(Raw Story) How Hillary Clinton cornered the black vote

Democratic Presidental candidate Hillary Clinton has her photo taken with nurses at House of Prayer on February 7, 2016 in Flint, Michigan (AFP Photo/Sarah Rice)

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has her photo taken with nurses at House of Prayer on February 7, 2016 in Flint, Michigan (AFP Photo/Sarah Rice)

08 MAR 2016 AT 09:34 ET

Hillary Clinton is on a roll. If her candidacy ever looked in doubt to an insurgent Bernie Sanders, she’s hurtling towards the Democratic nomination — thanks overwhelmingly to African Americans.

A month after her bruising defeat in New Hampshire, where Sanders won every category of voter except those older than 65 and earning more than $200,000 a year, Clinton has chalked up massive wins.

In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia she romped to victory, and is tipped to win Tuesday in Mississippi and Michigan, which all have sizeable African American communities.

Black voters have become critical to winning US elections. Without decisive African American turnout in seven states, Barack Obama would have lost to Mitt Romney in 2012, the independent Cook Political Report found.

Four years later with the country embroiled in debate about police violence and systemic racism, blacks are voting overwhelmingly for the former secretary of state, and cold shouldering the white-haired democratic socialist. But why?

Both have called for criminal justice reform demanded by the Black Lives Matter movement, although the group has endorsed neither candidate.

But beyond that, experts say Clinton more than Sanders has talked often about racism, white privilege and the need for more opportunities for blacks.

“I will do everything that I possibly can, to not only do the best to understand and to empathize, but to tear down the barriers of systemic racism,” she told Sunday’s Democratic debate in black majority Flint, Michigan.

– Forcefully –

Clinton raised the specter of environmental racism, questioning whether the lead-contaminated water scandal in Flint would have happened in wealthy suburbs.

“She talks very forcefully about these issues in a way that she hasn’t before and you don’t normally have from presidential candidates,” said Stefanie Brown James, Obama’s African American vote director in 2012.

While Sanders has spent his career in Vermont, where only one percent of the population is black, Clinton was first lady of Arkansas for 12 years, taking on a prominent role in trying to improve health and education.

In the south, she ran legal clinics representing disenfranchised people.

While still a student at Yale Law School, she went to South Carolina to investigate juveniles in adult jails and to Alabama to investigate segregation in schools for the Children’s Defense Fund.

After more than a generation on the national stage, all of this has become common knowledge — particularly among blacks.

In South Carolina, she addressed the nation’s oldest black sorority, dressed in green — a courtesy to an organization whose colors are green and pink.

“That’s the kind of little stuff, the attention to detail that people notice and appreciate,” said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Right or wrong for a feminist campaigning to become the first woman president of the United States, experts also agree that much of her appeal stems from her marriage to Bill Clinton.

– Race matters –

The Clinton record is not unblemished. Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform and 1994 crime bill are blamed for fanning poverty and record incarceration rates which have hit blacks disproportionately. Both Clintons have since expressed regret, but the former first lady has been called out repeatedly on the campaign trail over that troubled legacy.

Clinton prefers to recall the economic growth during her husband’s 1990s administration as a legacy she will continue.

For more than a generation black Americans embraced the Clintons as a couple who worked against racial prejudice and presided over economic prosperity, at a time when black unemployment fell and incomes rose.

Bill Clinton’s poor southern background and easy manner — playing saxophone on television wearing shades — won him love and admiration from black voters.

He supported affirmative action, appointed a record number of African Americans to his cabinet and was close friends with business executive and civil rights figure Vernon Jordan.

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Nobel Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison famously dubbed him the first black president by comparing him to the black man always presumed guilty.

While Clinton’s rival Sanders has spoken of being arrested during the 1960s civil rights movement, his plea for votes has focused far more on economic inequality.

“That’s the problem that blacks typically have with white progressives, that they look at everything through class and forget that race still matters, and it’s that type of framing that has frustrated some blacks,” said Gillespie.

African Americans who agonized in 2008 about whether to vote for Clinton or Obama and picked Obama now feel they can do right by Clinton, the woman who has gone out of her way to present herself as Obama’s heir.

The article was published in Raw Story. 

