Monthly Archives: July 2010

diffusing pregnancy fear in africa


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A high-ranking United Nations official believes that African union leaders can transform the continent’s pregnancy fear into hope.

Instead of being met with joy, Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, says there is all too often “justifiable fear in news of pregnancy.”

Her address to the African Union Summit in Uganda comes as leaders set focus on the health of mothers and children.

She says it’s evident that African leaders have always appreciated investments in mothers and care for children.

Migiro paints a gloomy picture of women who suffered difficult labour, citing the case of a 16-year-old Awatif Altayib of Sudan, who not only lost her baby in two days of labour but also sustained injuries with obsteric fistula.

“Her future with this debilitating condition looked bleak – until she recovered with assistance from the UN Population Fund and its partners. Now Awatif is a working midwife, helping other women to survive,” she said.

Another victim of pregnancy complications was Hawa Barrie whose southern Sierra Leone with a population of 2.5 million people has only one gynecologist. She and her newborn son survived, thanks to concerted efforts of the government and its partners.

“Abiodun Titi of Nigeria is another thriving African mother. Although she is HIV-positive, she was able to conceive with her HIV-negative husband safely thanks to a method involving the female condom. With help from the UN and its partners, she now teaches others this life-saving approach.”

Unfortunately, millions African women do not have the same opportunities in a continent with highest rate of maternal mortality rates in the world, setting back the progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals of drastically reducing the problem.

Migiro applauds African leaders for their seriousness to tackle maternal and child health, expressing the United Nations readiness to work with Africa to make good on its proud traditions in recognising meaningful social role of women.

The former Tanzanian minister of gender urges the Summit to also look into conflicts, poverty and other blights that many girls and women grapple with.


cote d’ivoire should take on trafigura

shame on you president gbagbo

The journey to prove Trafigura wrong is long and tedious, but the result worths it. It’s at last proven guilty of delivering hazardous waste to Amsterdam without revealing its true nature.

The Dutch court judgment is important to hundreds of thousands of Ivorians affected by the multi-national company’s exported waste dumped in Cote d’Ivoire.

Trafigura had repeatedly denied criminal responsibilty in the West African country in August 2006, though it had struck a deal with the presidency to pay millions of dollars towards clean-up costs, without accepting liability or responsibility for the dumping of highly toxic chemical wastes from their ship.

Under the deal, President Laurent Gbagbo dropped all charges against the company, released its executives from prison and agreed not to pursue any further financial claims against Trafigura.

For reasons of cost, Trafigura in July 2006 decided to reload and transport the toxic waste to Abidjan for disposal instead of Amsterdam. The toxic transported by Probo Koala killed 15 and sent more than 100,000 to hospital.

This verdict, which unfortunately does not consider the impact of the dumping in Cote d’Ivoire, has opened room for the Ivorian government to take on Trafigura and the Dutch aughotirites for their failure to prevent the toxic waste from crossing their borders.

A failure in taking the appropriate legal remedies by the Gbagbo regime would simpy be a disservice to victims and their families still reeling with trauma and health consequences. With concerted efforts, we can surely halt dumping of hazardous waste in our continent.

gambia’s day of ‘shameful travesty’


jammeh, gambia's own amin

Amnesty International has scolded Gambian president Yahya Jammeh on his government’s crack down on political freedom and widespread human rights violations with total impunity, describing naming July 22 celebration “national holiday of Freedom Day a shameful travesty.”

As the country marked the 16th anniversary of a day when democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance, security and peace were assassinated, hundreds of activists representing over 87 non-governmental organisations take part in protests and other activities in 14 countries. Championed by AI, the “Day of Action” allows activists in these countries to draw attention to The Gambia government’s  appalling human rights record since 1994.

“Naming Gambia’s national holiday ‘Freedom Day’ is a shameful travesty,” AI said in a statement, arguing, “freedom remains an illusion for most Gambians, who live in fear of arbitrary arrest, torture, incommunicado detention, unfair trials, rape, disappearance, and extra-judicial executions.”

