Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Uganda returns to Idi Amin Dada policies

Speaker Kadaga promises to revive shelved gay Bill


                                           Cartoon Damien Glez Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Days after her defence against a Canadian minister’s attacks on Uganda over homosexuality, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has promised to expedite the debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Ms Kadaga made the assurance while addressing religious leaders and journalists at Entebbe International Airport on Monday. “They said I should stop the debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill but I assured them there is no way I can block a private members Bill,” she said.
That is true but it would seem it was shelved and Ms. Kadaga resuscitated it.

At the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Quebec, Canada, Ms Kadaga was involved in an altercation with that country’s Foreign Affairs minister, Mr John Baird, after the latter accused Uganda of trampling on human rights.
Something most would agree with in the international community.
The accusation saw Ms Kadaga tell the minister to stick to the day’s theme and respect Uganda’s sovereignty. “I will not accept to be intimidated or directed by any government in the world on matters of homosexuality,” she said, adding that she was not aware she was speaking for many people in the world, some of whom were in the conference.
“I was surprised when colleagues came and thanked me saying that’s what they have always wanted to say but they had never gotten the courage to. That when it came to me that I had spoken for the whole of Africa, for the Arab world and Asians,” she said.
No but you might have spoken for Sayyed Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Un .
The welcome ceremony and press briefing was organised by religious leaders, former Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo and the mover of the Bill, Mr David Bahati, all of whom are pushing for the enactment of the anti-homosexuality Bill.
A large procession comprising members of different Pentecostal churches, Makerere University students and boda boda cyclists camped at the airport from 10am to after midnight when Ms Kadaga emerged to greet them as they ululated and waved placards appreciating her boldness in Canada.
Makerere University students how depressing is that.
“You are our saviour, we want the bill now,” one of the placards read.
Pastor Michael Were, who spoke on behalf of the religious leaders, called on other national leaders to follow Ms Kadaga’s footsteps for the sake of the country’s culture and traditions.
Asked whether she was not mindful of Uganda being denied aid and her being denied entry visas to pro-gay countries, Ms Kadaga said such countries were welcome to keep their aid and visas.
Change will come and sooner than Pastor Michael Were might think or for that matter like. Human rights are universal. 

Post Sandy

                              A Hoboken resident allowed storm victims to charge their phones

America my faith is restored

Photo New York Times 

African fishing revenue spin vrs. the NZ reality


The Fish Site reports

Africa Exports $4 Billion in Fisheries Products

AFRICA - Fishery products account for 20 per cent of agricultural foreign sales from the continent, according to a document released at the  African Development Forum in Ethiopia.
The data was released by African news agency Panapress at the eighth African Development Forum, reports Brazil-ArabNewsAgency.According to the news agency, African fish exports generate $4.4 billion a year, an important source of income for the continent.

Actually it is a very poor result and one that Africa needs to turn around by comparison
the NZ situation  

The sector which was worth just $200 million in the 1970s yet now contributes over $1.5 billion in annual export earnings, employs more than 10,000 people and is New Zealand's fourth largest foreign exchange earner behind dairy, meat and forestry products. The seafood industry is poised to surpass the $2 billion mark in foreign earnings by 2010.
On a world scale, New Zealand makes up less than two percent of the seafood market. About 90 percent of all seafood caught here is exported.

OK we are very good at this sort of stuff actually we are the best in the world when it comes to farming, fishing.... etc. That a small country ( admittedly with a large exclusive economic zone ) with a population of just under 4.5 million should out perform continental Africa is so comprehensively is an indictment on the collective leadership of Africa.

It's called fishing not catching

Compensation could persuade Sanford to leave Ross Sea

Sanford, the same company that developed the NZD 50 million (USD 40.7 million) toothfish fishery in the Ross Sea 14 years ago, announced that it would consider withdrawing from it provided sufficient compensation is granted.

That is hilarious they want the New Zealand taxpayer to pay them not to fish.  What I assume they mean by developing a fishery is contributing to the scientific research to determine the sustainable catch levels. Throwing a trawl net over the back of the trawler when the fish finder tells you you are over a school of fish is not developing a fishery.

The firm revealed its decision on TV3’s Firstline as 25 countries met in Hobart to discuss the protection of the pristine Ross Sea in Antarctica.

Sanford said it helps monitor the Ross Sea for illegal fishing.

