Tuesday, 4 March 2014
Africa News Briefs
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Global Information Network
Rights Groups Blast U.N. Agency For Approving Controversial Prize
Mar. 12 (GIN) - A split vote by UNESCO's Executive Board to approve a prize sponsored by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea shocked members of the human rights community around the world, including a leading citizen activist from that West African country who called it “a cruel joke.”
"The UNESCO board members who backed this prize have sold out the organization's principles and have tarnished UNESCO's reputation,” said Tutu Alicante, an Equatoguinean lawyer who runs the human rights group EG Justice from exile. “It puts the president's interests above UNESCO's basic principles of human rights and good governance.”
UNESCO is the U.N. agency designed to “encourage international peace and universal respect by encouraging collaboration among nations.” But the offer of $3 million from President Obiang to fund a prize for biological research in his name was mired in controversy from the start in 2008. Archbishop Desmond Tutu cited the repression, poverty at home and high-level corruption of President Obiang’s government which is under investigation for diverting billions of oil extraction profits to properties in France and the U.S.
Initially a gift from the President’s foundation, the prize money, it was learned later, was taken from the public treasury.
The vote on March 8 was 33 in favor, 18 against and 6 abstentions. Those in favor included all 14 African member countries, Arab member countries, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, India, and Russia. Most of the board's Caribbean and European members strongly opposed the award, together with Afghanistan, Peru, and the United States.
The prize was seen by many African countries as the first science award 'given by Africans for Africans' where Africa was “not just a recipient of the good will of others,” said David Hamadziripi of Zimbabwe.
But according to Alicante: "The vote in favor of a US$3 million international prize for life science sponsored by a government that fails to invest sufficiently in basic health care at home is a cruel joke.” w/pix of Pres. Obiang
Kenyans Up In Arms Over ‘Insulting Coverage’ By U.S. Media Giant
Mar. 13 (GIN) –Kenyan nationals responded furiously to a recent report on the TV network CNN which described “widespread violence” in the East African country and used an image of a burning Kenyan flag after a single attack at a busy bus station.
The grenade attack on Mar. 10 was indeed deadly, killing six people and injuring over 60 but it was an isolated incident in a country bordering Somalia and dealing with the spillover from an international war in that country.
CNN's disputed portrayal of Kenya was followed by a YouTube video of a Kenyan caller demanding an official apology from CNN for its sensationalistic reporting. The caller accuses CNN of demeaning Africa and Africans.
The station uncharacteristically responded with an apology. "Our reporting on last night was accurate, the banner used in the bulletin was not… Apologies to all," tweeted David McKenzie, a CNN reporter based in Kenya. The offending news report has reportedly been removed.
Meanwhile, a video called “Kony 2012” by a group calling itself “Invisible Children” also received a flood of criticism for simplifying the Uganda war and trying to portray Americans as saviors of suffering Africans.
The video which spotlights Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistant Army had gone viral with over 15 million hits within two days.
Journalist Michael Wilkerson, formerly based in Uganda, was among those finding serious flaws and omissions in the video. “First, the facts… Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic -- where Kony himself is believed to be now,“ he wrote.
“Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film, refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. “
Milton Allimadi, a Ugandan and publisher of the NY-based Black Star News added: “Invisible Children has been acting as apologists for Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s dictatorship and the U.S.’ goal to impose AFRICOM- the US Africa Military Command on Africa…..it’s as classic as propaganda pieces come.” w/pix of M. Allimadi
Liberaian Tests A Unique ‘Freedom Of Information’ Act
Mar. 13 (GIN) – A newspaper editor is testing the nation’s singular “FOIA” – Freedom of Information Act to review the financial information of three Liberian public corporations.
Tom Kamara, managing editor of the New Democrat newspaper listed the agencies as the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, the Monrovia City Corporation, and the Maritime Bureau – all of which have had some controversial financial dealings, he said.
The act was developed in partnership with the U.S. based Carter Center to improve administrative transparency, government accountability and promote an open society.
It was put to the test earlier this year when the watchdog group ProPublica obtained U.S. diplomatic cables under FOIA showing both the U.S. State Dept and the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf pushing to turn over tainted oil concessions to the multinational giant Chevron.
The Chevron deal marks the largest concession in Liberia's history, according to one of the diplomatic cables.
The Freedom of Information Act was passed last year by the Liberian legislature, after two years of efforts, making Liberia the only country in West Africa to enact a comprehensive freedom of information law. w/pix of Pres. Sirleaf meeting with Chevron
Reminder! Book party with Nigerian environmentalist NNIMMO BASSEY, Thursday, Mar. 15 at 6:30 p.m.at Global Information Network. Copies of TO COOK A CONTINENT will be available for purchase.
Also, the 3-day LEFT FORUM, Mar. 16-18, features two panels on African environmental issues and Occupy Nigeria and other social media, sponsored by Global Information Network and Saharareporters.com on Saturday, Mar. 16, at 3 and at 5 p.m. Registration on-site at Pace University in NYC. For information, see www.LeftForum.org
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