Thursday, May 31, 2018

Minimum wages

South Africa Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) said it is outraged and disgusted - but not surprised - after the country set its first-ever minimum wage.

The bill sets the wage at a minimum of 20 rand ($1.59; £1.20) an hour, which, for a 40-hour week, sets the wage at about $278 per month. The union said parliament missed an opportunity to free workers from the oppressive wage gap.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Food to grow

Two-thirds of the uncultivated arable land in the world is to be found in Africa. Yet the continent is a net food-importer to the tune of €35 billion a year, with a third of all calories consumed in Africa imported.

Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050, from 1.2 billion people to 2.4 billion, predominantly young. The International Monetary Fund estimates that it needs to increase sixfold to 18 million the new jobs yearly up to 2035, to absorb new labour market entrants. Deteriorating food security will mean a projected increase in the undernourished by one-quarter to 320 million by 2025. Agriculture will be key, Hogan says, insisting the group’s work is not about importing European solutions, or, as in the past seeing Africa as an untapped market, but assisting Africa to find its own solutions. “Nowhere is this potential stronger,” he argues, “than in the agriculture and agri-food sector, which employs up to 75 per cent of the African labour force while representing less than 33 per cent of African GDP”.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Looting of Africa

Jason Hickel, in his new book The Divide, rails against more recent attempts to show that trade and liberalisation are benefiting the poor.
He uses research by the US-based campaign group Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics which shows that in 2012, the last year of recorded data, $3.3tn flowed out of developing-world countries. This contrasts with the $1.3tn – including all aid, investment and income from abroad – that flowed in.
Totting up the net outflow of funds since 1980 delivers the alarming figure of $16.3tn, says Hickel, an anthropologist based at the London School of Economics. To get a sense of the scale, $16.3tn is only a couple of trillion short of total US GDP.
Hickel joins a growing number of academics who have argued that aid and investment, especially in Africa, is far outweighed by what is stolen.
 In 1981 around 42% of the world’s population was extremely poor, using $1.90 a day in 2011 prices as a yardstick. By 2013, that figure had fallen to 10.7%. An estimate by the bank suggests it fell further, to 9.1%, in 2016. Likewise, polio and other major diseases are in full retreat.
However, in sub-Saharan Africa, the story is one of terrible and debilitating decline, such that in 2013 there were 389 million people living on less than $1.90 a day, which the World Bank says amounts to “more than all the other regions combined”.
One reason governments struggle to combat poverty can be found in the pernicious activities of western companies, foreign governments  which want to maintain access to important minerals and to make sure they stay as cheap as possible.
The Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Reporting in West Africa (Cenozo), (named after the Burkinabé newspaper editor murdered in 1998.) revealed how western banks and governments turn a blind eye to billions of pounds’ worth of wealth, generated across west Africa, that is squirrelled away offshore, often out of sight of the tax authorities. Working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the Panama Papers leaks, it details how Nigerian billionaire Sayyu Dantata bought six subsidiaries across the region from US oil firm Chevron. The $1bn deal would have been subject to multiple tax regimes depending on the laws of the countries involved. Tax experts working with the ICIJ say the transaction, at the very least, “skilfully avoided the withholding tax regime”. 
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said, the extent of tax evasion in the region is dramatic, with more than $50bn per year funnelled out through illicit flows – a sum more than all the aid the continent receives from individual countries and agencies.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

A History of the Congo

"For more than 500 years, the Congo has been brutalized by the extraordinary violence inflicted by those who have treated the country as a resource – for slaves, rubber, timber, wildlife and minerals – to be exploited..."

"...The latest manifestation of the violence and exploitation that has been happening since 1482 when that Portuguese explorer ‘discovered’ the mouth of the Congo River. The latest generation of European and American genocidal exploiters, and their latter-day cronies, is busy stealing what they can from the Congo. Of course, having installed the ruthless dictator of their choosing to ensure that foreign interests are protected, the weapon of choice is the corporation and non-existent legal or other effective controls in the era of ‘free trade’."

