Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rwandan Blogosphere Should Aim For Thought Leadership

Over the last year blogs focusing on Rwanda, Burundi and Congo have surged across the globe. The conflicting narratives concerning Paul Kagame's role in the region, the mapping report and the elections proved digital activists need enemies just as much as online marketeers!

I have lost count of the numerous new blogs that have surged over the years "the proxy lake", "jambonews"  , "therising continent" , "rwandainfo""African Survivors international""back to my roots" and some more in French, like for example the "France Rwanda Tribune".

This increased online activity in the great lakes blogosphere through these blogs probably took some Africa and ICT watchers by surprise. Eventually however, I have to admit,  this surge did not go unnoticed on globalvoices! And this led to the increased interest in the region by the State Department (ty wikileaks)! It even forced Bill Clinton and Tony Blair  into a defensive mode.

Every Rwandan, Congolese and Burundian blogger will tell you a different story of how he discovered the opportunties of long tail participation in the public sphere both in his or her host country and country of origin.

While the importance of this momentum (and the discovery of the importance of the long tail  theory for blogging) should not be underestimated, at the same time diaspora bloggers from Rwanda, Burundi and Congo should look further and aim higher!

Kentaro Toyama makes the valuable point (thanks to @cblatts for his blogpost) that  new players in the field of development cooperation will inevitably have to learn from past and present successes and failures. Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time and resources. However, allthough ICT won't end poverty, diaspora participation in development cooperation is  a reality. It's precisely in this field that blogging can be a powerfull tool for small diaspora organisations from Rwanda, Congo and Burundi to learn from previous or similar projects in the field of development cooperation.

Aiming for thought leadership as route to the future, as Alan Rusbridger recently argued in the Andrew Olle Lecture means aiming for collaboration! Content creation seemed a small step for all of us who started blogging some time ago, but it was in reality a giant leap into the brave new world of Search Engine Optimization and digital activism. It has put bloggers from Rwanda, Congo and Burundi across the globe on a long road to relevant thought leadership!

Increased and effective on- and offline collaboration among great lakes bloggers (from all sides of the political spectrum, both diaspora bloggers and traditional development practioners and academics) will inevitably be the next step as Gaurav Mishra points out in his great article on digital activism.

Has the Ugandan blogosphere been just as exciting over the last year? I doubt it, but maybe Rebekah Heacock can enlighten us on that topic some day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kagame’s prisons, courts and killing spots: Ingabire, the Netherlands and the West

by Ann Garrison, Didas Gasana and Charles Kabonero

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, her head shaved and wearing her pink prison uniform, makes an appearance in court. In jail since Oct. 14 and reportedly tortured, she was recently denied bail. She had returned to Rwanda last January to challenge Paul Kagame for the presidency but was not allowed to run. Many commentators predicted she would have won a free and fair election.

The argument over who has been most to blame for the bloodshed in recent East Central African history intensified even further this month with testimony further challenging the history of what we know as the 1994 Rwanda Genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s former bodyguard, Aloys Ruyenzi, testified at the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda that the president of the Interahamwe, the militia said to have massacred the Rwandan Tutsi population in 1994, was himself a Tutsi and Rwandan Patriotic Front agent.
Ruyenzi, in an interview in the Newsline East Africa, also described what he called “killing spots” where, he says, the Kagame regime continues to sort, classify and then systematically execute those it perceives as enemies with bayonets or, if they resist or run, with pistols.
Read more at the San Francisco Bay Newspaper, http://goo.gl/J8ANy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

U.S. Abstains on UN Resolution Condemning Unlawful Execution

The U.S. abstained on a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions on 11.16.2010, though it opposed an amendment deleting LGBT from the list of vulnerable populations in need of equal protection. The U.S. has never voted to support this resolution, which the UN General Assembly votes on every two years.  The UN Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, has criticized the U.S. for its responsibility for extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary killings in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including killings with Predator Drones escalated under the Obama Administration, and for the discriminatory use of the death penalty in States like Texas and Alabama, and deaths in U.S. immigrant detention camps.

The UN Rapporteur has also spoken to the complicity of the UN, meaning the Security Council, which includes the U.S., in unlawful killings in Congo.  See Democracy Now, 10.28.2009. 

