today in history

January 31, 1976. Ernesto Miranda, famous from the Supreme Court ruling on Miranda vs. Arizona is stabbed to death.

international news

international

Africa has forgotten the women leaders of its independence struggle


When the British colonial officers refused to give permits for demonstrations, activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti mobilized local market women for what she called “picnics” and festivals.One of few women in early 1920s Nigeria to receive post-primary education, Ransome-Kuti used her privilege to coordinate the resistance against colonialism in Nigeria that not only targeted the British but also the local traditional figureheads they used to enforce their rules.The Abeokuta Women’s Union, which she founded, protested unjust taxes, corruption and the lack of women’s representation in decision-making corridors. While she is probably better known now as the mother of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti (an activist in his own right), Ransome-Kuti’s role and years as the mother of anti-colonial activism in Nigeria are rarely celebrated outside of early primary school texts. Her son once sang: “She’s the only mother of Nigeria.”In many ways, the muted legacy of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti in Nigeria’s independence movement plays out across the continent.In the six decades since many African countries attained political independence, the stories of women in the liberation struggle is yet to be told and celebrated unlike their male counterparts who wasted no time in having universities, airports and major highways named for them and affixing their faces on national currencies.For those whose stories have been told, such as anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, they are riddled with double standards and sexist tropes which often try to to position them as “helpers” to men and reduce them to wives.Women, both educated and uneducated, were pivotal to liberation parties, although they were often pigeonholed with the less powerful women’s wing of the party, if it had one. While they had little opportunity to be part of the broader organogram of these parties, leaders of the women’s wing were able to demonstrate enormous leadership potential.Within a year of being recruited, Bibi Titi Mohammed, as head of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) women’s wing, had attracted 5,000 women to join. Bibi Titi used women’s cultural and economic network to mobilize, exchange information, sell party membership cards, announce rallies, organize marches, and raise money for TANU, which would go on to become the freedom party of modern Tanzania.In Ghana, Mabel Dove-Danquah, described as a ‘trail-blazing feminist’ was well ahead of her time as an outspoken advocate for women’s equality. Dove-Danquah worked as a writer, journalist and editor for various liberation-minded newspapers including the Accra Evening News which was founded by Kwame Nkrumah. She was among a host of women Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party used to advance the struggle for independence and would go on to become the first African woman to be elected by popular vote to parliament in 1954.The CPP’s women’s wing were made up largely of market women who, while crisscrossing the country to buy and sell, went along with the gospel of self-determination. Just like in other African struggles, market women were also the financial backbone of the party but as Ghana commemorated 62 years of independence this month, their names and contributions have effectively been written out of popular history.In contexts where the fight for independence took a particularly violent turn, women were also on the front lines. Young Muslim women were a central part of the FRELIMO resistance against Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique. FRELIMO recruited teenage girls and young women as guerrilla fighters and crucially in intelligence gathering as they were seen by the Portuguese as non-threatening. They also performed domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning.Women were pivotal to liberation parties, but were often pigeonholed with the less powerful “women’s wing” of the movement.But the lack of recognition for the role of women in history telling, is not unique to Africa. Around, the world, there have been attempts to rewrite the past and make it fuller and nuanced, says professor Akosua Darkwah, head of the department of sociology at the University of Ghana. “Often because, these stories are being told by men so they tell it from their perspective,” she says, “but there has to be a constant reminder that it couldn’t have been that all the women were just sitting down watching.” In 2017, Darkwah co-authored a paperabout women and post-independence African politics.In struggle times, the leaders of African liberation spoke passionately about women’s equality and recognized their contributions. By Nkrumah’s own admission: “much of the success of the CPP has been due to efforts of women members. From the very beginning, women have been the chief field organizers. They have travelled through innumerable towns and villages in the role of propaganda secretaries and have been responsible for the most in bringing about the solidarity and cohesion of the party.”But that progressive rhetoric was at best a veneer as they did little post-independence to structurally include women in governance and remove sexist colonial-era laws. Although his government introduced a gender quota (9%) [pdf p.3] in the legislature in 1960, Kwame Nkrumah’s cabinet as head of government and president, for example, was exclusively male for 11 out of the 14 years he governed. As the economy of newly independent Ghana found itself in dire straits, due to decades of colonialism, the Cold War and his bankrolling of other liberation movements, Nkrumah, picked on market women as a cause of the economic challenges.Again, women were not spared the brutalities that accompanied criticism of the authoritarian governments that ruled in post-independence Africa. Shortly after independence, Bibi Titi was arrested by the government of her former ally, Julius Nyerere, on trumped-up treason charges. She was sentenced to life in prison but was released after two years on pardon and she spent the rest of her life out of public view.Similarly, Malawi’s first female lawyer Vera Chirwa endured exile and long years of imprisonment when she along with others, fell out with president Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Chirwa is a founding member of the Malawi Congress Party, which eventually led the country to won independence. She also founded the League of Malawian Women which did not only fight for the rights of women but was a leading supporter of the resistance against white domination in Malawi.Generations later, the power that women’s wings of political parties across the continent wielded have been decimated and usurped by first ladies. They have been depopulated of charismatic, educated, professional women to the extent that a coherent progressive feminist agenda can now be found with civil society. For example, the women’s league of the African National Congress (which has been described as “the gatekeepers of patriarchy”) until 2017 maintained South Africa was not ready for a woman president, despite the party possessing a cadre of accomplished women politicians. Tellingly, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remains Africa’s only elected female president.There are many untold stories of women’s role in the resistance against European colonialism from the women at the frontlines in Algeria and Zimbabwe to the Somali women poets whose words captivated and inspired their freedom movement. However, a new generation of African feminists are determined to reclaim these narratives.In Lusaka, Zambia, the Museum of Women’s History has collected 5,000 pieces of audio records and other artifacts and is already changing the narrative about women and equality, which was nearly erased by colonialism. Similarly, tech savvy feminists are using the occasion of Ghana heritage month to reposition women’s role in the history.But professor Darkwah cautions: “That is not the job for only feminists…this is our history, this is a more complete rendering of our past, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of only young feminists to tell us that. It should be all of us.”Souurce: QZLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

