Monday, May 30, 2011

Why No Youth Revolution for the Sub-Saharan Africa?


Last week I attended an opened debate on the Arab awakening organised by a major African nonprofit organisation and realised that nobody was tweeting nor the organiser had a functioning Twitter profile. Bang!!! That was a wake up call.

Since the beginning of this year, there has been hysteria about information communication technologies (ICTs) especially the use of mobile and online media. Nonprofit organisations and mainstream media have been stressing the importance and role that ICTs can play for human rights, development and social justice. More importantly, the Arabe awakening in the Middle East countries which echo the youth revolution in Tunisia has been an historical moment, evidence of the importance of new media for democracy.

While we acknowledge successful stories with the use of these tools and their potential in galvanising youth for civil activism and other sensitive issues, there is feeling that the sub-Saharan Africa region is behind and seems unable to seize the momentum with revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Should youth in Sub-Saharan countries expect identic revolutions or what should they do?

There are lessons to learn from these revolutions.

I strongly believe that every revolution has something specific and its media coverage has particular dimensions. Just as the army played a major role in the Egyptian uprising, I will expect tribes to define the outcomes of unrest in Yemen.

Therefore, I would oppose ideas that Africa or more specifically the sub-Saharan Africa will not experience a youth revolution because internet penetration and social media user numbers are lower, or because the role of tribes in Sub-Saharan countries is not as powerful as in Arabic countries.

Rather, I suggest looking at factors which played in favor of youth in Tunisia, Egypt and at certain extend Yemen. Doing such exercise will help us understand where Africa’s revolution may start and how should we approach what still be a dream for freedom and better life for millions of Africans oppressed in authoritarian regimes. There must be something specific that Sub-Saharan youth should build from.

Here are four small social facts which I think play a major role in youth revolution in North Africa and the Middle East:

1. Friday prayers: Is Islam more favorable to revolution than the Christian religion? – one could ask. This is a pertinent question worth a research that I will not try here to discuss. To say the truth I have not an answer to the question. However, on a simple consideration of the role Friday prayers play, we should realise that they served as catalysers to gather thousands. Consequently, though governments may have declared state-of-emergency and ipso facto restricts movement of population, they could not deny them their right to pray.
As young, old, children and women go to pray on Friday and get to the street soon after, that was a blow to security forces. I personnaly believe that this wouldn’t be easy if people had to come from their home.


The context of Sub-Saharan African countries where religions are far more diversified, people are scattered between so many believes. The hope of a Friday prayer meeting effect in such a case is very small unless interfaith and faith based organisations take the lead to galvanised masses to get into street after their Sunday services.

2. Use of social media: While many things are still being said about Twitter and Facebook. I would like to emphasise that there are many other tools that have been used such as other arab networking sites. But more importantly, the fact that English was used mainly and not the Arabic, contributed to raise awareness to a far more bigger audience especially in the west. Which outcomes into more pressure on the regime.

In the Sub-Saharan region, there are particularities/preferences which must be taken in account. The region has francophone, anglophone and lusophone countries and each group has specific social networks. For example, in South Africa, more youth use Mxit while in French speaking countries Yahoo Messenger chat and MySpace not long ago were top social networking sites. A prerequisite research on most used network on the ground is indispensable if social medial as to play an important role alike in Middle East.

3. Geopolitic: International institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union have been criticised of double stardard when dealing with human rights abuses in some countries or regions. We cannot ignore the strategic importance that stability in some countries play for peace in the region or countries resources role in the global economy. I was not surprised to see how the USA/the West acted with urgency on the Egyptian revolution than they did in Tunisia. Egypt weights in the balance for Israel/Middle East peace process.

The chance for most sub-Saharan countries to get at the eye of the USA/the West and translate into their action will take Africa youth/protestors to play the right tune. Colonial powers, alike France and Great Britain have each different interest and often take firm action in their colonies. I was not surprised that France almost played it solo in Ivory Cost to help the elected president Alassane Ouattara gets into power. A concerted action such as in Libya, should it be needed in a Sub-Saharan francophone or Anglophone country is not likely I personally think.

4. Revolutions with no face: The fact that there was no leader to the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen made it even more popular. Since the protest could not or abstain to get politicised, consequently it gained credibility to thousands of citizens.

Peaceful protest in the street of many African countries still has to be seen. Yet, if that should happen, protesters will have to stand their ground against the crackdown from regimes in place as well as resist opportunistic politicians who may highjack or weaken their revolution.

Overall, whatever we see or have seen in Egypt and Tunisia did not start this year. The revolution in Egypt did not just happened in Tahrir squared. It has been in gestation underground, inside and outside Egypt borders. Many events and circumstances contributed to shaping a revolution.