The UN's deletion of LGBT people from the list of populations vulnerable to extrajudicial execution has gotten a great deal of international press; the U.S. abstention on the final resolution virtually none.  This is the U.S. Mission to the United Nations's official explanation:

Explanation of Vote by a U.S. Advisor of Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Resolution (A/C.3/65/L.29), Third Committee

U.S. Advisor
New York, NY
November 16, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Chairman,
Although we abstained on the adoption of this resolution today, we wish to join the sponsors of the text in condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions against all persons, irrespective of their status. We of course agree that all States have obligations to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and should take effective action to combat all extrajudicial killings and punish the perpetrators. We agree that countries such as ours, which have capital punishment, should abide by their international obligations, including those related to due process, fair trial, and use such punishment for only the most serious of crimes. Indeed, we agree with much of the text of this resolution. However, we have some concerns.
At the outset, let me say that the United States strongly agrees with and appreciates the cosponsors' efforts to retain language specifically condemning ESAs targeting vulnerable groups, particularly members of the LGBT community, and we were dismayed that this reference could not survive an unfriendly amendment.
We also have concerns about the language of the resolution in a few other areas and, therefore, were unable to vote for the resolution as a whole. Much as we agree with the goals and sponsors of the resolution, we are not in a position to vote for a text that obscures a fundamental point: there are not one, but two bodies of law that regulate unlawful killings of individuals by governments - international human rights law and international humanitarian law. As noted by the resolution, these two bodies of law are complementary and mutually reinforce one other. We also recognize that determining what international law rules apply to any particular government action during an armed conflict is highly fact-specific and made even more difficult by the changing nature of warfare. However, the applicable rules for the protection of individuals and conduct of hostilities in armed conflict outside a nation’s territory are typically found in international humanitarian law. Rather than clarifying, the resolution as worded only contributes to legal uncertainty about how these two important bodies of law apply to an array of factual circumstances.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza's Petition Signed by A Thousand!

Members of the French speaking Reformed Church "Eglise Wallonne" in Leiden have initiated a petition for Victoire Ingabire in Dutch asking the Dutch government to do all that is possible to  make sure that Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza's human rights are respected and her life is protected.

SOS! Mrs. Victoire Ingabire arrested and in danger

The Rwandan Victoire Ingabire is imprisoned in Kigali (Rwanda) and is being treated so badly that her life is in danger. We won't consider ourselves with the circumstances of her arrest, nor with the situation of the country. We want that her fundamental rights are being respected.



Church members and sympathisers for whom human life deserves to be respected in every actual situation,  note

that Victoire Ingabire (42 years, married and mother of three children) finds herself in a threatening situation in the prison in Kigali. She has, after having lived in the Netherlands for sixteen years, returned  to Rwanda in january 2010 to  help reconstruct the democracy of her land of birth. But she got arrested there mid october and we request that,

You, the minister of Foreign Affairs, undertake steps that can lead to respect for the rights of Mrs. Ingabire and that her life is protected.

Monday, November 15, 2010

KPFA News: Ingabire, Gasana, Kambanda, and Rwanda, "a smoldering volcano"

Transcript, KPFA Weekend News, 11.14.2010

Rwanda's High Court in Kigali denied opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza's bail appeal hearing and sent her back to solitary confinement in Kigali's infamous 1930 prison, where another opposition leader Bernard Ntaganda also remains incarcerated.  Ingabire and Ntaganda both attempted to contest this year's presidential election against Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as did Democratic Green Party of Rwanda President Frank Habineza.  Ingabire and Ntaganda both landed in prison instead, charged with terrorism and genocide related crimes. Habineza has been in Sweden with his family, since his party's vice president was found beheaded, his body dumped in the wetlands of a river in Southern Rwanda, though he still intends to return to Rwanda. KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:
Rwandan and Congolese scholars and activists say that the Kagame regime imprisoned Ingabire to distract the international community from the UN Report released on October 1st, that documents the Rwandan army's war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocidal massacres of Hutu civilians in Rwanda's neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Didas Gasana, Editor of the Newsline East Africa, speaking to KPFA from Kampala, Uganda, said that Kagame's repression and exclusion of the majority of the Rwandan population is turning the tiny African nation into a smoldering volcano that could erupt at any time.  Charles Kambanda, a Rwandan American legal scholar, former member of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front, and Gasana's former professor at Makerera University in Kampala, agrees. He spoke to KPFA from New York City:

