Archive for May 2011
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN – Members of a Congolese political party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), have submitted a memorandum to the South African parliament, requesting for intervention in the Congolese crisis. The memorandum, which has been forwarded to Africa Witness, gives the South African lawmakers a true perspective of the situation prevailing in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 2011 pre-electoral period.
Authors of the memorandum want the South African government to intervene in the Congolese crisis by ensuring that the country’s
natural resources are responsibly managed in a manner that will develop and benefit all, rather than keeping this wealth in the hands of
a few individuals.
“Being the successful model of the process of democratic change in Africa and the first economic powerhouse of the continent, South
Africa, should help to ensure that the Congolese natural resources are managed responsibly, instead of the wealth going to a handful of
individuals operating in the shadows for the benefit of international mafia and their families alone,” the memorandum stated.
The group seeks the help of the SA government as a “positive influence” on the United Nations Security Council in order to push for a redefinition and extension of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) mandate. The mandate is only deployed until June, but the group wants it to be extended to be integrated in the electoral process later this year to ensure that the process is transparent and provides protection to all presidential and parliamentarian candidates.
They also requested that South Africa mounts political pressure on the Congolese government, so as to meet its commitments on organising the 2011 elections within the constitutional time frame. The UDPS wants SA to demand that the Kinshasa regime stops abusing state instruments for personal purposes, including non-compliance in fundamental human rights.
Human rights abuses
The memo criticises the leadership of President Joseph Kabila for reportedly violating human rights of the Congolese people. “The accession of Joseph Kabila to the post of Head of State, gave birth to an autocratic, dictatorial and murderous regime worse than the toppled regime of Mobutu, with the characteristics of massive, deliberate and systematic violation of Human Rights, of the Constitution and laws of the Republic,” it states.
The group also accuses Kabila of reportedly establishing a despotic elite based on regional and ethno-tribal origins hardly conducive to
the national cohesion. They claim the president has been instigating arrests and extrajudicial detentions of politicians belonging to the
opposition. They also accuse him of allegedly being behind the murders of independent journalists and human rights activists.
“We request and demand that Kinshasa stop its arbitrary detentions and arrests, tortures and political assassinations, and get involved
in the defence and protection of the human persons in general,” the memorandum concluded.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- Despite the fact that some African countries have started to emulate the Egyptian style protests,but dissatisfied Zimbabweans will not take the risk becouse they know, Robert Mugabe will not hesitate to use the military to ruthlessly crush them.
“If you look at history, in Egypt the military stood aside and allowed the people to protest peacefully. They didn’t join Mubarak’s side, however, in Zimbabwe the military is part and parcel of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party,” Wilf Mbanga, editor and publisher of The Zimbabwean News, told Africa Witness.
He said the Zimbabwean police has been stopping every kind of public gathering, fearing that such convergence could become a protest against the African leader who has been in powe since 1981. “We got the police – who are on edge – and the military – which is panicking that Zimbabweans might demonstrate tomorrow. But mark my words, such a demonstration would be crushed ruthlessly if any attempt is made to copy the uprising in Zimbabwe.”
According to Mbanga, Mugabe announced that he wanted to have the elections this year, but the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangarai, said it would not be possible, because a number of processes needed to be put in place before a free and fair election could be held.
“The opposition wants to have the elections next year, when we have had a new constitution that is acceptable to all people. The current constitution has been amended by the ZANU PF 19 times. On 18 occasions, the constitution was amended to give Mugabe more powers, and to take away peoples rights. So the opposition wants a new constitution all together before the election is held.” he said.
Mbanga said negotiations between the three parties in Zimbabwe’s ruling coalition, ZANU-PF and the two Movements for Democratic Change (MDC) formations remained deadlocked as talks opened on Thursday, with mediators expecting to break the deadlock before the crucial SADC summit in Namibia on May 20.
“The ZANU-PF is being asked to allow the security forces to do their job without favouring any political party. The Zimbabwean police and army is partisan. It behaves as if it is owned by the ZANU-PF. While the two MDC formations are saying the security should do their job professionally, the ZANU-PF’s position is that its out of bounds to discuss the security. So this is failing the negotiators and the deadlock continued,” the veteran journalist said.
