East Africa general news

(Al Jazeera) Somalia executes al-Shabab journalist

| Politics, Africa

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Hanafi said he confessed to the killing of journalists following torture by authorities in Mogadishu [AP]

Somalia has executed a journalist accused of helping members of al-Shabab kill at least five journalists in the capital.

Hassan Hanafi, who was captured in neighbouring Kenya in 2014, was executed on Monday morning by a firing squad in Mogadishu after his appeal at a military court failed.

Hanafi was accused of helping fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group identify possible targets in the journalism community between 2007 and 2011.

From 2009 to 2011 he worked for Radio Andalus, al-Shabab’s official mouthpiece.

In an interview aired on Somalia state TV in February, Hanafi admitted ordering the murder of several journalists.

But in an audio recording of a phone call leaked last month Hanafi appeared to claim he made the confessions after being tortured.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists more than 25 journalists have been killed in the Horn of Africa country since 2007.

Al-Shabab, which is seeking to overthrow the country’s Western-backed government, was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by government troops backed by an African Union force.

It continues to carry out suicide attacks and targeted assassinations in south and central parts of the country, and it has also conducted major attacks in Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda, which all contribute troops to the African Union effort.

The article was published in Al Jazeera.

(Vox) 3 young Muslim Americans killed in mysterious ‘execution-style’ murders

A broadcast from the local Fort Wayne ABC affiliate, ABC21, announcing the murders ABC21

Early on Wednesday evening, as the sun began to set and the air cooled to just below freezing, police arrived at a unremarkable white home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, a few blocks from the campus of Indiana Tech. We do not yet know who called them or what they expected. Inside, they found the bodies of three young men, shot multiple times in what police, on Friday, called “execution style” murders.

The young men were members of a predominantly Muslim diaspora community whose roots are in Africa’s eastern Sahel region. They were Muhannad Tairab, age 17, Adam Mekki, age 20, and Mohamedtaha Omar, age 23. Police have identified no motive in the killing, which appears to be something of a mystery.

The modest white building had apparently become something of a “party house” used by local youths, but police said there was no known connection to gangs or any other violent organization.

Were they killed for their religion? A police spokesperson cautioned against jumping to conclusions, stating that, as of yet, they had “no reason to believe this was any type of hate crime, or focused because of their religion or their nationality whatsoever.”

Indeed it may turn out that there was some unseen force at play here: gang violence, a robbery gone awry, some personal dispute. Nonetheless, it seems impossible, at this point, to completely rule out the possibility that this could be exactly what Muslim American rights group already fear it may be: an expression of America’s increasingly violent Islamophobia problem.

In recent months, there has been an alarming trend of violence and violent threats against America’s community of roughly two to three million Muslim citizens.

There were the murders, almost exactly one year ago, of three Chapel Hill students, by a local man who’d expressed a paranoid hatred of religion. Later that spring, the FBI arrested the leader of a far-right militia that was planning to massacre a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in upstate New York. Another militia, in Texas, has sent its assault rifle-wielding members to stalk a local mosque and its adherents, later publishing the home addresses of “Muslims and Muslim sympathizers.”

More isolated acts of violence — what we might call “lone wolf” attacks had the religions of the shooter and victim been reversed — have been so frequent they are difficult to track.

On Thanksgiving, a Pittsburgh man accosted his Moroccan cab driver with questions about ISIS, then shot him. Two weeks later, a Michigan man called an Indian store clerk a “terrorist” before shooting him in the face. On Christmas eve in Texas, a local man charged into a Muslim-owned tire shop and shouted “Muslim!” as he opened fire, killing one and critically wounding another.

Less than a week ago, a Missouri man charged at a Muslim American family with a handgun, telling them, “This state allows you to carry a gun and shoot you. … You, your wife, and your kids have to die.” The family was able to flee.

This has not come out of nowhere. Islamophobia has entered mainstream American discourse in the past year, receiving substantial airtime on cable news networks. CNN anchors have called Muslims “unusually violent” and “unusually barbaric”; Fox News has called Islam a “destructive force” and suggested that Muslim American communities are running secret terrorist “training camps.” Presidential candidates from Donald Trump to Marco Rubio continue to dabble in overt Islamophobia.