Just as the case in North Africa, many African countries are going through phase of protest and repression.

- DR Congo: Congolese diaspora in Europe, USA, Canada and South Africa have been protesting and disturbing gathering of whoever endorse publically president Kabila for the upcoming elections. Though these protests show a lack of coordination, more and more Congolese have started supporting this cause and oppose the reelection of Kabila who has been in charge for 10 years. Unless those in Kinshasa join and get to the street, they won’t be pressure on the regime.

- Uganda: People got to the street to protest against the president Museveni reelection, the rising fuel price as well as food cost. Museveni regime did crackdown on the protest which since seem have lost momentum. I find it unfortunate that protestors endorsed Besigye, Museveni’s main opposant as the main figure to their cause. I still not see how events in Uganda can lead to a revolution because tribal alliances and citizens’ affinities toward Besigye will weaken it. Protestors’ grieves may not be viewed by other Ugandans as a common concern.

- Zimbabwe and Swaziland: We have heard about civil society organisations protests which had been violently suppressed. In these countries, internet penetration still at its lowest compared to other African countries and the cost of telecommunication is among the highest in the continent. Putting in place a massive protest would require the use of adequate off-line media that organisers do not have despite backing and supports from South African trade unions like COSATU which has been a think-tank for civil rights activists in the region.

- Rwanda: The government in Rwanda has nothing to fear from inside. The threat is outside – the opposition to Kagame has been organising. Reports that the Rwandans government made death threats onto two Rwandans in exile is not surprising. Hundreds of thousands of Hutu still in exile and some of them have been leaving in refugee camps in DR Congo and Central African Republic for more than 17 years fearing repression in Rwanda. Now, using social media and traditional media such as Al Jazeera, this group is lobbying its cause for freedom in Rwanda. Soon or later, if the regime in Kigali doesn’t become inclusive of other ethnic groups, another violent revolution is to be feared.

Definitely, the African continent is the host to the world longest regimes, with head-of-state into power for more than 20 years in countries like Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Burkina Faso. More than in any other continent, Africans as a whole deserve the right to freedom and development. However, the possibility with a revolution in sub-Saharan African countries will also rely on the youth’s courage to overcome institutional repression and the ability to coordinate massive protests.

There is no doubt that both African youth and head-of-states are learning from unfolding events in the Middle East and North Africa. Given this circumstance, only the courage, unpredictability and creativity of African youth will give them the upper hand over dictatorship. The digital divide is a fact in Sub-Saharan Africa with household crippled by unemployment and HIV/AIDS. Unless African youth learn to use what they have and bypass states censorship to mobilise the masses, the revolution will never happen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The leftovers

Above all expectations, South Africa has hosted ten months ago one of the best FIFA World Cup in history. However, once again, you may have been asking which legacy this event has left to South Africans or at least what the country has gained out of it. To find an answer, we should assess the fact around us. One way of doing is by looking out of your window, what do you see?

The year 2010 saw the first FIFA World cup organised on an African soil. After years of polemics and pessimistic arguments from overseas media, South Africa won the BID and promised to hold the best tournament. With an event of such magnitude, consequently, millions of rands have been invested into infrastructures such as road, accommodations, leisure and tourism by both the private and public sector.

Today, the prospect of new market, first time buyers/investors, expectation raised with hundreds of thousands fans entering the country last year has surely left some local investors better off or worst.

Ten months after the event, looking back, which investment has been worth? I look out of my window.

From my office at SANGONeT 29th floor UCS building (http://tinyurl.com/69upgws), the Protea Hotel Packtownian’s (http://tinyurl.com/643foz) rooftop is six floors below my window. I have eye witnessed fourteen months ago the refurbishing of the Hotel, especially its rooftop as they created few square meter four-holes artificial green pitch Golf on the pavement.

Keeping things short, to juge by what I see in the past weeks, the Hotel’s small Gold green has been an attraction.

First I was stroke in December to see a group of people on the Hotel roof for the first time. A group of Chinese with camera zoom were taking pictures. Were they of those expected to come back after the world cup?

Since, I have seen people/couple of young and old, playing to get balls in the holes - apparently they enjoy the game.

What do you see? I have seen more than once music/show company’s actors and actresses in production at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre (http://tinyurl.com/5rvpw8z) tinning under Jozi’s sun on the rooftop. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool and they seem having fun playing ‘Golf’. Hopefully they will come back…

Two weeks ago the rooftop was seemingly set for a night civil wedding. Unfortunately I had to leave office and have lost the picture I took.

