“Trade agreements impact Kenyan farmers” an interview with Justus Lavi

An interview with Justus Lavi Mwololo, National General Secretary of Kenya Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (KESSFF). Initially posted on grain.org.

Tell me about yourself and the farming methods you practice. 

I was born on a farm. In our family, we have a long history of farming. I practice mixed farming of crops and livestock. We have some varieties of banana that are almost a hundred years old, and maize, beans and other crops that my mother kept that are more than 50 years old. We keep not only domesticated seeds, but also wild seeds because they form a very important part of the ecosystem and biodiversity.

What is the Kenya Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum?

Kenya Small Scale Farmers’ Forum is a grassroots village based network of small-scale farmers of Kenya. It is a part of a similar larger regional network for countries of East, Central and Southern Africa. We bring together small-scale farmers to articulate issues affecting us, including domestic and global policies and market access. Most of the policies are designed to safeguard large scale producers and market access for small-scale farmers is very limited.

Can you talk about the impact of privatization on agriculture and specifically about the ‘Green Revolution’?

Privatization was driven by the industrial conglomerates of Europe, US, Canada, and Australia that all wanted to capture the world market. One market is Africa. The “Green Revolution” was promoted by a few companies that want to capture the agricultural sector. This was being framed as if Africa missed the earlier Green Revolution, which is not true. Africa missed nothing and we know some big companies that are behind this, companies like Monsanto, Aventis. Their main interest is capture and dominance of the seed market because what they are introducing is Genetic Modified Organisms. It is not about a green revolution or about aiding Africa at all. It’s about bringing in their own seeds so that they can knock out the traditional seeds existing in Africa and small-scale farmers will remain dependent on them for seeds.

How exactly would small-scale farmers become dependent on them for seeds?

The genetically modified seeds are patented, and they are more colonizing and domineering than the traditional or indigenous seeds. Once they come, the indigenous seeds will be changed by the modified seeds. That means a loss of the biodiversity that we have. And once that is lost, we have to go for the seeds that are produced by biotechnology companies. Genetic engineering is very expensive, they usually charge heavy royalties. It has been revealed that to be able to control human beings, you can do very few things. One among them is to control food. And where does food come from? From seeds. Seeds remains one of the biggest businesses in the world.

Those who are promoting the Green Revolution say the use of inputs will improve farmers livelihoods. Is there any truth to that?

The inputs we are talking about are fertilizers and chemicals. We are worried about fertilizers because in areas where we have used them intensively, they have made our soils saline. This use of fertilizers is short lived because the repair of those soils is very expensive and takes time. So African small-scale farmers are advocating for organic farming. Inorganic is responsible for a lot of diseases. we are proposing and campaigning for agro-ecology, which is agriculture that is friendly to the ecological systems.

What challenges have you experienced in promoting this kind of agriculture?

The challenge that we have first is dissemination of information and lack of financial support. Our information does not find any space in the media. Then there is the challenge of competition with hybrid producers because they are backed with big money. You find they are the ones in media, on radios, on TV, in newspapers. These guys are opposing [us] in a very big way. Publicly they won’t say that, but the actions that they are performing clearly portray their opposition.

Are there small-scale farmers that embrace hybrid seeds and the ‘Green Revolution,’ or is there substantial resistance to them?

A lot of people are aware and today, agriculture is being portrayed as for profit. When people are told that by embracing this sort of farming style, they are going to make money, they are bound to give it a try. And thereafter they find it is not working. I will give you an example in India where farmers were introduced to BT cotton. It failed – farmers found themselves in trouble and a large number of farmers committed suicide. There were a lot of tricks used and collaboration between big corporates in India and the media. Farmers were told that they would make money that has never been seen in this world only for them to end up ending their lives.

The chemicals used with commercial seeds have also led to the elimination of pollinators – bees, butterflies, for example, and the situation is so intense that in places like Gujarat in India, you find people pollinating crops manually by hand. It is crazy. God has never created such systems. During the time when Kenya had a coffee boom, there was the herbicide used called Roundup which as declared by the WHO as carcinogenic. I know women in the 60s and 70s who are today grandmothers and some of them have numerous cancers.

How does seed certification work?

