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Archive for September 29th, 2009

Longing and Regret Defines Africans’ experiences in the US

Posted by Administrator on September 29, 2009

By RASNA WARAHPosted Monday, September 28 2009 at 16:56

 

Whenever i hear that a Kenyan living in America is making plans to return home, I am hardly surprised. Being African-American in the United States is hard enough; being a first-generation African must be even harder, not withstanding that the current White House is occupied by people associated with both groups.

When you are black in America, your dreams fade fast. Wealth and accomplishment do not protect you from everyday insults and suspicion-filled eyes, as a black Harvard professor learned recently when he was arrested for “breaking into” his own home.

Racism in America is still alive and well, and has perhaps become more so since Barrack Obama became president. Last month, a pastor in a Baptist church in Arizona had the audacity to urge his congregation to pray for Obama’s death!

The decisions by Africans to return home is often made in an attempt to regain self-respect. Many, however, retain what the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refers to as a “complicated affection” towards America.

In Adichie’s new book of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, many of the characters – some of whom are undoubtedly based on real people – are Africans who are desperate to belong to an America that constantly rejects them. Some give up parts of themselves – the parts they hold dearest – so that they can fit in.

I know what that feels like. When I was in America as a student in the 1980s, I spent a lot of time denying my roots. (This desire to assimilate is not just the American people’s greatest strength; it is also their fatal weakness.)

I tried to mimic the ease with which first-generation immigrants tried to fit in. I once visited an Indian couple whose successful medical practice had enabled them to buy a big house in one of Boston’s wealthier suburbs. It had huge white pillars like the White House, but the house was empty and cold inside.

There was no smell of food being cooked in the kitchen, or the warmth of human flesh. I was served a cold sandwich. I wondered if they were happy.

I also visited a nuclear engineer who refused to move out of his slum-like hovel in New Jersey because he was saving every penny to build a house for his family in his village in Gujarat.

He was nearly 50 years-old and had spent most of his adult life living in a cramped bedsitter, where he dreamed of returning home one day. I have often wondered if he ever made it back.

I would not be like them, I told myself, when I was still thinking of making a life in America. I would live in a big city like New York or Boston, in a loft where my bedroom window would face skyscrapers.

My street would be one of those that hum with life all day and all night. I would have breakfast in the corner café and order take-away dinners from the Chinese restaurant down the street.

would work in a big firm in a tall building that would value my work, and give me a raise and a promotion every two years. I would fall in love – with a white American, of course – and have lovely biracial children who would pass for Italian.

My parents would come to visit, and I would take them to Florida for a holiday, and they would tell all my relatives back home how well I was doing and how lucky I was to live in America.

That never happened, of course. My life took a completely different trajectory. But as I look back now, I wonder whether I too would have headed back home.

At what point would i have had to confront my demons and admit that I really did not belong—and that I would never be truly accepted? Would I be like one of Adichie’s characters, full of regret, longing and sorrow?

Or would I end up writing books such as The Thing Around Your Neck, which, like most post-colonial literature, aims to deconstruct colonial representations of “the African” but in the process manages to bind Africa and the West even more tightly together?

Would I have become one of those transplanted writers who tailor their writings for white Western readers in the hope that their books will be awarded prizes in the “New African Writers” category?

I’ll never know. What I do know is that in trying to be accepted by white America, I would have had to deny my unique heritage and give up parts of my soul.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION

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Couple to be jailed for ‘indecent acts’

Posted by Administrator on September 29, 2009

An Omani man and Kenyan woman were sentenced to six-month imprisonment and subsequent deportation for “indecent acts in public.”
A policeman told a Doha court of first instance that he found a car in suspicious circumstances in Izghawa area around 4.15am on June 24 last year.
“I saw a bare-chested man and a half-nude woman in a compromising position, both in the driver’s seat. The man smelled of alcohol,” he said.
The two suspects denied the charges. The Omani, 29, was handed down an additional two-month imprisonment for drunkenness.
The Kenyan woman, 27, was deported on the basis of an administrative order before the commencement of the trial.

