Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Game of Shame

The 2010 FIFA World Cup (FWC) in South Africa is expected to generate more than $5 billion, the highest revenue in World Cup history, raising concerns of a likely increase in abuse, exploitation, trafficking of women and children.

International sporting events like the World Cup can affect human trafficking; contributing to short-term increases in demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation. Global sporting spectacles can facilitate the entry of trafficked persons, as visitor’s transit to other cities and countries where they are likely to be exploited.

Prostitution is illegal but Sex trafficking is big business in Southern Africa. With over 35,000 child prostitutes; South Africa now boasts one of the top countries in Africa in people trafficking. Trafficked girls are easily intermingled amongst local prostitutes. Recent estimated suggest that up to 1000 Mozambican girls are trafficked into Johannesburg each year. To be sold as sex slaves or as wives to miners.

South Africa shares a porous border with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland; making it easy for people to come in and out without being detected. This problem is compounded by the lack of adequately trained employees, resulting in few police officials controlling large portions of the country's borders and coastlines.

People trafficking in South Africa are linked with the highly sophisticated global sex industry. Despite these urgent issues, South Africa has no public services specifically designed to assist victims of trafficking. Victims of International cross border sex trade are usually afraid of law enforcement officials. They do not trust the police to assist them’ especially as they can be persecuted are likely to be deported as illegal immigrants.

South Africa is unable to provide adequate protection and assistance to its victims. Children are seen as cheap labour by traffickers. They can be forced to work in unhealthy and dangerous conditions that could lead to their deaths.

These games will provide much excitement for viewers all over the world. But in the shadows and murky world of sexual exploitation; the World Cup provides opportunities for abusers, exploiters and traffickers to meet the increased demand for cheap labour and sexual services.

This trend can only be reduced by greater awareness by all stake holders; and a genuine step-up by law enforcement officials to help protect vulnerable women and children.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Statue of Pride or Shame

It stands taller that most buildings in the world including that of the statue of Liberty. It cost in excess of 25 million dollars. It was built by the North Koreans; I refer not to a building in the United States nor that in Europe or any where in the Middle East.

Africa's most controversial figure, President Wade of Senegal has instigated, supported and overseen the building of this monumental structure. It symbolizes Senegal´s 50 years of independence from French colonial rule.

This structure has been controversial with many from the faith communities in Senegal and around the world angered. Christians were in receipt of a public apology from the president after he compared the statue with Jesus Christ. Many Muslims are appalled and ashamed resulting in a religious fatwa declared and the president resignation demanded.

There have been angry seen on the streets in Senegal, with demonstrations from the general population including members of the parliamentary opposition party.

The image of this statue is of a half dressed man pulling his wife, spouse or girlfriend virtually naked with a baby aloft also wearing very little clothing.

Many Senegalese claim the sculpture has nothing to do with their customs, religion or way of life and it has very little affiliation with what Senegal is all about.

President Wade's decision to erect this structure could stir much needed debate on degrees of tolerance, understanding, freedom of expression and clear thinking.

Senegal like so many African countries is poor with large unemployment amongst the general populace. It defies belief how President Wade could justify the use of the public money in this fashion. Especially as local labour was not used during the construction of this symbolic image. It remains to be seen if this structure will become a tourist attraction attracting much needed cash back into the economy.

President Wade has also made it much more difficult for the full benefits of tourism to filter back to common Senegalese. He has declared that he would pocket personally; over a third of all income generated by the sculpture as it was his idea in the first place.

It shows a President who is out of touch with his people. This could also spell an opportunity for the opposition; to capitalize on an elderly statesman whose decision making seems off the mark. Especially as the country is less that 24 month away from a general election.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Your Health Your Future

Sierra Leone has one of the highest in the world for infant, child and maternal mortality rates.

World wide mortality rates have improved significantly but in Africa especially Sierra Leone mortality rates are very high and reversal of this decline is painfully slow.