“Our boats have up to 200-mi radar coverage of the areas where it's operating and we're able to report on activities of other vessels,” said Sanford managing director Eric Barratt, 3 News reports.

Yeah that is the equivalent of calling the police when you find someone is burgling you house.

Now, Sanford said it would be willing to leave the Ross Sea -- for a price.

“We developed the fishery,” Barratt stated. “We've put a lot of money, a lot of effort and a lot of development into it and if somebody wants to come along and buy us out of the fishery, then they should approach us and do so.”

What a load of shit. Sealord are exploiting at a cost a resourse that belongs to the people of New Zealand. It pays a license to do so and contributes to research on the fishery.

He said that it would cost “a large sum, a very large sum” for the company’s ships to leave the area.
No it would not it would not. It would require the Ministry of Primary Industries to revoke Sealoards licence.

While green groups responded positively, they believe Sanford should withdraw from the Ross Sea -- without any compensation.
If the toothfish is being harvested in a sustainable way why on earth would New Zealand want Sealord to not catch them. The Greens are truly bat shit crazy. This of course is the crux of the story, some bat shit crazy Greens want to stop commercial fishing that earns New Zealand around two billion dollars a year.

“That's what we think is a bit cheeky,” said Karli Thomas of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA). “The fishing industry doesn't, and never will, own the Ross Sea, so it's not the responsibility of New Zealanders or the citizens of the world to buy it back off the fishing industry.”
Correct but the Ross sea is in out territory and if we wish to exploit it then we should be free to do so as long as we do so sustainably.

Earlier this year, the AOA’s 'Ross Sea' report called for 3.6 million sqkm in this region to be fully protected. The AOA is calling on members of the 

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to take advantage of this opportunity to establish unprecedented marine protection in the Southern Ocean.

As far as I am concerned the AOA can fuck off.

'The Last Ocean' filmmaker Peter Young said this announcement has opened the door for New Zealand to push for full protection of the region.

“There's far more value in the Ross Sea as an intact marine ecosystem than just another fishing ground,” he added.

This week, New Zealand tabled a proposal, which Sanford supports, at an international meeting in Hobart that would protect a determined area. However, this proposal excludes an unprotected area where fishing for toothfish would still be allowed.

The reality is that Australia and New Zealand call the shots on this and we will look after our interests and that means a viable sustainable fishery going forward. We are the best at the world at sustainable fishing.

The US tabled another proposal that provides more protection in the Southern Ocean, and which Sanford opposes.

Still, the AOA claims that both proposals are too weak, and at this late stage it is unlikely that all 25 countries will reach consensus.

“It’s vital that New Zealand comes to this negotiation with an open mind. Even the current United States proposal provides fishing opportunities for New Zealand and other fishing nations in the south of the Ross Sea region,” said Campbell. “A hard-line stance aimed at protecting New Zealand’s fishing interests at all costs will likely bring a failure of Ross Sea protection at this meeting.”

Well no. After the New Zealand Navy has sunk a few illegal fishing boats  the message will get out. In case the world failed to notice our navy has been reconfigured to give it this capability.

The Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) HMNZS OTAGO and WELLINGTON deliver substantial new capability to the Royal New Zealand Navy. The ships can go further offshore, stay at sea longer, and conduct more challenging operations than the Inshore Patrol Vessels, and will enable the RNZN to conduct patrol and surveillance operations around New Zealand, the southern ocean and into the Pacific.

The OPV’s are capable of many roles including maritime patrol, surveillance and response. They have the ability to conduct helicopter operations using a Seasprite SH2G helicopter, boarding operations using the ships Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, or Military Support Operations with embarked forces.

The OPV’s have strengthened hulls which enable them to enter southern waters where ice may be encountered. They are not designed as ice-breakers or to enter Antarctic ice-packs, but have the range and capability to undertake patrols in the southern ocean where ice may be encountered.

The ships are highly automated and operate with a core crew of 35, plus 10 flight crew to operate a helicopter. The ships power and control systems are fully computerised.

New Zealand will act in our interests and the interests of Australia. We will not be dictated to by a bunch of hollier than thou Greens.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

France: A self inflicted language and culture of the past.