Source: Gulf Times

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Kenyan Man Gives Back

Posted by Administrator on September 29, 2009

By: Kate Monohan

Posted 09/29/2009

Kennedy Odede, a 25-year-old who grew up in the Kibera slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya, grew up seeing poverty, death and a brutal patriarchy that led to rape, HIV/AIDS and prostitution every day. Living in a 10-by-10 foot hut in the largest slum in Africa, and the second largest slum worldwide, he longed for more – not just for himself, but also for those in his neighborhood.

“Kibera is my slum, Kibera is my home, Kibera is my life,” Odede said. “I walked everyday on the streets until I keeled and fell down […] I see murders, I see them.”

Odede co-founded The Kibera School for Girls in August with Jessica Posner, a Wesleyan alumna who aided Odede in applying to Wesleyan two years ago. Posner has studied abroad in Kenya and met Odede while there.

“The one thing we need in this place is education, because education is the only way that poverty can change,” Odede said.

In 2005 Odede founded an organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to help uplift the Kibera community. Later, he and Jessica sought funding from various organizations to help achieve their goal of building a community center and school for girls in Kibera.

In Kibera, 66 percent of girls are prostitutes by the age of 16, according to SHOFCO’s Web site. Some girls begin prostitution as early as age 6. One of every five children in Kibera dies before the age of 5.

“We wanted to build them [girls in Kibera] a space that they could speak without their minds being strict,” Odede said, explaining that girls in Kibera need to think “outside the box” in order to contribute to society. He added that a classic example of the patriarchy in Kenya was in his own mother, who he said had no potential for success.

“There was nowhere she could be listened to, in this society [women] do not speak,” Odede said. “It’s something, I think, is culturally dominant.”

The Kibera School for Girls is the only public school in Kibera, because the government sees the area as an illegal settlement and doesn’t provide the area with proper resources, according to information on SHOFCO’s Web site.

The school, which opened in August, was a dream that Odede had been hoping for for a long time, he said, and he was thrilled when it finally became a reality.

“Public education is something that most people just never even think about as a possibility in Kenya,” Posner said.

The school has 45 female students in preschool through first grade, and is now up-and-running, Posner said. The school will grow with the students, adding grades as the girls get older, she said. The hope is that eventually the school will supply education through the eighth grade, she added.

“We’re hoping that the school can be a model that we could take and adapt to other situations,” Posner said.

Posner and Odede worked with American Friends of Kenya (AFK), a Norwich-based non-profit organization that works closely with Kenyans to help prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and promote education among children.

Odede and Posner will be joined Wednesday by Marcel and Bethe Dufresne, a husband and wife reporting team, who chronicled the efforts of SHOFCO and AFK for The Hartford Courant, to share their story with the UConn community. The talk is called “Continents Together,” and will also be attended by the founders of AFK, Wayne and Emely Silver.

Marcel Dufresne, an associate professor of journalism at UConn, hopes that students that attend the talk will learn not to take their lifestyle for granted, and that there are many organizations available for young people to join that make an impact on others’ lives.

“We had one young guy on the trip who was 17-years-old and he was going to be a college freshman, and this just opened his eyes, I think, to how much of the world lives,” Dufresne said. “And I don’t think he’ll ever be the same as a result of it.”

Dufresne was the primary photographer on the trip, as his wife, Bethe, did most of the writing, he said. Seventeen of their photos will be on display in the hallway of Konover Auditorium in the Dodd Center until Oct. 14. The photos have lengthy captions that tell many of the stories that he and his wife witnessed while in Kibera this August.

“From a standpoint of a campus community, I do think there is a lot at this talk for people from across the campus,” he said.

There will be information about developing countries’ problems, issues with how American aid is used in Africa and what Americans can do to help people like those that live in the slums of Kibera, he said.

“There’s a lot of volunteer work that people can do here, and if people are also interested in going to Kenya, we’re also really interested in having volunteers at the school,” Posner said.

The school includes a “holistic approach to community uplift,” Posner said.

