Category Archives: Democracy, Governance and Activism

Ben Affleck tours War torn Eastern Congo

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“I’m not an expert in international affairs or diplomacy, but it doesn’t take that to see the tremendous suffering here”

Actor, Ben Affleck traveled to Africa’s Congo region three times over the last eight months, hoping to understand firsthand one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises of this century.

Affleck and the “Nightline” team traveled through refugee camps, hospitals and clinics, meeting with warlords, relief workers, child soldiers and members of parliament in an effort to better understand the place where over the last decade more than 4 million people have died in the deadliest conflict since World War II.

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Why Ushahidi must succeed in the DRC Congo and how to help?

The DRC deployment can be found at http://DRC.ushahidi.com, and the mobile number to send SMS reports to is +243992592111
Internally Displaced People leave Kibati heading north from the city to their villages, Kibumba and Rugari, north of the provincial capital of Goma, Congo, on November 2, 2008. Several thousand people displaced in the fighting between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began returning home Sunday as a ceasefire held, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Internally Displaced People leave Kibati heading north from the city to their villages, Kibumba and Rugari, north of the provincial capital of Goma, Congo, on November 2, 2008. Several thousand people displaced in the fighting between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began returning home Sunday as a ceasefire held, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Full Photo Set from the DRC here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/11/conflict_in_congo_refugees_on.html

The Ushahidi team released an instance of their crowd sourced crisis reporting engine for the Congo today.

Just days after announcing their alpha release Ushahidi already has it’s first major crisis deployment at hand. The team took a collective decision last week to work overtime and deploy in the Democratic Republic of Congo even though the Engine is still in Alpha and has some kinks — everyone agrees that the current situation is dire and we could not justify the wait.

The Congo poses a difficult, but all too common crisis situation and the team is working overtime to tackle multiple challenges. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced into refugees, many of them sick, wounded and starving. Since this is an open source project, a major part of the work is done by volunteers ALL of whom believe in the necessity of accurate reporting in a time of crisis.

Ushahidi was very effective when first deployed to document the incidents of violence and looting during the post-election crisis in Kenya, but more than the need for accurate reporting, the assimilated incident reports help Coordinate Humanitarian Resources and Aid to those most afflicted by the conflict.

I believe in Ushahidi. There are numerous reasons why Ushahidi must succeed, but most of all because it holds parties accountable for their atrocities when humanity is at its worst — thus preserving some dignity for those dispossessed.

How to Help?

  1. Get the Word Out Help spread the word that the website is live. Share this with everyone you know – the more the people know about what is happening on the ground, and the more the media keep their focus on this story, the more likely our leaders will intervene to make a difference.
  2. Help verify and collect reports: Unlike our first installation in Kenya, the Congo poses some real challenges for the Ushahidi team. UN peacekeepers and NGo’s are being evacuated in droves and we need to get the message to the people on the ground in the Eastern Congo that this tool is now available for them to report incidents in on. If you have contacts there, or can help spread the word through some other means, tell them about our SMS number +243992592111
  3. Help make Ushahidi better: Since Ushahidi is an open source effort, we are always looking for help to make the tool better. We are still in the Alpha Stages of development but David Kobia and the team decided that we had a stable enough install to have a working version for the Congo. We are always working out kinks and incorporating lessons learnt. Hop on over to the Ushahidi blog for up to date updates and reach out if you think you can help.

Learn more about Ushahidi and how you can help here

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Once a lost boy of Sudan, Lopez Lomong leads the US at the Beijing Olympics

What a class act – the United States announced today that Lopez Lomong, a former child prisoner from war-torn Sudan, will lead the their team into the National Stadium in Beijing for the start of the 2008 Olympics.

Lomong is now an American citizen and was chosen to be the flag bearer after a vote by his fellow team members. His journey is inspiring to say the least. Born in Southern Sudan; kidnapped and separated from his parents at age 6 during a civil war; Lopez escaped and made it to a refugee camp in Kenya, where he spent more than a decade before coming to the United States in 2001 and qualifying to represent his adopted country in the Olympics for the 1,500-meter race.

China has long been criticized for not intervening in Africa especially in Sudan’s Darfur region where they have business interests. China has a long standing policy of “non-interference”, but is quickly learning that as it grows in strength, it has a moral responsibility to influence positive change globally.

Hopefully Lomong’s long journey will act as an inspiration to millions of Chinese citizens and help them recognize that the hopes and aspirations of Darfuri’s are no different that their very own – bringing us closer to the “One World, One Dream” ideal of the Olympics.

Here is to a wonderful Beijing Olympics. Good luck to the host nation and to all the inspirational athletes partipating in China.

