Africa News In Brief (10/1/13)

By October 2, 2013November 13th, 2013Africa News in Brief, News & Current Affairs

JOBERG ART FAIR CENSORS LOSE BID TO BAN PORTRAIT OF DEADLY MINERS’ STRIKE

Oct. 1 (GIN) – Solidarity among artists rescued the larger than life painting of a tragic miners’ strike in 2012 where some 44 people were killed and 78 wounded in a murderous onslaught by security guards against workers that horrified the nation.

Removed from the walls by the fair’s organizers, the painting by Ayanda Mabulu was quickly restored after veteran photographer David Goldblatt threatened to take down his own exhibition if Mabulu’s painting was not returned.

The organizers feared that “Yakhal‘inkomo – Black Man’s Cry” by the youthful Mabulu would upset the fair’s sponsors and the nation’s political elites. Among the raw images, a kneeling miner with horns on his head, symbolic of a dying bull, is attacked by the dog held by President Jacob Zuma who, dressed in a suit, steps over the bloodied miner’s head.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles are shown laughing at the spectacle. Other familiar figures include labor leader now millionaire Cyril Ramaphosa and Julius Malema in his red beret, shocked by what he sees.

The work is named after musical scores by the late Winston Mankunku Ngozi and Nigerian icon Fela Kuti. Yakhal’inkomo loosely translates to “the bull bellows” or “the cow cries”.

Ross Douglas, director of Art Logic which organizes the fair, said he believed it was “not the year to show such work.”

“I understand why Mabulu made the work and why he is upset. However, it’s part of the challenge of running an art fair that one has to balance different interests… We have a responsibility to many people who rely on the fair economically… I go to art fairs all over the world and ours is the least censored.”

Mabulu, a fierce artistic activist, said his painting “speaks about the slaughter of black people, black miners, poor people and the marginalized, by those in power, including our president and those in power… I’m going to continue talking about these stories regardless of who says what.”

He added: “I understood this sort of thing (censorship) in Cape Town when the (white supremacist ) AWB was after me but I did not expect this in Joburg, which is supposed to be black.” w/pix of Mabulu painting

AFTER MALL BOMBING, KENYA MULLS EXPULSION OF SOMALI REFUGEES

Oct. 1 (GIN) – Kenyan parliamentarians are threatening to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, which is home to about half a million Somalis forced to flee to Kenya because of a war at home with insurgents under the Islamist Al-Shabab.

The closure threats follow the siege and massacre at a Nairobi shopping mall by the Somali Islamists who took their war against a western-backed government in the Somali capital of Mogadishu into Kenya. Foreign fighters including Kenyans and Ethiopians have been defending the Somali government since 2011 although the “government” controls only a very small part of the country.

Taking responsibility for the attack, Al-Shabab Islamists said it was in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta responded: “If their desire is for Kenya to pull out from Somalia, my friends all they need to do is what they should have done 20 years ago, which is to put their house in order and Kenya will come back to Kenya.”

But not all Kenyans agree that “staying the course” is good for the country.

In a sidewalk debate captured by CNN, businessman John Mutua said: “We need to get them out,” referring to the Kenyan soldiers. “They’ll keep killing us, and we’ll continue killing them — it will never end. We should all stop fighting, start afresh.”

Bank teller John Kamau, 28, disagreed. “That’s nonsense, it’s not that easy,” he said. “We’re already in too deep. We will be considered cowards if we get out. They (Al-Shabaab) started it by killing and kidnapping people in our own land.”

Over the weekend, a Kenyan official suggested that the Dadaab refugees were the obstacle to peace. The refugee camp, located in northern Kenya, was a “breeding ground for terrorists,” he alleged.

But the prospect of closing the camp has alarmed Human Rights Watch who warn it would inflame further instability in Somalia.

“Forcing them back to a country still wracked by widespread violence and insecurity would not only breach Kenya’s obligations under international law, but could inflame further instability in Somalia,” HRW Senior Researcher Gerry Simpson said this week in a statement.

For now, Kenyans who began picking up the pieces at the devastated Westgate Mall, are reporting jewelry cases smashed, mobile phones ripped from displays, cash registers emptied and alcohol stocks plundered.