The Hotel is hundred meters from the Civic Theatre and it is the second biggest Hotel in Braamfontein after the Devonshire Hotel - Orion (http://tinyurl.com/6btojoy). Thus, I would mislead to conclude that the busy on the roof/Parktownian Hotel is a fall out of 2010 World Cup or what so ever investment they have made.

Nevertheless, the point I am trying to make is that millions in investments made last year will in a long run translate into assets and entrepreneurs will rip benefit. Operators should get creative and market infrastructures build for and around the 2010 FIFA Work Cup. There has been fear that built world class stadium stand as white elephant due to management/maintenance cost. And it’s unfortunate that marketings of Project like Rea Vaya (http://www.reavaya.org.za/ ) have gone to sleep soon as the event was over.

Initiative such as which produced Bono’s U2 mega concert into the Soccer City has to be encouraged until South Africa hosts another major event. Who knows? With the unpredictable Africa, turmoil such in Libya if they have to happen in Gabon or Equatorial Guinea, South Africa will be hosting the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

First nativity story


I wonder how I would react when the time to be born my first daughter arrives. I have heard that some jumped the wall out of panic though they had the gate remote…

My one-day story starts from 1am on 18 January 2011 when I was awaken by my wife: ‘babs – I think my water is breaking’. From there on, started a day which seemed will never end.

Twenty minutes later; I was in the hospital waiting room. Night shift nurses busy in their offices, I was left with 26 empty chairs, no Tv, nobody to talk to just a hope that my wife would give me a call to come over once emergency procedures were over.

So lonely, yet so happy to end nine months of patience and ‘lost in mind’ at the idea to becoming a dad.

I am checking my watch; I must be there in the delivery room when my girl arrives…
Twelve hours later, I was still at hospital, up and down, calling and smsing my wife in the maternity hall. She was in huge pain – more than we imagine. I became so stressed but I try keep my hope thinking that her being at this mother and child specialist’s hospital would avoid us biter surprises.

Anyway, at 3pm, I decided to go back home and comeback later. As going, I found myself leaving the hospital behind seven “Sisi” with no idea that I was going to be part of an interesting ride back home.

After the security guard checked my bag, I realised that none of them entered the taxi. Why? Because the back seat was empty. For those of you who never use public transport in Joburg, a standard taxi has 5 long seats to carry 13 passengers. But the inconvenience is that the back seat squeezes 4 people no-matter their size and shape. So, seeing those “Sisi” outside meant that I was candidate for the unwanted seat…eish. I played gentleman of cause, Kamikaze I should say…to be squashed by three hundreds pounds of “African shapes and curves”. Already two minutes in that seat, I could not feel my laps.

Soon as the taxi was in motion, something interesting started…corporate gossip! Free-Good-gossip I would say. That helped me think about other things than just the woman I love that is in pain.

Squeezed but so lucky though to seat just close to the main gossiper. Beautiful, strong and funny woman - my right neighbor hijacked the taxi. She got everyone attention and laughter with her jokes. These are situations that you would never experience alone in your own car…really free comedy.

In fact, I could not understand everything but could grasp the funniest parts;…morata, flying hormones, don’t taste my knowledge, we are into trouble… I realised that these seven Sisi in medical uniform were soon to become doctors and that they have been attending a workshop at the hospital I spent my night at. One thing for sure, they hated their supervisors as she was giving them hard time.

As unforgettable as was this nativity day, the contagious laugh in the taxi made everyone smiling. It was raining in Joburg and I had to go home, fix the house left in limbo of ‘water break’s’ panic. By the time I reach home, I have collected my pieces…I was in Adam’s mood. Going stronger, I realised that for these Sisi, the supervisor was just a step on their way to a bigger achievement. From there on, I remember stories I read and heard about how husbands panic when labour time nocks. I was doing no so bad – the gossip and laughter was a positive fate.

Yet, Daddy-to-become I still to make my mind – should or should her not accept C-section after 11 hours into contractions.

Thanks to technology, not only online forum provided us with so much step-by-step knowledge (insight) on pregnancy, also the use of mobile phone in maternity allowed me as talking to my wife to experience the screenings of women in contraction for the first time. I should say, out of what I listened; labour must be a painful experience. That explains why some of us love our mum so deeply. Women deserve respect and I love my wife even more! I told a friend soon after.

Back at hospital an hour later, I have been told that she was no more in the same hall. Wondering what happened, I went up and down to check lists of newly deliveries. At the moment a black woman in the forties (Her Dr) asked me; is Mariah George your wife? It took seconds for me to say ‘YES’. I knew that would mean - yes to ‘daddihood’. She has done great and you have a baby girl, she said.