The full article at

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Economic Bully

 The U.S. Trade Representative warned Rwanda it would lose some benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), America’s flagship trade legislation for Africa, after it increased tariffs on second-hand clothes to support its local garment industry.

 “The president’s determinations underscore his commitment to enforcing our trade laws and ensuring fairness in our trade relationships,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said. 

It acted after receiving a complaint in March last year from the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), a U.S.-based organization which represents companies that collect and resell Americans’ used clothing. Selling America’s used clothing - much of it donated to charities and the bulk of it originally made outside the United States - is a nearly $1 billion industry. Exports typically end up in poor nations. Africa is a key destination.

The 60-day grace period expires on May 28. The current dispute, which also initially involved Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, has received none of the attention of Trump’s trade war with China

Under AGOA, enacted in 2000 with the aim of using trade to boost development, qualifying African countries are granted duty-free access to the U.S. market for 6,500 exported products.  

“It delegitimizes so much of what we’ve worked for for so many years,” said Gail Strickler, who served as the top U.S. trade official on textiles until 2015. “I think it’s horrible. I think it’s sad. I think it’s pathetic and I think it’s obscene.”

Domestic demand for locally produced clothes has been stifled, east African governments say, by the ubiquity of cheap, second-hand garments imported from Europe and the United States. The manager of a clothing factory says the facility is only running at 40 percent capacity and second-hand garments, which can sell at well below his production costs, are at least partly to blame. In response, East African Community (EAC) members Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda increased tariffs on used clothing in July 2016. Rwanda hiked import duties from 20 cents to $2.50 per kilogram.

At Kigali’s Biryogo market, where shoppers pick through bales of used garments, the downside of the increase in duties was immediate.
“Before, even with a little money, you could buy enough second-hand clothes for a child. But some children in my neighborhood are now naked,” Fillette Umugwaneza, a mother of two told Reuters. “It is a disgrace to our country.”

Rwanda’s government argues such hardships will be short-lived. Opening new factories will create more, better-paid jobs, while expanding domestic consumption will cut its external trade deficit, it says. The government is seeking to attract companies targeting the export market, like U.S. designer Kate Spade which assembles high-end handbags in Rwanda. It’s a strategy that has flourished elsewhere in Africa under AGOA, with duty-free exports from the continent to the U.S. market almost quadrupling to over $1 billion since the law was enacted. The ultimatum from the office of the USTR, however, has thrown up a potential roadblock to further growth.

African nations initially tried to defend their position at a USTR hearing in July, rejecting SMART’s assertion that the new tariffs had cost 24,000 American jobs in the first nine months. Using U.S. trade data, they pointed out that the decline in exports to the EAC that SMART blamed for the job losses had already begun four years before the 2016 duty increase. The EAC also accused SMART of inflating the importance of the east African market to the industry. Trade data showed the United States shipped around $24 million worth of used clothing to the EAC in 2016. SMART, however, added another $100 million in exports it said were shipped to third countries for processing before being re-exported. By its calculation the EAC represented over a fifth of the U.S. industry’s global market.

The mere prospect of losing AGOA benefits was enough to push Kenya, which in 2017 exported nearly $340 million worth of apparel duty-free to the United States, to back down. Uganda and Tanzania followed Kenya’s example and capitulated, agreeing to roll back tariffs to pre-2016 levels. Rwanda has held out.

Rosa Whitaker, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the United States’ first Assistant Trade Representative for Africa and helped draft the original AGOA legislation. She called the Trump administration’s actions bullying and predicted they would backfire.
“African countries, from what they’re telling me, are feeling abandoned. We’ve just ceded it to China.”

