Posts Tagged ‘Tschad’

Österreich: Let’s ban the bombs!

Donnerstag, Dezember 11th, 2014

“Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons

Austria pledges to work for a ban on nuclear weapons
Humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons must initiate treaty process in 2015

December 9, 2014

After 44 states called for a prohibition on nuclear weapons at a conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, Austria delivered the “Austrian pledge” in which it committed to work to “fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and pledged “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

“All states committed to nuclear disarmament must join the Austrian pledge to work towards a treaty to ban nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“Next year is the 70 year anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that will be a fitting time for negotiations to start on a treaty banning nuclear weapons”, Fihn added.

States that expressed support for a ban treaty at the Vienna Conference include: Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea Bissau, Holy See, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These announcements were given at a two-day international conference convened in Vienna to examine the consequences of nuclear weapon use, whether intentional or accidental.

Survivors of the nuclear bombings in Japan and of nuclear testing in Australia, Kazakhstan, the Marshall Islands, and the United States, gave powerful testimonies of the horrific effects of nuclear weapons. Their evidence complemented other presentations presenting data and research.

“The consequences of any nuclear weapon use would be devastating, long-lasting, and unacceptable. Governments simply cannot listen to this evidence and hear these human stories without acting”, said Akira Kawasaki, from Japanese NGO Peaceboat. “The only solution is to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and we need to start now,” Kawasaki added.

For decades, discussions on nuclear weapons have been dominated by the few nuclear-armed states – states that continue to stockpile and maintain over 16,000 warheads. The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons has prompted a fundamental change in this conversation, with non-nuclear armed states leading the way in a discussion on the actual effects of the weapons.

Unlike the other weapons of mass destruction – chemical and biological – nuclear weapons are not yet prohibited by an international legal treaty. Discussions in Vienna illustrated that the international community is determined to address this. In a statement to the conference, Pope Francis called for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”.

The host of the previous conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Mexico, called for the commencement of a diplomatic process, and South Africa said it was considering its role in future meetings.

“Anyone in Vienna can tell that something new is happening on nuclear weapons. We have had three conferences examining their humanitarian impact, and now with the Austrian pledge we have everything we need for a diplomatic process to start”, said Thomas Nash of UK NGO Article 36.”

 

(Quelle: ICAN.)

Global: Die wunderbare Welt des CO2 (Teil 1)

Dienstag, Dezember 4th, 2012

Klima_1.1

(Tabelle aus: United Nations Environment Programme: The Emissions Gap Report 2012, S. 16, 17
Download des o. g. Reports hier.)

 

(Quelle: United Nations Environment Programme: The Emissions Gap Report 2012)

Europa: Medien schüren Xenophobie

Donnerstag, Mai 19th, 2011

“Media Complicit in Rise of Xenophobia

By Zoltán Dujisin

As European leaders increasingly question the concept of Europe without borders and follow each other in announcing the end of multiculturalism, the media response has been mostly to present migrants as destabilising Europe’s labour markets and welfare states.

The role of the media in the worsening image of migrants in Europe was debated in Budapest at a conference titled “Promoting Migrant Integration through Media and Intercultural Dialogue”.

The conference, organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union, ran from May 16-18, and was aimed at helping media representatives provide fair and balanced coverage of migration issues.

With far-right, anti-immigration parties gaining strength throghout Europe, journalists have been signalled as frequent accomplices to rising xenophobia:

“European public opinion is being pressed with the threat of a migration wave. Both politicians and journalists should recognise their mistakes,” Czech sociologist Ivan Gabal told participants.

Mircea Toma, president of Active Watch, a Romanian media monitory agency, mirrored a similar view: “Journalists often don’t look at events with an eagle eye, but rather with the same perspective as anyone in the population,” he said.

The increasing commercialisation of the mainstream media and the profit imperatives it imposes seem to be at the core of the lowering of quality in media coverage of migration related issues.

“We certainly need some transparency rules to see where the funding is coming from and what are the political groups involved,” Aidan White, former general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists told participants.

“There is a crisis within the media, a financial crisis that is reducing the quality of training, of journalism, and ultimately journalists’ capacity to tell complex stories.”