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My first glimpse of Madiba

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lovingly referred to as Madiba, was on a rush visit to Nairobi on a cold July morning in 1990. It was rumored that he was gravely ill from pneumonia and was visiting  one of our elite private hospitals for personal medical care  .. 27 years on a prison island can take a physical toll on any human body.

We were marched off from class in pairs of 2, holding hands to wave at the great man as he passed by our school. It was traditional that foreign dignitaries in presidential motorcades be greeted by eager flag waving kids wherever they went – it rejuvenated our President and bolstered his ego.

I was given a Kenyan flag to hold and given a spot right by the roadside. As minutes turned to hours my initial  excitement turned into restless anxiety and then boredom. The teachers insisted we practice waving flags so as to keep us occupied. Just as the teachers were losing hope – a policeman zoomed by on his BMW motorcycle. The kids arose in anticipation, then another motorcycle, then five more – the policemen were immaculately dressed with their shiny bikes and their white kidskin gloves. Mandela was on his way.

The presidential motorcade sped by us like lighting as we peered back eagerly trying to capture a glimpse. Then it happened. A frail old man with a feeble smile and piercing eyes raised his hand and looked out of the black Mercedes limousine. It was him. Mandela had smiled at us – for an 11 year old it was the closest I had come to history and although I didn’t realize it then something powerful had just taken place.

Mandela has come to signify the African spirit. Even at his frailest he had the presence of mind to acknowledge the kids who stood 2 hours for sight of him – Mandela cared. His steady gaze diminished all doubts that his love for life was waning and that he would return stronger.

This was my first glimpse of Nelson Mandela.

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Zimbabwe: How to get Mugabe out

By forcing the opposition to abandon the election, Robert Mugabe has undermined his position. Mr Mugabe may cling to power for a while, but his grip is weaker. Zimbabwe needs help from the West. But most of all it needs its African neighbors to tell the tyrant unambiguously to go – and to snuff him out if he refuses. It can be done.

The economist mulls over the question further:

  1. Refuse to recognize any administration led by Mr Mugabe. The European Union, the United States and much of the rich world will ostracize him. Now is the time for Africa, especially the influential regional club of 14 countries known as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to act.
  2. South Africa remains the key. Humanitarian aid must continue to flow into Zimbabwe, but targeted sanctions already enforced by the EU, the Americans and other governments against Mr Mugabe and 130-odd of his closest comrades, who are banned from visiting the penalizing countries and have had their assets there frozen. Depriving Mr Mugabe’s cronies of trips to a decent country that works could have a salutary effect.
  3. The African Union (AU), which embraces all 53 of Africa’s countries, should also be far more robustly involved. Unlike the SADC, which is often paralyzed by its search for consensus, the AU’s rules provide for decisions, specifically including the imposition of sanctions on errant members, to be taken by a two-thirds majority.
  4. The United Nations, too, must be ready to help. South Africa has been disgracefully blocking discussion of Zimbabwe in the 15-strong Security Council, of which it is a current member.

Zimbabwe is a resource-rich country with a core of well-educated people, millions of whom have fled abroad and must be wooed back home. Mr Mugabe may cling to power for a while, but his grip is weaker.

read more | digg story

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Between God and Mugabe

Ethan Zuckerman, a man who does so much in so many fields of developement, sums up the common man’s frustration with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe after the news that Tsvangarai pulled out of Zimbabwe elections. Here is what he had to say:

“‘Only God who appointed me will remove me — not the M.D.C., not the British,’ Mr. Mugabe vowed in the city of Bulawayo on Friday. ‘Only God will remove me!’”

Are you listening, God?

Need we say more ?

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Event Summary: Africa as the New Asia?

Today on June 22 from 11am – 1pm a good number of Africa minded individuals from different professional backgrounds met to offer their thoughts on technology and Africa at the beautiful Stanford Golf Course.

The event was sponsored by the SF Bay Area IPN and was titled, “Africa: The Next Asia?”  It was kicked off by a panel discussion featuring Aleem Walji from Google‘s Africa Initiatives, Leila Chirayath – founder of Samasource, Arathi Ravichandran of Vipani , and Joseph Nganga, an expert in energy innovation and Board member of Carolina for Kibera . Topics explored were Africa’s steps in development; opportunities and obstacles to sustainable prosperity; to what extent should Africa mirror what we see in Asia?; and what are the challenges and/or potential benefits of following this road?

The Panel was kindly moderated by Ellen Leanse, who is a Bay Area Business Strategist, and Author. She works with early-stage and established companies to accelerate business growth through innovative business, marketing, and product strategies. Ellen also actively supports education and micro-finance organizations in East Africa, and she is currently writing a book based on recent experiences in Kenya.

Here were some excellent notes via twitter for the event from @tylerwillis captured via summize :

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