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Unwanted pregnancies

6. August 2020 - 12:04
Zimbabwe faces a spike in unwanted pregnancies due to a shortage of contraceptives

“Even condoms that used to be free of charge are difficult to find in the villages,” says 46-year old Jabulani Zhou of Mberengwa in south-central Zimbabwe. He already has eight children and now has four more on the way, as his three wives and a girlfriend are pregnant. Zhou is not sure how he will support 12 children, especially now that Zimbabwe’s economy has slowed.

His is not an isolated case. “Fighting unwanted pregnancies has become difficult for many people here as prices of birth control pills go beyond reach,” says Mucha Shumba, an official of the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council in Mberengwa.

Contraception in Zimbabwe has become a story of haves and have-nots. Birth control pills can be found in private pharmacies at a price of $ 1 per packet – too high for many Zimbabweans at a time of high unemployment. Condoms are difficult to find at almost any price.

Responsibility for providing contraceptives and family-planning advice ultimately falls to the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), an independent agency under the Ministry of Health and Child Care. However, the agency is strapped for funds and has been unable to carry out its mandate.

Women bear the brunt of that failure, say women’s-rights activists. “Shortages of contraceptives help to undermine women’s reproductive health rights,” says Celesile Sithole of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), a human-rights NGO based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

Public health is also at risk. “With condoms in short supply, it may mean that after Covid-19 we will wake up to an upsurge of HIV cases,” warns Milenia Musaigwa of the Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV. About 1.3 million Zimbabweans live with HIV, according to UNAIDS.

Moreover, “there are concerns that women will be forced into unsafe abortions” to terminate unwanted pregnancies, says Fungisai Dube, executive director of Citizens Health Watch, a public health watchdog group. And Ruth Labode, chairwoman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, says: “Anecdotal evidence points to an increase in unintended teenage pregnancies due to lack of access to contraceptives.”

Sexually active young women and girls have a high risk of unwanted pregnancies because more than 70 % of them rely on oral contraceptives and condoms, as opposed to longer-term measures such as intrauterine devices, according to an April 2020 report in HealthTimes, a Zimbabwean web portal. The statistic comes from the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey of 2015.

Further reading


Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council:

Jeffrey Moyo is a journalist based in Harare.




Kategorien: english

Multiple adversities

30. Juli 2020 - 11:54
Pakistan’s mango sector is hurt by environmental changes and slow exports

Mahmood Nawaz Shah is a mango grower and exporter from Tando Allah Yar district in Sindh province of Pakistan. Over the past few years, he has been seeing delayed ripening of mangoes due to changes in weather patterns. “The Sindhri mango, a popular variety, used to ripen by the end of May, but this year it was ready for harvest by the end of the first week of June in lower Sindh,” Shah says.

According to the global climate risk index 2020, which is published by the German NGO Germanwatch, Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change. Impacts of climate change strongly affect the agrarian economy.

Shah says: “Temperatures exceed 50 degrees Celsius. Coupled with unusual wind patterns, this affects the size and sweetness of mangoes.” Certain districts of Punjab province that used to produce bumper crops of mangoes were impacted by rains and storms, Shah adds. Therefore, this year’s mango production in these areas will be considerably lower than usual. Changing seasons and unusual rain patterns affect mango production too.

However, climate change is not the only problem mango growers face. Exports have severely declined due to the Coronavirus pandemic. “Covid-19 has resulted in demand contraction and disruptions in flights. Air fright on the few available flights costs two to three times more than previously. Supermarkets in the UK have delisted Pakistani mangoes due to very high prices,” says Shah.

According to the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA), a trade association, Pakistan exported 130,000 tons of mangoes last year, which earned $ 90 million in foreign exchange. For this year, the target has been reduced to 80,000 tons. PFVA patron-in-chief Waheed Ahmed says: “COVID-19 had a two-pronged effect on mangoes. Peoples’ buying power has been affected, and air freight costs have skyrocketed thus limiting exports”.

Worsening the situation, the European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended the authorisation for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to operate in the bloc for six months, starting in July. The decision followed a statement by Pakistan‘s aviation minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan that 30 % of Pakistani pilots have fake licenses.

Even if these problems are solved, next year the situation could be even worse: Pakistan is witnessing dreadful attacks of locusts on mangoes. They do not eat the fruits but the leaves, thus harming the trees and possibly affecting future mango production. Ahmed points out that the arrival of locusts and their regeneration is an environmental phenomenon: “Without a favourable environment, locusts wouldn’t have been able to flourish the way they have.”

Syed Muhammad Abubakar is an environmental journalist based in Pakistan.
Twitter: @SyedMAbubakar

Kategorien: english

Failing grades

27. Juli 2020 - 13:54
Education in Brazil suffers from low funding and insufficient appreciation for teachers

Much of the protest focused on his proposals to cut university funding by 30% and block new scholarships for master’s degree and doctoral candidates. But the controversy over those specific proposals masked a far bigger problem: the dire state of Brazil’s primary and secondary schools and the implications of that for the country’s future development.

Brazil has been cutting its education spending for years. According to a technical bulletin from the nation’s Chamber of Deputies, overall spending on education fell by 56% between 2014 and 2018, from 11.3 billion Brazilian reals (about € 2 billion) to 4.9 billion reals (about € 900 million). Inflation-adjusted spending declined at all levels of education – primary, secondary, tertiary and technical.

The impact of those cuts is felt most in primary and secondary education, where the nation’s human capital is first formed and developed. Here, Brazil receives failing grades: Its spending per student is well below the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a forum of 36 nations with market economies.

The OECD’s “Education at a Glance” report for 2019 finds that problems in Brazil’s education system start early, at the pre-school level. Only 23% of eligible Brazilian children under the age of three are enrolled in early childhood education programmes, well below the OECD average of 36%. This low rate sets a pattern in motion that impedes children’s educational attainment for years to come.

Teachers also fare poorly in Brazil’s education system. Average salaries for Brazilian teachers are lower than in most OECD countries in purchasing power parity terms. Teachers earn at least 13% less on average than do Brazil’s other college graduates. The OECD reports that Brazil’s high school teachers are the worst paid among the 40 OECD and partner countries it surveyed.

In particular, the maximum average annual salary for teachers in Brazil was equivalent to $ 24,100, compared to $ 45,900 in surrounding countries, according to a report by the Borgen Project, a US campaign focused on global poverty, citing 2018 OECD figures.

Many teachers work at two jobs to make ends meet. “Our profession is very devalued and forgotten by the government,” says Márcia da Conceição, 33, a teacher for 11 years. She teaches a total of 44 hours per week at two different schools, including a rural school that lacks basic sanitation and is reachable by a bus that runs only once per hour. She earns a total of about € 470 per month.

For teachers, low pay is just the start of the difficulties. Violence in schools has become commonplace and the problem is not being addressed. Some teachers work without health insurance. Some even buy supplies for their students because the schools do not provide them.

“With funding being reduced, the condition of the schools is terrible,” says Denize Alvarenga, who has been a teacher for 31 years. “Today a new entrant makes less than the minimum wage, the equivalent of around € 230 per month. It’s a difficult profession with a very low salary, and it has gotten worse over time.”


OECD, 2019: Education at a glance.

The Borgen Project:

Thuany Rodrigues is a journalist in Brazil.


Kategorien: english

Collective trauma

27. Juli 2020 - 12:42
Violent conflicts can lead to the traumatisation of entire communities

Trauma causes stress, and that can lead to symptoms of hyper-arousal, like feeling easily frightened, cranky, enraged, churning and petrified. Often, this is coupled with difficulties to sleep or concentrate. Psychic numbing is a tendency of individuals or societies to detach from past traumatic experiences. It is a reduced response to the external world including loss of interest in activity, disconnection from others, hiding from the outside world or escaping from reality.

Collective trauma is a not yet fully completed process of learning how to deal with and integrate extreme levels of toxic stress, anxiety and helplessness (Reimann & König, 2018). It may lead people to be stuck in conflict dynamics while in turn exerting violence against themselves and others. Trauma symptoms are often passed on to the next generation through maladaptive parenting patterns, social or genetic transmission and are then referred to as “transgenerational or intergenerational trauma”.