There is a harsh, competitive environment that is leading editors and journalists to violate codes of ethics. “If anti-immigration writing allows the media to stay in business, the media will go for it,” Milica Pesic, executive director of the U.K.-based Media Diversity Institute warned.

Still, blame should not be placed exclusively on the media, White said. “This is not just a problem of the media. Issues related to economic migration are complex, but lack of courage is leading to an unscrupulous form of politics. We are facing a general problem of societal anxiety about our healthcare, our education and our labour market.”

An anxiety which, participants agreed, has peaked with the Middle East revolts in general, and the Libyan crisis in particular.

Since the beginning of what some have termed the ‘Arab Spring’, “no more than 30,000 people have arrived in Europe, but the reaction has been surprising,” Kinga Goncz, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee told the conference.

This is not a large number but from reading the media you would think it’s a huge number. There’s a paranoid fear that these people will overburden Europe, while actually some of the economies that are better recovering from the crisis, like Germany’s, require even more migrants,” she said.

The latest crisis has also underlined the ethnocentrism of European media. “Eight hundred thousand people, overwhelmingly migrant workers, have fled from Libya and gone mostly to Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, Chad and Algeria. This indeed represents a migration crisis, but it is not affecting Europe yet,” Jean- Philippe Chauzy, head of the IOM’s Media and Communication Unit told IPS.

The message was, however, not that media should portray migrants positively; instead speakers stressed the need to ensure balanced and accurate reporting.

“Journalists have prejudices of their own,” Pesic said. “It’s very important to know the facts, figures and sources, but even when they have them, some papers will go out of their way to mislead.”

Concerns over lack of journalistic ethic were shared by more than one state official: “Journalists often have an agenda, in the ministries we often provide them with correct, written information and they still write it wrong or put things out of context,” Paulina Babis from the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy told IPS.

Yet some questioned why journalists would even begin by approaching officials and not give voice to those who remain mostly voiceless: “Migrants and their organisations should speak for migrants, not government officials,” White said.

“Journalists will go to the easiest available source, they don’t have time for much else. What we need is an alternative sources handbook that should be made available to them,” he suggested.

Journalists, civic actors and international and state officials agreed the solution lies in increased cooperation between the media and other societal actors.

Migration is a complex and changing issue and journalists have less and less time to develop expertise. They don’t have the resources to cover an issue which requires a comprehensive understanding of the context,” Chauzy said, speaking to IPS.

“The present context is one of economic downturn and growing unemployment, which is leading to polarisation. That’s why the media should get all the information it needs: biased coverage is less acceptable in an era when access to information is a lot easier than at any other time in history,” he said. (END)”

 

(Quelle: IPS News.)

Afghanistan/Irak: Korruptionstreibstoff Krieg

Dienstag, Mai 10th, 2011

“World Corruption Special Report

By David Smith

World Corruption Special Report

“We Will Pursue Fighting Corruption”
Credit:Thruthout

Iraq and Afghanistan sit near the top of a list of the world’s most corrupt nations despite years of occupation by Anglo-American forces and more than $1 trillion of US taxpayers’ money having been spent on the two nations since 2001.

Not withstanding the killing of Osama, we are entitled to ask the question: was this money well spent?

The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) from the Berlin-based watchdog rated Somalia, with a score of 1.1 out of 10, as the world’s most corrupt nation, closely followed by Afghanistan and Myanmar with scores of 1.4, and Iraq on 1.5. The least corrupt were New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark, on 9.3 (See table attached). 

“Unstable governments with a history of conflict dominate the bottom rungs of the list,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.   

Dr Jon Moran, a reader in security in Leicester University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, said we should not be surprised that war-torn states dominate the list. The recent histories of both Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate the link between war and corruption. 

“In Iraq, sanctions after the first Gulf War, combined with the existing corruption of Saddam Hussein’s regime created a siege economy in which corruption became endemic,” Moran said.

“Smuggling and black markets became important for everyone from the ordinary citizen to the elites. This is a legacy that is still evident today in the way the Iraqi Government is run.”

