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Category Archives: Africa

“Guest Post” — Anthony Venn-Brown

Uganda – a wake-up call for US ‘ex-gay’ and Evangelical leaders

Have you been following the news about Uganda’s Anti-homosexual Bill will is currently being pushed through the parliament. If not, just Google Uganda Anti-homosexual Bill and you’ll get 102,000 pages.

123 The current law allows authorities to imprison suspected homosexuals and AIDS patients for up to 14 years. The new legislation would make the prison term a life sentence. The practice of "aggravated homosexuality" would allow the authorities to sentence homosexuals to death. Members of the public would be required to report acts of homosexuality within 24 hours of witnessing the act. If they fail to do so, they would also be imprisoned for a minimum of three years. The bill also states that the nation would be prepared to cut ties with other countries and stop any commitments they have with them to allow the new laws to be enforced.


How can such regressive and repressive legislation even be introduced?

Firstly it should be noted that colonialism has a lot to answer for. Outdated laws established by the empire builders still exist in many countries years after independence was gained. One of those laws is the so called ‘sodomy laws’ which made any sex, except for procreation, illegal and punishable by death. This can be seen in many parts of the world such as the Pacific, India, Caribbean, Bahamas and of course many parts of Africa. Australia was the last country in the British empire to hang a man for a homosexual act.

Secondly, we know there has been much anti-gay preaching by some ‘ex-gay’ leaders and evangelical preachers which has reinforced already negative beliefs about gay and lesbian people. Preachers and leaders from the US have purposely visited Uganda and other African countries to speak specifically on homosexuality. Their message? Homosexuals are sick, it is a choice and God can cure them. Funding and materials from the US have been given to promote this message.

So there we have it. If people continue to preach messages that promote outdated, ignorant beliefs about sexuality this is how far they can be pushed.

In the US, some leaders have realised how damaging their message can be and have issued statements about the evil nature of the proposed legislation in Uganda that is currently being pushed by many Christian groups.

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International issued this statement. Of course this probably carries little weight when he, Randy Thomas and others sign the statement as supposedly ‘former homosexuals’. There is no such thing.

Ps Rick Warren of Saddleback issued this video

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has made his first public statement on the proposed anti-gay bill passing through Uganda’s parliament.

Even the Vatican has got in on the act.

One wonders whether this is all too late now the horse has bolted. If this bill is passed, and gay and lesbian people are imprisoned or die we know who are the guilty ones.

It’s time for those in the western Christian church, still living in the dark ages, to wake up and realise that homosexuality is not an illness, choice or sin; it’s an orientation. To preach anything else is not only ignorant, it’s dangerous.

Freedom 2 b[e]

 

Zimbabwe

While we all wait here in Oz to see how the Liberal Party’s three ring circus pans out – see entry above – I thought I’d mention a story I caught on BBC World Service last night. I went straight to the relevant site this morning.

Washington, DC – President Barack Obama and Ethel Kennedy presented Magodonga Mahlangu and her organization, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), with the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award this evening at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award annually honors courageous and innovative human rights defenders throughout the world who stand up against injustice, often at great personal risk.

“By her example, Magodonga has shown the women of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressors’ power with their own power — that they can sap a dictator’s strength with their own. Her courage has inspired others to summon theirs. And the organization’s name, WOZA — which means “come forward” — has become its impact — its impact has been even more as people know of the violence that they face, and more people have come forward to join them,” said President Obama.

The event, sponsored by the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), also included remarks by Kerry Kennedy and a tribute to Senator Edward Kennedy, an RFK Center founding board member from 1968-2009. RFK Board Chair and former Chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party Phil Johnston, introduced the President. Over 200 guests including First Lady Michelle Obama, Administration officials, Members of Congress and the Washington diplomatic community attended.

WOZA is a grassroots movement working to empower women from all walks of life to mobilize and take non-violent action against injustice. WOZA helps its members to stand up for human rights and speak up about the worsening economic, social and political conditions in Zimbabwe at great personal risk. Since its founding in December 2002, WOZA has staged hundreds of peaceful marches in support of democratic reform and women’s empowerment. The Government of Zimbabwe has jailed Ms. Mahlangu along with WOZA founder Jenni Williams over 30 times and thousands of WOZA members have spent time in police custody.

“Arrests do not deter us because WOZA has empowered us to believe that we deserve better. We deserve to have a roof over our head, food in our stomachs, our children in schools and the nation working”, said Ms. Mahlangu. “We deserve to live in dignity and free from fear; and it is our right to have our voices heard and respected. That is why I joined WOZA. While Mugabe boasts of having degrees in violence, I and 75,000 WOZA members who stand beside me, have degrees in non-violence.”

