Saturday, December 17, 2011

Africa Review - African Union finally launches Pan-African university

African Union finally launches Pan-African university

The African Union Thursday launched a Pan-African University as part of its strategy to speed up regional integration.

At a ceremony in Addis Ababa, the organisation announced five regional universities that will host the different fields of studies of the continental institution.

In the arrangement, South Africa will host the space science component of the university with oil rich Algeria hosting the college of water and energy sciences.

Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is expected to take in the study of basic sciences, technology and innovation.

Nigeria's University of Ibadan will host the college for life and earth sciences.

Representing the Central Africa region is the University of Yaoundé in Cameroon, that has been offered the school for governance, humanities and social sciences.

To ensure coordination and smooth operation of the different components will be the AU Commission for Human Resources, Science and Technology.

Mooted in 2005, the Pan-African University is designed to boost education standards, science and technological innovations across African to facilitate faster regional integration and development.

Mosi Ifatunji, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Department of Sociology and
Carolina Population Center
155 Hamilton Hall, CB#3210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
Office: (919) 843-6466
Fax: (919) 962-7568
Cell/text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
                         - Frederick Douglass, 1857

Monday, December 12, 2011

Israel okays funding to block African migrants

Israel okays funding to block African migrants


Israel-Egypt border in the Sinai Peninsula.

CAIRO: The Israeli government on Sunday voted unanimously to launch a $160 million program to curtail illegal African migrants ability to enter the country from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The program will boost the country's ability to build a large border fence and will also expand a detention center able to hold thousands of new illegal arrivals.

The move comes after many in Israel have expressed anger at the large number of Africans, mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, entering the country through the Sinai. Since 2006, the Israeli government estimates that approximately 50,000 Africans have entered southern Israel.

Those in opposition to the migrants claims of asylum argue they are not Jewish and have left an economic and social burden on Israel.

However, others believe the government is moving toward a Nazi-style policy that would turn people away who are facing persecution or genocide, but this community remains in the minority in Israel.

Addressing the Cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the increasing number of migrants is "a national scourge."

Netanyahu, like other officials, said the overwhelming majority of infiltrators are not refugees escaping persecution, but instead "have come to Israel seeking better economic opportunities."

"If we don't take action to stanch this illegal flow, then we will simply be inundated," he said.

The prime minister said he would look into repatriating a number of the eonomic migrants during visits to Africa in the coming year.

The program also comes in response to what Israeli officials say is poor border security by Egyptian police, which often result in the shooting of Africans. In early December, one African was shot dead by Egyptian police and two others wounded when they attempted to enter Israel.

Many African migrants try to cross to Israel every year through Egypt's Sinai Peninsula seeking a better life.

Egypt's border security has been repeatedly criticized for its "shoot first" strategy in dealing with migrants attempting to cross into the Jewish state, as they often do not issue verbal warnings first and fire at the Africans.

Africans in Egypt complain of poor living conditions and bad treatment at the hands of their host nation. Many see Israel as the next best solution for their troubles and are willing to risk death to reach the Jewish state, refugees in Egypt have repeatedly said.

Ali, a Somali refugee in Cairo, told that living in Egypt is "one of the worst things I have experienced in my life." He points to racism and lack of opportunities as the main hardships.

He was the victim of police's heavy hand in Egypt a few years ago when he and two roommates were held in connection with the murder of an elderly man in their building. According to Ali, the two Somali men and one woman were detained for 9 months without charge and were "tortured on a regular basis." He says life is hard.

"I know a lot of people who would rather risk being killed on the border than continue to sit around Cairo and be faced with all these troubles because of our status. We can't even work," he said.

Dozens of Africans have been shot dead by Egyptian police in recent years, as refugees and migrants continue to complain of poor treatment and conditions inside Egypt.


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Section: Egypt, Features, Human Rights, Latest News, Palestine

Friday, December 9, 2011

Obama administration reverses Bush policy on affirmative action

Obama administration reverses Bush policy on affirmative action

Affirmative action, the policy designed to assist historically under-represented minority groups and women with access to university admissions, has received an important boost from the Obama administration.

On Friday, the Department of Education jointly with the Department of Justice issued a new Guidance on the Voluntary use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Post-secondary Education.

The new guidelines reverse anti-affirmative action policies adopted by the Bush administration that forbad any use of "quotas"  emphasizing instead so called "race neutral solutions."

"Post-secondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity," says the guidelines.

Bush's rule stressed limitations on the use of affirmative action. By way of contrast the Obama policy opens the door of possibility again to achieving diversity by considering race and ethnicity as one of several considerations in admissions. In this regard the New York Times writes, "The guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions."

In place of the Bush measures, which resulted in a steep drop in minority admissions in top universities, with the new framework "the Obama administration has aligned itself strongly with the right of colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions," writes Inside Higher Education.