The rights group faults the Jammeh government for its frequent arrest and detention without trial. It makes reference to the death sentence imposed on 8 detainees found guilty of attempting to topple Jammeh from powereh’s government.

“The trial violated a host of international fair trial standards. Detainees had little or no access to their lawyers or even their families. Sources indicate that the accused have been tortured, while others were pressured to provide false testimony at the trial, under threat of imprisonment and torture. The government persecuted those who refused to give false testimony, allegedly going to far as to make death threats.”

Conditions in Gambian prisons, especially in Mile 2 Central Prison and other secret detention centres, military barracks, secret quarters in police stations, police stations in remote areas, and warehouses are appalling, AI said. “They amount to a violation of the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.”

Until 22 July 1994, The Gambia had been a champion of not only democracy, rule of law and human rights but also land of hope for countries in the region. Today, the West African country is making headlines for gross violations of human rights, including the right to free speech.

The Gambia has been called to stop human rights violations, comply with obligations under the African Charter with regard to the right to liberty, freedom from torture, right to fair trial, freedom of expression and of association. It’s also urged to end incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances, and ensure that those responsible for them are brought to justice, investigate all allegations of torture and extra-judicial executions.

south africans want mandela to hit 100


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Prayers were showered on former South African president to reach the age of 100.

Nelson Mandela, an iconic anti-apartheid hero, on Sunday celebrated his 92nd birthday in Johannesburg. Leaders across the world, including US president Barack Obama, extended wishes to the frailing leader praising his “extraordinary vision, leadership, spirit, global politics and fight for human rights.”

“On behalf of the United States, I wish Nelson Mandela a very happy 92nd birthday. We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit,” Obama said.

“We strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation.”

Celebrants at Mandela’s birthday village event at Mvezo in Eastern Cape said it would be wonderful for him to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Mandela, a senior member of Mvezo Royal family, has had his birthday celebrated at Mvezo Royal Palace. The event was graced by thousands of people, including President Jacob Zuma. Celebrants arrived in helicopters and horseback.

Zuma paid homage to the Mvezo Royal Chief, Mandla Mandela, the grandson of the former president.

People and companies devoted 67 minutes providing services to their communities, with some companies offering free HIV testing and counselling.

Zuma called on South Africans to draw lessons from Mandela’s rich legacy, which included fighting for unity and human dignity.

“One of the lessons that we must draw from the Mandela legacy is that we must work together to entrench unity and solidarity in our country,” he said.

His birthday bash started off with visits from old friends and other invited guests who brought him gifts and cards.

Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel, also marked their 12th wedding anniversary. His second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela joined them at the private celebration.

Officials from the Nelson Mandela Foundation team up with South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to hand over gifts: books, toys, blankets and birthday cake to orphans and vulnerable children.

“We’ve come to give these children a good day,” said Boniswa Nyati, the Foundation’s Information Resources Officer.

“We want to make them feel happy and special. We want to make them feel loved because that’s very special to them,” she said.

“Mr Mandela wants us to do this every day; these kids must feel that there is someone who loves them. Even if they don’t have mothers or fathers, there will always be people like Madiba who are there for them.”

SAQA’s Director of the National Learners’ Records Database Yvonne Shapiro asked people to “make an amazing difference” though they don’t have to be like Mandela.

“Whether you are a Mandela or anyone else, your contribution in your own part of the world is the most important thing.”

celebrating international nelson mandela day


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Global leaders on Sunday join Nelson Mandela to celebrate his 92nd birthday.

Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, has committed 67 years of his life to the cause of humanity and justice, spending 27 years in prison for resisting white minority apartheid rule.

As part of honouring Mandela whose birthday was last year recognised by the United Nations as “Nelson Mandela International Day”, the day was set aside to reflect on the great man’s many years of political life. Messages of best wishes across the world continue to pour on the frailing anti-apartheid hero as he celebrates the day with family and friends in his Johannesburg home.