“We are not fighting a revolution in Zimbabwe, we are leading an evolution. And civic education is our tool to evolve the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans to build a strong, new, African democracy where respect, tolerance and accountability are key”, said Jenni Williams, who accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

Williams added, “Mr. President you know how invaluable community mobilizing can be. We have learnt that knocking on doors, talking with and listening to people is the way we can rebuild our nation. We call on you, to support community mobilizers who are organized to empower Zimbabweans to deliver change from the ground up.”…

For more inspiration go to BBC and read about the writer Petina Gappah.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in Africa, amazing, human rights, humanity, inspiration

 

Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot

Everyone in Australia will be aware of the plot uncovered recently in which it is alleged a small band of Somalis planned to attack the Holsworthy Barracks in South-West Sydney. (Note Jim Belshaw’s reservations in his post Australia’s dumb would be terrorists. Note too that the presumption of innocence applies to these men. There is no way we should allow terrorism to water down our own hard-won legal system.)

Given all that, its is well worth reading for humanity’s sake the admirable story Ibrahim Khayre and Somalia | Yacqub Khayre and Holsworthy plot | Selma Milovanovic in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

IBRAHIM KHAYRE wipes away tears and shakes his head.

To him, the story of his nephew, Yacqub Khayre, an accused terrorist, is one of a system that failed an intelligent boy.

It is a story that began in the chaos of war in Mogadishu in 1991, when Ibrahim, who was already living in Australia, brought three-year-old Yacqub and his family here from Somalia to save them.Yacqub grew up in Melbourne’s Gladstone Park and was schooled locally, before becoming friends with Lebanese boys who were a ‘‘bad influence’’.

This week it ended in the arrest of Yacqub, 21, who is alleged to have travelled to Somalia this year, where he attended a camp where ‘‘weapons and military training may have happened’’. At the same time, his co-accused allegedly sought a religious ruling to give the group, suspected members of jihadist sect al-Shabab, approval to attack the Holsworthy army base and a military target in Victoria.

Ibrahim Khayre is a law-abiding citizen who runs a coffee shop. He is not religious, looks after his family and otherwise keeps to himself. He migrated to Australia in 1985 and, in 1991, brought his brother, Yacqub’s father, to Australia along with the rest of the family…

In 2006, the police rang him, trying to track down Yacqub. ‘‘I said, ‘I don’t know where he is. You took him from my house. He could be sleeping with terrorists for all I know.’’’

He saw his nephew once, a year later, but the next time Ibrahim heard of Yacqub was on Tuesday, when a man showed him a newspaper front page in his coffee shop.

Ibrahim says the system let him down. ‘‘The state who said we want to help, they did not. They left him out in the cold. It’s the Government that tied our hands.’’

Ibrahim sits at home, plagued by insomnia, crying constantly. His tears flow as he utters the words he says he thought he would never say. He regrets bringing his family to Australia, even though it saved their lives.

Another issue in this case is the use of private unarmed guards at Australian military bases. I first noted this practice sometime in the 1980s at Victoria Barracks in Sydney and thought 1) they looked inappropriate compared with actual soldiers manning the gates and 2) what a silly way to save money. I see the government is going to review this absurd policy. I wonder too how sophisticated electronic and CCTV surveillance is around such bases. It strikes me they should be very sophisticated, but I somehow doubt they are. In the old days no-one would really have imagined a terrorist attack on such things, the worst scenario way back then being peace demonstrators who are not generally homicidal.

Thomas noted on Twitter that the story was carrying Melbourne-Sydney rivalry just a bit too far. 😉 He lives not far from Holsworthy, I should add, near enough to hear when they are practising with their artillery, as I also did as a kid growing up in Sutherland.

Addendum

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Could apply to this post too.

 

Substantial food for thought on Radio National

Given the trivia and infotainment and sometimes unbalanced ranting that characterise too much of the media, it can be refreshing – and challenging – to tune into Australia’s Radio National. I probably should do so more.

I was struck particularly by some recent episodes of All in the Mind.

1. Child soldiers: the Art and arts of healing (Part 1 of 2). “Born into the bloody horror of war, Sudanese rap artist Emmanuel Jal was 9 when he was recruited into the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army as a child soldier. Incredibly he survived, and his music reaches a generation of Lost Boys.”

2. Child soldiers: the Art and arts of healing (Part 2 of 2). “In Sierra Leone, child soldiers committed acts that words can barely describe. At the war’s end, ravaged communities responded to them with terror and stigma. A minority of former child soldiers, many orphaned, have access to reintegration programs. Dance and movement therapist David Alan Harris describes an extraordinary project to respond to the traumatised psyche through engaging the body.”

You can listen, or read the transcripts. It is strong stuff.