When certain shared thoughts and feelings are formed by the traumatised group they become part of the common group reality as collective identity markers (see Reimann & König, 2018). This can hinder healing. Narratives of loss and despair, of guilt and shame and/or a shared identity of victimhood are common. Collective emotions are characterised by distrust, shakiness, extreme anguish and apathy (Becker, 2004). The collective mental models or belief systems are characterised by rigid thinking, scapegoating, prejudices, stereotypes, othering and exclusive norms. These elements promote aggression, a culture of violence, in-group dynamics and polarisation.

Working in conflict transformation with trauma-sensitivity then implies being conducive to shifting those collective identity elements towards more inclusive perceptions of the world and to invigorate the resilience of affected communities to foster conducive coping strategies.  


Becker, D., 2004: Dealing with the consequences of organised violence in trauma work. In: Austin, A., Fisher, M., Rospers, N. (eds): Transforming ethnopolitical conflict. The Berghof Handbook: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden.

Reimann, C., and König, U., 2018: Closing a gap in conflict transformation. Understanding collective and transgenerational trauma.

Kategorien: english

Legacy of wounds

27. Juli 2020 - 12:27
Peace-work contributes to a healing process of collective trauma in Lebanon

The Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990, left many wounds unresolved and resulted in a fragmented society with deep sectarian divides. The end of the civil war was followed by a collective suppression of memories about the past three decades. The state promoted this process with the hopes of creating a sense of normality. Yet, this primarily numbed the pain but did not deal with the deep wounds of loss, shame and despair.

Collective narratives of victimhood were passed on within fragmented communities. The past remains a taboo for school history books, and an open public discourse has been silenced. Instead, migrants and refugees as well as foreign powers are scapegoated to be the threat to security and the reason for social and political misery. A language of fear and mistrust gave political parties a platform to manipulate collective needs for safety and security.

Recent events of a massive nationwide uprising, which started in October 2019 and is known as the October Revolution, put these realities and heteronomous identities into question. Protesters all across the country called for an end of corruption, clientelism and the lack of accountability after the government had announced new taxes on internet voice calls. The October Revolution led to a collapse of the government while the country has suffered several months at the brink of financial bankruptcy. A divided society – where many had remained silent for so long – was unified by demanding a root-and-branch transformation of the social and political make-up of Lebanon. It was the end of a prolonged period of collective paralysation.

Peace work that responds to trauma

Entire communities can be traumatised by violent conflicts, and the traumas can be passed on from one generation to the next (see box). In Lebanon, collective trauma­ is obvious. With its projects on “Dealing with the Past”, forumZFD, a German peace organisation working within the Civil Peace Service programme, uses multiperspectivity – the idea that history is interpretational and subjective – to engage people in conversations about the past. It thus contributes to a healing process of collective trauma through understanding how individual and collective identities are influenced by the past.

During its training series “Memory of War”, peace activists from various conflicted communities reflected on collective narratives of identity and mindsets influenced by the consequences of the civil war. In light of events around the October Revolution, the activists explored the importance of a healthy mourning process. This is an important prerequisite to break the deadlock of the mind and body when trauma remains unresolved resulting in collective emotions of fear and despair. The activists got inspired to look at current conflicts in their communities with a multiperspective lens and learned tools to address the past in the present.

Moreover, forumZFD supports teachers across the country and religious communities to learn and teach about the past without deepening divides but rather bridging them. With creative methods, forumZFD and its partner, the Lebanese Association for History, inspire teachers and students to transform the narration of contested historical events and the memorisation of past violence. Besides multiperspectivity, establishing dialogues with older generations is an important means.

For instance, the project “From Local History to a Wider Understanding of the Past” initiated transgenerational conversations on daily life during the civil war. After recording these oral histories, students are invited to transform their findings through artistic means and express how these memories relate to their own present life. The project contributes to a cross-generational process of reconstructing and integrating fragmented memories from the past which is an essential element in collective trauma healing.

Another focus of forumZFD aims at encouraging community activism across divides to mobilise for nonviolent action. Together with its partner, The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, forumZFD supported the foundation of a women’s cooperation Nisaa Kaderat (Capable Women) with Syrian and Lebanese peace activists. Nisaa Kaderat opened a self-organised community centre that provides a safe space for women of all nationalities and generations in the city of Baalbek. It invites women to find shelter and relief from everyday micro-aggressions against their gender and to practice self-care. Inspired by tools from nonviolent communication, community dialogue and psychosocial support, women meet each other with empathy to transform collective emotions of loneliness, victimhood and shame. The dialogue supports women from different generations to stimulate a transgenerational healing process.

In short, on the one hand, the lens of collective trauma can be integrated into the work of conflict transformation. On the other hand, group-building processes create an atmosphere of empathy where individual experiences can be processed with the support of the group and collective learning processes can be facilitated.

Thus, if conflict transformation is sensitive to the psycho-social dynamics of collective trauma, it strengthens the re­silience on an individual and collective level. It thereby transforms the health-promoting tools to strengthen resilience and positive coping strategies – parallel to other ­activities – in order to create safe spaces for groups such as women groups or community groups.

It is also important, however, to work on the transformation of shared narratives of the past and of victim identities through media, arts, festivals, exhibitions and digital storytelling platforms, and to transform the enemy image of “the other”. This in turn will help to strengthen a sense of self-efficacy, helping to overcome shared feelings of helplessness and to transform passivity and political apathy into empowerment and agency.

Miriam Modalal is a project manager for community organising at forumZFD, an international non-governmental organisation working in the field of conflict transformation, in Lebanon.

Dalilah Reuben-Shemia was a peace and conflict consultant and is a nonviolent action researcher.

Kategorien: english

Belonging together

27. Juli 2020 - 11:59
Nations are nothing natural, but human-made “imagined communities”

Consider Switzerland. Its official languages are German, French and Italian. Its people live on different sides of the Alps, which are less a shared region than Europe’s most massive natural border. Every linguistic group has a lot in common with the large neighbouring country that uses the same language. Almost 40 % of the Swiss are Catholic, 30 % are Protestant and 20 % do not adhere to any religious faith.

By European standards, Switzerland is unusually diverse, but also unusually stable and peaceful. The Swiss have a long history of emphasising local-level self-rule and defining themselves as independent of the Europe’s major powers. Their sense of nationhood is strong – and closely linked to the country’s constitutional order. A strong sense of nationhood serves as an immunisation against fragile statehood. Where people accept that they belong to an imagined community and share its fate, violence strife is less likely than where they lack such a sense of belonging. In its absence, crises of legitimacy can result in terrible bloodshed. A recent European example was Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990s.

Conceptually, the terms “peacebuilding”, “statebuilding” and “nationbuilding” have considerable overlap. The reasons are that non-violent resolution of conflict is more likely where the state commands a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and that a shared national identity makes people less disposed to taking up arms against one another or against the state.

After traumatic socio-political disasters such as civil war or dictatorship, all three matter: peacebuilding, statebuilding and nationbuilding. Since they are mutually reinforcing, it is not important to figure out what comes first. Action to promote one indirectly promotes the other two, and the essential thing is to promote them all to the maximum extent possible.

The history of high-income countries shows that nationhood fosters two kinds of solidarity. One is the solidarity against other countries and foreigners, which can become quite aggressive. The other is welfare-state solidarity, defending compatriots from desperate need. Today’s right-wing populists link both varieties in a perfidious way. They claim that immigrants and other minorities only want to exploit the government-funded safety nets which, according to populist narratives, should only serve the nation understood as a homogenous entity. The irony is that this kind of agitation is divisive. It undermines people’s sense of belonging together and weakens institutions.

Traumatised nations do not need scapegoating but reconciliation. Acceptance of the historical truth is necessary, and so is trust in institutions and the rule of law. For these things to come about, people must feel secure. It is a fallacy to believe that effective social-protection systems are basically the reward for strong nation- and statehood. They are also preconditions for nation- and statehood. In post-crisis countries, the international community should not only try to provide military security. Efforts to establish social security would serve peace and nation building.


Kategorien: english

How the first redistribution attempt failed

27. Juli 2020 - 11:37
The policy proposed by Namibia’s first National Land Reform Conference in the early 1990s never took off

The idea was that white farmers would voluntarily sell land to black buyers who would often rely on government support so they could afford the price. Whenever a current owner put land up for sale, the Conference recommended giving the government preferential rights to buy.

This policy, however, faltered fast. For one thing, the land purchases by government agencies were slow and inefficient. According to official data published in 2018, over 8 million hectares (a bit more than one fifth of the privately-owned farmland) were offered to the state since 1992, but only 37 % of that land was actually bought. The statistics show that whites still own almost 50 % of the land. The descendants of the people who were dispossessed under colonial rule remain landless.