It is important to caution against assuming that whatever happened this week in Fort Wayne, whatever chain of events led to the mysterious “execution-style” murders of three young men, must necessarily be part of the rising wave of Islamophobic violence in America. Police are presumably cautioning against that conclusion for a reason, and it may well turn out that their deaths are entirely unrelated.

Still, it is difficult to ignore that three apparently Muslim young men have been murdered, for no immediately obvious reason, just as indiscriminate violence against Muslim Americans is growing out of control.

It is thus concerning that these murders have received so little attention, if only for the possibility, however remote, that they could be part of this trend of religious violence against American citizens.

As a thought experiment, scroll back up to the top of this page and read back through, but this time imagine that the Muslim victims of violence, in every instance, were instead Christian. Imagine that the perpetrators had all been Muslim, and had targeted their victims explicitly because of their Christian faith.

Imagine that, rather than Donald Trump calling for banning Muslims from entering the US, it was Rep. Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, calling for banning Christians. Imagine that Rep. André Carson, who is also Muslim, complained bitterly when President Obama responded to anti-Christian violence by visiting a church, and that Carson further argued America should be willing toclose down churches and anywhere else dangerous Christians might congregate.

Now imagine, amid all this anti-Christian violence and anti-Christian hatred, as Christians were gunned down in the street for their religion and crowds of thousands gathered to cheer anti-Christian rhetoric, that three Christians youths turned up mysteriously executed a few blocks from Indiana Tech. Ask yourself whether it would be treated as major news, if only for the possibility of its connection to that wave of violence, or whether it would be largely ignored, as the murders of Tairab, Mekki, and Omar have been.

The article was published in Vox.

(Yahoo! News) Comoros VP wins first round of presidential vote

Mohamed Ali Soilihi votes at a polling station in Mbeni on January 25, 2015 during legislative elections (AFP Photo/Ibrahim Youssouf)

Mohamed Ali Soilihi votes at a polling station in Mbeni on January 25, 2015 during legislative elections (AFP Photo/Ibrahim Youssouf)

Moroni (Comoros) (AFP) – The vice president of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros, Mohamed Ali Soilihi, won the first round of the country’s presidential elections with 17.61 percent of the vote, preliminary results released late Tuesday showed.

Soilihi edged ahead of Mouigni Baraka, the governor of Grande Comore island, who garnered 15.09 percent, ahead of Colonel Azali Assoumani, who placed third with 14.96 percent.

The three candidates will now face off in a second-round of voting on April 10, with the winner succeeding outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine.

Some supporters of Fahmi Said Ibrahim, who had been one of the favourites but trailed in fourth place, alleged his low count had been due to fraud.

Police dispersed a small group of Ibrahim supporters who gathered at the party’s headquarters on Grande Comore.

An African Union observer mission led by former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki said “apart from few isolated incidents, the entire election took place in an orderly and peaceful” manner.

The first round of voting on Sunday only took place on Grande Comore, in accordance with electoral rules that ensure the president is chosen on a rotating basis from one of the country’s three main islands.

The system was established in 2001 after more than 20 coups or attempted coups in the years following independence from France in 1975.

Dhoinine’s completion of his five-term term has been seen as a sign of growing stability in the Comoros.

The article was published in Yahoo! News.

(Yahoo! News) Crowded field competes for Comoros president

Voters queue in the Comoros capital Moroni to cast their ballots for the presidential election from a crowded field of 25 candidates on February 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/Ibrahim Youssouf)

Voters queue in the Comoros capital Moroni to cast their ballots for the presidential election from a crowded field of 25 candidates on February 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/Ibrahim Youssouf)

By Béatrice Debut, Aboubacar M’Changama

February 21, 2016 1:32 PM

Moroni (Comoros) (AFP) – Voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros cast their ballots in an election for a new president Sunday from a crowded field of 25 candidates, with a struggling economy and poor infrastructure high on the agenda.