From that instant until two days after, I did not know how to feel or react. Inside I was excited but overwhelmed at the same time with responsibilities now over my shoulder with this pretty, quiet human being. From the third day when I change my first nappy, I realised the bond that has started between her and myself. I suddenly fall in love with her…

While my crush on her still getting stronger, Today, I took time out to read comments, wishes and reactions from friends and families. So touched by everyone of them. It’s great to have lovely friends.

What have I learnt from my first nativity day? First of all, the joy that comes with becoming a daddy for the first time cannot be compared to how many sleepless night that may follow. Looking into my daughter “BLISS” innocent eyes and feel her trust is just osmosis. Secondly, if you want to live longer, you must learn to look at the good side of things. We chose to ignore lines that warn us about newborn hustles and sleepless nights. I remember being told, University studies are so hard, being married is so difficult life, pregnancy is a nightmare… and we have been through all of them.

So, life goes on. New experiences come with new challenges and new challenges brew further joy.

In God we trust.

Hahaha…please allow to say: Being single sucks…

I wish you find someone that you love. Life is about sharing.

Mucha!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Congolese People in love with One South African Woman

‘…not a polyandry talk but our deep appreciation’ says FOCAS Executive Director, Serge Mubuilu.

Yesterday, the Congolese community led by the Forum of the Congolese Organizations in South Africa (FOCAS) walked the streets of Yeoville to raise awareness about prejudice and violation of Human Rights perpetrated by militia and neighbouring countries’ armies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and used the occasion to praise the Judge Navanethem Pillay’s Mapping Report which clearly indicates that DRC’s neighbours are extremely implicated in destabilising the East Congo.

Personally, I would wish that this be the starting of a new era of public awareness and truth about the situation in the Eastern DRC where violations of Human Rights have been so severe than in any other region in the world. Despite independent reports arguing that there has been bigger genocide in Eastern DRC than that of Tutsi in Rwanda - nobody really cares?

It is not a secret that geopolitics and greediness of multinationals are pulling strings in the situation in DRC and International media agencies, international organisations on Human Rights and the Africa Union have been all passive to atrocities happening at date in what they call ‘the forgotten war’.

I have no doubt that the deep hope of poor dispersed, killed or enslaved young men, women and children in the East is to see more alignment under Pillay’s courage foot-prints.

May be the time has arrived to galvanise the whole Congolese civil society in perspective of presidential election next year. May be this is the time to take action and support those who dare to speak and expose the truth.

A woman gave us Jesus…a woman may be showing us the way to courage.

Here FOCAS Press Release:
All the Congolese People in love with One South African woman

On the 4th of January, Congolese people remember those of them who lost their lives for independence which should have triggered the advent of an economic justice different from the colonial economy of exploitation which caused the death of about Eight millions Congolese. After 50 year of independence, the Martyrs’ day was a double event that added on the commemoration of the martyrs of independence all the martyrs of Justice and victims of Human Rights violence, (Patrice Emery Lumumba, Floribert TShebeya,…,) atrocities, massacres and Genocide of the Congolese people that has happened in the country since 1993 up to date .

Many Congolese and other Congo friends joined the barefoot march convened by the Forum of the Congolese Organizations in South Africa (FOCAS) along Rocky Street in Yeoville to commemorate the double event and demand Justice.

Mr. Serge Mubilulu, the Executive Director of the Forum indicated that the barefoot march was organized to protest against genocide that is ongoing in their country and to demand the trial of perpetrators. We are determined to claim Justice for Congolese people and we want the all world to be aware of the genocide that happened in the DRC and therefore be actively involved in the justice process in the DRC, he said. We all love Judge Navanethem Pillay and thank our fellow African sister, a South African Mama who fought apartheid, for resisting different pressures from our enemies and publishing the UN mapping report that has laid an unyielding foundation of the justice process in the DRC, he added.

In fact, last year in August French media(Le Monde) published a draft of the UN mapping report which accused Rwanda of committing genocide in the DRC and many neighboring countries’ armies, rebel groups and individuals in the DRC of perpetrating grave human rights violations and massacres in the DRC.

Later, in October last year, after many pressures from Rwanda and Kagame’s friends, the final report was published with changes uttering that crimes were committed and if investigated by an appropriate court, those massacres could be tantamount to Genocide.

Taking that report as a strategic instrument of struggle for justice, the Congolese people are grateful to the South African woman who published it.

Mr. Bakengeshi Twendele, the Executive Secretary of FOCAS revealed that arrangements are on track to award human rights defender prize to Navanethem Pillay the South African woman loved by all the Congolese.--//

Pillay's act may be a drop in ocean but joining positive action from each individual Congolese or non Congolese wanting to see change in Eastern DRC will make the differnce. It is sad though that FOCAS website is not operational. Hopefully they will get it back on track to lead those who care.