Canadian mining activity in Africa is dogged by poor labour and environmental practices. But it hits a new low when it relies on government commissioned conscripted labour. Amandla’s Gwen Schulman talks to Daniel Tseghay, a Vancouver organizer of Eritrean descent with Mining Justice Alliance, about Canadian mining corporation Nevsun Resources’ reliance on conscription labour at its Bisha gold and copper mine in Eritrea.
(photo credit: lesamisdecuba.com)
In this second part of Amandla’s look at the life of Fidel Castro and his role on the African continent, Amandla regular Doug Miller talks to Montreal anthropologist, writer, radio broadcaster and filmmaker Ole Gjerstad who was a witness of the Cuban presence in Angola.
Gjerstad offers a rare first-hand look at the Cuban presence in Africa and how Castro contributed to the liberation struggles on the continent.
Also be sure to check out part 1
Doug Miller examines the connection between Canada’s deportation of the Eritrean consul-general in Toronto, mass drownings of Eritreans off the Italian coast and the cruel treatment of thousands of Eritrean refugees at an official level in states of the fortress Europe rich countries and locally by kidnappers and traffickers, as desperate refugees flee the exploitation they face in their brutalized homeland.
In a follow up interview, Amandla’s Gwen Schulman tackles the social, economic and cultural dimensions of Africa’s Afar pastoralists living in the horn of Africa. She speaks to Ahmed Youssouf Mohamed, a Canadian of Afar origin and head of the foreign mission of the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization; and Joseph Magnet, Professor of Law at University of Ottawa, Legal Counsel for the Afar people and Legal Counsel for the Government of Afar State in Ethiopia.
The geostrategic importance of the Afar’s traditional territory along the Red Sea has placed them in the cross-hairs of Horn of Africa politics and conflicts. With the secession of Eritrea in 1991, their situation has worsened. To explore the roots of this conflict and the Afars’ efforts to chart a different future, Gwen Schulman spoke to Ahmed Youssouf Mohamed, a Canadian of Afar origin and head of the foreign mission of the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization; and Joseph Magnet, Professor of Law at University of Ottawa, Legal Counsel for the Afar people and Legal Counsel for the Government of Afar State in Ethiopia.
Voici les thèmes qui ont été abordés pendant l’émission Amandla du 1er août 2007 sur les ondes de CKUT 90.3FM (Montréal). Vous pouvez la télécharger ici (lien valide pour deux mois seulement).
Émission entièrement en anglais.
Commentaires sur la revue de la BBC: “Focus on Africa” de juillet-septembre. Commentaires qui incluent l’opinion de Kenneth Kaunda, ancien président de Zambie, sur Mugabe. Aussi, la géopolitique de le Corne de l’Afrique.
Commentaires sur le journal sud-africain: Mail and Guardian: “Sudan looks south for peace”. Voir l’article en anglais, plus bas.
Commentaires sur l’article de le BBC: “Enjoying beers in the Algeria woods”. Voir l’article en anglais plus bas.
Les parlementaires Kenyan se donnent des salaires trop élevés. Commentaires sur le fait que les parlementaires Kenyan s’octroient un salaire de 91000 dollars US par ans!
Côte d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo se rend à Bouaké . Commentaires.
Autres nouvelles de la Corne de l’Afrique.
Here are the subjects that were addressed in the August 1st 2007 Amandla radio show on CKUT 90.3 FM (Montreal). You can download the show here (link valid for two months only).
Show entirely in english.
Commentaries on the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine, july-september edition. Comments on the magazine that incudes views on Mugabe’s regime by former Zambia president, Kenneth Kaunda etc. Also, geopolitics in the Horn of Africa…
Commentaries on the South African newspaper: Mail and Guardian: “Sudan looks south for peace”. Here is the article (you can then listen to Doug’s comments on air):
Sudan looks south for peace
31 July 2007 10:38
Said Alkhateeb, manager of the Strategic Studies Centre in Khartoum and a former general secretary of foreign relations for the ruling Sudanese National Congress party, travelled to Pretoria recently. Alkhateeb, who played a major role in negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that ended the civil war between northern and southern Sudan, spoke to the Mail & Guardian about South Africa as a possible host and mediator in new talks between the Sudanese government and those Darfur rebel groups that refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) last year.
Has the South African government been asked to host and mediate the talks?
Informally, it has been approached, and a formal request will soon be made. The South African government knows the government of Sudan will welcome more involvement in monitoring the CPA and reviving the talks for Darfur.
Now that you are accepting a hybrid force of African peacekeepers for Darfur financed and logistically supported by the United Nations, is everything up for grabs?
No, everything is not up for grabs. We will not be renegotiating the DPA. We have the building blocks for a more inclusive deal, but we do not want to alienate anyone who has already signed. We want to augment and add to the DPA, not replace it. Important points have been reached regarding personal compensation and control of the region. Most of the discontent in Darfur revolves around these two issues.