The corrupt Government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is prepared to use violence in defence of its interests. One story is enough to illustrate this fact: Iraq judge Radhi al-Radhi, who was investigating corruption as head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, was forced to flee to the US in 2007 after 31 of his investigators were assassinated by al-Maliki’s men. The assassins also tortured 12 members of the investigators’ families by drilling holes into their bodies, before killing them, too.

In becoming more corrupt from top to bottom, Iraq has followed a familiar historical pattern. “There is plenty of evidence to show how war-torn or blockaded states often see increases in corruption as smuggling networks, black markets and extortion become a way of gaining and distributing resources. It was evident in Yugoslavia in the 1990s,” Moran said.

The Second Gulf War, and subsequent occupation of Iraq, made an already bad situation even worse. “To the existing corruption was added the effects of the chaotic and politicized US occupation,” Moran said. “Although US society has a highly developed system of legal and agency regulation of political and economic corruption – stronger than the UK, for example – in the highly charged ideological occupation of Iraq, this was ignored.

“A number of the basic rules of good governance, which the West often urges developing countries to adopt, such as controls on the disbursement of funds and strong auditing regimes, were missing. The journalist Patrick Cockburn has argued Iraq is the site of some of history’s biggest frauds.”

A third reason for corruption in Iraq is the poor security situation, said Moran. “The lack of basic security after 2003 fuelled violent crime. Basic services disappeared and everyone was forced to use contacts, and black markets and other desperate measures to simply get by.”

The origins of corruption in Afghanistan, Moran said, also have their antecedents in former war and occupation.

“Afghanistan already had a serious problem with corruption under the Soviet-backed governments of the 1970s and then after the Soviet invasion in the 1980s the country became a site of opium, arms smuggling and black markets,” he said.

The Taliban eradicated opium crops in 2000-2001, but their attitude to drugs has been inconsistent. “They were also not averse to trading it themselves and now they are using it to fund their insurgency,” said Moran. “Afghanistan has always been a major supplier of opium, but the war has created a surge in opium growth. Lack of security, corrupt local security, and the encouragement by the Taliban of opium-growing have all contributed.”

Ned Conway, a researcher at the Institute for Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus Studies (MECACS) at the University of St Andrews, said the Taliban made money from opium by offering protection to narcotics networks. “The Taliban does not produce opium, but it collects taxes from everyone involved, including farmers, processors, all the way up to the drug barons and kingpins in Pakistan,” he said.

The Anglo-American security forces are too overloaded to fight corruption and prevent opium production.

“The ISAF are relatively thin on the ground and they are expected to do everything from fighting the Taliban, to promoting democracy, to training the police and army and providing local services and eradicating opium,” Moran said.

In his analysis of the corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ned Conway, at the University of St Andrews, focuses on the direct role of Anglo-American money.

“There are two reasons why pouring billions of dollars into Iraq and Afghanistan has made them more corrupt,” he said. “Firstly, if the host government doesn’t have the institutions to make sure the money is accounted for, then people take advantage of the situation. We have members of government who receive bribes in return for contracts and contracting companies which never follow through on projects they were paid to complete.

“The second reason is these countries are incredibly dangerous. If inspectors do not have freedom of movement, so that they aren’t able to check up on a project’s progress in a high conflict area, implementing appropriate anti-corruption safeguards is very difficult.”  

It has become impossible to police the situation so that corruption has become a way of life. “The problem is mainly with the sub-contracting or sub-sub-contracting,” said Conway. “You may think you’re giving your money to company X to complete a project, but often there is a chain of sub-contracts before a shovel hits the earth, and all along the way, each sub-contractor takes a cut.”

Conway, however, has some sympathy with the innocent people caught up in the culture of corruption. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is to some degree expected. Take the Afghan Border Police officer who makes $130 a month. That is not enough to live on, so the individual is forced to find more ‘creative’ ways to support his family. Is it wrong? If you asked him, he would probably say that President Hamid Karzai is taking a much bigger piece of the pie, so why can’t he? On top of that, he probably won’t be caught. In fact, his boss might even encourage the behaviour.” 