Making matters worse, inequality persists even where redistribution has occurred. It is now no longer necessarily based on pigmentation. Political connections and ethnic affinities matter too. Many members of the political and administrative elite have been classified on paper as belonging to the “previously disadvantaged”, which made them eligible for land redistribution. Many of them are originally from Namibia’s northern regions where land had always remained in the possession of the local communities. Subsidised by taxpayers’ money, people whose ancestors had never been disposed thus acquired land. To own a farm, is now a status symbol for members of the new elite.

Such misguided allocation of land has become a bone of contention. Descendants of communities expropriated by colonialism still feel pushed aside. Such feelings fuel inter-ethnic animosities.

There is more bad news. Many of the non-privileged resettlement beneficiaries cannot make a living from the land. Lacking capital and know-how, they depend on state aid.

Kategorien: english

Righting a wrong

27. Juli 2020 - 11:24
To make amends for colonial-era crimes, Germany should fund Namibian land restitution

National statistics document Namibia’s unequitable pattern of land ownership. Fewer than 5,000 (predominantly white) commercial farmers own 48 % of the land. About 35 % of the land is reserved for communal use by indigenous communities. More than 70 % of the population depend on it. The state holds another 17 % of the land.

This is inconsistent with stated national policy. The government’s declared intention is to transfer land to descendants of those who were dispossessed in colonial times. Its agenda includes resettlements of indigenous people as well as the voluntary transfers of commercial agricultural land. Not much progress has been made however. Land ownership remains heavily skewed in favour of the privileged few, who now include members of the political class (see box).

As a former colonial power, Germany bears a responsibility to support redressing the situation. From 1884 to 1915, the colony was called German South West Africa. German colonial rule was very brutal. The administration encouraged whites to set up farms on indigenous land. Resistance by local Ovaherero and Nama communities against forced expulsions triggered the first genocide of the 20th century in the years 1904 to 1908 (see Joshua Kwesi Aikins in Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/11). The Damara were affected too. Survivors were detained in concentration camps and forced into native reserves. White farmers also systematically eliminated San communities (Bushmen).

Land grabs continued after South Africa occupied the territory in 1915 and, in 1919, became the mandatory power. Afrikaans-speaking white farmers moved to the “fifth province”. Expulsions and resettlements of indigenous communities continued until the 1960s under South Africa’s Bantustan Policy, which set aside reserves for specific ethnic groups. These areas were euphemistically called “tribal homelands”.

Independence was supposed to liberate the black communities and restore their dignity. In 1990, the liberation movement South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) formed the new government of a sovereign nation. Land ownership hardly changed, however, even though there was a promising start with a national land conference in 1991. Unfortunately, redistribution of land to the dispossessed failed miserably. The process was slow and far too often benefited politically connected persons who had no ancestral claims.

Dissatisfaction with the failed reform led to a second land conference in October 2018. It paid more attention to ancestral land claims than the first one. In February 2019, a 15-member Commission on Ancestral Land was appointed. In December 2019, the Commission recommended giving priority to the dispossessed. It stated: “Colonialism stripped people of their dignity and cultural rights and other fundamental rights, and [this] requires urgent systematic redress.” The Commission suggested to rely on “reparations from the former colonial powers” to strengthen land reform and restore social justice.

A role for Germany

The two former colonial powers are Germany and South Africa. Their legacy is certainly appalling. The South African government, however, is itself the result of a freedom struggle and refuses to be held accountable for the former Apartheid regime’s abusiveness. Of course, South Africa’s involvement does not lessen Germany’s responsibility in any way.

In mid-2015, a spokesperson of Germany’s Foreign Office acknowledged, after persistent questioning from a journalist, that imperial warfare in Namibia was tantamount to genocide. Since then, Germany and Namibia have been negotiating how to come to terms with the persisting injustice. Though Germany’s Federal Government has never agreed to reparations and avoids using the term, the Namibian Commission’s proposal deserves consideration. Germany could indeed provide funds for land redistribution. The money could be used to compensate expropriated farmers even if they do not wish to sell their land.

The legal foundation for such a land redistribution is in place. While the country’s constitution confirms that any property titles that existed at the time of independence are legally valid, its Article 16 states clearly: “The State or a competent body or organ authorised by law may expropriate property in the public interest subject to the payment of just compensation, in accordance with requirements and procedures to be determined by Act of Parliament”. Laws and regulations are in place, and in 2008, the High Court spelled out guidelines for enforcing them.

Funding a redistribution and expropriation policy along these lines would be a sensible first step. Next, Germany should then co-finance the indispensable investments in rural infrastructure and agricultural extension services. The idea would be to empower local communities in ways that allow them to fully benefit from re­settlement. The Namibian government, for its part, would have to ensure that only the descendants of the dispossessed benefit from redistribution, but not politically-connected elites.

Both the German and the Namibian government would be wise to invest in this kind of policy. It would not only facilitate reconciliation between Germany and Namibia, but also between groups in Namibia – the truly dispossessed and those only pretending to be. Namibia would get a new start. The destructive legacy of skewed land ownership would be overcome.

Neither side should shy away from using the word “reparations.” For Germany, an obstacle may be that such a step might look like an irritating precedent to other former colonial powers. They do not want to pay compensations for past crimes (see Kehinde Andrews in Focus section of D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/11).

As Namibia’s Commission on Ancestral Land correctly stated, however, “the term reparation is used in a wide sense” in international law. It can stand for any measure that serves “to redress the various types of harms victims may have suffered”.

Land is identity, and stolen land translates into stolen identity. Property rights that were granted by a legal system that was only established after colonial land grabs may remain valid – but they are inherently unjust. It is necessary to right the wrongs of the past. The current talks between Germany and Namibia offer an historic opportunity to do so.

Henning Melber is director emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala, Sweden, and an extraordinary professor at the University of Pretoria and the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. He is a member of South West African Organisation (SWAPO), having joined it in 1974.

Kategorien: english

Giving refugees a voice

16. Juli 2020 - 15:40
An independent refugee-led online newspaper keeps residents of the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya informed





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The newspaper is called Kanere, short for Kakuma news reflector. It is currently produced on a shoestring budget with small funds from donor organisations.

A modest print run supplements the online presence once per month. Copies are made available in public spaces in the four sections of the Kakuma camp and the nearby Kalobeyei camp, which together house nearly 200,000 refugees.

Since its founding in 2008, Kanere has reported events in the camp and advocated for refugee rights. It reports regularly on the camp’s chronic water shortages, frequent crime and corruption of aid staff. Previous issues focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, the legal rights of refugees and the alarming suicide rate among female residents, as rapes and sexual assaults are rife.

The reports have produced results: Kanere’s articles on sexual assaults and gun violence have led to increased police patrols and installation of street lights. After Kanere criticised the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which administers the camp, for being unavailable to residents, UNHCR set up field posts where refugees can meet staff members.

Much of the coverage remains controversial, particularly for UNHCR. When Kanere was founded, UNHCR refused to cooperate and in fact harassed journalists involved. UNHCR was accustomed to having a monopoly on information and declined to fund Kanere as long as it remained independent.

Kanere was initially funded by a Fulbright Research Grant from the US Institute of International Education. It has since acquired the status of an NGO under Kenyan law. The news outlet continues to seek funding from humanitarian and development organisations.

Kanere currently has 17 reporters earning little or no pay. The team is multinational; the Kakuma camp has refugees from 19 countries, including South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Ethiopia. The staff’s diversity enables coverage from different viewpoints and across language barriers. Most staff members have prior experience in journalism.

Working conditions are difficult. Editors and reporters work from home, as the newspaper lacks an office. The team shares five laptops and a few old cameras and video recorders. Electricity and internet data transmission are costly, and power cuts are frequent.

Moreover, Kakuma is hot all year and often has water shortages. When the rain comes it is often heavy, flooding rivers, blocking roads and damaging homes made of mud bricks and corrugated iron. But the hard work has its rewards: “It is very challenging to report in Kakuma but the Kanere team is dedicated and trusted within the refugee communities,” says Gind Ibrahim, Kanere’s Kenyan reporter.


Qaabata Boru, an Ethiopian journalist, is the founder and editor-in-chief of Kanere. He currently lives in Canada and edits the newspaper remotely.