The Sudanese government has allowed UN troops to be deployed to monitor the CPA but has until recently refused to allow the deployment of UN troops in Darfur. Why?
The CPA is an agreement between two parties and they agreed to bring the UN in to deal particularly with the military and security arrangements. The mandate is very clear, and it was agreed before the parties put their signatures to the CPA. What the government of Sudan agreed to with the DPA is having AU peacekeeping forces. The US and the EU, who were there as facilitators, know this well. The government of Sudan sees no reason why this should change, because that would change the DPA itself. If people believe the AU cannot fulfil this role, they should gather around the table and change the agreement.
The UN Security Council envisages a peacekeeping force for Darfur of about 20 000. But it is clear that, at best, Africa can provide no more than 10 000 troops. Would you look favourably at a hybrid force in which the remainder are composed of troops from countries suitable to you?
The general agreement is that unless we cannot find peacekeeping personnel from within the AU we will not go elsewhere. We fully accept a hybrid force supervised by the AU and the UN. The peacekeeping troops will come from Africa. If practical considerations dictate it, the government of Sudan has indicated it will look elsewhere to solve the problem. If the political track moves quickly the whole process will be accelerated. The need for bringing in vast numbers of new forces will dwindle by the day. Provided a political solution is found, we will not need all that many people in Darfur.
When would the Sudanese government like to see the hybrid force on the ground?
Emotions regarding Sudanese sovereignty are still very strong. Politics generally are delaying things. The Sudanese government agreed to a hybrid force last September. Delays have been caused by misinterpretations of what exactly was agreed to. There is also uncertainty in the UN about funding something that is not entirely a UN operation. This all seems to have been cleared up now. The wheels can start turning. Timing is everything in matters like this. It is best for all involved that we proceed quickly
Comments on the BBC’s: “Enjoying beers in the Algeria woods”. Here is the article (you can then listen to Doug’s comments on air):
By Mary Harper
BBC News, Algiers
Kamal “Van Damme” has long dark hair, wild black eyes and a bare chest. He lives alone in the woods, high up in the Berber mountains of Algeria’s Kabylie region.
In an area occupied by armed Islamists, he runs a bar, selling cold beer to his customers.
Nicknamed after the Hollywood strongman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kamal has carved ingenious clearings out of the mountainside, each one almost completely hidden by thick bushes on all sides.
Into each clearing, he has put a rickety table and a few chairs, so that people can sit and drink in the middle of nature.
For the more adventurous, he has even constructed a platform at the top of a tree.
When I visited Kamal Van Damme’s bar, there were men lolling around in various stages of inebriation, green beer bottles scattered all over the place.
The atmosphere was completely relaxed.
“We’re drinking beer under the very beards of the Islamists,” one man joked.
I found it impossible to believe that we really were drinking “under the beards of the Islamists” until a couple of days later, when a military patrol was ambushed in full daylight just 400m away from the bar.
One soldier was killed and two others badly injured in the attack, blamed on Islamists hiding in the nearby forest.
Eyewitnesses reported that Kamal continued to serve beer during the attack, although most of his clients ran away as soon as they heard the gunshots and other explosions.
Bizarrely, it is in the land of the beer-drinking Berbers that Algeria’s Islamist insurgency is most active.
Attacks are frequent and principally directed at the military.
Recent incidents include the suicide bombing of an army barracks in Lakhdaria that killed more than 10 people and a midnight ambush on military positions in Yakouren.
In the first attack on civilians for some time, a bomb was thrown into an amusement arcade in Barika, leaving two children dead and several others with horrific injuries.
Parts of the Kabylie resemble a war zone. Near Yakouren, I saw convoys of military vehicles thundering by as columns of nervous-looking soldiers marched up into the mountains to hunt down the perpetrators of the recent attack.
Helicopters clattered above, strafing the mountainsides.
Forest fires, started by the military, engulfed the hills, consuming not only the hideouts of the militants but also the ancient olive trees belonging to the local population.
The Berbers have little sympathy for the Islamists, but they dislike the army even more.
One man, a beekeeper, explained how all of his beehives had been destroyed in one of the fires started by the army.
“When I asked the soldiers why they had burned my beehives, they said they would not have done so if I had told them where the militants were hiding,” he said.
“How can the army ask for my help when they have destroyed my livelihood?”
And the authorities are indeed asking the population for their help in fighting the insurgency, with daily television appeals requesting information about “the terrorists”.
Insecurity has been increasing in Algeria, and across North Africa, since the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) re-launched itself as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb at the beginning of this year.
Algeria’s Islamists have changed their tactics since joining the al-Qaeda franchise.
