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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK, an independent nonprofit media organization, distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. For more than 20 years, Global has been supplying wide ranging and unique news, analysis, features, on essential newsmaking events with a progressive, social justice focus. Using all available media and a monthly series on African issues with experts from the continent, Global offers the New York community a platform for activists, scholars and writers, from countries which are under-represented or overlooked in other media venues.

After a very long fight, miners with lung diseases win compensation from mine owners.
07/30/2019

After a very long fight, miners with lung diseases win compensation from mine owners.

SOUTH AFRICAN MINERS WIN COMPENSATION FOR WORK-RELATED LUNG DISEASES

July 29, 2019 (GIN) - A Johannesburg High Court on Friday approved a groundbreaking 5 billion rand ($353 million) class action settlement on behalf of miners who contracted tuberculosis, silicosis and other chronic lung diseases through their work in the mines.

The settlement follows a long legal battle by miners to be compensated for illnesses they say they contracted over decades because of negligence in health and safety.

The initial motion was filed by Richard Spoor on Dec. 21, 2012, in South Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg, South Africa), requesting class certification of more than 15,000 prospective class members.

Few class actions have been brought in South Africa and none for sick workers prior to this litigation.

The agreement creates a Trust to compensate all eligible workers who worked in defendant companies' mines from 1965 to date. The settlement includes a significant budget for the Trust to locate potential class members, medically examine eligible miners and provide compensation to all qualifying class members. The settlement is not a limited fund or fixed amount. The companies have agreed to compensate all eligible claimants.

"This litigation has always been about providing a means to justice and meaningful compensation for the thousands of sub-Saharan African gold miner workers and their dependents," said Motley Rice attorney Michael Elsner, who has been a consultant in the South Africa litigation since the beginning.

“All the parties made an effort to ensure that the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair,” the High Court said in its judgement.

The gold producers agreed in May last year to the settlement but it needed to be approved by the Johannesburg High Court before being implemented.

The class action suit was launched in 2012 on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, an incurable disease caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.

It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and also makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis.

It has been estimated that one in four gold miners in South Africa suffers from silicosis, a debilitating and incurable disease that has been called an epidemic. Approval of a class action structure for the victims of the silicosis epidemic would be an unprecedented means of recovery for South Africa.

The companies involved are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals ARIJ.J, Sibanye-Stillwater SGLJ.J, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American South Africa. The latter no longer has gold assets but historically was a bullion producer.

Beji Caid Essebsi - the "old wolf".  RIP
07/30/2019

Beji Caid Essebsi - the "old wolf". RIP

TUNISIA PAYS TRIBUTE TO FALLEN LEADER

July 29, 2019 (GIN) - Tunisians paid tribute this week to former President Beji Caid Essebsi who made his mark on the world stage by advancing the cause of women’s rights.

Tunisia has granted women more rights than any other country in the region. Since 2017, it has allowed Tunisian Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men.

The former leader played a vital role in helping ensure that, more than any other Arab state, the north African country preserved many of the essential gains of the Arab spring movement.

As his horse-drawn carriage was led through the streets of Tunis, crowds chanted: “Goodbye president, goodbye Bajbouj,”referring to Essebsi’s nickname.

Mr. Essebsi passed away at a military hospital on July 25. He was 92 years of age.

Caid Essebsi was regarded as a unifying figure in a fractured political landscape with more than 130 political parties. He reached out to Islamists and their secularist foes to pull the country out of chaos in 2011 and presided over its first free and fair elections as prime minister.

His efforts earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet which avoided a civil war in 2013 and for its effort to build a pluralistic democracy.

Prior to general elections in 2014, Caid Essebsi founded Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia’s Call) - a political party that served as a counterweight to Islamists and won the vote. The electoral victory made him the first politician in the region to defeat Islamists in free elections.

Caid Essebsi became president in December 2014. He proceeded to restore Tunisia’s balanced role in the region after a drift towards alignment with Turkey and Qatar and their Muslim Brotherhood allies.

Born in the northern coastal town of Sidi Bou Said, he came from a family of wealthy landowners. In 1941, with Tunisia loyal to Vichy France, he joined the youth wing of the Neo-Destour party, which had been founded a few years earlier to demand full independence from the French.

Like many of his contemporaries, Essebsi admired Habib Bourguiba, the charismatic Neo-Destour leader, who would lead Tunisia to independence in 1956.

After joining Bourguiba as an adviser in 1957, Essebsi served, among other posts, in the key positions of head of national security and interior minister in the 1960s, a period of some domestic repression, and later as defense minister and ambassador to Paris.

He is survived by his wife, Chadlia Saida Farhat, and by their sons, Hafedh, also a politician, and Khelil, and daughters, Amel and Salwa.