The Human development index provides the blue print by which mortality rates can be measured and evaluated. Mortality rates are part of a wider problem. GDP, life expectancy, literacy rates, gender inequality and human rights are factors that assist in providing clarity as to the causes and solutions to this problem.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations on earth. Slavery, colonisation, bad governance and a decade long war have contributed to large parts of the population living on a dollar a day. The Sierra Leonean economy is heavily reliant on International Aid and urgently needs Foreign Direct Investment. But this will only take root when there is good governance, availability of an educated work force and respect for human rights.

In Sierra Leone only the privilege have access to education and health services. The poor have to fend on their own and women and children can become seriously affected. Access to health care and education is a human right. This is sanctioned and should be respected by all those countries that are signatures of convention. The Sierra Leonean government must provide the basic rights for women ensuring that this equality is applied to all.

Inequalities in health provision have a direct relationship with income inequality that is synonymous with many poorly managed economies. This Results in increases in mortality rates and reduction in life expectancy. However countries like china have shown that without GDP increases and economic prosperity, progress in addressing a nation’s health can be dawdling. But with clear vision and care provision, people lives could be improved and transformed.

The health of the nation is very important; the health of any nation can directly affect wellbeing. This can influence spending habits and affect economic activity. Healthy workers can live longer and can be very hard working. Healthy individuals are likely and more willing to invest in education, which empowers others and provide immense career opportunities for many.

Mortality rates can only be reduced by immunization, availability and accessibility to adequate health services. There is a need for the government of Sierra Leone to increase the numbers of qualified health professionals. It is imperative that these services are made available locally, preventing residents from travelling great distances.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Rough Justice

At the best of times justice in many parts of Africa can be corrupt, unfair and unequal. It is usually based on who you know, how much money you have and the level of influence you are able to command.

In South Africa popular R&B star Molemo (known as Jub Jub) was intoxicated, high on cocaine and other drugs. He raced his car at high speeds in a heavily populated part of Soweto, leaving four people dead following a fatal collision.

Drug use and its glamorization is an ever growing problem in Africa. Cocaine an illegal drug is one of the most addictive. It stays longer in your body, slows down your judgement, can lead to delayed reactions and a false sense of security.

The granting of bail to "Jub Jub" despite his reckless actions and poor judgement, have upset many people in community. Many people have taken to the streets in protest leading to clashes with the police and law enforcement officials.

Issues relating to poverty, inequality and justice is what Soweto residents are demanding. South Africa must have one justice for all. There cannot be one justice for celebrities and another for common every day South Africans. Justice must be true and uncompromising. It should be free, fair and equal amongst all men and women.

President Zuma and his ANC party will have to start delivering on what they have promised the vast majority of the people. They must bring in much needed investment, development and addressing the root caused of poverty. We must all remember that the ANC was created with a sole purpose of enriching and empowering the lives of all South Africans.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

International women’s day

International women's day is recognised across the world in celebration of women’s achievements in all areas of our society. In some parts of the world, this day is celebrated by a national holiday, raising awareness and funding for projects that can enrich women’s lives.

Women have always been at the heart of human development, but they find themselves at the margins of most societies, despite major advances and a constant promotion of women development world wide.

In many countries in Africa women’s position within society has not changed much in over 50 years, cultural beliefs and taboo ensures that women’s roles remain invincible and their efforts recognised for almost little or no reward.

International women’s day started in 1911 with calls for a closing of the gender gap, for women to be paid as much as men and for all women to be offered the same privileges usually bestowed on man.

International women’s day in Africa is a serious affair. Women’s lives are burdened excessively. In both urban and rural Africa women work from 7am to 7pm. Especially in rural Africa; women can be burdened by domestic chores, taking care of their kids and other activities to support their families.

In many parts of Africa there is very little investment in girls. There is a general perception that if too much energy time and resources is spent on girls, they would more than likely get married and leave the home taking away much needed investment.

In many parts of Africa women cannot own land nor control the earning made of that land. Inheritance is usually passed on directly to men ignoring women all together.

Africa must recognise women’s contribution. Women burdened life style must be changed. Women cannot remain invincible. Women have to be empowered through education and a highlighting of their important role in society.

An educated woman can influence decision making with their husbands at home and members of the community. It is these actions that can ensure that the roles of women become fully recognised leading to better rewards.