The Nigerian Army's "Compassion"

Nigerian soldiers have raped women and girls who fled the insurgency by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, Amnesty International has said.
Troops separated women from their husbands and raped them, sometimes in exchange for food, in refugee camps, the rights group added.
Thousands of people have also starved to death in the camps in north-eastern Nigeria since 2015, Amnesty said.
The military has repeatedly been accused of carrying out atrocities, and the US, during the presidency of Barack Obama, refused to sell weapons to Nigeria, citing concerns about the military's human rights record.
However, the Trump administration has decided to press ahead with the sale of military aircraft and weapons, which Nigeria sees as vital to defeat the insurgents.
Amnesty said it was "absolutely shocking that people who had already suffered so much under Boko Haram have been condemned to further horrendous abuse by the Nigerian military. Instead of receiving protection from the authorities, women and girls have been forced to succumb to rape in order to avoid starvation or hunger," it added.
Amnesty added that as the military recaptured territory from Boko Haram in 2015, it ordered people living in villages to move to satellite camps, in some cases "indiscriminately killing those who remained in their homes. At least hundreds, and possibly thousands, died in Bama Hospital camp alone during this time. Those interviewed consistently reported that 15 to 30 people died each day from hunger and sickness during these months," the rights group said. It added that at least 32 babies and children, and five women, have died in detention since 2016 at the notorious Giwa barracks.
Many of those detained were victims of abductions or forced marriages by Boko Haram, Amnesty said. "The detention of women and girls on the basis that they were allegedly married to Boko Haram members is unlawful under international human rights law and Nigerian law, and is discriminatory," it added.
In 2016, Human Rights Watch reported that 43 women accused officials of rape and exploitation in refugee camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Shortly after the release of the report, President Muhammadu Buhari mandated the local government to investigate the allegations. Ten officials were arrested in December 2016 but nothing happened after that.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Microfinance - no cure

Giving small loans to people for small household purchases or to invest in businesses has been an integral part of aid programs for decades. This is called “microfinance”, and the aim is not only to alleviate poverty but also to empower women.

But simply improving a woman’s economic situation does not necessarily result in greater equality. Increasing women’s economic engagement often increases their work burden on top of all the unpaid labour they do. It can also challenge established gender roles and power hierarchies, causing conflict in the home and even domestic violence. Empowering women needs to be about more than economics and requires changing the power dynamics and other cultural factors that repress women. So that they can make decisions about their life and mobility, control their money and have access to information, transport, tools and land.

Several studies have shown a link between women’s increased access to credit and increased domestic violence. Development agencies have been forced to develop “do no harm” procedures to try to prevent thisSanti Rozario from Cardiff University found that after 25 years of microfinance programs in Bangladesh, “ingrained gender values are still essentially unchanged”. And on top of all this, some microfinance programs only have a minimal impact on development outcomes like health and education.

Microfinance programs do nothing to challenge or transform the structural conditions that create poverty in the first place. It is like putting a band-aid over a deep wound. Indeed, microfinance shifts responsibility for poverty alleviation onto the poor and marginalised. There has been a trend toward profit-making microfinance institutions that charge higher interest rates, extracting the little surplus poor people are able to raise from their meagre livelihoods.

Empowerment requires addressing women’s lack of control over their own lives. Professor Naila Kabeer defines empowerment, as “the ability to exercise choice” where previously people could not. This kind of empowerment requires structural change within both families and societies. This includes greater access to and control of resources, as well as new norms for women both individually and within families and society. If development programs don’t challenge the structural causes of gender inequality, at best, microfinance will just continue to reinforce poverty and inequality.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The real refugee issue

Violence and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa forced 15,000 people from their homes every day in 2017, double the previous year's figure, an international monitoring centre said.

The region accounted for nearly half the 11.8 million people worldwide who were displaced within their countries by conflict last year, according to a report from the  Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

Internal displacement is often a precursor to cross-border movement and can lead to further conflict as host communities struggle to accommodate newcomers, said Alexandra Bilak, director of IDMC. "It's a vicious cycle of vulnerability," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

Democratic Republic of Congo was the worst-hit country in Africa, with almost 2.2 million people forced from home last year, said the IDMC. South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic followed, together accounting for 2.1 million. In addition to the 5.5 million who fled conflict, 2.6 million people were forced from their homes because of storms and floods in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017, said IDMC.