Stuff reports 

France eyes 'Google Tax' for French sites

French President Francois Hollande is considering a pushing for a new tax that would see search engines such as Google have to pay each time they use content from French media.
Hollande discussed the topic with Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, during a meeting in Paris on Monday.
Hollande says the rapid expansion of the digital economy means that tax laws need to be updated to reward French media content.

How bloody stupid. What will they use the inevitably ever diminishing tax for ? Presumably promoting French language and culture

Google has opposed the plan and threatened to bar French websites from its search results if the tax is imposed.

Germany is considering a similar law, and Italian editors have also indicated they would favour such a plan.

Italian editors ? Fuck me I assumed it was politicians not the media attempting cultural suicide.

Republican stupidity continued

The New York Times editorial opines.

A Big Storm Requires Big Government

Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.

Actually I think that that is a bit hard on most Americans I am sure that they remember Katrina and the FEMA stuff ups very well. 

Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.

If Americans ever need to elect a court jester Romney is the man for the job. The guy is a fucking joke.

It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.

Republicans on the whole just don't get it at all. Most Republican politicians would be unelectable outside of the United States. 

The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.

I suspect that many people in the US haven't got a clue what the Republican  extreme right wing religious zelots actually stand for. The Tea Party has a bewildered look at the grass level. 

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Why would you want to do something as stupid as that ?

Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.

Obama is not only the sensible choice he is the only choice. America can't with stand another idiot republican administration  at this point in time.

Global ( well where we could be arsed ) Internet Freedom Report

I have been thinking about doing a series of posts on African leaders and as such have been keeping an eye open for potential sites that can contribute in an empirical way to the content of said posts should I ever get of my arse and do them. At around 54 nations in Africa it isn't a small undertaking.  Bearing that in mind you can imagine my initial delight delight at discovering Freedom House  

They had a report up on Internet freedom  that was well fairly useless due to the total lack of effort that was put into it.

There seems to me to be little point in producing a report complete with a sexy map when you can't be bloody arsed collecting data from three quarters of the world. This might illustrate  my point a little better

That is about 50 country's, about a quarter of the number of country's in the world. That is hardly global. It is lazy. A quick glance at the map suggests that the repressive regimes of New Zealand and Canada didn't co-operate and no data was available whilst enlightened nations such as Iran, Syria and Pakistan co-operated.

If you are going to make a half hearted attempt you would be better off not wasting your and everyone's time.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dr Congo Looking for Dr Mukwege and finding The City of Joy

Following along from my post yesterday about  Dr Mukwege  in noticed on  Alex Engwete reports that he has removed to a safe undisclosed location.

"Two days following the attempt on his life, under armed escort by
MONUSCO peacekeepets, Dr. Denis Mukwege, alongside his family, left
Bukavu in the morning of Saturday, October 27, for an unknown
destination, according to newswires.

Radio Okapi reports that Dr. Mukwege and his family boarded an
Eco-Flight aircraft at Bukavu Kavumu Airport for an unknown

A source close to Dr. Mukwege's is quoted by Radio Okapi as saying:
"They were evacuated for security reasons at the request of his
Western friends."

I was unable to confirm the reports on Alex's blog but it makes a lot of sense. One of the great things about blogging is that you stumble over the unexpected. Trust me this was totally unexpected. 

The Huffington Post reports

City of Joy Graduation: DRC's Peaceful Revolution Has Begun

Incongruous is just one word that comes to mind when attempting to describe eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The breathtaking beauty of sparkling Lake Kivu and the lush, green mountains and fertile red earth where virtually everything grows belie the unspeakable horrors of gang rape, torture and massacre that take place daily in this very same setting.
Staring at a panoramic view comparable to Italy's Lago di Como, one is immediately tempted to break out a camera to memorialize the stunning scenery. Red blood and bitter tears that stain the land never show in photographs.

The first hint that I was on to something unusual was my search on Dr Mukwege threw up a result from the 2/9/12 now in America that means the ninth of February where as in the civilised world it denotes the second of September certainly something I thought might be in the time frame for having a possible bearing on last weeks brutality. It is probable I would have looked any way for two further reasons.First it was in English and  second it had the rather incongruent  line " City of Joy DR Congo " . That would attract any Congo Watchers eye even a novice such as myself.