Kategorien: english

Facets of a despot

16. Juli 2020 - 14:42
A photo exhibition marks a first tentative attempt by Ugandans to come to terms with the past under Idi Amin

Widely known as the “butcher of Africa”, the dictator Idi Amin is considered the epitome of the brutal despot. During his eight years in power, from 1971 to 1979, he sent between 300,000 and 400,000 people to their deaths. He ordered innumerable foreigners, above all Indian traders, to be expropriated and expelled.

During his reign, Amin was escorted everywhere by a team of state photographers. Hundreds of thousands of pictures were taken – because the dictator understood the power of public presence. Until recently, those photographs were believed lost. But in 2015, archivists at the Ugandan state broadcaster discovered a hoard of thousands of images. Since then, experts from various universities have digitised 25,000 of the 70,000 negatives found. The 200 photos included in the Uganda National Museum’s exhibition “The Unseen Archive of Idi Amin” are only a small selection.

The exhibition is intended to show “different facets of Idi Amin’s personality”, explains visitor-support team member Anne Kakho. Amin’s term of office is presented in timelines. One shows official photographs: the dictator in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1972, meeting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1973, and greeting Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa from the then Central African Empire shortly afterwards.The second timeline shows lots of pictures of everyday life in Uganda in the 1970s. An information panel flanking the display tells the visitor: “The seventies were a time of cultural creativity, a time of love, music and a new life.” Here it becomes clear how the dictator garnered support. He is seen as a musician playing an accordion, as a dancer at a cultural event and as a boxer in the ring.

The third timeline attempts to capture the horror of Amin’s rule: empty torture chambers, public executions and the deportation of Indian merchants. Another exhibition panel points out the paradoxical picture presented by “paralysing horror and a vibrant public life”.

The exhibition makes no attempt to appraise events. That is left entirely to the viewer. At the end of the museum visit, Ugandans are invited to leave their thoughts and feedback in writing. For the moment, the aim is to keep this a domestic dialogue.

The public response to the exhibition is generally very positive, even if the feedback is highly diverse, says Anne Kahko. “One family wanted us to take down the displays, saying they were an insult to the present government.” Some of Idi Amin’s children have also visited the exhibition and they loved it. His youngest son, Jaffar Amin, was even willing to contribute to the exhibition, offering more photos and lots of stories from the time. The organisers take note of everything. They now see this as just a beginning; they are planning a major exhibition in the future.

The way the images are presented reflects many Ugandans’ attitude towards Idi Amin. Very few see him exclusively as the brutal butcher he is perceived to be abroad. Visitor Irene Aikuru believes “he killed no more people than other presidents of this country, no more than the present president. He was just totally unsophisticated and did not conceal anything. He displayed his cruelty openly – that was the difference”.

The format of the exhibition, which allows visitors to see the side of Idi Amin that they wish to see, also says something about how little has been done in Uganda to deal with the past. There has been no reappraisal of the past, no public commemoration of war victims, no acknowledgement of the suffering endured by the civilian population. So this exhibition, with its focus on dialogue, is a ground-breaking event.

The exhibition ran until mid-February 2020 in Kampala and is scheduled to move on to many more venues.

Isabella Bauer is a freelance journalist and adviser specialised in East Africa, Southern Africa and Germany.

Kategorien: english

Revisiting the peace versus justice debate

16. Juli 2020 - 12:44
Demands for criminal accountability can be an obstacle to peace

The ongoing debate over peace versus justice is well-known in conflict resolution. Experience has shown that after a political resolution or military victory, peace agreements are negotiated among the parties to the conflict. These peace agreements usually contain not only restorative measures but also retributive actions to deal with suspects of atrocious crimes.

Criminal accountability of international crimes may take different forms:

  • national prosecutions where states prosecute international crimes under domestic law,
  • hybrid courts which feature domestic and international composition and usually operate within the jurisdiction where the crimes occurred, and
  • international courts such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) whose legal mandate is to hold perpetrators of international crimes individually responsible under international law.

While the mandate of the ICC is clear, it is noteworthy that the Court’s founding document, the Rome Statute, gives the prosecutor the discretion not to initiate an investigation if, after considering the gravity of crime and interests of victims, she concludes that it would not serve the interests of justice. How does this provision affect people coming to grips with the past or even ongoing violence? Should the phrase be construed broadly enough to include the interests of peace?

The preamble of the Rome Statute establishes a presumption against deferring to peace processes once a state is unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute international crimes. It provides that the ICC’s mission is to ensure prosecution of “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community“ in order to “put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes“. If the court were to defer to political negotiations or peace processes, it would be acting adversely against its own duty to end impunity for the gravest international crimes. Besides, if the court acts on the duty to prosecute without considering any political arrangements or negotiations, this may likely deter gross human-rights abuses.

Unprosecuted crimes

Afghanistan has experienced civil war for decades. Thousands of civilians have been and continue to be victims of atrocious crimes, some of which fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. According to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in December 2019, “civilian causalities surpassed 100,000 in the past ten years”. The number of causalities over the past four decades has certainly surpassed the million mark. Moreover, sexual violence has been reported to be widespread and extensive. Lack of documentation of most gender-based and sexual crimes has led to numerous cases going unreported and thus unprosecuted, leading to a pervasive culture of denial.

The questions of justice and dealing with past atrocities remains unanswered. In the past, the Afghan authorities and the international community both favoured and promoted “peace first, justice later“. This policy encouraged more violence and promoted a state of impunity. While there have been efforts to deal with past human-rights abuses through various transitional justice mechanisms, Afghanistan has continued to experience cycles of conflict. National prosecution efforts have been inefficient at best. The Afghan government has sometimes initiated investigations, but these have lacked impartiality and independence. Adding to the problem, investigators often lack the capacity to carry out investigations.

In November 2017, the prosecutor sought authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to initiate formal investigations into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Afghanistan. Under the Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed on the territory of a member state, regardless of the nationality of the accused. The investigations in Afghanistan will also target US nationals, specifically the US military forces and employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In April 2019, the Pre-Trial Chamber denied the prosecutor this request ruling that an investigation into Afghanistan would not be in the interest of justice.

This was the first time that the Court implored this argument. The Pre-Trial Chamber concluded that opening investigations would only create unrealistic expectations from victims and possible hostility towards the Court. The Court cited limited prospects for success due to such factors as the “volatility of the political climate surrounding the Afghan scenario“ and the likely lack of cooperation by the countries involved. However, if this argument is to be accepted, arguably, no investigations in any situation would ever be started.

Expectedly, the prosecutor filed an appeal against this decision. The Appeals Chamber rightfully reversed the problematic ruling made by the Pre-Trial Chamber and authorised the Court’s prosecutor to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan since May 2003. The ruling was endorsed by many international justice and human-rights advocates and hailed as a true hope for victims of the conflict. It reaffirmed the Court’s essential role of granting justice to victims even when all other criminal accountability options are in vain.

The Afghanistan situation before the ICC is a recent example of potential discord between peace and justice. Demands for criminal accountability should never impede ongoing peace efforts. The Appeals Chamber decision should not be seen as a hindrance to the ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks between the parties to the conflict since the absence of accountability for grave international crimes can have a lasting negative impact on efforts to achieve peace.

Darleen Seda is a Kenyan lawyer who specialises in human rights and international criminal law.

Kategorien: english

Failing grades

15. Juli 2020 - 14:41
Chile’s teachers give low grades for the early results of online classes for schoolchildren

The survey (“Teaching during the health crisis: the teachers' perspective”) finds that only 9 % of teachers believe that most of their students have the habits to study autonomously, and only a quarter believe that their students have the necessary skills to use distance work applications.

Teachers also say that on average they are able to have frequent contact with only half of their students. Almost two-thirds (63 %) say their students do not have access to the internet, but only 8 % of teachers compensate for that deficiency by sending physical materials to students’ homes. The nationwide survey, taken in late April, has 3,176 respondents – all of them classroom teachers, mostly in cities and mostly in primary and secondary education.

Magdalena Claro, director of the Catholic University's Observatory of Digital Educational Practices and one of the study's authors, says the results show disparities in the ability to use the internet to access primary and secondary education. “While some will incorporate new digital tools, others will be very disengaged from the educational system,” she says.

On paper, Chile is a good candidate for a nationwide experiment in online schooling. Some 87 % of Chilean households have internet access, according to the government’s 2017 Internet Access and Usage Survey, the most recent one available. But internet coverage is only part of the picture when it comes to delivering education effectively. For one thing, the coverage total includes internet plans for smartphones, but smartphones generally have insufficient bandwidth for online classes.  