Charles Kambanda:
Yes, indeed, what's happening in Rwanda under Kagame is a smoldering volcano that might erupt any time.  He has pushed people too far against the wall, and the only possible action that people are likely to take is to fight back.   What we have now in Rwanda, under Kagame, is that he is actually exterminating the people within and he's not stopping there.  He's going for voices from outside Rwanda, to assassinate them.  This is going too far, and eventually we are going to see people coming together and saying no, enough is enough, we have to fight back, because they have no other alternative but fight back.   And my fear is that we risk having the worst situation, worse than what we saw in 1994, because, on the one hand, Kagame has armed his people; he has so many young men who are now armed.  They are more or less like the former interahamwe.  And these people who are excluded will also arm their youth, and we are going to have people killing others in millions, if we are not careful.   A kind of history repeating itself.

KPFA/Ann Garrison:
Kambanda also says that Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza cannot possibly get a fair trial in Rwanda, no matter how skillful her lawyers are.

For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Great Lakes Blogchat: Collective Intelligence Is King

Recently I started the blogtalkradio show "Great Lakes Blogchat" on developments in the great lakes region. Together with Nkunda Rwanda of the blog  "Cry for freedom in Rwanda"  and  Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana of the blog "survivors network", we started climbing a steep learning curve. Adjusting to blogtalkradio takes time, but we have allready managed in four episodes to engage in a coherent discussion on recent developments concerning Victoire Ingabire's trial, the imminent internet boom in Africa, collaboration among great lakes bloggers. The possibilities of mobile wordpress. We even touched on the ideas of  economists such as William Easterly, Lawrence Harrison and Jeffrey Sachs.

I intend to get in touch with more great "great lakes bloggers" , individuals who have views on development projects, on democracy, on art, who do standup comedy or just want to blow of steam. I have to confess t's great to be back on radio (this blog started as a radio show). I have a dream that we can move above and beyond great content. That one day this blog will no longer be judged by it's content, but by it's catalysing effect on collaboration among an ever growing community of great "great lakes bloggers" which will eventually lead to the Holy Grail of any digital activist or online marketeer: collective intelligence!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

KPFA Radio News: Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, a.k.a., Hang-the-Gays Bill returns

Ugandan lesbian Val Kalende is internationally known for her courage in agreeing to the publication of her photograph, with an interview, in the Ugandan press. 

KPFA Radio News, 94.1FM-Berkeley, Transcript:

KPFA Weekend News Host Glenn Reeder:
Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act is otherwise known as the Hang-the-Gays Bill because it would add the death penalty to prison sentences of 14 years to life that already exist in Ugandan law criminalizing homosexual acts.   The bill engaged more Western press than any news story from Africa in 2009 and 2010, despite Obama's visit to Ghana, civil war in Somalia, a coup d'état in Niger, the UN report on genocide in Congo, and, intensifying competition between China and the West, led by the U.S., for Africa's oil and other natural resources.   

The bill finally seemed to have been defeated without a vote, by international outcry, but now it's back in play.  KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.  

KPFA/Ann Garrison:
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both spoke out against the bill, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution condemning it, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he'd never gotten so many calls about anything, from leaders around the world.   The bill finally seemed to have been set aside, but now it's author, Ugandan MP David Bahati, who has close ties to the elite, theocratic U.S. Christian Right group known as "The Family,"  says that Uganda's Parliament will reconsider it, and that he's confident it will pass.  

Milton Allimadi, Ugandan-American editor and publisher of the New York City-based Black Star News, says that the bill's resurgence serves to distract from Uganda's real political crisis as much as to persecute its LGBT community:

Milton Allimadi:
I think there are a number of reasons why we're seeing the resurgence of the bill.  Number One, I don't think it's a coincidence that it comes a few weeks after the UN so-called Mapping Report, which clearly documented Uganda's role, the army of Yoweri Museveni's role, in the genocide against Hutus, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Number One.  

