Thursday, 13 December 2012

Building bridges between faiths in a Cairo coffee shop

Filed under: Africa files,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 10:13 PDT

It began as a joke. Mohamed Tolba, an IT executive, had time to kill between meetings and told the receptionist in his Cairo office that he would be at the Costa Coffee around the corner if anyone needed him. “You go to Costa?” she asked, startled.

“Yes,” he replied patiently. “Even me. I drink coffee and eat cheesecake.”

His colleague couldn’t quite fathom the idea that someone like Mr. Tolba – who sports a bushy beard and prays fives times a day without fail – might hang out in an outlet of the British coffee chain that is a haunt of secular Egyptian urbanites. For Mr. Tolba, it was just one more incident of the misconceptions that dog Salafism, the stream of Islam he practises.

“I realized,” he recalled later, “we have issues.”

The interaction, though, spurred him finally to take them on. He resolved to try to address the image problem of his ultra-conservative Islam using, what else, Facebook. He started a forum for debate and outreach, and he named it Salafyo Costa – the Salafis at Costa – after his favourite latte joint. Within months, thousands of Egyptians, and Muslims in other countries, were participating in the online debates, and soon the group was meeting in real life. Over, of course, coffee.


Friday, 7 December 2012

When the Water Ends – Africa’s Climate Conflicts

Filed under: Africa files,Environment,Film, video, audio — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 13:56 PDT

When The Water Ends: Africa’s Climate Conflicts is a 16-minute video that documents conflicts driven by climate change in Eastern Africa.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Laws Penalizing Blasphemy, Apostasy and Defamation of Religion are Widespread

Filed under: Africa files,Media and Conflict,Middle East,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 05:59 PDT

Several recent incidents have drawn international attention to laws and policies prohibiting blasphemy – remarks or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine. In a highly publicized case last summer, for example, a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan was arrested and detained for several weeks after she was accused of burning pages from the Quran. In neighboring India, a man reputed to be a religious skeptic is facing blasphemy charges because he claimed a statue of Jesus venerated by Mumbai’s Catholic community for its miraculous qualities is a fake. The man reportedly is staying in Europe to avoid prosecution. In Greece, a man was arrested and charged with blasphemy after he posted satirical references to an Orthodox Christian monk on Facebook.

Pakistan, India and Greece are not alone in actively pursuing blasphemy prosecutions. A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that as of 2011 nearly half of the countries and territories in the world (47%) have laws or policies that penalize blasphemy, apostasy (abandoning one’s faith) or defamation (disparagement or criticism of particular religions or religion in general).


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Senegal: New Negotiations Brokered by Sant’Egidio: Hope for Peace in Casamance?

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 06:25 PDT

The resolution of the crisis in the Casamance, Senegal, that has been on hold since the ceasefire of 2005, has taken a new turn. Salif Sadio, leader of the northern faction of the armed branch of the Movement des forces démocratiques de la Casamance (Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance, MFDC), had appealed for dialogue on 1 June 2012. In an answer to that appeal, President Macky Sall, in a statement at the decentralised Council of Ministers meeting held in Ziguinchor on 27 June, pledged to begin talks with Sadio and the other warlords of the MFDC.


Friday, 30 November 2012

The US’ role in the DR Congo conflict

Filed under: Africa files,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 03:01 PDT

Rebels from the M23 group in the eastern DR Congo (DRC) say they have begun withdrawing from territory they captured from government troops.

The group’s full name – the March 23 Movement – refers to the date peace accords were signed in 2009 between the country’s government and the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel group comprised mostly of ethnic Tutsis.

About 500,000 people have fled their homes during seven months of fighting between the M23 rebels and government troops.

The US has dispatched a state department official to the region but has been careful to spare its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, anything beyond symbolic sanction – even though a UN report, released last week, concluded that the rebels have been backed by both neighbouring countries.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Victoria film screening | Crime Scene Investigation Ethiopia: The Genesis | University of Victoria November 22, 7 pm. RSVP

Filed under: Africa files,Conferences, Events,gender,Human Rights,Media and Conflict — administrator @ 10:10 PDT
Thursday, 22 November 2012



Shot in Ethiopia by a Canadian lawyer, this film shares the message that when it comes to dealing with crime, establishing an effective justice system begins with the proper collection of evidence. Viewers get a fascinating glimpse into the struggles faced by victims of gender-based crimes and the Ethiopian Police and prosecutors investigating these cases. It documents the partnership between a Canadian and Ethiopian agency and their work with Ethiopian police and prosecutors to increase their capacity to respond through enhanced crime scene investigation skills.


Legal Counsel, Dispute Resolution Office, BC Ministry of Justice
Justice Education Society Board Member

8:15 Q&A PANEL
• Evelyn Neaman, International Program Manager, Justice Education Society
• Shannon Halyk, Prosecutor, Criminal Justice Branch, BC Ministry of Justice
• Stephen Herman, Filmmaker/Lawyer, Scarborough Herman Bluekens, New Westminster, BC

Murray and Anne Fraser Building, Room 159

PLEASE RSVP TO daniela.gardea [at]

Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Event eligible for “Continuing Professional Development Credits” with the Law Society of BC.


