- Created on 11 September 2012
"When I run out of food I go fetch firewood and sell it for one cedi ($0.50) a bundle," said Dokurugu. That'll buy her a bowl of dry maize. Anyone getting sick will likely not have the $2.50 fare to the nearest hospital, about 15 miles away.
Lately, however, Nabari and 33 neighboring villages are in the spotlight, brought together as a single "Millennium Village" as part of American economist Jeffrey Sachs' ambitious effort to demonstrate that with the right guidance and seed money, Africans can rise out of poverty and become self-sustaining.
While this West African country is benefiting from new oil wealth, mining and industry, life for many in the districts of West Mamprusi and Builsa, some 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the capital, Accra, consists of understocked food markets, poor health and low school attendance.
"This is a hardworking community. and with new technologies and new ways to do things, poverty can be ended in this region," Sachs told more than 1,000 villagers in Silinga, a village near Nabari, when he visited in August, accompanied by Ghana's new president, John Mahama.
The 14 Millennium Villages in Africa are part of a global anti-poverty initiative launched under U.N. auspices in 2000. The goal is to bring people like Dokurugu out of poverty with a big push of assistance that will wean them off aid after several years. The villages get fertilizer and improved seed, irrigation canals, clinics and health workers, school meals, roads and better access to markets.
Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, says that villagers in Africa are stuck in a poverty trap, and with the right help can escape it for good.
But he has critics. Some say the project creates dependence, that advances may be no greater than the rest of the country in question, and cannot be sustained once the project ends.
Now Sachs has scored possibly the project's biggest coup to date — $18.1 million from the British government's Department for International Development to help 30,000 people in northern Ghana — which, with government and local contributions, comes out to about $150 dollars per person per year over five years.
But it also presents Sachs with a challenge, because the British agency is spending $3 million of the money on a 10-year evaluation of the project to measure its impact, sustainability and value for money. It's the first independent evaluation, and the critics say it's long overdue.
Even though he acknowledges the program hasn't been rigorously evaluated, British Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has faith in it. Accompanying Sachs on the visit to Nabari, he said: "The British government only funds programs which deliver." He said its contribution "will have a remarkable effect on northern Ghana, a place where there is deep poverty even by African standards."
Since the Millennium Village project was launched in Kenya in 2006, Sachs' vision has twice put him on TIME Magazine's list of the year's most influential people, and he is an adviser and friend of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who wrote a laudatory account of a visit last year to a Millennium Village in Malawi.
"In a community that once could not feed itself, a giant warehouse was almost bursting with tons of surplus grain," Ban wrote. "By using high-yield seeds, better soil management, and proper row planting, the community has more than tripled its crop production, and villagers who previously were hungry grain buyers are now food-secure grain sellers."
But Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development, says a similar project called Integrated Rural Development was attempted in the 1970s and 80s by the World Bank and failed because it could not survive without donor funding.
Clemens, who researches ways of making aid more effective, sees a similar fate awaiting the Millennium Villages. "How likely is it that without the lavish expenditures of a New York-centered philanthropist-funded organization, the project can continue for long?" he said in an interview.
Sachs says his project is different from the 1970s venture, mainly because of technological advances. "What we are doing was not tried before and could not have been. ... The earlier programs did not include computers, email, internet for data management, systems control, mapping, monitoring, banking, payments, health care, teaching, process control, value chains and countless more areas," he wrote in an email.
Clemens and his co-author Gabriel Demombynes, a senior economist at the World Bank in Nairobi, have published papers and editorials over the years claiming the project is overstating its impact. They say it boasts of gains in indicators like child mortality, without noting these are insignificant compared to changes happening at a relevant regional or national level. That should be the critical question for every project like this one - "what would have happened if the project hadn't come along?" Clemens said.
Sachs acknowledged in an interview that his project's evaluations have lacked the rigor of a randomized control trial, but said he is using interventions that have already been proven to work. "This would not be satisfactory if we were introducing a new untested medicine. I wouldn't take the medicine myself," he said. "But if what we're really trying to do is show communities that at low cost it's possible to do a number of important and proven things, and here are some ways to do that, I think this can play an important role."