Officials started counting the ballots after polling stations closed, using candlelight and camping lamps in a country that suffers from endemic electricity shortages that paralyse the economy, said an AFP journalist in Moroni.

Polling in the country of less than one million people took place without any major incidents, although some were delayed by the late arrival of voting materials.

Voting in areas affected by delays continued after the official closing time at 6:00 pm.

A total of 159,000 voters on Grande Comore island were eligible to vote in the first round of the election, in accordance with electoral rules that stipulate the president is chosen on a rotating basis from one of the archipelago’s three main islands.

Among those running for president are a former coup leader and the vice president.

After the first round, the three top candidates will go into a nationwide run-off on April 10 that will decide the successor to President Ikililou Dhoinine.

Dhoinine comes from Moheli, the smallest of the three main islands. The other island in the trio is Anjouan.

The system of rotating candidates among islands was established in 2001 in a bid to usher in stability after more than 20 coups or attempted coups, in the years following independence from France in 1975.

Among the candidates leading the field are vice president Mohamed Ali Soilihi, Grande Comore governor Mouigni Baraka and Azali Assoumani, a former coup leader and two-time former president.

Athoumani Toioussi, an unemployed mother who was voting in the capital Moroni, on Grande Comore, said she would vote for Assoumani, despite his coup history.

“Yes, he came to power through a coup but it helped get the country out of chaos,” Toioussi told AFP.

Another voter, Houmadi Ahmedi, favoured Baraka saying “he gave learning materials to elementary school.”

– Avoiding ‘double voting’ –

Moinaecha Youssouf Djalali, a businesswoman, is the only female candidate in a country where the majority are Sunni Muslims.

Dhoinine’s successful completion of his five-year term has been seen as a sign of growing stability in Comoros, though many candidates had expressed fears of electoral fraud.

“Real efforts are being made by the election commission and international actors to ease any political or social tensions,” European Union representative Eduardo Campos Martins said.

With suspicion poisoning the political atmosphere in the archipelago nation, “we are entering the sensitive phase now, with the tallying and counting,” said Nadia Torqui, a UN consultant.

The electoral commission on Saturday had agreed to a request from 20 candidates to ban proxy voting, seen as a possible source of fraud, “to preserve the peace”.

Voters were also set to be forbidden from leaving Moroni or moving between villages unless they had an official pass “to avoid double voting”, the interior ministry said.

The election is being monitored by dozens of African and international observers as well as a 425-person monitoring platform established by local civil society groups.

The campaign of all 25 candidates had been centred on similar promises of free health care, education and infrastructure improvement, in a country where the roads are riddled with potholes and women and children queue for water.

Voters were also choosing governors for the three islands.

Early results were expected from Sunday night.

The article was originally published in Yahoo! News.

(LA Times) Why a congresswoman from Los Angeles is talking about Africa

la-pol-ca-bass-africa-breakfast-20160223-001

From left: Rep. Karen Bass, Sheila Siwela, Zambia’s Ambassador to the U.S., and Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, Botswana’s Ambassador to the U.S. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

By Sarah D. Wire Contact Reporter

It’s 8 a.m., Congress isn’t in session and Washington’s roads are icy, but more than 100 ambassadors, academics, African emigres and heads of humanitarian groups have crammed into a basement room of the U.S. Capitol for an unofficial meeting about how Boko Haram and other terrorism groups are stunting African progress.

The regular breakfasts are the brainchild of Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who is frustrated by a lack of attention paid to the continent and sees her own constituents with deep interest in policy toward Africa.

“In community organizing, you believe that the best policy is made by having those people that are most affected by the policy at the table. It’s not rocket science. If you do policy in a vacuum it can have unintended consequences,” she said in an interview after the meeting.

Bass first got involved in African policy because of South African apartheid in the 1970s and 1980s when she co-chaired the local Southern Africa Support Committee.

When apartheid ended, and Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, Bass’ attention shifted to stopping crack cocaine abuse and gang violence in  South-Central L.A. Bass started and ran the Community Coalition, a social justice organization. In 2004, she was elected to the state Assembly and in 2008 was the first African American woman in U.S. history elected speaker of a state legislative body.

