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Prize for stitching her way to recovery, Jamii Forums influence irks authorities and Nigeria’s prisoners of conscience (Demo)

Just one day after the commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity, news of the brutal killing of community radio journalist Papy Mumbere Mahamba in the village of Lwemba in the DRCongo, reverberated through the region.

Mahamba had just returned home after hosting his Ebola awareness programme at the local Ituri community radio station when he was stabbed several times. His wife was wounded in the attack. Their home was burnt down.

Health personnel working on curbing Ebola are regarded with suspicion in the DRC, which has recorded the world’s second-worst epidemic of the virus. Since January, the World Health Organisation has recorded more than 300 attacks on health workers, resulting in 6 deaths and 70 cases of injured staff and patients, with the Lwemba health area being especially volatile.

Mahamba’s murder was condemned by Audrey Azoulay, the director-general of UNESCO.

Jamii Forums co-founder recipient of press freedom award

Taxence Melo Mubyazi, Tanzanian online activist, owner and co-founder of the online website Jamii Forums, was this month celebrated as one of the recipients of the International Press Freedom Award for 2019. Initiated by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the award is in recognition of his courageous work in demanding public transparency and good governance.

Launched in 2006, the Jamii Forums site, which is also dubbed the Swahili Wikileaks, evolved from facilitating public debates for youth on politics and governance to exposing corruption and offering a secure platform for whistleblowers.

It is the site’s growth and influence that has irked authorities and subsequently landed Melo in trouble – in 2017 alone, he went to court 91 times and in 2018 the site was temporarily shut down.

In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute to fellow Tanzanians who “have been tortured, intimidated or died while exercising their rights to freedom of expression. He went on to mention freelance journalist Azory Gwanda, who disappeared in 2017.

As Melo was being acclaimed for his work, journalist Erick Kabendera had his hearing adjourned for the eighth time since he was arrested in July. On all eight occasions the State’s justification has been that investigations have not been completed. Kabendera is being charged for leading organised crime, failing to pay taxes and money laundering, in what critics say is a politically-driven agenda.

Tanzanian government denies withdrawal from AfCHPR

The Tanzanian government refuted assertions that it had withdrawn its membership from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR). Dr Augustine Mahiga, the justice minister, said the government had requested that the AfCHPR withdraw what they consider a contentious protocol. He did not elaborate on which specific convention they had raised objections to.

In the meantime, Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement saying that Tanzania had withdrawn the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against it at the Arusha-based court.

In providing background, the statement confirmed: “The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, signed the notice of withdrawal of the declaration made under Article 34(6) of the African Court Protocol on 14 November 2019. This notification was sent to the African Union on 21 November.”

AI contends the withdrawal is tantamount to an “outright betrayal of efforts in Africa to establish strong and credible regional human rights bodies that can deliver justice and accountability.”

Nigeria ignores court rulings

Nigeria’s continued disregard for the law has prompted Amnesty International to declare human rights defenders Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo prisoners of conscience, for facing “ongoing arbitrary detention and unfair trials solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.” Despite regional and international condemnation, the three have been in detention since August of this year.

Jalingo has also been listed as one of the 10 most urgent cases of threats to press freedom in the monthly list released by One Free Press Coalition, to highlight violations around the world.

Nobel laureate and renowned author Wole Soyinka describes President Muhammad Buhari’s failure to comply with court orders as a national embarrassment. Repeatedly refusing to release Sowore, despite his meeting all bail conditions, has been described by Shehu Sani, the executive director of the Centre for Peace and Development, as “an affront on the constitution.” Since his re-election in February, President Buhari and his government have been blatantly ignoring court rulings.

Women Celebrated

 In addition to focusing on gender-based violence during the #16DaysofActivism campaign in November, there were also moments for praise for the success of three women in their different spheres.

Choumali – first African to win Prix Prictet

Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali’s striking photo essay Ça va aller [It will be ok] combining her signature stamp of empty spaces, lone figures and intricate embroidery, won her the prestigious Prix Pictet Award. She is the first African to win the award.