People who flee conflict usually remain in their countries and only cross borders if they still feel threatened, said Rishi Ramrakha, head of logistics in Africa for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Internally displaced people (IDPs) remain under the protection of their government even when it is the cause of displacement. They often move to areas where it is difficult to deliver aid, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Bilak said the global community tended to focus more on the plight of people who flee across borders - refugees - often leaving those who flee within their countries without enough assistance. Internally displaced people (IDPs) remain under the protection of their government even when it is the cause of displacement. They often move to areas where it is difficult to deliver aid, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 

UNHCR has not yet released data on the number of people who fled across borders in 2017, but said that in 2016 there was an increase of 16 percent on the continent.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The New Imperialists

Chinese investment in Africa could be accelerating debt on the continent and creating economies which are “entirely dependent on China”, according to financial experts.
Around $86bn (£64bn) in loans were issued by China between 2000 and 2014 to finance over 3,000 infrastructure projects in Africa. Experts have warned that this level of investment may not be as rosy as it appears.
Zuneid Yousuf, from MBI Group, said:
“Infrastructure projects create jobs, provide an opportunity for skills development and the transfer of new technologies. However, these firms come under the guise of partnership, but this rhetoric, combined with genuine short-term benefits masks longer-term problems.”
One of the main issues around the Chinese approach is the dangerously high levels of debt that it brings, which could prove unsustainable for growing economies. There is also a risk that the continent becomes overly dependent on one country, which could allow it to hold an uncomfortably high level of influence...The reality in Africa is a model of globalisation that works only in China’s interests."
Zambia is an interesting case study of Africa-China relations. China is the largest foreign investor in the country, but it is often cited as an example of the limitations of Chinese investment. The top-down, large government loan model has led to tensions. One recent example is the problem of labour laws, and the news that Chinese investors in Zambia have been preventing labour representatives from being present at construction sites.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Emutai - Land Grab for Safaris

The Tanzanian government is putting foreign safari companies ahead of Maasai herding communities as environmental tensions grow on the fringes of the Serengeti national park, according to a new investigation. Although carried out in the name of conservation, these measures enable wealthy foreigners to watch or hunt lions, zebra, wildebeest, giraffes and other wildlife, while the authorities exclude local people and their cattle from watering holes and arable land, the institute says.
Hundreds of homes have been burned and tens of thousands of people driven from ancestral land in Loliondo in the Ngorongoro district in recent years to benefit high-end tourists and a Middle Eastern royal family, says the report by the California-based thinktank the Oakland Institute.
It says Thomson’s sister company, Tanzania Conservation Limited, is in a court battle with three Maasai villages over the ownership of 12,617 acres (5,106 hectares) of land in Loliondo which the company uses for safaris. The report says villagers have been driven off, assaulted or arrested by local police, park rangers or security guards.
The restricted access to land has made the Maasai more vulnerable to famine during drought years, the report says, noting appeals that locals have made for the government to change policies because of growing numbers of malnourished children.
The report also claims Maasai have been driven off land as a result of government ties with Otterlo Business Corporation, which organises hunting trips for the royal family of the United Arab Emirates and their guests who fly into a custom-built landing strip in Loliondo. Since Otterlo was first granted 400,000 hectares of land for hunting, the government has mounted successive eviction operations. 
Despite past government promises that the Maasai would never be evicted from their land, the report notes Serengeti national park rangers burned 114 bomas (traditional homes) in 2015 and another 185 in August of last year. Along with other demolitions, local media report more than 20,000 Maasai were left homeless. 
“Without access to grazing lands and watering holes, and without the ability to grow food for their communities, the Maasai are at risk of a new 21st-century period of emutai (eradication),” said Anuradha Mittal, the director of the Oakland Institute. 

Holocaust Denial?