The former president of Finland hailed Mandela for giving 67 years of his life, exhorting people to do the same by offering 67 minutes of their lives to change the world for the better. Martti Ahtisaari is a member of an independent group of eminent global leaders formed by Mandela.

After his release in 1999, Mandela was elected into office four years later, serving only one term in office. He was replaced by Thabo Mbeki.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Mandela as “a hero to people of all backgrounds whose story is filled with an amazing strength and integrity of spirit.”

“There is no one more deserving of this unprecedented international recognition, and I am delighted to offer him my warmest wishes on this special day,” she said.

Jimmy Carter, former US president said, “Nelson Mandela has given us a wonderful opportunity and duty to do something positive and active on Mandela Day.”

His previous birthdays were celebrated in the village in grand style. But according to his family, a group of 92 children from villages around his childhood home in Eastern Cape province would celebrate the day with him.

South Africa’s president, who is expected to address thousands of villagers at Mandela’s birthplace of Mvezo, one of the poorest areas in the country, had urged villagers to emulate Mandela by dedicating 67 minutes of their time helping each other.

“Madiba’s 67 years of uninterrupted and selfless service to the people of South Africa and the world culminated in the birth of a new South Africa, united in diversity,” said president Jacob Zuma.

ethiopia: over 21,000 pregnant women die


a struggling ethiopian mother/compassion

An estimated 21,300 Ethiopian women died due to pregnancy related causes in 2008, a new study says.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute study, “Benefits of Meeting the Contraceptive Needs of Ethiopian Women”, also documents that about 7,300 of these cases are unwanted pregnancies, blaming low levels of contraceptive use as the main reason.

More than 7 in 10 Ethiopian women use “ineffective traditional methods of contraception” instead of modern contraception.

“Poor women have an especially hard time having only the number of children they want. Although their desired family size is larger than that of their better-off counterparts, poor women experience a larger gap between wanted and actual fertility,” the study shows.

“In 2005, the poorest women had 1.5 children more than they wanted, whereas the wealthiest, who likely have better access to contraceptives, had 0.9 children more than they wanted.”

The report says increased investment in contraceptive services is capable of creating considerable financial and health benefits. Ethiopia could save $34 million a year by meeting unmet demand for contraceptive services.

“It would cost $118 million to fulfill half of unmet need for modern contraceptives and $182 million to supply all women in need of a modern method…These costs, which may seem high at first glance, are more than compensated for by the savings that accrue from avoiding medical care expenditures related to unintended pregnancies and unplanned childbearing.”

gambian coupists sentenced to death


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 The Gambia’s high court on Thursday sentenced eight men, including the former army chief of staff, to death for a coup plot against the government of President Yahya Jammeh. President Jammeh, a former army leutnant, came to power through a 1994 coup.

The eight men are Lt. Gen. Lang Tombong Tamba, former chief of defense staff of The Gambia armed forces; Brig. Gen. Omar Bun Mbye, former deputy chief of defense staff; Col. Lamin Badjie, former head of military intelligence at The Gambia armed forces; Lt. Col. Kawsu Camara, former head of Kanilai Family Farm; Modou Gaye, former deputy inspector general of police; Gibril Ngorr Secka, former head of mission at the Gambian Embassy in Guinea Bissau; and Abdoulie Joof and Yousef Ezziden.

Until their conviction, Mr. Joof and Ezziden were renown businessmen.

Justice Emmanuel Amadi, a Nigerian, said the men were convicted under The Gambia’s treason law.

“After going through the evidence of the prosecution and the defense, I find all the accused persons guilty and accordingly sentence them to death on all three counts,” he told a crowded court in the capital Banjul.

The convicts and their family members broke down in tears. They have only 30 days to file an appeal. Defence lawyer Pap Chessayin Secka said he was disappointed about the judgment, and vowed to contest it at the appeals court.