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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Blogswana Still

In Africa, Blogswana on August 22, 2007 at 3:39 pm

If you haven’t checked out Blogswana lately, I encourage you to do so. Brian is keeping it up and has become an excellent blogger on HIV/AIDS issues, aid, Africa and Botswana topics. We haven’t given up hope we’ll find someone or something to fund the project. Well as I said in my last post, I is a idiot. Militantly.

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Vote for Nata Village

In Africa, Nonprofits on April 10, 2007 at 11:41 pm

The Nata Village Blog is competing for a chance at a NetSquared grant. This is a project that helps prevent and treat AIDS and HIV in the Botswanan village of Nata. They rule mediawise and on-the-groundishly. So, go unto them and vote.

From the blog:

PLEASE take five minutes of your time and help us out! The Nata village blog has been submitted for the NetSquared Innovation Award. The NetSquared Innovation Award seeks 20 great projects that utilize the technologies, tools and communities of the social web to create societal impact in a sustainable fashion. The top 20 projects will be invited to the Netsquared conference in San Jose, California on May 29, 30.

The important thing is they will assist the projects with funding and technical assistance. PLEASE take a few moments and go to and vote for The Nata village blog, a unique opportunity to witness the battle to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in an African village. You will need to register with Netsquared to vote. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this and thanks to the employees of Northgate pictured above. Votes will be accepted April 9th through the 14th.

Vote for my Project on NetSquared

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Sokwanele Missing in Action?

In Africa, Human rights on July 19, 2006 at 3:06 pm

Update: The Ladies and Gentlement of Sokwanele’s “This is Zimbabwe” are back.


I just found out from Sokari at Black Looks that Zimbabwe’s Sokwenle group has neither posted on their blog, This is Zimbabwe, nor on the Sokwanele site, for six weeks.

Not only that, they do not answer their email.

This in the midst of a further crackdown by that idiot Mugabe on online communications, according to Zimbabwean Pundit. As we reported on the again-no-longer-accessible Civiblog-hosted Committee to Protect Bloggers archive, Mugabe enlisted Chinese help last year in blocking pirate radio stations. (Here is a Reporters Without Borders report.) The same censorship experts are possibly assisting in the online crackdown.

If you know what’s going on with Sokwanele, please tell us.

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Enough is Enough: The New Zimbabwean Democracy Super-Blog

In Africa, Blogging, Free speech, Projects on April 17, 2006 at 4:13 am

I want to turn your attention to an interesting new project called, “Enough is Enough.” Enough is Enough is a blog devoted to news and analysis of the African country of Zimbabwe, from the inside out.

Once the “breadbasket of Africa,” in recent decades, under the increasingly tyrannical rule of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe has become a wasteland. However, in Zimbabwe, activists, including many bloggers, are attempting to reverse that trend. The editor of Enough is Enough, the blogger known as The Zimbabwean Pundit, is prominent among them.

Enough is Enough was conceptualized, planned and built by the Committee to Protect BloggersCurt Hopkins (me), Marshall Kirkpatrick and Brian Schartz.

Enough is Enough is a translation of the Ndebele phrase, “Sokwanele” and the Shona equivalent, Zvakwana. These are also the names of two cooperating prodemocracy groups in the country. (They are not officially related to this project.)

Zimpundit will write regular postings for the site, which also contains automated feeds of news, blog posts, photos and multimedia files. Enough is Enough is designed to act as a blog aggregator, an information exchange for concerned Zimbabweans within the country, and a “bridge blog” to carry the news in that country (now completely devoid of an independent press) to the outside world.

Stop by and give Zim your support. He and his fellow Zimbabweans have got a long row to hoe.

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Cross-posted to Blogswana, CPB

Blogswana: Botswana, AIDS and Blogging

In Africa, Blogging, Blogswana, Projects on April 5, 2006 at 9:37 pm

botswana map

Blogging For Others

Brian Schartz and I are embarking on a new project, under the auspices of the Committee to Protect Bloggers. It’s called Blogswana and it is a project to increase HIV/AIDS education in the African country of Botswana through blogging.

A little background: I was unable to go to Global Voices’ London Summit in December, but I did read the entire live blog and posted a rather extensive reflection on it.

In it, I suggested that Global Voices develop a program in each country that would send people out to blog for people who could not do it themselves (a bit like the approach taken by Microsoft’s Channel 9). In other words, they would create a blog for someone, say a farmer in a remote village who had neither the money for the hardware, nor the expertise, nor perhaps the time or literacy, to blog himself, or to an urban prostitute, or a nurse in an AIDS hospice, or a politician, or a minister. They would go out, at least once a month, interview this person, maybe take photos, video or audio, return to their computer and blog for this person. They would take the comments and questions out to the person the next time they went out.

Blogswana is an effort to practice what we preach. The one-year pilot project will work with a group of about 20 college students from one of the major universities, and provide them with blogging and journalism expertise and guidance. They would commit to a year of “blogging for others.” Each student participant would start their own blog, as well as a blog for their “partner” (the person for whom they will blog). Each partner would be someone who has been effected in some way by the AIDS virus.