Congo, a country so rich in resources -- blessed with precious gold, diamonds, coltan, cobalt, copper, tin, tantalum, tungsten -- is so painfully poor that "food today means none tomorrow" for many. It is a travesty of global proportions that corporations and their business-as-usual ways continue to amass contaminated and immorally acquired profit. The electronically-equipped population, myself included, benefits from conflict minerals of the DRC and gets away with it without so much as a portion of the misery that the locals endure.

They are harsh words the sort I hope I sometimes write.

Preservation of the indigenous culture through rhythm, dance, song and art is a testament to the resilience of the Congolese people whose land has been pillaged by greedy colonialism and its appalling legacy.

Colonialism and more importantly neo-colonialism as practiced by the corporations and corrupt governments of not only the DR Congo but continental Africa is something we in the west should be very aware of. 

First Visit to City of Joy

All of the above is apparent on my day of arrival in Bukavu to V-Day's City of Joy, a very special place, a miracle-maker of a place, that may very well be the birthplace of a peaceful revolution within the DRC. It is a walled-in haven of educational training and political activism for female survivors of gender violence who qualify for the rigorous six month-long program. Here, women are housed to go through extensive literacy and communications courses as well as civics and politics training that teach them about human rights and women's rights and psychotherapy to help them recover from their trauma. They also go through self-defense courses, comprehensive sexuality education, massage lessons as therapeutic process, physical education, horticulture and green programming, culinary arts, sewing and data processing. These courses are designed by the Congolese and the program is run by the Congolese. They know best what they need and how to make it all work.

This is an attempt to address an issue that is very close to my heart. 

Mural on the outside walls of City of Joy
Building City of Joy is in and of itself a major accomplishment. The drive getting there on Essence Road is one for the books. The contrast between Orchid Hotel where I stayed, and Essence Road is jarring. The well-maintained grounds of Orchid Hotel on Lake Kivu are strewn with flowers of every blooming color; picking flowers along a few meters walk would result in the most beautiful bouquet. Within seconds of leaving the premises, thousands of locals walk up and down narrow, unpaved streets, some of whom are carrying babies on their backs or huge bins of manioc on their heads. Armed U.N. soldiers crammed in flatbed trucks are a common sight, as are vehicles of various NGOs and motorcycles driven by locals weaving in and out of unregulated traffic. Foot traffic is so dense that every few minutes, my heart would stop for fear that our vehicle would press against mangled bodies in our path. Transporting building materials and equipment is a huge challenge. City of Joy staff can attest to the painful commute hours during the rainy season when the roads turn into inches-deep sludge. On Essence Road, false veneers of good-doing and inflated promises stop dead in their muddy tracks.

I am guessing that is a standard initial western reaction to the DR Congo and I suspect that while it is accurate on one level, I would bet she missed a lot.

My first visit to City of Joy was nothing short of memorable. Bruised upon arrival, my urge to commiserate with fellow travelers about the harrowing drive quickly dissipated as soon as I saw the women of City of Joy. They were singing songs in French and Swahili, dancing and clapping in graceful rhythm. They smiled as though they've never known the nightmare of rape, torture and murder that has plagued their people for over 10 years. My American friends and I joined their welcoming circle. Hugs and kisses bridged all gaps and, though we spoke different languages, the bond of sisterhood enveloped us with genuine warmth. In those moments, indigenous, foreign, colonial and stranger did not exist. We stood together side by side -- celebrating -- one with joy. We all felt protected, accepted, loved.

Congolese culture is amazing. I am very privileged to be part of the Auckland Congolese community.

We convened under a huge tent to share a meal. The women of City of Joy presented a feast made from manioc root and leaves, prepared in various ways. Though it was not our usual fare, my American friends and I agreed that local Congolese food is delicious.

I eat it most nights and she is spot on with that observation. If you are reading Alex no I wasn't brave enough to try the mbinzo Significant Other produced at the dinner table one night.

Then came the hard part. A few of the women got up before us to tell us their stories. What we heard were accounts containing gruesome details. Some details were very difficult to listen to, some seemed surreal and fiction-like. We left with our hearts shattered and internal wounds raw; wondering how anyone could be subjected to such acts. The only way any of us slept that night was through sheer exhaustion.

She is right and it is commonplace. Most families I know have experienced the heart ache that is the anarchy of the eastern Congo.

