Connect to share and comment

A daily chronicle of a rapidly changing continent.

President Joyce Banda shakes up Malawi

New leader plans to make Malawi one of 2 African countries where homosexuality is not a crime.
Joyce banda malawi gay 2012 5 21Enlarge
Malawi's new President Joyce Banda gives a press conference on April 10, 2012 in Lilongwe. Banda said she was pinning her hopes on donors to re-open aid taps after she started talking to them on possible resumption of aid frozen over governance and macroeconomic concerns. Banda was sworn in on April 7, 2012 just hours after officials confirmed the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika whose rule had sparked alarms over democratic freedoms and economic mismanagement. (Amos Gumulira /AFP/Getty Images)

Malawi’s new president Joyce Banda is really shaking things up.

She announced that she will work to overturn Malawi’s law which bans homosexual acts, reported the BBC.

Banda said she wants to repeal "bad laws" when speaking at her first “State of the Nation” address to parliament on Friday, May 18. She has the support of a majority of parliament, so she may well succeed in undoing the legislation that outlaws homosexuality.

Banda, 62, is shaping up to be one of Africa’s most interesting leaders. She became president on April 7 after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
Banda was Mutharika’s running mate in the 2009 elections, but then fell out with him. Nevertheless when he died of a heart attack she was sworn in as Malawi’s new head of state. Banda is Africa’s second female president, after Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who recently won reelection to a second term.

More from GlobalPost: Who killed Malawi's president? Economic hubris.

Banda quickly announced that she would be doing things differently from Mutharika, who had alienated donor nations, especially Britain. Banda reversed several of his policies. She devalued the currency, the kwacha, by 30 percent in a bid to get donor funding restored, reported AP. Many donors cut aid under Mutharika, accusing him of economic mismanagement and political repression.

More

Zimbabwe: Mugabe says he is tired

But 88-year-old dictator says he must stay in power to prevent his Zanu-PF party from falling apart.
Zimbabwe human rights pillay 2012 5 20Enlarge
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, left, is welcomed by Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa upon arrival in Harare on May 20, 2012 for a five day visit to asses the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reportedly said that he "is tired and wants to retire" but he is staying in power to prevent his ruling party, Zanu-PF, from falling apart. 

That's according to former Finance Minister Enos Nkala who spoke to The Standard after meeting with the 88-year-old Mugabe in Bulawayo for an hour-long talk on Friday.

More

What will get Zimbabwe back on track?

Analysis: Money will help, but the country needs rational economic policies, rule of law and democracy.
Zimbabwe economy tendai biti 2012 3 21Enlarge
Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti said that $14 billion is needed to get the country's economy back on track. Here Biti is presents his budget to parliament in November 2011. (Jekesai Njikizana /AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON, Massachusetts — What will it take to get Zimbabwe's economy back on track?

How about $14 billion?

That's what Finance Minister Tendai Biti said is needed to get Zimbabwe's economy back to its 1990 levels, according to Agence France-Presse.

Biti was speaking to a seminar organized by the government to try to lure foreign investment to the country. "We have a foreign debt of $9.1 billion. We have defaulted as far back as 1999," he said.

Actually, no amount of money can fix Zimbabwe's economy. Not as long as President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party continue to control the economy.

The real solution for Zimbabwe's economy is free. It is rational economic policies and good governance. 

More

Kony 2012: Joseph Kony speaks (VIDEO)

A glimpse of Joseph Kony in a rare video interview in the jungle of Central Africa.
Joseph kony 2012 congoEnlarge
Ugandan soldiers search through thick vegetation around the Congolese jungle, a longtime hideout for renegade Joseph Kony, leader with a bounty on his head of the notorious Lord's Resistance Army infamous for brutal mutilations on its human victims. (Ben Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past few days 56 million people have seen the "Kony 2012" video and are outraged against Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army.

Now you can see Kony himself and hear him speak. This video shows rare footage of Kony, taken during an effort to negotiate with him in 2006. It is fascinating to see Kony. Just as chilling are the shots of his LRA soldiers.

If you've seen "Kony 2012" you'll want to see this short video.

 

More

You and your 6 million year old cousin

Humans' propensity for war and peace has genetic precursors.
Chimp eatingEnlarge
Toni tastes cake on his 50th birthday at the Tierpark Hellabrunn zoo in Munich on Nov. 22, 2011. (Sven Hoppe/AFP/Getty Images)
Humanities' war and peace have genetic precursors.
More

Is Teodoro Obiang fit to give a UN award?

