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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.
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Will the U.S. defend human rights under Biden? That would be a great development!
EGYPT UNDER FIRE FOR ARRESTS OF PROMINENT RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Nov. 23, 2020 (GIN) - “Meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”
Those were the first words of Antony Blinken as he steps up to the plate and assumes the position of foreign policy adviser to President-elect Joe Biden. Blinken joins prominent leaders in the human rights community coming to the defense of three domestic rights activists who met with Western diplomats for a briefing on Nov. 3.
On Thursday, Egyptian Security Forces arrested Gasser Abdel-Razek, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) from his home in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo. Egyptian security forces detained two other EIPR employees on Wednesday.
Karim Ennarah, the head of the group's criminal justice department, was arrested Wednesday. His whereabouts and the charges he faces are unknown.
The activists were ordered detained for 15 days on charges of joining a terrorist group and spreading fake news, in what critics see as the latest escalation of an unprecedented clampdown on civil society and political dissent.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s clampdown on free speech and political dissent was largely ignored by the outgoing administration of Donald Trump. But as a new broom sweeps clean, the Biden administration appears likely to end the impunity enjoyed by authoritarians, dictators, and similar tyrants. In a tweet last July about al-Sissi he commented: “NO MORE blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator.”!
EIPR advocates for personal and religious rights, against the death penalty and publishes investigations into violations in prisons and human rights abuses in general.
“These arrests, the smear campaign against the organization and the government’s baseless claim that EIPR operates illegally, show that this is a well-planned and concerted attack,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.
“Accusing staff of ‘joining a terrorist group’ is an assault on the organization and the human rights values it represents.”
Bärbel Kofler, human rights commissioner for Germany’s foreign ministry, said she was “appalled” by the arrests.
In recent years the government has imprisoned and restricted the travel of thousands of dissidents, political activists, journalists, protesters and human rights defenders.
More information about the work of these rights activists can be found here: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/violation/arrest-detention-imprisonment
American military presence grows on the continent while Africans attempt to hold elections.
BURKINA FASO SLAPPED WITH TOP LEVEL TRAVEL BAN OVER TERRORISM AND OTHER THREATS
Nov. 23, 2020 (GIN) - A U.S. State Department red level “Do Not Visit” warning against travel to Burkina Faso has been posted to the U.S. website, as rising rates of COVID-19, terrorism, crime and kidnapping are said to endanger visitors to that country.
“Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with little or no warning,” the State Dept warned. “Targets could include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, areas at or near mining sites, places of worship, military posts, and schools.”
Last week, it was reported that an American citizen was killed in Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital.
Four government and army officials confirmed to the AP news wire that the man was shot outside of the Baba Sy military camp on the outskirts of Ouagadougou after trespassing and ignoring a warning shot by soldiers to stop advancing.
The U.S. has a significant presence in the region with Special Forces training local Burkinabe troops, according to research compiled by freelance journalist and Africa specialist Sam Mednick. His extensive news feature titled “The Extent of U.S. Special Forces in Africa,” is posted on the Pulitzer Center website.
“Officially, the United States has just one military base in Africa,” Mednick wrote. “But extensive reporting in the Mail & Guardian and elsewhere has revealed the existence of a network of secret military bases and outposts across the continent. We have been able to obtain an official list of where they are deployed in Africa.
“The list is extraordinary: U.S. special forces are present in nearly half of Africa’s 54 countries.”
Earlier this month, fourteen African soldiers were killed and others injured in Burkina’s Sahel region - one day before Burkinabe voters went to the polls for presidential and legislative elections.
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore is running for re-election to a second five-year term against a dozen opposition candidates. The main issue facing Kabore is that he hasn’t done enough to secure the country and has allowed the jihadists to control larger and larger areas of the country, something he had vowed to stop.
“We will not give up, we will keep fighting until we will have peace and victory on our soil,” he had proclaimed.
Meanwhile, the State Department said it was not aware that the American had any affiliation with the U.S. government, but declined to give more information.
Violence has killed more than 2,000 people this year and displaced one million from their homes in the West African nation. w/pix of Burkinabe voter
Police violence on the rise as citizens rally for Bobi Wine, leading presidential candidate.
PRESIDENTIAL RACE IN UGANDA ROCKED BY WORST UNREST IN A DECADE
Nov. 23, 2020 (GIN) - Elections are a deadly game in Uganda. That was the message issued twice by Security Minister General Elly Tumwine as political rallies heat up and a national election scheduled for January 14 draws near.
"Police have a right to shoot you and kill you if you reach a certain level of violence", Gen. Tumwine declared. "Can I repeat? Police have a right to shoot you and you die for nothing.... do it at your own risk."
Similar thoughts emanated from Uganda government spokesman Don Wanyama who told the BBC that officers could not "just fold their arms and allow anarchy to happen".
