Friday, 24 May 2013
Kenyan Photog Gets Dutch Prize, Missteps In Mali, Protests In Tanzania, Nigeria To Clean Zamfara
Jan. 29 (GIN) – A self-taught Kenyan photographer who risked his life to capture shocking images of Nairobi’s post-election violence in 2007-2008, was honored this week with the prestigious Prince Claus Foundation award. The prize was delivered to Boniface Mwangi, along with 10 other prizewinners in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The annual prize, named after the late husband of Dutch Queen Beatrix, is awarded to people who make a difference in terms of culture or development.
Boniface, 29, turned from photography to graffiti when his photos were censored by the government. He made a name for his social-political activism under the banner, ‘Kenya Ni Kwetu’ (Kenya is our Home).
His recently-launched website, ‘Mavulture - Striving After Truth’, is now one of the most popular websites in the Kenya. Mwangi is also the founder of PAWA254, a creative space for young people to generate work that has a social impact, and he was featured in the ‘Africa Rising’ edition of TIME magazine. Mavulture can be seen at www.mavulture.com
In a tweet this week, Mwangi credited his supporters: “It takes a village to raise a child, it takes family, friends and strangers for the work we do to succeed. Thank you good people.”
Other Prince Claus winners include Sami Gharbia – cyber activist from Tunisia; Maxamed Warsame – poet from Somalia; Habiba Djahine – writer and film maker from Algeria; and Ian Randle, publisher from Jamaica. The laureates receive a cash award of $135,000 plus $34,000 from their respective country’s Dutch Ambassador. w/pix of B. Mwangi
AS FRENCH FORCE IN MALI REGROUPS, U.S. ADMITS MISSTEPS
Jan. 29 (GIN) – Months of strategic weapons training in the U.S. apparently did little to defend democracy in the West African nation of Mali, a top U.S. official has belatedly acknowledged.
Gen. Carter Ham of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom), at a talk at Howard University, admitted his forces had failed to train Malian troops on "values, ethics and a military ethos".
“We were focusing our training almost exclusively on tactical or technical matters," he told a recent forum at Howard’s Ralph Bunche Center. Not enough was done, he said, to convince Malian recruits that "when you put on the uniform of your nation, you agree to conduct yourselves according to the rule of law".
Mali’s army overthrew the nation’s president in March 2012, unleashing chaos as Islamist militants and secular rebels with grievances occupied the country’s north. Foreign troops joined France this month in a military intervention aimed at rooting out the occupiers and protecting the historical cultural capital of Timbuktu.
Some priceless documents may have already been burned by the fleeing jihadists but over 24,000 documents had been shipped to the capitol Bamako for safekeeping. Some 700,000 manuscripts survive in public libraries and private collections.
At a meeting this week in Ethiopia to discuss the continuing French and African operation, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara put the cost at $950 million. However only $455.53 million was pledged by international donors. These ranged from a high of $120 million from France, to a low of $1 million from India, China and Sierra Leone. The U.S. pledged $96 million.
So far, just 2,000 African troops have been deployed, with the bulk of the fighting borne by 2,500 French troops.
Meanwhile, hundreds of French air strikes over 18 days have left a bloody trail of dead and dismembered jihadists and others caught in the flyover attacks. On the ground, youth gangs, like the Gao Patrolmen, have been reported hunting down suspected Islamic extremists and beating them. A rise in vigilantism is feared.
With the insurgents’ flight into areas of bush and desert and into the rugged mountains further to the northeast, a lingering guerrilla war “could make the Sahara a new Afghanistan,” according to a U.S. official.
The Pentagon is planning a drone base, possibly in Niger, to increase intelligence collection from northern Mali, as well as in other parts of the sub-Saharan region. But critics say it is “war by incrementalism” which could end up with U.S. based and full combat brigades. w/pix of Malian fighter
THOUSANDS DEMAND DIVIDENDS FROM PLANNED TANZANIAN PIPELINE
Jan. 29 (GIN) – A southern region of Tanzania has become a hotbed of unrest as residents from the area demand a share in benefits from a 330-mile natural gas pipeline being built from the Mtwara region to Dar es Salaam.
At a recent demonstration where the main market and some roads were closed down, protestors carried signs saying “We have been ignored” and “This must stop now”. A story in the Wall St. Journal reported that 7 people died in riots after peaceful protests targeted the homes of policemen and local officials.
"Mtwara and Lindi are the least-developed regions in the country," said Salum Namkulala, 62 and a Mtwara native in an interview with Sabahi, an online paper. "Since [Tanzania's] independence, we have had no roads, schools, hospitals or access to water, and employment is nightmare. Mtwara is a symbol of poverty in our country."
The $1.2 billion project is being funded by China Export-Import Bank. Construction started in November and the project is expected to be commissioned early 2014.
“The reasons for people’s dissatisfaction are simple and clear,” said Gasper Mpehongwa, a professor at Tumaini University in Arusha. “The state has entered into several secretive contracts with multinational mining companies. Citizens demand to know what is contained in those contracts and how they will benefit.”
Speaking in Dar es Salaam, parliamentarian Zitto Kabwe asked the government to publicize the details of the contract it had entered with China, saying the cost was suspect.
There is huge police presence in the now-deserted Mtwara town. Church leaders have urged the central government to put the pipeline plan on hold.
A majority of Tanzania’s 45 million people live below the World Bank’s poverty line, earning less than a dollar a day. Last year, a study commissioned by religious institutions found that the country was losing an estimated $1 billion a year due to mismanagement of mineral resources. w/pix of Mtwara protest
NIGERIA ENDS DELAY IN CLEAN-UP OF LEAD-TAINTED WATER THAT KILLED MANY TOTS
Jan. 29 (GIN) – A concerted online and media campaign appears to have won the release of $4 million needed to clean water in Nigeria’s Zamfara state, made toxic by lead dust.
In 2009, Nigerians were shocked to learn that hundreds of children had died of lead poisoning in what was called one of the worst cases, if not the worst case, of lead poisoning worldwide. Funds were promised by President Goodluck Jonathan seven months ago.
But the money only became available after editorials in national newspapers, pressure from Doctors Without Borders and a Facebook campaign by the Nigerian Youth Climate Action Network and Human Rights Watch. The funds will help 1,500 children in urgent need of life-saving medical treatment in northern Zamfara state, HRW said.
Dangerous levels of lead dust are released by gold miners breaking open rocks near homes, according to the group Doctors Without Borders. Children suffer more from lead poisoning because their size makes them more vulnerable to its effects.
Decontamination teams will start work next week when DWB staff will begin screening children. Treatment will follow shortly after that.
"As long as the remediation is successful, as long as they not ingesting large amounts of lead, then we can flush the lead out of the blood," the medical group said.
In total, 460 children died and a further 4,000 were contaminated.