Government institutions certify them. And those laws that have been introduced about 10 years ago say that farmers should grow certified seeds, like hybrids, because they will give more yield. This has no practical truth. It’s actually a marketing gimmick because farmers have been growing crops for years. For the old people, they have had seeds throughout the years and nobody certified them. And actually what they are certifying most is food crops. Why don’t they go and certify all the seeds in the forest, why are they focusing on food crops? Because they want to control the crops and increase their profits.

Let’s talk about trade policies. In what way does the World Trade Organization (WTO) impact small-scale farmers?

In the WTO, you’ll find that the products from small-scale farmers in the market compete equally with products from developed countries, especially the European Union. Farm produce from the EU receives a lot of subsidy, and this subsidy makes the produce of European countries more competitive; quality becomes higher, production costs are lower and they even receive marketing subsidies, so when they enter the market to compete with the products of Sub-Saharan African small-scale farmers, the products of small-scale farmers are uncompetitive because they do not have any subsidies or support.

What about Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). What is their impact on small-scale farmers?

Under EPAs, which are being negotiated between the EU and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (the ACP), small-scale farmers are disadvantaged if we try to market our produce in Europe and even we are worried that since some countries have signed EPA, when those cheap products of Europe start flowing into the African market, the African produce will be knocked out.

Can you give an example of how this occurs?

I will give the case of meat from EU, and milk. Let’s say the milk and meat from Denmark. When it comes to Africa, and specifically let me now talk about Nairobi supermarkets. You go to the supermarkets to buy it, you find that it is packed tinned, in a nice tin, and it is well labelled. It has been cooked. It has struggled all the way from Europe into Africa. And when you compare the price of beef coming from Europe to Nairobi with ours, ours you buy from a butchery, it has not been value added like the one you are getting from Europe. You have to take it home raw, wash it, cook it. So finally ours becomes uncompetitive in our own domestic market. The production costs of beef from the cow in Europe to the butchery and to the packaging etc, all that process is subsidized by European Union. Ours has no support at all. Farmers have got to pay from their own pockets.

Kenya produces milk. Is this an issue with milk as well?

The milk that comes from Denmark, once it starts flowing into Africa and into Kenya, considering that Kenya in the region is the biggest producer of dairy products, that will mean that our small-scale farmers who are dependent on daily farming will lose their market. It will mean unemployment, families that are dependent on dairy losing on their livelihood, and loss of government revenue of our countries.

Why are these agreements being negotiated in a way that is not beneficial to African farmers. Is there a historical context to this problem?

These negotiations are a matter of who is stronger. Unfortunately, our negotiators in the ACP countries are not as strong as their counterparts in the EU. The negotiating sessions in Brussels can go on for days; there are so many sessions and every session needs several people to negotiate. A country in Africa has only two or three negotiators and there are about twenty sessions running. Once those sessions have started, they don’t stop. Our African lead negotiators sign agreements in which they have not participated in the negotiations. Then there are a lot of tricks that are used. Like recently, Kenya was arm twisted into signing the EPA which is crazy because the Europeans have not been able to get certain preferences in WTO, so what they failed to get in WTO, they are now working to get under EPA.

Like what for example?

Like this issue of negotiating for subsidies in the WTO. The WTO is global and there are many countries like India and China that have been pushing for the withdrawal of farm subsidies. The Europeans found it easier to bring this issue to EPA negotiations because there the majority of the countries are from developing countries and very few are developed. The LDCs can easily be twisted so they are able to get what they failed to get from WTO.

Why did Kenya sign the EPA and yet Tanzania and Nigeria have avoided signing it?

EPA negotiations are done in blocks. Kenya comes under the East African Community (EAC) block. In EAC, Kenya is supposed to be a developed or developing country. The other four, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi, are Least Developed. In the EPA negotiations, there is a clause known as EBA which stands for ‘Everything But Arms.’ In this clause, the LDCs are allowed to export everything but arms. Kenya, being a more developed country than the others (and this is a measure given by World Bank), was restricted.

The other twist that was used; Kenya exports a lot of flowers and horticultural products to Europe. The negotiations had been going on for a long time and were getting nowhere. Our negotiators were standing strong but then the EU gave Kenya a deadline to sign the EPA, otherwise the Kenyan horticultural produce to Europe would face tariffs. Among those products going to Europe are Kenyan flowers. The Kenya Flower Council which is responsible for the export of flowers to Europe put a lot of pressure on the government because the majority of the flower farmers are Europeans. Their interest would be serving their countries rather than Kenya. So Kenya has to go and sign the EPA, despite the fact that in the EPA, the negotiations being done in a block; one country can’t sign alone. EPA is supposed to assist in development and in integration, but they have divided the East African countries. One clause in EPA states “No party should be left worse than they were.” So these are contradictions and the EU is very good at creating these contradictions. They are leaving Kenya and the EAC worse than they were.