Last week, police confirmed that 28 people died during protests on Wednesday and Thursday by supporters of parliamentarian and opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (known by his theatrical name Bobi Wine), but a police pathologist and the head of police health services told AP media that 37 bodies were recovered by Thursday morning.
Among the dead was retired Makerere University professor John Kittobbe who happened to be in Kampala, an area rocked by protests, to take care of other business.
This is the country's worst unrest in a decade, and more is expected ahead of the election on Jan. 14, 2021. Over 17.6 million Ugandans are expected to cast ballots at more than 34,000 polling places.
On Friday, Uganda's opposition presidential candidate, Bobi Wine, arrested for alleged violation of COVID-19 social distancing laws, was defiant after being released on bail following violent clashes between security forces and his supporters.
“Gen. Museveni is ready to kill thousands to keep in power like he did on the way in,” he was quoted to say. “The hunger for freedom is sweeping over Uganda. He may kill us, but he will NOT stop the people's yearning for freedom.”
So far, 10 aspirants plus President Yoweri Museveni are vying for the top job. Others include former army commander Gen. Mugisha Muntu and former Security Minister General Henry Tumukunde.
One presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat, was arrested at the headquarters of his Forum for Democratic Change party.
Meanwhile, as the number of election-related fatalities continues to rise, some are questioning whether the African Union has done enough to end armed violence. This year, in a campaign called “Silencing the Guns”, the AU pledged to reach out to youths to discourage them from taking up arms.
Tuesday! Don't miss it! (see flyer below for more information)
Coming soon! Resisting Democratic Decline in West Africa
This timely program will examine why West African democracy is faltering, and look at the ways in which civil society and opposition political parties are fighting back. How can the rule of law be defended moving forward? And what lessons can we derive from democratic Ghana, which heads to the polls next month?
Hosts: Adeola Fayehun of "Keepin it Real with Adeola" and Jeffrey Smith, founder of Vanguard Africa
Tuesday, November 24
12pm New York | 5pm Dakar/London - 6pm
A "bear of a man" is gone...
J.J. RAWLINGS – A CHARISMATIC LEADER AND A STALWART FOR PAN AFRICANISM
Nov. 16, 2020 (GIN) - “A bear of a man with a booming voice”.
That’s how some will remember Ghana's former President Jerry John Rawlings who died Nov. 12 in the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, according to local media reports. He was 73.
“A great tree has fallen and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” said Ghana’s current president, Nana Akufo-Addo. Ongoing campaigns for the Dec. 7 general elections were suspended in recognition of the former leader.
Born in Accra on June 22, 1947 to Scottish pharmacist James Ramsay John and Ghanaian mother Victoria Agbotui, Rawlings attended Achimota School in Accra, Ghana in 1966 and enlisted in the Ghana Air Force in August of 1967.
Upon graduation in 1969, he won the “Speed Bird Trophy” for best cadet in flying and airmanship. In 1977 Rawlings married his childhood sweetheart Nana Konadu Agyeman, with whom he had four children.
Rawlings ruled Ghana for years and changed her fortunes, wrote Nigerian entrepreneur Chiechefulam Ikebuiro, one of many who left their condolences on Twitter. “I adored Jerry Rawlings while growing up. At a very young age I heard how he did everything within his power to wrestle power from the government as well as curb corruption.”
“Life in Ghana according to him had become unbearable so that he had to overthrow a military dictator and, in a bid to stop corruption, performed what was referred to as the “house-cleansing exercise”.
The first Black sub-Saharan former colony to gain independence, Ghana staggered through two decades of political and economic chaos. Flight Lieutenant Rawlings, after leading a military coup in 1979, launched a long political career beginning harshly with the execution of former heads of state and several high-ranking officials accused of corruption and profiteering. All were executed by firing squad.
“If people in power use their offices to pursue self-interest, they will be resisted and unseated,” he declared, although later regretting some of the executions.
”I am prepared at this moment to face a firing squad if what I try to do for the second time in my life does not meet the approval of Ghanaians,” he continued, adding that his team would ”clean up corruption by God or the Devil.”
Rawlings had a wide range of alliances including the Free Africa Movement made up of young men who dreamed of a united African continent free of discredited corrupt leaders close to the European colonial governments and western business interests that dominated so much of the postcolonial landscape.
By 1980, with 10 years of military life behind him, Rawlings had become a charismatic and fearless speaker popular among the young soldiers and a militant, impoverished urban working class. He had an anti-imperialist foreign policy reminiscent of Ghana’s first president after independence, Kwame Nkrumah.
Cuba’s leadership rekindled the old relationship from the Nkrumah era and offered support, especially in health and education, opening a school in Cuba for Ghanaian children on the Island of Youth, alongside the schools for children from the liberation movements of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Ethiopia.