City of Joy Graduation

Graduation day was a momentous occasion filled with music, metaphor and magical moments. The tent was packed with over 300 guests: NGO representatives, dignitaries, families and friends of the graduates. The governor of the state came to bear witness to the miracles performed that day. In its pilot year, 41 barely alive women were transformed into vibrant, soulful beings and budding political leaders.

I am at heart an optimist and just maybe this can lead onto something better. The truth is the current solutions being imposed are not working.

Many of these graduates arrived at City of Joy depressed and suicidal, knowing nothing of their inner strength or potential to become leaders, educators and stewards of transformation. It was magical to watch these women take to the stage, deliver rousing speeches, perform poetry they have written in English, demonstrate self-defense moves and celebrate with unmistakable joy. Now, all of them leave with newfound confidence, knowledge of their rights and the law, and the will to help others.
As I watched these women, the words victim and survivor did not dare come to mind. Their spirits are strong, even otherworldly, as they spoke of their love for their country and their sisters and their hope for the DRC's future. Their strength awed me and my fellow travelers. They could have easily given up in defeat. They could have stayed in the jungles as sex slaves to these militia men, having nothing to live for after their fathers, husbands, uncles and friends have been massacred. Not a chance. These evil, heartless acts could not extinguish their light.

There is nothing I can add to that.

City of Joy's model and leadership program are filled with realistic hope to heal the Congo. It is a phenomenally important step toward a peaceful revolution that proves it is possible to cultivate leadership among those who once thought their voices were worthless. So many other well-meaning, would-be saviors have visited the Congo making promises they could not keep. None of them ever built anything like City of Joy. City of Joy went from dream to reality with the help of three visionary leaders: the Tony award-winning playwright, performer, activist and V-Day founder Eve Ensler; the incomparable and saint-like gynecologist Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of the legendary Panzi Hospital which was named one of the top 100 best NGOs in the world by the Global Journal and the Congolese-Belgian human rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver, winner of the Guardian's Women of the Year award in 2011. Without their vision, passion, dedication, commitment and love, hope for a new Congo would not exist as it does now.

Looking for Dr Mukwege has been a journey that I have enjoyed. The tragedy that one of his people was murdered notwithstanding. He is indeed a remarkable man. The Congo has many such men and their time will come along with the woman from the City of Joy.

Dr. Denis Mukwege, Eve Ensler and Christine Schuler Deschryver
City of Joy Tenets to Transform Pain to Power

The first graduating class of City of Joy created a list of 10 tenets that guide their life within and outside of City of Joy. These tenets are prominently written on the walls. The women turned these tenets into a joyful song in Swahili whose emboldening message transcends oceans, continents and cultures:

1. Tell the truth.

2. Stop waiting to be rescued. Take initiative.

3. Know your rights.

4. Raise your voice.

5. Share what you have learned.

6. Give what you want the most.

7. Feel and tell the truth about what you've been through.

8. Use it to fuel a revolution.

9. Practice kindness.

10. Treat the life of your sister as though it were your own.

A secular 10 commandments maybe.

The Graduates of City of Joy and Their Future

My fellow travelers and I were filled with joy and hope on graduation day. These women have created some of the strongest imaginable bonds humanly possible. Some of them will be staying in towns near and far with their friends and City of Joy sisters. Others, those who have not been rejected by their families for bringing perceived shame upon them, will go back to their village to start over and help others like them heal.

A few members of the first City of Joy graduating class
Yet we remain concerned for their future, acknowledging the likelihood of future attacks. With only 45 of them re-entering the real world outside the walls of City of Joy, there are no guarantees that their network and support of each other will withstand their upcoming challenges.
But then I remember that these women know the real world all too well. They have lived through today with a shattered, not sheltered past. They know a life plagued with the cruelest acts. They are possibly the strongest people anyone could have the privilege of knowing.
If anyone can survive the roughest conditions of existence, I have no doubt that these women can.

That they not only survive but that they will be there to give testament when sanity returns is the outcome we need and that they transform their communities.

As for City of Joy as an engine of transformation, Eve and Christine are in the process of purchasing 350 acres of beautiful, promise-filled, lush, fertile farmland. This will be used by the graduates as well as the neighboring villagers to grow crops, tilapia and other sources of livelihood. The land will eventually belong entirely to these women as a cooperative, strengthening their power and sustainability.

It is innovative and it hasn't been tried before it is also empowering.