“I stopped doing international work and just focused on domestic work. One of the reasons I was excited about coming to Congress is I could do both,” Bass said. “I really took almost a 20-year hiatus away from foreign policy.”

She views it as her responsibility.

“The same way it was my responsibility to figure out how to address the gang and crack intersection in South-Central, I also felt it was my responsibility to help fight to end apartheid and especially the U.S. government’s policies,” Bass said.

When she joined the House Foreign Affairs Committee after taking office in 2011, Bass said it didn’t feel like those actually affected by the committee’s decisions had a voice.

“When I would go to hearings on Africa, you would have no Africans participating, but they are sitting there in the audience while we’re talking about their countries. That just seemed odd to me,” she said.

She is now the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. Other Foreign Affairs Subcommittees focus narrowly on one or two subjects.

“That in and of itself to me kind of says that Africa is not a big enough priority to have its own focused subcommittee,” she said. “We could go easily a month or two without having a hearing on Africa [with] so many subject matters.”

Bass said she’s gone out of her way to work with the Foreign Affairs Committee, not supersede it, by having committee leaders co-host the breakfasts or speak.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) said a wider group of people are excited about legislation before the committee because of Bass’ breakfast meetings. He’s spoken at a few.

“It’s effective,” he said. “Karen Bass is able to strategically use the enthusiasm of those who participate in the breakfasts in order to try to assist us.”

Royce pointed to several cases, including a bill recently signed by President Obama aimed at electrical infrastructure around the continent, the global anti-poaching act and congressional response to Ebola.

Bass said Africa may seem so far away to her Los Angeles constituents, “but we have a huge diaspora community in L.A.”

Her district includes Little Ethiopia, a block-long stretch on Fairfax Avenue between West Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive.

“Even Little Ethiopia is a commercial strip. It is not like Ethiopians reside in that area. I’m sure some do, but that area’s very, very mixed,” she said.

She plans to talk with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council about a trade mission and also a seminar to connect federal agencies with private businesses interested in investing in Africa, Bass said.

This year she wants to coordinate with the African diaspora living in Los Angeles and hold a policy breakfast in the city so her constituents can be heard too.

“I know there’s a huge Nigerian community, Cameroonian, and there are seven official consulates for seven African countries, and then there’s about another five honorary consulates,” she said. “There should always be a voice. If we come up with a policy we want to bounce it back and forth. You want the people that are most affected also pushing for the policy as well.”

Nii Akuettah, executive director of the African Immigrant Caucus, a coalition of immigrant groups in Washington, called Bass “a big champion for Africa.”

“There is a great deal of good will in the African community here for her and on the continent for her,” he said.

The periodic gatherings draw members of Congress, ambassadors from African countries, emigres or diaspora, and other people who have a stake in the United States’ policy regarding Africa, such as businesses, State Department officials and academics–and often the groups are “not on the same page,” Bass said.

The meetings began as a way to draw attention to reauthorization of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. First created in 2000, AGOA gives special market access to certain sub-Saharan countries that maintain legal, human rights and labor standards. In June, President Obama signed bipartisan legislation extending the act until 2025.

The talks continued, with a focus on trade and economic development between the United States and African countries. Topics have ranged from Ebola to elections to electricity, and the July 2014 breakfast was also about instability because of Boko Haram, the northeastern Nigerian Islamist group.

Bass said Boko Haram must be addressed when looking to set policy about Africa’s future.

“You can’t talk about economic development, you can’t talk about the implementation of AGOA in countries without security and in countries that are not stable or are being destabilized because of Boko Haram,” she said.

Bass said many Americans underestimate the threat from the group.

“When you look at the number of people that have been killed by Boko Haram, it’s more than the number of lives lost to ISIS. I think part of our job here is raising the consciousness in the U.S. that just because something is happening on the continent, that doesn’t mean that it does not have international significance,” she said.

It’s her goal to reshape U.S.-Africa relations.

