Tag Archives: Poverty

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.

Adoption, Sexual Abuse and Aid

I read a recent post on Women In and Beyond the Global on the forced powerlessness of pregnant women which refers to a study on

two  sets of interrelated events: [1] the effort to pass laws that give a fetus the constitutional right of a person, thus far passed in 38 states; and [2] the increased number of arrests and incarceration of pregnant women.

The study looks at the arrest and incarceration of pregnant women on which the basis of arrest was to protect the fetus.   It’s not clear what happens once the babies are born – how long do they get to stay with their mothers, what happens afterwards, are they given up for adoption, taken into foster care? Or a mix of all of these?   Being pregnant then becomes part of the regime of punishment both for the mother and child!  This is incarceration and the concept of punishment at its lowest and most obsene. It does nothing but satisfy the need for that ‘pound of flesh’.    One example of the punishment of women and young girls dates to the 1940s  when  white teenage girls being used to fuel the adoption business and Black teenage mothers were punished by denying them public assistance.

“Beginning in the late 1940s, community and government authorities together developed a raft of strategies some quite coercive, to press white unwed mothers to relinquish their babies to deserving couples” (70). Those teenagers were presented as “mentally disturbed” because they failed to have a husband to protect them, “a proof of neurosis,” making them potential bad mothers. The same authorities singled out and removed unwed Black teenage mothers from any public assistance, intensifying their already precarious situation.

Reading this report, I was reminded of the raid on Haitian children in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.  No one knows the number of  children, who were taken to the US and Europe for adoption.  In the initial period many adoptions took place without proper  background checks into prospective parents or  confirmations on the real status of the children.  There were thousands of orphans already living in orphanages at the time of the earthquake and in the first few months  5,000 of these children, were fast tracked to adoption in the US. Yet 6 months after the earthquake, families were still being reunited.

Under a sparingly used immigration program, called humanitarian parole, adoptions were expedited regardless of whether children were in peril, and without the screening required to make sure they had not been improperly separated from their relatives or placed in homes that could not adequately care for them.

Some Haitian orphanages were nearly emptied, even though they had not been affected by the quake or licensed to handle adoptions. Children were released without legal documents showing they were orphans and without regard for evidence suggesting fraud. In at least one case, two siblings were evacuated even though American authorities had determined through DNA tests that the man who had given them to an orphanage was not a relative.

Often the media would report from Haiti, Ethiopia, and Guatemala about stories  of mothers and fathers giving away their children for a ‘better life in the US’.   Stories like this one from Haiti where parents decided to give up their youngest also raise questions on whether ‘orphans’ are really orphans and how much coercion takes place.   People have to do what they need to do to survive and the morality in question here is the violence of poverty which forces them to make hurtful choices.  For example in this report from Ethiopia the father believes the ‘adoption’ is temporary and that his child will return. A  recent study  found that 4 out of 5 children in orphanges actually had one living parent but this is not surprising as running an orphanage or adoption agency whether in Haiti or in the west, is a lucrative business and in many cases they are nothing more than legal trafficking agencies buying and selling children.  Right now there are  over 2 million food insecure people in Haiti.  I agree with my host, community organizer and educator, Rea Dol who believes these figures are under estimated.    Families in crisis need support to keep their children but instead of struggling with the people, saviors  assault their dignity’.  Save the Children has much to say on this and it would be interesting to know what kind of support THEY are providing in Haiti or do they just write good reports?  Rea Dol who runs SOPUDEP, a free school for 700 children and located directly opposite Save the Children can tell you a great deal about the ‘real work of that NGO

As far as organizations that could have helped SOPUDEP, there is Save the Children who sponsored a lot of organizations. They’re located right next door to us and they never helped us at all. They had a cash for work program for rubble removal, but I had to pay out of pocket to arrange rubble removal. When they finally came six months after the quake, they asked how they could help us and said they could fix the roof and clean out the toilets. But we didn’t see these as problems. We had more urgent needs related to our classrooms, but that assistance wasn’t there.

The school had reopened in April under tarps surrounded by rubble  and collapsed walls.  They needed urgent supplies for the children but like hundreds of thousands of other Haitians the republic of NGOs was nowhere to be seen and even when they are they come with bags with their logos, some water treatment tablets, tarps, a few pencils and expect Haitians to sign so they can write fancy reports on how they helped this organisation and that camp – like missionaries and colonials handing out trinkets to the natives!  Arriving at SOPUDEP four months later after the school had broken up for holidays was an assault!