The 20 pairs of blogs would be linked to a common blog. The latest post from each of the non-student blogs would be funneled to the Blogswana blog. If the project bore fruit, it could be rapidly scaled up, using students at universities around the continent and world.

The idea is to bring voices from the far side of the digital divide into the global conversation and to rehumanize AIDS in a time where the west has seen AIDS-related mortality decline. By blogging about a person first, the disease will be seen again, we hope, in terms of its human context. AIDS in Africa is, for many in the west, a combination of statistics and abstract tragedy.

Blogswana aims to take blogging beyond itself, beyond what can oftentimes seem like an indulgence. It also provides a platform to teach the student bloggers about communications technologies, about journalism, writing, photography, videography and radio. They would learn from us, we from them, and the bloggers from their partners and from each other.

—Curt Hopkins

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Boiteko ke boikone

Botswana is among the countries hardest hit by AIDS. At one time among the most robust economies in Africa, Botswana had been one of Africa’s greatest successes: rich in mineral deposits, gifted with enlightened leadership, and blessed with an unbroken peace since gaining independence in 1966. The HIV/AIDS epidemic, infection estimates running from one in three Batswana to two in five, is having a devastating effect on Botswana’s economic gains.

In response to this epidemic the Government of Botswana has collaborated with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Merck Company Foundation/Merck & Co., Inc., to form The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP). ACHAP, established in July 2000, works to decrease HIV incidence and increase the rate of diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

ACHAP asks, “How (could) an epidemic of such alarming proportions develop?”

Factors exacerbating the spread of HIV/AIDS in Botswana include alcohol abuse, poverty, the high prevalence of specific STIs, a high proportion of single parents, and widespread early parentage. Officials have also identified four key determinants: the low-social standing of women in Botswana society; societal fears of HIV/AIDS and the stigmatization of infected individuals; the mobility of Botswana’s population; and Botswana’s rapid urbanization, which has undermined traditional mechanisms for controlling social and sexual behavior and has exacerbated sexual exploitation of the poor.

I lived in Mahalapye, Botswana from 1985 to 1987 and was aware (to some degree) of these same exacerbating factors and determinants. I recall initial efforts to increase HIV/AIDS awareness. One such effort was fleet of jeeps, AIDS posters on all four sides, roaming through the villages with loudspeakers announcing in Setswana that a new disease was at hand. I found this to be blunt but effective. People were talking about AIDS. Fellow Peace Corps volunteers were requesting more condoms from the medical office in Gabarone than they could possibly use and handing them out to fellow teachers. I applauded these efforts and believe there are more than a few people who did not become infected because of them. I also applaud the continuing efforts of ACHAP and partners to both prevent and treat HIV/AIDS infection.

There has been some skepticism regarding public education and awareness campaigns; a program officer in Serowe noted that “This country has been bombarded with HIV messages, but there hasn’t been a change in behaviour.” Some skepticism is to be expected where the aforementioned exacerbating factors and determinants are so strong and the infection incidence is so high. It is becoming evident that ACHAP’s goal of an AIDS-Free Generation is indeed taking longer than one generation to come about.

Our intent with Blogswana is to bring voices from the far side of the digital divide into the national (Botswanan), continental (Africa) and global conversation about the disease. But not just about the disease. People are not merely vectors.

It is our desire to create a rich, interesting site about the daily lives of Batswana. The public awareness and education campaigns are doing a great deal to make this problem a part of the national consciousness. Organizations such as the Botswana Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (BONEPWA) are working to reduce discrimination against and the stigma attached to people living with aids. We would like to add to the public awareness and hopefully to help reduce the stigmatization of infected individuals.

My experience with Tswana culture leads me to believe that an approach that combined honesty with discretion could be quite effective. There are some things that are discussed in Tswana culture with a great deal of circumspection. For example, nobody ‘dies’ in Botwsana but people do ‘pass’. We want to raise public awareness discretely, we want risky behavior, decision to get tested, living with HIV/AIDS, etc. to be a part of these blogs but only insomuch as they relate to an individual with other concerns. We want the discrete language that the ordinary Batswana uses to be used in these blogs.

Being confronted with a world in which you either have it or you don’t (or you don’t know) must feel overwhelming to some people. We would like to create a blog site in which the reader is informed, not bludgeoned. We would like the blogs to be about the ordinary men and women of Botswana with the same concerns, hopes and dreams as the viewer. Some of these concerns will undoubtedly have to do with HIV/AIDS, but such concerns will not make up the entirety of the blogs. Reading about a sympathetic individual who is wrestling with an AIDS related issue may help the reader to come to terms with a similar issue themselves.

There is a saying in Setswana that I have adopted as part of my life. “Boiteko ke boikone.” Trying is success. I believe that our project could be part of the solution to this crisis that plagues Botswana. I believe that our efforts will, at the very least, get our 20 bloggers to consider more fully the HIV/AIDS problem in Botswana and their attitudes towards it.

