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Nov 25, 2009 - President Barack Obama, " Remarks at Presentation of Human Rights Award ", (Published Nov 24, 2009)

The full text of remarks by President Barack Obama at the presentation to Magodonga Mahlangu and Jenni Williams of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) of the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 23, 2009. Links to remarks by Mahlangu and Williams as well.
Oct 16, 2009 - Pambazuka News, "How we wish you were here: the legacy of Mwalimu Nyerere", Pambazuka News (Published Oct 15, 2009)
Ten years ago, on 14 October 1999, a giant died and left a cavern in our consciousness, if not in our conscience: Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, known to us all as ‘Mwalimu’. ... Mwalimu’s influence went well beyond the territory that he led to independence. ... it is really only now that many have begun to realise the extraordinary achievements of the Nyerere years. Whatever criticism many of us may have had – and continue to have – about some of his policies during his lifetime, there is no getting away from the transformations that he brought about.
Sep 28, 2009 - Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Gimenez & Annie Shattuck, "Ending Africa's Hunger", The Nation (Published Sep 21, 2009)
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of more than $30 billion, has embarked on a multibillion-dollar effort to transform African agriculture. It helped to set up the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in 2006, and since then has spent $1.3 billion on agricultural development grants, largely in Africa. With such resources, solving African hunger could be Gates's greatest legacy.

But there's a problem: the conventional wisdom is wrong.

Jul 03, 2009 -, "U.S. Wants to Spotlight 'Successful Models' - Obama", (Published Jul 02, 2009)
Barack Obama makes his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president of the United States next week, following a trip to Russia as well as to Italy, where he will participate in a meeting of industrialized nations known as the G8. AllAfrica's Charles Cobb, Jr., Reed Kramer and Tami Hultman went to the White House to explore President Obama's views on Africa in advance of his visit.

Also on the site: 15-minute YouTube video of the interview is available, in two sections, as well as an additional AllAfrica interview with Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson.

Jun 30, 2009 - Kevin Kelley, "Is Obama Following in the Disliked Footsteps of Bush in East Africa?", East African via (Published Jun 29, 2009)
The Obama administration is seeking substantial increases in military aid to East African countries, leading some analysts to argue that the new president's handling of perceived threats to US interests closely resembles that of his predecessor, George W Bush.

... it seems clear that the Obama administration intends to further develop the Africa Military Command (Africom) established during Bush's tenure. Johnnie Carson, the new assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told a Washington forum last week that "Africom isn't going away." Indeed, President Obama is asking Congress to approve more than $500 million for Africom's operations as well as for communications and airlift capabilities in the coming fiscal year.

Jun 29, 2009 - William Minter and Daniel Volman, "Somalia Crossroads: Piracy, insurgency tempt Washington to get it wrong—again.", In These Times (Published Jun 29, 2009)
For Somalis, the crisis continues. So does the danger that Washington may be tempted into military intervention that would be damaging for Somalis, for U.S. relations with Africa and for U.S. security. That risk exists, despite commendable caution thus far by Obama administration policymakers, who are aware of the potential for military actions to backfire.

Scenarios projected for the next few months range from complete collapse of the internationally backed government, on the one extreme, to significant weakening of the insurgent forces through defections, on the other. What is certain is that outside forces, including the United States, will need flexibility and patience as well as good intentions to avoid mistakes that could make the situation much worse. Unfortunately, there is no sure formula for getting it right.

Jun 24, 2009 - Michael Levin, "Bill to Protect Poor Countries from VULTURE Funds", Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Published Jun 18, 2009)
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) today introduced the Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries to Rich, Exploitive Funds or “Stop VULTURE Funds” Act (H.R. 2932), legislation designed to protect impoverished countries from lawsuits by so-called vulture funds.

Vulture funds are private investment funds that buy up the debts of poor countries at reduced prices, usually for pennies on the dollar. They then sue these countries to recover the original value of the debts plus interest. Several poor countries that have received debt cancellation from the United States, other participating donor countries, and multilateral financial institutions have subsequently been sued by vulture funds.

Several prominent Africa advocacy groups working on the Vulture Fund issue strongly called for support for the bill. These groups included Africa Action, TransAfrica Forum, and Jubilee USA Network

Jun 18, 2009 - Scott Gration (Special Envoy to Sudan), "Current Status of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and His Recent Travels", U.S State Department (Published Jun 17, 2007)
Obama administration special envoy for Sudan Scott Gration gives a briefing in advance of talks next week on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

"What we see is the remnants of genocide. What we see are the consequences of genocide, the results of genocide. We still have thousands of people living in camps as IDPs. We have women who are still afraid to go out and collect firewood.

The level of violence that we’re seeing right now is primarily between rebel groups, the Sudanese Government, and as you know from the news, we’ve had some violence between Chad and Sudan. The violence still exists where bandits and Janjaweed and warlords and those kinds of folks do conduct terrorist activities on these folks and do increase terror. But it doesn’t appear that it is a coordinated effort that was similar to what we had in 2003 to 2006."

