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DJ Focus bringing African innovation to MIT...

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Recent Posts

Feeding the Monster: Somalia and Aid

Aug 15, 11 Feeding the Monster: Somalia and Aid

Posted by in International

Somalia is experiencing a crippling famine. Again. As the world’s most failed state for several years running, there is little surprise that country has entered yet another period of instability. Since its societal rupture in 1991 with the end of Siad Barre’s regime, Somalia and its inhabitants have experienced what is quite possibly the epitome of hell on earth. As fellow Africans we should feel obliged to donate what we can towards alleviating the effects of this famine and reduce the chronic waves of death and disease every month which are quickly overwhelming every aid agency and related organisation operating there. Indeed, even South Africa’s DIRCO doubled its aid from R4m to R8m in the wake of the highly successful Gift of the Givers mission to Somalia, which provided a temporary reprieve for a fortunate minority in Mogadishu. But before you whip out the checkbook and sign away some savings towards the abyss of Somalia, there are some things you should be aware of. First of foremost, please do not think that 100% of your donation will go towards feeding legitimately hungry Somalis, and neither will it provide unmitigated medicine to those most in need. For the most part, the food or medicine your donations provide will flow straight into the black market, winding up either as currency itself or as a highly-valued commodity on sale in Mogadishu’s Bakara market. This is because Somalia is dominated by clans at odds with each other. Moreover, these clans control large portions of Mogadishu and surrounds, thereby taking a hefty cut from the aid for the use of ports, roads, trucks or even labour before it even gets distributed. Once distributed, this heavily-pruned portion then gets further divided between clans who control the most influence in each section of Somalia. For Mogadishu the lion’s share now goes to Habr Gidr. For those unfamiliar, Habr Gidr and their former leader Mohammed Farah Aidid were the clan responsible for the infamous Blackhawk Down incident, and likewise responsible for destroying Barre’s government...

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Looting in Malawi & UK: similarities and differences

Aug 11, 11 Looting in Malawi & UK: similarities and differences

Posted by in International, Politics

When Malawi found itself dealing with violence between protesters and police over a two-day march in July, commentators were quick to jump to the suggestion that the “Arab Spring” had finally reached Southern Africa. The assumption was that the people of Malawi were rising up against the same kind of dictator as Mubarak in Egypt and news crews got amped up to cover the unfolding story. What really happened, to the disappointment of the news crews, was two days of protest followed by almost a month of calm, with an ultimatum to the government to respond to the protestors’ demands or face further mass action. Much of the coverage of the protests focused on looting, police violence and the destruction of property, not unlike the coverage of the recent riots in British cities. As with the UK, the protests were accompanied by looting by some individuals, often disenfranchised youth. The difference between the two situations, however, is stark. The UK, at least based on reports, seems to be experiencing the inevitable outcome of squeezing social benefits and opportunities for disenfranchised youth at a time when economic conditions mean that jobs are harder to come by and inequality is both more obvious and more strongly resented. John Stupart gives an overview of the London Riots here and an explanation of what might be going on. In Malawi, in contrast, the looting that did take place was a very small fringe at the edges of an otherwise legitimate protest. So legitimate, in fact, that permission was obtained from the police for the marches – although this was retracted and then given again on the day, causing some confusion. This was certainly not a mob of out of control youth – the protests were organised by an umbrella body of civil society organisations, the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), with the support of opposition political parties and church groups. The reason for the protests, and the demands of government, were clear and reasonable, if not easily obtainable....

