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"Jomaa Meter" Set Up by Tunisian Group to Track Leader’s Performance.

In a similar fashion to Egypt’s “Morsi Meter" that tracked the performance of Mohammed Morsi’s short-lived presidency, the founders of the Morsi meter have helped Tunisian organization "I Watch set-up up a “Jomaa Meter" to evaluate the progress and promises of their leader Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

The founders of the Jomaa meter hope this initiative will help foster a greater sense and culture of accountability in Tunisian politics.

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All Africa, All the time.

Central African Republic elects first woman president.

After the country’s first Muslim leader and former interim president stepped down on January 10th after both internal and external pressure over his failure to curb the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), an election was held to determine who the country’s next interim president would be.

With six candidates knocked out in the first round, lawyer, businesswoman and now former mayor of the capital city of Bangui Catherine Samba-Panza went to head-to-head against Desire Kolingbe, the son of a former president Andre Kolingba, winning 75 votes against Kolingba’s 53 in the second round of voting. 

In her victory speech, Samba-Penza called on her fellow citizens to ‘put down their arms and stop all the fighting’.

Although a Christian, the BBC reports that President Samba-Penza is seen as ‘politically neutral’ at a time where tensions are high between CAR’s Muslim and Christian population.

OF THE 36 lower houses of parliament worldwide that have reached the 30% threshold considered necessary for women to have an impact on decision-making, 11 are African. At the end of 2012, one-fifth of sub-Saharan MPs on average were female, according to figures of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union. That may not sound a lot, but marks an increase of seven percentage points on 2002, and puts the continent on a par with the global mean. By comparison, women MPs make up 23% of Britain’s House of Commons, and 18% of America’s Congress.

In many cases, the gains are because of quota systems, which are increasingly popular. Last year Senegal’s parliament saw the fastest advance in female representation globally after it enforced a parity law. Women make up almost half of it. In September Aminata Touré was appointed as Senegal’s prime minister.
South Africa is not far behind, ranking eighth in the world, with women taking 42% of Parliament’s seats, almost double the rate in 1994 when the ruling African National Congress (ANC) created a voluntary party quota, allocating 30% of posts to women. And they run some of the country’s grandest ministries, such as home, defence and foreign affairs. The central bank governor is a woman, too.

Women will also vie for South Africa’s presidency in next year’s election. Most prominent is Helen Zille, head of the liberal Democratic Alliance, the main opposition. Mamphela Ramphele, founder of a new party called Agang, is also set to run. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former wife of President Jacob Zuma, has been urged to bid for the ANC leadership when he goes; she has been minister of foreign and then home affairs and now chairs the African Union’s executive commission. Liberia and Malawi have elected women to be their presidents.

Even in less democratic countries female representation is on the march. After the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s authoritarian president, Paul Kagame, engineered the election of the world’s highest proportion of women in a legislature. When a new parliament assembled in October, women had a world-record 64% of the seats. The president jokes that “women are almost taking over everything” and says that soon it will be the men who need help.

Botswana, by contrast, has dipped from 17% in 2003 (ranking it 54th in the world) to 8% (putting it 125th). Nigeria has increased its proportion up a shade from 5% to a still paltry 7%.

It takes time for female MPs to improve women’s lot. Despite law changes in South Africa, the World Economic Forum’s gender-gap report shows that women earn 35% less than men doing the same jobs.

In Rwanda a higher proportion of girls than boys enroll in primary and secondary education, but they perform worse, and the balance reverses in university, when household duties call daughters and wives away from their studies.

Despite the heading in this article, ‘Women Are Winning’, by the time one reads the last two paragraphs, one gets that feeling that despite gains in numbers when it comes to parliamentary and governmental roles for women, there’s is still so much to be done - and urgently so - when it comes to the progression and empowerment of girls and women, from all walks of life, throughout the African continent.

Are African women really winning? And where, or in/at what?


The Contentious Egg

Article :Nebras elHidili 
Illustration :Amro okacha

 Tunisia’s Minister of Culture Mehdi Mabrouk had his own taste of egg diplomacy when filmmaker Nasreddine Shili pelted the minister with one single egg.