“We still kind of view Africa as a charity case and not as a continent that is a partner. Unfortunately, I think the United States is behind the rest of the world, because the rest of the world sees Africa as much more of a partner than we do,” she said.

The original article was published in the Los Angeles Times.

(The Guardian) Secret aid worker: ‘I was the obscure African girl in a room full of white faces’

It was sitting in a conflict resolution lecture – an intern in my early twenties and eager for life – when I knew that was it, I wanted to be an aid worker. I wanted to be the one who makes the difference.

I started my career as that obscure national staff member who took the minutes at important meetings and was good at it. Many times however, I would be the only African in those meetings and my role would solely be to take minutes. Strangely, and contrary to popular belief, minute taking is the best way to learn and adapt to new concepts. Nobody noticed me, or asked for my opinion; even when what they discussed affected how much food I had at dinner. So I listened, took notes and learned. Soon I knew more than most people coming to the meetings.

Close up of African boy raising hand

‘It has become my responsibility as the only African in a room to bring the reality of my home, my continent.’ Photograph: Alamy

A few years later, I landed my first international job. I had managed to convince a HR officer that I knew what I was doing better than anyone else going for the position, and that I deserved the job. This time, I became the obscure African girl who could relate to the context and whose opinion was closest to the reality of those affected by crisis. The room would fall silent when I spoke, and I felt relevant. I was making the difference, and I thought I was good at it.

That was until I was told: “you speak African, we cannot understand what you say”. That was actual feedback I got from one capacity building initiative set up by an organisation specifically to raise the profile of its “native” staff. I wanted to get on though so I changed my accent, pronouncing phrases like IDP camp as “IDP kemp” instead of “IDP kamp” in order to appeal more to an American audience. Now I start to construct my sentences before I pronounce them. I’m no longer making the difference, I’ve become an illusion of it.

The continent I call home is now “the field” for me and my colleagues, and the people we are contracted to serve have become indicators in the reports we churn out. When I’m in the field, the only difference between me and the starving mother of seven who I’m excited to photograph (in order to attach to my trip report), is the sheer fate that life brought us. Because I know how it feels to be hungry and desperate, I take it upon myself to make the field more than just numbers and check boxes. At the next meeting, I make a point to remind everyone that we are here to serve human beings.

The room falls silent when I speak. I notice a slight look of surprise from those around the table. I’m used to this, an expectation that I, like others would attend and take notes, agreeing to everything. But I’m no longer the obscure African girl that impressed her European audience because she is fluent, outspoken and confident. I am part of the decisions made on the lives of people. That is enough to outweigh comments like “you have such impressive intelligence” or “you don’t sound like most natives” that often come from well-meaning colleagues but are condescending and disrespectful.

I speak out when the politics of aid stops it from being useful, when we get derailed by bureaucracy and forget the starving mother of seven who hopes that her picture attached to a foreign report will provide her next meal. It has become my responsibility as the only African in a room full of white faces to bring into the room the reality of my home, my continent.

The silence in the room has stopped bothering me, and I no longer care that I must introduce myself multiple times to people because “all Africans look the same”. I am making a difference, even when it is sometimes difficult to see it. I remind myself that my place is deserved, I earned it and that I owe it to myself and others to let my presence be the difference.

The article was published in The Guardian.

(Rising Africa) Uganda Manufactures First Solar-Powered Bus in Africa

Kiira Motors Corporation is set to launch the first solar-powered bus ‘Kayoola’ in Africa in the corporation’s vision to spearhead the automotive industry in Uganda.

‘Kayoola’ can be loosely translated as ‘mass carrier’.

The Kayoola bus is uniquely designed to be powered by solar energy to make it environmental friendly.

It relies on 2 power banks (lithium-ion batteries) which power an electric motor that is coupled to a 2-speed pneumatic shift transmission.

The 2 power banks operate in automatic alternation to enable real time mobile battery recharging while the other is in use.

Mr Isaa Musasizi, the CEO Kiira Motors Corporation told journalists during the test drive at Namboole stadium on Sunday that Kayoola was built at an estimate of Shs 500m.

With a seating capacity of 35 passengers, the bus has a power capacity of 150KW (204HP) Peak and solar power of 1320W.

The solar panels on the roof harvest energy to run the bus on a range of 80kms (approximately 8 hours of nonstop movement).

“Uganda is privileged to be among the 13 countries in the whole world that are situated along the equator. We decided to take advantage of this strategic position to improve transport technology,” he said.

Mr Musasizi stressed the fact that most of the bus features are locally sourced and were assembled by a team of about 100 Ugandans.

These did the wielding, spraying, wiring among others.

“The body is typically our Roofings material and was worked on by hand. Also, the battery banks which are stainless steel were also fabricated from here. Uganda possesses polished skills to deliver automotives today.”

Transport challenges

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri who officiated at Sunday’s test drive said ‘Kayoola’ will go a long way in addressing Uganda’s mass transportation problem.

“We have buses all over the world but Ugandans must be proud to be championing a technology that represents clean energy,” said the Minister who birthed the idea of manufacturing Uganda’s first electronic car Kiira EV while still a Professor at Makerere University.

He said the innovation has raised the regional standard, adding; “The Kayoola sets a green precedence and inspiration trend for technological future in urban mobility for East and Central Africa.”

President Museveni is set to officially launch the Kayoola solar bus on February 16 at Kampala Serena Hotel.

Kiira Motors project is an industrial development intervention fully funded by Government of Uganda. It is aimed at establishing vehicle manufacturing capabilities in Uganda for Pickups, SUVs, Sedans, Light and Medium duty trucks and Buses.

The article was published in Rising Africa. 

(AFK Insider) Gates Foundation Pays For Contraceptive Delivery By Drone To African Women

Ghana health care. Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

Ghana health care.
Photo Credit: gooverseas.com

By Dana Sanchez

Published: January 29, 2016, 3:26 pm 

Drones are delivering contraceptives to hard-to-reach Ghanaian villages in a program jointly funded by the U.N. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s so successful that other countries want it too, HuffingtonPost reported.

Deliveries to rural Ghana that once took two days now take 30 minutes by drone, and each flight costs only $15, according to Kanyanta Sunkutu, a South African public health specialist with the U.N. Population Fund.

Sunkutu said he expected the pilot program in Ghana to encounter resistance, and worried people would associate the drones with war. So the U.N., in its program materials, referred to the drones only as “unmanned aerial vehicles” — not drones.

“We don’t want that link between war and what we are doing,” Sunkutu told The Huffington Post in an interview. “But the resistance we thought we would get has not been there.”

Less than than 20 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa use modern contraceptives. In rural Africa, a flood can shut down roads for days and cut off medical supplies, making access to birth control a massive problem.

An estimated 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to delay or stop childbearing, but don’t have reliable birth control, according to the World Health Organization. This prevents women and girls from finishing school or getting jobs. About 47,000 women die of complications from unsafe abortions each year.

“We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls,” Bill and Melinda Gates said, according to their foundation website.

The idea to use drones for delivering birth control came from a program in the Amazon, Sunkutu said.

The drone operator packs a five-foot-wide drone with contraceptives and medical supplies from an urban warehouse and sends it over to places hard to reach by car. There, a local health worker meets the drone and picks up the supplies.

Project Last Mile has been flying birth control, condoms and other medical supplies to rural areas of Ghana for several months.

Now it’s expanding to six other African countries. The goal is to revolutionize women’s health and family planning in Africa. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have expressed an interest.

Using drones to improve reproductive health isn’t exactly a new idea — it’s just new in Africa, according to Huffington Post. In June, a Dutch organization called Women on Waves used a drone to fly abortion pills to Poland, trying to raise awareness of Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Project Last Mile says it is the first to develop a long-term, sustainable program for delivering contraceptives by drone.

Sunkutu hopes that eventually drones will revolutionize other areas of rural African life., starting with family planning.

“They can deliver ballots after elections, or exams for school,” he said. It becomes a logistics management solution for hard-to-reach areas. We’re going to use family planning as an entry and make it sustainable.”