There are more suicide bombings, complete with slick internet videos of the young men who were prepared to die for their faith.
Co-ordinated attacks, such as the seven bombs that went off almost simultaneously in seven different locations in February, also bear the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.
Despite the upsurge of Islamist activity, the government insists that what Algerians describe as “The Time of Terror” of the 1990s and early 2000s is now over.
“The Algerian government has perfect control over the security situation and terrorism is on the verge of being eradicated,” says Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem.
The reality on the ground, especially in the eastern Kabylie region, contradicts the prime minister’s statement.
Even in areas where security has returned, the population is traumatised.
Algeria’s most fertile region, the Mitidja valley, is like a land of ghosts with memories of the horrific massacres hanging like a dark cloud over the area.
People have still not returned to their hillside villages, preferring to stay in the towns by night, and working in their fields by day.
In other areas, such as Medea to the south of Algiers, people are starting to relax and enjoy themselves.
I visited this region during the weekend, and saw people swimming in the rivers, feeding monkeys and eating freshly roasted meat in restaurants that have only just re-opened after being burned down by the Islamists.
But none of this would be possible without the presence of the army.
Medea is the most heavily militarised zone in the country, and it is swarming with soldiers.
The horizon is dotted with sentry boxes and watchtowers, heavily armed soldiers crouch behind sandbags, hide behind trees and perch on rocks.
The place where life really does seem to be returning to normal is the capital city.
Algiers feels like a different country, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere and the hustle and bustle of a fully functioning city.
But step outside the beautiful capital, with its white buildings crowded on hillsides overlooking the bay, and “The Time of Terror” is very much alive.
Either as fresh and bloody memories in people’s minds or as the ongoing insurgency led by militants intent on establishing an Islamic republic in Algeria.
Kenyan MPs give themselves high salaries. Comment on the fact that MPs in Kenya will have a salary reaching 91000 $US per year!
Cote d’Ivoire: Laurent Gbagbo goes to Bouake. Comments.
Other news from the Horn of Africa.
L’Érythrée suit l’exemple d’au moins 16 autres États africains et condamne la pratique de la mutilation génitale chez la femme, dont l’excision. On profite de cette nouvelle pour rappeler que cette pratique est maintenant condamnée par la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et son article cinq :
Article 5 / Elimination des pratiques néfastes
Les Etats interdisent et condamnent toutes les formes de pratiques néfastes qui affectent négativement les droits humains des femmes et qui sont contraires aux normes internationales. Les Etats prennent toutes les mesures législatives et autres mesures afin
d’éradiquer ces pratiques et notamment :
a) sensibiliser tous les secteurs de la société sur les pratiques néfastes par des campagnes et programmes d’information, d’éducation formelle et informelle et de communication;
b) interdire par des mesures législatives assorties de sanctions, toutes formes de mutilation génitale féminine, la scarification, la médicalisation et la para-médicalisation des mutilations génitales féminines et toutes les autres pratiques néfastes;
Upc) apporter le soutien nécessaire aux victimes des pratiques néfastes en leur assurant les services de base, tels que les services de santé, l’assistance juridique et judiciaire, les conseils, l’encadrement adéquat ainsi que la formation professionnelle pour leur permettre de se prendre en charge;
d) protéger les femmes qui courent le risque de subir les pratiques néfastes ou toutes autres formes de violence, d’abus et d’intolérance.
The Eritrean government has banned female genital mutilation (FGM), saying the practice was painful and put women at risk of life-threatening health problems.
A government proclamation published on Wednesday said it was illegal for anyone to subject a person to FGM or provide tools to anyone who intended to carry out the practice. Failing to inform authorities on intended plans to subject anyone to FGM also constituted an offence, according to the legal notice.
The government and civil society had in February expressed optimism that efforts to combat FGM were bearing fruit, saying the campaign against the practice had gained support in rural areas where it was most common.
“We do not have the statistics yet, but we have seen a positive response, with even village councils coming up with their own provisional laws with the people’s consensus to discourage the practice,” Dehab Suleiman, the head of information and research at the National Union of Eritrean Women, told IRIN.
Suleiman said FGM prevalence rates in Eritrea were estimated at 94 percent, but the practice was expected to decline in the near future because an increasing number of parents were choosing not to have their daughters subjected to FGM.
FGM involves the cutting and/or removal of the clitoris and other vaginal tissue, often under unsanitary conditions. It is practised in at least 28 countries globally. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that up to 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone some form of FGM.
It is practised extensively in Africa, and also in parts of the Middle East and among immigrant communities around the world. According to medical experts, it causes physical and psychological complications, as well as heightening the risk of HIV/AIDS when unsterilised instruments are used.
At least 16 African countries have banned the practice, and the Maputo Protocol, an African regional document that prohibits and condemns FGM, came into force in November 2005 [see excerpt in french above].