Danger in knowing the truth

The Minister of Culture was attending a 40-day memorial ceremony for Azzouz Chennaoui on August 16 at the Ibn Khaldun House of Culture in Tunis. Najib al-Obeidi, who witnessed the incident, said that Shili tried to approach the minister to express his condemnation of the ministry’s negligence of artists and its lack of support for them, which were allegedly among the reasons that led to the death of Cehnnaoui. 

"Your support to Chennaoui now has no value," Shili told the minister in a protesting tone. "We have been asking you to help him when he was being treated in the hospital.  But you did nothing." 

The minister allegedly refused to speak to Shili and asked his escorts to push Shili away, telling them that he didn’t want to see him.   

Nasreddine quickly left and came back carrying an egg, which he hurled at the minister’s face.   

In the meantime, Mourad Meherzi, a cameraman, was covering the memorial and his camera was quick to capture the egg-throwing event.

The footage quickly become a source of trouble for Mourad and a source of embarrassment for the minister.

Aftermath of the egg

Shortly after the incident, several media outlets started to spread news about the minister’s statements in which he spoke about physical violence against him.  He also claimed that he was punched on the face. The Minister, after this incident, was allegedly taken to the hospital. 

However, the video clip of Mourad’s lens, which accurately shows the details of the incident, made the media correct the previously broadcasted news.   

Less than two days after the incident, the anti-crime force knocked on the door of Mourad’s home late one night. Mourad opened the door and asked the force members to give him some time to bring with him some essential personal items.  As Mourad was preparing himself, the force stormed the house and took Mourad’s camera and personal computer.

Najib al-Obeidi, a political activist, said that Mourad was arrested because he gave evidence about the false statements made by Mehdi Mabrouk, the Culture Minister. The evidence caused the minister, the prime ministry and everyone who supported him embarrassment and made it difficult for the minister to take revenge.  

After three more days, the major actor of this incident, Shili, was arrested. The security forces were able to tighten their grip and to follow Shili, who was accused of a premeditated and deliberate attack on the minister. Shili, who left his house and sought shelter at the house of Ibrahim Raouf, his fellow artist, in the coastal city of Sousse, soon discovered that Mourad has been imprisoned in one of the Tunis’ civil prisons.

"This is a political incident par excellence," said Obeidi.

"The Minister of Culture has provoked artists with his double standards. He has recently bought one of the paintings of the Abdelliya exhibition. When he was personally attacked by the Salafists, he started to criticize the artistic nature of the exhibition.  This time, he ignored all our calls to save the life of Shinawi before his death," he said. 

"We were surprised to see him attending the memorial. If given the opportunity, I would throw eggs at the members of this failed government without any hesitation." 

A penalty of five years imprisonment

Ayoub Gdhemsi, one of the lawyers on Mehrezi’s and Shili’s case, said that there is a lawsuit filed by the minister accusing Mehrezi and Shili of violent physical and verbal assault against him. “My two clients were arrested by the anti-crime force and the public prosecution issued their imprisonment order against charges of deliberate violent assault on a public official. The two were also accused of being under the influence of alcohol, inciting disorder and chaos and insulting other people through the use of the public communication network.”

Ayoub Gdhemsi, “The minister deliberately exaggerated the incident, claiming that he was punched, based on the presence of the egg-attack mark on his face and the egg on his clothes, but the video of Mourad firmly refuted his claim,” asserted the lawyer.

The lawyer went a step further by stressing that his client, Shili, was subjected to extreme violence by the Minister’s escorts, based on the statements of his client and Mourad’s video.    

Ayoub Gdhemsi considered the arrest of his client Mourad as illegal because it took place without obtaining permission from the prosecutor. Moreover, the arrest intimidated his elderly parents.  According to Gdhemsi, the arrest by the anti-crime force is unjustified and it is an act intended to intimidate people. 

Gdhemsi added that if convicted, the charges would be punishable by up to five years imprisonment. He claims however, that there is no evidence to support the charges; he feels assured that they will not be imprisoned for a long period.  Moreover, the law related to public servants offenses does not apply on this incident. 

"My client Mourad was present because he was performing his job as a cameraman covering an ordinary event," Ayoub said, adding that "he has an official assignment from his superiors to cover the memorial." Ayoub commented saying that "implicating Mourad in this way is an act of revenge."   