—Brian Schartz


We are currently writing a grant for the project, which will be administered under the aegis of the non-profit Committee to Protect Bloggers. If you wish to contribute cash or encouragement, you can reach us at blogswana[at]yahoo[dot]com. You can also contribute via the PayPal button on the Committee’s site.


Mark Glaser was good enough to mention us on PBS’s MediaShift blog.

Lucy Hooberman, the BBC reporter who is heading up the Mentoring Worldwide project gave us a nice plug on Mentoring’s blog.

Others who’ve given their two cents include Neha in the U.K., Antony in Australia and Carolyn at Foreign Policy’s blog. We’re deeply appreciative of everyone’s support and interest right out of the gate.


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Cross-posted from the Committee to Protect Bloggers

Crackdown on the Scorpions

In Africa, Journalism on October 13, 2005 at 6:17 am

South Africa’s Scorpions, whom I’ve called a modern-day Untouchables, are starting to feel the heat. The Directorate of Special Investigations, as they are officially known, have investigated high-level alleged criminals, such as Deputy President Jacob Zuma and 54 parliamentarians. They enjoy broad support in South Africa. Now, according to Commentary, governmental officials are trying to eviscerate the directorate by placing them under the authority of the much more politically-vulnerable police.

No good deed goes unpunished, especially in South African law
enforcement. Here’s Brigitte Mabandla, Minister of Justice, attempting to
explain why one of the country’s most effective law enforcement agencies needs
to be shut down “reintegrated with the police”, as paraphrased
by the Sunday Independent:

She said that there had been “a real decline in the
level of some of the serious crimes that have caused public fear and
anxiety…”. “It is my submission that the threat from serious crimes, whilst
still requiring attention, has significantly diminished to the extent that it is
now opportune to reconsider the location of the DSO.”

…Everyone knows that the current effort to bury the Scorpions inside
the restrictive bureaucracy of the SAPS has very little to do with the crime
rate or the government’s new-found reverence for the constitution, which might
have been more believable had they discovered it before they introduced
floor-crossing legislation. The truth is that the Scorpions were just getting
too uppity. If only they’d stuck to busting crack lords, none of this would be
happening. Instead, the got this wacky idea that rule of law applies to the
government as well as the citizens, and started taking down corrupt politicians.
Well, I guess this is payback time for the pols. That’ll teach the Scorpions to
bite the hand that feeds them.

Hopefully, those with an interest in a safe South Africa (safe from its politicians as well as from its pushers), will keep this from happening. The Scorpions are one of Africa’s success stories.

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Oregon Human Rights and Anti-Genocide Act of 2005

In Africa, Human rights on August 3, 2005 at 10:23 pm

According to Sudan Activism Blog:

The Oregon House unanimously passed the Oregon Human Rights and Anti-Genocide Act of 2005 (SB 1089) which divests the state of Oregon from Sudan.

The bill now goes back to the Senate for a procedural concurrence vote before it heads to the Governor. Some amendments were made in the House with input from the Treasurers office that are designed to protect his fiduciary responsibilities as well as the industry standards of prudence and productivity. With the amendments, the Treasurer testified in strong support of the bill. Chief sponsors of the bill include Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland), Representative Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), Senator Avel Gordly (D-Portland), Senator Margaret Carter (D-Portland) and Senator Ben Westlund (R-Tumalo).

If the Governor signs the bill, Oregon will be only the second state to divest from Sudan.

You know what to do, you bunch of filthy, matted, dope-addled hand puppets.

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Prosecute You Like a Hurricane

In Africa, Journalism on December 22, 2004 at 4:28 am

South Africa’s Directorate of Special Investigations, popularly known as “the Scorpions” are a modern-day Untouchables.

The unit’s impressive 85% conviction rate over the past two years partially explains why it enjoys such huge popular support. The fact that this fraud-busting national prosecuting authority has a Hollywood-style panache also contributes to its prestige.

It consists of over 3,500 staff and has a fast-rising budget, worth 950m rand. Made up of body armor-clad, submachine-toting assault troops, briefcase-wielding prosecutors and ink-stained forensic CPAs, the Scorpions have now turned their sights on deputy president, Jacob Zuma, who is accused of (and denies) asking for 500,000 rand (now $68,000) from a foreign arms company.

Their willingness to investigate someone in a position of great power makes them unique in Africa and unusual in the world. This combination of effectiveness, drama and integrity has made the Scorpions one of South Africa’s most solidly supported and influential law enforcement authorities.

Removal of Botswana’s Bushmen

In Africa, Journalism on December 22, 2004 at 4:24 am

The government of Botswana completed its expulsion of the Gana and Gwi bush people from the central Kalahari game reserve, on the grounds that their hunting and gathering has become “obsolete” and their presence is no longer compatible with “preserving wildlife resources”.

To get rid of them, Survival International claims the government cut off their water supplies, taxed, fined, beat and tortured them. Bushmen have lived in the Kalahari for some 20,000 years. The wildlife is not threatened by them, but the freedom of the diamond mining and the tourism industries might be.

Having expelled the bushmen from their ancestral lands, the government now invites tourists to visit what its website calls “the last Eden”.