Then I enjoyed A tribute to Isaiah Berlin on The Philosopher’s Zone.

John Gray: Although he thought each of these conceptions, negative and positive liberty were in some ways legitimate and authentic developments from a basic core, which is common to both, he preferred negative liberty to positive liberty in any of the versions that it had had throughout history, and there were several. I mean I think what he feared in positive liberty was paternalism, and even a type of authoritarianism, or even totalitarianism….

I should make one very important point though. I think it’s a great mistake as some people do, to assimilate Berlin therefore to certain types of narrow or extreme liberal or libertarian thinkers who argue that what states should only do is to protect negative liberty. And he himself certainly did not take the view that the purpose of government was only to protect and promote negative liberty. As I mentioned earlier he wasn’t a tremendously political person; he was never actively involved in politics but if I had to describe his political outlook it would be that of a Rooseveltian liberal or in British or Australian terms of a moderate social democrat, and of course being that, meant that negative liberty could and should be tempered and constrained and supplemented by other important values such as social cohesion, distribution, equality and so forth.

Nonetheless he was strongly critical of positive conceptions of liberty because they assumed within individuals and between individuals and in societies as a whole, an actual or a potential harmony which he thought was delusory.

NOTE: The transcript for the second All in the Mind program goes up later this week. You may listen though.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2009 in Africa, Australia, Australia and Australian, faith and philosophy, human rights, humanity, inspiration, intellectual spot, radio

 

Sunday is music day 9 — Paul Simon & Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 10 November 2008)

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2009 in Africa, human rights, music, Sunday music

 

“Must read” is inadequate for a post like Worldman’s latest

Worldman is Swiss. He is the same age as I am, but has had such a different life. His journey has taken him to many places, as his name implies. Professionally it has taken him to Darfur, where until very recently he had worked for the United Nations World Food Programme – for four years.  Here is someone who really knows what he is talking about.

Today he has posted something that should give us all pause to consider the unintended consequences of things, to question what to an outsider may seem right. I urge you all to pay careful attention.

I had an argument (and an outcry)

Last November, just before I was ending my 4 years mission in Darfur, I was sitting in a café in Khartoum, with a colleague. It was always a pleasure to be with her and to discuss about a milion things. At that time, several month had passed since Luis Moreno-Ocampo had filed his suit against President Omar Al-Bashir at ICC, the International Criminal Court.

I had a terrible argument with my colleague. On the ICC issue. She was a very strong defender of bringing the Sudanese President to court. And I was strongly opposed. She argued that people who do or did something wrong should be brought to justice. In particular when it involves war crimes and crimes against humanity. I said that of course I agree with this but that one has to look at the way how it is done. I told her that issuing an arrest warrant will not do anything. She answered that it would by all means send a signal. And I replied that it will make a big mess.

And now we have a big mess. ICC issued the warrant. It is obvious that the Sudanese authorities will never accept this. The international community is divided on this issue anyway. The Arab Ligue, the African Union and the Chinese Government are requesting for the execution of this warrant to be postponed. ICC could have made a statement that, in principle, there is a case but that the proceedings will be postponed by 12 month. They could have invoked article 16 of the court law to do so.

To give a chance for peace in Darfur to come. Of course, this chance is slim. But one has to give the benefit of the doubt. A few weeks ago, the JEM rebels and the Sudan Government have signed a first document in Doha. It just could be the beginning of something good to happen. But, of course, doubts are permitted. After all, the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May 2006 (by only one rebel party) and hailed by the international community as a "major breakthrough for peace in Darfur", did not bring any peace. How can it, when the agreement is not signed by all parties concerned.

So, still no peace in Darfur, a "goof up" by an international institution (supported by Western nations), an angry government and its reaction. Kicking out international NGO. 10 of them, maybe more to come. I know all of them. In my last 10 years as a humanitarian aid worker I got to know them, in many different ways. Their not "being around" anymore will certainly not get the Sudanese President arrested. But the suffering of the people of Darfur will certainly become more terrible….

That is a generous quote, but there is much more to read there. Learn exactly what agencies and NGOs have been working there, and what they did. Read some linked material there from others who know what they are talking about.

…Can the international community be satisfied with this?

I am worried. For the people in Darfur. For all the devoted people, international and national, working with these NGO’s. And, last but not least, for all my colleagues and friends I left behind of this wonderful, amazing organisation:

The United Nations World Food Programme. I know they are not sleeping right now. They are working very hard to find ways to continue to bring assistance to the people in need.

As I said — a must read post if ever there was one.

Thank you, Worldman, for having a blog and letting us know.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Africa, current affairs

 

Sunday is music day 3: nothing if not eclectic!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Africa, music, Sunday music