Author: VOA Contributor

Tackling poverty and inequality: My chance at the UN

My own government in Uganda has over the years made several commitments towards ending poverty and inequality. These were often drafted by international bodies like the United Nations and targeted things like universal primary education and halting the spread of HIV and AIDS, malaria and other deadly diseases before 2015.

Now it’s 2015 and we are back here again, a new list of commitments is being agreed on, many of the same problems remain, but the big difference this time is I’m getting to have my say. I, a 32-year-old young Ugandan woman, will address the UN this week, to share my perspective and that of my peers.

This year is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Uganda’s chances of this remain doubtful, mainly due to implementation failures. Uganda’s case is not any different from Mozambique where I am a VSO volunteer working on girls’ education. Programmes like the Universal Primary Education (UPE) in both countries that registered progressive results at the beginning have recently been criticised for focusing on quantity and not quality, for a lack of supervision and checks from government. While commitments were made, they lacked any harmonised implementation mechanism for the development policies or mechanisms for collective responsibility.
So, I’m happy that as the next development agenda is being created there is more focus on producing goals which are sustainable in nature and that there is talk about creating clear plans for the ‘means of implementation’ which will be needed to reach these goals. Better still, the negotiations around how these goals will be funded is ongoing and I will be part of a group of civil society stakeholders able to participate in that discussion.

Now, what about my two-minute speech in New York on Thursday? I nervously picture big rooms, meeting points, people from different walks of life, cameras, and all communication gadgets. The programme tells me I have a slot together with nine others to talk about “The relationship between FFD and post-2015 process (global partnership and possible key deliverables and transformative ideas such as in relation to capacity-building, infrastructure, energy, social floors and agriculture etc.”

I don’t think my friends and family would understand that title but I will talk about what I know: volunteers and the change they can make and girls’ right to education. The role of volunteers in achieving these new sustainable development goals cannot be underestimated. They are people placed at the community level alongside local people and are the very heart of development. Volunteers build capacities by training communities on a wide range of issues, contribute to better health by offering their services alongside the paid professionals, they help to deliver education to some of the most marginalised and excluded communities, and empower people at a grassroots level to participate in affairs that concern their own development. Member states must reflect on the importance of financing and supporting the interventions of the volunteerism sector.

Ugandan schoolgirl Violet Nalubyayi stands in front of a black board in Lwengo on February 25 2014. (Pic: AFP)
Ugandan schoolgirl Violet Nalubyayi stands in front of a black board in Lwengo on February 25 2014. (Pic: AFP)

I am also conscious that I need to be a voice for the marginalised girls in Mozambique with whom I work. While the rest of the world is advancing in terms of accessing equal education opportunities for boys and girls, 80% of the girls in Mozambique drop out of school. Poverty, early marriage, the long distances to school, and negative community perceptions about girls’ education have robbed girls of the opportunity to access life learning opportunities. I want to raise these issues during my one to one meetings with delegations and get support to finance development work that will ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all.

And one of those UN member states is my own native Uganda. I hope they will hear my voice and feel some sense of accountability. I hope too that the government of Mozambique where I volunteer will hear the message and that the rich country governments work with them so that together we can shape this new world I want to grow old in.

Elisabeth Kisakye is a VSO volunteer and human rights activist from Uganda working in the Instituto de Comunicação Social in Moçambique. She is supporting girls’ right to education by designing and implementing the DFID-funded Girls Education Challenge Project advocacy strategy in Mozambique. She blogs at

South Africans, explain your unforgivable actions

A foreign national walks with his children after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police on April 14  2015 in Durban. Hundreds of people have been displaced and forced to flee their homes this week. (Pic: AFP)
A foreign national walks with his children after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police on April 14 2015 in Durban. Hundreds of people have been displaced and forced to flee their homes. (Pic: AFP)

This week, media screens have flashed images of black South Africans executing violent acts on other blacks who are not South Africans. I have seen people petrol bombed in their shops. I have seen images of bloodied heads and faces. I have seen images of angry mobs walking through the streets, mpangas and other weapons in tow, ready to lash out at any foreigner. But more so the black foreigner.

These people have come to South Africa for a number of reasons – school, work, business, economic opportunity, refuge. They came to South Africa to live their lives, but are now being punished for making such a decision.

It’s black on black crime like we’ve never seen before. Actually, we’ve seen this before. In 2008, 2011, oh, 2014 and 2015. It happens year after year in South Africa with no end to this horrific attitude in sight.