Anger is building in Namibia over inaction by colonial-era power Germany, almost three years after talks began about an apology and reparations for the genocide of its indigenous Herero and Nama.

Helin Evrim Sommer is extremely angry. "The secret bilateral negotiations are not transparent, a farce in a sense,” the spokeswoman on development  for Germany's Left party criticized in an interview with DW. Even members of the German parliament don't know exactly where the talks between Germany and Namibia , once regarded as a prestige project, now stand, the lawmaker said. The position papers with the detailed claims out of Namibia and the offer put out by Germany are both classified. Whenever delegates meet, the outcome of the negotiation round remains likewise unclear – no more than a brief media statement follows. Consequently, no one in Germany takes notice of these negotiations.

All major parties acknowledged that Berlin should apologize for the genocide in its former colony of "German South West Africa” where tens of thousands of Herero and Nama were killed between 1904 and 1908.  Namibia is still waiting for that apology. There is no mention of it in the current German government's coalition agreement. 

A columnist from the government-owned New Era newspaper had accused the German Ambassador Christian Schlaga of denying German guilt for the genocide in a speech. 

"The populace is losing patience,” says Maximilian Weylandt of the Namibia office of the independent London-based think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). "After more than two years there is still no outcome, and some people are asking whether Germany is really negotiating in good faith and is prepared to respond to the needs of Namibians.”

On the disputed question of compensation, for instance, two thirds of Namibian surveyed are in favor of compensation from Germany, a possibility Berlin had excluded at the outset of the talks.  Less than half of respondents in the IPPR survey said they believed its negotiations with Germany were good or "mostly good." A little over half want traditional representatives of the Herero and Nama to be involved. Some traditional Herero and Nama leaders have long criticized the Namibian government as being too soft on Germany. They are suing in a US federal court to be part of the negotiations between Windhoek and Berlin. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

"Agroecology is a real alternative to conventional agricultural production"

Agroecology is a better alternative than large-scale agriculture, both for the climate and for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to researcher Ellinor Isgren from Lund University in Sweden. This agricultural model preserves biodiversity and safeguards food supply while avoiding soil depletion.
She maintains that today's intensive, large-scale agriculture brings a major environmental impact in the form of soil depletion, high use of pesticides, high energy and water consumption and reduced biodiversity. Large areas are often cultivated with one or only a few different crops, making this type of agriculture vulnerable to pests, diseases and climate change.
Large-scale agriculture also requires major investments in the form of machinery, grains and seed, while utilising little labour. This means that poorer farmers in many African countries are excluded from the advantages of intensive agriculture: technological development, increased food production, access to the agricultural market and general economic growth.
Ellinor Isgren proposes agroecology as a possible alternative for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The model is based on each farm being an integrated ecosystem, in which crops, plants and animals interact to create favourable conditions for cultivation. This alternative is knowledge-intensive, requiring farmers to have a lot of knowledge about the functioning of various components in the ecological system, as well as an ability to create synergies between plants, insects, crops and soil fertility. The model also rests on traditional farming methods.
"If farmers use the model correctly, they can increase their yields and ensure their food supply while preserving biodiversity and reducing their impact on the climate and soil depletion. They also become less vulnerable to climate change as they grow many different crops and improve the soil structure," she says.
Further benefits are that the system does not require major resources in the form of machinery, pesticides and fertiliser, as the cultivation model is mainly organic, so even poor small-holders can farm in this way.
There are also good conditions for scaling up the model for sale to domestic and international markets. This would require more research and better collaboration between various agricultural institutions to develop knowledge of how different ecosystems function together and how local conditions affect the fertility of plants and crops. Initiatives are also needed to train farmers in how to apply an agroecological model.
"There is currently no political will in Uganda to push development of the agricultural sector. This has left the market open to private investors and strong financial interests in the form of seed and pesticide companies." she says.