Come February 14, Valentine's Day and also V-Day when thousands of anti-violence activists worldwide stage V-Day benefits, a new group of women, 90 of them, will enter its doors and the program will be in session once again. The symbolism of this date takes us back to the root of why City of Joy and Eve, Christine and Dr. Mukwege's vision will succeed: LOVE. Love is the only thing that can power a peaceful revolution. Love is the only thing that gives anyone meaning to go on living. Love is the only thing that can eradicate evil, bitterness and revenge. Love is the only thing that can free the good that lives in all of us.

If anywhere needs love it is certainly the eastern DR Congo.

Oh yeah it is the Eve Ensler of the Vagina monologues fame.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dr Congo : Lets add land reform into a civil war equation.

A roadside in Masisi territory.  All around are green hills, lush pastures for herds of cattle.

The VOA team here is discussing how to get the cattle to make a noise. You may have heard one cow there but the rest are just contentedly grazing on this unfenced, seemingly boundless grassland.  But some of the neighbors are not so happy with this state of affairs - like this smallholder farmer who asked for his name to be withheld.

He says the number of cattle in the area has increased because large farmers have bought up the surrounding hills for pasture.  He went on to say that it’s difficult for local people to find anywhere to grow their crops.

It would be interesting to know the quality of the cattle, I am making the assumption that they are beef beasts. If there is a dairy industry then it has made huge strides since 2002. In cattle an emphasis on the quality of the herd is usually far more important than an emphasis on quantity where profitability is concerned.  

Milk yields and proportion of dairy animals

Milk yield (kg/year) 
               1980  1990   2000  2002 

Cattle 838  848   825  833

Traveling around this area one notices an odd feature of the landscape.  The plains and valleys, and where the hills rise to a plateau, all areas suitable for growing crops, have been taken for pasture.

That is a major concern meat commands premium prices in  the context of the current anarchy. Add to this the looming food crisis facing sub Saharan Africa and issues that the world faces with regard to food security and the importance of arable cropping land takes on a new focus.

Most of the cultivated areas are on steep slopes.  And those slopes are eroding fast.  Farming advisers say that after a few agricultural seasons they should be left fallow for ten years, but they aren’t.

If it isn't sustainable it isn't farming. It sounds glib but it is a hard reality.

This territory of Masisi is where land conflict first turned into ethnic war in North and South Kivu provinces.  Nearly 20 years ago fighting broke out between the agriculturalists and the ranchers, and many of the cattle were killed.  But since then the ranchers have expanded their territory.

Farmers’ organizations met at a forum in the North Kivu provincial capital Goma this month, to discuss land shortage and land law.

In some ways I am struggling a bit with this. Goma as any reader of this blog would know is at the centre of a huge armed standoff that could revert to civil war in an instant. However that observation aside this issue is one that needs solving.

The speaker is listing the land problems in Masisi.  A major problem, he says, is the competition between agriculturalists and ranchers, and one sign of that are the herders, or cowboys, carrying guns.

Is anyone not carrying weapons in the DR Congo ? I guess just another layer of complication in an already complicated situation.

One of the small farmer representatives from Masisi was Augustin Munyanziza.

OK I can accept that but updating the legal code will do nothing with regard to the security situation. Fiddling while Rome burns springs to mind.

Peasant famers’ rights to their land are based on custom, meaning recognition by their traditional chiefs.  They often have no written documents granting them land rights, and if they do, the documents were usually granted by the chief, and are not recognized by the law.  This can be quite convenient for the chief if he wants to sell the land to someone else.

The land law, which was last updated in 1973, says customary rights to land will be defined by a presidential decree, but that decree has never been issued.

Well that if nothing else sounds normal. " Where sanity ends the Congo begins " .

Oumar Syllah is advising the government on changes to the land law.

"We need to think about how we can have a kind of democratic system for access to land. Right now we have military involvement and influential people involved, which is not in favor of local communities," he said.

​​The organizers of the three-day forum in Goma earlier this month have yet to circulate a clear statement of what was agreed as farmers’ recommendations for land law reform.  In a newspaper article they said it was agreed that the new law should recognize documents given to farmers by traditional chiefs.

That could potentially massively complicate things.

A farmers’ representative at the forum, Safari Gasimba, said that that recommendation should go further.

He said if they are going to lobby for legal recognition for documents issued by chiefs, they should at the same time lobby for democratization at the local level, as laid down in the constitution, so that chiefs will be advised by representatives elected by the local community.