Jun 10, 2009 - National Union of Somali Journalists (Mogadishu), "Journalists Stop Work to Mourn and Condemn 'Savage' Killing of Colleagues", (Published Jun 09, 2009)
Journalists downed their tools and shut down their broadcasting stations to mourn and to protest the latest killing of Radio Shebele director, Muktar Mohamed Hirabe. 15 senior radio journalists of editors, producers, reporters, and anchors held a press conference at Hotel Sahafi today and announced the work stoppage.

Muktar Hirabe who was in the company of his colleague Ahmed Omar Hashi, was on Sunday (7 June) shot five times by a gunman at Bakara market in Mogadishu. Ahmed Omar who described the attack and killing as “vindictive and barbaric” was also injured in the attack. Muktar is the fifth journalist to be killed in Somalia by gunmen this year alone.

Jun 08, 2009 - Violet Gonda, "Zimbabwe: Prime Minister Tsvangirai Expected to Meet Barack Obama", SW Radio Africa (Published Jun 05, 2009)
SW Radio Africa reports that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on his inaugural trip to the USA and Europe, is likely to meet President Barack Obama. Tsvangirai is expected to ask for lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe.
May 25, 2009 - African Union, "Communique on Somalia", African Union Peace & Security Council (Published May 23, 2009)
The communique "Strongly condemns the aggression perpetrated against the TFG of Somalia and the civilian population in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia by armed groups, including foreign elements, bent on undermining the peace and reconciliation process, as well as regional stability. Council expresses deep concern at the increased presence of foreign elements in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia, as corroborated by the United Nations Secretary-General in his report of 16 April 2009;"

It goes on to condemn Eritrea specifically, and to call on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions.

May 25, 2009 - Firoze Manji, "Tajudeen Abdul Raheem: a giant is lost on African Liberation Day", Pambazuka News (Published May 25, 2009)
25 May is Africa Liberation Day. What a day to learn the terrible news that one of the leading proponents of Africa's liberation – Tajudeen Abdul Raheem - should be so tragically lost in a senseless car accident in Nairobi. Messages have been pouring in from across the world as we all fail to hold back our tears at this loss.

There was hardly a pan African initiative that took place without Tajudeen's inimitable presence, support, humour and perceptive political perspectives.

May 22, 2009 - Jad Mouawad, "Oil Industry Braces for Trial on Rights Abuses ", New York Times (Published May 22, 2009)
Fourteen years after the execution of the Nigerian author and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by Nigeria’s former military regime, Royal Dutch Shell will appear before a federal court in New York to answer charges of crimes against humanity in connection with his death.

The trial, scheduled to begin on Wednesday, will examine allegations that Shell sought the aid of the former Nigerian regime in silencing Mr. Saro-Wiwa, a vociferous critic, in addition to paying soldiers who carried out human rights abuses in the oil-rich but impoverished Niger Delta where it operated.

May 22, 2009 - Sweet Crude, "Nigeria Military Attacks Civilians", Sweet Crude Website (Published May 21, 2009)
The production company of the documentary film Sweet Crude, about the Niger Delta of Nigeria, calls on the U.S. government and international community to act immediately to stop the current attacks by the Nigerian military on Niger Delta civilians, and to demand safe passage for humanitarian relief workers into the region.

the casualty figure has risen to 2,000, but we fear it is much worse. At least three villages, including Oporoza, have been burned to the ground by the JTF. Access is still cut off by the JTF, so thousands of refugees are trapped in the bush with no food, water or medical aid.

Links to Democracy Now video and other audio and print sources.

May 14, 2009 - Anthony Costello et al., "Managing the health effects of climate change", Lancet (Published May 13, 2009)
The warming of the planet now represents the greatest public health threat, surpassing infectious diseases, water shortages and poverty, according to a team of researchers at the University College London Institute of Global Health Commission.

Researchers focus on key areas that connect climate change to health outcomes: changing patterns of disease and mortality, food, water and sanitation, shelter, extreme events and population migration. Effects of climate change on health, they conclude, will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk.

May 12, 2009 - Daniel Wallis, "U.S. 'deeply concerned' by Kenyan coalition wrangles", Reuters (Published May 12, 2009)
Growing political tensions in Kenya must not be allowed to turn into a crisis that could lead to a return of last year's devastating post-election violence, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa said on Tuesday.

Johnnie Carson said it was significant that his first substantive visit after his confirmation as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs was to Nairobi. "The United States regards Kenya as the most important country in east Africa and the most important country in the greater Horn region," Carson said. "We look at it as the keystone state, economically, commercially and financially."

"We came here not to threaten but to warn a friend about a deep concern, and to express that concern in very clear and precise ways," the U.S. official said.

May 10, 2009 - African Development Bank, "African Economic Outlook", African Development Bank (Published May 10, 2009)
The prevailing global economic crisis has gravely affected African economics with GDP growth falling by more than half from a projected 5.7% to 2.8% in 2009, according to a report released today at the annual meeting of the African Development Bank.