No one can say for sure who is responsible, but Kenya’s poorly paid security forces are strongly suspected. w/pix of Somali refugees

NIGERIA’S PORT HARCOURT IS WORLD BOOK CAPITAL CITY FOR 2014

Oct. 1 (GIN) – A coalition of reading groups represented by the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO have picked Port Harcourt of Nigeria as the World Book Capital City for its efforts to ‘bring back the book’ to the forefront of national discourse.

Credit for the award was shared by the Rainbow Book Club (RBC) and other clubs promoting the culture of reading for entertainment and information among senior secondary and senior primary school students.

“The Neighborhood,” a Nigerian online newsletter, observed: “The image of groups of people huddled around, discussing books, does not come readily to mind when one thinks of Africa. The fight to change that has been ongoing through the efforts of organizations like the Rainbow Book Club.”

Among the books selected by the RBC for secondary school students are Chimeka Garricks’ “Tomorrow Died Yesterday”, and Kaine Agary’s “Yellow-Yellow”. Selected books for the primary schools are Fatima Pam’s The Young Adventurers, Achebe and Iroaganachi’s How the Leopard Got His Claws and Dan Fulani’s Dead Men’s Bones.

U.S. participation in UNESCO was cut back in 2011 after a vote by UNESCO members making Palestine a full member. Dues payments from the U.S. were withheld, leaving a $144 million hole in the budget. A vote to strip the U.S. of voting rights will be heard this year.

Meanwhile, artists, authors and poets celebrated the designation at a gathering last week in Trenton, NJ. Renowned author Wole Soyinka, among the guests, thanked Port Harcourt for the honor they brought …”not only to the nation but to the African continent.”

Author and poet Ogaga Ifowodo, skeptical at first, later expressed hope that the government of Rivers State would make Port Harcourt worthy of its status as the world book capital.

“ I sincerely hope that neither politics nor lack of resources (that ubiquitous reason for many a failed dream in our land) nor—the ancestors forbid—a weakened will would turn to ashes in our mouths this symbolic victory of culture over anarchy,” he said.

The nomination does not carry any financial prize, only a symbolic acknowledgement of the best program dedicated to books and reading.
w/pix of W. Soyinka at UNESCO event

SLAP ON WRIST FOR FAKE DRUGS VENDOR CALLED ‘SHAMEFUL’

Oct. 1 (GIN) – Counterfeit drugs are a chronic problem in Africa’s largely unsupervised market place. So-called anti-malaria drugs imported from India have been found with little or no ability to protect adults or children. So the recent release of a fake drug dealer with a mere slap on the wrist has infuriated some Ghanaians.

The wrist slap was for Samuel Tobbin, executive chairman of Tobinco Pharmaceuticals, who sold Gsunate Plus to treat malaria in children although the drug was never tested. He and an Indian co-conspirator were made to sign an undertaking on Sept. 26, 2013, not to import or distribute unregistered or fake medicines onto the Ghanaian market again.

“Just signing an undertaking not to import fake medicines to Ghana again?” a bewildered ‘Frank’ asked on modernghana.com. “So importing fake medicine is just punishable by signing an undertaking? This is a shame.”

Tobinco’s stash of some 100 drugs imported and sold by the company – including antibiotics and anti-malarials – was seized by Ghana’s Food and Drug Agency in a sting operation. Of the 100, only 7 had been approved by the FDA.

Tobbin, named Marketing Man of the Year in 2010, allegedly apologized to the FDA for engaging in the act.

“Fraudulent medicines pose a considerable public health threat as they can fail to cure, may harm and even kill patients,” the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime wrote on their website. “They include those with less or none of the stated active ingredients, with added, sometimes hazardous, adulterants, substituted ingredients, completely misrepresented, or sold with a false brand name.

“Legitimate drugs that have passed their expiration date are sometimes remarked with false dates. Low-quality counterfeit medication may cause any of several dangerous health consequences, including side effects or allergic reactions.”

The Eastern Regional branch of the Food and Drugs Authority, FDA, also this week destroyed some herbal medicines and candies worth several million Ghana cedis.

The items included expired drugs, soft drinks as well as medicines without laboratory tests, which were neither registered nor certified by the FDA. These threats to public health have led the international community to call for a stronger and more coordinated response. w/pix of ‘pill shopping’ in Accra market

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