He also said State Security agents were harassing vocal journalists in the country, after President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party refused to honor the 2009 agreement reached with the two Movements for Democratic change (MDC) formations, regarding media freedoms in the country.
“Under the 2009 agreement they agreed that they would free the air waves and allow the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), to became a true state broadcaster by carrying news items of all political parties. However, the ZANU-PF has refused to respect this agreement.” He said the ruling party was almost in charge of running the affairs of the ZBC, because the state broadcaster had a partisan management body and staff members.
“As we speak, the ZBC has refused to even run paid for adverts from the two MDC political parties, but they are currently running jingles on behalf of the ZANU-PF for free.” Mbanga also said the ZANU-PF had refused to license independent community radio stations, but noted that the government had agreed to license a few newspaper ttles, which are currently on the market.
“Although they have agreed to license a few newspapers, state security agencies are now targeting individual journalists whom they are harassing,” he revealed, citing the example of the NewsDay newsroom which was attacked by unknown people on Easter Monday. Criminals who broke into the news room stole the editor’s laptop, hard drives and other components from computers used by senior editorial staff.
Journalists in Zimbabwe speculate that this could be the work of President Robert Mugabe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) which is keen on sniffing out the newspaper’s sources of news and information. The NewsDay Newspaper said the stolen equipment contained vital information.
The Zimbabwean government also issued a warrant of arrest for Mbanga in November last year, but this has not stopped him from publishing his popular The Zimbabwean Newspaper which is circulated in the SADC region, including Zimbabwe, in addition to being available on the internet.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN-Muslims in Kenya are living in fear of being arrested and falsely charged with terror, a Kenyan political analyst has said.
“Many innocent Muslims have been arrested in Kenya in the past months on false charges of terrorism,” Abdallah Kassim told Africa Witness by telephone from Nairobi. He said in this century, it was expected that police and intelligence services would gather enough evidence before pouncing to arrest suspects.
“Muslims in Kenya are living in great fear because many of their colleagues, family and friends have been arrested on false charges. What the world needs to know is that Kenyan Muslims do not support terror. So the security agencies should stop arresting people merely on suspicion,” said the analyst.
He said most of the Muslims who have been arrested in Kenya were kept in police custody without being taken to a court. “There are many Muslims who have been arrested and kept in police cells or in prison without trial. This is illegal. Why is the Kenyan government not charging these people in courts of law?” he asked.
According to Kassim, the Kenyan police also has a habit of “making Muslims disappear” across borders, in what is commonly known as “rendition”. He said in July last year a number of Kenyan Muslims were sent to Uganda for suspected involvement in the Kampala bomb blasts, which killed over 70 soccer fans who were watching the World Cup finals.
The analyst said when Human Rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi learnt of the renditions, he hired a lawyer and they flew to Uganda to represent the suspects. But shockingly the 50 year old Kimathi and his lawyer, Mbugua Murethi, were also arrested by the Ugandan anti terrorism police for allegedly having links with terrorists. Advocate Mbugua was released after spending days in Ugandan police cells, but his client has since been held in solitary confinement in Uganda’s Luzira prisons, along with the Kenyans he was trying to help.
Kimathi was the executive coordinator of the Kenyan Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF) and had been instrumental in fighting for the rights of detained Muslims. He has also been an outspoken critic of government abuses in the War on terror in East Africa. In 2007 the MHRF exposed a huge renditions scandal, dubbed “Africa’s Guantamo” – in which Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and the United States, were secretly moving prisons to different African countries.
Kimathi was arrested in Uganda on September 15. According to Cara Gutteridge an investigator working for the UK human rights group Reprieve, he was highly regarded as a tireless human rights activist in Africa. “In his work, Al-Amin has been a much needed beacon to some of the most marginalized and abused people in Africa. His arrest and treatment is a disgraceful indication of the depth to which the Ugandan government will stoop to in order to prevent light being shone on their own illegal practices,” she said.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN-Getting a better life has always been high on the list of priorities for 19 year-old, Cabdullaahi Xaaji Gaan, a Somali national . But he could not attain his dreams of having a better life in war ravaged Somalia. In February 2008, he embarked on a journey of hope to South Africa. He knew that when he got here, he would have to work hard to better his life and that of the family he left behind in Somalia.