The project also included a community center, garden and library and provides after-school programs, health programs and many other resources for the people of Kibera, Posner said. This means that students not interested in teaching are also needed to volunteer, she said.

Posner and Odede are watching the school’s progress from a distance, as the community has taken ownership of it now, Odede said. They have plans to return this summer.

“The community members own the school … the school will belong to them forever,” he said.

Odede’s new dream? To share his experiences in Kibera with those in other slums and to help others rise from poverty to have a voice in their community, he said.

“When I was in Kibera seeing the innocent dying from the sprayed bullets by the Police men,” Odede writes in his personal blog. “My heart jump out and I wanted to die with my people. I saw a baby playing not understanding the politic in country and he was an humble baby but he met the bullet on the way. Oh God, what’s happening under the sun? Where are the Angels? Now we need them.”

For more information on how you can help, http://www.Hopetoshine.org

Source: The Daily Campus

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Kenyan Officials May Be Regretting the Obama Connection

Posted by Administrator on September 29, 2009

U.S. policy towards Africa has been fairly muted in the first nine months of the Obama Administration. Aside from Obama’s speech in Ghana and Hillary Clinton’s whirlwind tour of the continent, there has been little beyond rhetoric coming from Uncle Sam. As with many other policy areas, including domestic ones, government agencies such as the State Department and AFRICOM are still working to develop their tailor-made policies for the new administration.

Officials however, have certainly shot out of the gate in dealing with Kenya. Whether it is Obama’s personal link to the country or possibly that a clear policy framework has already been decided on, the U.S. has been much more assertive in its Kenya strategy. Just last week, a letter signed by the U.S. assistant secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to Kenya, was sent to fifteen politicians of the Kenyan government threatening to impose travel bans if the officials do not work to promote political reforms and seek justice for the January 2008 post-election violence. The call comes as Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said he would notify the ICC that Kenya would not be administering tribunals to try suspects of Kenya’s post-election violence (a number of whom are government officials). President Mwai Kibaki has since sent a letter directly to President Obama expressing his displeasure at the U.S.’ strongly worded stance.

Compared to how the U.S. administration has dealt with less-than-friendly nations such as Iran, Venezuela and North Korea (with whom Obama has struck a more conciliatory tone) such a hard-nosed approach to Kenya seems odd. But in fact, the administration’s Kenya policy fits quite predictably into a greater foreign policy framework. It turns out that Obama only adheres to Kissinger’s Realpolitik when dealing with such aforementioned states that are in ideological opposition to the U.S. He uses the proverbial ‘stick’ when his legitimacy is high and a practical ‘carrot’ in situations where it is lacking (for example his June speech addressing the Islamic world at Cairo University). Unlike Bush, the more his words are respected the more comfortable he is with using them as a tool to push for action.

Although the American administration may be acting with good intention, such a policy could easily strain relations with an important regional U.S. ally. Kenya’s strategic value lies in its proximity to southern Somalia and the Indian Ocean shipping lanes while also serving as a hub for East African trade and a center for American intelligence operatives—qualities that only increase in importance as the situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate and as East Africa moves towards greater regional economic integration.

In addition, transitional “justice” may not be what Kenya needs work past its problems. In fact, a crusade for justice will only play into the hands of ‘victimized’ ethnic factions scrambling for reparations in the form of political power. The U.S. should look at South Africa and Rwanda to see that sometimes, forgiveness for past crimes and a focus on institutional legitimacy goes further in the quest to build a capable state. By focusing more on good governance and battling corruption than on subjective forms of justice, the administration has a better chance of stabilizing Kenya in the long term.

Even so, certain questions should be clarified before the U.S. goes any further with this strategy. Kenyan politicians will not concede to reform if they believe there is a chance that they will be punished in the end by an ICC tribunal. Specifically, how does the administration differentiate between blocking reform and political deliberation? And what are its benchmarks for reform? The importance placed on such policy details by the U.S. should not be relegated to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It will be worth following whether the Obama Administration’s tactic pushes Kenyan politicians to concede to U.S. demands (and if so, how these demands are defined) or if it will merely break Kenya’s Obama honeymoon. If this is part of a greater framework for how Obama will operate on the international stage, it will be an interesting lithmus test.