It appears that black South Africans are angry because other Africans have come to South Africa to take away opportunities that rightfully ‘belong’ to them. This latest upsurge in violence is as a result of King Goodwill Zwelithini’s comments that foreigners must go back to their homelands. Of course, the Zulu king has denied it, claiming his comments have been distorted but the damage has been done, and one cannot deny that even if his comments have been taken wrongly, there is an amount of anti-foreign sentiment there.

Why? Why can a country like South Africa resort to these awful acts? In apartheid days, black South Africans were harboured in many African countries – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya. All the countries rallied together, sometimes at the peril of their own stability, to ensure South Africa’s freedom. Lives were lost in South Africa, fighting apartheid. Lives were lost outside of South Africa, too. And yet, these people, who have their political freedom because of us, are now beating and battering us as though none of that happened, but also as though it’s okay to treat humans like that. Black South Africans are attacking foreigners, burning their homes and businesses to make a point. And their point is this:

You are taking over our country.

You are taking our jobs.

You are taking what should be ours.

South Africans have found themselves competing with foreign nationals on a number of fronts and with the history of marginalisation, perhaps it was all too much. The government wasn’t protecting their jobs, houses or opportunities but bringing in even more foreigners. They took matters into their own hands. Regardless, it’s shocking. And I don’t understand it.

What I do know is this should not be accepted. Governments are not taking a large enough stand against xenophobic attacks against their nationals, probably because the region depends so heavily on South African goods and investment that boycotting SA investments and products would cripple their own economies.

These are human rights violations on a grand scale and I would like to see South Africa penalised for this. I would also like to see the foreigners repatriated to their own countries. Get out. Malawi has begun bussing its people back to Nyasaland. Good. I hope they stay home.

Next should be Zambia, or Zimbabwe. And let all other African countries follow suit. Then we’ll see who’s left in South Africa. We’ll see how well their economy would run, how well their services will be managed and delivered.

And then we’ll see who will be targeted next.

Because it seems to me, these are just angry people who have the residues of apartheid left in their souls and cannot be freed from that grip.

But they don’t see it.

Mali Kambandu-Nkhoma is a writer living and working in Lusaka, Zambia. She writes on development issues, and creatively on films.  She blogs at

Xenophobia in SA: Attacking each other won’t resolve our economic challenges  

Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police in Durban on April 14  2015 in ongoing violence against foreign nationals in the city. (Pic: AFP)
Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police in Durban on April 14 2015 in ongoing violence against foreign nationals in the city. (Pic: AFP)

In 2008 in Gauteng, fellow brothers and sisters from the continent were injured and killed in violent xenophobic attacks. In January this year, violence broke out between foreign nationals and locals in Alexandra after a Somali shop owner shot and killed a 14-year-old who tried to rob his shop. Looting followed. It then spread to Diepsloot and the West Rand. This week, xenophobic violence erupted in Kwa Zulu Natal and Johannesburg, leaving at least six people dead and displacing thousands.

We must never condone any form of violence. We must never celebrate when a fellow human being is killed or attacked simply because they are of a different nationality.

As Africans we need to ask ourselves why there is no peace and stability on the continent. Why is it that we as Africans are not benefiting from our own resources? South Africa is a young democracy and a lot still needs to be as we build a prosperous country with equal opportunities for all citizens. Many of our brothers and sisters from across the continent come to South Africa due to socioeconomic reasons, and seek to find a better life for themselves. Although all African countries are politically independent, many are still not economically independent.

While the ANC-led government has made significant achievements post-1994, South Africa is still not where it needs to be in terms of dealing with unemployment and poverty. One hopes that at the African Union summit due to be held in South Africa in June, our heads of states will have frank, robust, and constructive engagements on the economy of the continent and how to work together to fight our economic challenges. Migration needs to be looked from a very sober point of view that will help us to take the continent forward and guarantee peace and stability.

African people must never fight each other for economic space. Economic freedom is needed in the continent. This will reduce migration caused by poverty and political instability on the continent.

It is a big concern that African countries are unable to fully fund the AU’s budget. A situation where the West funds more than 70% of it is untenable. We get crumbs from our own resources and we are still divided according to who colonised us. Let us all reflect on why the AU budget is funded by the West when we have our own heads of states. To quote the great Thomas Sankara, “He who feeds you, controls you.” We have seen in the past how the West dictates how the AU budget must be used and for what programmes. We need the political will from our leaders to make sure that Africa is economically liberated. We need to get to the root cause of our problems and find lasting solutions that will make a difference to the people of this continent.

Attacks on each other will not resolve the economic challenges we are facing as Africans. Our leaders must work together in making sure that poverty is eliminated, and that we build a strong continent. Co-operation with other continents is important, but it must be on our terms in order to benefit the people of this continent and take us forward as Africans.

