm
  18. 10.

  19. Johan, haven’t read the book yet, no. But thanks for the tip off.

    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 6 February 2008 @ 3:05 pm


  20. Nice excuses do you have more concocted for the next 100 years or so? I mean its been over 50 years and using the same excuse does not attract pity anymore. I mean take the case of India for example, their population alone is greater than that of the African continent, colonized for more than 300 years, Gained independance 60 years ago and you can see substantial development. How come this is not the case in many African countries? English is not their mother tongue either.
    Comment by Reid – 28 March 2008 @ 10:53 pm
  21. 12.

  22. Our Culture, thats the whole problem with africa not intelligence, there is not a culture inclined to build , to get better. so if building comes after other needs then it’ll often be bypassed to fulfill those other things we are ‘naturally’ inclined to [like tribal loyalty ]. Until we have a system that puts growth as our first priority then we are f’d.
    Comment by slingerthecat – 19 August 2008 @ 6:20 pm
  23. 13.

  24. Author : Shammah Banks (IP: **.***.143.13 , **.***.143.13)
    E-mail : ******
    URI : Not given
    Whois :**.***.143.13
    Thanks for all the information, and also the guys who have commented. I have an assigment and this has been of help. Thanks once again.
    Comment by Rethabile (Saved from the spammer) – 7 November 2008 @ 9:47 am
  25. 14.

  26. Author : MARLEN (IP: **.***.45.89 , adsl-**-***
    E-mail : *******
    URI :Not given
    Whois :**.***.45.89
    Comment by Rethabile (saved from the spammer) – 8 November 2008 @ 2:04 am
  27. 15.

  28. why do we like to group ourselves as africans. we are total different people both cultural and historical. as different as china and India. so Batswana are different from Basotho so we must be judged differently
    Comment by G.P Nthoiwa – 19 December 2009 @ 10:21 pm
  29. 16.

  30. Lumela Nthoiwa,
    I do this for several reasons. While I agree with you that Africans differ from one another vastly, we as a people (Africans) have been lumped together and exploited as such. I believe that is why in France where I live, blacks greet each other without necessarily knowing each other. It was the same in the US when I lived there.

    Another reason is practical. I cannot possibly list poor African countries, or keep saying “some Africans” over and over. It is true that Botswana is a relatively rich country, in comparison with its sister nation, Lesotho. But…
    If China and India had been lumped together and sucked dry because of some feature that links them, say skin colour, then they would feel the kinship that I feel toward all blacks. Next year in South Africa (World Cup) I’ll be rooting for Bafana Bafana. If they lose, I will switch to Ghana or Cameroon or another African country.

    This is something that many Africans do, but that you won’t find in Europe or America or Asia or Oceania.

    I’ll even root for Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago before I Brazil or France.
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 20 December 2009 @ 7:19 am


  31. When Africa unite- all those others raping robbing her will have to answer- warning to UK Monarchy thieves and murderous, the vaticans thieves, chinese/Indians thieves and those holding stolen African wealth in their homes! You will have to answer! just wait till we uinte!!
    Comment by Ogada Jarateng – 27 December 2009 @ 7:34 am
  32. 18.

  33. Ok… why is Hatti the poorest place on the western hemisphere?? Its the same reason that Africa is poor, even though it should not be. Oil, diamonds, travel rich areas. Yet its so so poor, and it is this way not because the white man. It is this way becuase the black man. The same reason America is going down the shitter.
    Comment by ALLEN JAMES – 14 January 2010 @ 1:43 am
  34. 19.

  35. Allen,
    Do you even know the history of Haiti?

    BTW, America was “in the shitter”, wasn’t it, before the guy arrived in power?
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 14 January 2010 @ 1:58 am


  36. Rethabile,
    I don’t think allen was referring to Pres Obama. He was probably referring to the fact that we have so many black people on welfare living off of other people’s money not contributing to society in the US. That is the way I took it anyway. I agree with him to an extent, but it doesn’t stop there. That’s all I’m gonna say about it though.
    Comment by Michael Smith – 17 January 2010 @ 3:15 pm
  37. 21.