The article was published in AFKInsider.

 

(HuffPost Black Voices) African Women Who Deserve Movies

01/08/2016 01:59 pm ET

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is an author who has written a number of books on the history and experiences of African people.

Recently there have been rumors that Beyonce is planning to write and star in a film about a woman named Sarah Baartman. That is an important story that needs to be told. During the period of slavery and colonization African women endured a number of abuses. The case of Baartman is perhaps the best example of how African women were degraded and treated as sex objects. Baartman was an ethnic Khoikhoi woman who was born in South Africa. She was taken to Europe where she became a freak show attraction because of her features, especially her large buttocks. She became a sort of symbol for the hypersexuality and inferiority of African women.

Baartman died in 1815 at the age of 25. Baartman had died an impoverished and alcoholic woman who had turned to prostitution to support herself when her novelty wore off. Her sexual organs were persevered and placed on display in Paris. It was not until 1974 that her display was removed and her remains were finally returned to her homeland for burial in 2002. Although Beyonce denied the claims that she was planning any movie on Baartman, the story is one that does need to be told so that people can understand the extent to which African women were degraded and reduced to sex objects for the entertainment of European men.

As important as Baartman’s story is, I also think there are many other African women whose stories are worth being made into films as well. In the media there is definitely an under-representation of strong and powerful black women, which is a stark contrast to Africa’s own history, which is filled with examples of powerful women that ruled kingdoms. In speaking of his native Guinea-Bissau, Amílcar Cabral stated: “You know that in our country there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element. On the Bijagos Islands they had queens. They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens.” For this reason I will present a list of some other African women that also deserve having movies made about them.

Queen Makeda is held in Ethiopian tradition to be the Queen of Sheba that is mentioned in the Bible. The Bible briefly mentions the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon, but provides very little information about the Queen of Sheba herself. The Kebra Nagast tells the story of Queen Makeda, who is described as the powerful ruler of a wealthy kingdom who is curious to test Solomon’s purported wisdom. She decides to visit Solomon in Israel. The Kebra Nagastrecords that Makeda was impressed by Solomon’s wisdom and was so interested in “the God of Israel” that Makeda converted to Solomon’s religion. Makeda returned to her kingdom in Ethiopia where she gave birth to Solomon’s child, a boy who was named Menelik. This story forms the basis of Ethiopian monarch’s claim to have a direct lineage to Solomon.

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Nzinga was the queen of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms which were located in present day Angola. She is best remembered for the resistance that she put up against the Portuguese slave traders in her nation. Nzinga was a brilliant stateswoman who fought the Portuguese for decades until the two sides came to form a truce. Nzinga was described as the greatest military strategist that the Portuguese had ever confronted and as someone who was dedicated to destroying the slave trade. Among her own people she was a very respected and beloved ruler.

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Yaa Asantewaa, like Nzinga, is remembered for her military prowess. Over a span of nearly 100 years, the Asante people of Ghana fought a number of wars with the British, winning a good portion of those wars before finally being conquered in 1900. Leading up to the final war the Asante ruler Prempeh had decided to peacefully surrender to the British to avoid another war, but the British provoked a war when Governor Sir Frederick Hodgson requested that the Golden Stool of the Asante people be brought to him for him to sit on. The Asante people considered the Golden Stool to be so sacred that not even the Asante king himself sat on it. Yaa Asantewaa was so angered by the disrespect that was shown to the Asante people that she urged her fellow Asante citizens to take up arms to defend the Golden Stool. In the subsequent war the Asante people were defeated by the British and Yaa Asantewaa was exiled, but the Asante people generally remember this war as a victory because they prevented the British from capturing the Golden Stool.

Aside from her role as a military leader, Yaa Asantewaa was a stateswoman who served as the queen mother of the Asante district of Ejisu. After her son was exiled along with Prempeh, Yaa Asantewaa served as the king of Ejisu. Yaa Asantewaa was known as a just ruler who hated to see people being mistreated. She would use state funds to settle the debts of some of her poorer subjects to prevent them from becoming debt slaves.

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Funmilayo Kuti was the mother of famed Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. Funmilayo was a nationalist who fought for the independence of Nigeria and along with her husband, Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, Funmilayo was involved in anti-colonial organizations such as the West African Students Union. In 1947, Funmilayo led a group of women in protest against the District Officer of Abeokuta. Fela later spoke of this incident with pride, recalling how his mother had insulted the highest representative of the British crown in Abeokuta. For the courageous manner in which Funmilayo took on the colonial government she was popularly known as the “daughter of Lisabi.” Lisabi was a famous warrior who led the Egba people in their war of resistance against the powerful Oyo kingdom. Funmilayo died in 1978 from injuries that she sustained from being thrown out of a third floor window when the Nigerian military had raided her son’s compound. The raid was done in response to a song that Fela had preformed which criticized the behavior of Nigeria’s military.

The article was published in Huffington Post’s Black Voices.

(Nature) Error found in study of first ancient African genome

Finding that much of Africa has Eurasian ancestry was mistaken.

Ewen Callaway | 29 January 2016

This rocky area in Mota cave held bones that yielded the first ancient African genome.       Photo Credit: Kathryn and John Arthur

An error has forced researchers to go back on their claim that humans across the whole of Africa carry DNA inherited from Eurasian immigrants.

This week the authors issued a note explaining the mistake in their October 2015 Science paper on the genome of a 4,500-year-old man from Ethiopia1 — the first complete ancient human genome from Africa. The man was named after Mota Cave, where his remains were found.

Although the first humans left Africa some 100,000 years ago, a study published in 2013 found that some came back again around 3,000 years ago; this reverse migration has left its trace in African genomes.

In the Science paper, researchers confirmed this finding. The paper also suggested that populations across the continent still harbour significant ancestry from the Middle Eastern farmers who were behind the back-migration. Populations in East Africa, including Ethiopian highlanders who live near Mota Cave, carried the highest levels of Eurasian ancestry. But the team also found vestiges of the ‘backflow’ migration in West Africans and in a pygmy group in Central Africa, the Mbuti.

Andrea Manica, a population geneticist at the University of Cambridge, UK, who co-led the study, says the team made a mistake in its conclusion that the backflow reached western and central Africa. “The movement 3,000 years ago, or thereabouts, was limited to eastern Africa,” he says.

Incompatible software

Manica says that the error occurred when his team compared genetic variants in the ancient Ethiopian man with those in the reference human genome. Incompatibility between the two software packages used caused some variants that the Ethiopian man shared with Europeans (whose DNA forms a large chunk of the human reference sequence) to be removed from the analysis. This made Mota man seem less closely related to modern European populations than he actually was — and in turn made contemporary African populations appear more closely related to Europeans. The researchers did have a script that they could have run to harmonize the two software packages, says Manica, but someone forgot to run it.

Pontus Skoglund, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, says that he was surprised by the claim that as much as 6–7% of the ancestry of West and Central African groups came from the Eurasian migrants. But after obtaining the Mota man’s genome from Manica’s team, he and his colleague David Reich carried out their own comparison and found no evidence for that conclusion. They informed Manica’s team, who then discovered the processing error.

“Almost all of us agree there was some back-to-Africa gene flow, and it was a pretty big migration into East Africa,” says Skoglund. “But it did not reach West and Central Africa, at least not in a detectable way.” The error also undermines the paper’s original conclusion that many Africans carry Neanderthal DNA (inherited from Eurasians whose ancestors had interbred with the group).

Skoglund praised the paper — “the genome itself is just fantastic,” he says — and the researchers’ willingness to share their data and issue a speedy note about the error: they posted it online on 25 January. When asked to confirm whether and when it would publish the researchers’ update, a representative for Science said the journal couldn’t yet comment.

Manica is not yet sure if Science will change the title of the paper, ‘Ancient Ethiopian genome reveals extensive Eurasian admixture throughout the African continent’. But if the team had caught the error earlier, he says, “I’m sure we would have phrased things differently”.

Nature

doi:10.1038/nature.2016.19258

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