There were genuine adoptions both prior and post the earthquake  and the Haitian government is revising the laws.  However  laws on adoption don’t protect children in orphanages.   A number of orphanages in Haiti have been found guilty of sexually abusing the children under their care [see here and here and here and here] but these stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  There is no monitoring or  control over faith based organizations  and charities who can enter the country and establish themselves at will. In a matter of days they can set up an orphanage, a church, a mission, an NGO  - whatever they want whether in the town or in the rural areas.   There have also been repeated abuses by the UN occupying force in Haiti, MINUSTAH and in some instances officers have been removed but as far as I am aware none have been punished.  According to Save the Children  sexual abuse by aid workers is significant and underreported.  These actions are not taking place in secret – people know whats going on as many of the assaults take place with groups of abusers.  Its not one aid worker or one solider its a couple of aid workers or a couple of soldiers.

Our research suggests that significant levels of abuse of  boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported.The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Its also happening to children walking on the street, going to school, running errands, vendors and so on.  The report suggests that to limit the underreporting,  parents and children need to speak out .  But as  families are afraid to break the silence  due to stigma, fear of loosing aid/food, powerlessness, there needs to be another way  of monitoring those who work at ground level.   Haitian children are  especially vulnerable to sexual abuse as the country is awash with NGOs, missionaries, faith compounds and assorted people.    Women’s organisations such as those run by the SOPUDEP, Fanm Voudou Pou Ayiti and Kofaviv  work with women victims of sexual violence but much of their work is in the camps and with limited resources  it is impossible to undertake the necessary investigative work into what is happening in orphanages and within the aid sector.   Why are aid agencies not responding to sexual abuse by their staff?   Whether Sudan, Congo or Haiti – these are all highly militarized states and in the case of Haiti, under occupation and the NGOs and aid workers are part of the militarized structure and the violence it reaps.


Haiti: Occasional Musings – 7

I’m still searching for an answer to my question on selectivity and aid in Haiti – who gets aid, who gets support and who doesn’t.   This leads to a second underlying question which is where did the money go and why still no accountability?  Everyone asks the question and mostly the answer is the same as in this report from the Guardian on the third anniversary of the 2010 earthquake

We found that about 94% of humanitarian funding went to donors’ own civilian and military entities, UN agencies, international NGOs and private contractors. In addition, 36% of recovery grants went to international NGOs and private contractors. Yet this is where the trail goes cold — you can look at procurement databases to track primary contract recipients, but it is almost impossible to track the money further to identify the final recipients and the outcomes of projects.

How do you run a country on charity year in year out and at the same time provide transnational and other corporations a tax free haven and low waged labour rates?   All over the global south, countries are running or half running on charity.    Village water systems, free schools, housing, health care all provided by charities, personal donations,  NGOs or donor aid with no accountability from anyone.    A lot of promises were made after the earthquake in Haiti.  One example of grand promises that haven’t been fulfilled is the one made to the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (HUEH) or the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince, by Partners In Health.  The report was produced by PIH and the hospital as an invitation for donors to support the rebuilding.

Over the next five years, there is an opportunity, with appropriately administered strategic investments, to significantly alter the track of public health care in Haiti by making large scale improvements to HUEH.

This is in March 2010.  Since then nothing has been done and the hospital is “sick and broken’.  Meanwhile, PIH have built a state of the art hospital, the University Hospital of Mirebalais (HUM).   Understandably one of Paul Farmer’s uses is to raise funds for Haitian health projects such as this much needed hospital.  But I think  it is important to ask why donors have not invested in rebuilding the present teaching hospital [and so many other hospitals and clinics] which is run by the Haitian government and instead prefer to support a foreign health initiative run by a foreign NGO albeit one of the few with an impeccable reputation.


Over the past year there have been a number of fires in the markets of Port-au-Prince which raised questions as to whether there was something sinister taking place or these were simply accidents.   Last week on the streets of Petiton-Ville, market traders had the produce confiscated and in some cases burned as the police cleared the streets in a brutal women cleansing action.  I noticed similar actions on Friday morning on the streets of Frere and on Saturday around Delmas 33.  Women are by far the majority of street traders selling everything from fresh fruit, meat and vegetables to household goods and cooked food.  Many of the women are extremely poor with just a 2ft by 2ft patch or one basket of oranges, tomatoes and so on.  They are invariably the sole income earners providing for themselves and their children. Free schools are few and the average fees are 3,500 Haitian gds for entry then 750 a month and thats just for one child.