  38. Hi Michael,
    You say that “we have so many black people on welfare living off of other people’s money not contributing to society in the US.”
    1. Black people have built America, despite being chained and denied basic rights like education. Remind me to tell you the things they have done, I mean beside the physical carrying, digging, constructing, planting, harvesting, singing, praying, sporting, enduring, buying, selling they have done.
    2. White people are the ones with the money: heard of white priviledge? From the time slaves landed on American soil, everything was MORE for the massa and his family, NOTHING for the slave and his family. Not only blacks, by the way, slaves, including the American Indian. The white man did it again in Australia and in South Africa. I live in France. Despite being qualified, can’t get a job. Had to start my own business. Since white people have the money, and the power, where in Heaven’s name do you want poor black people to get it from?
    3. If black people have not contributed to society (A group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture), who has?
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 17 January 2010 @ 4:16 pm
  39. 22.

  40. The strange thing is, while Asian countries in the 50’s like japan, korea, taiwan, singapore had economic levels similar to that of many african countries, they have lifted themselves from extreme poverty while africa still has rampant starvation. China is now the world’s 3rd biggest economy, and just look at it 40 years ago (rampant starvation like in africa). Could this be a cultural difference between asia and africa – or something deeper? And yes, Asian countries were under european domination just as africa was, during colonial times, yet they have fared much better.

    Something interesting to think about.
    Comment by Anonymous – 9 February 2010 @ 6:34 pm


  41. Hi Anonymous,
    Part One:
    I like the way you say, “Could this be a cultural difference between asia and africa – or something deeper?” That’s funny.

    No, I think you’re wrong. Asia, China in particular, is enormous culturally and physically and economically. It’s a giant. China sits permanently on the security council, is one of the most visited countries in the world, is a low-cost producer due to cheap labour and high productivity, and has an undervalued exchange rate; I could go on.

    Apart from Chinese girls sold into slavery/prostitution in California during The Gold Rush, when have the Chinese undergone slavery and dehumanisation and colonisation on a scale as deep as many countries in Africa?

    Asia is larger than Africa and has 47 countries. Africa is smaller than Asia and has 53 countries. The 53 countries of Africa were determined by colonisers, while Asian frontiers are “natural” in that Indians live in India and Malays in Malaysia and the Japanese in Japan.
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 13 February 2010 @ 9:30 am


  42. Hi Anonymous
    Part Two:
    How many peoples in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa? And what has this done to the stabilities of those “countries”?

    If anything is related to something “deeper”, how come Yemen is poor and not Saudi Arabia? Lesotho, and not Botswana (same culture, same language)? Why is Bangladesh much poorer than Pakistan and India?

    And more telling, why is Romania poorer than France? They’re both in Europe and they’re both “white” countries. Why is Greece needing an economic boost right now, in 2010? They’re white, and will probably get their boost from the 26 other European countries.
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 13 February 2010 @ 9:31 am


  43. Hi Anonymous
    Part Three and last:
    What country in Africa got a boost, from who? Marshall Plan? What country in Europe or North America trades fairly with what country in Africa?

    What country in Africa enslaved and colonised what country in Europe or North America, in order to fill its coffers and obtain cheap labour for its industries and rape the reaches of the enslaved and colonised peoples (as well as their women)?

    Do you really still think there is something “deeper” than pure greed and malice and evil at work here? Do you read any history objectively?

    Why don’t you spend your time wondering instead what needs to be done to the rich white folks who are rich because they destroyed other people through force? Because they pillaged whole communities through force? Because they continue to keep an iron-hand on other communities , through force and the help of permanency on the Security Council and the G6, G7, G8 and G20?

    In Spain, people who speak Basque conduct guerilla activities against the central power. That’s one language, imagine there were twenty different languages and cultures in Spain. What would have happened then? Corsica has been occupied continuously since the Middle Stone Ages. Could this have anything to do with the fact that they’re setting up bombs, too, against the French government? Or do you think there’s something “deeper”?