After trekking south for nearly two months, the teenager arrived in South Africa in April 2008 and went straight to East London where most of his friends lived. He started working in a spaza shop. He thought that he had made a good start on his dreams when calamity struck. Five months after his arrival, robbers attacked his shop and shot him in the abdomen. One of the bullets remained stuck in his back, causing partial paralysis.
Xaaji was hospitalised for months. He lost income and depended on the generosity of the Somali community in East London for survival. More than that, it took him several months to learn how to walk with clutches. “I left my country because of the civil war. I thought I would have peace in South Africa and better my life. Unfortunately, I have now been maimed in this country,” he said as tears filled his eyes.
Since then Xaaji left East London and now lives in a Somali owned backpackers in Bellville, near Cape Town. “Life is very difficult when you’re not working, because food and accommodation is costly. I also feel a lot pain in my back, because the bullet is still in my back,” he related, adding that with the onset of winter, the cold increases the level of pain.
In the interim, Xaaji has been interviewed on several occasions by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and is now waiting for their decision. “I can’t go back to Somalia because of the war there and I can not continue to live in this country with my current health condition. I have no family in this country, besides I am much traumatised (than when I first came here). Whenever I remember what happened to me I feel disturbed. All I pray for is for the UNHCR to help resettle me to a peaceful country where I can have a better life,” he said.
But Xaaji is not the only one whose dreams were shattered upon arrival in South AFrica. 25-year-old Mahiya Mohamed Ahmed fled his Somali homeland for South Africa in 2009, also in search of safety and a better life, but has since found none. A year ago he was shot by robbers while at his shop in Mufuleni township and he still feels the consequences.
“My right leg was fractured after being shot. The robbers also swept my shop clean. They took everything. Since the robbers cleaned me out, I have been staying with friends and relatives who run tuck shops in the townships. I depend on them for entirely everything,” he related.
It is a bitter realisation for Ahmed who said he came to this country with a dream of creating a better future for himself and his family. This dream now lies in tatters. “I have a wife, a 6 year-old daughter, and several brothers and sisters back home in Somalia. They want me to send them money, but currently I have northing to give them,” he said.
The robbery has also left him traumatised. “I have been living in constant fear, ever since I was shot,” he confided. And he is not alone in his trauma. Many foreigners who came to South Africa as refugees, mainly Somalis, have subsequently become the victims of crime or xenophobia and have called upon the UNHCR to help resettle them to a third country.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- Human rights organisations expect to see a sharp decrease in violence against refugees in South Africa. This is according to Lutsha Zebei , a human rights peer educator with Africa Unite.
“We expect to see a sharp decrease in violence against refugees, because we have been training thousands of refugees about their rights, so they can now go to court and report whoever is abusing them,” he told Africa Witness while presenting a paper at a human rights awareness workshop in Bellville.
The one day sensitization workshop was organised by a number of advocacy and human rights organisations, which included the Somali Refugee Aid Agency (SORAA), Alliance for Refugees (Afrisa) and Africa Unite.
Zebei said in the past many refugees were unaware of their rights and as a result, they were frequently abused.
“Now that we have trained thousands of refugees, we are sure that violence against them will stop since they will be in position to report their perpetrators,” he said.
Zebie also warned migrants against abusing their women and children, stressing that violence against women was internationally recognised as major human rights violation.
“The women present in this workshop can now take the knowledge they have acquired to educate women in their communities about their rights,” he advised.
Another speaker, Jean Luke a representative of Afrisa, urged participants to always report cases of abuse to the police. If the police fails them, he said, they should report the matter to his organisation.
“I’m aware that some times police officers refuse to open cases when refugees go there to report crimes. If you encounter such a problem, please come to our office and we will help you.” He pledged
Luke added that refugees conducting businesses in townships often faced intimidation especially when they laid a charge against a South African national.
“We are working closely with other human rights organisations to give confidence to refugee traders who fear reporting cases because of reprisals.”
Presently the University of Cape Town, Refugee Law Clinic is completing a research project on access to justice for refugees and asylum seekers who are victims of crime. Parts of this report which Africa Witness has seen , reveal that most refugees have little knowledge of how the criminal justice system works in South Africa.
“Our study recommends that efforts need to be made to work with foreign community organisations to deliver education and awareness training on the work of the police and of the courts.” A researcher working on the project who wished to remain annonimous told this Publication.