Petion-Ville Market ©

None of this is peculiar to Haiti as similar urban cleansing of the poor is taking place in cities across the global south and also in many European and US cities. In Lagos and Accra, systematic people and women cleansing has been going on for the past 3 four years with no provision of alternatives. With the poor driven to the margins and even greater poverty, or swept up by factories on the outskirts of town paying them a pittance,  cities can be presented as havens of middle class progress and open for business and mass consumption.

Some after thoughts!

I find it  irritating when the international media and liberal bloggers refer to the Haitian government as if it is an autonomous self-serving government rather than a puppet or set of puppets with international NGOs, foreign governments namely the US, Canada and France and the UN pulling the strings.   I note that Nigeria now has an embassy in Haiti. This would have been great news had I really lost my Nigerian passport last week though I suspect I would still have had to go through the US embassy in Washington DC.

IWD: We the poor women in this rich world

*I would like to sincerely apologise to those who follow my writings for my long absence. Among other things I have spent the past month focused on lobbying the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, (the CEDAW Committee) to, in its review of the state of Zimbabwe, take on board the issues of the women on the ground as represented by our views to them as Zimbabwean civil society*

 Each year as we commemorate International Women’s Day personally my heart bleeds as I think of all the troubles, injustices and pains that my womenfolk are exposed to. If you can’t get what I mean look at it this way: Somewhere in this world, right now, at this very moment, a woman is getting raped. A mother is dying giving birth. A woman is being abused, verbally or physically by her partner. A woman is going hungry and her heart is breaking as she looks at her children starving yet she has nothing to feed them. A woman is freezing from cold because she can not cover herself adequately. A woman is walking miles to get water, or firewood or to reach a health facility. Yes at this very moment, somewhere in this world, that is happening, believe it or not!

 This year’s theme in commemoration of international women’s day is focused on eradicating poverty among rural women. In my view poverty needs to be eradicated amongst all women not just rural women. Indisputably, our rural women suffer the most as they live in the areas where basic services are the least accessible hence making life much more difficult for them.

 But today my view is that the women of this world, not only rural women, and especially on the African continent do not only suffer from the kind of poverty that is measured by their inability to access basic resources such as food, shelter, clothing, shelter and education. They suffer huge deficits in basic dignity subjected to all forms of degrading, inhuman and humiliating treatment at the hands of their governments, their own families, their male counterparts and society at large. Hence the lives of most women of this world are bankrupt in monetary, emotional and social terms. Not by their own design, of course but as a consequence of the circumstances in which they stumbled upon when they exited their poor mothers’ safe, warm and secure wombs.

Continue reading

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!
Continue reading

Bashing the poor

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

South African: What use is freedom when you dont have the means to live freely?

The Guardian series on “South Africa Today” brings together a selection of South African activists, playwrites and writers to discuss the state of the nation.

Zukiswa Wanner’: I received a phone threat and knew writers were not as free as I’d thought’ – After being an Afropolitian for many years, Zukiswa decided to return home and enjoyed the freedom to write what she liked until 2008. Raging over the government silence around the xenophobic attacks she received a phone call telling her she was “counter-revolutionary”. – Sounds like something out of a Stalinist nightmare!

Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom: ‘It’s fantasy to believe the World Cup will help reduce poverty in South Africa’. Mpumelelo writes on the too successful Apartheid in the sense that it’s legacy remains an every day reality – “What use is freedom when you dont have the means to live freely?”.

Apartheid was too successful. Black people, whether they know it or not, are still trying to deal with its legacy. And white people fail to understand why most black people still can’t forget about apartheid when our leaders preached reconciliation

Margie Orford: ‘Working with these men helped me understand why South Africa is so violent’. Margie worked in Victor Verster men’s prison teaching creative writing which helped her understand the violence that clings to the country and refuses to let go. I dont see it but there are other ways and prisons in their present form are not the answer

Rian Malan: ‘Every day brings momentous exhilarations and dumbfounding setbacks’ on the monkey that is the FIFA Worldcup

Fifa has made a monkey out of South Africa, encouraging us to spend billions we don’t have on football stadiums we don’t need in the absurd belief that we could recoup our losses by gouging football tourists whose willingness to come here was always in doubt. Our own leaders collaborated enthusiastically, partly because they relished the glory of presiding over an event of World Cup stature, but also because they were eager to participate in murky backroom deals that saw politically connected individuals reaping obscene profits on taxpayer-funded construction contract. Now we’re all saddled by debts it will take generations to pay off. I’m so riled that part of me would be gratified if the World Cup were a complete failure.