Rebone Tau is a former national task team member of the ANC Youth League and former chairperson of its international relations subcommittee. She writes in her personal capacity.

The African identity crisis

(Pic: Reuters)
(Pic: Reuters)

I have recently been pondering the legitimacy of what we consider to be African. As the colonisers stripped off our identity and gave us new ones, much was lost and intertwined and influenced by their philosophies. I chuckle to think that the African diaspora sometimes thinks that Africans in Africa don’t have identity issues. Hah!

Our brothers and sisters of the diaspora are sometimes utterly oblivious to the struggles of the Africans who stayed behind. Indubitably, a lot was lost in slave ships, and staying granted us the privilege of immortalising many cultural aspects and traditions that they lost in the seas and upon arrival to new shores. Knowing which tribe I belong to and being able to emulate certain practices is one of such privileges. But although we were not stolen (or sold) from Africa, Africa was stolen from us…right here in Africa.

Our languages were stolen. How many African countries have indigenous languages as official languages, next to the language of their colonisers? Amongst our youth (the future), how many of us can speak the languages of our forefathers? I know quite a number of us can, and therefore this reality is not true for all of us especially in countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe, where there are multiple languages stipulated in the Constitution and where people commonly speak indigenous languages besides English. But, how many of us can boast of such (especially the so-called educated populace, the driving force of society)? And how much is being done to push this cultural agenda in countries/societies?

Our minds were stolen. How much do we learn about pre-colonial Africa? Our former civilisations have gone into obscurity.

How much Black literature do we teach in our schools? Who is sponsoring our best-selling authors and where are they being educated? The scientists, archeologists and anthropologists that explore Africa, where are they from?

Many are the books we read about us that were not written by us. “The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” Steve Biko reminds us.

Our pride was stolen. The images the rest of the world sees of Africa are the same images Africa sees of Africa. W.E.B Dubois was beautifully articulate when he spoke of double consciousness, this “…peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…“. In our own minds, Africa is associated with distress and anything we deem to be “too African” is considered backwards, ugly.

Our resources were stolen. We paid a high price for freedom, and we all see the flag of independence that went up but never saw the negotiations that went down in exchange for liberty. The colonial powers did not just leave without making us sign lethal contracts and treaties that continue to harm us today, giving them 10% of this and 30% of that. French presence in francophone Africa is, for instance, well documented through Franceafrique, and there is clear economic, political and military control. In the words of François Mitterrand: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century“.

Looking at a continent that was and still is highly controlled and influenced by foreigners, I think it is time we challenge the authenticity of the African identity. Our view of Africa and the politics of our existence are not dictated by us. Upon independence, political leaders launched “Africanisation” initiatives to bring us back to our roots, renaming places amongst other things. The Republic of Upper Volta became Burkina Faso (“the land of upright men”), Northern Rhodesia became Zambia – and if there were initiatives to “Africanise” Africa then I think we have to consider how we became “un-African”. Aren’t we African bodies with European minds? So, when you say you are African, what do you mean?

We are often told about the privilege of having been born in the motherland. But I see no benefit in knowledge one is not aware of.

Harriet Tubman did say she freed so many slaves but could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. In essence you are still in slavery if you don’t know you are free. Africa is perpetuating the legacy of its captors and in various aspects we have become mere relics of colonialism, unaware of our identity. What good is being African if you don’t know you are African?

Not only do we have to seek but we have to understand our roots, because what good is perpetuating traditions without understanding origins? There is no value.

We cannot change history but we can study it, learn from it and appreciate it.

And nothing will make you appreciate your African identity more than having it being stolen, feeling lost and finding it again. These minute findings are gigantic steps towards dealing with our crisis.

Clenia Gigi is a a student, avid reader, poet, spoken-word artist, Pan-Africanist and feminist.

A peek at Ethiopia’s first ever sci-fi feature film

You either love sci-fi movies or you hate them – but a sci-fi love story based in Ethiopia? That’s sure to pique everyone’s curiosity.

Directed by Miguel Llansó, Crumbs is a a Spanish-Ethiopian co-production that premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in January.

From Indie Wire: “Crumbs tells the story of diminutive superhero Gagano (played by Daniel Tadesse), a junk collector, who embarks on a ‘surreal epic journey’  that’s set against ‘post-apocalyptic Ethiopian landscapes’. He’s had enough of collecting ‘valuable crumbs of a decayed civilisation’, when a spaceship that has been hovering high in the sky for years, starts showing signs of activity, and Gagano has to overcome his fears – which includes a witch, Santa Claus and second-generation Nazis – to find out that the world isn’t quite what he thought it was.”

Here’s the trailer: