Top of the Blogs 2015 (2)

Also available in Deutsch

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #33

Language Diversity in South Africa
There are eleven official languages in the rainbow nation of South Africa. Although English is the lingua franca for politics and administration there are some institutions, like Stellenbosch University, that still use Afrikaans as the primary language. They recently announced that they would switch all teaching and administrative communication to English from next year fueling yet another discussion about the discriminatory effects of the Afrikaans language for black students. Law professor Pierre de Vos makes a plea for diversity at South African universities.

Eurocentric condolences

Amnesty International named Boko Haram’s attacks in Baga, Nigeria as the most deadly massacre in recent history. Why weren’t there Nigerian flags of solidarity on facebook like after the Paris terror attacks? Why not after attacks in Beirut, Nairobi or the plane crash in Egypt either? Two commentators consider the Eurocentric bias of worldwide condolences, the value of human lives and critique the inappropriate media coverage of international terrorism acts.

Child marriages

Niger leads the world list of the highest child marriages - 76% of women are married before the age of 18. Aside from the disregard for the young girls, it also has very negative effects on the economy. It dilutes girl’s education and raises birth rates, which in turn has devastating effects on the capacity of welfare services and education capabilities on primary and secondary school levels. Quentin Wodon presents a study revealing how much public money promoting the fight against poverty could be saved by the abolition of child marriage.

From Israel to South Sudan

Shortly after South Sudan gained independence in 2011, Israel deported its South Sudanese community back to the country. Many refugees hadn’t been there for decades, young people had never even seen their country of origin before. When the civil war started in 2013, lots of the newly-arrived had to flee again. A photo report by an Israeli documentary photographer on Israeli-South Sudanese refugee families.

Corrupt Kenya

The corrupt government under President Kenyatta is keeping Kenya in a state of paralyzing poverty. Recently Kenya voted with 13 other nations including North Korea, Iran and Myanmar against a UN resolution for the acknowledgement and protection of human rights defendants. According to #AfricaBlogging’s Patrick Gathara it’s another unmasked attempt to weaken the freedom rights assured in the 2010 constitution and he asks whether Kenyans are ready for the coming storm.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #32
At the beginning of November, a group of talented African political bloggers gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to prepare for the launch of #AfricaBlogging, a new Pan-African blogger platform. This ToBs edition is dedicated to a selection of their work.

African Democracies

“The greatest dictator in Africa is poverty” is #AfricaBlogging author Chambi Chachange’s opening line of his commentary about poverty and political systems in Africa. With a critique of American democracy in terms of social equality the Harvard scholar deploys a reflection on African types of democracies and autocracies. He claims that as long as democracy does not produce true dividends that address the basic needs of human beings, the people will prefer authoritarian regimes. Because a good constitution with noble values is no guarantee for the concrete effects of good governance, democracy needs to prove itself.

Pope visits Kenya

Next week Pope Francis will visit Kenya, leading Daniel Ominde to ask: what messages will he bring to the nation? Expectations centre on issues like tourism and international terrorism, unity challenged by growing ethnical and religious tensions in Kenya and the decriminalization of homosexuality as a step towards more tolerance.

Malawi: Media under governmental control

The Malawian parliament is currently revising the Communications Act of 1998. The ruling president still has the sole appointing authority for board managers and members of the two important telecommunication institutions, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Recommendations to change this situation are consistently being ignored by the administration. Jimmy Kainja considers a missed opportunity within the fight for independent media.

Kenya: Arts and National Identity

Why do most young Kenyans identify with US rapper J Cole or 2 Chainz rather than with local musicians? What lifestyle do they embody and why are local artists not as appealing to young people? Michael Onsando reflects on whether art is a convenient form of memory and construction of a national identity.

Uganda: Sanitary products for votes

Many Ugandan women are so poor they can’t afford sanitary pads. This has negative effects on the education of girl children because they are forced to stay home and miss school days every month. Ruling president Museveni now has announced the free supply of girl schools with sanitary pads if he and his party should win the election. Is this political expedience or progress of basic services, asks Rebecca Rwakabukoza.

Africa and the anti-terror war

In early November a Russian airbus crashed into the Egyptian Sinai desert. Investigations indicate an act of terrorism as response to Russian interventions in the Syrian conflict might be the cause. Great Britain meanwhile temporary stopped air traffic to and from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik. What does a polarization of western and Russian power within the war against terrorism mean for Africa? Takura Zhangazha from Zimbabwe gives a worried warning on the African continent as a puppet in diplomatic chess, drawing parallels to the era of cold war.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #31
South Africa: The right to free education
The constitutional right to free education led to the elimination of all remaining public university tuition fees in Germany last year. In South Africa, students have been successfully protesting against a hefty raise of tuition fees during the last weeks. Now they continue protesting in demand of an entirely free higher education. But is a tax financed educational system the best solution in a country with a diverging social inequality and elitist entry barriers into universities? George Hull, philosophy lecturer at Cape Town University argues for a progressive reform of the payment system and a fair funding model following UK and Australian examples.

Zimbabwe: Currency Confusion
Zimbabwe’s struggling economy has caused waves of inflation in the past years. Due to that, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwean Dollar in 2009 and replaced it with a multicurrency model based on the US dollar. To balance possible shortages of change money for the US currency, so called ‘bond coins’ with a total value of US$50 million were minted with the help of the African Import and Export Bank (Afrexim) in 2014. The lending bank also guarantees a stable exchange value of 1:1. Now South African Rands, US dollars and the bond dollar are circulating in Zimbabwe at once. But the distribution and access to the currencies different in value seem to be unequal between companies and retailers close to the government and other people. Takura Zhangaza on Zimbabwe’s monetary situation.

Zambia: HIV and the church
Zambia’s HIV prevalence is 12,4%, thus ranking between one of the alarmingly high infection rates in Southern African countries. Anti-Retroviral Therapy drugs are available, but their users get stigmatized with the bad reputation of getting fat and infecting others. In the conservative country, being open about one’s personal HIV status seems to be a taboo. The Anglican Priest Reverend Stuart Bweupe went public on Social Media about his HIV infection last year, becoming the only Zambian Priest to be open about his HIV status. With his presence on Social Media he is trying to end stigmatism of the condition, encourage positive living and discourage fellow clergymen from stopping HIV positive congregates from taking ARV drugs. After being a single dad for some time, he married his second wife this month. Paul Shalala on a brave mission of a clergyman.

Kenya: Media ethics
A current issue not only in Kenya but in Germany as well: can hate speech be curbed by publicly exposing it in the media? Or is there a hidden agenda by journalists of generating a bigger range of their news? Calling a Kenyan TV station to account for answering hate speech by propagating hate speech, Albert Gachiri raises questions about ethical responsibility of the media in the process of radicalizing debates.

Ghana: Pregnancy prevention via SMS
A growing number of health organizations use SMS services to reach young target group with educational campaigns in Africa. David Evans gives a recap of an interesting study about pregnancy prevention among Ghanaian teenage girls using SMS campaigning. It shows that interactive concepts like Quizzes work much better than pure one way information campaigns.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #30
Côte d’Ivoire: Elections

After civil war and a peace treaty in 2007, Côte d’Ivoire is still struggling for political stability. The violent political crisis after the presidential elections in 2010 that claimed 3000 victims marked a major setback. Now public debate about the upcoming elections next weekend is dominated by fears of a new outbreak of violence following the election. Tanja Schreiner comments on an electorate traumatized by civil war.

Kenya: System Deficiency
An allegory on Kenya’s structural weakness narrated through the heartbreaking story of a farmer’s death. It considers how the collapse of subsystems leads to anarchy and death of innocents in the vicious cycle of disorganization.

Ghana: (un)political activism
Ethan Zuckerman studies digital media in the developing world and the ways people use media to effect change. There’s a dynamic blogger scene in Ghana yet it is acting conspicuously unpolitical. Is being political no longer cool? A summary of a lecture by Ethan Zuckerman about mistrust in political institutions and apolitical mass mobilization.

South Africa: student protests

The #feesmustfall student protests across South Africa have reached a critical momentum with teaching programmes at more than a dozen campuses suspended for over a week now. The protests were sparked by the announcement of a 10.5% increase in student fees at Wits University in Johannesburg. Compromises offered by vice chancellors and the Education Minister were rejected and angry students stormed the parliament’s compound in Cape Town on Wednesday, facing a violent response from riot police. Jacques Rousseau on the right to free education.

African Peacekeeping Force
The African Union (AU) is planning to build up a peacekeeping force – the African Standby Force. The aim of the troop would be to provide conflict resolution without the need for international peacekeeping missions and to deliver “African solutions to African problems”. This week the first military exercises have started in South Africa, training 5 000 of the intended 25 000 man force. Read this blog about the challenges and opportunities of this All-African peace force.

Ethiopia: Freedom of Press
After 18 months of imprisonment on terror charges the remaining four bloggers of the Ethiopian blogger collective Zone9 have been acquitted and their release is expected in the upcoming weeks. During the last few years the collective covered social and political issues in Ethiopia and promoted human rights and government accountability. But critical online coverage faced massive state control in Ethiopia, disregarding the rights to freedom of the press and opinion set out in the Ethiopian constitution. The arrest of the bloggers drew widespread international media attention and a viral #FreeZone9Bloggers initiative. See this collection of blogosphere reactions to the latest news and its potential consequences for the Ethiopian media world.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #29
Last month, the UN hosted its 2015 development summit in New York. Following the millennium development goals, which had been set for 2015, governments came up with 17 updated goals forming the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On this occasion, three African bloggers have written about the future visions of their home countries and the situation of girls.

Young people at the helm of the SDGs

Aine Ruth Tindyebwa from Uganda comments on the role and impact of the youth for national development goals. She advocates more involvement of young minds in future planning.

The Anatomy of a Lootocracy

The “Vision 2030” Charta subsumes Kenya’s strategy to become an industrialized, middle class nation within the next 15 years. However, the current “lootocracy” seems to systematically boycott these goals through corruption and theft, states Brenda Wambuni in her gloomy roundup of events on brainstorm blog.

Empowering the Girl Child: Lets act today for a better tomorrow

Women’s rights have not exactly dominated the international development agenda within the last years. The United Nations have now included an end to the discrimination against women and girls as one of the 17 bullets of the development agenda 2030. Courage Nyamhunga ponders about the cross-generational influence of girls’ education in her own family. She gives an insight into the current situation of girls in Zimbabwe focusing on education, gender equality, conventions and violence against women.

Why King Dalindyebo is not above the law

Swasiland is a small monarchy, surrounded by South African territory. Within South Africa, traditional rulers are also claiming leadership over certain ethnic groups. The status of these leaders in front of South African law is a highly debated issue. Now the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set a precedent by finding King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, traditional leader of the abaThembu people, guilty of arson, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice. Here is a comment by Pierre de Vos.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #28
Zimbabwe: Where is Itai Dzamara

Six months ago, well-known Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara was abducted and he has not been seen since. In petitions, Itai had called upon President Mugabe to resign and denounced numerous grievances in the country. Amnesty International met up with his wife Sheffra Dzamarat and got her to tell her story.

Tanzania gears up for its closest ever elections

2015 is a big election year in Africa – more than a dozen countries will be heading for the ballot box. In Tanzania, Election Day is a little more than a month away and the tension is high: for the first time since independence the voting out of the ruling party CCM seems possible, but there is a risk of post-election violence.

Kenyan Public Intellectual Accused of Using Hate Speech on Twitter

#ShutMutahiNgunyiUp has been trending on Kenyan Twitter for a few weeks now. It is the angry reaction to a series of tweets by political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, which attacked the Luo ethnic group. Ngunyi, who is famous for his critical hypothesis on the 2013 election, apologized, but he has to justify himself in court for hate speech anyway.

No, turning of News24 comments is NOT a form of censorship

An outcry went through the South African online world as local news website News24 announced it was turning off the commentary section on its articles. There were accusations of censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression, but Blogger Pierre de Vos helps put it all into perspective.

Everyday Life in a Fragile State

When South Sudan appears in the media it is usually in connection with war, violence and repression. But there is everyday life, too. Pernille Bærendtsen writes about Poetry Salons, the media situation and provisional normality in the world’s youngest country.

I see different you

Since 2013 three guys from Soweto have been artistically portraying South Africa’s townships on their photo blog. Their style is creative, detail-loving and different; they want to challenge the stereotyped media coverage of sorrow and poverty with pictures of beauty and grace.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #27
Mozambique: Academic and journalist in the dock over Facebook post

„Mr. President, you are out of control“, began a Facebook post of Mozambican economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco at the end of 2013. The editor of the independent newssheet Mediafax decided to print the opinion piece, but now two years later, both have to justify themselves in court accused of libeling the former president and abuse of press freedom.

A Note on Disappeared Persons

Already 200 people have disappeared in Kenya this year; some were found dead, others have simply vanished. Human rights activists suspect the Kenyan anti-terror police for being involved in many of the cases. Michael Onsando considers forced disappearance and the political exploitation of the fear of terrorism.

The CAR’s rushed elections are a dangerous gamble

After a long civil war, general elections are approaching in the Central African Republic. It might be too soon though. Armed groups still dominate the country and ethical and religious conflicts are smoldering. It seems impossible to implement peace in the remaining two months. Maybe democracy would be best served by postponing the elections, thinks Kasper Agger.

Durban 2022: A moment to savour

The enthusiasm was boundless when South Africa was awarded the 2010 Fifa World Cup. However, nobody seems interested in Durban being the first African city to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Why is that, asks Blogger William Saunderson-Meyer.

How Is Digital Technology Changing Africa’s Cultural Landscape?

Digital technology plays a growing role in Africa. Yet few people have explored the less conspicuous side of the digital boom: its impact on arts and culture. Besides its obvious social and economic implications Nahema Marchal explores how it is also a site of cultural resistance to globalized systems of knowledge.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #26
Future of News: The View from Accra

The crisis of print journalism is a much debated topic that also threatens media companies in African countries. But blogger Ethan Zuckerman resists prophecies of doom about the downfall of journalism. In his opinion, digitalization and globalization hold many opportunities for journalism when used properly. And he sees great potential in Africa’s young media landscape to develop such promising visions.

Media-ting the debate: What is the role of responsible media?

What is responsible media work? How do the media affect public opinion – and to what extent are they dependent on the expectations of their readers? In South Africa, these questions have sparked a debate between journalists of leading newspapers. Blogger Dylan Stewart considers the fragile power of the media to define reality and the correct way of handling it.

Corruption at Beit Bridge border post fuelling child Migration

More and more children are leaving Zimbabwe for South Africa. Although minors are prohibited from entering the country alone, human trafficking and corruption are flourishing at the borders. After their arrival, the children often have to face abuse and child labor.

South Sudan’s unwanted peace agreement

After the signing of the peace agreement last week, there is currently peace in South Sudan. But President Kirr never put in doubt how poorly he thinks of the treaty. James Copnall about the country’s future.

You Could Go to Jail for Tweeting This in Tanzania

The general election in Tanzania is approaching and with it the fear that the ruling party CCM will lose votes over allegations of corruption. At least, that would explain the signing of another bill by president Kikwete aimed at restricting the press: the Cybercrime Act makes it a crime to publish “false” information online. Increasingly, Tanzania’s freedom of the press seems to be in danger.

Walk in this shoes

The whole of Africa may soon wear Nigerian shoes: The country’s handmade shoes are a new top seller on the continent – and a lot better quality than the cheap foreign competition from China or Arabia. A report about the shoemakers of Aba.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #25
Digital Media, and Ghana's Place on the Global Stage

Ghana enjoys the reputation of being the poster child of West Africa – also because of its free press. Reporters without Borders ranked the country 22nd on the World Press Freedom Index, even ahead of the UK, France and the US. Nevertheless, Ghana rarely features in the western media. Time for a change, writes blogger Ethan Zuckerman.

Lets blame poor African leadership for Mandarin in our schools

In 2016, Mandarin is set to become part of the South African curriculum, even though many of the country’s eleven official languages are not taught in school. The announcement provoked fierce protest. Blogger Sandiso Bazana is among the critics: for him, the self-imposed adoption of a foreign language is an expression of neocolonialism and the lack of self-confidence in Africa.

Let them eat snakes: CRL Commission and the harms of religion

Snakes, that turn to chocolate, stones becoming bread: Last week, the case of a pastor who made his parishioners eat living animals and toilet paper generated a great deal of controversy. The self-declared prophet was arrested temporarily, but was later let out on parole. Free Churches with shady practices are not an isolated case in South Africa – reason enough for Blogger Jacques Rousseau to think about the limits of freedom of expression.

Foreign investment isn't necessarily good for Africa, but here's how it can be

The inflow of foreign direct investment to Africa escalated in the last few years and stirred up hope: FDIs stimulate the economy and create jobs. But they are a dubious blessing and can have negative effects. It is up to the African governments to make profitable use of them, thinks Blogger Jostein Løhr Hauge.

My Funk

Mental problems are still a taboo topic in Africa. They are regarded as a stigma, sometimes as divine punishment. Psychological treatment is rarely developed; many languages of the continent do not even have of a word for depression. Yet, it is a reality; an essay about living with depression in Kenya.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #24
Watch out for the most tightly contested election in Tanzania’s History

At the end of July, an announcement shattered the Tanzanian political landscape: Ruling party CCMs top-ranking politician Edward Lowassa resigned from the party and was promptly set up by the oppositional Chadema as presidential candidate. Lowessas change of sides could seriously harm the CCM in the upcoming elections in October: Especially in the young population, the former prime minister enjoys great popularity. The country is divided, so it appears in an opinion survey of blogger Ndesejano Macha. For the first time since independence, he considers a democratic change of power in Tanzania possible.

Propaganda or proper journalism? China’s media expansion in Africa

Chinas presence in Africa is ubiquitous, even in the media landscape. Media agencies, subsidized by the state, increasingly compete with BBC or CNN and challenge western journalistic standards. This trend evokes different reactions on the continent: While some suspect the export of censorship and obsequious reporting, others approve the Chinese concept of “constructive journalism”. Blogger James Wan asked media professionals for their opinion.

SA journalism: No agenda required

Journalists are not immune to ideological dazzlement, but they are rarely willing to put their objectivity in question. Steven Motale is the exception: The editor of the South African Citizen apologized to president Jacob Zuma for the biased media coverage about him, which he blames as a “sinister agenda”. Blogger William Saunderson-Meyer takes up on Motale self-accusation to reflect on South Africa’s media scene.

Why an LGBT organization needs your help to narrow the gap between constitutional promise and practice

South Africa’s Constitution is exemplary when it comes to the rights of sexual minorities – at least on paper. The social reality is rather different: LGBTs experience exclusion and structural discrimination every day, many of them lost their jobs due to their sexual orientation. Blogger Pierre de Vos denounces the gap between the promises of the Constitution and the heteronormative reality. He appeals for the support of civil society organizations that give a voice to sexual minorities.