Her photographs capture street scenes a few weeks after the March 2016 terrorist attack on the town of Grand Bassam in her native Ivory Coast. Birthed out of tragedy, her series explored the way Ivorians deal with trauma and mental health issues, and for the judges it best exhibited the competition’s 2019 theme of hope.

As Choumali explained, “I felt the need to process this pain and I discovered that I could do so through embroidery. Each stitch was a way to recover, to lay down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt.”

Choumali is currently exhibiting her collage in London, and then she will take the story of the Grand Bassam to Tokyo.

South Africa’s Anriette Esterhuysen appointed chair of UN Advisory Group

On 25 November, acclaimed ICT for social change activist, Anriette Esterhuysen, was appointed to chair the Internet Governance Forum’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group by UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres.

From the mid-80s, Esterhuysen and other anti-apartheid activists used technology to by-pass government interception and share with the world information about injustices being perpetrated in South Africa. Post-independence, she continued to advocate for free access to information and sharing of data to marginalised communities in South Africa and in the Southern African region.

As she once highlighted: “The internet is a disruptor and an enabler. What is disturbing is that the same technologies that initially opened the doors for content sharing, and access to information to people who cannot afford to pay for it, are now being used to reinforce digital rights”.

Her most notable work was when she was executive director of the Association for Progressive Communications – a network committed to open source information and the use of technology for social justice.

Tech mogul Rebecca Enonchong retains position as chair

Cameroonian tech mogul Rebecca Enonchong from Cameroon was this month re-elected to chair Afrilabs – a network of tech hubs and innovation spaces across 45 countries in Africa. The announcement was made at the annual Afrilabs gathering which was held in Addis Ababa this year.

A giant in the tech space in Africa, Enongchong, who is CEO of AppTech and chair of Afrilab affiliate ActivSpaces based in Cameroon, has a desire to see technology change the lives of people living in rural areas. She has appeared on the 100 Most Influential Africans in Science, Tech and Innovation and the 50 most influential Africans lists.

In brief

Ugandan journalists and leaders of numerous associations managed to deliver a petition protesting police brutality, despite heavy-handed tactics to prevent them. The petition was protesting the teargassing, seizure of equipment and attacks on journalists covering university student protests in Kampala.

Two private radio stations were taken off-air by authorities in Guinea Bissau in the run-up to the 21 November presidential election.

Members of the southwest chapter of the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union attended court in support of their colleaguepidgin news anchor Samuel Wazizi. Wazizi, who was arrested in August this year, is being accused of “collaborating with separatists” and “spreading separatist information”.

The Media Foundation for West Africa conducted a training on Ghana’s recently passed Right to Information Law, which revolutionises how citizens can get information from government institutions.

Kenya’s recently passed Data Protection Act is set to protect personal information by regularising how people share their private information and ensuring people have a right to personal data, while preventing unauthorised sharing of personal details.

Just like their 2016 hit single – All Eyes on Me, two of Africa’s iconic pop stars – Burna Boy from Nigeria and AKA from South Africa, attracted attention from across the continent when the Africa Unite concert scheduled for late November and featuring the two was cancelled.

A feud between the two, who often collaborated as partners and were known to be good friends, was sparked on Twitter. Following the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Burna Boy sent out a tweet (which has since been erased) condemning them. AKA responded, and a war of words heated up. Other South African artists and personalities called for a boycott of the concert because of Burna Boy’s inclusion. The anti-xenophobia concert was cancelled by the organisers, worried about threats of violence. AKA is now demanding an apology from Burna Boy for his online remarks.

Lionheart – Nigeria’s entry in the International Feature Film category – was disqualified for its considerable – about 90% – English content. The co-chair of the Oscar’s International Film executive committee, Larry Karaszewski, referred to the situation as more of a misunderstanding than a controversy. “If you’re submitting for something as important as an Academy Award, I would think you should look at the rules,” he added.

Genevieve Nnaji, the director, tweeted that English is regarded as the official language in Nigeria, linking people in a country where over 500 languages are spoken.

The post Prize for stitching her way to recovery, Jamii Forums influence irks authorities and Nigeria’s prisoners of conscience appeared first on IFEX.


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