Moreover, while 56 % of Chilean households have internet plans that are suitable for distance learning, the broadband service often fails when two or more people are online simultaneously. A further issue arises when a household has only one computer for multiple users. These factors have combined to give online primary education in Chile a bumpy start.

Paola Estrada, a teacher and mother in the Valparaiso region, knows these problems first-hand. Since the schools shut down, she has conducted classes from her dining room. Her 10-year-old son seems to be drifting, dealing with an unreliable signal and often losing interest in coursework. “I can only keep an eye on him for 30 minutes," Estrada says.

Similar scenes play out in the Muñoz household, some 700 km south in the Biobío región. The family has an above-average internet plan. But the signal often fails when both pre-teenage children and their father, who works from home and is often in video conferences, are online. “The other problem is that we have one computer for both children and have had to prioritise the classes of one over the other,” says Paula Muñoz. “When we can, we also use cell phones."

Such problems are not unique to Chile in the Coronavirus era, and may well be temporary. But to children in important learning years, the interruption to classroom routines may prove to be a significant disturbance to their education.

Javier A. Cisterna Figueroa is a journalist in Concepción, Chile.


Teachers survey concerning distance learning, May 2020:

Chilean Internet Access Study:



Kategorien: english

Build back better

15. Juli 2020 - 14:26
IEA wants stimulus money to drive climate protection

Energy demand and carbon emissions plummeted this year due to the economic halt. Recovery offers a window of opportunity to “build back better” – the unofficial motto of sustainable disaster recovery. Fatih Birol, the executive director of the IEA, has appealed to member countries to make 2019 the peak year in energy-related carbon emissions by using recovery funding to advance clean energy. António Guterres, the UN secretary General, has endorsed that message, pointing out that “clean energy puts countries on safer and healthier footing”.

As the example of the USA in the 1930s showed, government spending can lead an economy out of a depression, even if that spending is based on significant public debt. Investments in infrastructure are particularly useful because they not only create short-term employment, but also lay the foundation for long-term prosperity.

Today, the smart thing is to invest in climate protection and adaptation. Rele­vant projects include retrofitting housing stock for renewable energy, building bicycle-transport networks or implementing nature-based solutions for flood protection. Stimulus money can be used to build smart power grids or to convert industrial facilities in ways that allow them to use clean energy. Experts warn policymakers not to repeat the mistakes made after the global financial crisis of 2008, when short-sighted bailouts benefited fossil-fuel intensive industries and exacerbated the global problem of climate change. Instead, governments should have focused on the jobs and industries of the future.

Unfortunately, several countries are already showing signs of repeat failure. The Guardian reported in early July, for example, that the USA had given loans worth at least $ 3 billion to some 5,600 fossil-fuel companies, including coal-based power plants and oil drillers. US President Donald Trump denies the science of climate change, and his administration serves the special interests of ecologically destructive industries. Trump pretends that environmental protection hurts economic growth, but shows no interest in long-term sustainability. His science denial and focus on short-term business data, moreover, have led to fast opening up after lockdown, allowing Covid-19 infection numbers to rise dreadfully in the USA in July. The worsening pandemic may thus well erase the economic advantages of opening up too fast.

The US administration’s destructive stance became evident once more during a virtual global conference that the IEA held in early July. On the upside, energy ministers from 40 of the most energy-consuming countries took part, indicating their interest in accelerating the transition to renewable energy in the context of the Covid-19 recovery.

The EU, for example, recently released its € 1.85 trillion, seven-year recovery plan, which will invest in green industries and technologies. China and India also made promising announcements. Multilateral institutions, including the IEA, would do well to keep pressure on governments to live up to such pledges. In regard to climate protection, the EU, China and India so far have tended to be behind schedule, rather than pressing ahead fast with urgently needed action (for the example of India, see Aditi Roy Ghatak in Focus section of D+C/E+Z ­e-Paper 2020/04).

Low-income countries, by contrast, typically lack the fiscal space to adopt stimulus programmes of their own. The international community should support their indispensable climate action.

In any case, the IEA deserves praise for promoting the clean energy agenda. A decade ago, it still had a reputation for promoting fossil fuels and underplaying the potential of renewable energy. Its change of tune is welcome. Pressure from major institutional investors, including pension funds and insurance companies, helped to make it happen. They know that business needs sustainability. The US administration should pay attention to them too.

Katie Cashman is the climate-action director of 2811, an environmental civil-society organisation in Chile. She is expressing her personal opinion in this comment.

Kategorien: english

A new intergenerational compact

15. Juli 2020 - 12:38
Once more, Covid-19 shows that care work is largely left to women – and that must change

The German care system places on families the primary burden of caring for children, the elderly and incapacitated relatives. Legal regulations perpetuate the traditional division of labour. Most care providers are women.

However, more and more women earn money so they are no longer able or willing to do unpaid care work. Ever more families are forced to outsource care, either to institutions such as day-care centres, schools or nursing homes, or to privately-hired domestic helpers, including au pairs or live-in carers.

Increasingly, immigrant women are doing the care work. Border closures during the Coronavirus lockdown, however, showed that immigrants can neither be present all the time, nor can they protect themselves consistently from work-related risks.

In short, the German system for providing nursing care and support has reached its limits. Policies on the matter were already deficient in the sense of not meeting social needs before the pandemic. Current regulations do not require care workers to have appropriate skills, nor do they drive the creation of a nationwide network of professional providers.

Jens Spahn, Germany’s federal health minister, wants to remedy the shortage of skilled staff in hospitals and nursing homes by recruiting trained nurses from Mexico and the Philippines. Such efforts highlight systemic deficiencies. Without change, the care system is unsustainable.

One consequence of the current policy is that migrant care workers – most of them women working with temporary permits – tend to labour in difficult circumstances which sometimes are actually illegal. Nonetheless, they are essential workers who are supposed to keep the care system running, thereby reinforcing the illusion that German women can easily make family life and professional careers compatible.

This system, moreover, exploits a wealth and wage gap between Germany and migrants’ home countries (see Richa Arora in the D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2020/06, Debate). Private-sector companies and state agencies in Germany are trying to pay as little as possible when managing their care obligations. The current system basically shifts responsibility to subcontractors and to women from foreign countries. An implication is that those countries lose skilled workers. The women’s families are affected in particular. It makes sense to say that care work is being extracted from the economies concerned in the same way that raw materials are exploited. Some accurately speak of international “care chains”. Ultimately, children, dependent relatives and people with disabilities end up without support because the caregivers have left. That mostly happens in the global South and eastern ­Europe, of course.

Instead of perpetuating this pattern, Germany’s Federal Government should overhaul its approach to care provision. The new approach should take into account requirements of global development, among other things. Moreover, Germany’s governmental social-protection insurances should cover all people doing private care work, whether for children, the aged or incapacitated persons. Payroll taxes would have to be collected accordingly.

Moreover, it would make sense to set up a global social-security fund. Carers in rich and poor nations alike deserve pensions, child benefits and unemployment benefits when needed.

The care crisis cannot be solved by exporting it or by making it invisible. What we need instead is a new intergenerational compact that enables people to combine employment and care work. Employment and care work must be compatible for all – for women and men, for rich and poor, for migrants and those who stay in their home countries. Moreover, reforms are needed to provide greater financial rewards and non-material recognition to those who do care work.

A first step would be to include all related efforts such work in the calculation of gross domestic product. GDP measures prosperity, which, to a large extent, is based on care work. So far, national income statistics give no clear picture of who wins and who loses in the current settings. Nor do they make it clear which activities are “system-relevant”, especially in a global context. The burden of care work is not shared in a fair manner – to the detriment of young women’s professional development all over the word. Moreover, the impacts on the economic development of countries in the global South are negative too.

Universal access to free public education, health care, clean water, sanitation and domestic energy systems must be guaranteed worldwide. Otherwise, any future crisis comparable to the Covid-19 pandemic will intensify existing social inequalities.

Almut Schnerring and Sascha Verlan jointly wrote a book with the title “Equal care”. It was published by Verbrecher Verlag (Berlin, 2000) and is only available in Germany.
They also launched an action day for civil society:
“Equal Care Day”:

Equal Care Manifesto:

Kategorien: english

Descent into Hell

15. Juli 2020 - 11:55
Tragic tale of a young Nigerian’s life wrecked by an ill-fated love affair

The plot has a fairy-tale ring to it: a young woman from a wealthy family is persuaded not to jump off a bridge by a simple poultry farmer, and the two fall in love. However, it very quickly becomes apparent that this is no fairy-tale novel. The reader watches as Chinonso embarks on a road to self-destruction, giving up his life for the woman he loves. In places, it is painful to read on – but it is even harder to put the book down.