Conway believes the Anglo-American occupation will leave different legacies in Iraq to Afghanistan.

“Iraq is in a much better situation than Afghanistan. Large groups of people have a voice now that was stunted under Saddam Hussein, and that voice for the most part manifests itself in the political arena, not in armed conflict. Iraq has its share of problems, and could fall back into true chaos, but more or less the country is much better off,” he said. 

“Afghanistan is more difficult. Its system of governance is doomed to fail. There is too much power in central government, not enough power in the provinces. There are also no industries that might ‘save’ the country, whereas in Iraq oil will guarantee money coming into the budget. Afghanistan wants to be a transit state for pipelines and for trade, but that is impossible as long as there is violence.”

THE MOST CORRUPT NATIONS:

  1. Somalia – 1.1 
  2. Myanmar – 1.4  
  3. Afghanistan – 1.4  
  4. Iraq – 1.5
  5. Uzbekistan – 1.6
  6. Turkmenistan — 1.6
  7. Sudan – 1.6
  8. Chad – 1.7
  9. Burundi – 1.8
  10. Equatorial Guinea – 1.9
  11. Angola –1.9
  12. Venezuela — 2.0
  13. Kyrgystan — 2.0
  14. Guinea — 2.0
  15. Democratic Republic of Congo — 2.0

 

Find more world corruption index figures and data on our new Corruption Perception Index database.

 

Jan Toporowski, chair of the department of economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, analysed some common characteristics of corrupt countries;

Weak banking systems:                                

“It is difficult to generalise as the countries have different patterns of corruption. But countries at the bottom tend to have weak banking systems involving a lot of informal payments. A combination of weak laws, suspect payments and weak asset markets makes it difficult to do business. In countries like Uzbekistan, and many African countries, the rich elites want to increase their wealth, but the traditional sources of wealth – such as land – are not appreciating much. So these elites – in these resource-rich lands – turn to ‘informal’ ways of holding onto wealth,” he said.

Traditional societies:

“Iraq and Afghanistan may be democracies, but democracy is not the only factor. To avoid corruption, it’s important to have a modern ‘impersonal attitude’ to finance. This is what characterises modernity in terms of finance. It means people don’t get too attached to share certificates, or land. They sell on for a better price, or buy and sell against their assets. In the traditional societies of the Middle East, many people still store their wealth in gold and not many people borrow against their wife’s jewels.”

Developing countries:

“Most developed countries have been through a period of high corruption, before legal frameworks of accountability are put in place. Developing countries have huge inequalities of income, which leads to more corruption because people are envious of other people’s money. With more equal distribution of income, the incentive to make that extra bit of money through corruption is not there.”

Professor Toporowski says the long-term solution is modernisation of financial sectors. The emergence of a commercial middle-class, which uses modern bank accounts and modern systems of payment, would stop ‘informal’ approaches to business. 

“Education changes attitudes. They become educated by studying abroad to the US, or Britain, and taking back ideas which help their countries to modernize. We call them ‘modernising elites’. The education systems in the developing nations are important, too, in bringing about change. In this respect, Somalia is at a disadvantage as literacy is a recent thing there, whereas Myanmar is a relatively urbanised and relatively educated society, so we might expect change to occur more quickly there.”

And check out the Corruption Perception Index, new on the EconomyWatch.com Economic Statistics Database. 

 

(Quelle: EconomyWatch.com)

Afghanistan: Nirgends geht es Müttern schlechter

Montag, Mai 9th, 2011

“Norway Best Place to be a Mother, Afghanistan Worst

As Mother’s Day is observed today in North America, a new report by Save the Children finds that Norway is the best place to be a mother and Afghanistan the worst.

The United States, meanwhile, comes in at #31 among the 43 developed countries ranked.

The findings are contained in Save the Children’s 12th annual Mothers’ Index, which analyzes health, education and economic conditions for women and children in 164 countries.

Other countries that ended at the top of the list are: Australia, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark. Competing with Afghanistan for worst rankings are: Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Chad, D.R Congo and Eritrea.