But how, Clemens asked, can "low cost" be judged if full expenditure figures for all the projects aren't published? The full figure is critical for knowing whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere, he said. "That's the whole point. it's to figure out what to do with scarce aid resources."
Sachs said releasing those figures served no purpose. "We are not trying to demonstrate what the Earth Institute can do. We are trying to demonstrate what can be done on the ground at a certain cost, with a certain budget, in a certain way."
Some also think Sachs' approach encourages dependence. Dambisa Moyo, Zambian-born author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How there is a Better Way for Africa," wrote in a Huffington Post editorial: "The aid interventions that Mr. Sachs lauds as evidence of success are merely Band-Aid solutions that do nothing to lift Africa out of the mire — leaving the continent alive but half drowning, still unable to climb out on its own."
Sachs said he is being unfairly targeted given the level of waste that exists in the aid sector. He said much of the progress being made throughout Africa is "precisely because of the kinds of interventions that we've been championing and calling for," such as more fertilizer better seeds, malaria-preventing bed nets, and trained community health workers.
Sachs' continues to attract funding and support for the project. "He's one of the most charismatic, persuasive people in the world. I've seen people bend over crying at his speeches," said Clemens. "He knows how to move people, and that's a beautiful thing."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 16 September 2012
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Wearing full-skirted white dresses and turbans, the religious leaders chanted blessings in an African language and sprinkled water on the concrete floor of a modest house near this city's port. Beneath their feet were the remains of tens of thousands of African slaves who had died shortly after arriving from their horrific sea voyage.
The bodies had been dumped into a fetid, open-air cemetery, often chopped up and mixed with trash. With the 15-minute ceremony this week, the Afro-Brazilian priests were finally giving the slaves at least the semblance of a proper burial centuries later.
"I thank God for this opportunity," said Edelzuita Lourdes de Santos Oliveira, or Mother Edelzuita, a well-known leader of a house practicing the candomble religion. "We honored our ancestors today with songs left by them."
It's been a long journey not just for the slaves but also for the owners of the house and others seeking to recognize the tragic history in a multiracial country that has often avoided its legacy of slavery and racism.
In this case, the remains were discovered by accident, when a couple bought the property in 1996 and started refurbishing it. In the following years, the bones had stayed in pits opened first by construction workers, then researchers. Now, visitors inside the house can look through glass pyramids onto exposed ground and the remains of some of the approximately 20,000 men, women and children interred there.
Most of the newcomers were Bantu, part of a broad grouping of ethnicities in south-central Africa. They had one common characteristic: They all believed that without a burial, they would not be able to reunite with their ancestors, according to researcher Julio Cesar Medeiros Pereira, author of a book about the cemetery.
"What I'm feeling now is that these ancestors who for long years were buried here are finally living again," said Mother Edelzuita.
The cemetery was part of what was once the busiest slave-trading complex in the Americas. Up to a million men and women first stepped onto the New World here and were then held in some 50 warehouses nearby until their sale.
Many of the slaves died before being sold, weakened by the cross-Atlantic trip, and their bodies were buried in what was known as the "cemetery of new blacks," which operated in Rio between 1769 and 1830, though it was closer to a dump than a cemetery. Bodies of such "new blacks," called that because they had just arrived, were thrown into mass graves, burned, and their bones chopped up to make room for more. From some of the warehouses, the open-air cemetery could be seen and smelled, researchers said.
The owners of the house, Ana de la Merced Guimaraes and her husband Petrucio, have been instrumental in promoting research about the find and bringing attention to the remains. Over the years, they've relied largely on their own funds and the help of others to continue the project. Merced Guimaraes has also opened her home to visitors and held yearly gatherings on occasions such as May 13, commemorating the day slavery was abolished in Brazil.
Red tape and paltry resources slowed the process, but by 2005, Merced Guimaraes had established a research and educational organization, the Institute of New Blacks. A state grant allowed her to offer classes by a variety of experts on Brazil's African heritage. Last year, she said, 930 people attended seminars. Only now, with city resources, were they able to cover the gaping holes with glass - a recommendation of the religious leaders - and prepare the place for exhibit.
