Mugabe lambasts West on visit to South Africa

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma deliver a speech before the signing of various memorandum of understanding between the two countries at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 8 2015. (Pic: AFP)
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe (L) and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma deliver a speech before the signing of various memorandum of understanding between the two countries at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 8 2015. (Pic: AFP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday launched a wide-ranging attack on Western colonisation in Africa and recent intervention in the Arab world, as he made his first state visit to South Africa in 21 years.

The veteran leader, 91, seized the opportunity of a televised press conference with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria to lambast the United Nations Security Council, the United States and former colonial power Britain.

“We want a political environment in which we are not interfered with by outsiders and we become masters of ourselves in Africa,” Mugabe told reporters.

“We don’t think we are getting a fair deal at the United Nations.

“The five countries there who are permanent members… control the entire system.”

Mugabe said the developing world should stand together against the US, France and Britain, who make up three of five permanent members of the UN security council.

“They disturb the Arab world and leave (it) torn apart. Look at what they did to Libya,” he said, adding that US-led wars in Iraq revealed the “messy, reckless, brutal approach of the West”.

Mugabe, who is often accused of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, said his state visit to Pretoria represented Africa’s victory over colonialists.

“Now we are our own people, and we have President Zuma here and President Mugabe in Zimbabwe – that is what what you fought for,” he said.

“African resources belong to Africa. Others may come to assist as our friends and allies but no longer as colonisers or oppressors, no longer as racists.”

Seeking investment

Mugabe provoked laughter from some officials when he spoke about a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in Cape Town that has been vandalised in recent student protests.

Rhodes is buried in Zimbabwe, which was called Rhodesia until independence in 1980 when Mugabe came to power.

“We are looking after the corpse. You have the statue of him,” Mugabe said. “I don’t know what you think we should do – dig him up? Perhaps his spirit might rise again.”

Mugabe, who was accompanied by his wife Grace, hopes his visit to South Africa will drum up foreign investment to revive his nation’s moribund economy.

Zimbabwe has been on a downturn for more than a decade due to low growth and high unemployment.

Zimbabwe’s economy entered a tailspin after the launch of controversial land reforms 14 years ago. By 2008, inflation had officially peaked at 231 million percent before the government stopped counting.

Zuma said a series of agreements signed on Wednesday would help both nations.

“The economies of the two countries are historically and inextricably linked,” he said. “Opportunities for deeper economic cooperation exist.”

Mugabe, who is the current chairman of the African Union, has visited South Africa in the past on working trips but has made no state visit since 1994.

His wife Grace is seen as one possible successor to her husband.

Former vice-president Joice Mujuru was long considered likely to take over, but she fell out with the veteran leader late last year and was sacked in December.

Mugabe will attend a bilateral business forum in Pretoria on Thursday.

#147notjustanumber: Humanising the victims of Kenya’s Garissa attack

People hold roses and wooden crosses at freedom corner in Uhuru Park during a candlelight vigil in Nairobi on the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed on April 2 by Somalia's al-Shabab Islamists. (Pic: AFP)
People hold roses and wooden crosses at freedom corner in Uhuru Park during a candlelight vigil in Nairobi on the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed on April 2 by Somalia’s al-Shabab Islamists. (Pic: AFP)

Determined that the students killed in the terror attacks in Garissa not be reduced to a number, a Kenyan social media campaign has set out to tell the story of each individual victim.

Using the hashtag #147notjustanumber and #theyhavenames, friends and families of the victims, journalists and others on Twitter have begun to honour the lives of those who died – sharing the photographs, names, ages and character portraits as the details become available.

Each tweet paints a powerful portrait of loss.

They include tributes to Leah N Wanfula, who at 21 was the first of nine siblings to go to university. There’s Gideon Kirui, 22, whose entire family saved up for him to continue his education; and Selpher Wandia, 21, who was studying to become a teacher.

They record small details that will be remembered by those closest: Beatrice Njeri Thinwa, 20, was a fan of Kenny Rogers and Mildred Yondo loved theatre, music and mangoes.

Official reports say that 148 people died when al-Shabaab gun men stormed a university in eastern Kenya seeking out Christians last week. Most were aged between 19 and 23. Some of the victims honoured on Twitter were also featured in Kenyan national newspaper the Daily Nation on Monday.

Ory Okolloh Mwangi, also know as @KenyanPundit, started the campaign on Sunday before the official death toll had been raised to 148.