Explaining the last place ranking of Afghanistan, the report said: “It has the highest lifetime risk of maternal mortality and the lowest female life expectancy in the world. It also places second to last on skilled attendance at birth, under-5 mortality and gender disparity in primary education. Performance on most other indicators also places Afghanistan among the lowest-ranking countries in the world.”

With one of the most advanced health systems in the world, and a wealthy economy, the relatively low rank place of the United States may come as a surprise to some people. Save the Children explained that one of the key indicators used to calculate well-being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal mortality.

Says the report: “The United States rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 – the highest of any industrialized nation.  In fact only three Tier I developed countries – Albania, the Russian Federation and Moldova – performed worst than the United States on this indicator.

A woman in the U.S. is more than seven times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes, and her risk of maternal death is 15-fold that of a woman in Greece.”

So what is the world to do to boost countries such as Afghanistan out of its lowest-ranking status? Save the Children suggests that governments and international agencies boost funding to improve education levels for women and girls, increase access to maternal and child health care and advance women’s economic opportunities. Current research and new studies on mothers’ and children’s well-being is also crucial. Finally, the US and other industrialized countries, governments and communities “need to work together to improve education and health care for disadvantaged mothers.” ‘

 

(Quelle: HUMNEWS.)

Burkina Faso: Warum die westlichen Medien fehlten

Freitag, Mai 6th, 2011

Uprising in Burkina Faso: Why no cameras?

By Tendai Marima

Commenting on the Western media’s preference towards coverage of particular uprisings across North Africa, Tendai Marima asks ‘what makes Burkina Faso's crisis so un-newsworthy that it is easily swept under the news pile?'

When most major international news networks finally caught up with the final climactic moments of the Tunisian revolution, it seemed as though, between racing to get last-minute flights to Tunis and playing catch-up with other news agencies that had been reporting on Tunisia since December, the world's major media players made a collective 'never again' resolution to never or try not to ignore any developing story again. Having gotten over the failure to cover the fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali from day one, Algeria, Libya and Egypt all jostling to take centre stage in popular uprisings were brilliant opportunities for a media that had missed out to cover up. In the end, Egypt proved ripe for revolution and so for 18 days, in spite or in remembrance of 800 civilian casualties, the Egyptian people successfully toppled the Mubarak regime.

As hundreds of thousands gathered in communal points all over Egypt chanting down Mubarak, to a far lesser extent similar popular protests went down in Cameroon, Angola, Gabon and Burkina Faso. All of these received marginal coverage. Even Côte d'Ivoire was at one point was rightly dubbed 'the forgotten war'. It did not fit the media template of a sexy, tech-savvy, populist revolution, as that which had been constructed of Egypt. Instead Côte d'Ivoire had the uncomfortable but familiar look and feel of a Rwanda genocide-lite. It was a messy, bloody struggle for power between rebel and patriot factions in a country most educated people outside of Africa would struggle to find on a map. Côte d'Ivoire, the world's largest cocoa producer and native home of soccer stars Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Yaya Touré has the misfortune of being a country with little global influence and of lesser strategic importance than Egypt or Libya to the (mostly anglophone) countries that have historically determined which international news stories are to be prioritised.

And now that the French troops have assisted Alassane Ouattara in deposing the resistant Laurent Gbagbo from the presidency, most of the TV crews and cameras have gone. Field correspondents and NGOs continue to file dispatches of fighting in the streets of Abidjan and ongoing atrocities committed in the forests in the western side of the country, but the world's eyes have moved on. Not to Burkina Faso next door, but elsewhere, where more thrilling stories of revolution beckon.

But what makes Burkina Faso's crisis so un-newsworthy that it is easily swept under the news pile?

The beginnings of the crisis in the little West African nation parallel events in tiny Tunisia where it took an individual catalyst in a small town to set things off. On 20 February, in an industrial town called Koudougo, bigger than Sidi Bouzid, a student named Justin Zongo was taken into police custody after an alleged dispute with a female classmate. A few days later, Zongo was pronounced dead and according to official police reports, the cause of death was meningitis. His family and friends rejected this and claimed Zongo's death was due to police brutality. This led to a series of protests by students in four towns, Koudougo, Koupéla, Pouytenga and Po, and they were met with violence by the police. In an effort to contain the demonstrations, the government temporarily closed all schools and the national university. Although Compaoré pleaded for peace and national dialogue, a death toll of six protesters sent a different message to the student movement. The Africa Report states that the Association Nationale des Etudiants Burkinabé (ANEB)'s student representative, Mahamadou Fayama, the movement wanted to ‘denounce the climate of terror that the police have created’.