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A Recipe for Riots – London Edition

Aug 09, 11 A Recipe for Riots – London Edition

Posted by in International

The news and blog world are going ablaze about the London riot (pun intended). Scores arrested! Police injured! Looting rampant! All true, but all completely normal for England. There is a very powerful tonic in having a large population of unemployed youth with too much time courtesy of generous welfare and parents who don’t overly care what they’re up to. With the right circumstances this will almost inevitably result in widespread riots. Of course the police are entirely correct to respond harshly to the thuggery, and there are the normal introspective gazes into London’s undertones of xenophobic strife and lax immigration policies. But these factors simply contribute layers on top of the primary recipe for rioting. There are three major ingredients which are needed to have a good old fashioned riot and looting spree like this: A good culture of rebellion, some sprinkling of socio-economic inequality, and a sufficiently squishy form of state coercion. The culture of rebellion is probably the most important. In western societies there is a good reason why anti-establishment bands and writers get so much purchase from the youth. It’s because they play up the youth’s natural inclination to find a simplistic and impassioned voice against authority, whether parents or state or something in between. Foster that for a period of adolescence and you have an entire demographic ready for riot. Of course the resistance and hostility to authority is not a particularly western thing, but the access to a pop culture scene that nurtures this is generally more freely available in the west. For immigrants living in London, this alone is a powerful tonic, creating a generation of coddled yobs hostile to the state which has ironically been responsible for their access into western society to begin with. Sure, the non-integration of immigrants can be blamed, and one can point out that foreigners in the UK are generally hostile to western cultural tropes, but looking at the images of brand name-clad youths setting shops on fire and getting bitten by police dogs leads...

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How not to play the race card Mr Miyeni

Aug 01, 11 How not to play the race card Mr Miyeni

Posted by in Politics

Eric Miyeni is best known as an urban intellectual, and like all South Africans, is entitled to his opinions, but as a writer, is this the best that he can do?

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Anders Breivik: ‘Why Norway?’

Jul 25, 11 Anders Breivik: ‘Why Norway?’

Posted by in International, News & Media

‘One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests’ sounds like a quote you’d expect an Islamist fundamentalist group would subscribe to. And this is exactly what the Scandinavian community assumed in the aftermath of the explosions that devastated Oslo’s government district on Friday afternoon and the subsequent shooting spree on Norway’s holiday island of Utoya. Many commentators were quick to attribute responsibility to an al Qaeda-esque extremist group. The question which seemed to ring from the coverage by international news networks (from the BBC to Al Jazeera) was ‘why Norway?’ Speculation immediately revolved around Norway’s involvement with NATO in Afghanistan and Libya. Muammar Qadaffi himself had threatened to strike at the heart of Europe and, as a liberal open society unaccustomed to violence or terror of any significance since World War II, Norway may have been seen as a soft target. Another possible angle was that of a Muslim cleric facing deportation who had made similar threats of reprisal. On this aspect, most were at least partially correct – the acts of terror did centre around immigration. But when the suspected terrorist was arrested, the international media was introduced to a creature they had not seen since before the turn of the century: A home-grown, right-wing, nationalist unhappy with multicultural societies and slack immigration policies. Tall with blonde hair, blue eyes and Norwegian citizenship – Anders Behring Brevik was the last person expected to be a terrorist. The peace-loving Norwegians believed an attack would be organised externally by an Islamic terrorist organisation rather than an internally-generated response their own politics. Although bearing the general hallmarks of an attack by Islamic jihadists, from the beginning, the Oslo bombing and the lone-gunman nature of the Utoya shooting did not feel like an al Qaeda attack. It felt more like Timothy McVeigh or even Columbine. However, in this case the suspect was captured alive, not as a credit to the Norwegian authorities, but because Brevik wants to revel in the notoriety and...

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Torture in South African prisons

Gautengers woke on Tuesday morning to the prolonged screaming of a prisoner allegedly being tortured in Pretoria central prison. Talk Radio 702 aired, on the John Robbie morning show, a recording allegedly smuggled out of the prison – of a remand detainee or ATD (awaiting trial detainee, or, as Judge Johann Kriegler prefers to say, “an unsentenced detainee”) having an electrified shield being shoved into his body as part of an “interrogation” by a task team of warders. The detainee – who is still innocent since he has not yet been sentenced – was suspected of having a cell-phone with him. As a result, Correctional Services and the SAPS are investigating allegations of torture against six prison warders. The issue of whether torture exists in SA prisons, how prevalent it is, and what the authorities are doing about it has thus been pushed – at least for maybe two days – into centre stage again. Allegations were also made that the same may have happened to some other remand detainees previously, said Correctional Services in a statement released on Wednesday. It is noteworthy, however, that the government has not yet criminalized torture, despite this being one of the obligations of having ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UN CAT) in 1998. Vincent Moaga of the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) has called for adequate torture legislation to be implemented in line with the UN CAT. “There have been numerous reports of assaults and unnatural deaths in policing and custodial settings in the recent past,” said Clare Ballard of the Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative (CSPRI) on Tuesday. But, for many of these cases, “the alleged perpetrators have been neither investigated nor prosecuted.” One man alleged that he was beaten up so badly by officials at a Free State prison that he is wheelchair-bound and can no longer tie his own shoelaces, according to a letter he sent to the Wits Justice Project (WJP)...