Protests against award funded by Equatorial Guinea president.
Zimbabwe news mugabe and obiang meet 2012 1 10Enlarge
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (C) together with the first lady Grace Mugabe (R) greets the Equitorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (L) upon his arrival at the Zimbabwe State House in Harare on Janaury 9, 2012. Africa's longest-ruling leader, Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, on Monday made an unannounced visit to Zimbabwe and pleged to increase cooperation between the two countries. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)
There is controversy over the donation by Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang to create a United Nations prize for work in the life sciences in the developing world.
More

Uganda's image will be improved by good human rights, not a PR firm

Whitewashing the country's international image will not solve local problems.
Uganda walk to work protest 2012 2 21Enlarge
Uganda main opposition leader, President of the Forum For Democratic Change (FDC), Kizza Besigye (R) argues with a policeman, a few minutes before being arrested with members of Action for Change (A4C) on Jan. 19, 2012 in Kampala. The opposition politicians were planning to hold a rally at Katwe grounds in Kampala as part of third-round of walk-to-work protesting high cost of living. Former presidential challenger Besigye has been repeatedly arrested and arraigned in court since launching protests last year against the rising cost of living. (-/AFP/Getty Images)
BOSTON — President Yoweri Museveni's government is paying $1 million to an Irish public relations firm to boost its image after charges of police brutality.
More

Abdoulaye Wade: 5 facts about Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade (VIDEO)

With Senegal's election on Feb. 26, here are five interesting facts on President Wade.
Senegal wade wife karim 2012 2 20Enlarge
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and his French wife Viviane wave to supporters during the investiture congress of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party for the upcoming legislative elections, on Mar. 31, 2001 at Demba Diop stadium in Dakar. (Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — When Abdoulaye Wade was first elected Senegal's president in 2000, he was celebrated as a symbol of change for the West African country.

More than a decade later, however, many Senegalese people are violently protesting against his candidacy for reelection to a third term in office.

More from GlobalPost: Senegal: Dakar rocked by anti-Wade demonstrations

With Senegal's presidential election coming up on Feb. 26, here are five interesting facts you should know about Wade:

1. “Gorgui” or old man

Wade, 85, is Africa’s second oldest president after Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe who turned 88 on Feb. 21. Wade was born on May 29, 1926 in Kebemer, which is 95 miles north of the capital, Dakar, but some dispute Wade's real birth date, saying it was several years earlier. If Wade wins the election as he predicts, he would be at least 92 years old if he completes his seven-year mandate. According to the BBC, Wade owes his good health to his love for swimming.

More from GlobalPost: Africa's "generation chasm" shows why leaders are out of touch

2. Lover of France

Wade was awarded a scholarship to study in France after finishing secondary school in Senegal. He studied law in France, where he met his wife Viviane. They got married in 1963, and Wade worked in France as a barrister for a few years before returning to Senegal, where he set up his law practice. Wade and Viviane have two children, a son Karim Wade and a daughter Sindjely Wade.

3. “Super minister” son

Wade has been long accused of preparing his son Karim, 44, to be his successor. In 2009, Karim's appointment as "super minister" stirred much anger. In 2011, Wade tried to create a vice president position which people suspected was designed for his son. As "super minister" Karim oversees operations dealing with energy, international cooperation, regional development, air transport and infrastructure. Meanwhile Wade is being critized for wanting to remain in power to secure his son's future in leadership despite a vow Wade made in 2007 to step down in 2012.

4. Cunning Hare
In 1974, Wade convinced Senegal's independence-era leader and the poet-cum-president Leopold Sedar Senghor, to let him create an opposition party, the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), Al Jazeera reported. Wade initially formed PDS as a coalition group rather than an out-and-out opposition party. According to Reuters, "Wade lulled Senghor into a sense of security — only to stand against him in the 1978 vote." The shocked Senghor first dubbed  Wade "Diombor" (Wolof for "The Hare"), an animal known in traditional Senegalese folklore for its cunning.

5. Controversial statue

One of Wade's most controversial personal projects is the Africa Renaissance monument that was unveiled in 2010. While Senegal suffers from daily power outages and rising costs of living, Wade spent $27 million on a North Korean-built copper statue that is slightly bigger than New York's Statue of Liberty, reported Reuters. At its unveiling, GlobalPost's correspondent described the statue: "A muscled man emerges from a volcano. His left arm holds a baby aloft toward the West, his right arm pulls a scantily clad woman behind him." Some Senegalese joke that the statue is none other than Wade, his wife and his son Karim.

More from GlobalPost: Amid protest, Senegal's President Wade leads his own rally

Here's a recent video on Senegal's reaction to Wade before the 2012 election:

Wade Battling Many Fronts Ahead of Election
World News Videos by NewsLook
More

Mugabe's Birthday: North Korea showed Mugabe how to party (VIDEO)

Mugabe throws a birthday bash inspired by North Korea.
Robert mugabe birthday 20120221Enlarge
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe frolics with balloons on a previous birthday. Mugabe turned 88 on Feb. 21, 2012, with a birthday rally planned for the weekend. (DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Time to party: Robert Mugabe turns 88 today.

For years, Zimbabwe's leader has celebrated his birthday with the gusto only a megalomaniac could muster.

There are sumptuous feasts, huge birthday cakes, beauty pagents, concerts, and soccer tournaments — this year's is dubbed the "Bob 88 Super Cup."

There's even a "February 21 Movement" to organize the events and celebrate the aging dictator's birthdays.