    If Africans or anybody else, for that matter, came and occupied your territory, shipped its most able and its strongest people away from home to go work in forced labour camps and fields in South Carolina and Virginia, shipped the raw materials of your territory away (stole it) without paying for it, did a host of other unthinkable things to you and your people, continue to do some of them into the 21st Century (white priviledge, job denial, unfair trading policies, etc), then say you’re poor because there’s something “deeper” that’s keeping you so, what would be your reaction to that?
    Comment by Rethabile Masilo – 13 February 2010 @ 9:35 am




Who will marry a dog? A Yoruba woman said.

That very morning it was dicey. Straits start out the

Same way daily like putrescent corpses wallowing in

Excremental death of Stunned minds.

Their minds are frozen in the grasp of antediluvian Paws

Fearful of preceding ancestral, natural laws.

The fearful forage feverishly like

Inheritors since infancy -cursed.

Nobody cared to warn them

About other worlds. “What other worlds?”

They inquired. Nobody cared to.

The explanations of VOA in

A radio talk show tolled

A selfsame game of

Wedlock and wealth’s

Longevity over all else

-in preacherly histrionics.

The focus was committed

Meant to keep straits in line.

A mother danced the hypocrite’s

Conditionality clauses into

Her over eager son‘s head.

Facile, while her little

Boy laughed, chuffed,

Stuffed with copses for friends.

Clapton Pond drew near. A pair of straits imbued

Felt well placed to snigger

On unstudied news like they cared.

“Who will marry a dog?” She said,

subtle as hell bird. How cowardice cloaked in

Merriment misleads the merry

“only the dead of excrement,”

As the Yoruba would say.

“Would stoop that low.”

Diasporaic diversity knew better,

Only human beings, beastly inhumanity

Will dare to

Palea in the excremental

Deadly stew of fear.

Mia Nikasimo (c) September 2009

Blogging the G20 Summit in London

The G20 Summit is coming to town next week and I have been selected as one of 50 bloggers from across the world invited to attend the summit as part of the G20-Voice. The official G20 meetings will take place on the 2nd April but there will be massive protests by various groups such as the Climate Change – Camp for Climate Action, , G20 Meltdown – a coalition of groups- all of whom plan to descend on various parts of the City’s square “financial” mile starting at noon on Wednesday 1st April. Meanwhile the G20 will be meeting on the 2nd behind closed doors safely locked away from the masses with only the media and a few select bloggers to contend with. Sparing with words is something the G20 leaders and their cohorts running the financial markets, have perfected. Nonetheless I am sure we are all prepared to use this opportunity to call them to account for the
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Being all right with one’s wealth

Happiness Index is the title of the four-part work he’s readying for Voices in Motion, Bodies That Sing, and although it doesn’t borrow directly from African music, it’s definitely inspired by the time that Hannan has spent in Lesotho, where his wife, Dr. Karen Stancer, mentors health-care workers dealing with AIDS.

“It’s, like, the poorest country in the world, with every problem that entails,” Hannan explains, in a separate telephone interview. “But the thing that really struck me from being there is that people are no more or less happy or no more or less complaining than anyone I know here.”
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Woman, are you crazy?!

Author: Teresa
Filed under: Uncategorized
Mar 7,2009


Today we had the privilege to speak at a church called River of Life There is a group of ladies who are called “Women in Evangelism”, who have been praying for their country for quite some time. When Jennifer shared her dream with them, they were moved to tears at the reality of how much God loves them. He loves them so much that He sent someone from across the world to tell them that He hasn’t forgotten them.


Isn’t it amazing that He would go to such great lengths to let them know He hears their crys? If you have ever thought God didn’t hear you, this is proof that He does. There is never one prayer that goes unheard, one tear shed that He doesn’t see. I am so moved by the fact that our God is never too busy to know exactly where we are and what we need.


Tomorrow we will be at the largest church in the country, where Jennifer will be speaking to the congregation, and I will have the opportunity to speak to the youth of the church. I am so excited to get to impart to them the importance of their generation to this country.


The whole country has such a pattern of immorality, hopelessness, and poverty mentality. This generation has the ability and the chance to change and make a difference, if they will rise up to the task. It won’t be easy, but it has to start somewhere. I pray that something I say will motivate them and stir up their hearts and give them the courage to be different.

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