The student chants of 'Blaise dégage' and 'Tunisia is in Koudougo', urging Compaoré to step down from 23-year rule, spread to junior army officers in the military barracks of Lamizana. On 22 March the courts ruled against five soldiers for assaulting a young designer whom they claimed had made sexual advances towards another soldier's wife. Their disgruntled military colleagues took the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou, and went on a rampage. Although the government tried to assuage the gun-toting military men by pardoning and releasing their counterparts, by the end of March the spirit of mutiny had gone viral. Scores of junior soldiers demanded their salaries, which as yet had been unpaid by the government. The mayor's home was vandalised; in some parts of the capital, market stalls and shops were looted and in the east of the country more soldiers joined the uprising as well as members of the Presidential Guard. Speaking to L'Evénement, a bi-weekly local paper, one soldier expressed a dejectedness at the heart of the mutiny which was likely felt by many soldiers:

‘I just returned from Darfur. Our contingent has been deployed since no other country wanted to go, that is to say, 7 km from the Chadian border. This is the corridor for many rebels in both countries. We are the Burkinabe who have managed to secure the area. We have built in less than six months roads, bridges and schools. Everyone congratulated us for that. When we go, people applaud us. The UN congratulated us. That we came home and we do not care about us. First, they are our superiors that cut money from our mission. Following is a mayor [of Ouagadugou] who tells traders deal with us as “military thieves.” You see that, it hurts.’

So far none of Compaoré's pleas to restore order have worked and the mutiny's snowball effect continues to grow. There are reports that, despite the soldiers' lawlessness in some cities, the youths and some traders have united with revolting army officers. In Koudougo on 18 April, the youths are said to have set fire to the ruling party's local offices, while by contrast in the capital, market traders burnt several government buildings in retaliation for acts of vandalism by state troops. On 23 April it was reported that the soldiers upped their game and seized the southern town of Po, which is home to a state military school where Compaoré himself trained.

In a more hardened response, Compaoré has reacted to the military-led dissent by imposing a nationwide night-time curfew and firing the whole government, including the army chief. Last week he appointed Burkina's ambassador to France, Luc Adolphe Tiao, as prime minister, while he doubled as president and minister of defence. True to dictator form, Compaoré, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, has blamed foreign conspiratorial forces for the unrest and he has gotten rid of everyone else, except the problem, himself and his corrupt system. Appointing himself minister of defence when he is already supreme chief commander of the armed forces adds another fancy title to his name and gives the impression he's a superhuman who can juggle three cabinet roles. But superhuman ability or not, a display of megalomaniac tendencies will not heal the rift between the army and the government, or quieten feelings of resentment among oppositional regiments. If Compaoré's cosmetic changes and payouts to the soldiers prove unsatisfactory, now that the opposition and civil society have called for nationwide demonstrations on 30 April they would do well to join forces with the mutineers and instil some sense of order and discipline so that the ousting of Compaoré and not looting from civilians becomes every protester’s goal. Such a union would ensure the movement reaches the critical mass needed to topple the regime. But should Compaoré restore complete order, the eight weeks (and counting) of nationwide unrest will make it much harder for him to prevent his departure in the future should things escalate again. The continual playing out of mutiny and retaliation on state property signifies a loss of fear of repercussions for damaging state property and it also symbolises a loss of control and authority by the former army captain who has previously used the army to crush unrest like the food riots of 2008.