Which of course is another way of moving the chiefs into a ceremonial role. They are going to love that idea. 

The chiefs’ authority is increasingly being challenged in North Kivu, and especially in Masisi, where population movements have meant that many inhabitants no longer recognize the traditional chiefs as their clan leaders.

Is there really in the modern world a place for tribalism ?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

DR Congo: Dr Mukwege's failed assassination and clandistine clusterfucks

The BBC reports

Denis Mukwege: DR Congo anti-rape doctor attacked

                                          Dr. Denis Mukwege

Unknown gunmen have tried to kill a Congolese doctor widely praised for his work helping rape victims, he has told the BBC.

When asked whether he had been targeted because of his work, Denis Mukwege noted that the attackers had not asked for any money.

One of his security guards was shot dead in the attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bukavu.

Dr Mukwege has won several awards for his work.

Human rights campaigners have accused several armed groups operating in eastern DR Congo of using rape as a weapon of war.

Last week, one hospital in the region said it had recorded 5,000 cases of rape this year.

In 2010, UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Margot Wallstrom said the country was the "rape capital of the world".

Four armed men broke into Dr Mukwege's home and waited for him to return home, says PMU, a Swedish religious organisation which works with the Panzi hospital founded by the doctor.

They then shot at and narrowly missed the gynaecologist before fleeing in his car, which they soon abandoned.

"They wanted to kill me," Dr Mukwege told BBC Afrique, adding that his work had angered some people in the region.

"It upsets them when we denounce their crimes," he said.

Numerous armed groups have been operating in eastern DR Congo for almost 20 years.

The latest unrest broke out in April and has forced some 500,000 people from their homes.

Amnesty International is unhappy to say the least.

“This atrocious attack is one of a number of recent attacks by unknown armed men targeting humanitarian workers and human rights defenders in North and South Kivu,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director.

The United Nations is equally pissed off.

27 October 2012 – The United Nations envoy on sexual violence in conflict has voiced her outrage at the attack against a doctor in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) widely admired for his work with rape survivors, and called on the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.   “I am appalled and outraged by the cowardly attack against Dr. Denis Mukwege and his family,” Zainab Bangura said in a statement, referring to the incident which took place on Thursday night and which was also condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“Not only a skilled surgeon who has treated tens of thousands of survivors of sexual violence, Dr. Mukwege is also a role model and advocate in his own country and internationally who has courageously and tirelessly dared to speak out against the horrific crime of sexual violence,” she added.   The Special Representative called on the Government of the DRC to spare no effort to keep Dr. Mukwege and his family safe and to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

“Not only a skilled surgeon who has treated tens of thousands of survivors of sexual violence, Dr. Mukwege is also a role model and advocate in his own country and internationally who has courageously and tirelessly dared to speak out against the horrific crime of sexual violence,” she added. The Special Representative called on the Government of the DRC to spare no effort to keep Dr. Mukwege and his family safe and to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

“Not only a skilled surgeon who has treated tens of thousands of survivors of sexual violence, Dr. Mukwege is also a role model and advocate in his own country and internationally who has courageously and tirelessly dared to speak out against the horrific crime of sexual violence,” she added. The Special Representative called on the Government of the DRC to spare no effort to keep Dr. Mukwege and his family safe and to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.

Physicians for Human Rights are shocked.

" Physicians for Human Rights has been shocked to learn of a violent attack today at the home of our close colleague and friend, Dr. Denis Mukwege, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. We fear for the safety of Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned obstetric surgeon who is founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he and his staff have helped treat over 30,000 survivors of sexual violence."

The question of course is why ? I am having a great deal of difficulty believing that the doctor was targeted by a Congolese rapist on the grounds  that he objects to sexual violence. It is reasonable to assume that this is a political crime. 

Nicholas Kristof blogs at the New York Times .

" Dr. Mukwege presumably was targeted because of a strong speech he gave at the United Nations last month, denouncing mass rape in Congo and the impunity for it. President Kabila has long been angry at Dr. Mukwege, and the UN speech can’t have helped. Meanwhile, Dr. Mukwege has also offended Rwanda with his denunciations of Rwanda’s role in the slaughter and rape in eastern Congo."