SOURCE: http://www.independent.co.ug

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ZIMBABWE: Virgins Forced into Marriage to ‘Appease’ Evil Spirits

Posted by Administrator on September 29, 2009

By Nyarai Kachere


MUTARE, Zimbabwe, Sep 29 (IPS) – Three years after being seized from their families and forced to marry and have sex with adult men in a Shona ritual to appease an avenging spirit, five teenagers are facing a dismal reality.

The girls from Honde Valley in Manicaland had to drop out of school, become under-age wives and mothers and live an impoverished life as vegetable vendors to contribute to their new families’ household income.

In 1999, Felicitas Nyakama, Nesta Maromo, Juliet Muranganwa, Precious Maboreke and Perseverance Ndarangwa, who were then between the ages of seven and 15, were handed over by their parents to the family of Gibson Kupemba as payment for the man’s murder. The girls’ relatives killed Kupemba to prepare muti, traditional medicine, which is sometimes made from body parts.

According to traditional belief, a murderer’s relatives need to appease a dead person’s spirit with virgin girls, sometimes as young as six years old. The virgin has to live with the murdered person’s family, no matter her age. When she reaches puberty, she is made the wife of one of the male members of her new family.

Kupemba’s grandson Gibson (junior) said his grandfather appeared to him in his sleep, demanding a virgin girl as compensation from each family involved in his murder. He insists the girls were not forced to offer themselves, but it was their personal choice to rescue their families from an evil spirit.

“They came here to confess on their own volition. Each girl must be accompanied by 22 heads of cattle,” said 28-year-old Kupemba junior, who married Precious Maboreke in 1999, when she was 15 years old. They have three children.

While five girls have already been pledged to the Kupembas, Kupemba junior says his family still demands twelve more virgins to avenge his grandfather’s death.

Kuripa ngozi, or virgin pledging, is a punishable offence under Zimbabwe’s Domestic Violence Act, the practice is rampant throughout the country but no perpetrator has ever been prosecuted.

The saga of the five girls began in 1995, the year Kupemba was murdered by four local grocery shop owners with the help of 13 other villagers. Kupemba’s mutilated, decomposing body was found discarded in a dry riverbed.

Some time later, locals say, Kupemba’s spirit started causing sudden ailments and deaths in the families involved, resulting in some of them confessing to killing him. The shop owners admitted to having chopped off his private parts, little fingers, tongue and a patch of hair for the preparation of traditional medicines to boost their businesses.

Despite the confessions, no arrests were made, and Kupemba’s relatives allege the shop owners bought the police’s silence.

To appease the dead man’s spirit, the families handed over the first five virgins to the Kupemba family from 1999 onwards, but the process was stalled in 2006 when children’s rights organisation Girl Child Network (GCN) compelled the police and the Department of Social Welfare to investigate the matter and return the girls to their families.

But shortly thereafter, investigations were put on ice. Headman Samanga of Honde Valley told IPS he pulled out of the Kupemba case, as all involved families had accused him of preventing them from resolving private, domestic affairs.

“In this area, people strongly believe kuripa ngozi can only be settled by offering a virgin girl. I was the lone voice against the practice, and it was soon drowned. The families believed I was hindering their efforts to settle their transgressions,” he explained.

Eventually, the police, which had rescued four of the girls from the Kupemba family and put them under the custody of GCN, ordered GCN to send the girls back to their families, who returned them to the Kupembas.

Only the mother of one of the girls, Anna Ndarangwa, says she tried to rescue her daughter from the ritual. “I had a heated argument with the Kupembas,” she said, but did not manage to take her daughter home.

Ndarangwa believes the girls were brainwashed into believing that the health and well-being of their families were dependent on their personal sacrifice. “It was like something was upon them. I don’t want my daughter to pay for a crime she did not commit. I will die fighting for her,” she declared.

Afraid to talk to the media, all five refused to be interviewed by IPS.

SOURCE: IPSNEWS-ZIMBABWE

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