"My client did not commit any criminal act. His behavior is an act of protest practiced in democratic countries and in some incidents presidents were attacked in a similar manner with no repercussions whatsoever in many of such incidents," he concluded.


Major Flaws in Zimbabwe’s Elections

Zimbabweans are waiting for official results from yesterday’s presidential elections but President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party seems confident of victory. We’ve spent weeks investigating the run-up to the poll as well as informally watching the voting, and what we saw supports wider concerns raised today by local monitors. They report that a high number of “ghost” or duplicate voters were present on the voters’ roll and that large numbers of people were unfairly turned away from polling stations.

In the run-up to election day, we documented major flaws in the electoral process, including highly partisan statements by high-ranking members of the security forces, restrictions on and intimidation of journalists and civil society activists, and a skewed voter registration process that made it difficult for those perceived to be opposition supporters to register.

These flaws and irregularities call into question the credibility and fairness of the election. Serious allegations like these should be fully and independently investigated before the electoral authorities declare an outcome.

Photo: People wait to cast their votes in Mbare township outside Harare on July 31, 2013. © 2013 Reuters

Incredibly revealing accounts and eye-opening experiences of African reporters and journalists who cover volatile situations, through investigative and undercover journalism, telling their own stories of the extreme challenges they face in their profession.

What Price the Storyis a critical documentary that highlights the oft ignored plight of the African journalist reporting within the continent. The empowerment of African journalists, and the safeguarding of their work, is an element that needs to be included in the ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric if any real progress is to be made in civil society in many African states.

All too often in the past, African reporters have not been able to pursue wrongdoing because it involves powerful figures who wield undue influence over local media - financial, corporate or political - or because it is simply too dangerous.

Investigative journalism is a perilous profession in many African nations, where intimidation, beatings, imprisonment and death threats can be an occupational hazard.

As a result they have often had to sit idly by while Africa’s story has been told by Western correspondents, “parachuted in” for the purpose, who reinforce stereotypical views about African peoples and their supposed inability to face up to and solve their own problems.

"At the end of this month, President Obama will begin his trip to Africa, visiting South Africa, Senegal (in West Africa) and Tanzania (in East Africa)," Jonathan Berman wrote Monday for Harvard Business Review. "The trip will be expensive, and The Washington Post has highlighted the large cost at a time of budget tightening. However, even the myopia of the U.S. budget process cannot obscure reality in this case — this is money well spent.

"Putting aside security, global health, and other national issues, US commercial interests alone make Africa an important destination for our President. There is a lot at stake.

"Africa ranks second — behind emerging Asia — as the fastest growing region of the world. The IMF forecasts that Sub-Saharan Africa will grow at a rate of 5.4% this year, about 50% faster than Latin America, and infinitely more than Europe, which is currently expected to grow not at all or even contract.

"Also, Africa’s growth is not from a small base. Africa today is a $2 trillion economy, roughly the same as Brazil or India (where few would say a presidential visit is wasted). Of course, Africa is not one country — its many individual nations mean the growth, risks and opportunities vary widely. However, few would deny that West Africa, East Africa and South Africa each hold significant growth opportunities for US companies. It’s wise of the White House to have the President visit all three, drawing guests from the whole region and not just the host countries… ."

Al Jazeera Inside Story - Egypt: One year of Muhammed Morsi

Sunday marks a year to the day that Egypt’s first freely-elected president came into office, but the country is facing a growing rebellion.

Opposing groups are planning street rallies on June 30, aimed at forcing president Mohamed Morsi out office, while the main opposition coalition calling for early presidential elections.

Their charge: that the president has failed to fulfill promises of restoring security, improving the economy, sharing power and instituting social justice, and are calling for his resignation.

"The failure to address conflict situations effectively is creating a global underclass," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General.

"The rights of those fleeing conflict are unprotected. Too many governments are abusing human rights in the name of immigration control - going well beyond legitimate border control measures."

He added: “These measures not only affect people fleeing conflict. Millions of migrants are being driven into abusive situations, including forced labour and sexual abuse, because of anti-immigration policies which means they can be exploited with impunity. Much of this is fuelled by populist rhetoric that targets refugees and migrants for governments’ domestic difficulties.”