March 18, 2019, 1:48 pm
international

‘No country, no region’ can tackle global challenges alone says UN’s Mohammed


“In the regions today, no country is alone. Our borders don’t make any difference in the Sahel when we talk about issues of terrorism, migration, and climate change”, Ms. Mohammed said on Tuesday at the opening of the Kaduna State Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Acceleration Conference 2019.“No country, no region can tackle the global challenges of today”, she spelled out.Under the theme "Building effective partnership for accelerated progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals", the two-day conference aims to fortify partnerships to fast-track implementation of the global goals, which each country is adapting to reach ambitious targets on poverty and hunger eradication, among other challenges. Ms. Mohammed advocated strongly for gender parity saying that “part of our population, especially women and girls, has to be put at the centre of the results” and not only “at the centre of our policies”.Moreover, she continued, “we need to see young people at the centre of the impact that is made on everyone’s life. Because they are not the future tomorrow; they are the future today.”Calling the rise in global hunger over the past few years “a great concern”, Ms. Mohammed underscored that the world has enough to feed itself two to three times over, but inequalities mean that millions go to bed hungry and “short change us in the revenue [that] otherwise would have been put into governance.”Despite a global decline in the number of people living in poverty, the Deputy Secretary-General observed that there are many reasons why extreme poverty remains. She singled out the two explanations of “when there is no enabling environment and when there is no stability”.Ms. Mohammed stressed the importance of using a national outlook, within a regional context, to drive what are global goals.The Deputy Secretary-General also argued that effective partnerships are vital to achieving the SDGs.  As a case in point she focused on the room, where federal and state governments, members of the international community, civil society, and local and community authorities, were all participants.Also speaking at the conference, Governor Mallam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said that Kaduna state stood out as an SDG pacesetter. He noted that his administration has adopted the targets and indicators, and developed an integrated, sustainable infrastructure that would make Kaduna a leading investment destination in Nigeria and provide it with a “comparative advantage’’ to make it globally competitive.-UN News CentreLeague of Justice Online

January 25, 2019, 12:17 pm

african news

africa

The fight against Nigeria’s northeast terrorism is also a battle against climate change