Dr. Gerald Horne, author of Reversing Discrimination: The Case for Affirmative Action,  said the Obama policy "is a step back from the precipice to which Bush (and the high court) led us. It is a significant step forward, particularly given the political constraints."

In 2003, the Supreme Court in rulings involving the University of Michigan, rolled back the use of race and ethnicity.

Now, the Department of Education and the Justice Department say that universities seeking diversity may include consideration of high schools attended, including cases in which the class population is mostly minority, mentoring programs aimed at minority students, and high schools who partner with historically black colleges, among other factors.

While acknowledging the use of some race neutral admissions programs, the new policy  says schools need not be bound by them. "Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable," the guidelines argue. The document continues, "In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks. Institutions may also reject approaches that would require them to sacrifice a component of their educational mission or priorities (e.g., academic selectivity)."

The Supreme Court may hear a new challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas in the spring, placing it in the middle of the presidential election campaign.

Photo: Creative Commons 2.0

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Al-Qaida offshoot hopes to turn Africa's Sahel region into a 'new Somalia'

Al-Qaida offshoot hopes to turn Africa's Sahel region into a 'new Somalia' | World news | The Guardian

An offshoot of al-Qaida is working to turn the whole of Africa's Sahel region into a "new Somalia" and terrorist bases there pose a growing threat to European and pan-African security, a panel of experts has warned.

Jerome Spinoza, head of the Africa bureau in the French ministry of defence, said the sub-Saharan Sahel area, up to 1,000km wide and stretching from the Atlantic in the west to the Red Sea in the east, presented challenges that western policymakers ignored at their peril.

"Instability is on the rise," Spinoza told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday. "Without a meaningful policy, the area could constitute a lasting safe haven for jihadists."

Robert Fowler, a former UN special envoy to Niger and Canadian diplomat who was kidnapped and held hostage for four months in 2008-9 by al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM), said the 31-strong group of captors was well-disciplined and wholly concentrated on its aim of creating an Islamic caliphate embracing the Muslim lands of Africa and the Middle East.

"These men are highly motivated and totally ascetic," Fowler said. "These guys have no needs. They are dressed in rags. They have a bag of rice and a belt of ammunition and that's it. I was held in 23 different locations in about 70 days. They are organised. They can break camp in under four minutes."

Fowler continued: "This was the most focused group of young men I have ever encountered in my life. They are totally committed to jihad. They said to me, 'We fight to die, you fight to go home to your wife and kids. Guess who will win?' Even if it takes 200 years … They want to turn the Sahel into a new Somalia."

Fowler said the terrorist threat to Europe's southern flank had risen after advanced weapons were plundered during the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. "They (AQIM) are now equipped with enormous amounts of Libyan weapons and I mean sophisticated weapons such as 20,000 [shoulder-mounted] SA-24 missiles, heavy mortars, heavy artillery and thousands of anti-tank mines … The UN has demanded they be handed over. Well, good luck with that."

The Sahel region embraces southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, South Sudan and Darfur in western Sudan, northern Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Spinoza said a host of critical issues faced the region going beyond terrorism. They included recurring rebellions by nomadic Tuareg tribesmen, some of whom were armed by and fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi in this year's Libya conflict, cocaine trafficking to Europe from the west African coast, and people and arms smuggling.

The region was also confronted by rapid population growth, weak and ineffective governance, inter-state tensions, poor access to education and employment, and increasingly acute food supply problems exacerbated by climate change and the southward advance of the Sahara desert, he said.

AQIM was exploiting the resulting instability, he suggested, spreading its influence south from Algeria and raising the prospect of transcontinental link-ups with Boko Haram militant Islamists in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Spinoza called for a joined-up approach by the international community, suggesting interested countries including France, the Netherlands and the US needed to coordinate their policies with regional and local players. "The EU's strategy for security involves development, rule of law and (non-military) security but the EU needs to be more concrete," he said.

Speaking this week, Kristalina Georgieva, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid crisis response, said the Sahel was likely to experience severe food shortages next year because of erratic rainfall and localised dry spells.

Seven million people were already facing shortages in Niger, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, she said. Current trends pointed to a massive problem of food availability next year.

The European commission last month increased humanitarian funding to the Sahel by €10m (£8.5m) to a total of €55m this year. Niger and Mauritania have already declared a crisis, prepared national action plans, and appealed for international help.

At the eastern end of the Sahel arc, 13 million people remained in need of emergency help and the crisis there was expected to last until the spring and perhaps the summer of 2012, Georgieva said.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Death penalty dropped against Mumia Abu-Jamal

Death penalty dropped against Mumia Abu-Jamal

By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press – 2 hours ago 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Prosecutors have called off their 30-year battle to execute former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal for murdering a white police officer, putting to an end the racially charged case that became a major battleground in the fight over the death penalty.

Flanked by the police Officer Daniel Faulkner's widow, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced his decision Wednesday, just two days short of the 30th anniversary of the killing. He said continuing to seek death penalty would open the case to "an unknowable number of years" of appeals.

"There's never been any doubt in my mind that Mumia Abu-Jamal shot and killed Officer Faulkner. I believe that the appropriate sentence was handed down by a jury of his peers in 1982," said Williams, the city's first black district attorney. "While Abu-Jamal will no longer be facing the death penalty, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life, and that is where he belongs."

Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. He was sentenced to death after his trial the following year.

Abu-Jamal, who has been incarcerated in a Pennsylvania prison, has garnered worldwide support from those who believe he was the victim of a racially biased justice system.

His writings and radio broadcasts from death row made him a cause celebre and the subject of numerous books and movies. His own 1995 book, "Live From Death Row," describes prison life and calls the justice system racist and ruled by political expediency.

Abu-Jamal, a one-time journalist, garnered worldwide support from the "Free Mumia" movement. Hundreds of vocal supporters and death-penalty opponents regularly turn out for court hearings in his case, even though Abu-Jamal is rarely entitled to attend.

The conviction was upheld through years of legal appeals. But a federal appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing after ruling the instructions given to the jury were potentially misleading.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to weigh in on the case in October. That forced prosecutors to decide if they wanted to again pursue the death penalty through a new sentencing hearing or accept a life sentence.

Williams said he reached the decision to drop the death penalty bid with the blessing of Maureen Faulkner, who said another sentencing hearing would undoubtedly be just the beginning of another long, arduous appeals process.

"Another penalty proceeding would open the case to the repetition of the state appeals process and an unknowable number of years of federal review again, even if we were successful," Williams said. He also said that after nearly three decades, some witnesses have died or are otherwise unreliable.

Widener University law professor Judith Ritter, who represented Abu-Jamal in recent appeals, applauded the decision.

"There is no question that justice is served when a death sentence from a misinformed jury is overturned," Ritter said. "Thirty years later, the district attorney's decision not to seek a new death sentence also furthers the interests of justice."

According to trial testimony, Abu-Jamal saw his brother scuffle with the young patrolman during a 4 a.m. traffic stop in 1981 and ran toward the scene. Police found Abu-Jamal wounded by a round from Faulkner's gun. Faulkner, shot several times, was killed. A .38-caliber revolver registered to Abu-Jamal was found at the scene with five spent shell casings.

The officer's widow, Maureen Faulkner, has tried to remain visible over the years to ensure that her husband is not forgotten. They were 25-year-old newlyweds when he died.

"My family and I have endured a three-decade ordeal at the hands of Mumia Abu-Jamal, his attorneys and his supporters, who in many cases never even took the time to educate themselves about the case before lending their names, giving their support and advocating for his freedom," Maureen Faulkner said Wednesday. "All of this has taken an unimaginable physical, emotional and financial toll on each of us."

Abu-Jamal, born Wesley Cook, turned 58 earlier this year.

His message resonated particularly on college campuses and in the movie and music industries — actors Mike Farrell and Tim Robbins were among dozens of luminaries who used a New York Times ad to advocate for a new trial, and the Beastie Boys played a concert to raise money for Abu-Jamal's defense fund.

Over the years, Abu-Jamal has challenged the predominantly white makeup of the jury, instructions given to jurors and the statements of eyewitnesses. He has also alleged ineffective counsel, racism by the trial judge and that another man confessed to the crime.

Maureen Faulkner railed against what she called the justice system's "dirty little secret" — the difficulty of putting condemned killers to death. Pennsylvania has put to death three people since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976, and all three had willingly given up on their appeals.

Faulkner lashed out at the judges who overturned Abu-Jamal's death sentence, calling them "dishonest cowards" who, she said, oppose the death penalty.

"The disgusting reality with the death penalty in Pennsylvania is that the fix is in before the hearing even begins," she said.

Faulkner also vowed to fight anyone who tries to extract special treatment for Abu-Jamal, advocating instead that he be moved to the general population after being taken off death row.

"I will not stand by and see him coddled, as he has been in the past," Faulkner said. "And I am heartened that he will be taken from the protective cloister he has been living in all these years and begin living among his own kind — the thugs and common criminals that infest our prisons."

Both sides have events planned to mark the anniversary of Faulkner's death and Abu-Jamal's subsequent arrest.

Supporters of Abu-Jamal, including Princeton professor Cornel West, have a symposium planned Friday at the National Constitution Center for the man they call an "innocent revolutionary and celebrated journalist."

Maureen Faulkner, Williams and others involved in the prosecution will gather in suburban Philadelphia to mark the anniversary this week for a screening of the anti-Mumia documentary by Philadelphia filmmaker Tigre Hill.

Associated Press writer Maryclaire Dale contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.