Understanding the Economic Partnership Agreement

  • Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) allows duty free access of goods from the East Africa Community to the European market.
  • While Kenya has been ready to sign EPA with the European Union, Tanzania and Uganda have been hesitant.
  • Tanzania has been hesitant to sign the deal claiming it would kill local industries.
  • However, both Uganda and Tanzania are listed as Least Developed Countries, exempting them from paying duty to access European markets.
  • Kenya is not classified as a least developed country, hence its only chance of accessing EU markets duty free is through a collective EPA signed by the region.

SourceThe Daily Nation

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Une entrevue avec Solange Lusiku

Solange Lusiku Nsimire est rédactrice en chef du journal indépendant Le Souverain, basé à Bukavu, dans l’Est du Congo. C’est un des rares journaux indépendants qui présente un regard critique sur la situation dans cette région du Congo-Kinshasa.

La RDC est un pays dangereux pour les journalistes; en 2012 seulement il ya eu 90 attaques contre des journalistes dans le pays. Solange Lusiku a été soumise à un certain nombre de menaces pour les histoires qu’elle a couvert. Dans cet entretien, qui a eu lieu fin 2015, elle parle de l’histoire du journal Le Souverain, de ses histoires et de ses opinions sur la couverture médiatique occidentale sur la RDC.

Cette entrevue a été rendue possible par la Women’s Media Foundation.

The Rwanda the World Doesn’t Know

Pambazuka News, October 2016

An interview with Anjan Sundaram.

Journalist Anjan Sundaram’s book on Rwanda, ‘Bad News, Last journalists in a dictatorship,’ exposes a terrifying dictatorship at the heart of Africa that few people get to hear about. Paul Kagame has tremendously succeeded – with the eager help of his western backers – to feed the world a carefully choreographed false narrative. His chilling tyranny is so pervasive and entrenched that Rwandans police themselves unbidden.

 

Zahra Moloo: What took you to Rwanda and what inspired you to write this book?

Anjan Sundaram: I went to Rwanda in 2009 to write my first book about Congo and really I was looking for a quiet place. I thought the country was peaceful, even a little boring, a great place to write a book. I began to teach local journalists as a way to make some money and also engage with local society, but very quickly, I learnt that the local journalists I was working with were living and working in a climate of great repression. One of them had been beaten into a coma, after bringing up the harassment of the press in front of President Kagame of Rwanda. Another young woman had been in prison for many years and physically and psychologically abused, she was sick with HIV. These stories alerted me to the climate of repression that largely goes untold about Rwanda.

Continue reading “The Rwanda the World Doesn’t Know”

Militarised Conservation Threatens DRC’s Indigenous People

 

IPS News, September 14, 2016

MUDJA/BIGANIRO, Sep 14 2016 (IPS) – It is late afternoon when a light drizzle begins to fall over a group of young men seated together in Mudja, a village that lies approximately 20 kilometres north of Goma on the outskirts of the Virunga National Park. Mudja is home to a community of around 40 families of indigenous Bambuti, also known as ‘pygmies.’*

One of the men holds out his arm to show an injury he received from a park ranger. Others chime in.

“Just the day before yesterday, they shot at me when I was looking for honey and firewood,” says Giovanni Sisiri. “I abandoned everything, took my tools, and ran.”

Armed paramilitary rangers from the Virunga National Park are tasked with protecting the park from poachers and trespassers, often at risk to their own lives. In Congolese law, human habitation and hunting within the park is forbidden, including for the Bambuti, its original inhabitants.

The Bambuti living in Mudja said that at times they defy these laws, venturing inside to collect wood, hunt small animals and gather non-timber products, but recently it has become more difficult.

“A pygmy cannot live without the park. Before, they could enter secretly,” said Felix Maroy, an agronomist and livestock farmer who works with Bambuti communities. “Since January 2015, the guards are always patrolling the area. And there are other armed groups too, like the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).”