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The AU & NATO – Who is more irrelevant?

Jul 04, 11 The AU & NATO – Who is more irrelevant?

Posted by in International

Within the NATO alliance, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of a “dim future” for NATO if they do not step up and do their share of the fighting. Strong words from a powerful figure, but in Libya NATO is proving its capability in protecting civilians quite well, whereas the organisation that should be taking a lead role in this, the AU, has proven nothing but its ability to remain completely detached from the strategic reality in Gaddaffi’s former country. The ICC have issued warrants for Gaddaffi’s arrest, alleging war crimes carried out under his orders. Not implausible given the good Colonel’s insistence on being supreme military overlord of his forces and widespread accounts of loyalist forces being ordered to target civilians. The AU, in its infinite wisdom, have decided to reject this warrant. Aside from this making zero sense from a moral perspective and enabling Gaddaffi an effective “get out of Libya free” card, the AU is simply adding to its already-established marginalisation away from the Libyan issue. Secondly, when the AU propose a peace plan that does not have the explicit mention of Gaddaffi being removed from office, do they honestly expect the rebels, who have been fighting and dying for precisely this one thing, to accept it based on the goodwill of African politicians so far removed from the reality of Libya? It is almost as if the regional organisation is intentionally making poor decisions so as to be marginalised (Libya was the AU’s largest financial backer) from the process and avoid having to make any concrete policy choice which might incriminate them further down the line. Certainly contributing zero military assets to the No-Fly Zone would have done this already, but perhaps the AU is simply trying to make sure that it is not considered seriously at all in international politics. It is entirely likely that Gaddaffi will be removed from office eventually by NATO forces, or more likely the rebels who are now preparing for a major offensive into...

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ANCYL – Would Nationalisation be so terrible?

Jun 29, 11 ANCYL – Would Nationalisation be so terrible?

Posted by in Politics

To some this would be a rhetorical question. For others it would be a resounding YES.  I would have answered in the same vein, but after hearing the ramblings and sometimes threats from the ANC Youth League and strong denials from the broader ANC movement; I have been compelled to delve into this issue. The idea of nationalising the mines is really not as new as some would have us believe. When the ANC first gained power in 1994, part of the economic plan was to gain some ownership of the mines to earn revenue to fund the social programs that had been planned. This plan was clearly derailed after the infamous trip Mandela took around the world on a fact-finding mission and in hopes of reviving the image of South Africa in the world.  Seventeen years later, we find South Africa the most successful economy on the continent beleaguered with many problems. South Africa stands as one of the most unequal societies with the current unemployment rate standing between 23 % and 25% as of the 4th quarter 2010. One may ask why the sudden focus on nationalization by the ANC Youth League? The ANCYL has stated that the  economy needs to be reformed which is true when considering the fact that the majority of the unemployed in South Africa are the youth and that poverty levels are increasing by the year. The question is whether this would be the solution. There have been cases where a government’s ownership or having the majority shares of natural resources has benefited the country. Neighboring countries such as Botswana have been able to positively use the revenue gained through their joint shares with De Beers in diamond mining. Botswana is known as the success story of the sub-Saharan region with a strong economy, a stable state and population that is well provided for. This is not any way denying the problems The worrying part about the ANCYL’s insistence that nationalisation be considered a viable option is...

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