(LA Weekly) Minorities Are Actually Losing Ground in Hollywood, Report Finds

File photo by mark sebastian/Flickr

File photo by mark sebastian/Flickr

Latinos are part of the largest racial or ethnic minority in the United States, and they recently surpassed whites as the numerically dominant demographic group in California.

The country is nearly 40 percent minority, and experts believe people of color could eclipse the white majority by 2043.

Diversity is everywhere you look these days — on television commercials, in pop music, in sports, in public universities. But Hollywood, an industry that calls a 73 percent minority county its home, is actually losing ground when it comes to hiring people of color.

So says the 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

Researchers, led by Bunche Center director Darnell M. Hunt, looked at the top-grossing 200 films in 2014 as well as at 1,146 television shows, including online programs, from the 2013-14 season.

“Minorities lost ground in six of the 11 arenas examined and merely held their ground in the other four,” the report states.

This at a time when the Academy Awards is feeling pressure from minority groups — a protest led by Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to happen outside Sunday’s event — because only whites received acting nominations for the second year in a row.

Here are some of the UCLA study’s highlights:

-In film, minorities got 12.9 percent of lead rules, down from 16.7 percent in 2013, UCLA says.

-Minorities got 12.9 percent of the film director gigs, down from 17.8 percent in 2013, the report says.

-For women directors, that figure was women just 4.3 percent, down from 6.3 percent in 2013.

-Minorities were writers on 8 percent of the films examined, down from 11.8 percent in 2013.

-Women got writing credits in 9.2 percent of the films, down from 12.9 percent in 2013.

-Women got 35.8 percent of the lead roles in broadcast scripted shows, down from 48.6 percent in the 2012-13 season.

-Minorities got 15.9 percent of the lead roles on cable shows, down from 16.8 percent in 2012-13.

-Minorities were credited as show creators in 3.3 percent of the broadcast scripted shows examined, which is down from 5.9 percent in 2012-13.

And so on.

One hopeful highlight was in broadcast scripted TV, where minorities got 8.1 percent of the roles, according to the study. That’s up from 6.5 percent in 2012-13.

But still, the report says, “Minorities remain seriously underrepresented in this broadcast scripted arena.”

The study also reiterated that diverse productions — those with casts that were greater than 30 percent nonwhite — made more money for the industry.

“Films with relatively diverse casts enjoyed the highest median global box office receipts and the highest median return on investment,” the study says. “Minorities accounted for the majority of ticket sales for four of the top 10 films in 2014.”

It also found that broadcast TV shows with casts that were 31 to 40 percent nonwhite received the most mentions on Twitter.

“What we’ve found for three years running now is that audiences prefer content that looks like America,” Hunt said.

Unfortunately, it looks like Hollywood still isn’t getting the message.

The article was published in LA Weekly. 

(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.

(NYT) Simon & Schuster Creates Imprint for Muslim-Themed Children’s Books

As a young Pakistani-American Muslim girl growing up in Connecticut, Zareen Jaffery used to devour novels by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, hoping those stories would offer some clues for how to fit in.

“I remember looking at books to try to figure out, ‘What does it mean to be American? Am I doing this right?’” Ms. Jaffery said. “The truth is, I didn’t see myself reflected in books back then.”

Some 30 years later, Muslim characters remain scarce in mainstream children’s literature. But now Ms. Jaffery, an executive editor of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, is in a position to change that.

Ms. Jaffery is heading a new children’s imprint, Salaam Reads, dedicated to publishing books that feature Muslim characters and stories. The imprint, which Simon & Schuster announced this week, will release nine or more books a year, ranging from board books and picture books to middle grade and young adult titles.

The creation of a Muslim-themed children’s imprint is likely to further fuel the continuing discussion about diversity in children’s publishing. Salaam Reads is also arriving in the middle of a fractious and polarizing political debate about immigration and racial and religious profiling, when minority groups, and American Muslims in particular, feel they are being targeted.

Ms. Jaffery, 37, had long been bothered by the lack of Muslim characters in children’s literature. But the problem started to feel more acute about three years ago, when she began reading books with her young nieces and nephews. “It was hard not to notice that none of those books really reflected their experience,” she said.

She brought up the idea of seeking out books about Muslims with Justin Chanda, the publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Rather than just releasing a scattered selection of books, they decided to create a new imprint, and chose the name Salaam, which means peace in Arabic. The books won’t emphasize theology or Islamic doctrine, Mr. Chanda said, but will highlight the experience of being Muslim through their characters and plots.

“We have a chance to provide people with a more nuanced and, in my estimation, a more honest portrayal of the lives of everyday Muslims,” Ms. Jaffery said.

So far, Salaam Reads has acquired four books that will come out in 2017, including “Salam Alaikum,” a picture book based on a song by the British teen pop singer Harris J. Others planned for release next year are “Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin,” a picture book about four kindergarten friends who learn about one another’s holiday traditions; “The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand” by Karuna Riazi, about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi-American who sets out to save her brother from a supernatural board game, and “Yo Soy Muslim,” a picture book by the poet Mark Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales, an alumnus of HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” who converted to Islam, said he was immediately game when Ms. Jaffery recruited him to write a book for the imprint.

“As a person who was born as the child of Mexican and French immigrants, I grew up being invisible to society, and if not invisible, demonized,” said Mr. Gonzales. “It was important to me, thinking about what it would mean for every child to have a book when they’re growing up that they can see themselves in.”

The article was published in the New York Times.


(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.

(Go Woman Africa) Sierra Leone: Women refused entry to government buildings for showing their bare arms

Leaving Sierra Leone with my son. Sitting next to me is former parliamentarian newly appointed Minister of State Isata Kabia. Ms. Kabia sponsored the right to abortion bill that was passed in parliament but that got sent back by the President after giving in to pressures from a male dominated assembly of religious leaders. Photo Credit: Go Woman Africa

Leaving Sierra Leone with my son. Sitting next to me is former parliamentarian newly appointed Minister of State Isata Kabia. Ms. Kabia sponsored the right to abortion bill that was passed in parliament but that got sent back by the President after giving in to pressures from a male dominated assembly of religious leaders.
Photo Credit: Go Woman Africa

I went to the Immigration Head Office in Freetown, Sierra Leone on a Monday to submit a passport application for my son. On this day I entered the building sans problem, I went passed the security, greeted them and asked for Mr. Kakay’s office. They directed me to a desk inside the building. I went there and they said he was on the third floor.

I spent something like 2 hours at the Immigration Office and was told to return two days later at about 10am to collect the passport. On Wednesday morning with my son in arms, I got out of the car and proceeded towards the entrance just as I had done two days before. I said Good Morning and was about to continue on when a police officer stopped me. This was the same officer who I had greeted two days earlier. I knew he recognized me because I recognized him.

“Excuse me?” I asked half confused.

“You can not enter you are wearing a singlet,” he said.

“A what?”

“Sleeveless. Read the sign. You can’t wear singlet in this office.”

He points to a sign that was behind him taped on the side of the entrance that I had not noticed when I came on Monday. From where I was standing I could not see the sign.

I took a breath. A very deep breath.

“OK. I understand but that sign is all the way over there and I didn’t know there was a dress code. I’m just here to pick up my son’s passport”.

“That is not my problem, go and come back,” he said.

Another Police Officer, he looked older standing on the top of the platform brought himself into the conversation.

“Where do you live?”

“In a hotel, but I can’t go and come back to change my top”.

“Ah well you cannot enter here like that, that is the rule”.

I take another deep breath. I am holding my baby so I don’t want to be upset. Since giving birth 5 months ago, I have taken to wearing tank tops to make it easier for me to breastfeed as and when he needs it. They can see that I am holding a baby. They can see that it is hot. They can also see that by the fact that I was there at the Immigration Office which serves that I am also Sierra Leonean, like them.

“I understand you are doing your job. I understand that this is your law. Can you please call someone from inside who can then assist me with collecting my son’s passport while we wait outside.”

“No I won’t be able to do that”, the younger of the two officers said.

At this point of the conversation I had been reduced to 60 percent of self because when you have to deal with micro aggressions whether they be race or gender based that is what happens. You are reduced to feeling less of a person. The rationale for these dress codes is that if you are a woman and you have on a sleeveless top or shirt or dress that you must be there to seduce one of the Immigration staff. That any woman who dresses like that must be there looking for a man. Because that is what we women do, we come with our breasts to shove in their faces.

“As a police officer you know your job is not to just enforce the law but to serve and assist citizens like me right?”

“Me noh know that”, he says.

“I don tell you say you noh dey go inside.”

At this point people start to gather and they start to ask what, and why. I am still holding my son. Still standing under the sun and now being reduced some more, as I am shamed for wearing a tank top by all the additional eyes there present. I am now 50 percent of self. I explain myself to three different people.

One man an older man comes out and says yes you must respect our country. You go back to where you came from and wear proper clothes. You can not come in here.

“Is this not my country too?”

“Me noh know if na you country.”

I am still holding my son. We are still under the sun being refused entry into a building where I spent many many years playing under the desks. Until I was age 10, when we left Sierra Leone, my mother’s office was on the third floor. This was once the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I had grown up, eating groundnut under the tables, with the children of other Ministry staff. After school we would all walk from our various schools, and collect each other and make it to our parents’ office. It was like a unique form of Daycare, that for the most part is probably being practiced in offices in Freetown. You go wait at your parent’s office and you go home together. In this office  I had been locked countless times in the elevator when there was light off. I had lost one shoes, socks, books, and toys countless times.  It was ironic that of all the buildings in all of Freetown that it would be this same one that my mother had served in for some 30 years that I was being refused entry.

I am asked to step to the side. That I should not block the entrance. People have to go in, I was not people, for this morning I was less than that because I had on a tank top that revealed my arms and chest.

“Go over there!’

They point to the side of the building, a little off to the right. I step away from the front. I stand to the side. It seems like it is going to drizzle. Oh no those aren’t rain drops, they are the tears that start to well up whenever I get reduced below 50 percent of self. It seems my tears never can hold below this point.

I will not cry. You must not cry I tell myself. This is what Sierra Leone does, it tries to make you powerless. It tries to reduce you. You must not be reduced. I must say something to fight back.

“You know this is what is wrong with this country?” I say it loud enough for them to hear me.

“We don’t have any compassion for one another. What if I was your sister, or your wife is this how you would want them to be treated?”

I’m not sure anyone even cares or hears me but I feel better saying that. I know that whatever indignity I am suffering here, I know for a fact that it compares not to the indignities women of lower socio economic status have to suffer in Sierra Leone. I reassure myself that I will get in. This is how they are. I don’t even know who “they” are but I know that this is them.

A man comes out and he says he wants to help me. I have caused enough of a fuss I guess, by refusing to walk away and be dismissed. He asks me what I want and I tell him. Then he goes inside and a woman comes out and hands me a very very sheer scarf. I don’t know how many others like myself, having been reduced have shared arm skin on this scarf. I take it reluctantly barely covering with it and walk passed the police officer. The woman I am going to meet is already coming down the steps, someone had told her I was there. She takes me to the passport section downstairs, formerly the protocol division of Foreign Affairs of which my mother was a director of an all male team. It takes me 5 minutes to sign the form and receive my son’s passport. It took me 30 minutes to enter the building.

As I’m signing the register the man who helped me says, you know you are right. We need a little bit more compassion in Sierra Leone. I don’t smile, I don’t make small talk. I’m still suffering from having been reduced. I hand the scarf back to the owner. I walk out of the building and as I leave I say this to the police office;

“Sometimes we see people on the street they are poor and suffering and no one knows why, maybe they suffer because at some point in their life they showed no “sorri heart” to another human being, maybe one day that will be you. God dey.”

IMG_4412 IMG_4416

I didn’t bother to read the sign the was printed on A4 and stuck on the inside of the building. I don’t know if the dress code is even legal especially when it only applies to women. This is not the only government building in Sierra Leone where women are subjected to this kind of harassment and indignity. At State House, the Office of the President you will be turned away depending on who you are if you are wearing pants, yes even a corporate style pant suit because women wearing trousers clearly are sexually loose and will come there to seduce their employees. The same goes for the Youyi Building, if you attempt to enter it on foot, and if you are a woman who looks like you are not well off someone will attempt to stop you. Every single day women are being harassed in Sierra Leone, suffering micro aggressions put there to reduce them, and make them feel less. It happened to me, it could happen to anyone and after this incident I read a letter from the nation’s corporate affairs boss, another woman who was subjected to the same reductions.

(BuzzFeed) Meet The Women Behind Nigeria’s Most Subversive Novellas

(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


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.