Women’s roles across Africa are changing, much faster than we are willing to give credit for. Critics will say not fast enough. We have also seen many large institutions increase their female participation and quota for senior positions.

We must acknowledge, that Africa has its first female president in Liberia and in Rwanda; female members of parliament out number their male counterparts. This is unheard off in the entire world, outstripping both the British and American parliaments.

We can see clearly how an educated, empowered and resourceful women; can achieve to great heights; especially when opportunity is readily made available. Calls for women to have better control and more say in their lives, is a noble and welcome call from an ever changing world.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Nigeria at Cross Roads

Nigeria finds itself at cross roads. Africa’s most populous country with over a 150 million people, divided between Africa’s largest Muslim community in the north and Christians in the south.

The division between the two communities has been the worst in the past 10 years; culminating in conflicts, damage to property and loss of life.

Jos a town smack in the middle of the north and south divide has experienced the most disruption. The cycle of violence has gone virtually unchecked by faith leaders on both sides; unable and in some cases unwilling to convince their communities to live in peace.

All faiths preach peace tolerance and charity, but when religion is used as a weapon it can have ramification that can spin well beyond the immediate confines of both communities.

Federal and Local governments have run out of ideas in addressing the route causes of this decade old disturbances. The common sledge hammer approach of sending in the Military have usually quelled the violence in the short term. But a return to the status quo is ever so likely; culminating in violence and a return to the viscous and deadly cycle between the two communities.

There is a failure by government at both federal and state level to address this issue. Grinding poverty, illiteracy, disillusioned youths combined with criminal elements have forced women and children to live under the haze of perpetual fear and intimidation.

President Yara Adua long term absence from the political seen; as he seeks medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Have not helped in addressing long term hardened grievances between Christian south and Muslim north.

Yara Adua’s refusal to hand over formal powers to Vice president Jonathan has left a void and created a political vacuum in Africa’s most populous nation. Virtual in slow motion confusion, poor judgement and indecisive actions have split the country into two. With a direct and engaging threat to the Nigerian political system.

Nigeria is indeed a young democracy. The ruling party PDP have ruled Nigeria since it’s achieved transition from military to civilian rule. In an effort to guarantee unity the PDP party operate a strict leadership rotation cycle system between political representatives from the north and those from the south. This complex system of cycles has guaranteed harmony for many years; but it is currently being tested.

The temporary but protracted departure of the President Yara Adua has thrown the entire political cycle into dispute. This situation is far worst as Vice President Jonathan is poised to take over in President Yara Adua’s ill absence, breaking the cycle for the very first time.

Back biting, finger tossing and name calling are a few of milder forms that this dispute has commanded. Hardliners on both sides of the divide have expressed concerns and likely to spark descent due to the breaking the cycle. The ramification may not be felt straight away but are bound to create confusion.

Nigeria will limps to the finish line with the start of another new cycle next year when national elections are dues. If the PDP wins the question will be; which of the cycles does the PDP adopt. The newly adopted one brought about by the rushing in of Vice president Jonathan or the one that had stated much earlier.

It will be painful and difficult. The courts may have to have the final say in deciding who would lead the PDP. I would expect Politicians on both sides to put away their differences in the interest of Nigeria.

Friday, 5 February 2010

ICC -- Who’s next?

I have always wondered if the International criminal court (ICC) is a fair organisation and what criteria it uses when selecting individuals who can be put before it‘s judges in the Hague.

There are increasing calls world wide for both former President Bush and Pri-minister Blair to face the ICC for wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan; resulting in the death and the displacement of thousands of people.

It defies belief that powerful individuals of the world can not be questioned let a lone brought before the International courts; raising serious concerns as to the effectiveness of the court and damaging further; the courts credibility as a fair, just and transparent organisation from the eyes of common concerned citizens of the World.

The ICC up until recently was labelled a white elephant costing millions of US Dollars annually and failing to yielding any tangible results. The ICC gained some respectability in 1999; when Slobodan Milosevic was indicted and convicting for atrocities against Serbian forces in Kosovo.