From the outset it is clear that the family of Chinonso’s lover, Ndali, finds her relationship with an uneducated man unacceptable. Chinonso makes a living from raising chickens and growing a few crops. Which in 2007 – the year in which the book is set – also makes him an undesirable suitor in the eyes of the Nigerian upper class. Chinonso is not only mocked and ridiculed but receives dire threats. His response is to make plans to study for a degree in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. An old school friend – in an apparent act of kindness – helps him make the preparations. Chinonso sells every­thing he has – the family compound, his home and his chickens – before even telling his lover of his plans. He wants to return to Nigeria as an educated man with excellent job prospects.

On the outward flight, Chinonso realises something is wrong when he meets fellow Nigerians who give grim descriptions of the country his friend portrayed as a promised land. During the stopover in Istanbul, he finds his friend is no longer reachable. He has disappeared and most of Chinonso’s money has gone with him.

“An Orchestra of Minorities” is Obioma’s second book and, like his debut novel, was shortlisted for the prestigious British Man Booker Prize (see Sabine Balk, Summer Special, E+Z/D+C e-Paper 2019/08). The story is inspired by true events. Obioma himself studied in Northern Cyprus and met many compatriots who had lost money to middlemen.

Europe, the land of promise, becomes a nightmare for Chinonso. The young man, with no great ambition, wanting only to be with the love of his life, becomes a broken wreck, stranded in a hostile country.

Chinonso is a bit like his livestock, the helpless chickens he has farmed since early childhood. Along with many other stranded souls, he belongs to the “minorities of this world whose only recourse was to join this universal orchestra in which all there was to do was cry and wail”.

At many points in the book, the protagonist remains silent, resigned to his fate – which sometimes infuriates the reader. When Chinonso realises he has been cheated, he does not tell his lover and does not ask for help. He is ashamed and tries to overcome his problems alone. That proves to be a mistake because before long there is no way at all he can contact Ndali.

Even his “chi”, his guardian spirit, who is the narrator of the story, cannot prevent that. In the Igbo culture to which the protagonist belongs, everyone has a chi. Hearing the story from the chi is sometimes amusing but the excursions to the spirit world can be exhausting, especially for a reader with little knowledge of Igbo language and culture.

From the outset, the narrative perspective makes it clear there is virtually no chance of Chinonso’s life turning around. Readers who tend towards Weltschmerz and pessimism will find plenty to feed their world view in this book.

Obioma, C., 2019: An Orchestra of Minorities. Little, Brown and Company.

Kategorien: english

Khalil – inside the mind of a terrorist

15. Juli 2020 - 11:17
Yasmina Khadra’s latest novel gives insights into the thoughts and life of a terrorist

Cheering and celebrating people fill the streets of Paris. Football fans stream into the Stade de France under the watchful eyes of security forces. People sit in bars and cafés, enjoying their evening. Meanwhile, four “brothers” from the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, are on their way to the scene. One of the young assassins is Khalil, the protagonist of the novel. Two of the “brothers”, whom Khalil does not know, get out of the car at the Stade de France and disappear into the crowd. In a few minutes, the French capital will be transformed: openness, joie de vivre and the lightness of being will give way to fear, mistrust and controls.

Khalil and his childhood friend Driss know this. They talk about what is going to happen. They are convinced that they are doing the right thing. “For the first time in my life, I feel important,” says Khalil as he hugs his friend. Then he slips into the train station and squeezes into a suburban train crowded with commuters at the end of the day. Surrounded by people, he gropes for the trigger on his explosive belt and presses the button – determined to blow himself up and take as many people as possible with him.

But nothing happens. Stunned, almost panicking, Khalil keeps pressing the button, but the ignition mechanism is not triggered. What now? Together with Driss, he had prepared for weeks for this mission; failure was never an option.

Helplessly, Khalil wanders through Paris. Desperation and self-doubt plague him. He finally succeeds in returning to Molenbeek. There, he tries to contact the “brothers”. He wants to make it clear to them that the failure was not his fault.

Through the first-person narrative, Khadra leads us into the thoughts of the 23-year-old Khalil, who lives as the son of immigrants in Molenbeek. Khalil despises the life of his parents, who come from a village in Morocco and, in his eyes, will never amount to anything. He has a bad relationship with his family, feeling misunderstood and hating his father. His twin sister Zhara is the only one to whom he feels close.

Khalil ends up on the street. He sees no meaning in his life, seems not to belong to society, feels like a parasite – that is the ideal breeding ground for the ideologies of extremist organisations. Khalil’s lack of self-esteem is compensated for by the so-called “brothers”.  In the mosque he finds security and the feeling of being part of a strong community: “I wandered around blindly for a long time, looking for the right path,” says Khalil. “The brothers showed me the way, and for the first time in my life I felt taken seriously.”

Through the novel, the reader experiences Khalil’s radicalisation. The author does not sympathise with his protagonist, but he does not condemn him either, although as a high officer in the Algerian army, he fought against Islamists himself. Khadra rather seeks the human being in Khalil.

The author sees his novel as an “anti-radicalisation book”. In an interview he said that he would like his novel to become compulsory reading in schools. For Khadra, there is nothing more valuable than life. He hopes to convey this message to young readers so that they will not be blinded by extremist leaders’ seductive speeches.

Khalil loses contact with his family and argues with his twin sister, who later falls victim to a terrorist attack in Brussels. However, Khalil only finds out about this by chance after the funeral. Angry at his family and society, he sits at her grave and mourns.

The “brothers” give Khalil a second chance after his failed attack: the organisation is planning attacks in Marrakech in which Khalil is to play a central role. Will he carry out his mission this time?

Khadra, Y., 2018: Khalil. Paris, Julliard. (The english version will be published in November 2020 by Nan A. Talese, New York.)

Kategorien: english

Black lives matter

15. Juli 2020 - 9:21
Legacies of colonialism and slavery are being reassessed around the world after protests that started in Minneapolis

This looks like a global reckoning with the legacies of colonialism and slavery. It started in Minneapolis, after police officers killed George Floyd, an African-American man. Protest fast spread across North America and then to other continents.

I am sure that President Donald Trump’s tone-deaf response added momentum to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the USA. He equated demonstrators with violent thugs, claimed his opponents are terrorist and spoke of dominating the streets with military force. At the same time, he now shows no interest in Russia paying bounties for the killing of US troops and rejects any responsibility for managing the Covid-19 crisis, which affects the affluent less than it does the poor, many of whom are black.

Opinion polls show that up to two thirds of the US public now support BLM. Trump certainly helped to make that happen. Nonetheless, the global protests are not primarily anti-American. People in many countries are upset about police brutality and racism at home. They are aware of things being unacceptably bad in the USA, but also know that they are not much different and perhaps even worse in their own countries.

It is often said that nothing has changed in the USA since the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. That is not true. I lived in the USA as a child and remember that, in the 1960s, it was considered a spectacular exception that the mayor of Gary, Indiana, was a “Negro”, as we said back then. Today, so many big cities have – or had – a black mayor that these leaders are not exceptional anymore. There is no lack of African-American role models, though it is still true that black people are under-represented in positions of power. There has been change – but not enough change. On average, African-Americans are still poorer, have fewer opportunities and are more likely to suffer police violence.

Awareness of racism, however, is more advanced in the USA, than in Germany, for example, where many still refuse to see that institutions systematically discriminate against migrant communities. We should know better. When the neo-Nazi terrorists of the NSU went on their killing spree, German security forces systematically failed to investigate their crimes and thus could not prosecute the terrorists effectively. For a long time, officialdom blamed Turkish gangs. Later it turned out that agents of the Verfassungsschutz, the domestic intelligence service, were entangled in NSU networks and potential evidence was therefore declared to be a state secret. It could not be used in court. Germany is among the countries where children from migrant communities struggle partucurlaly according to the OECD – and migrant youngsters say they feel discriminated against by the police.

The sad truth, however, is that not only high-income countries have to come to terms with troubling divisions in society. Years ago, an intern with a Kenyan father told me that a Luo – Barack Obama – was elected president of the USA, but another member of that same tribe – Raila Odinga – saw an election stolen from him in Kenya.