Imani Kabasele, a resident of Mudja and the head of the local branch of an NGO, Program for the Integration and Development of the Pygmy People (PDIP), said that two years ago, a Mbuti resident of a neighbouring village, Biganiro, went to look for honey and disappeared for three days. His body was later discovered, cut up by a machete. Kabasele believes it was someone from the FDLR that killed him.

Imani Kabasele, the head of the branch of a Congolese NGO, PDIP, said that the Mbuti know the forest far better than other communities, but it is dangerous for them to venture inside. Zahra Moloo/IPS
Imani Kabasele, the head of the branch of a Congolese NGO, PDIP, said that the Mbuti know the forest far better than other communities, but it is dangerous for them to venture inside. Zahra Moloo/IPS

Militarisation and colonial conservation policies

The initial demarcation of the Virunga National Park boundaries dates back to 1925 when it was first created by King Albert of Belgium.

The oldest national park in Africa, it was later expanded to include over seven thousand square kilometres of land. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it is now managed by a private-public partnership between the National Park Authority of the DRC (ICCN) and the EU-funded Virunga Foundation, and is home to about a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas. Congolese farmers living around the Virunga said that its colonial history creates the impression that it was “created by the Mzungu (white man), for the Mzungu.”

After independence, other national parks were established, including Maiko National Park, and Kahuzi-Biega National Park in South Kivu.  According to the Global Forest Coalition, the creation of national parks led to the eviction of thousands of indigenous people who neither gave their consent nor received compensation for their loss of land. It was, they state, “in violation of international law” and the country’s 1977 law on expropriation for public purposes.

Patrick Kipalu, the DRC Country Manager for the Forest People’s Program, said there is an active conflict between communities around the park, both indigenous Bambuti as well as agricultural Bantu, and “conservationists, park rangers and other NGOs working for conservation.”

“The old school of conservation in the colonial period was ‘people out of the forest’ and ‘it’s a protected area without anyone inside,’” said Kipalu. “When the colonialists left the country, the people who managed those protected areas were trained by the Belgians that conservation should be done without people, in the old-school way. They have kept the same strategies, though the ICCN is thinking of a conservation strategy which is supposed to include and involve communities.”

 
Jean-Claude, 18 (right) poses with his friend Denis Sinzira. Most of the youth in Biganiro only go to school until they are 9 or 10 years old. Zahra Moloo/IPS
Jean-Claude, 18 (right) poses with his friend Denis Sinzira. Most of the youth in Biganiro only go to school until they are 9 or 10 years old. Zahra Moloo/IPS

Last year, in a letter to Kipalu, a representative of the customary chiefs in Lubero on the west coast of Lake Edward said that the ICCN had expropriated land without the consent of the people living on it and without offering any compensation. The letter also accused the ICCN of destroying and setting fire to villages. A 2004 report by a consultant to the World Bank, Dr Kai Schmidt-Soltau, states that the ICCN, along with WWF, claimed to have resettled 35,000 people from an area south-east of Lake Edward through a voluntary process, but that in fact the resettlement was carried out “at gun-point.”

Aggressive conservation activities are part of a widespread trend toward what some researchers call the militarization of conservation,an approach to protecting nature in which conservationists could engage in repressive policies that are counterproductive.

Jean Claude Kyungu, who in charge of community relations for Virunga, said that the park’s relations with communities around the park are good in some areas, but not in others, and that guards only fire at people if there is “resistance” from the population, for instance when communities “recruit armed groups to secure the land.” He added that the Bambuti are only arrested when they have defied the law.

When asked about the repressive behavior of park rangers and officers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) towards civilians in and around the park, Norbert Mushenzi, the ICCN’s deputy director of the Virunga National Park, said that the officers are “undertaking legitimate defense.”

“We also try to educate communities to leave and find alternative solutions, for instance to go to the fields around the park. There were 350 families in one area that left voluntarily,” he said. “The problem is not land. It’s that people want to concentrate in the park and we don’t know why,” he said.

But leaving the park and finding other places to settle is not so simple. One problem, according to Kipalu, is that people living inside illegally have nowhere to go. “The park is so big that it takes the whole area where communities work on their traditional lands,” he said.

Compounding the issue are larger and more complex political dynamics.  According to a group of researchers, Virunga lies at the “epicenter of ongoing conflict since 1993-4” and is “strongly affected by cross-border dynamics with both Rwanda and Uganda.” It is also a hideout for numerous armed domestic and foreign groups.