She told the Wall Street Journal that the initiative was “an effort to humanise victims of terror”. According to social media monitor Topsy, the hashtag #147notjustanumber has been mentioned 52 000 times so far.

In an effort to make sure each student is honoured a public Google document has been created “to ensure we never forget the names of victims of internal and external acts of mass violence”. It also contains tabs for other al-Shabab victims, including the ones on Mandera Quarry in 2014 and the Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

Coordinated by a Kenyan blogger known as Owaahh, the document is acting as an open-source database. The public are asked to add any information they have about the Garissa students, including quotes from family members and personal Facebook pages.

Owaahh’s team is also asking for links to source and verify the information collected. It currently lists the details of 71 victims, not all of them are verified.

Kenyans on social media have also started to share details of a vigil “to remember and mourn the Kenyans who lost their lives”, which will be held in Uhuru Park, Nairobi. People have been asked to volunteer at the event and those attending to bring handwritten tributes.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka reflects on 10 years as a UN Goodwill Ambassador

Growing up in Soweto, Johannesburg during Apartheid, I used to dream of a future where all were equal under the law. Though at times it seemed out of reach, I committed myself to that dream and worked firmly for it.

Taking up my mother’s broom and imagining it was a microphone, I would spin around the kitchen and dream of the stage that would one day be mine, not knowing just how close I was to the force that would take hold of our society and create a unified nation.

Even as a little girl, I believed that my dreams could one day come true and that through entertainment I could change the traditional trajectory of a young black girl in South Africa.

Earlier this month I celebrated my 50th birthday and 30 years in the music industry. I’m deeply proud of the wild journey this little girl from Apartheid Soweto has had, but perhaps I’m most excited about what that journey means for other little girls – and boys – throughout Africa.

This month also marks 10years since I began working with the United Nations to raise awareness and mobilise commitment around health and development issues. Through my work as a Goodwill Ambassador with the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership and UNICEF, I’ve spent time in some of the most remote communities across this great continent and beyond. I’ve sat with mothers and children – in humble homes and community clinics – and I’ve seen the impact that preventable and treatable diseases like malaria and malnutrition have on communities’ smallest members.

The power of simple tools

But I’ve also seen the power of simple, proven and cost-effective tools. With malaria, for example, I’ve seen the power of a safe night’s sleep under an insecticide-treated net or a definitive diagnosis made possible with a rapid diagnostic test (RDT). Or that teaching simple hand washing with soap or ash can be the difference between life and death, optimum growth or stunting. These simple tools and skills don’t only offer peace of mind; they keep children in school and parents at work. They give hope and transform entire communities.

In 2000, the world came together with a focused determination to eradicate disease and poverty through the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Today, as their deadline looms, global poverty continues to decline, more children than ever are attending primary school, child deaths have dropped dramatically and targeted investments in health have saved millions. Since 2001, we’ve saved more than 4 million lives from malaria alone, and under-five mortality is decreasing faster than any time in the past two decades. Our collective efforts are working.

I’ve seen it first-hand through my work with RBM, UNICEF and countless partner organisations working to create healthier communities. Today, children’s wards are less burdened by preventable diseases, schools are filled with eager young minds and markets are bustling with activity.

But still, we continue to leave many of our youngest behind. Thanks to increased commitment to the health of our children, we have halved the number of children under the age of 5 dying each year since 1990. But still, roughly 17 000 children around the world die each day from preventable and treatable diseases. Not surprisingly, the large majority of childhood deaths occur in the world’s poorest countries. Today, 1 in 11 children born in sub-Saharan Africa dies before their fifth birthday – the significance of marking my 50th birthday is not lost on me in this tragic context.

Child survival includes some of the most cost-effective interventions of our time: vaccines and insecticide treated nets. When we add women to that equation, the return on our investment increases exponentially – healthy, empowered women yield healthy, stable and prosperous communities. It’s a no-brainer.

Lack of attention and investment

But we must be clear: children aren’t dying because we lack the knowledge to save them; they’re dying for lack of attention and investment. As we move forward, women and children must remain a central part of the development agenda, and they must be allowed and encouraged to participate in the process. Education will be crucial, not only for our future leaders, but also for their mothers – if we can educate women, we can drastically reduce neonatal mortality and offer children a healthy start to life. We must also ensure that women and children have access to life-saving health services along a continuum of care, from conception through a child’s fifth birthday.