Soldiers are under-equipped, yet sent to fight Boko Haram...
07/30/2019

Soldiers are under-equipped, yet sent to fight Boko Haram...

NIGERIAN CLAIMS TO DEFEATING BOKO HARAM ARE ‘FAR FROM TRUE REALITY’

July 29, 2019 (GIN) – In Borno State, one of Nigeria’s most conflicted states in the Northeast, few would be celebrating the anniversary of the first outbreak of violence by the Boko Haram fighters whose trail of heartbreak and tragedy weave through the region’s many small towns.

It might have seemed foolhardy for a small village to take on the Boko Haram fighters with knives and hunting guns. But two weeks ago, villagers of the Nganzai area attempted just that. Some 11 Boko Haram fighters reportedly died in the scuffle and 10 AK-47 rifles were captured.

“These people have been stealing from us so we decided to come together because we could no longer wait for an eternity for soldiers to defend us,” said Aji Gaji Mallam, who said he lost four brothers in previous attacks.

But it wasn’t long before Boko Haram fighters came on a reprisal mission in the form of armed men on motorbikes who, witnesses said, roared into the area and attacked a funeral procession, killing at least 65 people, many of them mourners.

In a region devastated by violence, displacement, climate change and the resulting widespread malnutrition, the insurgency has led to tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of about two million people.

Yet Nigeria’s government and military claim repeatedly that Boko Haram is being subdued, even on the brink of defeat, its hiding places decimated. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said he received assurances from the armed forces that the terrorists who committed these killings “will pay a big price for their action”.

“This administration is determined to end the menace of terrorism,” the president said in the statement issued by his spokesman Garba Shehu.

Human rights groups, aid organizations and local Nigerians have long disputed such claims, and attacks have persisted.

“People like us who have been operating in the field, we know that what the government is saying is far from the true reality on the ground,” said Ms. Hamsatu Allamin, a human rights advocate who has worked with foreign aid groups.

Meanwhile, spokesman Shehu acknowledged the difficulties faced by Nigeria's military to defeat Boko Haram. "The honest truth is lack of capacity," he said.

"I'm not saying a lack of fighting capacity, but lack of capacity In terms of personnel, equipment, in terms of mobility access to react quickly," he added.

"The Nigerian army, air force and the navy are all evolved in this operation; they are thinly spread on the ground. We do not have enough boots on the ground to pull that area."

Boris Johnson has a few insulting things about Africans....
07/24/2019

Boris Johnson has a few insulting things about Africans....

NEW BRITISH LEADER’S DISTURBING REMARKS RECALLED BY AFRICAN MEDIA

July 22, 2019 (GIN) – African media greeted the new British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, by recalling some of his particularly cringe-worthy remarks made during his formative years in politics.

The new Conservative Party leader has a history of gaffes involving Africa, having once attacked Barack Obama saying the “part-Kenyan president” had an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire” after he removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

On another occasion he referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and talked about “watermelon smiles”.

The South African online publication dug up this remark by the new leader: “The Queen has come to love the Commonwealth of Africa, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.”

He continued: “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

His tour to the Cape Flats produced these remembrances: “Of the hordes of unwashed kids who came out to compete for our presents – badges and trinkets – hardly any seemed fluent in English. A nice one-eyed woman called Mary took us in to see her flat, and though her linoleum floor shone with mopping, she had almost none of the amenities that are taken for granted by the poorest families in modern Britain.”

In 2002, Johnson, who was a member of the British parliament at the time, wrote about the continent: “Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism. It is just not convincing, 40 years on, to blame Africa’s problems on the arbitrary boundary making of the men in sola topis (pith helmets).”

“The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”

Later, while on the campaign trail for the London Mayor elections in 2008, he backtracked on the comments reminding British voters that he “loathed and despised” racism. “I do feel very sad that people have been so offended by these words and I’m sorry that I’ve caused this offense,” he was quoted to say.

Most recently, Boris visited Africa as leader of UK foreign policy. He visited The Gambia at the height of the Jammeh political crisis, he was in Ghana and also in Libya.

Since his election, some African leaders have given him some slack over his previous remarks.

“Warm congratulations to Boris Johnson on his decisive election as the leader of the Conservatives and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a tweet. “Best wishes for his success, and I look forward to working with him to strengthen the already strong ties between our two countries.”

Health ministry put under DRC president's authority - Health Minister is removed. Is this helpful?
07/24/2019

Health ministry put under DRC president's authority - Health Minister is removed. Is this helpful?

UNEXPECTED STRUGGLES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA

July 22, 2019 (GIN) – The battle to knock out the Ebola virus should have its eyes on the goal. Instead, politics and a divisive struggle between two drug makers has interfered. A key health minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resigned in protest.