Communities who enter the park often do so with the protection of armed actors, and links between them are further strengthened by politicians who take advantage of the widespread sentiment that the park expropriated people’s ancestral lands, leading these politicians, in some cases, to “finance armed groups operating in the park.”

The authors suggest that the park “adopt a more conflict sensitive approach to conservation”, and increase efforts to improve local communication. But Jean-Claude Kyungu believes that the park’s approach is not particularly repressive given the enormous challenges. “At Kibirizi, the population lives with the FDLR,” he said. “Do we let these people just go and make their own laws not just in a park, but in a country, that is not their own? People who do not respect the boundaries have to be removed.”

A group of young Mbuti men from Biganiro sit in front of their houses, which consist of makeshift structures made of wood and plastic sheeting. Zahra Molo0/IPS
A group of young Mbuti men from Biganiro sit in front of their houses, which consist of makeshift structures made of wood and plastic sheeting. Zahra Molo0/IPS

Indigenous knowledge versus imposed development

Without access to the forest and to their ancestral lands to hunt and gather, the Bambuti have trouble surviving. Many depend on daily contractual labour from surrounding communities, such as cutting trees for wood that is sold in Goma. Seventy-year-old Muhima Sebazungu, one of Mudja’s community leaders, said that they are starting to forget their traditional knowledge of plants and medicines.

Patrick Kipalu, of the NGO Forest People’s Program, believes that the park and government’s exclusion of the Bambuti from conservation efforts is a waste of the immense amount of knowledge indigenous communities have about forest ecosystems. One solution, he said, would be to recruit them as rangers in protecting the park.

The ICCN’s Jean Claude Kyungu said that there are “specific criteria” for recruiting rangers, which the Bambuti do not fulfill, including having a diploma from the state.

Norbert Mushenzi, the ICCN’s deputy director of the Virunga National Park, said that the Bambuti have an “intellectual deficiency” and one way for them to benefit from the park is to “sell their cultural products and dances to tourists.”

His view is not unusual; many people, including those directly involved in advocating for the Bambuti, believe that they are inferior to Bantu communities. Although official policy under Mobutu’s regime aimed to ‘emancipate’ indigenous people and to consider them no different from other communities, in practice this meant promoting a sedentary lifestyle and agriculture.

 
A group of women from Mudja. Elders worry that the community is beginning to lose their knowledge of traditional medicine and plants. Zahra Moloo/IPS
A group of women from Mudja. Elders worry that the community is beginning to lose their knowledge of traditional medicine and plants. Zahra Moloo/IPS

Doufina Tabu, president of a human rights organization, the Association of Volunteers of Congo (ASVOCO), works with Bambuti communities living outside the park whose land has been stolen.

“In Masisi there was a pygmy who was arrested because someone tricked him into giving up his field. He did not have a title deed so he was accused of illegal occupation, even though it’s his own land,” Tabu said. “He was arrested one year ago and we are still trying to get him out.”

While Tabu advocates for the Bambuti to secure land, he also believes that they must integrate into society, “so they can live like others.”

“There are things in their culture that we must change. They can’t continue to stay in the forest like animals,” he said.

report by Survival International states that forcing “development” on indigenous people has “disastrous” impacts and that the most important factor to their well being is whether or not their land rights are respected.

According to Kipalu, the living conditions of the Bambuti are far worse now than when they were in the forest. “Being landless and living on the lands of other people means that they end up being treated almost as slaves,” he said.

The Bambuti from Biganiro do not understand why they cannot access basic services and still be able to return to the forest.

18-year-old Shukuru from Biganiro completed two years of primary school and wants to drive a motorbike, but does not know where to begin. “It’s around 20 dollars just to learn,” he said. “And we barely find enough to eat everyday.”

Legal avenues and long-term solutions

Around Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which like Virunga, is classified as a World Heritage Site, the organization Environment, Natural Resources and Development, ERND, together with the Rainforest Foundation Norway, filed a legal complaint in 2010 for the Batwa, another indigenous group, to receive compensation for the loss of their lands inside the park.

The case landed at the Supreme Court in Kinshasa in 2013 where it has remained. In May 2016, the organizations submitted their complaint to the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights, but have yet to receive a response from the Congolese government.

Mathilde Roffet, from Rainforest Foundation Norway, said that even if the court rules in favour of the Batwa, they will still have to deal with UNESCO and the park’s status as a world heritage site. She hopes that the case can set a precedent for other national parks.