All of this, of course, takes place in a country where large numbers of rural people rely on United Nations aid, and many go hungry. And where businesses are expected to kick in cash for Mugabe's bash.

It wasn't always this way. In fact, Mugabe's celebration is an import.

Mugabe learned to party from one of the 20th century's most brazen dictators: Kim Il Sung.

More than a quarter century ago, Mugabe visited North Korea. There, he learned how to build a cult around himself, and he got the idea for the February 21st Movement, and the lavish celebrations (see video below).

The annual birthday celebrations have become more grandiose — many in Zimbabwe call the ostentatious displays obscene — as Mugabe has grown older.

North Korea's mass rallies — where thousands held up placards to create giant portraits of Kim Il Sung — also impressed the Zimbabwean dictator.

More from GlobalPost: At 88, Zimbabwe's president says he is "fit as a fiddle." (PHOTOS)

Soon rallies at Harare's National Stadium featured mass displays of synchronized marches by school children and giant portraits of Mugabe, all thanks to help from North Korean advisers.

And Mugabe returned from North Korea singing the praises of "Juche," the ideology of "self-reliance" announced by Kim Il Sung in 1972.

Mugabe's office prominently displayed and distributed Juche books, which were little more than strings of quotes like: "Man is the master of everything and decides everything" and the most important work of "revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as good Communists with absolute loyalty to the Party and Leader."

North Koreans also bolstered Mugabe's promotion of the heroic struggle against white colonialist Rhodesia.

North Koreans built "Heroes' Acre" a burial ground for Zimbabweans who fought against the Rhodesians. The park features a towering statue of a man and woman leading the struggle. But angry Zimbabweans protested that the giant sculpture resembles Koreans, not Africans. North Korean workmen altered the features to make the statues' faces look more Africa. Now it just looks like they've had facelifts. Bad ones.

The friendship between Mugabe and North Korea's leaders also has a bloody side to it.

The North Koreans' most damaging legacy in Zimbabwe is the training they gave to the Zimbabwe National Army's Fifth Brigade in the early 1980s.

Fresh from their instruction by the North Koreans, the Fifth Brigade went into Zimbabwe's Matabeleland to stamp out a small but violent band of anti-government rebels.

Related: Mugabe's plans for early elections meet obstacles

The Fifth Brigade's brutal campaign is widely blamed for the deaths of 20,000 civilians of Zimbabwe's ethnic Ndebele minority. The massacres took place in 1983 and 1984 and remain a lasting scar on Zimbabwe's national psyche.

So as you read about Mugabe's over-the-top birthday celebrations, remember the festivities are not only a sign of how out of touch are the leader and the sycophantic clique around him.

The bizarre birthday displays are also a reminder of the harsh and violent repression that Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, with a little help from the North Koreans, have used to stay in power for so long.    

 

More

Kenya: Men boycott home-cooked meals to protest domestic abuse (VIDEO)

Maendeleo Ya Wanaume has called Kenyan men to boycott home-cooked meals for six days.
Kenya abused men boycott meals 2012 2 21Enlarge
Today is day two of Kenyan men boycotting meals cooked by their wives. (Marco Longari /AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Kenyan men are claiming that they are being abused by their wives.

Maendeleo Ya Wanaume, a Kenyan men's lobby group, has called for a six-day boycott of meals cooked at home by their wives or partners.

Instead of eating home-cooked meals, Maendeleo Ya Wanaume said that men should meet and gather outside of home to eat and share their experiences of abuse.

Ndiritu Njoka, the leader of the lobby group, told the BBC he called for the nationwide boycott to stop women from beating up their spouses and emotionally abusing them.

The food boycott was also a response to recent cases of husband battery in Kenya. One particular story two weeks ago about 40-year-old Simon Kiguta from Nyeri caused much uproar as he alleged that his wife slashed him with a panga (machete) while he was in bed, reported the Daily Nation. Kituga was sleeping after coming home drunk.

Business Daily Africa analyzed the rising issue of battered men in a recent article which said, "In the Kenyan context, alcohol would seem to be the agent that transforms meek men into agents of domestic violence. In many cases, it is the same excessive consumption of alcohol that leads to the same men being beaten up."

The video below includes an interview with Kiguta, who appears with a swollen, stitched-up face:

More from GlobalPost: Rice 2.0: In Africa, rice is complicated

Maendeleo Ya Wanaume, which means "Development for Men," says the Kenyan government does not take domestic violence against men seriously and have instead focused on initiatives to improve the status of women. The problem of abuse, the group says, is getting worse as Kenyan women are becoming more economically independent.

According to a survey Maendeleo Ya Wanaume conducted last year, there were at least 460,000 men in Central Kenya and 300,000 men in Nairobi who said they had been subjected to some sort of domestic abuse.

More from GlobalPost: Kenya: Obama's grandmother Sarah Onyango Obama in car accident

Today marks the second day of the food boycott in Kenya where most meals are cooked by women, and it is an important part of Kenyan culture for men to eat at home in order to show their appreciation for women, according to the BBC.

Here's what people are saying on Twitter about the current hunger strike:

More