Tribal hatred, ethnic divisions and social marginalisation of specific groups haunt many other countries too. The divide-and-rule strategies that exploit them often date back to colonial times. Paroma Soni, an Indian author, is right to speak of hypocrisy when some of her compatriots express solidarity with BLM, but stay silent about Indian security forces’ violent abuse of religious minorities or the lowest castes.

Police brutality is worse in the USA than in Europe, but things are still worse in many developing countries. By early June, according to official data, the Kenyan police had killed 15 people when enforcing lockdown rules. A Kenyan colleague tells me that tribal resentments did not play a role, but that the police’s brutal anti-poor bias has not changed since colonial times. Either way, I found photos of Nairobian protesters depressing. They adopted the symbolism of BLM, taking a knee and raising their fists. Though Trump certainly does not appreciate it, civil-society activism in the USA is leading the world.

Hans Dembowski is editor in chief of D+C Development and Cooperation / E+Z Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit.

Kategorien: english

Feelings of aggravation

10. Juli 2020 - 9:33
The history of anti-Muslim violence in India

What did you experience on 6 December 1992?
I was 12 years old, and I was lucky to survive. I am from a Muslim family. Tensions had been building up for some time, and many of our Muslim neighbours had already fled. My father, however, believed in India’s secular constitution. He only realised after the riots had started that we had to flee. For a while, my baby brother and I were separated from our family. It was only after several hours that I could reach a community relief camp where we were safely reunited with our family. This frightful night overshadows my entire life.

The event triggered riots all over India, so frightful memories must overshadow the lives of all Indian Muslims.
Yes, after I published a summary of my personal experience, I got a lot of e-mails in which other people shared their memories. There were riots in Pakistan and Bangladesh too, where Hindus, Sikhs and other religious minorities were attacked. Up to December 1992, many Indian Muslims had put faith in the constitution which forbids religious discrimination. We thought our nation was on a path towards development and prosperity, but since that terrible night, we know that Hindu supremacists have a very different vision. They want India to be a Hindu nation, and some will not shy away from violent means.

The trauma of Ayodhya was preceded by the trauma of partition. After colonial rule, British India was split into Pakistan and India in 1947. Masses of people fled in either direction, and there were brutal massacres on all sides of the borders. To what extent was what happened in Ayodhya a continuity of that previous violence?
Well, the problems started even earlier, as faith-based divisions in the 1920s and 1930s hampered the independence movement. The British had relied on a “divide and rule” strategy. They succeeded in pitting Hindus against Muslims. Nonetheless, Indian Muslims believed that the identity issue was settled after partition. After all, the Muslim community that stayed in India had made the conscious choice to do so, and Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister, promised a new beginning based on secularism.

After 1992, there was further violence. In 2002, when Narendra Modi, who is now prime minister, was chief minister of Gujarat, a gruesome anti-Muslim pogrom took place there. Hindu pilgrims had died in a burning train, fanatics accused Muslims of arson and took revenge.
Yes, that was terrible. However, state institutions generally still endorsed secularism, and we hoped things would eventually improve. Muslims and Hindus often viewed one another with suspicion, but at the grassroots level the communities often got along in peace. They actually still do in many places, but since Modi became prime minister in 2014, things have deteriorated fast. Modi’s party, the BJP, belongs to a broad-based network of Hindu supremacist organisations. At its centre is the RSS, an authoritarian cadre-based organisation. According to its ideology, India must be a Hindu nation. Narendra Modi himself is an RSS member. His government’s hard-line stance has become more overt and aggressive after he was confirmed in office in last year’s general elections. His party commands an absolute majority in the national parliament even though it won less than 40 % of the vote. Its candidates, however, came in first in many constituencies.

The irony is that Modi claims to make India strong, but his policies are not earning the country more respect internationally. The plain truth is that my-nation-first attitudes tend to weaken a nation’s international influence. That is even true of Donald Trump’s USA.
Well, the general public in India does not have a solid understanding of international relations. This is a huge country, and only very few people get a good education. Opinions tend to be shaped by whatever narrative is currently dominant. It is scary that misguided rhetoric of “national strength” resonates with so many people. They are falling for how the supremacists are redefining their own religion. Historically, Hinduism was tolerant, non-violent and syncretic, which means accepting other religious practices and belief systems as spiritually valid. Instead, Hindu supremacists are turning the faith into a tool of exclusion.

They obviously long to overcome a feeling of inferiority by exerting power. Is that longing rooted in colonial history?
I am sure it plays a role, but it is fascinating that the Hindu supremacists never speak of British rule as Christian rule, while they always call the Mughal Empire Muslim rule. This nomenclature is not by accident but by design to train people to think a certain way.

Does it matter that India was never a united Hindu empire? Ashoka’s empire was Buddhist, and later, there were many different kingdoms which adhered to different religions, including different varieties of Hinduism. “Hinduism” itself is actually a word that was created by outsiders to label the diverse religious practices that are connected to Vedas, the holy scriptures that only members of the Brahmin caste were allowed to read. Many popular Hindu practices are only loosely related to Vedanta, the knowledge of the Vedas.
Well, Hindu supremacists care less about Vedanta than Hindutva, the dominance of Hinduism as they define the faith. They call anyone who disagrees with them “anti-national”. The scary thing is that their narrative has begun to resonate to some extent with people from the “lowest castes”. The Hindutva ideology cultivates feelings of aggravation and humiliation and promises to heal those wounds by enforcing Hindu supremacy. It may sound illogical but this is the reason why so many of them want 21st century Muslims to be answerable for what medieval Mughal kings did or did not do several centuries ago.

So it is more about taking revenge than solving problems. It is striking that, even though Modi promised to be an economic reformer, he has hardly achieved anything on that front.
No, he did not. Under his rule, economic growth has actually slowed down. He promised millions of new jobs, but failed to make that happen. Nonetheless, in the absence of a strong opposition and a credible alternative, he managed to win re-election last year.

In the winter months, Modi faced unprecedented civil-society opposition. Masses of people rose up in protest against a new citizenship law which discriminated against Muslims. To what extent was this movement a Muslim movement?
Well, the critical mass was Muslim. Many others participated too, including Hindus who believe in secular democracy. As a matter of fact, all Indian minorities have a stake in protecting the constitution. That said, Muslims are more exposed to Hindutva aggression. Adding to their frustration, India’s independent Supreme Court ruled in autumn that a Hindu temple will be built where Babri Mosque used to stand. Litigation had been pending for three decades, and the shocking judgement showed that even judges are influenced by what they call ‘collective conscience’, perhaps another name for majoritarian sentiments.

The Covid-19 pandemic ended the movement. It could not be continued during the lockdown. Will it be revived at some point?
I have doubts. The Modi government and its supporters have been using the lockdown to entrench their position. The media has built a popular narrative that members of the­ Muslim community have intentionally spread the disease. During the lockdown the government has been arresting people who assumed leadership roles in the protests. It is disturbing, however, that it did not take legal action against high-profile Hindu supremacists who indulged in Islamophobic hate speech immediately before the deadly riots that rocked Delhi in late February.

Most victims of the riots were Muslims. Mosques were set ablaze, but no Hindu temple. Nonetheless, the Hindu supremacists claim that Muslims started what ­actually looks very much like an anti-Muslim pogrom. As the prominent political scientist Paul R. Brass has been arguing for decades, this kind of violence does not erupt spontaneously. Was it an organised pogrom?
I personally cannot prove it, but according to the Delhi Minorities Commission, the violence was “one-sided and well-planned”. The Commission works under the state government of Delhi, which is not controlled by the BJP. I also find it noteworthy that the rioters used gas cylinders to set buildings on fire. That is difficult to do and shows that they were well trained and equipped. It is terrifying, however, that the Covid-19 lockdown turned out to be an even more effective means of repression than rioting. The terrible truth is that some Indian Hindus have been convinced to some extent that, to feel strong, they need to see Muslims suffer.

Arfa Khanum Sherwani is senior editor with the independent Indian news website TheWire.
Twitter: @khanumarfa

Kategorien: english

Collective trauma

10. Juli 2020 - 9:08
Every crisis leaves deep scars in the memory of the affected society

Crises are not only current issues, but they also remind us of previous crises. During the Corona pandemic, memories of the plague and the Spanish flu return. In an economic crisis, people remember how they managed during earlier economic hardships. And when armed military patrols the streets – even if it is only in order to control the ­Corona curfew – those who have lived through a dictatorship will feel uneasy.