Virunga, however, is a different scenario and according to Kipalu, “a really sensitive zone for the government because of potential oil exploration, mining and rebel groups.”

At the national level, the Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autothtones (DGPA), a network of organizations that works on the rights of indigenous people in the country, have been working on a new law recognizing their rights.

Although the DRC voted to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2007, the country’s constitution, 1973 land law and the 2002 Forestry Code make no reference to the rights of indigenous people.

The proposed law includes the protection of their traditional medicine and culture, as well as access to land and natural resources. Article 42 specifically states that indigenous people have the right to return to their ancestral lands and be fairly and adequately compensated if they have to relocate.

Since 2014, its adoption has been stalled. “They keep saying ‘we will discuss it next week, next month’ but the country is going through a lot of political changes, so they are giving a priority to other political issues first,” said Kipalu.

In the meantime, the network is working with the ICCN and the government on road map for the short term, which includes ensuring that indigenous people have access to education and healthcare.

“We do want the communities to go back to their land eventually. Some want to go back to the forest, but others are ready to accept parcels of land outside. It’s going to take many years,” said Kipalu.

The ICCN’s Jean-Claude Kungu said that the ICCN has been trying to improve relations with communities around the park through different initiatives.

“We have proposed initiating development activities like hydroelectric projects, water delivery, and other projects in favour of the population,” he said.

In the meantime, the Bambuti of Mudja and Biganiro will have to remain where they are. Giovanni Sisiri who was attacked by a park guard, brings out a bow and arrow and aims it at the forest. “We will have to start a rebellion one day!” He said, laughing. “We first want peace. But if the provincial and central governments do not find a solution for us, we will have to fight for it.”

Reporting for this story was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation

*The word ‘pygmy’ has negative connotations and is used widely in the DRC. According to Survival International, it has been reclaimed by some communities as a term of identify.

UN peacekeepers in the DRC no longer trusted to protect

Local people have lost faith in the protection offered by international forces based in the country [Zahra Moloo/Al Jazeera]
Local people have lost faith in the protection offered by international forces based in the country [Zahra Moloo/Al Jazeera]
Al Jazeera, 18 January 2016

Kalongo, Democratic Republic of Congo – Androzo Bekere clearly remembers the attack on his village in Kalongo.

Standing beside a graveyard where wooden crosses bear the names of those killed, he gestures towards a cluster of houses, abandoned by their inhabitants.

“It was about four in the afternoon when we were told that armed men had captured a girl from here, in the field where she was farming,” he said. “We called the army. They came with us to the field and we thought the rebels had escaped, but later that evening, they encircled the village and started attacking people with machetes.”

Continue reading “UN peacekeepers in the DRC no longer trusted to protect”

Grappling with mental health challenges in Congo

Jorime Musondivwa, a nurse at CEPIMA, sits in the office where patients' files and medications are kept. IRIN/Zahra Moloo
Jorime Musondivwa, a nurse at CEPIMA, sits in the office where patients’ files and medications are kept. IRIN/Zahra Moloo

IRIN News, 5 January 2016

BENI, 5 January 2016 (IRIN) – Amuri Masandi, a major in the Congolese army, was in the forest during an operation against an armed group when he started suffering from insomnia and nightmares, and exhibiting a troubled demeanour. Suspecting he had malaria, his colonel sent him to Goma to be treated at the hospital there. When that didn’t work, his wife took him to the Centre for the Protection of the Destitute and Mentally Ill, known by its French acronym CEPIMA, the only mental health clinic in Beni Territory, in North Kivu province. There, Masandi was treated for depression and psychosis with a heavy dose of psychotropic medication and regular counselling sessions, as well as multivitamins for his general well-being.

Continue reading “Grappling with mental health challenges in Congo”

The new ‘Brazil of Africa’: How development institutions are financing land grabs in the DRC

DRC-camion-Belgeo-Revue
Photo: Belgeo Revue

Pambazuka News, July 2015

In this interview, Devlin Kuyek, Senior Researcher at GRAIN, talks about a report that reveals how a Canadian agribusiness company, Feronia, financed by American and European development institutions, is involved in land grabbing, corrupt practices and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ZAHRA MOLOO: Your recent report looks at what you call ‘agro-colonialism’ in the DRC, and in particular at a Canadian company that’s investing in palm oil plantations in the Congo. Perhaps we can start with some historical context. We think of agribusiness and land grabs more in a contemporary sense on the continent, but in the DRC there’s a whole history to palm oil. Can you go back a bit and give some historical context to palm oil plantations in the DRC?