Kabila and Kagame are offended. Good on one level insofar as if either of them was behind this atrocity then they can chalk up another failure to the long list each man has been accumulating.

Who ever was responsible has made  a huge stuff up. Until I read Alex Engwete blog today ( link below ) I had never heard of Dr Mukwege. The man is a saint. I have no doubt this man will win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Enough Project details some of his past awards.

" Mukwege is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the U.N. Human Rights Prize, African of the Year, King Baudouin International Development Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, and the Clinton Global Citizen Award. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize."

This guy is a Sir Edmund Hillary, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela all rolled into one a combination, any criminal who knew who he was would have given him a mile wide birth.  Africa is a big place but I doubt it would be big enough to hide in for your everyday garden variety criminal had they killed Dr. Mukwege. I think Dr Mukweghe's account rules out stupid criminals and smart ones would be steering clear.

The evidence circumstantial though it is at this stage looks to be pointing away from attempted murder and towards attempted assassination and there is a huge distinction between the two.  

One would expect an assassination to be carried out competently that this was a total clusterfuck would usually rule out a nation state. Fortunatley for Dr Mukwege if it turns out  to be a nation state it will be either Rwanda or the DR Congo both nations that seem to excel in clandistine clusterfucks.  

Hat Tip Alex Engwete 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tragedy at Virunga National Park

New Times ( Rwanda ) reports

Eight die in attack at DR Congo wildlife reserve

Eight people, including two rangers, a soldier and five militiamen were killed in a militia attack near Lake Edward in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national park, park authorities said Friday.

A soldier who was helping the park rangers was killed and three others were wounded, one seriously, in the attack on Thursday in the northeast of the country.

The clash also claimed the lives of five rebels from the Mai Mai Pareco group, while two were wounded and one was captured.

The wounded rebels were under guard at the hospital in Vitshumbi, a statement from the park management said. Both the park rangers, who worked for the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, were killed instantly.

My immediate reaction was to check the Virunga National Park blog and unfortunately Emmanuel confirms the news in his blog.

It is with a heavy heart that I must once again report that Virunga National Park has lost two more of its own. Early this morning in Mwiga Bay, an area just west of the fishing settlement of Vitshumbi on Lake Edward, a ranger patrol was ambushed by Mai-Mai PARECO rebels. Two park staff plus one government soldier assisting them were killed instantly. Three other government soldiers were seriously wounded - one critically. After the gunfire died down, five of the attackers were found dead and two wounded rebels were captured and taken to a nearby hospital. Attacks such as these have been on the rise since the recent conflict erupted, but none have been so deadly. With government forces focused on M23 in the southern part of the park, the armed groups in the center of Virunga have dramatically stepped up efforts to poach for ivory and bushmeat, fish illegally on Lake Edward, and loot the local population.

This is devastating news for the park. The wardens are doing the work of humanity fulfilling the obligation we all share to protect the unique bio-diversity of Virunga National Park. 

The devastation wrought by such attacks sends shock waves through the families of those who die protecting the park. This is particularly the case in this incident. Virunga Ranger Paluku Matembela, killed in today’s attack, leaves behind a 6 month-old son and a 14 year-old daughter. Even more tragic is the fact that the children lost their mother only 6 months earlier so they are now orphans. In the days to come, we will tell you more about Ranger Paluku and the others.

President Joseph Kabila these are servants of your state you owe it to them and their memory to bring the situation in the eastern DR Congo under control.

At times like this in the past, Virunga’s global family has embraced those left behind and I sincerely hope we can all come together again to support those who have paid the ultimate price for defending Virunga National Park. Even in peace-time, life in Eastern Congo is incredibly hard, so it is difficult to put into words what a ranger family goes through when they lose the head of their household, a husband, father, and usually a family’s only income.

I have no doubt that the Virunga family will come together. The story of Virunga is a story of inspiration.

We would like to raise $1200 for each of the two families to pay for funeral and other expenses, plus help through the tough year ahead. We would also like to raise enough money to provide each family with $50/month for the next five years as part of the Fallen Ranger’s Fund commitment to support the families of our staff killed in the line of duty. If you would like to be part of this, please use the donate box at the top right of this blog post to help these two families. What you give will make a dramatic difference in the lives of these people.

We have buried far too many of our rangers in the last 15 years - over 130 since 1996.

A very sad day for Virunga National Park.