Data will also be key to ensure all children are counted. Unfortunately, far too many births go undocumented and children are welcomed into the world without notice, with immediate lack of account, services or voice. It’s simple: if every life counts, each life must be counted. When we don’t register births, we welcome any number of negative experiences – including abuse and neglect – on some of our most vulnerable family members. We cannot pretend to protect our children and provide them a healthier world if we don’t know they exist.

In June 2012, hundreds of world leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., where they renewed their commitment to the future of our children through Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Since then, nearly 180 governments have pledged to scale up efforts to accelerate declines in preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths. I am grateful for the remarkable commitment and progress that has been made, but it remains fragile and our business is unfinished. Now, more than ever, we must work in partnership – within and between sectors – to stretch the value of our investments and maximise the impact of our efforts.

The road ahead won’t be easy, but if we continue to walk together and share the burden, I’m confident that we can deliver on the promises we’ve made to all children of the world. Every child deserves the chance to dream of his or her future – the stage they might occupy, the power they might hold, the love they might share – and the opportunity to make it happen. Let us work together boldly to nurture those dreams and protect the birthdays yet to come.

5 key issues in Nigeria’s elections

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and APC main opposition party's presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari signed the renewal of their pledges for peaceful elections on March 26 2015 in Abuja. (Pic: AFP)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and APC main opposition party’s presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari signed pledges for peaceful elections on March 28. (Pic: AFP)

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its biggest economy, holds general elections on Saturday. Here are five issues that could shape the results.


Which candidate is best suited to end Boko Haram’s six-year uprising that has killed more than 13 000 people and left 1.5 million others homeless?

This may be the key question for some of Nigeria’s 68.8 million registered voters, especially those in the north directly affected by the violence.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s record on the conflict has been widely criticised.

Despite successes claimed over the Islamists in the last six weeks, many observers have described his response to the uprising as misguided and lacking urgency.

Opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari, a former military head-of-state, is generally seen as capable of being a strong commander-in-chief.

But experts have also noted that, despite the bloodshed, Boko Haram will not be the decisive issue for all voters, particularly for southerners untouched by the insurgency.


Graft has crippled progress in Africa’s top economy for decades and may be the key issue that unites voters of all religions and ethnic groups.

Buhari has made the fight against corruption the key to his political identity, dating back to 1983, when he took power in a coup that toppled a civilian administration accused of stealing public funds.

While Jonathan insists he has made progress in cleaning up the federal government, critics say graft has in fact flourished under his watch, including at the state-owned oil corporation.

Most experts say the March 28 vote is too close to call but if Buhari manages to unseat an incumbent president – which would be a first for Nigeria – his anti-graft credentials will likely have played a key role.


The collapse in global oil prices highlighted Nigeria’s vulnerability to crude market shocks.

Oil generates more than 70 percent of government revenue and falling prices have sent the economy into a tailspin.

Jonathan’s economic czar, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been calling for diversification for years, with a focus on revitalising agriculture.

The president’s performance on agriculture has been praised and there are signs of increased investment and job growth in the long-neglected sector, which could help him on re-election day.

Annual GDP growth has also averaged more than five percent through Jonathan’s tenure.

But poverty and unemployment remain rampant with most of Nigeria’s 173 million people living on less than $2 per day.

Buhari’s economic credentials have been questioned, especially given his background as an army general and military ruler.

Doubts over his ability to steer Africa’s top economy could hurt him on polling day, with whoever wins facing a pressing problem of how to boost government coffers in an unfavourable climate.


Always a factor in Nigerian elections, Buhari’s Hausa-Fulani tribesmen who dominate Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north believe it is their turn to control the presidency.

A southerner has occupied the presidential villa for 13 of the 16 years since democracy was restored in 1999.

While a majority of northerners are likely to support Buhari, Jonathan will still win votes in the region, which, like the rest of the country, is ethnically mixed.

The president is an Ijaw, a minority ethnic group in the oil-producing Niger Delta, and is expected to win a majority there as well as in neighbouring areas dominated by the Igbo tribe.


Some of Buhari’s rivals have tried to portray him as a religious fanatic committed to imposing Islamic law across all of Nigeria.

The charge is almost certainly baseless but experts say it could dissuade some swing voters in the mostly Christian south.

Jonathan has not made his Christian faith or Buhari’s religious beliefs a key part of his public campaign but he is still expected to win more votes among Christians.