For all his adult life, Mohammed Haruna has worked as an accountant at a local bank. But with the escalation of the Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria’s Northeast, investors shied away. Five years ago, Haruna lost his job. To sustain his four kids and wife, the 49-year-old has desperately been looking for a way to make money.He points at the big pile of wood behind him—it’s what he is offering clients today. As soon as everything is sold, he will go back into the bush to cut further trees.The demand is high because firewood has become the number one source of energy in Nigeria’s conflict-ridden Northeast.One loaded pick-up truck after another is leaving the market on the way to the customers’ homes. Five years ago, one load cost around 12,000 naira, today the price has more than doubled to roughly 25,000 naira ($70). And with every year that the conflict with Boko Haram persists, both demand and price are rising—and simultaneously the number of people looking for an income in the wood business.It is people who have lost their jobs due to the troubled economy, as well as expelled farmers and fishers, who were forced to move into the city because of the conflict and were deprived of their livelihood. Around 2,000 are registered with the official Association of Firewood Sellers in Maiduguri, a city of one million people. But additionally, many cut down trees illegally and violated Nigeria’s rarely observed environmental laws.Sustainability has no place in the midst of conflict. As firewood seller’s association, they try to work for the conservation of the bushland by telling their members to only cut down dead trees and participate in tree planting exercises across Borno state. Logistics for these exercises are mostly organized by the government, while the association is providing the labor force. By doing so, they try to make up for the trees that were cut down. “But we have problems with the many woodcutters, who are not part of our association because we have no control about what they do,” he says.  Also environmental activists are concerned and push for stricter regulations. “The Sahara is directly in front of our doors. If we are not careful, all this will soon turn into a desert”, says Cheri Lawan, a doctoral candidate on sustainability management at the University of Maiduguri.“Of course, climate change is a global problem that we cannot fix by stopping to cut down our trees”, he says. “But we have to start somewhere and protect the few resources that we still have.”Lawan is convinced the changing climate is the main trigger of the conflicts in the region. Nearly 80% of people here earn their livelihood from agriculture. But the increasingly irregular rainfall has been leading to harvest shortfalls. And Lawan says when people have nothing to eat they will be ready to take up a gun to survive. In addition, the level of education in the region is low and poverty is spreading. As has been noted many times before over the last decade, these factors make this region of Nigeria fertile ground for terrorist groups.Strategic locationIslamic terrorist group Boko Haram, which roughly translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has been committing attacks on locals and institutions in northeastern Nigeria since 2009. Over 37.500 people have died in the conflict with the group according to data collected by the Council of Foreign Relations. Millions have had to flee the wider area with many living in IDP (Internally displaced person) camps miles away from home.The Lake Chad Basin, at the borders between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and the Central African Republic, is an important strategic location as the last green oasis before the Sahara Desert. While the jihadist rebels had initially had blocking Western education at the forefront of their terrorism, today it is mainly about supremacy around Lake Chad, says Kwaku Arhin-Sam, researcher for West Africa Migration Governance at Arnold-Bergstraesser Institute in Germany: “It all seems to develop into the direction of a caliphate in the region. But no one really knows, what they are planning.”But there are indications the self-confidence of the jihadists is increasing.Shortly before mid-August, an armed group blocked the highway that links Maiduguri with the Nigerian capital Abuja—in broad daylight. No one here believes the conflict will end anytime soon.Quite the contrary: More and more people have to flee from their hometowns. In total, Nigeria already counts around 2 million internally displaced persons. They look for shelter in towns such as Monguno—hosting already around 130,000 refugees, and every month brings new arrivals.Floods and droughtsOne of them is Hauwa Mohammed, a 70-year-old fisherwoman, who had to flee from the port town of Baga. She is sitting in front of a hut in the reception center in Monguno, where recently arrived people are assigned to different parts of the camp. “Two of my sons have been caught by Boko Haram. I heard, one of them is even fighting for them now”, she says. “It’s the biggest torture to think that they are in the hands of these terrorists.”Hauwa Mohammed grew up next to Lake Chad. For decades, her family has been following the same routines: During the day, the men would sail out on the water in their long narrow boats and returned around one o’clock at night with the fresh catch. Then, the women prepared the meal for the morning. “But the men brought less and less fish home. Soon, we were sitting in front of empty plates.”Prior to the conflict, the family would probably simply have moved. But the presence of Boko Haram has made this close to impossible, as big parts of the state of Borno are too dangerous. Thereby, the population’s ability to react to the changing environment has eroded. Instead, 10.7 million people in the region became dependent on the food supply of international aid organizations.“Climate change is a multiplicator of the many threats,” says Chitra Nagarajan, lead author of a study by the research institute adelphi. For six years, Nagarajan researched the implications of climate change and conflict in the Lake Chad Basin.Between 1970 and 1990, 90% of the lake disappeared, a tragic memory for many. While Lake Chad hasn’t been shrinking anymore in recent years—it has even regained slightly in size—the consequences of climate change are devastating: During the rainy season, there are more and more floods, during the dry seasons, severe droughts have become more frequent. Farmers fight against harvest shortages, herders have to go further in the search of pastures for their animals.Heading southMohammed Haruna, the firewood seller, testifies about the changes in the region. He is from the Kare-Kare tribe, traditionally engaged in agriculture, especially the cultivation of millet, maize, and groundnuts, as well as stockbreeding. However, the yields are reducing from year to year. “Many of us have moved to other regions that are more fertile,” Haruna says.That means moving southwards, into the so-called middle belt of Nigeria. However, the locals here are not exactly excited about the arrival of their compatriots from the North. The competition for scarce resources is already escalating. Between 2016 and 2018 alone, over 3,600 people have died – over half of them in the past year alone. This means, in 2018, conflicts over land use have caused around six times more deaths than the terror of Boko Haram.Solutions against the long-term effects of the climate crisis and the conflict have to be addressed urgently, says Haruna. Against the rising level of poverty, against the deforestation of the bushland and against the spread of the Sahara. “Even if the conflict is going to end at some point, the consequences of climate change destroy our livelihood.”A peaceful future for his four kids here in the state of Borno? It is hard for the former banker to believe that. Governments around the world would have to adopt much stricter climate policies, he adds..But also here in Maiduguri the topic needs to receive more attention – not least amongst the firewood sellers, Haruna says.“This is a fight that will keep us busy much longer than the one against Boko Haram,” Haruna says. Terrorism, that’s an acute crisis. The decisive question is if the Lake Chad region will be able to offer a source of livelihood in the future.If it doesn’t, the security situation is likely to only get worse caution political analysts and environmentalists alike. It’s a perspective which urges governments to take much bigger steps, as the climate crisis has become a strong catalyst of conflicts in Lake Chad, as well as in many other regions of this world. This article was originally printed in the Swiss weekly newspaper WOZ – Die Wochenzeitung. Source: QUARTZ AFRICALEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