The researcher said there were many reports implicating the South African Police Services(SAPS)of raiding foreign businesses, under the guise of searching for illegal cigarettes or firearms. But once the police officers entered the businesses premises they reportedly stole cash, cell pones, airtime and cigarettes among other items.
The report noted that in some cases the culprits may not have been bona fide members of the South African Police Services(SAPS). But, due to fear of further victimization, most foreign traders feared reporting such cases to police.
The report recommended that the SAPS should seriously consider addressing these crimes – both the bogus officers and the real ones – as they seriously undermine the capacity of SAPS to work effectively with the foreign communities in solving crimes.
Africa Unite gives hope to millions of Refugees
By Hassan Isilow
Africa Unite, a Cape Town based non-governmental organisation working to bring people of diverse backgrounds together, has pledged to continue advocating for the rights of refugees .
Ntombi Ntonyi, projects manager for the NGO, told Africa Witness that many refugees and asylum-seekers living in South Africa were skilled professionals , but could hardly find jobs.
She said the alarming levels of unemployment in the country, problems in transferring foreign credentials and lack of awareness amongst employers were some of the reasons why skilled migrants failed to get jobs.
“We have helped a lot of refugees/asylum seekers to get employment in our local schools as science and maths teachers. Our vision is to continue to help more refugees and South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds,” Ntobi
told Africa witness in Cape Town.
She said her organisation aims to bring together young adults from diverse backgrounds and working to develop a shared culture of human rights which will help to discourage xenophobia in South Africa, promote education, leadership and peace. Ntonyi said they have come across a lot of professional refugees who hold degrees and masters degrees in engineering and sciences whom they helped link up with employers.
She said Africa Unite also helps none professional refugees with skills development and training among other activities.
In 2006 Africa Unite resolved a conflict between South African traders and Somali shopkeepers in Masiphumelele, Cape Town.
The traders then formed a single business forum. In September 2006, there was a new wave of attacks on Somali businesses in Masiphumelele, near Kommetjie. Somali shopkeepers fled the informal settlement after 27 Somali-owned shops were trashed in a string of attacks thought to have had their roots in xenophobia. But Africa Unite intervened together with the Western Cape Government and resolved the Issue.
click on the link below the video, to listen an audio interview between Hassan Isilow & and Africa Unite’s Ntombi.
By Hassan Isilow
CAPE TOWN- The death of Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin laden, will not affect activities of terrorist organizations operating in Africa, an expert on Terrorism has said.
Anneli Botha, a senior researcher on terrorism at the institute of security studies in Pretoria said the death of Osama bin laden, will instead morale boast terrorist organizations to continue with their activities in the continent.
‘‘I don’t see the death of Osama Bin laden making these militant groups to suspend their activities. Groups such as, Al-shabaab in Somalia, the Maghreb fighters in North Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria, came into existence due to their country’s domestic frustrations.’’ the expert told Africa witness.
She said the three militant groups operating in Africa only claimed to be affiliates of Al-Qaeda much later, after they were already in existence.
‘‘These groups declared allegiance to Al-Qaeda much latter and I don’t think they can now stop fighting because their figure head is dead. In fact I believe they now have more reason to continue with their fight in revenge for the death of their figure head Osama bin laden’’ she explained.
Botha said the main cause of Islamic militancy in Africa was due to domestic frustration citing the example of Somalia where militancy started after the collapse of the state in 1991. While in Nigeria she said the Boko haraam militant group mainly came into existence because of the political stand offs between the South and the North.
Meanwhile, senior commanders of Somalia’s militant group Al-Shabaab have vowed to revenge the death of Osama Bin Laden.
“The Americans have previously killed other Islamist leaders,” said Mohamed Osman Arus a spokesperson for Al-shabaab “Their students will continue the jihad and we shall retaliate against the Americans, Israeli’s, and Europeans with destructive explosions.” Mohamed said.
While Sheikh Dahir Hassan Aweis, former leader of His-bul Islam who recently merged his group with Al-shabaab called on Al-Qaeda affiliate’s world over to join the war and revenge for Osama Bin Laden’s death.
He said the death of one man will not end their struggle .
‘‘If one man dies there are thousands of others who will fight, till we succeed’’ he said this week shortly after receiving news about Bin laden’s death. The United States of America said this week that it’s marine soldiers had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.