In 2003 a vocal and boisterous court; in its ambitious move to date, captured Charles Taylor charging him with crimes against people of Sierra Leone. Taylor’s rebel group captured and drugged children; who in turn chopped off the arm and limbs of innocent citizens during a 10 year brutal war. Taylor’s trial in the Hague has attracted world wide attention and intrigue. With growing concerns on both sides of political and public opinion vented in favour or against the ICC to try an EX- President.

The ICC with momentum has gone one step further since its formation. The Charging of Omar Al- Bashir a Sitting President of Sudan; with genocide, crimes against humanity and violation against the people of Darfur. Claims of ethnic cleansing and State sponsored militia, resulted in the death, rape and murder of thousands of people.

The Arab League and the African Union had earlier requested that Omar Al- Bashir arrest warrant be suspended. Both institutions were fearful of knee-jerk reactions and reprisals against Aid agencies and the people of Darfur. Further questioning the Courts ability to thinks through ramification of its actions, the timing of its indictments and the effects on the ground of those who they would otherwise try to protect.

Omar Al- Bashir will receive ample support from Russia and China on this issue. In a symbolic gesture they will try to table an amendment to the charges or a delay to the proceedings at the United Nations Security Council. Bashir is unlikely to attract similar sentiment from the Western Nations whom would more than likely veto any such proposals.

Sudan like the United States of America (USA) is not a member of the ICC. A defiant Bashir refuses to recognise the court, claims that the ICC is in beach of International Law and has no jurisdiction in Sudan. This is an argument that has all the haul marks of double standards, justified on the basis that the USA also does not recognise the court and the court has no authority over any USA citizens.

Bashir is convinced that the ICC charges are politically motivated. The Sudanese government sights variation in the application and interpretation of the ICC own laws, has swiftly cancelled visa and deported Aid agencies namely Oxfam in the United Kingdom and Care in the USA.

Omar Al- Bashir is now a wanted man and he will have difficulties travelling outside of the African continent. If and when he does, he is likely to be arrested and taken to the Hague for trial. Within the African continent, African leaders will be more tolerant and reluctant to interfere with Omar Al- Bashir; fearful that some of them may be next in focus of the ICC.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

African Leaders Make Giant steps in the fight against corruption

The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Congo are raising the bar by declaring publicly their fight against corruption.

Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma became the first Head of State to declare his assets to the country's Anti-Corruption Commission. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia went one step further offering financial incentives for whistle blower to expose corrupt officials. The Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills refused to accept gift and presents from anyone; fearful that that the acceptance of such gifts might trigger a degree of expected favours in return; and Joseph Kabila fired hundreds of people accused of corruption from State Ministry and other government departments.

All four presidents have sent the vitally important message that corruption will not be accepted in any form.

The issue of corruption has long been a cancer and a shameful scourge on the African continent. Corruption has being echoed by industrialized nations as part and parcel of Africa’s culture and ideology.

African Leaders from the sub-continent have in the past horded billions of dollars into foreign bank accounts due to their lack vision of how to galvanise their people. In many parts of Africa this has lead to perpetually failure within their communities specifically in human and structural development, the ramification of which would linger for many generations to come.

Some Industrialized Nations in the north relishing this opportunity of ample cash flow for their economic development, have encouraged connive and at times turned a blind eye to corrupt leaders in the south continual plundering Africa’s wealth.

We must accept that corruption is a two way process involving a giver and a receiver which has now become a way of life for many leaders in Africa, it is estimated that corruption cost the African continent over a 150 billion dollars a year. That is money that could have been spent on health education and building up the rural economy.

As awareness of issues surrounding corruption has intensified in the world, some African nations are now beginning to change their laws to make it harder for corrupt officials to stash stolen money in foreign banks.

Presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia Ghana and Congo have shown great courage and exemplary leadership by leading the fight against corruption for the rest of Africa to follow.

Developed Nations in the West now have a positive role to play, in promoting good governance and to monitor poorer economies.

It is time for governments of the Third World to sit up take stock and become responsible by creating jobs for their people and local communities need to engage their leaders by mobilizing public action.

Real development in Africa is unlikely to change poor people’s lives if there is not an injection of foreign direct investment into the economy and a halt to continual perpetual cycle of bad governance.