Poster (pdf)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Meet 4 African Women Who Are Changing The Face Of Coffee

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,gender,Rwanda — administrator @ 13:01 PDT

If you’re a coffee drinker, chances are the cup of java you drank this morning was made from beans that were produced or harvested by women. Women’s handprints can be found at every point in coffee production.

In fact, on family-owned coffee farms in Africa, about 70 percent of maintenance and harvesting work is done by women, according to an analysis by the International Trade Centre, but only rarely do women own the land or have financial control.

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to change that by giving them access to training and networking, and the opportunity to develop new trade relationships…

Fatima Aziz Faraji … manages a family coffee farm called Finca Estate in Tanzania. She’s pushed for a larger voice for women by filling the seats on coffee oversight boards traditionally reserved for men. For instance, she’s getting ready to begin a stint on the Tanzanian Coffee Board, and she’s a co-director of the Tanzania Coffee Research Institute.

So what is the IWCA’s alliance doing for women in her country? She explains the IWCA is bringing women together who previously had no access to each other, or the outside world.
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is trying to empower women in the coffee sector through training, networking and new trade development.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gambia: ‘More Than a Third of Global Female Workforce Is Engaged in Agriculture’

Filed under: Africa files,gender — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:45 PDT

The vice president and minister of Women’s Affairs says that more than a third of the global female workforce is engaged in agriculture. Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy made the statement Friday while delivering her annual message in commemoration of the International Rural Women’s Day Celebration.

Celebrated every year on October 15th, this year’s theme is ‘Women and farm land for food security’. The day was set aside specifically to honour rural women. The idea was put forward at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the day was selected, as it is the eve of the World Food Day, to highlight rural women’s role in food production and food security.

VP Njie-Saidy said: “Globally, more than a third of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture while in regions like sub-Saharan Africa including The Gambia, more than 70% women are employed in this sector, producing more than 90% of local stable food and over 99% of horticultural products.”

She recalled that in adopting its resolution on the observance of the day, the UN General Assembly in December 2007, cited two reasons; one recognising the fact that security, peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, require the active participation of women in all spheres of the economy; and two -to acknowledge the contribution of rural women to food security.

“For the women of the world, the day symbolises a wider meaning. It is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for quality peace and development…,” she said.


Monday, 15 October 2012

War is Peace: Summit exposes Canada’s hypocrisy towards the Congo

Filed under: Africa files,Business, Human Rights, Environment,Human Rights — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:45 PDT

MONTREAL—Comforted by the contradictions befitting classic Orwellian “doublespeak,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the Sommet de la Francophonie in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, over the weekend.

Prior to the weekend, Harper had already indicated to the Congolese, with a straight face no less, that they should engage in actions that favour democracy and respect for human rights. Such a posture of talking down to the Congolese allows Ottawa to cut short all legitimate questions concerning the historic responsibility of Canadian businesses and the Canadian government in the Great Lakes area conflict in Africa that claimed millions of Congolese lives between 1996 and 2003.


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Botswana court rules women can inherit

Filed under: Africa files,gender,Human Rights — administrator @ 15:45 PDT

GABORONE, Botswana — In a landmark ruling, Botswana’s High Court on Friday affirmed women’s inheritance rights for the first time, up-ending a male-dominated system that had prevailed in the thriving African nation.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Liberia laureate Gbowee chides Sirleaf on corruption

Filed under: Africa files,gender,Human Rights,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:13 PDT

Liberia’s president has not done enough to tackle corruption, says her fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee.

Ms Gbowee, a peace activist, shared last year’s prize with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen’s Tawakul Karman.

She asked why Mrs Sirleaf’s sons had been given lucrative jobs and said she was resigning from the reconciliation commission.

Mrs Sirleaf became Africa’s first female elected head of state in 2006.

She was re-elected last year – just days after being awarded the Nobel prize.

“I’ve been through a process of really thinking and reflecting and saying to myself ‘you’re as bad as being an accomplice for things that are happening in the country if you don’t speak up,’” Ms Gbowee told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

“And when tomorrow history is judging us all let it be known that we spoke up and we didn’t just sit down,” she said.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Journalists for Human Rights launches campaign to keep Sierra Leone’s elections free and fair

Filed under: Africa files,Human Rights,Media and Conflict — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:03 PDT

TORONTO – Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), Canada’s leading media development organization, is launching the Sierra Leone Election Drive to raise awareness of the upcoming presidential elections in Sierra Leone and to raise funds to continue JHR’s journalist training programs in the country.

On November 17th, 2012 Sierra Leone will hold the third democratic election since the end of its devastating civil war in 2002.

Given the vital role media plays in setting the tone of an election, JHR’s presence could mean the difference between a peaceful election or a return to violence.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Mining’s golden rule: transparency

The labour strife in South Africa’s mines and the adoption of new disclosure rules for U.S. mining companies by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have cast renewed light on a global industry that affects the Canadian economy.