Number Two, Uganda faces a presidential election in February next year.  It's clearly meant to divert the issues, divert the topics, and at some point, Yoweri Museveni will step in, once again, and come out as the saviour at the end of the day.  It's very cynical; it's the kind of policy he's done in the past; and he's doing it again.  

KPFA/Ann Garrison:
Val Kalende is a Ugandan lesbian internationally known for her courage in agreeing to the publication of her photograph with an interview in the Ugandan press.   She is also a Christian Pentecostal, now pursuing a doctorate in theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but hoping to return to Uganda.   Like Allimadi, she says that the bill is a distraction and urges Uganda's LGBT community to address the bigger picture and the liberation of all Ugandans:

Val Kalende:
It is important for the LGBT rights activists to focus on the bigger picture.  People who have read this bill now understand that the bill goes beyond just criminalizing homosexuality.   So as a movement, I think this is time to start thinking of the real implications of this, in regard to the rights of children, the rights of women, and the rights of all oppressed groups in Uganda.  All forms of repression are linked to each other, and, as a movement, we cannot continue to act like it's just about our issues.  

KPFA/Ann Garrison:
Kalende, who has said that she hopes to shake the hand of San Francisco's LGBT rights pioneer and martyr Harvey Milk in the hereafter, has contacted Rafael Mandelman, former President of San Francisco's Harvey Milk Democratic Club, regarding a new international response.  Mandelman, who invokes Milk's commitment to a broadbased justice coalition, agrees that the LGBT community should speak not only for LGBT rights but for the whole range of human rights, here and in Uganda.

For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Anti-war protesters follow Obama in India

Bloomberg News provided additional cues as to what Obama's visit to India was really about, including $4.5 billion worth of Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft:

"With Obama in attendance, Indian companies and ministries will probably ink a half a dozen deals with U.S. outfits, some of them months in the making. There's a $4.5 billion order for Boeing C-17 transports, says Ron Somers, president of the U.S.-India Business Council. He says the Indians may announce a $4 billion contract for either GE or Caterpillar (CAT) to supply diesel locomotives."

Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mehserle's sentence for killing Oscar Grant: two years

Cephus Johnson, who speaks for the family of Oscar Grant, the 21-yr.-old African American slain by a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) policeman in the early hours of January 1, 2008, addressed the press after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry's ruling:

For more on the ruling, see Digital Journal, http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299868.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Isakson set to replace Feingold as U.S. Senate's Africa Chair

Meet Johnny Isakson, Georgia's arch conservative Republican Senator, who is now set to replace Wisconsin's liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold as Chair of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Africa:

Read more at Digital Journal, "Isakson set to replace Feingold as U.S. Senate's Africa Chair," http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/299816.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Frans Makken: Pontius Pilate In Rwanda

Frans Makken, Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda and vice-chair of the Rwandan electoral commission (NEC) stated to the ANP press service today:
"De Nederlandse ambassade in Rwanda kan 'officieel' niks doen voor de gearresteerde oppositieleidster Victoire Ingabire"
Translated: "The Dutch Ambassy in Rwanda can "offcially" do nothing for the arrested oppositionleader Victoire Ingabire".

As if Victoire Ingabire has ever asked to be treated as a Dutch citizen. On the contrary. The demonstrators in The Hague (watch the video below) and members of Dutch parliament, Dijkhof (VVD)  and Voordewind (ChristenUnie) did not ask for that either. Frans Makken is intentionally twisting this story.

But let me summarize what Frans Makken did do for Victoire Ingabire "unofficially":

He accepted to legitimize the fake Rwandan elections by Co-chairing the Rwandan National Electoral Commission and afterwards claiming that these elections were "free and fair". The statements made by Foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen at the time, illustrated the fact that Frans Makken is no friend of the truth.

After having sided with a criminal regime for the last half year, being instrumental in legitimizing totally rigged elections and claiming two weeks ago that "it's unfortunate the mapping report has come out now and in the way it is" he now states that he can't do anything "officially" for Victoire Ingabire. As if he has ever done anything "unofficially". The statement by Frans Makken today underscores the fact that he now wants to wash his hands in innocence.

The mapping report is indeed "unfortunate". It's unfortunate for diplomats like Frans Makken and their "honeymoon" with the RPF. Does he really think people won't remember the role he played in the Rwandan election rigging?