This dramatic story of Africa's top cotton producer is deserving of more attention, especially in the context of unrest on the African continent as a whole. All of the protests, from Cape to Cairo, with their own distinct set of local conditions, are linked to food security, economic instability and political dispossession – be it by ballot or dictatorship. There is a widespread feeling of continental discontent, but international and national pundits are so busy putting out possible fires of revolt in 'sub-Saharan Africa' with their analyses that the Burkina uprising has gone by largely unnoticed, and yet in two months mutineering soldiers and youth have stirred up serious trouble for the Compaoré regime – and possibly regionally too. Should Compaoré fall, it will have a significant impact on the fledgling administration of his neighbouring ally, Alassane Ouattara in Côte d'Ivoire, which Compaoré played a key diplomatic role in ensuring.

In different ways, masses of people are mounting serious challenges to totalitarian hegemonies and the iniquity of global capital that may lead to a new political dispensation, in successful revolutions, and at the very least for all countries, uprisings, including unsuccessful ones, reshape the role of the citizen in a political landscape as an empowered figure. At the level of the collective citizen, mass protests enable people to realise that together they, not their brutal governments, have the potential to become agents and actors of the political and social change they desire. The wider the gap grows between the globe's rich and poor due to increasing food prices or governments selling off land and water resources to Western corporates further impoverishing native people, the more likely popular unrest by an emboldened people will continue.

Some would be inclined to argue that Burkina Faso has been forgotten because the international media is biased towards representation of Africa south of the Sahara, and the ignoring or misrepresentation of the Rwanda genocide is the most cited example. But perhaps it is more complex than a simple Africa south of the Sahara bias; it's a bias against or in favour of certain African countries that has been constructed through namely, a country's geo-political and economic importance to the West and also through a history of colonial relations in which reader and viewer familiarity and association with former colonies is generated.

Even for alternative Western and non-Western newcomers to the game, there is pressure to compete with or take the lead over more established anglophone networks for essential and accurate coverage of one event over another. For example, because of its relation to America and France, the attempted return of a former leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, exiled in South Africa, to return to the Caribbean island of Haiti was more widely covered than the same attempt, a month before by another former leader, Marc Ravalomanana, exiled in South Africa to return to the tropical island of Madagascar, off the south-eastern coast of Africa.

Again, compare the near-instant coverage of the 12 April uprising in Swaziland with the delayed coverage of Burkina. With the headquarters of most major South African media in Johannesburg and the regional base of international media agencies like the BBC and CNN, coverage of Swaziland was guaranteed. Manzini, where the 12 April protests took place, is only four hours by road from Johannesburg. Swaziland is a former British colony and so there is a familiar narrative in the anglophone media of the British-educated King Mswati III, whose love of luxury cars, palaces and women is well-known. With a harem of 13 (soon to be 14) wives 'Africa's last absolute monarch', as he's often described, presides over a tiny landlocked kingdom where political opposition is harshly repressed and the traditional divine right of kings is revered. Perhaps if French-speaking Burkina Faso had bare-breasted, grass-skirted women walking around in traditional dress like in Swaziland, the cameras may have raced over from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. But seriously, if Ban Ki-moon, Jean Ping and Nicolas Sarkozy were genuinely interested in advancing humanitarian efforts towards peace and democracy in all of West Africa, they could have issued symbolically meaningful statements of condemnation to bring more attention to the protests in Burkina Faso while the struggle for Côte d'Ivoire raged on.

Similar to Swaziland, the slightest hint of a fallout between the opposition and Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe is guaranteed widespread coverage and analysis, whereas the political musical chairs currently being played in Burkina by Compaoré in order to quell mutiny is of little interest to many major international media organisations, including South Africa. To their credit, AP, the BBC, Bloomberg, France 24 and Reuters have consistently filed reports on Compaoré's crisis, but most of these are factual reports littered with the odd in-depth analysis or commentary from key figures or detailed first-hand accounts from ordinary citizens caught up in this political crisis. There are few photographs and little footage coming out of Burkina Faso, so it's difficult for one to get a visual sense of what is happening on the ground.

