Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.
To this day, I’ll never understand why that poor boy had to die such a violent and senseless death for something so trivial. I feel the same way about Fabianne – she survived one of the most catastrophic events in living memory, only to be shot in the head for petty theft. And for stealing wall hangings where there are no walls.
Fabianne’s childhood was brutally stolen from her and it got me thinking about how quickly so many young people in places like Africa, Asia and the Americas have to grow up, forced to fend for themselves through child labour or prostitution, denied an education and exposed to violence, disease and hunger at an age when they should be learning and playing.
It’s easy to avoid going to a hospital or clinic for an HIV test but what would you do if those carrying out the tests came to your house? The Kenyan government recently launched a door-to-door testing campaign and here’s how people in the country are reacting to the programme.
In the village of Asega in the Rift Valley, life is slow and newcomers are rare, so when health workers turned up recently there was a lot of curiosity. They came to test residents for HIV as part of a government initiative.
Thousands of South Africans danced, cheered and sang hymns to celebrate President Jacob Zuma’s swearing in. Zuma, they said, as a man of the people, would give them houses and electricity, fight AIDS and crime, and ensure prosperity even as South Africa is on the brink of its first recession in 17 years.
But appointments to key ministries have raised questions over how well the new government will function.
“The new President of the Republic will be a president for all, and he will work to unite the country around a programme of action that will see an improvement in the delivery of services,” Zuma said after the African National Congress won its sweeping victory.
Nelson Mandela, a global symbol of reconciliation after the end of apartheid in 1994, appeared at the ruling ANC’s last election rally before Wednesday’s vote, delivering a last minute campaign boost for party leader Jacob Zuma.
Wearing a Zuma t-shirt, he sat beside the ANC leader, who has been fighting corruption allegations for eight years. The case was just dropped on a technicality and some South Africans still question his innocence.
American television audiences were treated on Sunday night for the first time to the show “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”, which is based on the best-selling series of novels set in Botswana by Alexander McCall Smith.
The series, being aired in the United States by HBO, has already been broadcast by the BBC in Britain. Like the novels, it follows the light-hearted adventures of Precious Ramotswe as she seeks to solve mysteries with her keen intuition and big heart.
HIV infection rates in Africa have slowed since the start of the decade, but statistics still make very grim reading on the worst affected continent – of the global total of 2.1 million deaths due to AIDS in 2007, 1.6 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.
An estimated 1.7 million people were infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 compared to 2.2 million new infections in 2001.
South Africans have widely greeted new President Kgalema Motlanthe, many of them with a sense of relief after the bitter and divisive power struggle between his ousted predecessor Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, leader of the ruling African National Congress.
Motlanthe, quiet spoken and dignified, struck exactly the note the public were looking for when he took office, sober but smiling gently – a huge contrast to the theatrical ebullience of Zuma and the aloof, intellectual style of Mbeki, who was seen as arrogant and out of touch with his people.