Epidemics, economic crises or military rule are no individual experiences, but a common experience shared with all members of a society. There are differences of course: not everybody falls sick during a plague, some have large savings while others immediately face hunger when they lose their job. In a dictatorship there are perpetrators, followers, members of the resistance and victims – and that leads to very different perceptions of the same situation.

9/11 as a collective trauma

Social psychology studies how a traumatic event that concerns many people simultaneously becomes manifest in the collective memory of a society. A well-known example is the terror attack in the USA on 11 September 2001, called 9/11. The image of the exploding airplanes in the skyscrapers of the World Trade Center in New York is present in all corners of the world, even if the political consequences of these attacks diverged a lot, for instance between the Arab world and the West.

Psychologist Angela Kühner has studied collective trauma. She calls 9/11 a “collectively relevant traumatic reference event”. Kühner and other scientists do not speak of collective trauma, but rather of a “collective injury of the social fabric”. In other words, a terrible occurrence changes a society long-term. All people are affected, but to different degrees.

A typical reaction to such an event is solidarity: the collective tries to master the shock together. Shared processes of mourning are an effective method to do this. However, they can be hampered if the dead cannot be buried like it happened after 9/11.

It is even more difficult after dictatorships such as the last military rule in Argentina: 30,000 people were kidnapped and killed between 1976 and 1983. They are called “desaparecidos” (“disappeared”). The families could not bury the victims of this so-called “dirty war” – the majority of them had disappeared forever.

Similar to many other Latin American countries, Argentina has passed several cycles of traumatic events, repressing the recollection and then bringing it to mind again. The overarching Latin American experience is colonisation and the mass destruction of the indigenous peoples. In many countries, this memory has been silenced and repressed until today, also in Argentina.

The 20th century was characterised by frequent military coups as well as economic crises. After each economic and political crisis, a kind of “avoidance behaviour, which is a typical reaction to trauma” can be detected in Argentine society, says neurologist Enrique de Rosa of the Argentine medical association “Asociación Médica Argentina”. Many people are not interested in politics anymore. “Daily micro-traumas erode the psychological strength of people and turn into an acquired hopelessness. You have the feeling that never mind what you do, there is no escape – we often observe this in unemployed persons,” de Rosa explains.

After an economic crisis, all people yearn for stability, and after a period of violence, they crave peace. The victims’ desire for justice and punishment of the perpetrators is often perceived as an interference of this newly acquired peace. They are told to stop their request for punishment, according to the motto “drawing a line under the past”. But the end of a war or a dictatorship does not equal peace. Without justice, true peace is impossible. Old conflicts lurk below the seemingly calm surface and can erupt any time.

In this situation, there is an antagonism between examination and defence, that is, between voicing and denial of the event. Victims play a special role in this: they are – in a manner of speaking – the personified memory. Therefore people try to ignore them, and thus forget the violent past.

Argentina passed through such a phase after the end of the military rule in 1983. In contrast to other Latin American countries that also suffered dictatorships, Argentina staged a huge trial where the guilty were named and convicted.

Due to pressure by the military, however, the perpetrators were amnestied one after the other in the subsequent years: first the lower ranks and at last even the junta. As a result, local human-rights groups started to keep the memory alive in different ways – against great resistance. The children of the disappeared founded the organisation H.I.J.O.S (“Hijos por la Identidad y la Justicia contra el Olvido y el Silencio” – “Children for Identity and Justice, against Oblivion and Silence”).

The members of H.I.J.O.S. appeared in front of the homes of convicted torturers, told their neighbours next to whom they were living, read the judicially inflicted sentence by loudspeaker and distributed flyers listing all the crimes of the member of the military or police in question.

Social science labels shared social practices of remembrance – such as memorial days, for instance – as “intentional memory”. The practice of remembrance of the “Children of the Disappeared” was unconventional, but it showed effect: the amnesty laws were gradually revoked. The murderers and torturers had to go back to jail.

The Dutch anthropologist Antonius C.G.M. Robben, professor at the University of Utrecht, has studied the practices of remembering in traumatised societies, amongst others in Argentina. On account of state terror during military rule, “the trust of citizens in the state was totally destroyed”, he maintains. This distrust on all sides, between authorities, ex-military and families of the disappeared, continues – and prevents Argentine society to “put the traumatic past behind it”, Robben concludes.

Overcoming trauma

For peace researcher Johan Galtung “peace is more than the absence of war”. This is also true for the accounting of old conflicts. Not mentioning them does not mean they do not exist. It sounds like a contradiction: only collective and continuous practice of remembrance leads to overcoming trauma, so that violent times can be filed away.

Argentina is a good example for other post-conflict societies not to let war crimes rest, but to bring them to light: in Bosnia, Argentinian forensic scientists helped to identify the dead of the massacre of Srebrenica (1995). At last, people were able to bury their murdered family members – this is one way to bring peace to a society.

Not every trauma needs to go on forever, but it can be overcome by shared grief, says psychologist Kühner. The shared grieving process in Argentina, initiated by activists like the “Madres de Plaza de Mayo” (Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) or the “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo), has made people alert: during the economic crisis in December 2001, the government ordered police to shoot at demonstrators. Immediately after, many people gathered at the seat of government in order to defend democracy.

Heavily armed police and military controlled the curfew during the Corona crisis earlier this year. They proceeded with utmost brutality against any breaches, which set the Argentine people’s alarm bells ringing.

In other situations, too, memories of a painful past can help to better surpass a crisis. When in February 2020 it became clear that the Corona virus would spread from Asia to other continents, no precautions were taken in Europe. In eastern Africa, however, the recollection of the Ebola epidemic of 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was still very vivid.

This is why states like Tanzania immediately started to check the temperature of all travellers and isolate suspected cases. This did not happen when the first Corona infections appeared in Europe – in its collective memory, life-threatening epidemics were far away and vague. Accordingly, European political leaders acted more slowly. In other words: a living memory of past crises can be vital for survival.

Sheila Mysorekar is a journalist and project manager at Deutsche Welle Akademie. For 11 years she lived and worked in Argentina.

Kategorien: english

Massive economic pain

10. Juli 2020 - 8:29
Covid-19 has badly affected informal livelihoods in Tanzania, but the impacts on the entire economy are harsh

In Tanzania’s banana farming Rungwe district, Donald Mwasyoge felt despair as he watched his fruit ripen. Because of Covid-19, there were no buyers. Julius Mwendipembe is a lorry driver who delivers agricultural produce from rural areas to urban wholesale markets. In fear of the novel corona virus, many trips were cancelled.

Pain was felt along the entire supply chain. Nurudin Makinya is a young coolie who makes money by unloading banana trucks at a commercial market, in Dar es Salaam, the country’s biggest city with about 6 million inhabitants. There was very little work for him. That applied to Amina Rashid too. She is a hawker who buys bananas at the wholesale market and then sells them on to consumers.

Many people’s livelihoods have been badly affected by the pandemic in Tanzania. Many, though not all have lost their usual incomes. When the government ordered the closure of schools, teachers at public schools were assured of the monthly salaries. For those at private schools, however, it was a different story. As parents became unable to pay tuition, the schools became unable to pay salaries.  

The Covid-19 slump thus not only hurts workers in the informal sector. It is safe to say, however, that almost everyone in the informal sector feels the impacts – and this sector accounts for about 75 % of all jobs in Dar es Salaam.

School closures caused additional problems for parents moreover. With their offspring stuck at home, many agonised over whether to go to work or take care of the kids. “It’s not easy,” said Janeth Mitondo a single mother of twins aged five. The economic downturn made it harder to earn money with informal work – which also meant that such work took more time.

Poverty is getting worse, and this trend worries government officials. They are aware of serious problems in the formal economy too. Tourism is an important industry that helps the country to rake in foreign exchange. It is in tatters. The government reckons that this year perhaps only about 440,000 foreigners will come to Tanzania for holidays. That would not be even a quarter of last year’s number.

In early July, only a bit more than 500 infections were reported by officialdom, and the death toll was only 21. For the vast majority of people, the economic pain thus outweighs the health problems. The government decided to reopen schools at the end of June, but imposed strict hygiene rules, including hand washing. Health experts, however, worry that the decision may yet prove premature. After all, the disease may yet start to suddenly spread as has been the case elsewhere.

Lawrence Kilimwiko is a freelancer based in Dar es Salaam.

Kategorien: english