The 2009 AEO has a special focus on innovations in information and communication technologies (ICTs). It concludes that despite low penetration rates for new technologies, innovative applications of ICT have been proliferating to areas such as e-banking, e-payments, e-agriculture, e-trade, e-government and e-education.

May 05, 2009 - Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Confronting Piracy off the Coast of Somalia", Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Published Apr 30, 2009)
Testimony by the U.S. captive held hostage, by the chairman of the shipping company Maersk, Inc., and the State Department. All caution that the response to piracy is complex and that there are no easy solutions. According to Reuters, a similar note was struck by representatives of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard at a Navy League conference on May 4 (see
May 04, 2009 - Navi Pillay, "Remarks at final session", Durban Review Conference (Published Apr 24, 2009)
Follow-up to AfricaFocus Bulletin of April 7, 2009

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reports on the outcome of the conference and denounces the campaign of disinformation that led a handful of Western countries, including the United States, to boycott the conference. These countries boycotted, she noted, "although a few days earlier, they had actually agreed on what is now the final text. I consider this bizarre."

Apr 29, 2009 - Emira Woods, "Obama's First 100 Days: Africa Report Car", Institute for Policy Studies (Published Apr 29, 2009)
Emira Woods of Foreign Policy in Focus provides an Africa scorecard as part of the Institute for Policy Studies report on "Obama's First 100 Days." She gives the administration a grade of 6 out of 10, but notes there is still no comprehensive policy articulated.
Apr 29, 2009 - Johnnie Carson, "Statement at Confirmation Hearings", Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Published Apr 29, 2009)
This brief statement by the nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs has no major surprises. It is interesting, however, that he made no mention of the U.S. military's new Africa Command (AFRICOM). His four priorities, he said, would be "strengthening democratic institutions," "preventing conflict," "fostering sustained economic growth," and "combating health pandemics, climate change, food insecurity, narcotics trafficking, and maritime insecurity".
Apr 29, 2009 - Kaiser Family Foundation, "U.S. Global Health Policy", Kaiser Family Foundation (Published Apr 29, 2009)
The Kaiser Family Foundation has announced a new website and regular e-mail updates on U.S. Global Health Policy. Like its invaluable daily report on HIV/AIDS, this new resource is sure to be a standard source of policy information, statistics, and news for advocates and policy-makers alike. Those interested can sign up for daily updates with full text or with summary links to articles on the web.

Available now on the site is a report released April 21 with an analysis of "The U.S. Government's Global Health Policy Architecture."

Apr 24, 2009 - Karen Rothmyer, "Misreading the Somali Threat", The Nation (Published Apr 22, 2009)
Writing from Nairobi, Karen Rothmyer worries that Somali piracy will become the excuse for escalated U.S. military action. She cites the facile remark by former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Charles Stith that that this "just might be the opportunity to jump-start conversations about how AFRICOM might be more effectively engaged."

No one in Kenya was calling for military action against Somalis, Rothmyer comments. And she continues: That was left to US hawks, who--conflating piracy, the militant Somali group Al Shabab and Al Qaeda--swiftly turned the attack into a new excuse for extending the "war on terror" to this corner of Africa. John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, called for an invasion as "the prudential response" to piracy, while the Heritage Foundation's James Carafano argued for "going into Somalia and rooting out the [pirate] bases." Former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan maintained in the Wall Street Journal that if Al Qaeda mounts another successful attack, "there is a strong chance it will be linked to Somalia."

Apr 24, 2009 - Ken Menkhaus, "Pirates, Hawks, and Doves", Enough Project Blog (Published Apr 21, 2009)
Ken Menkhaus notes the political pressures on President Obama to make a military response to Somali piracy. But, he adds, "The real battle over Somali piracy is not between Hawks and Doves, but between short-term political logic and long-term strategic interests."

Menkhaus says: "Pirates, Hawks, and Doves" sounds like a children’s game. But last week, in the midst of the piracy drama off the Somali coast, it was a game played by adults acting like children. Media pundits and partisan operatives were quick to seize on the unusual hostage crisis at sea involving the cargo ship Maersk Alabama to frame the incident as a “major foreign policy test” of the Obama administration. Partisan critics lambasted the administration for taking days to seek a negotiated solution, seeing in this approach a hesitation to use force when it seemed to be the obvious solution. The image of the powerful USS Bainbridge in a four day standoff with young Somali gunmen in a small lifeboat was a perfect metaphor for critics seeking to portray the administration as hopelessly inexperienced and dovish. When the pirates were eventually shot and killed and Captain Phillips rescued, Obama supporters were quick to claim it as a major victory. President Obama, they insisted, passed his first major foreign policy crisis with flying colors. All of this was complete nonsense.

About AfricaFocus FYI

April 29, 2009 - I often come across articles or other information sources worth recommending to readers "fyi," but am able to cite only a few of them in AfricaFocus Bulletin. I'm starting this page to put quick notes and links to some of the others here - sort of a "mini-blog." It won't be updated every day, and I'm experimenting with how practical it is to make this a part of an every-few-days routine. So if you find it useful, let me know at I'll use this feedback as well as the web statistics to decide how high a priority to make this.