Not all bad news

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.
“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”
With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

Monday, May 07, 2018

The Fulani Crises

Whether in Mali, Niger or Nigeria, the nomadic Fulani herders often find themselves in conflict with farmers over scarce resources. But there is more to it than that: Often it becomes a struggle for political supremacy.

According to Reuters, armed men raided two villages earlier this week and killed at least 16 people belonging to the Tuareg ethnic group. By the end of April, at least 40 Tuareg had been killed. The governor of Menaka described the perpetrators as Fulani, who were linked to the terrorist group, the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). Maiga said the act may have been a retaliatory strike after the Tuareg had supported French troops in an anti-terrorist operation. In the Mopti region, several hundred kilometers west of Menaka, there is an Islamist Fulani preacher, Amadou Koufa. Since founding an armed group in 2015, the country's Fulani minority have come under suspicion of collaborating with extremists.

But it's not that simple, says Abdoulaye Sounaye from the Leibniz Center for Modern Oriental Studies (ZMO). "You cannot reduce everything to religion," he told DW. While this has great potential to mobilize people, it also has political and economic power. "Nevertheless, it would be more of a conflict between the population groups and the Malian government."

"Our politicians repeatedly call opposition groups terrorists. The same thing now is happening to the Fulani people. Because they are vulnerable people who live in the bush and are mainly uneducated, they use them as scapegoats." says DW journalist Usman Shehu 

The Fulani are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, with at least 25 million members. However, because the Fulani are scattered throughout the region, in most states they are a minority. Traditionally, they live as nomadic pastoralists. Conflicts occur frequently. There are various reasons for the conflict escalation. Businessman and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim says climate change is a driving factor. Ibrahim says the erosion of usable farming areas will exacerbate the dispute. "It happened in Darfur before, it's happening now in Nigeria — it's going to happen everywhere because you have two communities who, over hundreds of years, sorted out a certain mode of cooperation," he told DW. "Now with climate change, the herders need to drive their cattle into areas where they have never been before. And this requires sensitivity and quick action by governments to see how they can bring this community together. A new form of cooperation needs to be developed."

Nigerian journalist,  Aliyu Tilde, is part of a team that works to solve territorial conflicts on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) — especially in Mali and Nigeria, where Tilde says conflicts with the Fulani have escalated. "You'll find that whenever there is a conflict, it is not usually the Fulani who begin that conflict," he explained, "You will find that they were under attack and they were trying to protect themselves, or they were carrying out a reprisal attack." In Nigeria alone, one must distinguish between three types of incidents, says Tilde. First is the conflict over land between nomadic herders and farmers. However, if the Fulani's cattle destroyed farmland, this would usually be resolved locally. There is also the possibility of gang criminality. "This is a crime, which must be regarded as such," says Tilde. "If a state cannot enforce its laws, that's a problem." The third type is the most problematic: In the struggle for political supremacy in Nigerian states, local rulers would often strengthen their own ethnic groups and agitate against minorities. The consequence of this, says Tilde, is essentially "ethnic cleansing." For example, the Fulani recalled a bloodbath in Taraba state in June 2017, where around 200 people were massacred. For Major General Benjamin Ahanotu, there was no doubt that the goal was to wipe out the Fulani population.

Tilde says the lack of a state presence in Mali and Nigeria is the biggest problem. In areas where there are no job opportunities, young people are increasingly joining criminal groups. "These can be people of all ethnicities — Fulani, Haussa or Tuareg," he says. And when the state offers no security and crime goes unpunished, people turn to their own form of justice and the distrust between different population groups increases.

Senegal and Mauritania as positive examples where "Such conflicts now do not exist because of the implementation of legal factors in place between the two countries," says Tilde. Cattle herds have to be registered and cannot cross the border unnoticed. Alternate areas are designated for the cattle, so that they do not graze on farmland. In Cameroon, the Fulani herdsmen have a better deal, says Usman Shehu, with full rights and obligations. The state receives taxes from the shepherds — but heavy penalties are imposed if their cattle are robbed or killed.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Malawi's Albinism

The dismembered corpse of 22-year-old McDonald Masambuka, an albino, was found buried in southern Malawi several weeks after he went missing in March. Several body parts were missing.