They are hunted, maimed, killed; their arms and legs are sold as magic talismans: Albinos live in constant fear, especially in Tanzania. But their fate is concealed - a lot of them have neither citizenship nor rights, they are hidden and marginalized. The Luxembourg Photographer Patrick Griess gives the invisible a face: In his photo series " In / Visibility " he portrays Tanzanian albinos.

Tops of the Blogs 2015 #23
Corruption, Poverty and the Capable State

A common belief holds that countries are poor because governments are corrupt. But us it really true that unless governments ensure that public resources are not stolen, and that public power is not used for private gain, they will remain poor? The World Bank's Control of Corruption Indicator seems to suggest that while rich countries tend to be less corrupt than poor ones, countries that are relatively less corrupt for their level of development do not grow any faster than others. What then is responsible for enhancing a country’s prosperity?

The undignified existence of black women

Black women remain the most vulnerable to the socioeconomic realities of South African society. As long as the right to “human dignity” afforded to all South Africans is barely enjoyed by ordinary black women, the country will have to work hard to reverse the tone for the gendering of the socioeconomic inequality in South Africa.

The Sorry State of Education in Kenya

In East Africa, Kenyans probably have the best and most opportunities when it comes to getting quality education. However, companies still rank an internationally educated job candidate over a locally educated one. Why is it that employers do not trust the education system to churn out quality employees? Here is one possible explanation.

Ebola’s victims of the future: pregnant women

The introduction of free health care for pregnant women has helped Sierra Leone to dramatically decrease its maternal mortality rate over the last decade. Among the impacts of the Ebola epidemic is that it threatens to undo all this good work. Apart from the loss of many health workers to the virus, it is also the lingering fear of hospitals and doctors among the local population that keeps women from seeking medical aid when necessary.

As Chad’s Former Dictator Heads to Trial, Impunity for African Despots May Be Coming to an End

The trial of former Chad dictator Hissène Habré is a historical milestone in African history that many hope signals an end to the days of impunity for authoritarian strongmen. Though the trial was postponed, it remains a groundbreaking event in Africa. Habre is accused of war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity.
Tops of the Blogs 2015 #22
Obama and Kenyatta’s clash over LGBTI rights highlights the need for a much-needed discussion

As a reply to Obama’s strong stand on the issue of LGBTI rights on the continent, Kenyatta fired back with a watered down version of the often-heard argument that LGBTI rights are a form of Western cultural imperialism. But LGBTI rights are not a form of cultural imperialism. While it is true that LGBTI rights are something that the majority of Kenyans do not support, this does not mean that legal protection should not be granted to gay and lesbian Kenyans. The function of rights is precisely to protect the minority from the majority.

Disappeared Gambian Journalist Slammed With Sedition Charge

A Gambian radio journalist who disappeared on July 17, 2015 was charged with sedition this week in the capital city of Banjul. Although it is assumed that he is being held by authorities in secret, his whereabouts and condition are unknown.

Tell the African story – including corruption

The worrying thing about the blatant corruption and outright impunity as it is occurring in parts of Africa is not its existence; it is its recurrence. And as long as Africans shy away from allowing their “dirty linen to be aired in public“, the fight against the continent’s poverty will be accompanied by an on-going defence of the source of this poverty.

Preaching Wine, Drinking Water: Kenya's Drunken Myths

Media reports like to suggest that Kenya’s youth has a serious drinking problem, brought about by the availability of cheap, illicit alcohol. It has even sparked President Uhuru Kenyatta issuing a directive stating people should “move from door to door closing all outlets selling the illicit drinks“. Statistics show, however, that Kenya does not have a drinking problem. It has a policy and regulation problem.

How War, Oil and Politics Fuel Controversy in South Sudan’s Unity State

The recent expulsion of a UN diplomat for authoring a report on human rights abuses in South Sudan follows a long line of controversial decisions by the Unity State government. If anything, incompetence, inexperience and other shortcomings are hallmarks of government business across the board in South Sudan. Amongst other reasons, the state’s strategic location, both because of oil and its proximity to Sudan, makes it a magnet for controversy.