NOT JUST BURKINA

The Guardian's 2010 list of most tagged countries confirms to some extent that history of familiarity with a place guarantees coverage. Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe got tagged more times than the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sudan. Possibly because of its hosting of the World Cup, South Africa had 547 tags, outranking earthquake-stricken Haiti, which had 436 tags. Egypt had 219, while Zimbabwe had 144 tags, and yet the DRC had a paltry 124 tags, Sudan had 122 and Somalia even less at 113. All three are among the most unstable African countries of 2010 and yet they ranked lower than the World Cup host South Africa. The war-stricken Congo is one of the world's suppliers of raw materials for mobile and computer technology and ironically constitutes just over a fifth of the 604 articles on Apple. This is not a criticism of the Guardian as the paper does provide some of the best and insightful international news coverage, but these tags are unfortunately a skewed quantitative reflection of coverage patterns and the consumerist nature of public interest.

Saying this with all flippancy intended, the formula is simple. Reports of anti-British and homophobic comments by the African dictator everyone loves to hate, and shark attacks in Sharm el-Sheik make catchy headlines. Never-ending sagas of jungle wars and mass rapes, unless involving powerful countries, do not. Or unless they're packaged as humanitarian causes fronted by celebrities and award-winning journalists like George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof. Their combined interest in the Save Darfur campaign, malaria awareness and referendum for north–south separation ensured Sudan received frequent coverage in the New York Times. Unfortunately, no similar twin-set of movie star and scribe of Clooney's and Kristof's stature have permanently adopted the DR Congo or Somalia as their primary cause. Although one of the aims of international news is to appeal to as broad a global audience as possible, how broad is our interest and genuine our humanity as people if we suffer war and compassion fatigue towards stories on the DRC, Somalia and Sudan?

But now with all these revolutions and uprisings going on, places like the DR Congo are a distant tragedy. Despite the exceedingly valuable coverage of the uprisings by some news networks, there is an underlying sense of competition within the media to see who can land the best, exclusive interview or provide the most comprehensive coverage. In the face of such fierce competition, taking a few moments in between protest broadcasts to ask the world to remember the 5.4 million (and rising) Congolese dead since 1998 or to take a serious look at Compaoré's megalomanic scheming in Burkina Faso wouldn't be a suicidal gamble with the ratings. Events in Africa and the Middle East shouldn't be placed in competition with each other; what's happening in Nigeria, Syria or Libya can share the spotlight with many other untold or under-reported stories. It’s a question of willingness to pluralise news stories and cover unfamiliar terrain.

Joy Dibenedetto, a broadcast executive and founder of alternative news site, Hum News, reports that in 2009 research conducted by Hum News found that there are 237 countries or territories in the world, and the world's largest news organisations report from only 121 countries or territories. Out of 237 global locations, 116 are not covered. If true, that's just under 50 per cent of the world's stories potentially out of mainstream media focus – almost 50 per cent. Allow that to sink in.

While there are very good reasons to be excited about how social media is changing the face of the news, what about those who can't tweet about a parallel rise in grain prices and local discontent in rural Kenya or text FrontlineSMS to say a 14 year old girl has been raped by a soldier in Poa, Burkina Faso, because such a platform for crisis mapping does not exist? And even if it did, would anybody take notice? As digital technology increasingly shapes the future of news, the non-mainstream stories from lesser-known countries off the social media network radar risk becoming further marginalised.

As necessary as it is to cover unfolding crises in this moment of popular uprisings, perhaps there is also a competition for dominance in coverage of the big revolution stories to present a more racy, more in-depth and more radical story than other media competitors. Perhaps also at this time, covering small protests elsewhere would disrupt and divert resources from the ‘Arab World’s 1848 moment’ narrative being manufactured in the studios and newsrooms of television stations and newspapers as more and more people in the Middle East and North Africa courageously rise up against brutal dictatorships.

Apart from the many valid and not so valid political and commercial reasons for preferential coverage of some stories over others, its true that 'Africa needs an Al Jazeera of it is own' to tell the continent's forgotten stories. But in addition to that dream is a more crucial demand that can be sooner met, namely that existing international media genuinely commit itself to new ways of telling everyone's stories, all the time, rather than competing to duplicate or better the popular stories.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Tendai Marima is a blogger and doctoral scholar at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include African literature, feminist theory and contemporary black presence in Europe.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.”

 

(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)