Albie Sachs: ‘The fact that South Africa is a country at all is one of the greatest stories of our time’

For all its mixed-up character and its many grave defects and contradictions, the fact that South Africa is a country at all, and that its forward-looking constitution plays a central role in its life, is, I believe, one of the greatest stories of our times.

Gillian Slovo: ‘Nelson Mandela came to Britain in 1996 as a testimony to courage: Jacob Zuma was here to inaugurate a brand’ – Insufficient criticism of Zuma – what brand is that – misogyny? nationalism? or just football!

André Brink: ‘I worry that visitors will ask how successful this democracy is’. Brink takes a nostalgic look at the past which is not reflected in the present. But poverty is everywhere and if we use it’s presence to question democracy [a very valid point] then how successful is democracy anywhere – including and especially here in the United States where 14 million live in poverty by any ones definition?

What South Africa needs is to recover the respect and humanity we lost when the country turned away from Mandela’s example. We had it all there for a while. But the country has taken a turn for the worse — with corruption, exploitation and violence. The World Cup could be good as an economic boost. But so much is unready. I worry that when visitors come to Johannesburg, the evidence of poverty will be so enormous, real and inescapable that they will ask how successful this democracy is.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Comments: Why Africa is poor

25 Comments http://sotho.blogsome.com/2006/06/20/why-is-africa-poor/trackback/ (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 : ******@yahoo.com
    URI : Not given
    Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=**.***.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-**-***-45-89.dsl.hrlntx.sbcglobal.net)
    E-mail : *******_deleon@att.net
    URI :Not given
    Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=**.***.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

Poverty is a criminal offence

The Crime of Being Poor

With all the socialist accusations being made,
We do well to face the needy status and plight.
Homelessness: infraction with fine to be paid,
For loitering and begging. (Keep them out of sight.)

Having no habitation to drink in privacy,
A beer in public is a ticket to the clink.
The poor have no chits in meritocracy,
So hide or can them; gentries think they stink.

Debates on health insurance lack the needy’s voice,
(Testimony that would challenge those fighting change.)
For disadvantaged, emergency room is only choice
When health or life’s at stake, they can’t pre-arrange.

To push out or incarcerate the poor does rend
Our social fabric and will bite us in the end.

Via aureliom on TwitWall

S’bu Zikode on the crime of being poor

Txaboletan bizi direnak from Elkartasun Bideak on Vimeo.

Elderly African women

Disturbing article on the plight of elderly African women. Rural / Urban migration, increasing poverty and patriarchal cultural practices such as widow-inheritance and land ownership have left many elderly women alone in the village without traditional family support.

Older people face discrimination and abuse in a variety of forms in Africa. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a significant impact on elderly women in a number of ways. In many cases an elderly women and grandparent of an AIDS victim may have to act as a full-time caregiver, to the detriment to their own quality of life. In the case where elderly women are suffering from AIDS themselves, it may be the case that there is no one to care for them. Furthermore, elderly women whose children have died of AIDS are invariably left destitute. In Africa and Latin America, older people are more likely to be living in absolute poverty than the population as a whole. The proportion of older people living on less than US$1 per day is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (47 per cent). The elderly traditionally have limited access in healthcare facilities and this is particularly the case in Africa where homes for the elderly are virtually non-existent. Furthermore, lack of government initiatives for the elderly persons in general, such as effective retirement policies, mean that many elderly women are financially dependent on their relatives and do not have proper access to healthcare. Continue Reading

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
Continue reading

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.”
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Poverty Pauvreté Bofutsana

Whatever you call it, it’s the same and it is devastating whole populations the world over. The Occident hasn’t been spared. I live in Europe and I run into begging hands wherever I go. The developing world is experiencing the full brunt of it.

I have decided to list five blogposts taking part in today’s blog action against poverty. There is a lot of sense and advice in these posts, and I thank their writers. Apart from these five, the rest are here: Other Participants

  1. Problogger
  2. Chrisg.com
  3. Crafty Green Poet
  4. The Allen Family
  5. Airy Persiflage

Completely Abolish U.S. HIV Travel Ban

Completely Abolish U.S. HIV Travel Ban: Please write your Representative now!