Malawi is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for people with albinism - a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes - who are targeted so that their body parts can be used in magical potions and other ritual practices. The United Nations' top expert on albinism has said people with the condition risk "extinction" in Malawi due to relentless attacks fuelled by superstitions. 

Malawi suspended capital punishment more than 20 years ago as it embraced democratic reforms. Although the death penalty still exists in law, it has been declared unconstitutional. Information minister Nicholas Dausi said international rights groups and donors were preventing the government from using the death penalty to deter such crimes in Malawi, where people with albinism are hunted down for their body parts.
 "They are stopping us from enforcing capital punishment," Dausi was quoted by local media as saying at Masambuka's funeral last month. "Yet in their countries they execute murderers. Is this fair?"

Human rights groups said the focus on the death penalty was misplaced and the government should step up its efforts to investigate unsolved murders and protect people with albinism. "We never have any experience where the death penalty has been successful as a deterrent," said Overstone Kondowe, head of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), which helps about 3,400 people with the condition.

APAM has recorded 146 attacks in Malawi since 2014. About one in 20,000 people worldwide have the congenital disorder, with higher rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
Only five of 22 murders reported since 2014 are in court, said Kondowe, with 17 unsolved. "We don't have even have a suspect and nobody has been prosecuted," he said of the 17 cases, adding that the police should reopen them now that they have better equipment. "We didn't have facilities of DNA testing to help with the investigation, so we're seeking that because the current capacity can help to shed light on who was responsible."

Rights groups called on the government to establish a commission of inquiry to find out who is behind the attacks, amid claims that they are organised by criminal gangs.

"There is a green light with the recent case where we have seen high profile people involved," said Timothy Mtambo, who heads the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, a charity. "We believe a good investigation can open up our windows as to who is behind the trade ... We would be able to say we have unveiled the market and done away with the roots. It should invest in preventative measures, not 'curing' the problem," he said. "It needs to understand where we have people with albinism, which can help in drawing security plans. Currently there is no proper programme."

Kenya's Land Wars

Millions of Kenyans are landless. Many were displaced during the colonial era. Others lost their land due to ethnic clashes, corruption or because their parents did not write a will, said National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri. One of the underlying problems is that most people do not have title deeds to their land, while some plots are registered to multiple owners due to corruption in the lands ministry.

Land and water-related conflicts are flaring up across Kenya, amid drought, population growth and high unemployment. Climate change is worsening tensions, as erratic rains push farmers and herders deeper into poverty. Clashes over land are common across east Africa's biggest economy, from Sengwer and Ogiek hunter gatherers fighting to return to their ancestral forests to coastal squatters trying to hold on to land that has been sold to developers. Gun battles between herders in Kenya's arid north over access to grazing and water is linked to communal ownership, said Kamau Ngugi, head of the Nairobi-based National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, which supports land rights activists.

Land, climate and population pressures are driving many landless Kenyans to encroach on nearby rivers, wetlands and other natural resources to survive, experts said. Kenya's wetlands - areas like marshes or swamps that are often covered with shallow water - make up between 3 and 6 percent of its land surface, according to the environment ministry. They are important for biodiversity, flood regulation and as a source of water for drinking and agriculture, but they are being degraded by encroaching agriculture, mineral exploitation and pollution. In Mount Kenya forest, fruit and vegetable farms have replaced natural thickets along river banks which used to hold the soil together.

"Land tenure and destruction of natural resources is interlinked," said Violet Matiru, a conservationist with Millennium Community Development Initiatives, which works to restore ecosystems in Kenya.n"Without land ownership, people will adopt available solutions."

Until a decade ago, the Chuka and Tharaka people co-existed peacefully as the Naka River - with plentiful water and fish - flowed downstream to join the Tana, Kenya's longest river, he said. But water volumes dropped, triggering conflict.