October 22, 2019, 3:56 pm
africa

Thousands protest in Sudan, call to disband ex-ruling party


Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Sudan on Monday to call for disbanding former President Omar al-Bashir’s party, the political organ he used to control the country during his 30 years of autocratic rule before being ousted in April.Separately, Sudan’s transitional government and a main rebel faction signed a political declaration amid peace negotiations that began last week, taking a new step toward ending the country’s yearslong civil wars. The two sides also renewed a nationwide cease-fire for three months.The protests in Khartoum and other parts of the country coincided with the anniversary of an uprising in 1964. That push ended six years of military rule in Sudan following a wave of riots and strikes.Sudan’s current transitional government came to power after a similar campaign of mass unrest, which eventually led the military to overthrow al-Bashir. The country is now ruled by a joint military-civilian administration, which must navigate a delicate path toward eventual democratic elections in just over three years.There were no reports of any clashes with police or casualties during Monday’s protests. The marches renewed demands for independent investigation into the deadly break-up of a protest camp by security forces in June.Police blocked off main streets Monday leading to the presidential palace and the military’s headquarters in Khartoum — the site of June’s deadly dispersal — said Asil Abdu, an activist.A statement by the police warned against “creating a state of chaos,” which it said could lead to “unfavorable consequences.”Videos circulated online showed protesters marching in the capital and other cities such as Atbara, a northern transport hub where the uprising began in December.Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok gave a televised speech marking the 1964 uprising, saying: “The revolution needs greater efforts to be completed and achieve its goals.” The appointment of Hamdok, a respected economist, as Sudan’s top civilian leader in August helped lessen fears the military would attempt to cling to power. Last week, he sacked several top bureaucrats, which pleased protest leaders who want the remnants of al-Bashir’s regime purged from all state institutions.The Sudanese Professionals’ Association, which spearheaded the recent uprising, has called for the appointment of regional governors and the formation of a legislative body. Creating an interim parliament was part of a power-sharing agreement signed in August between pro-democracy protesters and the country’s powerful military.The transitional government previously said it won’t appoint governors or the legislative body until it makes peace with the country’s rebel groups. That would be a crucial step, since the transitional government is looking to slash military spending in order to revive the battered economy. The uprising against al-Bashir initially began against economic issues, but escalated into calls for his downfall.Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the Sovereign Council and a government negotiator, said Monday that they had agreed on the agenda for the negotiations with the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of rebel groups from the western Darfur region.“There is a new political will from all sides ... to reach permanent and comprehensive peace,” SRF leader Yasser Arman told The Associated Press by phone.He said this was the first joint cease-fire agreement in five years. In another first, he said the government agreed to allow humanitarian aid deliveries into conflict-affected areas, both from inside and from outside Sudan.The talks are taking place in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, which itself gained independence from the north in 2011 after years of fighting.The transitional authorities have set a six-month deadline for making peace with the rebel groups.A report Monday by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, said achieving peace requires “careful consideration of the accommodations that the rebels are seeking.” The rebels have for years complained of neglect by the central government in Khartoum.The report identified important steps the government should take, including “reverse the imposition of Islamic law on religious minorities, separate religion and state, and provide for a fairer distribution of power and resources to areas in the periphery.”Source: APLEAGUE OF JUSTICE ONLINE

October 22, 2019, 3:46 pm