Dear Friend,

Recently we celebrated the passage into law of H.R. 5501, the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (PL 110-293), which reauthorized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to a tune of $48 billion over the next five years. In passing this legislation Congress lifted the 1987 ban on non-U.S. citizens living with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States, whether as visitors or immigrants. Africa Action had long campaigned against this shameful ban that did nothing to fight HIV in the U.S. but only reflected deplorable ignorance at the highest level of U.S. policy makers on how HIV is transmitted. In fact with this ban on, HIV/AIDS in the U.S. ballooned from being a localized problem to being the national crisis it is today.

Not only was the ban a terrible public health policy, it also seriously violated the human rights and dignity of people living with HIV/AIDS globally. It is because of this ban that no major international HIV/AIDS conference has ever been held in the U.S. Congress’s decision to lift this ban constitutes a major victory on the part of advocates and activists campaigning against HIV/AIDS internationally.

However the struggle is still on as HIV still appears on the list of “communicable diseases of public health significance” that automatically restricts entry into the United States. Please join Africa Action Board member and Congresswoman Barbara Lee in urging Congressional representatives to co-sign a letter urging the White House to completely abolish the discriminatory travel ban.

Write your Representative now
asking them to co-sign the Lee/Waxman/Berman letter to remove HIV from the list of diseases that automatically bar entry to the United States


For more information about Africa Action campaign to end HIV/AIDS in Africa, visit www.africaaction.org


Staff @ Africa Action

links for 2008-06-08

cross posted @ kameelahwrites.

The 21-st century pencil test

As attacks on foreigners intensified and spread across Johannesburg, mobs began pulling people out of shopping queues and forcing them to take “tests” to establish their nationality.

In a practice that recalls the humiliating “tests” used by apartheid officials to classify coloureds as white or black, reports came in that South African mobs were using similar techniques to identify foreigners.

African fears about SA are being confirmed

Betrayal describes the general reaction to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Betrayal and disgust. Like Caesar, we turn in shock and slowly reach for the knife in our back, not quite feeling the pain yet. Slowly we look down to our bloodied fingers, then look up to our brother. “Et tu Brute?” And thus, the word “brutal” enters the English language, with fratricidal betrayal.

Long-held fears, justified or otherwise, about South African ignorance and disdain towards other Africans are being confirmed. “I flew from Jo’burg sitting next to an elderly South African to Dakar. On arrival,” the Gambian lawyer continues, “he turned to me and asked, ‘Is Dakar in Africa?’ I was too embarrassed to reply.” Then he notes matter-of-factly: “This is a man who started working as a professional in 1972!”

Mbeki says govt wasn’t warned about attacks

President Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday denied reports that the South African government had been warned of the prospect of xenophobic attacks by the National Intelligence Agency.

Briefing reporters following his meeting with Nigerian President Umaru Yar-Adua, Mbeki said suggestions that the government was warned a year ago about the recent xenophobic violence were false.

“There was no such intelligence reports — they certainly did not come to me,” he said.

The power of positive people

While South Africa reeled in shock this week and the cumbersome machinery of international organisations creaked to life, the most effective responses to the xenophobic attacks came from municipalities, ordinary citizens and faith groups.

Albinos, Long Shunned, Face Deadly Threat in Tanzania

Discrimination against albinos is a serious problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but recently in Tanzania it has taken a wicked twist: at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed and mutilated in the past year, victims of what Tanzanian officials say is a growing criminal trade in albino body parts.

Many people in Tanzania – and across Africa, for that matter – believe albinos have magical powers. They stand out, often the lone white face in a black crowd, a result of a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation and strikes about 1 in 3,000 people here. Tanzanian officials say witch doctors are now marketing albino skin, bones and hair as ingredients in potions that are promised to make people rich.

Obama’s Victory in Democratic Party Poll Has Continent in a Spin

Until he started making news as a possible contender for the US presidency, Barack Obama, who this week won the Democratic ticket in the White House race, was almost unknown in Ethiopia. Now, he has a huge fan club in the country, with one of his greatest fans being Ms Birtukan Mideksa, former deputy chair of Ethiopia’s opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party.

UN overstated Aids risk, says specialist

The United Nations has systematically exaggerated the scale of the Aids pandemic and the risk of the HIV virus affecting heterosexuals, claims a leading expert on the syndrome. The numbers of people worldwide with HIV have been inflated and the UN Aids agency has wasted billions of dollars on education aimed at people who are unlikely to become infected, says Professor James Chin, a former senior Aids official with the World Health Organisation. [...]Chin will detail his claims this week in London in a meeting hosted by the International Policy Network, a free-market think tank, where he will launch a new report, called The Myth of a General Aids Pandemic.