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Africa News in Brief

Africa News In Brief (10/29/13)

By October 29, 2013No Comments


Oct. 29 (GIN) – African soccer stars came under a hail of racist chanting at a recent Champions League match by Russians in Moscow last week.

The incident highlighted the failure of official anti-racism efforts, particularly this week’s “Football (soccer) Against Racism in Europe Action Week” organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

Jeers from the Moscow stadium upset Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure. “We are all humans,” he said. “It is not a nice feeling to go and play a football match – to bring joy to the people – and to be called a monkey or to hear monkey noises… That’s what disappoints me so much.”

Toure, of Manchester City of the UK, was wearing an armband that read ‘no to racism.’ He demanded action from the European sports body which is caught between the African complaints and denials from the Russians of any wrongdoing. “We found no racist insults from the fans,” said Evgeny Giner of the Russian CSKA team. “On many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players — but regardless of their race… Granted, in the championship of Russia, there were times when bananas flew onto the field, which is unacceptable.”

“Our fans behave decently and are sympathetic to the request of the club to have much fewer imposed fines… Why the Ivorian player took it as being directed at him is not clear.”

Under regulations put in place at the start of the season, if CSKA’s supporters are found guilty of racist behavior, they could face partial closure of their grounds as the club’s first offence. A second offence leads to a full stadium closure and a fine.

It remains to be seen whether UEFA will also review how Ovidiu Hategan, the Romanian referee, handled the incident. Touré complained to Hategan during the game that he was racially abused and, under the new regulations, the official should have stopped the game. Hategan, however, allowed the game to carry on.

In a separate development, this week Touré was named Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N.’s Environmental Program. He pledged to combat the illegal ivory trade that sees thousands of African elephants slaughtered each year. w/pix of Y. Toure


Oct. 29 (GIN) – The detention of two journalists for writing articles critical of Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has been denounced by the human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

The UK group urged the government to drop all charges against the writers for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression.

“High-level government officials must be prepared to face public criticism about how they carry out their office,” said Amnesty’s Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus: To refuse a space for such criticism and public accountability is a violation of the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Sierra Leonean and international law.”

The two journalists, Jonathan Leigh, who edits the Independent Observer, and a member of his staff, Bai Bai Sesay, detained on Oct. 18, were charged with 26 counts of seditious libel, denied bail and jailed.

Leigh’s editorial, about supposed friction between Koroma and his vice-president, Sam Sumana, said Koroma “is regarded as an elephant, but he behaves like a rat and should be treated like one.”

Pressure against media stepped up this week with the arrest of some eleven media practitioners by the Criminal Investigations Department.

Armed police officers began raiding newspaper offices in the name of searching for the office that prints the Independent, observed Abdul Fonti of the New People Newspaper.

Under the Public Order Act of 1965, anyone who prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any “seditious” publication can be found guilty of a criminal offence and serve up to a three-year prison sentence.

But the U.N. Rights Committee asserts that “the mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties… All public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.” w/pix of Pres. E. Bai Koroma


Oct. 29 (GIN) – A ex-military officer’s off-hand remark that striking workers strapped by rising electric and water bills should pack their bags and leave the country has stirred up a hornet’s nest among the Ghanaian diaspora.

Retired Brigadier-General Joseph Nunoo-Mensah was rebuked for telling Ghanaians to take a hike if they could not sacrifice in difficult times.

“Go to work, or get out,” was the General’s statement carried by the state-owned Ghanaian Times.

This prompted the Association of Concerned Ghanaians in Europe (ACGIE) to shoot off a response: “We find Gen. Nunno-Mensah’s ‘deportation orders’ rather strange, absurd and infantile to say the least.
ACGIE finds such unguided statements appalling and unacceptable.”

The letter went on: “Clearly, if anybody has cause to be angry, it should be the Ghanaian worker whose life has been made miserable as a result of the hikes in utility prices, increased petroleum prices, a crumbling health system, deteriorating infrastructure coupled with massive corruption, ineptitude and mismanagement.”

“It was not well thought of, it was quite irritating,” said union leader Kofi Asamoah of the General’s remark.

Rate increases in effect this month include a 78.9% hike in electricity and a 52% hike in water tariffs. Petrol prices are down 4 percent, diesel by 2 percent but kerosene is up 24 percent. w/pix of labor leader Kofi Asamoah


Oct. 29 (GIN) – In the latest development of energy from “renewables” such as solar and wind, the Ashegoda Wind Farm was launched Oct. 26 in Tigray state, Ethiopia. It follows a plan to create a “climate resilient’ economy by 2025.

Africa’s second most populous country has been plagued by frequent blackouts. The new energy capacity supplements hydropower from the 6,000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam now under construction on the Nile.

Wind power potential at Ashegoda is believed to be Africa’s third-highest behind Egypt and Morocco.

The Ethiopian government covered 9 percent of the $290 million pricetag. Ashegoda Wind Farm was built by French firm Vergnet SA with concessional loans from BNP Paribas and the French Development Agency.

The wind farm consists of 84 turbines towering above an arid region where villagers herd cattle and ride donkey-drawn carts as they have for generations.

Media reports, however, noted that about 700 farmers had lost some or all their land to make way for the farm’s turbines. They were given financial compensation but some complained the money was too little.

Last week, Ethiopia signed a preliminary agreement with a US-Icelandic firm for a $4 billion private sector investment intended to tap its vast geothermal power resources and produce steam.

The developments have not, however, yielded the employment opportunities so desperately needed by the population. In the face of a skyrocketing number of émigrés, the government this week issued a ban on Ethiopian citizens travelling abroad to look for work.

The foreign ministry said the decision was meant to “safeguard the well-being of citizens,” who were dying or facing physical and psychological trauma because of illegal human trafficking.

Critics condemned the ban as “myopic at best and stone-age governance at worst.” Opposition leader Temesgen Zewdie wrote: “Any sensible government would define the alleged problem and seek solutions without subjecting innocent people to lose their Constitutional and Universal Rights to travel to their places of choice. This type of draconian government decision can only happen in a one-party totalitarian state.”

The travel ban will remain in place until a “lasting solution” is found. w/pix of Ashegoda wind turbines


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