Al Jazeera South2North host Redi Tlhabi interviews some of Africa’s most influential and powerful women, including Malawian President Joyce Banda - Africa’s second woman president, and South Africa medical doctor, business woman, activist and politician Dr Mamphela Ramphele about their transformative and historical roles.

Powerful and interesting commentary.

Pro-independence rallies held in Western Sahara

Hundreds of pro-independence Sahrawi activists have marched in Laayoune, the Western Sahara’s largest city, over the weekend in the region’s biggest protest in several decades, according to Moroccan media reports.

About 500 people marched peacefully late on Saturday afternoon, but violence broke out in the evening after the protest, wounding 21 policemen, several newspapers reported on Monday.

The clashes also wounded an unknown number of activists, Hamoud Iguilid, the local representative of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, told the AFP news agency.

Mohamed Salem Charkaoui from Morocco’s official National Human Rights Council, cited by the news website Lakome, said 2,000 people took part in the Laayoune protest.

Protests took place in other Western Saharan towns on Sunday, including in Smara, where 17 members of the security forces were wounded trying to disperse protesters who had set up barricades in the streets, the official MAP news agency reported.

It gave no information on injuries sustained by the protesters, who it said tried “to occupy the street and block traffic, creating a chaotic situation”.

(read more)

Related post.

Born in the Congo, Kyenge moved to Italy in the 1980s to study medicine in Rome, before obtaining a position in a hospital in Modena. She met her husband, a native Italian with whom she has two children, after he underwent surgery in her department. Kyenge was at the forefront of a dramatic demographic shift in Italy. As recently as 1991, just 1 in 100 residents held a foreign passport. Today, it’s 1 out of every 12. For every five children delivered in the country, one is born to a foreign parent. Unlike Kyenge, most of Italy’s recent arrivals are poor and employed in jobs that Italians refuse: construction workers, maids, caregivers for the elderly. The foreign-born middle class has yet to establish itself, while the first generation of immigrant children born and educated in the country is just moving into the workforce.

While Italians don’t like to think of their country as racist, the experience of non-white Italians and resident immigrants illustrates a culture that has found it hard to welcome increasing diversity. “How many times have I been told, ‘You’re so beautiful, you don’t even seem truly black?’” says Medhin Paolos, 23, an Italian of Eritrean descent and a member of Rete G2, a group campaigning for a reform of Italy’s citizenship laws. “Where I come from, this is not a compliment.”

A study by the University of Messina and the anti-discrimination group ARCI found that a substantial majority of the children of immigrants reported being insulted on the streets, talked down to by teachers, watched with suspicion in shops, turned away from restaurants and treated rudely by immigration officials. In 2002, the Italian government passed a law requiring all non-Italian residents to have their fingerprints taken, as part of the process for applying for residency.

“There’s the idea that black people stink,” says Jean Zongo, 28, the son of African immigrants. There was a period when he was younger, Zongo was afraid to take the bus at night, for fear of encountering racial violence. More than once, he has climbed aboard to hear a group of young men grunting like monkeys. It’s a charmless display of racism that has migrated from Italy’s soccer stadiums — where Mario Balotelli, the Italian football star of Ghanaian heritage, has famously faced chants of “There’s no such thing as a black Italian” — to youth culture at large. Zongo has traveled to France, Spain and England. Only in his own country, he says, is he made to feel second class. “[Discrimination] is present in just about every aspect of life, in every circumstance,” he says.

Early this month, leaders of five leading emerging economies made a revolutionary decision that will have a significant impact on developing world economies.

At a summit in Durban, South Africa, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (collectively known as BRICS) unanimously decided to set up a development bank that will finance development and infrastructure, not just in emerging economies, but in what is known as the Global South.

The leaders also endorsed a $100-billion contingency reserve that can be deployed to bail out a crisis-ridden BRICS country. This decision represents a significant move by emerging economies to break away from the traditional donor-recipient model advocated by Western nations for more than six decades.

The BRICS countries – which account for more than a quarter of the global GDP – are asserting their clout by showing that they are willing to bankroll projects in poor countries and to help each other to avert financial crises, without resorting to traditional development banks such as the World Bank and the IMF.