Phyllis Mugeni was watering her greens when she spotted a dozen armed men advancing from the lowlands to attack farmers working on the banks of the River Naka in the foothills of Mount Kenya. Mugeni, a member of the Chuka community, living some 200 km (124 miles) northeast of the capital, Nairobi, saw that the men were Tharaka herders, who rely on the river to water their goats and cattle - and ran. 
"They came early in the morning, armed with bows and arrows," said the 44-year-old mother of three. "They were shouting war cries, saying that people from the upper region were killing their families and livestock because there was no water in the river." 
At least 10 people were injured during the August attack, said Ngai Mutuoboro, chairman of Atiriri Bururi ma Chuka, a conservation group that lobbies for Chuka land rights.

"When drought comes, the Tharaka people go upstream to trace where the waters have stopped flowing." Mwenda Gataya, a county official, said his Tharaka community have no choice but to rely on rivers because there are no other reliable water sources.

The county government's environmental head, Evelyn Kaari, said politicians were at fault. "Politicians have always misused the struggle for resources in the county to incite Tharaka voters against supporting an aspirant from Chuka and vice versa," she said.

Press Freedom

Media freedom is considered non-existent, having collapsed in 2001 when a brutal state crackdown on independent media saw waves of arrests. President Isaias Afeworki is widely regarded as a "predator" of press freedom and uses the national media as his mouthpiece. Writers, broadcasters and artists are censored and information is blatantly withheld from citizens.
The government has called social media "a new form of terrorism" andblocks it frequently. Radio and television broadcasts were blocked for two weeks in March in the run-up to elections. Newspapers publishing reports which displease officials are banned and journalists and publishers detained.
Khartoum adheres to so-called pre-publication censorship, detains journalists arbitrarily and openly interferes in news production. The Freedom of Information law of 2015 is dismissed as yet another means to ensure government control over public information. Journalists must pass a test and seek permission to work.
Journalists risk arbitrary arrest, assault and intimidation. In recent months the government has clamped down on social media platforms and cyber-activists in particular. The internet has been blocked countrywide since March 28. It followed an internet blackout ahead of civil society demonstrations and a protest by the media dubbed "a day without press." 
Independent local and foreign journalists face difficulties as they try to go about their work. Security forces destroy equipment to disrupt media operations. Privately-owned media organizations have no access to advertising.  
South Sudan
Journalists are forced by the government to avoid coverage of conflict.Foreign media have reported being harassed and bannedfrom the young country, where at least 10 journalists have reportedly been killed since 2011.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Media watchdogs say journalists have been murdered, beaten, detained and threatened since Joseph Kabila took over the presidency from his father in 2001. International media outlets complain that the government often jams radio signals or cuts transmission. Protests by the opposition prompt authorites to disconnect or disrupt the internet. 
State repression towards press freedom and the intimidation of journalists is widespread. State-controlled media is increasingly replacing independent radio stations, most of which were forced to close during an attempted coup three years ago. Hundreds of journalists have fled the country since 2015. Many are now in Rwanda, Kenya and Belgium. 
Critics say President John Magufuli has deliberately targeted freedom of expression since he came into office in 2015. Journalists have been arrested or have disappeared altogether. Media organizations have been shut down for lengthy periods of time and newspapers barred from publishing. Laws that can be used against the media have been tightened.
The absolute monarchy has a reputation for obstructing access to information and actively preventing journalists from doing their jobs. The media is subject to strict laws and reporters are often taken to court over their coverage. Media self-censorship is considered systematic. One editor recently fled the country after reporting on shady business deals linked to King Mswati III.
The government has a stranglehold on the media and journalists work under highly restrictive conditions. Along with Eritrea, the country has one of the highest rates of arrested journalists in sub-Saharan Africa. Social media plaforms are sometimes blocked by the state and diaspora print and broadcast media outlets are regularly targeted.