Ghana’s government was close to Angola’s, then under clandestine military assault from Washington allied with apartheid South Africa. Rawlings was also deeply involved with another charismatic military figure, who took power in a coup in 1983 to launch a revolution – Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso.
After the Cold War, he moved towards multiparty democracy and won two elections.
In 2000 he agreed to step down but continued to play a role in retirement, as an African Union envoy to Somalia, a lecturer at Oxford University and in July 2019 as Chair of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Committee.
“He was God’s gift to the country and l can only ask that God keeps his soul in peace,” a former ally, Maj. Kojo Boakye Gyan, was reported to say.
Inflicting pain, while profiting... What would Jerry Rawlings say?
CASH-STRAPPED AFRICAN COUNTRIES FACE PAIN FROM FOREIGN INTEREST OBLIGATIONS
Nov. 16, 2020 (GIN) - Foreign investors who plied African countries with huge loans despite obvious difficulties for repayment got some bad news this week.
The government of Zambia announced it will miss a Nov. 13 deadline to repay $42.5 million in interest to Eurobond holders after the investors rejected a six month delay sought by Zambia to pay up. This could set a precedent, lenders fear.
Zambia has been struggling to come up with money at a time when the risk of COVID-19 infection is high and prices for their commodities, especially oil, are low.
Should indebted countries default, they could find themselves unable to borrow money from international capital markets for years.
This year, rich nations belonging to the so-called Group of 20 or G20 devised a “Debt Service Suspension Initiative” to help the world’s poorest countries cope with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis until the middle of next year.
The ‘DSSI’ offers a temporary suspension of “official sector” or government-to-government debt payment, and 43 countries have signed up so far. However, it does not cover private loans such as the Eurobonds coming due for Zambia.
Last month, the China Development Bank agreed to reschedule Zambia’s interest payments until April 2021. Zambia owed the bank roughly $391 million at the end of last year - about a tenth of the $3 billion it owes Chinese entities - according to the finance ministry. It was not clear whether the loan in question covers all of this debt or a fraction of it.
In 2018, China took possession of a valuable port in Sri Lanka and 15,000 acres when that country was unable to reschedule its debt.
Zambia is one of the world’s top copper producers but foreign companies own 80% of Zambia’s annual copper production. They are MCM, which is 73.1% owned by the Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore, First Quantum Minerals of Canada which owns 16.9%, and Zambia’s mining investment arm ZCCM-IH which owns 10%.
A ceasefire regrettably is over.
NEW HOTSPOT OPENS UP IN NORTH AFRICA DESPITE U.N. BID TO DEFUSE TENSIONS
Nov. 16, 2020 (GIN) – War is breaking out all over.
Fighting shows no signs of ending in Ethiopia as the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, attempts to put down a rebellion by the sovereign-seeking state of Tigray. Eritrea now appears to have been drawn into the fighting. A massacre was reported by Amnesty International.
In the Amhara region, political unrest and communal violence continue to seethe following “abusive arrests” of alleged Oromo Liberation Front members, Human Rights Watch reports.
To the northwest of Ethiopia, a 29 year-long ceasefire between armies of the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, a liberation movement seeking independence, and Morocco, is threatened and fighting is already underway, according to statements by officials, reported in the Sahara Press Service.
Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali was quoted to say that his group would no longer abide by the commitment of the decades-long truce in the area after fighting broke out in several areas between the Moroccan military and the Polisario Front. The Moroccan military allegedly broke into a no-go buffer zone in southern Western Sahara, possibly encouraged by the U.S. whose emissary visited that country shortly before the operations began, it was reported on the news show DemocracyNow.
In recent days, the UN has been involved in multiple initiatives to avoid an escalation of the situation in Western Sahara’s Buffer Strip in the Guerguerat area, the spokesperson for the Secretary-General said in a statement issued on Friday.
According to Stéphane Dujarric, UN chief António Guterres has warned against violations of the ceasefire that was agreed upon in 1991 and the serious consequences of any changes to the status quo.
“The Secretary-General regrets that these efforts have proved unsuccessful and expresses grave concern regarding the possible consequences of the latest developments”, the statement said.
For the past three weeks, Sahrawi civilian protesters had blocked a Morocco-built road in the area that Sahrawis consider to be illegal. The peaceful blockade backed up traffic for miles and cut off trade between Morocco and Mauritania to the south.
The Polisario Front says it is now mobilizing thousands of volunteers to join for the fight for independence. “We have not seen fighting like this in Western Sahara since 1991,” said Jacob Mundy, associate professor of peace and conflict studies and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Colgate University, speaking today on DemocracyNow. “We’ve seen tensions on the rise, but to have open warfare like this is very significant.”
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