What remains to be seen, however, is what conditionalities the BRICS Bank will impose on countries and whether the loans extended will be on more favourable terms. Nonetheless, the bank will impact the way international lending agencies conduct their business.

This good news comes in the wake of several articles in the international press that have dubbed Africa as the “rising” or “aspiring” continent.

Journalists have suddenly switched from being Afro-pessimists to Afro-optimists as African economies take off in places such as Angola and Ethiopia, once written off as hopeless countries that suffered from endemic poverty and conflict.

About a year ago, Time magazine, in a cover story titled Africa Rising, attributed Africa’s phenomenal economic growth to aid-effectiveness. The Economist (which once dubbed Africa as “The Hopeless Continent”), is more realistic in its assessment of why Africa’s economies are growing while those in the rest of the world are stagnating: it attributes growth to the continent’s commodities-led economies and its “demographic dividend” i.e. the rising proportion of working-age people.

Financial analysts underscore the role played by non-traditional donors, such as India and China, and the prevalence of mobile telephony, which has had a marked impact on the economies of countries such as Kenya.

In March, in a special report titled A Hopeful Continent, the Economist stated that Kenya’s economic growth was significantly boosted by modern technology, particularly mobile banking and money-transfer services.

However, even in Kenya, political tensions, poor governance and greed often get in the way of sound economic policies and innovations.

Already, legislators are demanding the disbanding of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission which finally put a much-needed cap on what they could earn while in office.

The avarice displayed by Kenya’s political elite has been a stain on Kenya’s reputation since the 9th and 10th parliaments awarded MPs exorbitant salaries. These recent demands, if met, will not only drain the country’s resources, it will further dent the country’s image.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said his government will not entertain such demands. This and other sensible decisions he might make in the coming weeks may assuage some of the fears sceptics have about his commitment to implementing the Constitution.

It is also not lost on Kenyans that after threatening “consequences” and sanctions against Kenya if International Criminal Court indictees form the next government, Western countries and the UN are now revising their policies to accommodate the Kenyatta government.

The UN has issued new guidelines that state that its officials need not avoid contact with people facing charges at the ICC as long as they cooperate with the court.

Meanwhile, Uhuru’s Obama-like sleeves-up-touchy-feely-hand-holding-first-name-calling informal style is making people wonder whether this new look is mere PR or whether he is setting an example on how government should interact with citizens. Let us hope it is the latter.

Morocco has AU aspiration: Morocco is keep to rejoin the African Union, but South Africa and other members could block its bid over the vexed issue of Sahrawi autonomy.

Read more.

Trade can be an important catalyst to poverty eradication. However, this has not been true in the African story, especially trade within the continent. Worldwide, Africa contributes only three per cent to world trade. This is insignificant and telling of the poverty levels in the continent.

Trade among African countries accounts for 10 per cent of the continent’s total trade balance and it’s the least compared to trade between the continent and markets like Europe, America and Asia. Trade among African countries has been low and not highly regarded. There are reasons to this state of affairs.

First, colonialism played a key role in ensuring that Africa was used as a source of raw materials and not an industrial hub. The countries focus too much on primary goods, mostly agricultural and mineral.

Second, the intra-African infrastructure is minimal and in a poor state. Take the example of Kenya. It is cheaper to call the US or the UK than to do so in the East Africa. Further, Kenya has Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somali as neighbours. For all those years, there are no major roads linking Kenya to Sudan or Ethiopia or Somali, limiting trade.

Trading blocs like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), and East Africa Community seek to improve trade among member states. In the past, Kenyan traders have benefited from Comesa as little or no duty was charged for imports or exports within the bloc.

Beyond the efforts by governments to boost trade, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to provide a solutions and create a robust business.

First, it is important to shift from primary products to serious value addition. Africa remains low on the value chain yet it has rich resources. We should invest in industries and factories to add value, create employment and produce finished products, not raw materials. Wealth creation comes from value addition.

Further, with infrastructure development, I can’t help but think about a Kenya with a complete Lamu port and a road to Khartoum or Addis Ababa. The opportunities are vast.

Days when international traders used to depend on buyers in Europe are long gone. Europe has its own share of problems. Your buyer might be right next door in Arusha.

Mr Odhiambo is the managing consultant of Elim Consulting.