Every year, Canadian mining operations generate billions of dollars of revenue overseas. In fact, Canadian companies are some of the most globally active. More than 1,000 Canadian exploration companies work in more than 100 countries, from Mongolia to Peru to Tanzania. Canada’s mining investments in Africa alone have grown from $2.8-billion in 2001 to $30-billion in 2012.

The taxes and royalties that Canadian companies pay to countries that play host to them have the potential to transform economies. As we’ve seen in resource-rich countries such as Botswana, Chile and Malaysia, natural resource revenues paid to governments can be invested in roads, health care and education as well as business development and social services, leading to massive reductions in poverty. What’s more, Canadian operations can spur local economic development by creating jobs and financing community projects.

Yet, too often, these revenues are either not collected or not transformed into tangible benefits, leaving countries with more violent conflict and weaker growth than expected. In many instances, environmental destruction and loss of livelihoods, coupled with inadequate compensation, have left regions worse off than before.

And communities’ expectations, sometimes driven by prospectors’ and developers’ false promises of prosperity, are often unmet.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Senegal, AU seal deal on ex-Chad dictator trial

Filed under: Africa files,Transitional Justice — administrator @ 04:34 PDT

Senegal is putting Habre, former dictator of Chad, on trial for human rights abuse through the order of the The International Court of Justice.

“The holding of these proceedings will show that Africa can try Africa”. Earnestly the justice will be sought as Habre is seen as a symbol of impunity. His previous lawyer argued and successfully influenced the Senegalese authorities not to extradite him. The cooperation of the African Union (AU) and Senegal ought to be celebrated.


Monday, 13 August 2012

What Burundi could teach Rwanda about reconciliation

Filed under: Rwanda,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:33 PDT

When people think of genocide in Africa, neighbouring Rwanda usually comes to mind after the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus in 100 days in 1994.

But over the years Burundi, which has a similar ethnic make-up and tensions, has also faced killings by both Tutsi and Hutus, driving a wedge into the fabric of the nation…

… Burundi is now coping with ethnicity far better than its better-known neighbour.


Friday, 10 August 2012

Congo Rebels Strengthen Hand as Summit Fails to End Conflict

Filed under: Africa files,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:32 PDT

The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda failed to resolve a border-region dispute at a meeting yesterday, strengthening the position held by rebels whose insurgency has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.

After Congo accused Rwanda of supporting an ethnic Tutsi- led rebellion in the east of the country, President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame held a three-day summit with five other African leaders in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, which borders both countries.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

U.N. demands end of foreign support for Congo rebels

Filed under: Africa files,International Law: War,Rwanda — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:19 PDT

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council on Thursday demanded an end to foreign support for the M23 rebels fighting against the Kinshasa government in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a rebuke diplomats said was aimed at Rwanda and Uganda.

The 15-nation council issued a statement voicing its “strong condemnation of any and all outside support to the M23 and demand that all support to the M23, including from outside countries, cease immediately.”

“They further call upon all countries in the region to cooperate actively with the Congolese authorities in dismantling and demobilizing the M23,” the statement said.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Sharp Decline in Terror Attacks After Bin Laden Death

Filed under: Africa files,International Law: War — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:08 PDT

The number of worldwide terror attacks fell to 10,283 last year, down from 11,641 in 2010 and the lowest since 2005, the State Department reported today.

What’s made the difference? The State Department cites the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members killed last year…

Nigeria was one of the few countries which actually saw an increase in terror attacks last year because of Boko Haram, and Kenya and Somalia continue to experience attacks by a weakened Al Shabab. Benjamin also noted that the Arab spring and other countries in transition could leave important allies like Egypt and Iraq vulnerable to terror groups.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Islamic clerics ask Boko Haram to end violence

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:04 PDT

Some eminent Islamic scholars at the weekend, called on the Boko Haram sect to permanently end its violence in the interest of peace and unity.


Nigeria: Christian Answer to Boko Haram

Filed under: Africa files,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:46 PDT

Last Sunday, the attention of the nation was drawn to the killings of innocent Nigerian Muslims, including unsuspecting travellers on the Kaduna-Abuja Highway, by Christians as a reprisal attack to Boko Haram bombings of churches in Kaduna and Zaria. A number of Mosques and shops were also burnt that Sunday in Christian-dominated neighbourhoods in the southern part of the city. In all the attacks, as at the last offical count, has killed 21 Christians, while the reprisals killed 29 Muslims and hundreds were injured. As a result, I will pause my series … to say a word about the matter…

The Christians have often emphasized that there is not enough voice of condemnation heard among Muslims. True. But that has to do more with the lack of protection from the government for those who would dare to do so…

The Christians, on their part, often forget that they have been most economical with their voice against acts of sectarian violence. It is very hard, very rare, and very unusual to hear a Christian voice – a leader or opinion shaper – condemning the atrocities committed by his fellow Christians against Muslims…

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