In spite of the hardship, Guimaraes pressed on, feeling a responsibility to those whose bodies lay under her house.
"Nobody cared for them," she said. "They died alone in a place where they didn't know anyone. I thought, who is going to fight for them?"
Researchers analyzing the bones at the cemetery confirmed some details already on the historical record: The bodies were mostly male and young, and they came from inland areas as well as the African coast.
Much work remains to learn about the thousands buried there, said Reinaldo Tavares, an archaeologist connected to the institute.
"Behind every Afro-Brazilian is a 'new black,'" said Tavares. "These are the ones who died. The ones who lived gave rise to descendants who are now all over Brazil. We are making every effort to preserve this history and bring it to light."
Also inaugurated this week was the adjoining New Blacks art gallery, with an exhibit called New Archaeology. The contemporary pieces from 17 artists use sound, video, photography, graffiti, stencil and photography to reflect the history of the neighborhood, the cemetery and the house.
The works include a flexible plastic sculpture filled with blue and white beads, reminiscent of both the ocean the slaves crossed to reach Brazil and the beads they brought with them, and a giant clay pot that emitted a collage of sounds, including children playing and the music of Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies.
"The idea was to have the old and the new coexisting in harmony, optimizing what each has to offer," said artist and co-curator Gabriela Maciel.
In the middle of the art gallery is another pit covered in glass, through which visitors can see remnants of a 17th century Tupinamba indigenous encampment that includes fragments of Portuguese pottery. It was discovered by researchers excavating the area to find the perimeter of the cemetery.
"Here we have the indigenous, the black, the Portuguese - it's us, it's Brazil," said institute curator Marco Antonio Teobaldo.
But the idea was to not only look at the country's past but to think about where the country was headed, Merced Guimaraes said.
"We wanted to guide the eye toward the future," she said. "We didn't want to make this about people who are gone. This is also about people and a culture that are living."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Photo Caption: Ana de la Merced Guimaraes points to remains of African slaves covered with a glass pyramid at her home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 1996, Merced Guimaraes and her husband Petrucio bought a fixer-upper in the historic port-side neighborhood of Gamboa. Once they started digging into the foundation, they made a startling discovery: the building sat atop the "cemetery of new blacks," - the burial place of newly arrived Africans who died soon after their arrival in Brazil between 1769 and 1830. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
- Created on 14 September 2012
YIDA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan says 16 people have been killed by an outbreak of Hepatitis E in three refugee camps near the border with Sudan.
According to a statement released Thursday by South Sudan's Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and the U.N. refugee agency, the outbreak was first detected late July in Jamam refugee camp, in Upper Nile State's Maban County.
The statement says the disease has spread to Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa refugee camps in Maban county and more than 380 confirmed and suspected cases have been reported.
Hepatitis E is a liver disease which is mainly transmitted by drinking water contaminated by feces.
The three camps house refugees from Sudan's Blue Nile state who fled recent fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the rebel group SPLM-North.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
A mother watches over her child at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) therapeutic feeding facility in Yida refugee camp, Yida, South Sudan Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Yida refugee camp is home to thousands of people who have fled recent fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state and around the border of Sudan and South Sudan. (AP Photo/Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin)
- Created on 16 September 2012
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) — South African police halted a peaceful march by striking miners without violence Sunday, a day after firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse illegal protesters.
Officers barricaded a main road into Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, and persuaded some 500 miners that their march was illegal and that they should go home.
Sunday's protesters from Anglo American Platinum mines wanted to march to Rustenburg police station to demand an end to the violence against strikers. Some carried sticks but there were none of the machetes, spears and clubs that have marked previous protests for higher wages.
On Saturday police raided hostels at Lonmin platinum mine and collected homemade weapons. They fired rubber bullets and tear gas to force people into their homes. It was the first police action since officers killed 34 miners on Aug. 16 in state violence that shocked the nation.
The strikes have shut down one gold and six platinum mines, destabilizing the country's critical mining sector.
Saturday's show of force follows a government vow to halt illegal protests and disarm strikers.
The police crackdown on striking miners was condemned by the South African Council of Churches.