African men don’t get feminism

(Pic: Flickr / Julie Jordan Scott)
(Pic: Flickr / Julie Jordan Scott)

In 2013, I wrote an article for Voices of Africa entitled “African men don’t do feminists.” It was a satirical account of my observations dating African men on and off of the continent. I spoke about how uncompromising these men seemed to be, particularly when speaking about what type of woman they wanted as a partner. From the cooking, cleaning, and child rearing, I spoke to the fact that in many cases, African men would demand that their partners uphold traditional ideals of womanhood, which today can be seen as dated and suffocating to a woman who identifies as a feminist. Now, the definition of feminism is a controversial one, it can be hard to understand and from reading the comments on my article, I realised that African men also don’t really know what feminism is. From talk of “she-males” to “highly educated” women looking to destroy patriarchy, here are a few comments that prove African men still don’t get feminism:

“What we want are women who respect man’s headship in the home and emulate their mothers who respected their husbands, raised their children and built a good generation not the modern day she-male that are out there especially the highly educated ones…”

This guy wants traditional patriarchy to be upheld, and for women in 2015 to emulate our mothers born in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Feminism is about progress and adaptation, not stagnant gender roles based on what has made many generations of African men most comfortable. A woman who expresses discomfort with pounding yam and popping out babies upon request, is a she-male? A woman pursuing a degree instead of a man is a “highly educated” enemy of progress? A paradigm shift in the psyches of African women does not automatically lead to the emasculation of African men everywhere. Lesson 1: Feminism is not about destroying African tradition, it’s about ensuring that women have a fair chance at a rich and purposeful life, on their own terms.

“I’ve had tons of female feminist friends. Most of the guys who dated them were ugly men and never the tall very handsome (rich or not rich) guys with a nice physique. Never saw one of my feminist friends with a hot man…”

It seems to this gentlemen that only ugly men would be willing to deal with women who identify as feminist.  So instead of him viewing feminism as a tool for empowerment, a platform on which women can stand and demand equal pay, respect, and the right to govern their own bodies, feminism is a club of angry women who can only pick up uglies. The fact that this commenter is using a man as THE metric when measuring a woman’s worth tells women to forget your degrees, professional experience, or over all autonomy; a tall, handsome man is the only prize worth vying for. Lesson 2: A feminist is not defined by what she looks like, nor what her partner looks like.

“I am very proud to be an African man who values my tradition and culture and will never drop it for another borrowed or acquired…”

Feminism is NOT a borrowed ideology! It’s important to remember that while American and European white women were burning bras, our mothers and grandmothers were raging against colonialism. They were becoming the first women educated in their respective countries. They were fighting in civil wars, and protecting villages as soldiers ran through to rape and pillage their villages. That is feminism, pioneering in the face of adversity, and creating a space for women to follow. Lesson 3: Feminism is not “borrowed or acquired”, it’s something that is engrained in the matriarchal communities many Africans were raised in.

“But, women and men are not equal as human beings in terms of strength, traits, and talents, plus they look different. New Age feminists have other motives, which sadly catches well-meaning women into their merry band of ideological thinking.”

Women and men are equal as human beings! There are biological factors that make SOME men taller, and SOME men physically stronger than the average woman, but to say we are not the same human beings is preposterous. On that note, feminists are not going around kidnapping your “well-meaning” girlfriends, wives, and daughters and making them join a cult of angry butch lesbians. Feminism speaks to the fact that even though I have a vagina, and breasts, and I carry children inside of me for nine months, does not mean I should be treated any less human than a man. My femininity can be respected and celebrated without it limiting my growth in society. This scary “ideological thinking” this gentleman is discussing, is the radical notion that women deserve the same pay, education, and personal freedoms as men. Lesson 4: Being a woman should not limit anyone in their attempt to be treated equally no matter the situation or environment.

Like I told my boyfriend (I know some of you are surprised, yes, I was able to catch a man in my scary feminist spider’s web), all I ask of him, and of my brothers, my father, and any man in my life, is to give women the space to progress. Let women speak, do not interrupt them, do not dismiss them, listen to what kind of life they want to live, support their choices, and if you don’t, respectfully give them reasons as to why. Giving the women around you the space to express and empower themselves is not just protecting their bodies, but also their agency.

Stephanie A. Kimou was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire and raised in Washington, DC. She is a blogger by night at A Black Girl in the World and a policy analyst by day. She holds a masters degree in international affairs from Georgetown University in DC, and has studied at the African Gender Institute in Cape Town and the University of Paris in France. Her mother has told her she has two years to get married, or else. Writing is the way she deals with this stress. Connect with her on Twitter: @stephkeems