In his resignation letter, Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga condemned President Felix Tshisekedi ‘s takeover of the country’s Ebola response and removing him as head of the Ebola response team.

He also criticized what he described as outside pressure to roll out a second experimental Ebola vaccine.

Oly Ilunga Kalenga defended the work of his ministry, saying it had communicated daily on the situation in the ongoing outbreak “to reassure and show the world that the country is managing this epidemic.”

But on Saturday, Tshisekedi’s administration announced that direct supervision of the Ebola response was being placed with a team of experts under the direction of Jean Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, director-general of the DRC’s National Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR) and a microbiologist at the University of Kinshasa’s medical school. Tamfum has studied Ebola and responded to outbreaks for more than 40 years.

The change in leadership came days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. “There is no sign of this epidemic slowing down. We therefore welcome the DRC President’s bold decision to change strategy and bring the Ebola response under his direct supervision,” Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement.

Since August 2018, the DRC has recorded more than 2,500 cases of Ebola and, among them, more than 1,700 deaths.

In his resignation letter, Kalenga attacked efforts to launch trials of an experimental vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in the country. A Merck & Co. vaccine is already in use there.

Groups backing the use of the J&J vaccine include the Wellcome Trust, Doctors Without Borders, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), WHO, J&J, and NIBR.

But there are important differences from Merck’s vaccine that have to be taken into account, he said. Made from a live, replicating virus, Merck’s vaccine mounts protection against Ebola in about 10 days. While the J&J immunization appears to raise the body’s defenses for the long-term, it’s administered in two shots, about two months apart.

“We have developed a vaccine for a time of peace,” said Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer. He worked in clinics in poor African communities in Congo and elsewhere for years before coming to the company.

How much, if any, protection a person gets from the first shot before getting the second isn’t clear. Ensuring people are fully vaccinated with the two-shot regimen would be challenging among mobile populations, especially in people fleeing conflict, and could stoke suspicions.

Nigerian author Lesley Nneka Arimah wins literary Caine Prize for "Skinned."
07/16/2019
The 2019 Shortlist — The Caine Prize for African Writing

Nigerian author Lesley Nneka Arimah wins literary Caine Prize for "Skinned."

Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Skinned’, published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Issue 53. Lesley Nneka Arimah was born in the UK and grew up in Nigeria and wherever else her father was stationed for work. Her stories have been honored with a National Magazine Award, a Commonwealth Sh...

Activists win freeze on coal-fired power plant that would have devastated World Heritage Site of Lamu.
07/16/2019

Activists win freeze on coal-fired power plant that would have devastated World Heritage Site of Lamu.

KENYAN ‘GREENS’ WIN COAL PLANT FREEZE IN WORLD HERITAGE SITE

July 15, 2019 (GIN) – Kenyan environmentalists are cheering a major victory against a proposed coal-fired plant near the coastal town of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The win capped a three year fight against a well-funded effort by a Chinese-Kenyan consortium to build a 1,000 watt power plant on Kenya's unspoiled northern coast.

Save Lamu, a local activist group, kept up the fight despite government agencies repeatedly rejecting their claims that the plant would not only pollute the air but also damage the fragile marine ecosystem and devastate the livelihoods of fishing communities.

The plant would also devastate Lamu, a historic and idyllic archipelago in the country’s northeast and the oldest and best-preserved example of a Swahili settlement in East Africa, the group maintained.

“We totally reject the Lamu coal project or the other so-called clean coal which are unrealistic and aggravate the destruction of nature. Instead, we advocate for renewable energy initiatives led and managed by local communities,” argued Wahlid Ahmed, a Mandela Washington Fellow and the founder of the Lamu Youth Alliance.

“There is no such thing as clean coal,” underscored Landry Ninterestse of 350Africa.org. “Coal is dirty energy. We strongly campaign against any plans to build a coal plant in Lamu and every else on the continent. We have seen the degree of damages induced by coal on communities and the environment in countries such as South Africa. We are convinced that we have to keep coal and all forms of fossil fuels in ground.”

The project was another example of Beijing’s efforts to develop coal-fired plants overseas, even in some countries that today burn little or no coal. Worse yet, the coal intended for use - from South Africa and Kitui in Kenya - is bituminous which burns poorly and has particularly high levels of pollutants.

Four Chinese companies were involved in the project. The United States also supported it, with U.S. energy firm GE promising to inject US$400 million for a 20 per cent stake in Amu Power, the operating company.

While the latest verdict delays the coal plant’s development, it doesn’t put an end to it. The consortium can still apply for a new license or appeal the decision within the next month. For now, though, local communities are celebrating the win.

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