"Government must be crazy believing that what to me resembles an apartheid-era crackdown can succeed," said Anglican Bishop Jo Seoka, president of the Council of Churches. "We must not forget that such crackdowns in the past led to more resistance and government can ill afford to be seen as the enemy of the people that they put in power."
Seoka, who also is head of the Bench Marks Foundation that put out a damning report last month about miners' living and working conditions, said the strike had just cause and was not the work of instigators, as some have suggested.
"The problem will not go away even if this crackdown wins the present battle," he said. "The 'war' between workers who do not receive just remuneration against the enormous amounts of money paid to executives will continue to fester."
Seoka said the government was destroying four weeks of mediation in which he has taken part. He called for minimal policing of strikers.
A negotiated resolution appears distant at the Lonmin platinum strike that is now in its fifth week. Workers rejected the company's offer to boost the entry-level monthly salary by 900 rand ($112.50) to about R5,500 ($688) with commensurate increases for higher paid workers. That falls far short of the strikers' demands for a minimum monthly wage of R12,500 ($1,560).
The strikers have said they would rather see Lonmin shut down the mine than accept a lower offer.
Sunday Lonmin stated the demand for 12,500 rand is "unaffordable and would result in a trade-off between wages and jobs."
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said Friday that the strikes are "extremely damaging" to the economy.
"It undermines confidence in the South African economy and, if we undermine confidence, we undermine investment," he said.
The Lonmin strike has been marked by violence. On Aug. 10 the strike began at Lonmin, the world's third largest platinum mine and it is rooted in the rivalry between the NUM and a breakaway union. Strikers accuse the NUM of being coopted by mine management and being too involved in business and politics to pay attention to basic shop-floor needs of its members.
Ten people were killed in the strike's first week, including two police officers hacked to death by strikers, two mine security guards burned alive in their vehicles and six shop stewards of the dominant National Union of Mineworkers.
Then on Aug. 16 police opened fire on protesting strikers, killing 34 and injuring more than 70. The shootings, shown widely on television, have provoked anger and widespread criticism of the police.
Strikes are illegal in South Africa unless approved by the government labor conciliation board, which only allows stoppages once workers prove they have tried and failed to negotiate with an employer and after the conciliation board itself also tries to resolve the issue.
Faul reported from Johannesburg.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
(AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
- Created on 14 September 2012
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police disrupted a major terrorist attack Friday in its final stages of planning, arresting two people with explosive devices and seizing a cache of weapons and ammunition, officials said.
A manhunt has been launched for eight more suspects including would-be bombers and the masterminds behind the planned attack, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.
The pair was arrested in an area of Nairobi where many Somali immigrants live, said Boniface Mwaniki , the head of Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit. He said the men are suspected of having links with al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked militant group in neighboring Somalia.
Police found four suicide vests rigged with hundreds of metal ball bearings, two improvised explosive devices, also rigged with ball bearings, four AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and 12 grenades, he said, adding that the vests are similar to that one used in attacks in Uganda on crowds watching the soccer World Cup final on TV in July 2010, killing 76 people, Mwaniki said.
Kiraithe identified the two suspects in custody as Abdul Majid Yassin Mohammed, 26, a Kenyan of Somalia origin, and Suleiman Abdi Aden from Somalia. The total weight of explosives used in the vests was more than 40 kilograms (88 pounds) which can have devastating effect and can be detonated remotely if the suicide bomber develops cold feet before setting off the explosion, he told a news conference.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombings in Uganda, saying it was in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out terror attacks in Kenya after the country sent troops into Somalia in October to fight the militants.
Thus far, the reprisal attacks have come in the form of grenade attacks that have killed more than 50 people. Police have attributed them to sympathizers of al-Shabab in Kenya. Analysts have warned that al-Shabab could be planning a large-scale attack such one using a truck bomb.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
Some of the arms and ammunition recovered by police displayed in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Sep. 14, 2012. Kenyan police say they have arrested two people suspected to have links with an al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group that was in the last stages of planning a major terrorist attack on Kenya. Boniface Mwaniki , the head of Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit, said Friday that police found four suicide vests, a cache of weapons and 12 grenades.(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)