Continue reading “The new ‘Brazil of Africa’: How development institutions are financing land grabs in the DRC”

Pursuing Chadian dictator Habré: ‘It’s Africa judging Africa’

Pambazuka News, February 2015

An interview with Jacqueline Moudeina (transcribed and translated from French)

Jacqueline Moudeina is a Chadian lawyer and President of The Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (ATPDH). She is a recipient of the 2011 Right Livelihood Award. Moudeina is pursuing justice for the survivors of former Chadian president Hissène Habré’s terror regime.

ZAHRA MOLOO: Can you give a bit of context about the regime of the former president?

JACQUELINE MOUDEINA: Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, was in power from 7 June 1982 to 1 December 1990, a period of eight years. Those were years of terror. Every Chadian was afraid of his or her own shadow. In a couple you would have a man who feared his wife, and vice versa, and both would be afraid of their own children. Uttering even a little sentence could mean risking your life. It was a reign of terror under Hissène Habré, and when he left power on 1 December 1990 – as a result of a coup carried out by the current Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno – when he left and the new government was put in place, the new government ordered an investigation. The results of that report, finalized in 1992, concluded that 40,000 Chadians had been killed and thousands were disappeared or became widows and orphans. But the investigation did not cover the entire country. The results came from samples which enabled us to come up with a figure of 40,000 people killed and thousands disappeared.

Continue reading “Pursuing Chadian dictator Habré: ‘It’s Africa judging Africa’”

Procès de Hissène Habré : C’est l’Afrique qui juge l’Afrique

Pambazuka News, February 2015

Une entrevue avec Jacqueline Moudeina

Avocate au barreau du Tchad, présidente de l’Association tchadienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l’Homme (Atpdh) et récipiendaire du Right Livelihood Award en 2011, Jacqueline Moudeina lutte depuis une quinzaine d’années pour que l’ancien président Hissène Habré réponde des accusations de crimes de guerre, crimes contre l’humanité et crimes de torture qui pèsent sur lui.

ZAHRA MOLOO : Est-ce que vous pouvez nous rappeler le contexte qui prévalait sous le régime de l’ex-président ?

JACQUELINE MOUDEINA : Hissène Habre, l’ex-président tchadien, a régné au Tchad du 7 Juin 1982 au 1er décembre 1990. Donc il s’agit de huit années de règne. Mais c’était des années de terreur, où chaque Tchadien avait peur de sa propre ombre. Dans un couple, vous aviez le mari qui craint sa femme et vice versa. Les deux avaient peur de leurs propres enfants. Parce que pour peu qu’on sortait une petite phrase, on risquait sa vie. C’était vraiment la terreur et d’ailleurs, quand Hissène Habré est tombé, le 1er décembre 1990, du fait d’un coup d’Etat perpétré par l’actuel président tchadien Idriss Déby Itno, le nouveau gouvernement a ordonné une enquête. Le rapport a été déposé en 1992 et selon ce rapport 40 000 Tchadiens ont été tués et il y a eu des milliers de disparus, de veuves et d’orphelins. L’enquête n’avait pas couvert l’entièreté du pays. C’était des échantillonnages qui ont permis de fixer les 40 000 personnes tuées et les milliers de disparus.

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Mombasa bloodshed and alleged police impunity

 

Nadiya Ahmed, mother of Idris Mohamed, holds up a photo of her slain son [Zahra Moloo/Al Jazeera]
Nadiya Ahmed, mother of Idris Mohamed, holds up a photo of her slain son [Zahra Moloo/Al Jazeera]
Al Jazeera, November 2014

Mombasa, Kenya  It was 4am when Nadiya Ahmed awoke to a loud bang in her house in Floringi village near the southern Kenyan city of Mombasa. Ahmed cautiously walked into the living room to find heavily armed police officers dressed in military fatigues and bulletproof vests.

“They were so many of them. They looked as if they were going to war,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera. The police ransacked the house, turning mattresses upside down, and taking photographs of her. A few minutes later, she heard her son, Idris Mohamed, 26, call out to the officers from inside the house.

“I have surrendered,” Ahmed recalled him saying. She said the police then stripped her son naked, handcuffed Idris, and shot him three times, killing him instantly.

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